:: Article


By Mark Terrill.

Katherine Spielmann and Patty Stirling, eds, Puncture: The First 6 Issues (Tract Home Publications, 2019)

Since the Ramones first played San Francisco in August 1976, in the back room of the Savoy Tivoli in North Beach, followed by the first punk show at the Mabuhay Gardens that December, featuring the Nuns and the Dils, punk rock had become a well-established subculture in San Francisco, continuing a long legacy of dissension and rebellion in the Bay Area that previously included Wobblies, beatniks, and hippies.

The Sex Pistols played their last ever show in San Francisco — at the Winterland in January 1978 — and for some that event symbolized the implosion of punk, much as Altamont had signaled the end of the flower-powered Sixties almost a decade earlier. But the SF punk subculture grew like a healthy fungus in a petri dish. Local bands such as Flipper, Toiling Midgets, the Avengers, the Mutants, the Sleepers, Frightwig, VKTMS, and countless others were playing hole-in-the-wall clubs like the Mabuhay Gardens, Valencia Tool & Die, On Broadway, 181 Club, Club Foot, the Deaf Club, Sound of Music, the Farm, and sharing bills with out-of-town bigger names such as the Clash, Blondie, Devo, X, John Cale, Patti Smith, and others at more glamorous venues such as the Warfield Theater and Wolfgang’s.

This flourishing scene expanded well beyond bands, shows, and independent record labels, into the realms of film and video, fashion, and performance (e.g. Survival Research Laboratories), and was reflected in a plethora of fanzines, including Search and Destroy, Maximum Rocknroll, Damage, Ripper, Punk Globe, and Puncture. Now, almost 40 years later, we have this collection of the first six issues (1982-1984) of Puncture, every page printed in its original format.

What Puncture has in common with other zines from that era is the DIY attitude that infused just about everything in punk culture at that time. The brainchild of Katherine Spielmann and Patty Stirling, Puncture’s first issues were created in Spielmann’s apartment using an early desktop computer and a clattering daisy-wheel printer. The rest was pure handwork; cutting and pasting, copying and collating, folding and stapling. What makes Puncture stand out from the pack is the quality of the writing. Refreshingly absent is the usual hubris that was so much a part of punk journalism. There is passion here, but also objectivity; no one is trying to ram their agenda down your throat. Not that Puncture was averse to politics: the Spring 1983 issue includes a book review of Marx’s Kapital for Beginners alongside music coverage of Flipper, Code of Honor, Meat Puppets, Iggy Pop, and Black Athletes.

No doubt as a result of her previous journalistic experience, Spielmann had an editorial vision she stuck to tenaciously. Former contributor J. Neo Marvin writes in his foreword:

Katherine turned out to be not just a unique writer, but a hands-on editor with strong opinions and non-negotiable high standards. Anyone who walked in expecting their inspired literary brilliance to be embraced without question was in for a surprise. To have that same fierce critical perspective trained on your own work could be jarring to the ego. Contributors would sometimes bristle to see our writing edited; wasn’t punk all about free, untrammeled expression?

Reading these issues nearly four decades later, one quickly realizes it is the strength of Spielmann’s editorial vision that has kept Puncture from becoming just another dated fanzine of merely nostalgic value. With its eclectic mix of record reviews, live show reviews, book reviews, and editorials, it’s a historical document of a vibrant era in which the rebellious spirit of the punk movement was being closely observed and intelligently interpreted for its readers. Punk may be history but Puncture stands as a model for the future of the fanzine, whatever culture it may embrace.

Mark Terrill is an American poet, translator, and prose writer living in Germany since 1984. His collection of poems and prose poems Great Balls of Doubt, illustrated by Jon Langford, is forthcoming in May 2020 from Verse Chorus Press.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, November 8th, 2019.