Real Punks Don’t Wear Black

Music Writing by Frank Kogan

Between middle school and the ivory tower lies the truth about pop music


"If Frank Kogan had assembled his writing a decade ago, by samizdat or whatever, it would be a cornerstone by now, read by every current and former teenage malcontent."
—Luc Sante, author of Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York

"Doesn't this book at least partly fall into the 'academy is doomed/betrayed' genre (albeit way off on its own wing) vis-à-vis 'closing of the american mind'/'tenured radicals'? Certainly one of the questions it persistently seems to be asking is: 'what is college/knowledge for?' Obviously I think Frank Kogan's answer is a bit different from Allan Bloom's. Isn't it also about restoring the grand ambitions and claims for self of ‘60s rock-crit culture/counterculture: refusing to settle for a specialist niche, whether ivory-tower cultstud thinkage or leisure-industry enablage? (I am somewhat projecting my own dreams and hungers onto it for sure.)"
—Mark Sinker, author of if. . . . (BFI Film Classics) and The Rise and Sprawl of Horrible Noise

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With relentless analysis and reckless screaming, Frank Kogan has made a career of asking infuriating questions about popular music. A key figure among music critics for his contentious, perceptive writings, Kogan has been contributing to the Village Voice and underground music publications since the early 1970s. The first book-length collection of his writing on music and culture, Real Punks Don't Wear Black samples the best of thirty-plus years of essays, reviews, and rants, and also includes new bits written specifically for this edition.

If you’re after no more than backstage dish or a judgment on whether some song is “good” or “bad,” then look elsewhere. From the Rolling Stones to the New York Dolls, from Mariah Carey to the Ying Yang Twins, through hip-hop, Europop, disco, and metal, Kogan insists on the hard questions: Our popular music is born in flight, chased by fear, and heading toward unattainable glory, he says. Why is this so? What fears, contagions, divisions are we ignoring that our music cannot?

Remember, says Kogan, this is about you, too. Keep your mind alive, your hairstyle in flux, and your tongue sharpened. Whether you’re a gutterpunk or a cultstud geek, you’re a bigger part of the story than you realize. It’s your ideas that you're hearing on the radio, it's your song that gets sung.

Page count: 368 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9.25


List price: $26.95

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Frank Kogan is the publisher and editor of the fanzine Why Music Sucks. His work has also appeared in the Village Voice, Spin, Radio On, Cometbus, and