Texas Is the Reason: The Mavericks of Lone Star Punk and Peter and the Wolves document towering figures in underground music history.
This month’s column takes a look at two completely amazing books that are waiting for you on bookstore shelves, or just a click away at your favourite virtual booksellers. Both tomes harken back to the subterranean regional scenes of yesteryear but couldn’t be further removed from each other.
First up is the incredible hardcover coffee table read Texas Is the Reason: The Mavericks of Lone Star Punk (Bazillion Points) featuring the fly on the wall photography of Pat Blashill and essays from director Richard Linklater, Jesus Lizard/Scratch Acid’s David Yow and other Texan punks. In the early days of hardcore, in ’81 and ’82, Texas was already as weird as it gets with Butthole Surfers putting a bit of acid into the punch bowl while the Dicks fucked up the homophobic Texas program that was firmly in place in the years of Ronnie Raygun. Photos of one of hardcore’s greatest frontmen, Dicks’ Gary Floyd, is worth the price of admission alone while previously unseen photos of the best Texas band of all time (sorry 13th Floor Elevators, Red Krayola) the Big Boys is nothing short of a revelation.
As incredible as Texas punk bands like MDC, the Dicks, the Offenders, Really Red and Buttholes were, the Big Boys remained the linchpins. Instead of copping rock star poses, this motley crew of XXL skaters existed to foster and grow a punk scene that was totally inclusive. Photos of the late great Big Boy Biscuit stomping the pines while Misfit Glenn Danzig looks on slack jawed is one of the great lost hardcore photos. This is not just about the music here either, like any scene worth its salt; Blashill’s roaming lens perfectly captures the punk house parties and the sense of community that still lies in the heart of any underground scene today.
The second book here, Peter and the Wolves by Adele Bertei (Smog Veil), is less weighty in size but no less stunning. This slim 90-page book looks at the proto-punk years of the almighty Cleveland but more specifically provides an insider look at the downfall of Cleveland scenester, musician (Pere Ubu/Rocket From the Tombs) and Creem magazine writer Peter Laughner. This looming Clevo figure is seen through the eyes of a young Bertei as she recounts moments from the mid-’70s with laser focus over four decades later.
The author struggles with loves and losses and excess while at the feet of Laughner, who teeters on the precipice of darkness. Although her muse is most certainly Laughner, this book is really about Bertei, who dives into the world of drugs, art, music and guns before gathering her well-honed tools and striking out on her own. Laughner’s downward spiral into the pull of nihilism is tragic indeed, but Bertei’s untethered, heartfelt and deeply revealing writing is the real reason you will finish this book in one sitting. The usual proto-punk suspects from the burgeoning Cleveland scene, like the Electric Eels and Pere Ubu, all get namechecked as well as the early CBGB’s/Chelsea Hotel movers making cameo appearances, but it’s Bertei’s untangling from Laughner’s dark web and the mark that left on her that makes this much more than a raucous rock ‘n’ roll ride. If you read this one hard enough, you can almost hear the glass break as Laughner takes his final swing on the chandelier. ■
See previous editions of Hammer of the Mods here.