Fucked Up and Photocopied: Instant Art of the Punk Rock Movement

I’M NOT SURE about the collectability and fetishism of old punk rock. I see old 7"s by the Offs on the walls of the almighty record store by my Berkeley flat and I feel as though someone should take them down, hand them to a kid with a skateboard and put things right. Fucked Up and Photocopied: Instant Art of the Punk Rock Movement attempts to do just that. While the thirty-five dollar cover price is a bit hefty, the book is filled with enough punk history, lore and flyers that it more than makes up for the cost. Stories from the members of bands like JFA, the Faction, Black Flag, the Avengers, the Circle Jerks and the Dead Kennedys highlight an exhaustive collection of flyers assembled from the collections of those who were there and have the scars to prove it. Turning the pages is like a historical tour of telephone poles of the last twenty years.

Looking back, two decades from when many of these flyers were created, a few things come to mind. The first is the shear joy of the crude, hastily made flyers. The clipped, Xeroxed and collaged works announcing shows at local clubs illustrate the incredible impact of punk’s "anyone can do it" attitude. This is democracy in action. Bands could be formed on Monday, practice on Monday night, write a few songs by Wednesday and cut up copies of Time Magazine for a flyer advertising a Friday night show. The immediacy is part of the message. The copy machine was to punk what the movable printing press was to the Bible. Dissemination was easy and the streets were plastered with instant, punk rock art.

The second aspect is the staggering talent of artists who found their voice after the initial prominence of work influenced by Jamie Reed’s post-Situationist fare created for the Sex Pistols. Raymond Pettibon’s flyer work for Black Flag is incredibly bizarre and astute in it’s portrayal of what lies behind America’s locked doors. The intricacy of the drawings make it hard to believe that these were Xerox copies stuck on telephone poles all over the Los Angeles area to announce shows to which only a few hundred (at best) people might turn up. Winston Smith’s collage work for the Dead Kennedys compliments Jello Biafra’s surreal, comical take on contemporary culture by juxtaposing horrifying images with backyard Americana. Pettibon’s work has since been shown at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Smith’s work was on the cover of the New Yorker the week this piece was written.

Finally, the artists’ work on flyers and, eventually, record covers, reflects a natural blending of art, music and message in a way that no branding strategist firm could possibly imagine. There were no punk rock focus groups and no packaging strategies, only a desire to create something new and exciting. The results are images and visuals that are as much a part of bands’ legacies as the music itself. When I look at Shawn Kerri’s skanking kid, I immediately think of the Circle Jerks. Pushead’s work for the Misfits or his mohawked skull for the Exploited as well as Pettibon’s Black Flag work each fit the music perfectly and, in turn, become musical icons. Funny, when passion and excitement take the place of money, amazing design, design that fits into the entire scheme of the art, ensues.