There they came spunking out of the punk rock wars, eyes screwed up with righteousness, over the barricades and tumbling into the mainstream—John Robb was just one of them—on a one man guerilla raid against boredom.
He was born in Blackpool, raised by punk and set free to roam the world with a high decibel hard-on for the freaky side of modern culture.
He spent the eighties turning it up to 11 out of 10 in the molten dayglo musical freak show of the Membranes who toured the world and released lots of noisy pissed off records that got lots of great press and started loads of mini riots at gigs which has all been documented in his recent book, Death to Trad Rock.
He became a journalist with fierce, shrapnel prose and a keen eye for what was happening; he had already learned to move fast in the fanzine days with his zine Rox—part of the legendary "clique versus the bleak" fanzine scene.
He wrote for Sounds, enthusing punk rock whilst discovering Nirvana, Madchester, chunks of acid house, grunge, noiseniks and American post hardcore noise whilst inventing words like "Britpop" on the way.
In the '90s, he wrote more books and became a TV pundit regular gobbing off about shit culture or providing musical insight into the holy stuff.
In the 21st century, this has continued: presenting TV series such as a ten part history of punk and writing more books, including Punk Rock- An Oral History, that became one of the definitive best selling statements on the form and Death To Trad Rock, a key book on the discordant '80s noise underground that included bands like The Ex. He has also fronted punk rock crew Goldblade, toured the world and occasionally played gigs with a reformed Membranes.
He is currently a vegan, punk rock, soul power brother, a black belt in musical arts who has just set up a record label, internet radio and TV station and multi media website, http://www.louderthanwar.com and writes thousands of words a day…
Punk Rock: An Oral History
Author: John Robb
Foreword by: Henry Rollins
Publisher: PM Press
Published July 2012
Size: 8.5 by 5.5
Page count: 584 Pages
With its own fashion, culture, and chaotic energy, punk rock boasted a do-it-yourself ethos that allowed anyone to take part. Vibrant and volatile, the punk scene left an extraordinary legacy of music and cultural change. John Robb talks to many of those who cultivated the movement, such as John Lydon, Lemmy, Siouxsie Sioux, Mick Jones, Chrissie Hynde, Malcolm McLaren, Henry Rollins, and Glen Matlock, weaving together their accounts to create a raw and unprecedented oral history of UK punk. All the main players are here: from The Clash to Crass, from The Sex Pistols to the Stranglers, from the UK Subs to Buzzcocks—over 150 interviews capture the excitement of the most thrilling wave of rock 'n' roll pop culture ever. Ranging from its widely debated roots in the late 1960s to its enduring influence on the bands, fashion, and culture of today, this history brings to life the energy and the anarchy as no other book has done.
"Its unique brand of energy helps make it a riot all its own." —Harp Magazine
"John Robb is a great writer...and he is supremely qualified in my opinion to talk about punk rock." —Mick Jones, The Clash
"John Robb is as punk rock as The Clash." — Alan McGee
A Mix of Bricks & Valentines: Lyrics 1979-2009
Authors: G.W. Sok
Forward by: Jon Robb
Publisher: PM Press
Published April 2011
Size: 9 by 6
Page count: 208 Pages
G.W. Sok co-founded of the internationally acclaimed independent Dutch music group The Ex in 1979. He became the singer and lyricist, more or less by coincidence, since he wrote the occasional poem and nobody else wanted to sing. At the same time, he turned himself into a graphic designer of record sleeves, posters, and books. Together with The Ex he was awarded the Dutch Pop Prize of 1991. The band is well known for its energetic live performances, their inventive music, and for their politically outspoken and thought-provoking lyrics. After 1,400 concerts in Holland and abroad, and 25 record albums later, G.W. Sok decided to leave the group at the end of 2008.
A Mix of Bricks & Valentines showcases the lyrics G.W. Sok wrote during his three decade period of Ex-istance. More than 250 songs of agitprop lyrics, poetry, and rantings are included along with an introduction by the author discussing his development as a writer. A foreword by English journalist, author, and musician John Robb (the Membranes, Punk: An Oral History and Death to Trad Rock) puts the work of G.W. Sok into perspective.
A Mix of Bricks & Valentines is written with a sharp pen; provocative, creative, and witty, everything punk and art intended to be from the start. And yes, it can be quite loud at times, too.
Praise:"Lyrically, The Ex is also in a class of its own. This is rebel punk's finest
hour.” —SF Weekly
"Deep intellectual analysis of geopolitics and fearless insertion of their socio-anarchist perspective is a bold, defining path drawn by The Ex. Few of their peers, either in their nascent days in the late '70s and early '80s, or now amidst all the emo-punk caterwaulers, have equaled this loud, defiant cry." —Pop Matters
"There has always been space in The Ex's music, space filled by singer G.W. Sok with socially engaged lyrics, which, from the very start, transcend by far the sloganesque tongue of most of his punk peers." —HUMO
"G.W. Sok's lyrics probably seem more relevant to the band’s American fans
than they ever have." —Dusted Magazine
"Lyrics with insightful socio-political standpoints. They are influential, provocative, creative, perceptive, and above all defy categorization. Everything punk & art intended to be from the start prior to being commodified." —KJFC
For a calendar of speaking events, please click here
John Robb's PM Press Blog:
- Are Minor Threat one of the most influentual bands of the last 30 years
by John Robbhttp://www.louderthanwar.comIn the past few months a bizarre cross section of bands that I have interviewed or read about have been quoting Minor Threat as an influence. Far more than, let’s say, the Strokes or other media pets.
Punk Rock: A Review
By Susie Rodarme
August 11th, 2015
"...Punk Rock: An Oral History by John Robb weave anecdotes from real punk rockers to tell a story that emerges out of the deep roots of punk rock..."
Punk Rock: A Review
February 27th, 2014
"It takes a brave man. In fact, it takes a very fucking brave man to attempt what John Robb has done here and, furthermore, it takes a very sussed man to have done it as well as this. You see, this is an oral history about the original wave of Punk Rock in the UK. A million books have already eulogised, dramatised, dogmatised and decried the era with varying degrees of quality. Obviously Jon Savage's England's Dreaming has been the go-to book, along with Paul Marko's book about The Roxy and Alex Ogg's encyclopedic No More Heroes filling in vital gaps. So, does Robb's book cut the flares outta the pseudo 'rock journalism' and give us the real deal?
I have to say I think it does."
Punk Rock: A Review
by John L. Murphy
July 30th, 2012
Robb, in an ambitious compendium, with brief forwards by Michael Bracewell and (not Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen as originally promoted for this US release of a 2006 British publication but) Black Flag’s Henry Rollins, provides those who were there and many of us who listened from a distance in time or space the sensation of freedom. When so few chances to hear this music in its original setting were present, a radio’s sudden song or a concert’s rare opportunity revealed the promise of transformation. Those gathered here reveal once again how exciting the sporadic connections to a bold and strange music carried fresh ideas and odd choices that many of us, teenagers across the world in the late ‘70s, never would have conceived. Robb’s collection of spirited voices will remind readers today to become listeners to these tellers.
Punk Rock: A Review
By Jimmy Alvarado
Monday, January 21 2013
As a result, the book provides a decidedly more holistic view of punk’s explosion in the U.K. than most, giving first-person accounts of where the scene originated and how it developed and mutated, with tons of trivia ‘n’ tidbits (who fuggin’ knew Siouxsie Sioux’s whole shtick was just as influenced by the evil queen in Disney’s Snow White as it was by the more frequently cited Weimar Republic-via-Cabaret?) to keep one’s interest piqued throughout.
Best of all, Robb is well versed enough with punk’s history to know better than to pander that same tired “punk died in ___” jazz, stopping roughly in the early ‘80s merely because it’s just as good a place to stop as any, and acknowledging punk rock has continued on and even had some, albeit largely superficial, effect on the dominant culture. I went into this book with no shortage of trepidation, but as it stands, I’d say it’s as close to a go-to tome as you’re gonna get if you’re looking for a street-level account of the origins of Europe’s wing of the punk revolution.
Punk Rock: An Oral History: 25 GIFT IDEAS FOR THE HOLIDAYS
It takes a punker to write one of the definitive books on punk rock that exploded on the music scene in the mid-1970s before fragmenting into niches like Oi, Hardcore and Two Tone. John Robb (The Membranes) has written such book, "Punk Rock: An Oral History." Rob who grew up with punk rock and formed his own DIY band/label interviewed over 150 individuals who helped give birth to one of the greatest upheavals in music industry history. Among the many participants include John Lydon (Sex Pistols/PiL), Siouxsie Sioux (Siouxsie & The Banshees), Poly Styrene (X-Ray Specs), Mick Jones (Clash/Big Audio Dynamite), Chryssie Hynde (Pretenders), Billy Bragg, Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols) and Henry Rollins on through band members from Joy Division, Buzzcocks, The Damned, Killing Joke, The Stranglers, The Slits, Selecter, UK Subs, Sham 69, Cockney Rejects, The Saints, Stiff Little Fingers, The Adverts, Wire, The Undertones, Chelsea, The Beat, The Specials and Angelic Upstarts, among many others.
Punk Rock: An Oral History: A Starred Review
Longtime music journalist and founding member of The Membranes Robb ( Death to Trad Rock ) has collected the stories of over 100 eyewitnesses to the birth of British punk. From icons like John Lydon (Sex Pistols) and Mick Jones (The Clash) to lesser-known but no less outspoken musicians, managers, promoters, and fans, the interviewees bring a wide range of viewpoints to their tales of the scene's development. In scope and format, Robb covers much the same ground as Jon Savage's 2010 collection of interviews, The England's Dreaming Tapes. From an editorial perspective, however, the difference between the two works is striking. While Savage presented his transcripts in their entirety, Robb uses a cut-and-paste chronological arrangement, grouping together several subjects' takes on a given event or band. These multiple, often conflicting voices, together with the cheeky footnotes that clarify certain obscure references or blatant misrememberings, add a level of wit and chaotic energy to this book not present in earlier oral histories of the era. °© VERDICT With its brilliant balance of in-depth information and accessibility, this title will be equally at home on academic, public, and personal library shelves. Essential for punk fans and highly recommended for readers interested in firsthand accounts of the growth of new cultural movements.
Punk Rock: An Oral History: A Review
July 31st, 2012
Robb plays a broader role in his book than mere behind-the-scenes interviewer and editor with his sometimes awestruck, sometimes sly interjections. His retort to Sniffin’ Glue-founder Mark Perry’s rant about how The Clash unforgivably betrayed the scene when they signed with CBS Records is—no hyperbole—the greatest footnote ever footnoted. While I have no reservations in recommending PM Press’ new reprint of Punk Rock: An Oral History, I must offer one valuable bit of advice: feel free to skip ahead anytime you see a quote from that whiney, self-impressed windbag John Lydon. Put a sock in it, Johnny!
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