My punk rock origin was probably something I didn’t realize was my punk rock origin, at least at the time. I’ve been a music fan my entire life, going back to when I was 4 or 5 years old and had a red transistor AM radio. During my teenage years, I always gravitated towards high energy rock ‘n roll–a steady diet of Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult, Ted Nugent, The Sweet, etc.
During my teenage years, my social skills were rather lacking, so I spent a lot of time in my room listening to records and voraciously reading music magazines and books, especially “Creem” and “Circus.” There was a chapter about heavy metal in a book called “Rock Revolution” penned by the incomparable Lester Bangs. That’s where I first found out about Blue Oyster Cult, the Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat” album and The Stooges. Bangs raved about their album “Raw Power” and said it was a toss-up as to whether that or the previous “Fun House” was the highest-energy album ever made.
Shortly after reading that book, I was at a headshop in Lynn, MA called Headlines Boutique. For you youngsters, that was a store that sold various drug paraphernalia, as well as tapestries and t-shirts (it took two or three washings to get rid of the incense odor). There was also a small crate of records on the floor. I flipped through them and came across an LP with a strange-looking guy on the front cover. I flipped it over and there were white dripping letters that said “Iggy and The Stooges–Raw Power,” the one I’d just read about. I asked the clerk if I could hear a bit of it. The minute I heard the opening chords to “Search and Destroy,” I was sold. Titles like “Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell” and “Death Trip” also caught my attention very quickly. So I pulled $3 (can’t remember if I paid sales tax) out of my pocket and the record was mine and it hardly left the turntable for weeks after.
Even though it was the summer of 1976 and the Ramones’ first album had come out, I didn’t know anything about punk rock. And despite the title of that chapter in “Rock Revolution,” it wasn’t really heavy metal, although that’s what I thought of it being at the time. But it was certainly one of the highest-energy, most dangerous-sounding recordings I’d heard up to that point and set the stage for what would happen the following year.
The music magazines I read started covering punk rock and then I started to listen to college radio, mainly the Salem State College station WMWM. One of my high school classmates, Paul Greenberg (“Greeny”), had a show on there and that’s where I first heard the likes of The Damned, Ramones, Clash, Dead Boys, Sex Pistols and local bands like DMZ, Real Kids and Nervous Eaters.
I like to say my punk rock epiphany came when I heard the Pistols’ “God Save The Queen” for the first time. It was the proverbial lightbulb over the head. And it took off from there… and I never looked back. It didn’t take long to realize how much The Stooges influenced the whole thing. I still have that record… and the opening chords of “Search and Destroy” still hit me nearly as hard as it did in 1976…
More fun facts about Al…
Bands I was in – Isolated Youth (1982, 2010), No System (1984-1986, 2009), Shattered Silence (1986-1989, 1991, 2015), NPD (1989), Bludbrall (2000)… Shattered Silence got back together in 2015 for half a dozen shows and we’re hopefully playing a full more shows once this Covid craziness is over…
Suburban Voice was a label for a bit. I included 7″s with about a dozen issues and did a few other releases outside of the zine.
I managed Rockit Records in Saugus, MA (1985-1993), worked at In Your Ear Records in Boston (1995-1997) and briefly co-owned a store called Soundwaves in Danvers, MA (1994-1995)… that was a complete debacle. My business partner was the former drummer for Boston, Sib Hashian. It’s a VERY long story but we were neighbors in Swampscott for a few years and he said if I ever had a business idea, he’d back me. I’d been laid off from Rockit, had recently reconnected with him and asked if the deal was still on. It was, we opened a store and I was forced out a year later. I’ll just leave it at that.
I started my own zine Suburban Punk in 1982, changed the name to Suburban Voice after ten issues in 1984 and ended up publishing a total of 45 issues, the last one being in 2003. I’ve done it as a blog ever since. I’ve also been a contributor to Maximum Rocknroll and a columnist since 2005. I also wrote for Hit List, AMP and Loud Fast Rules.
I’ve promoted a handful of shows myself over the years but not very often.
As far as working within the punk scene, does running a zine and handling all the business aspects of it count as work. Yeah, I think it does. I worked on the Boston hardcore “All-Ages” movie–archival work, in addition to being interviewed. I’ve contributed articles, interviews and photos to many zines and bands over the years… I’ve only been paid for photos a few times but I’m happy to let them use them free of charge if it’s for a DIY/non-profit project and that they send me copies. I’ve also done a DIY punk radio show called Sonic Overload since 2000.
Punk trivia – my first punk show was the Plasmatics, at the Rat in January 1979.
I have been married to my wife Ellen since 1988. We met in 1979 and have been together pretty much ever since. We live in Peabody, MA.
thanks for this… great job