Sunday, May 1, 2011

“Trouble in the Camera Club” by Don Pyle, 8-1/2 x 11”, 300 pages

This is an incredible coffee table book on the Toronto punk scene through the excitement of the eyes of a fourteen year old first going to shows. Shot originally as keep sakes or momentos, these photos capture a new time in music for Toronto, which was Toronto’s first wave of punk. The book begins with some photos of the RAMONES first show in Toronto on September 24th, 1976 at the New Yorker. A botched attempt at filming the RAMONES leads to Don saving up to buy a 35 mm camera. Don also joins the yearbook club at Runnymede Collegiate, which gives him access to a darkroom, chemicals for developing film and the how to on DIY photographs. At one part of the book Don recalls that he bought “black and white film by the foot and he would wind his own canisters so that he could squeeze in more shots per roll. At times this would cause the sprockets to disengage.” This description captures the frugal nature of punk in describing the lack of resources but the determination to make these keepsakes nonetheless. The DIY practises as applied to photography out of necessity are captured. This kind of insight goes a long way and in some ways captures the essence of punk. That and the stories about the context behind the photos of these shows that took place in Toronto between 1976 and 1980. Don recounts these stories with incredible detail as only a music fan could.

“One afternoon I was flipping through the delete bins in the back of a Yonge Street record shop when this music came on over the stereo. In a wave of goose bump rush I hurried to the front to confirm what I already instinctively knew – it was the first Ramones album.”
Don also captures what it is like as an underage teen when going to shows.

"The first “bar” show I went to was the Crash ‘n Burn where my worries about being asked for ID disappeared as the door person took my money without question or a second notice.”
Nobody I know captures that nervousness, but most of us experienced it. This also describes the difference between bar show and those bigger concert hall shows that were all ages.

The story of the Toronto punk scene begins with some old movie houses, namely the Roxy and then the New Yorker, which housed the first shows when not screening John Waters or Alejandro Jodowsky films.

Don also adds to the punk rock archeology going on about the Toronto punk scene with a band called the HATE.

“The Hate performed one of the most memorable gigs I witnessed at the Turning Point as the singer Angie Ignorant stormed the stage with his cock impaling a photo of Pierre Trudeau, urine spraying the audience from what looked like Pierre’s mouth.”

Trouble in the Camera Club has some of the most accurate descrptions of the early Toronto punk scene releases. Here is Don’s review of the first VILETONES ep.

“Screamin’ Fist”, the first song on the first single by the Viletones is perfection in it’s goose bump inducing heaviness – the bass playing sixteenths on one note, then one big chord, a furious drum roll and then the whole band pounding one dirty chord. The record’s dynamic production and intensity were never matched again.
Don goes on to write about TEENAGE HEAD, the CURSE, the UGLY, the CARDBOARD BRAINS, the POLES, and the DEMICS with critical ear as only a music fan could. The accuracy of the description makes me think that Don missed his calling as a music reviewer, but this would just be one of his many talents.

“So many people have a desire to be given a finite defintion of punk, but so much is left out of the true story. Imagine a thousand embers sparking at once but all separate from each other, it became a movement, the thing that got called punk.”
Some of the early punk bands that Don got to see included XTC, the SLITS, the UNDERTONES, GANG OF FOUR, and BILLY FURY. Some photos that made it in the book include the CLASH, the RAMONES, BLONDIE, IGGY POP, and the DEAD BOYS.

Don also pays tribute to the flyer.

“Posters stapled to wooden telephone poles and handbills put up in the couple of used clothing shops were coded transmissions that could only be comprehended by those tuned to the same frequency. Cheap photocopies were the new thing.”
There are a lot of flyers used in the layout. Lots I have never seen before giving another added layer of historical relevance to this book. Photos, flyers and ticket stubs along with the stories make for the best scrapbook I have ever seen on the Toronto punk scene. In this Don’s reflections are more than mere artifact. He provides analysis. Sometimes it is favourable as in the VILETONES review already expressed and other times critical.

“In retrospect, I see aspects of how conservative punk was. Long hair and wide pants were not allowed, women were rarely equal and “faggots” were often reviled even though the origins of the scene were in gay discos and with homo art cliques. In so many cases, the new gestures and poses playing out were still firmly rooted in traditional images of rock stardom and bad seed mythology, despite the cleansing effect we dreamed punk would have on the old vision.”
Don pulls no punches making this a trusted account of the times. It is one of the most accurate records I have read of the period and it is easy to read because Don is so excited by his discoveries in music, which happened to coincide with punk. I couldn’t put it down and although the photos are spectacular don’t cheat yourself out of the insight provided by Don’s recounting of the times. This appealed to the historical musicologist in me.

I also noticed that the price is the same in Canadian as it is in American prices reflecting the strength of the Canadian dollar. We are on par with the Americans. Subtle but reflective of the unintended case made about our punk scene. (

No comments:

Post a Comment