Based on recent interviews with more than 125 people — among them Tommy Ramone, Chris Stein (Blondie), Lenny Kaye (Patti Smith Group), Hilly Kristal (CBGBs owner), and John Zorn — this book focuses on punk’s beginnings in New York City to show that punk was the most Jewish of rock movements, in both makeup and attitude.
As it originated in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the early 1970s, punk rock was the apotheosis of a Jewish cultural tradition that found its ultimate expression in the generation born after the Holocaust.
Beginning with Lenny Bruce, “the patron saint of punk,” and following pre-punk progenitors such as Lou Reed, Jonathan Richman, Suicide, and The Dictators, this fascinating mixture of biography, cultural studies, and musical analysis delves into the lives of these and other Jewish punks —including Richard Hell and Joey Ramone—to create a fascinating historical overview of the scene.
Reflecting the irony, romanticism, and, above all, the humor of the Jewish experience, this tale of changing Jewish identity in America reveals the conscious and unconscious forces that drove New York Jewish rockers to reinvent themselves—and popular music.
“This welcome addition to the annals of punk... illuminating the Jewish backgrounds of many of punk’s pioneers [and] astutely placing [them] among the pantheon of Jewish entertainers...will open a hidden chapter for many fans.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Shocking confessions of an eternally wicked tribe of dysfunctional kids in search of an identity – lonely, uncomfortable, wild-eyed wanderers given to sexy, stylish rebellion.”
— Malcolm McLaren, Manager - Sex Pistols
“A beautiful, well-written book that's not only the kind you can’t put down but also a true revelation.”
— Alan Vega, Suicide
“Up close and personal accounts of the original New York City punks...and the oft-obscured cultural background that helped define their art. Who knew?”
— Lee Ranaldo, Sonic Youth
“Profiling performers as well as key journalists, club owners, managers, and producers, Beeber discloses that prime movers in creating, supporting, and popularizing punk were Jews. As perennial outsiders, especially as immigrants, urban Jews have traditionally straddled the sacred and the secular, adopting their new homeland’s popular culture and adapting it with comedy, anger, and social commentary. An interview with Malcolm McLaren and an attempt to explain
the Jewish punk fascination with Nazi imagery also prove fascinating.”
—Benjamin Segedin, Booklist
Chicago Review Press
HJ @ CBGB's Launch Party
Museum of Jewish Heritage