erasing clouds

Book Review: Gideon Sams' The Punk

by anna battista

"Gideon Sams was born in 1962. After an unsettled childhood...eight primary schools...he spent the last three years at Westminster City Grammar school, where he showed an obvious talent for languages. With little effort he was capable of driving his teachers to distraction with his unorthodox approach to classroom discipline…An avid outdoor skate board enthusiast, his current project is designing a skate board he can 'pogo' on while travelling at high speeds.… Gideon works in his father's wholefoods empire as a short order wholewheat Pizza cook." This is how the blurb on the back cover of the book The Punk, described its author, Gideon Sams, who had written it at the tender age of 14 as a school project. Rejected by a teacher, the story was rescued from the dustbin by Sams' mother, who saw in it a chance for social redemption, and was first published in 1977 by Jay Landesman's Polytantric Press (in 500 copies, with a real safety pin piercing the nose of Johnny Rotten, portrayed on the cover), later by Corgi Books and now it has been reprinted by Fortune Teller Press (note that this reissue marks the 20th anniversary of Sams' death).

The Punk, which has often been dubbed as "the first punk novel", follows the life of a young punk, Adolph. In the seven chapters of the book, we see Adolph hanging outside the Roxy with his friends, living in a tower block, finding a job and a girlfriend, going to gigs, pogoing and getting into fights with teddy boys. Sams condenses in around 72 pages, all the main punk themes: music, bands, fashion, teds, poverty, dole queues, apathy, violence and, definitely, no future.

The Punk is a testament of the punk era, but it is also the proof that Sams was a talented young man, with a great imagination and a gift for storytelling. This edition also comes with an epilogue by Gary (Gaz) Mayall, founder of the London club Gaz's Rockin' Blues and lead singer of The Trojans. Definitely not to be missed (and try to grab it soon, this is a limited edition, there are only 1000 copies out there).


Issue 27, October 2004

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