Although largely unknown to most punker types, Phil Marcade was one of the many folks at ground zero of the initial N.Y. punk wave, active as a musician in the group The Senders and as a scenester schmoozing with others a bit more well known. Perhaps his most overt contribution to punk history is as the guy who provided Blondie with translation assistance for the lyrical content of “Denis.” Starting with a drug bust not long after he lands in America, the book careens through his years neck deep in that formative scene: hanging out and performing at Max’s and CBGB; the growth of the scene around those two venues; his friendship and occasional musical partnership with New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders; the ups and downs of being in band; assorted tales of nights spent drinking, drugging, and crawling around in rock’s hedonistic subterranean heyday. It ends nearly a decade later at the point where “the life” and its excesses have exacted a heavy toll on his band and himself.
This could’ve easily devolved into another vapid, “I drank/fucked/fought/know such-and-such, aren’t I fuggin’ cool?” memoir with little of the author’s own merit in evidence. Marcade largely avoids those trappings here, deftly focusing on how he fits into the stories he recounts. He is actively involved rather than mere passive viewer, and appears keenly aware of punk’s egalitarian ethos despite his heavy roster of “name” pals. His is an interesting story and he tells it with a voice that is very conversational; vibrant but not bogged down by obvious literary blathering. This renders the book a quick, engaging read. It is chock full of great anecdotes and tales of shenanigans while also adding some color and flavor to a scene that too often suffers anymore from over-analyzation and the icy, sterilizing eye of academia. His is a living, breathing world where those “names” are real people doing real people shit, good and bad, and he is one of them. –Jimmy Alvarado (Three Rooms Press, 561 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014)