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Punk-Rock Treasure

Ian Canty at Static Memories spent a couple of days pouring over the contents of Running At The Edge Of Their World, the all-encompassing four-decade history of one of the UK’s must-read punk fanzines, Suspect Device, that was brought to literary life by Tony and Gaz, the editors of the aforementioned and globally celebrated, publication. And the verdict? They said it was “A book to treasure”, and we couldn’t agree more!

 

If you want to find out why Static Memories reached the conclusion they did, visit Earth Island Books and order a copy of Running At The Edge Of Their World and immerse yourself in a world of punk rock treasure…

Coming with a foreword by Pete of Zonked! fanzine, this new book has been penned by Suspect Device originators Gaz and Tony Suspect as the South Coast zine reaches its 40th year. Included are a detailed run down of each issue, info on the development of the local Punk scene over the years and loads of background colour. For the latter a host of other contributors are utilised, including Steve Ignorant of Crass. Ian Canty writes...


There is practically nothing left to be said about the 1976/77 London Punk scene that hasn’t already been set down in text. The Sex Pistols story, albeit brief, has been retold many, many times from every conceivable angle and The Clash have been reduced to the ridiculous phrase “The only band that matters”, a claim so grandiose and egotistical that none of the Prog dinosaurs that Punk sought to replace even got close to.


Much more interesting to me is the way that the music developed in other towns and cities all over the UK in the years that followed. Alas years prior to the internet it wasn’t always easy to witness the bands live. The only real point of info if stuck in a small town like me was the NME/Sounds gig listings, but even they were unfortunately frequently incorrect and after a few fruitless visits into the city, one could easily get put off. This played into the fact that even though I was only about seven miles down the road from Suspect Device Zine’s Waterside base, I only really cottoned onto its magic over the past twenty five years. Thankfully Running At The Edge Of Their World can bring us all up to date with the SD story and it is one well worth delving into.


The early part of the book does an excellent job of setting the scene of UK Punk being accessed by kids just a little bit too young for 1977 and away from the city’s bright lights. Although as the nearest city was Southampton, those lights weren’t exactly beaming. There’s plenty of interest for people with knowledge of the city and times though and the mention of a few of the long gone record shops like Abbey Music (there was a sister branch in my home town too), Henry’s and Underground brought back a lot of memories for yours truly.


Suspect Device did more than their bit in brightening things up locally and the swathe covered by this book stretches down the M27 to Portsmouth and in the other direction towards Dorset too, the latter of which has an excellent write up by Paul Chambers. But going back to the start, caring little for the Crass vs Oi battle that dominated the music press, Gaz and Tony simply opted to write about what they liked.

The first issue of Suspect Device arrived back in 1985 when Punk was pretty much seen as being right in the doldrums in the view of the UK music press. But SD breathed vital new life into the local scene and began the process of bringing a disparate band of people together into a formidable whole. The zine itself was only one result of part their industry. In addition Tony and Gaz also released tapes and records, did podcasts and had their own distro too, as the many photographs included illustrate. Added to that, Tony has played in many bands over the years, right up to being part of the mighty Abrazos today.


But the fanzine naturally occupies centre stage here for the most part, as Tony and Gaz give their different perspectives on each issue. This is part of what made the book special for me, as their sometimes contrastive viewpoints add a great deal of depth and chart the peaks and troughs of both their Punk and personal lives. There is many a passage in this book that is truly touching. Away from the music I found Tony’s piece on the workplace bullying he experienced is as important as anything – nobody should suffer like that, but many still do and I speak as someone who lost a job I was really good at just because I didn’t go to Uni.


Also, plenty of others are on hand to help at various stages to take up the story, like Steve Ignorant of Crass, Rich Levene of gig collective STE who also played a big part in helping Punk to thrive in Southampton from 1980s onwards, Sean Forbes of Rough Trade/Wat Tyler, Nath Haywire and many others. This is another thing that helps Running At The Edge Of Their World broaden its tale and stand out from only being a summary of South Coast Punk 1984 to 2024.


A “Before They Were Famous” brush with Manic Street Preachers may attract some not that clued up the more DIY elements of Punk, but the way that this book is written is very accessible for all readers and comes with real warmth that is a mark of the personalities of both Gaz and Tony. It won’t surprise anyone who knows them to see that there’s plenty of self-deprecating humour too. They really come over authentically on the page and are honest in their appraisal of every edition of Suspect Device, be it good or bad. It’s neat that often we switch gear here, going from personal reminiscence to interviews, to hilarious stories of gigging mishaps, from highs to lows.


Running At The Edge Of Their World is about Punk Rock, but also fundamentally about friendships that have endured – if you’re not rooting for Gaz and Tony by halfway through, you must have a hard heart indeed. But it is also a cracking, vital read, a guide to brilliant bands that have slipped through the cracks and filled writing that captures all the excitement of witnessing maximum Punk blasted out in its best environment, i.e. a small venue. It’s a book that after I had read it, I felt substantially better for doing so, which has to be worth its weight in gold. You don’t necessarily have to have seen an issue of Suspect Device to enjoy what is here, but I’ll wager you will want to afterwards. A book to treasure.

Pre-order a copy of 'Running At The Edge Of Their World: The Suspect Device Fanzine Story' by clicking here. Read the full article here: https://staticmemories.wordpress.com/2024/05/18/running-at-the-edge-of-their-world-the-suspect-device-fanzine-story/

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