Treat Me Like Dirt

Treat Me Like Dirt

An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond, 1977-1981

Book - 2009
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Treat Me Like Dirt captures the personalities that drove the original Toronto punk scene. This is the first book to document the histories of the Diodes, Viletones, and Teenage Head, along with other bands (B-Girls, Curse, Demics, Dishes, Forgotten Rebels, Johnny & the G-Rays, the Mods, the Poles, Simply Saucer, the Ugly and more) and fans that brought the punk scene to life in Toronto. This book is a punk rock road map, full of chaos, betrayal, pain, disappointments, failure, success, and the pure rock 'n' roll energy that frames this layered history of punk in Toronto and beyond. Treat Me Like Dirt is a story assembled from individual personal stories that go beyond the usual "we played here, this famous person saw us there" and into sex, drugs, murder, conspiracy, booze, criminals, biker gangs, violence, art (yes, art) and includes one of the last interviews with the late Frankie Venom (singer of Teenage Head). The book includes a wealth of previously unpublished photographs. This uncensored oral history of the 1977 Toronto punk explosion was originally published in 2010 by Bongo Beat and is now available to the trade. Exclusive to this edition is a selected discography of all key Toronto punk releases referenced in the book, contributed by Frank Manley, author of Smash The State (1992), the acclaimed and pioneering discography of Canadian punk (and subsequent vinyl compilations) that activated the current international interest in Canadian punk from the '70s and early '80s.
Publisher: Montreal : Bongo Beat Books, c2009.
ISBN: 9780981369402
Branch Call Number: 781.660971 W932
Characteristics: 384 p. : ill.


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Jul 13, 2011

I have this at home. Absolutely love it.

Jan 30, 2011

As the subtitle suggests, this is a history of the nascent punk scene in Toronto in late 1970s, told in their own words by the people who were there. It covers the founding of the first punk club, The Crash 'n' Burn, the self-destructive self-promotion of Iggy Pop-acolyte Steven Leckie, the cross-pollination with New York bands, and the famous Teenage Head Ontario Place riot.

Unless you're a musicologist or a person of a certain age who lived in southern Ontario at the time, a lot of the bands and personalities will be unfamiliar -- only Teenage Head and The Diodes achieved even modest success -- and bands like The Ugly, Simply Saucer and The Curse have left barely a trace.

The book makes a compelling argument why the battle was all uphill: there were no records companies to sign punk bands, and no radio stations to play them. There were no music videos, Canadian clubs were more interested in cover and hard rock bands. And of course there was no internet and no YouTube. "Going viral" meant putting a poster up on a lamp pole and hoping that a few dozen people showed up at your show. Everything was do-it-yourself.

The Diodes' former manager (and publisher of the book) has a slightly more cerebral explanation: "You're dealing with bands and a genre of music which is completely based on and derived from, and owes all of its existence to, music by bands who had failed. So when you're talking about the MC5, Stooges, Flamin' Groovies, Dictators, Velvet Underground even, these are all bands that, in their time, were commercial failures. None of them sold records and they all got dropped. But they were so influential that they were responsible for punk. So, ergo, the cycle will repeat itself. It your whole music and attitude is based on bands that were commercial failures, chances are so will your music be a commercial failure. It's just the way it is. Your whole attitude, as valid as it is, unfortunately will not get mainstream legitimacy because they don't want it, at that particular point in time. So the first phase is almost the martyr phrase. Bands like the Stooges and Flamin' Groovies had to fail so that the Ramones, Sex Pistols, Generation X could exist. So that pattern now goes forward, so Viletones, Diodes, Teenage Head had to fail so that sadly, or not so sadly, bands like Sum 41 and the rest of them could succeed.”

The book could have used an introduction to give it some historical context (for example, Pierre Trudeau and Joe Clark were Prime Ministers, the Eagles’ Hotel California was the most popular song in 1977, and Much Music was still a few years away), as well as a healthy edit, but it’s a valuable record of an otherwise little-documented place and time.

Jul 28, 2010

I agree with the_clash - and how can you not agree with The Clash. Really great insights and excellent history of the Toronto (and Hamilton) scene but it could have used some editing. How many times do you need to hear that Steven Leckie took advantage of people or Mike Nightmare was a real criminal. I really like it but found it repetitive.

Jul 15, 2010

Really good, in-depth history of the early Toronto punk rock scene. The only thing bad about it is that it took me a really long time to read!

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