Ian Glasper, The Day the Country Died: A History of Anarcho-Punk 1980-1984
Oakland: PM Press, 2014; 496pp; ISBN 978-1604865165
The Day the Country Died is the second in a series of four books by Ian Glasper documenting the DIY hardcore/punk scene in the UK through the 1980s and 1990s. This collection of interviews tackles the anarcho-punk subgenre, with a focus on the 1980s (the 1980-1984 subtitle is misleading, since a large portion of the content extends well beyond that Orwellian endpoint). Glasper also points out, quite rightly, that the 'anarcho-punk' moniker is a problematic one, since using the label 'leech[es] away much of its power, by stuffing it into a neat pigeonhole, where, once classified, it can more easily be controlled' (p 6), which seems to leave the entire subtitle a bit redundant. This was originally published by Cherry Red books in 2006, but the 2014 PM Press re-issue will expose the book to a wider readership, and benefits from much improved cover artwork (John Yates aping the Crass Records aesthetic very effectively).
Another addition to the PM edition is a collection of mug shots of craggily aged 'Punk Survivors' by John Bolloten. It's not clear what the value of this appendix is. Glasper already includes some excellent images in the main body of the text, but it is revealing that Bolloten's sombre portraits replicate Glasper's exclusive focus on bands. A far more representative, and interesting, approach could have included those other voices that contributed so much to the scene without any adulation from the 'fans': zine writers, van drivers, gig organisers, record distributors, social centre volunteers, screen printers and, indeed, the 'fans' themselves. This criticism aside, Glasper provides an oral history of anarchist-inspired 1980s punk which is very valuable against the deluge of 'punk history' record collector guides published to adorn the coffee tables of 'ex-punks.' Glasper fills in the nitty-gritty detail while letting the interview respondents give their own analysis, in their own terms, exposing all the expected tensions and...