‘It was never our intention to do a series of ‘benefit books’. We’re just two lads from Dublin who bonded over punk rock in the 1980’s and have been friends ever since. For us, punk was more than something to listen to. It was something to think about. It was about values. About inclusivity. About breaking stereotypes. About creativity. The message of punk was that anyone could be involved. It was an invitation to roll up your sleeves’. – Niall McGuirk & Michael Murphy

OK…a quick glance down Memory Lane. A few years back, I was working as a radio DJ. A large part of my show focused not only on the awesome music of the 1970’s and 80’s, but also asked listeners and studio guests about their first introductions to music. Who first inspired them? What musical genres injected an initial spark of wonder? As kids, what songs made them look up from their PlayDoh/Lego/Action Man/Barbie to ponder ‘Wow, who is making that sweet noise?’ Therefore, when ‘Punks Listen’, a new book from Niall McGuirk and Michael Murphy and released by Hope Publications (Dublin), arrived on the Joyzine desk, it simply had to be read and reviewed. 

So, there are two main reasons to add this book to your bookshelf. Firstly, the concept is beautifully simple. Find over two hundred artists, musicians, writers, etc. Ask them about their early musical influences and what specific musicians/artists gave them creative joy, back in the day. The results will be eclectic, occasionally surprising and never short of fascinating. Secondly, all proceeds of this book go towards the Red Cross Ukraine Refugee Appeal. The publishers – Hope Collective Dublin – were formed back in the 1980’s, to organise events for punk and independent bands. The Hope Collective has previously released publications to raise funds for refugees in Syria and the NHS Charities Together project.

So…to the contents of ‘Punks Listen’. Of the two hundred plus contributors to this book, some are household names in music, but the majority are spread across former band members, writers, photographers/filmmakers, etc, from around the world. Let’s explore a couple of the more famous contributors, starting with the Madness frontman, Suggs, whose first love was The Clash, inspired by two visual references.

‘I was living off Tottenham Court Road in London in 1977. Capital Radio had just started and, in 10 foot high letters on the smoked glass entrance, someone had spray painted in red paint: ‘1977 THE CLASH’. The following day, I bought a music paper – probably the ‘NME’ or ‘Melody Maker’. In the middle spread was a photo of The Clash, back to camera and up against a wall’. – Suggs

Former 10cc member and co-founder of Godley and Creme, Kevin Godley paints a detailed picture of life during the ‘Summer of Love’ in 1967, while he was struggling to balance being a graphic design student by day and a rock’n’roll drummer by night. 

‘It was a Monday. I’d driven back to Stoke College and there was a palpable change in the air. People were grinning more than usual. Why? It hit me as soon as I walked into the college. MUSIC! Lots of it and not just coming from one room. It was everywhere! ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ was blasting out at full volume. Students and tutors alike had downed tools and were drooling over the Peter Blake artwork on the LP’s gatefold sleeve. Everyone was dancing and getting involved in the record. It is difficult to explain the feeling, the euphoria, but those young Beatle upstarts had upended everything with Sgt. Pepper.Every track was a jewel, a mad, liberating explosion. This was our ‘Mona Lisa’, our ‘Guernica’, our ‘Sistine Chapel’. – Kevin Godley

Page after page of this book offers new insights and delights for the reader, as we are invited into the minds of some top class creative artists. It’s clear that many choices are inspired by the culture(s) of a specific time period. For example, many members of original punk bands quote The New York Dolls as revolutionary sources of their initial passion for music. For others, such as punk rocker Tesco Vee, the initial forays into music began with the exploration of various artificially-induced sources, leading to his passion for Todd Rundgren’s 1972 LP, ‘Wizard, A True Star’ – arguably one of the oddest, most surreal pieces of music ever written. Another popular music source quoted is The Who’s classic 1973 album, ‘Quadrophenia’. Justin Sullivan of the band, New Model Army, was a mere nine years of age when he first encountered the mighty Who. Upon hearing the classic ‘My Generation’, his response was to run around the house screaming, adorned by enthusiastic expressions of both air guitar and air drums. As someone who was introduced to both a young Elvis Presley and the musical phenomenon that was Little Richard at age seven, I can utterly empathise. Likewise, David Bowie makes a few entries, as does Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Miles Davis and other legends of music, as one might expect. Many artists associated with punk would naturally be around during the hedonistic, liberating days of the 1960’s and this time period is covered well, especially those bands and artists who were involved with anything of a psychedelic nature. One exception is Craig Leon, a producer for The Ramones and Blondie (amongst others) who cites ‘Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony No. 6‘ and literally wore out his father’s copy of the record in discovering the joys of classical music.

Not only is this book a fascinating page turner and insight into the myriad of musical sources and genres that serve to inspire people on to greater creative things, but it also gets around to asking ourselves the very same questions. So, ‘Who inspired you?’ ‘Why/How was this achieved?’ and ‘What distant, shining memories does that music bring to you now?’ 

‘I’ve released almost 500 records on my label, across 32 years. Picking a favourite seems impossible. So, I thought back to when my love of records began and pinpointed the exact moment. It’s 1978 in Coventry. I am 5, nearly 6, and visiting my grandparents. They spoil me rotten. I remember enormous helpings of tinned strawberries and ice cream. There are 3 channels on the TV. My grandfather decides to play some singles. He has one of those multi-stack record players. First up is ‘Chiquitita’ by ABBA. I sit cross-legged on the carpet, absolutely mesmerised by the record player and how a little needle can make so much sound. I’m transfixed, watching record by record play…the stylus on the grooves..the anticipation and excitement as the records drop. I am fascinated with the whole process. My grandparents lived to 97 and 98. They gave me unconditional love in a safe environment that allowed me to take that love of records and mould it into something that has defined my adult life’. – Aston Stephens (Boss Tuneage record label).

More information on Hope Collective can be found here: /

Article by Kevin J Milsom

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