A perfect companion to 2017 documentary Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk (a great film I reviewed for Cinapse), Punk USA: The Roots of Green Day & the Rise & Fall of Lookout Records builds on the story of the early days of the East Bay scene, then dives into one of modern indie music’s more important historic labels and the iconic band that remains one of the biggest commercial success stories to ever come out of the punk scene. Originally printed 3 years prior to the aforementioned documentary and nearly a decade ago, this new edition includes everything from the original book and numerous new interviews and supplementary materials.
By now, I’d imagine most aging punk like myself know at least a little about the Lookout! story, but this book chronicles it in a deep and thoughtful way, told through well-written narrative from author Kevin Prested and the direct words of a veritable host of seemingly dozens and dozens of the Easy Bay scene’s most important and prolific voices – younger punks may not know the tale at all, to which this becomes an even more essential declaration of the good ole “Know Your Roots” motto. From the early days in the late 80s through the explosion of punk rock in the mid 90s and all the way until the death rattle of the label in the early oughts, the book chronicles the entire life of the label, its importance to bring the world the East Bay sound, and its influence in the worldwide music landscape.
The new edition includes a new foreword from Op Ivy’s own Jesse Micheals, a key figure in the Lookout! story. In the foreword, he shares his awesome view on “art” and his skepticism of what it considered “important” by the mass media. A perfect exclamation mark and introduction to what follows on the next 250+ pages, Jesse’s forward alone is worth the price of admission (whether $13 or $15, see below to get what I mean there).
For me, what sets it apart from being just a history book of the scene or Lookout! is the fun anecdotes and stories shared throughout. Whether later era label president and multiple band member Chris Appelgren’s 1996 wedding story or the tour stories of The Queers and Screeching Weasel, the short and quippy stories told by the punks themselves make this book exactly like what I love in a good documentary. They personalize the tale being told, making it more than some textbook. This is something that sets apart an okay (oral or standard) history of a scene/band/label from a good one from a great one. Here we’re treated to a great one and Kevin’s ability to pull out great stories from the interview subjects is why it’s so great and why this is a must own book for punks young and old.
You can grab the book directly from Microcosm Publishing, rather than Amazon or Walmart. Supporting the publisher directly is always the way to go and Microcosm even has a punk-as-fuck “pay what you can afford” option, so check it out. Like I said, this is a must own book for punks of all ages, so don’t wait another minute. Great read, easy read, and it’s sure to introduce you to something you missed or remind you of something you haven’t spun in decades.