The Great List Swindle
Admit it: Sometimes you're sitting around listening to your old Sex Pistols records and thinking, Which punk-rock icon has the biggest schlong? Or maybe you're wondering, What kind of pizza would that Food Network dude say goes well with the New York Dolls?
The Official Punk Rock Book of Lists (Backbeat Books, $16.95) answers those questions. Apparently Dee Dee Ramone had an enormous unit, and TFN's Mario Batali says a slice of thin-crusted Napolitana is a good choice. Besides that, there's much more, everything from "6 Great Moments in Puking" to "12 Dudes Who Wore Dresses Onstage."
Coauthor Amy Wallace, who co-wrote several books in the original series with her dad, novelist Irving Wallace, came up with the idea for a punk version but needed someone with a little more street cred and punk connections. Enter "Handsome" Dick Manitoba, frontman for Seventies hell-raisers the Dictators, occasional MC5 singer, erstwhile junkie, radio host, and New York City bar owner.
The collaboration was tricky. Manitoba never met Wallace in person, but they spent hours e-mailing and talking on the phone. Manitoba's job was to reach out to his old pals, who put together the book's 125-plus lists. Wallace then whipped the hand-scrawled text into readable shape.
Manitoba says he and Wallace had a blast coming up with the book's various lists, which span the mundane ("Raising the Bar: 90 Very Tall Punks") to the informative ("Richard Meltzer's Beatnik Roots of Punk: A Reading List") to spit-gobbingly punk ("4 Punks Who Had Sex Onstage"). Then there's Manitoba's favorite, "Debbie Harry's List of 'People I'd Like to Fuck.'"
They never really made it, but the Dictators were clearly an influence on another group of native New Yorkers: the Ramones, a band thoroughly represented in Manitoba and Wallace's book. And except for a few mentions — in chapters like "101 Ridiculous Punk Rock Names," "Gobbing's Greatest Hits," "10 Punk Songs That Are Nowhere Near as Offensive as They Seem" — Manitoba and the Dictators take up very little space in the book. Odd, considering Manitoba's knack for self-promotion.
Maybe Manitoba will make more room for himself in the sequel, which he's now plotting. After all, he says, people love this sort of book. He sums up its appeal with a reference that includes, in true punk-rock fashion, feces.
"It belongs in the bathroom," he says. "There's only so many Victoria's Secret negligees you can look at when you're taking a shit. This gives you a little something more to do for five minutes."
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