The Best of PUNK Magazine by John Holmstrom and Bridget Hurd

The Best of PUNK Magazine by John Holmstrom and Bridget Hurd, with a foreward from Deborah Harry (yes, the singer from Blondie) and Chris Stein (co-founder of Blondie), is a compilation of the best articles and artwork from the magazine, and it opens with a fun depiction of New York City — “The PUNK Map of N.Y.C.: For jerks who just don’t know their way around.”  The drawings of the rivers and the streets and the realistic, and yet, out there cartoons are likely to generate smirks, if not genuine smiles.

As someone born in the late 1970s, but in love with punk music and Blondie, this collection is something that provides not only more background about the emergence of punk, but also the  whimsical fun and sort of not-a-care-in-the-world feel of the genre.  PUNK magazine had a lot to live up to as the voice of 1970s New York, but it also had a lot to break away from in terms of what was expected of a music magazine.  Clearly, PUNK was a magazine dedicated to snarkiness in all its forms — visual and textual — and it worked well.  It was gritty, it was real, and the glamor was no where in its photos or its comics, but that seems to be why the magazine stood out.  There was a whole lot of youthful exuberance in the beginning of this magazine as nicknames were handed out and spaces were renamed — like the PUNK Dump.

The opening interview with Lou Reed is just the tip of the mosh pit with this magazine.  Reed is so candid, it’s almost like he forgot he was being interviewed by a magazine, and it is unlikely anyone told him the interview would be turned into a comic strip.  The comics are filled with typical masculine and bathroom humor at times, but the drawings are enough to carry the jokes beyond their static line.  A really cool moment in the collection is the results of the Patti Smith Graffiti Contest, where some are so tasteful and others are just outrageous.

By the third issue, the magazine’s editors knew they were a hit when the Ramones snagged a record contract in part because of the magazine’s coverage of their band.  One particular gem in the collection is Holmstrom’s explanation of punk:  “sound — faster and louder; humor — like the novelty songs of the 1950s and 1960s; fashion — no glam, just the classics: shades, blue jeans, t-shirt, sneakers; minimalism — less is more.  No bombast; attitude — similar to the hippie ethos “Do your own thing but let me do mine,” but more like: “F**k you! I don’t care what you do, just leave me alone!”; do it yourself — publish your own ‘zine, make your own record; retro rock/conservatism — mining the tradition of rock ‘n’ roll from the 1950s and early 1960s, while rejecting everything after the hippies took over in 1967.”

The Best of PUNK Magazine by John Holmstrom and Bridget Hurd is a great compilation, but you may not want to leave it on the coffee table with conservative parents or in-laws around.  It’s got some bawdy humor, creative ideas, fantastically candid photos and interviews with punk rock stars of the time, and so much more.  Reminiscent of MAD Magazine and the like, but it really has a garage feel about it — a passion of the listener, the true fans of PUNK.

About the Author:

John Holmstrom is a cartoonist and writer and co-founder (with Legs McNeil) of Punk magazine. He illustrated the covers of the Ramones albums Rocket to Russia and Road to Ruin, and created the characters Bosko and Joe, which were published in Scholastic’s Bananas magazine from 1975-1984, as well as in Stop! Magazine, Comical Funnies, Twist, and High Times. Holmstrom’s work and unmistakable artistic style has become the key visual representation of the Punk era.

This is my 13th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.


  1. Sounds like fun!!

  2. I remember our dorm days listening to the Ramones!!

  3. I’m probably too old for this book.