Thumbing through the pages of Punk Passage I got the feeling of being there at The Mab in San Francisco in it's glory days. Back when the punk movement was young and still quite underground. Most of the bands and musicians who would go on to big success were easily approachable 1977-1981. You just had to go to the punk clubs and look around, they were there. It's just that a lot of people in those days found those clubs and that scene repugnant. The wild hair-dos, make-up and safety-pins stuck through the ear, not to mention the drugs and alcohol was disgusting to bunch of mainstream folks. But, truth was, there was beauty and wonder in some of those people. You just had to know where to look and photographer Ruby Ray knew where to look. What she saw through the lens of her camera was a tender and human side to a slice of society that was oft portrayed as deranged and depraved.It was the gems of artistic achievement that redeemed punk from what so many wrote off as just a bunch of losers. In the early days the punk scene was brimming with agressive, talented, forward-thinking performers and entrepeneurs. You just had to get through the clutter of bigotry and narrow-mindedness to see it.
|Paul Roessler and Tomata Du Plenty of The Screamers in North Beach 1977|
There were so many cool bands that you could see up close. Go backstage after their set, meet them, hang out and maybe share a drink and chat. There was no security to speak of at the Mabuhay Gardens. After stumbling into the club in 1979 and watching an interesting set by Los Microwaves I just walked up the stairs to the backstage area and complimented them on the groovy music, they thanked me and I walked back down to the main floor amazed that I could just go and talk to the musicians. I knew if someone like me could go backstage, they were letting anybody backstage at these punk gigs. Too bad I didn't have a camera, I could have gotten an interesting shot frozen in time. And that's what Ruby Ray did in spades. The 250 photos in this E-Book with the well-detailed captions offer an enriching experience of the early SF punk scene that is precious to me. Precious because we Fresno punk rockers went up there to the City to see the punk gigs whenever we could. Now it's gone and the documents bring some of it back to life. http://www.amusedom.com/index2.php?option=com_amusedom&view=browser&Item...
|Chip Kinman of The Dils gettin some air captured by Ruby Ray 1978|
But the photos are not only about the action on stage, but also the digs where they created all this edgy art and literature. Some of the rooms quite humble and reveals the truth of the bohemian lifestyle. Ultimately it was the bands, the music and the wild personalities that punk attracted. Creative types that could smell the opportunities lurking in the seedy clubs and poverty-encrusted locations.
|The Cramps backstage at the Napa State Hospital 1978|
There is something so vital about these movements when they are young: Rocknroll in the mid 50s, The Hippy movement in the mid 60s and the punk scene in the early days. After they mature and fragment they begin to commercialize and the opportunities for outsiders to move in disappears and it becomes more and more just a money-making game for the major labels and the few lucky artists that made it to the top.
Ruby Ray was photographer for Search and Destroy magazine, co-founder of Re/Search magazine and manager of Rough Trade Records in San Francisco. All of this before 1981.