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Gimme Something Better: The Profound, Progressive, and Occasionally Pointless History of Bay Area Punk from Dead Kennedys to Green Day
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Gimme Something Better: The Profound, Progressive, and Occasionally Pointless History of Bay Area Punk from Dead Kennedys to Green Day

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3.94  ·  Rating details ·  697 ratings  ·  54 reviews
An oral history of the modern punk-revival's West Coast Birthplace

Outside of New York and London, California's Bay Area claims the oldest continuous punk-rock scene in the world. Gimme Something Better brings this outrageous and influential punk scene to life, from the notorious final performance of the Sex Pistols, to Jello Biafra's bid for mayor, the rise of Maximum RocknRoll magazine,
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Paperback, 489 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Penguin Books/Penguin Group (USA), Inc. (first published 2009)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  697 ratings  ·  54 reviews


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Rob
Jun 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
I was expecting to really enjoy this book, seeing as this is exactly where I was at during the early 90s - going to 924 Gilman St. every weekend. Ever since then, I've held this kind of pride that said "i was there when this all went down", and I watched all of my favorite bands go from playing that tiny club to becoming MTV mult-millionaires.

But after reading this book, I realize that what it really was, was a bunch of misguided people (myself included) desperately looking for somet
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East Bay J
Apr 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: about-music
Another great oral history in the tradition of We Got The Neutron Bomb and Please Kill Me, Gimme Something Better packs a serious punch. The Bay Area music scene from the 70’s to today gets serious coverage from those who were there. Bands like Dead Kennedys, Avengers, Nuns, Crime, etc. are covered and just as expected as Green Day, Op Ivy/Rancid, AFI, etc. The thrill is reading about Negative Trend, Flipper, Fang and all the rest. Especially considering this is an insiders’ view. I dug that Andy Asp, singer ...more
Larry-bob Roberts
Oct 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
The 500 pages of this book flew by. It covers quite a length of time, about 25 years from the late 70s to the present. All of the text is from excerpts of interviews with participants in the various phases of the Bay Area scene.

In some cases editing makes people appear to comment on other people in a way that the interviewees probably didn't intend. Also a lack of contextualizing intros to the chapters makes the chronology unclear. For instance, two chapters on 924 Gilman, the second
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Audrey
I thought I'd like this better than I did, because I had such a strong reaction to We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk, because I like oral history as a format and because I'm from the Bay Area. And while it was fun recognizing all the venues mentioned in the book, there's only so many times I can read the same grouse about punk without losing interest. To wit: the first half of the book is really good, with the format being used to its best advantage to show the competing historie ...more
catechism
So. I loved this book. I absolutely fucking loved it. I loved it more than I loved Please Kill Me, which I loved very much. I suspect my heart grew three sizes for generational reasons: I’m into the Ramones and it was awesome to read about the trainwreck that was Johnny Thunders, but none of the bands in PKM are my bands, it wasn’t my scene, I’m not old enough. I found my way to Television and the Velvets and the Voidoids and the Dolls later in life, and so the book was basically an intellectual ex ...more
Patrick O'Neil
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Strange to read Gimmie Something Better, a book whose entirety is made up of quotes from all my friends and acquaintances from the good old days of the San Francisco punk scene. For the first half at least it was invigorating to dive in deep to all the old tales. It was almost as if there was still that lingering sense that we could go out and play for the sake of playing—if only the people, clubs, and culture were still intact. So yeah, it’s 2018 and Green Day is/was considered punk—which is not only ...more
Ryan Silve
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Entertaining throughout, it reads like a high school yearbook, filled with loose anecdotes and barely remembered factoids.

Prior to reading it, the only era I had particular familiarity with was Gilman centered. The book exposed me to legions of new, terrific bands from all periods (Dils, Avengers, Flipper, Fang, etc).

If you’re into the music or just happen to be interested in loose oral histories, you’ll love it.
Jenny
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Illuminating for me because I didn't follow the Bay area scene closely growing up. Makes me want to go out and listen to all the bands I haven't heard of.
Stefanie
Nov 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Maybe because I had the luck of growing up over the mountain from Gilman Street but something made me love this book and go back to listening to a lot of Op Ivy and Filth!
Bosco Farr
Feb 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: punk
Up and down. It sort of tells a story about Bay Area Punk. It can drag and glosses over certain things. If you love Bay Area punk, you will dig it
Brady Salz
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a hell of a ride. It's not for everyone, and probably peaks 80% of the way through, but man it was the perfect thing for me. So much more appreciation for the insane people and even better music. If you're wondering what punk is, this book won't answer it, it'll answer it 30 different times after telling you to screw off.
Andrew
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Andrew by: Luke Phillips
Gimme Something Better provides a deep, thought-provoking look into the California punk scene and the seeds that were sowed by bands all the way from Crime to the Dead Kennedys to Social Distortion to Bad Religion, all the way to Operation Ivy, Crimpshrine, Isocracy and the beginnings of the 924 Gilman Street Project in California.

Jack Boulware and Silke Tudor both manage to cover almost every ounce of drama, controversy, and several stories about the scene and its ridiculous history from the 1
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Dav
Oct 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
I lost 2-4 hours of sleep each night finishing this, reading until my eyes blurred, which took three nights. I'm probably about as interested as possible in the subject matter, the rise of the punk movement in the Bay Area, for someone who knows next to nothing about it.

My brother is in the Who's Who section in the back, a fixture on the local punk scene for two decades now. I've always wondered if I would have ended up in the punk scene myself if I had grown up here (where I was born) as well.
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Kendra Levine
Nov 18, 2009 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Spiros
Sep 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who's ever wondered how many Punks could dance on a pinhead
A few of the "P" words that could have been thrown into the title of this book with equal alliterative appositivity: Peurile, Pervasive, Petty, Parochial, and Paradoxical. Bay Area Punk represented a movement (or a non-movement) at its best and at its worst: Punk pervaded the larger culture of the Bay Area as it has in few, if any, other places; and Punk subjected itself to more doctrinaire backstabbing, niggling criticism, and sectarian baggage, exemplified by the "Punkier than Thou" ethos of M ...more
Nicole
Jan 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
The only thing that kept me from enjoying this book more is the simple fact that it's so full of information. I didn't know much about punk before I read the book, so almost everything in the book--names, bands, clubs, songs, album titles--was new to me. It was an enormous information dump, and so it took me a while to get through it. That doesn't make this a bad book, of course; "Gimme Something Better" is a great book that just happens to be very dense with information. I wouldn't really recom ...more
Joy
Jul 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book is time travel for the punk scene (myself 1981-83). It transports you back to the clubs – The Elite Club, The Farm, On Broadway, Tool and Die (a fire trap of a single stairwell into an unventilated, smoke-filled basement), and Mabuhay Gardens. I will never forget my visit to the Vats and "Gimme Something Better" bought back the experience.

A cultural experience from an altered state of youth, "Gimme Something Better" brings up old memories (if you were there), the rawness of the time,
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Hannah
Nov 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
This book is clearly modeled on Legs McNeill's seminal "Please Kill Me," but really fails to live up to the model. As a Bay Area native I found it interesting to read about a scene that I have observed from the fringes for 15 years, but the authors don't make that scene accessible to non-locals the way McNeill does with the NY scene. I think that anyone who has been deeply involved in the Bay Area punk scene for the last 40 years will find this book a wonderful time capsule. In fact, it reads al ...more
Dave
Nov 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was a really great book. The oral history format is perfect for the subject and gives the mic to the people that were adtually there, allowing them to contradict each other or themselves whether they know it or not. So many different histories/scenes involved with the SF/East Bay sensibilities all over it. It makes me sad for not being a part of it. There will never be things like Maximum Rock and Roll, 924 Gilman St. and Operation Ivy again that meant as much to kids back then.

It's also j
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Candice T
May 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I've never been able to really defend myself well when my friends throw up a look of horror and disgust when I tell them I'm into punk. It's something felt much deeper than the mowhawks and more personal than simple lyrics and two-string chords can describe.
In reading the oral history of Bay Area Punks, from the obscure to the popular, I can really appreciate how the scene evolved, what it meant to many people and how it continues to change lives.
I can still remember listening to one of The Cl
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adam
Sep 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Punk rock culture continues to fascinate me. The music punk has produced is frequently brilliant, but I have never been able to figure out whether the subculture is at its core just a silly, adolescent rejection of capitalist society and its values, or if there is something more intelligent and valuable at work, or whether the whole goddamned question is moot because punk's been co-opted by the mainstream culture anyway. This book, an oral history of three decades of punk in the Bay Area, gets t ...more
Zach
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: punk-rock
The title says it all; profound, progressive, and often pointless, this oral history of the Bay Area punk scene is colorful, entertaining, and informative. By getting the history from the participants in their own words, Gimme Something Better has limited value as research tool (many of the statements provided are contradictory or even downright false) but the breakneck speed and dark humor and fantastic voice recreates the often misunderstood and maligned youth who just wanted to find their pla ...more
Kenny
Apr 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Well, I did like this book, but it skips entire sections of the Bay Area punk landscape and leaps to Green Day (?) after a brief Gilman St. recap, while barely mentioning other notable acts, venues, characters. I think this book scratches the surface but it's a good start with some fascinating moments, especially if one lived through part of it. However, IMO anyone tackling the 25+ years coverage of an entire music scene would need more pages. It's a much better (and inclusive) read than, say, A ...more
Bill
Nov 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book: it appeals to my love of punk, my love of the Bay Area, and my love of the written word. Told firsthand by the people that lived in the scene, this account covers all the bases and paints a vivid picture of the punk scene from its infancy in SF and Mabuhay Gardens all the way to the ongoing scene that continues to thrive at 924 Gilman.

As someone who kind of grew up on the tail end of this book's scope, this was a great way to flesh out my knowledge of the early day
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Derek Horman
Feb 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
A pretty fun and quick read on a punk and hardcore scene that rarely gets as much collective credit as NY, Boston, or LA. Like the Bay Area music scene in general, some of the most original and creative bands from the US are covered in these pages. Great stories about The Avengers, Crime, Dead Kennedys, Flipper, Neurosis, Green Day, Operation Ivy, AFI, and many others as well as the Mabuhay Gardens, Gilman Street Project, and Maximum Rock And Roll abound. Great stuff for folks who lived through ...more
John Marr
Sep 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A great oral history (a la PLEASE KILL ME) of Bay Area punk that goes far beyond the usual over-the-hill musicians gassing about how cool they used to be. More than stories of the music, here are stories of a scene that capture a time, a place, and an atmosphere. In addition to the usual suspects (musicians, promoters, critics) they talked to fanzine publishers, roadies, and fans. Some of the subjects are best remembered for the fights they started, which may have nothing to do with music but su ...more
Evan
Jun 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: shelved
This is and probably will remain the best book yet written about the Bay Area punk scene of the last thirty years (with apologies to the 924 Gilman book, which was necessarily narrower in scope). It's alo one of the better examples of the oral-history genre that I've come across. They talked to pretty much everyone who should have been consulted, and in the process told me a lot of things I didn't know, which, considering how much I've read on the subject in the last fifteen years, is saying qui ...more
Kaya
Nov 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Highly enjoyable for those of us who played our tiny part in the East Bay scene(s). Nice to see Klubstitute and the Homocore folks pop up near the end of the book (RIP Diet Popstitute), and it's always enjoyable to hear more contradictory stories of how great and awful Gilman could be. But there are inherent limitations to the oral history format. The narrative could be potentially confusing to outsiders, and the sprawling cast of characters was occasionally hard to keep track of. Nonetheless, f ...more
Tyler
May 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Awesome perspective on the incredible music scene in the Bay Area around the turn of the century from the people who made it what it was. This is the Bay Area response to Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, which would lead you to believe there was nothing happening West of the Mississippi but hippies and surfing.
Erin
Mar 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
There are good parts in the book, sure, but when they're interviewing Chrisser and he says lookout got rich cause they were the first punk label to sell CDs and it takes another hundred or so pages for Jeff Ott to bring up Green Day signing to a major label and becoming the rock stars that they are, that was my last straw. I also hated all the "it's not so bad" sentiments of Sammy killing his girlfriend. Fuck that.
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Jack Boulware is an American author and journalist, and was founding editor of the satirical Nose magazine. He is author of Sex American Style and San Francisco Bizarro, and co-author of the recent oral history Gimme Something Better: The Profound, Progressive, and Occasionally Pointless History of Bay Area Punk From Dead Kennedys to Green Day.

He writes regularly for a variety of publications, and is co-founder of Sa
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