Now THAT so many rock stars have sold their souls to corporate sponsorships, it's no wonder we keep looking back to an era when the stage was a roiling petri dish as likely to spawn a fashion trend as a hit album. With two recently published coffee-table books compiled by the photographers lucky enough to be on the front lines, we can see what real style was all about. The early punk scene in California and the first decade of hip-hop in New York City are worlds apart, but both share what Bill Adler celebrates in his forward to Janette Beckman's book: a "youthful rebellion and blazing street style."
"Punk Pioneers: When Punk Was Fun"
By Jenny Lens (Universe, $29.95).
Photographer Lens' book, due out this month, captures the punk parade on its march through California from 1976 to 1980. Among the finds: Debbie Harry making her 1977 L.A. debut in a thrift-shop wedding dress spray-painted with the letters T.P. (Blondie opened for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at the Whisky) years before Madonna went matrimonial on stage; the Sex Pistols' final show at the Winterland Ballroom, capturing Johnny Rotten in the look that launched a thousand safety pins; and with surprising intimacy, the Ramones in all their leather jacket, drainpipe-legged glory.
"The Breaks: Stylin' and Profilin' 1982-1990"
By Tom Terrell and Bill Adler; photographed by Janette Beckman (powerHouse Books, $35).
Beckman, whose first photo book captured the U.K. punk scene in the '70s, turned her lens on the U.S. hip-hop scene at its infancy. Her work for magazines and, later, record companies exposed acts such as Run-DMC, whom she shot (with posse) in Queens in 1984, tricked out in the track jackets, hats and Adidas sneakers that soon became the genre's uniform, and an impossibly young LL Cool J at the beginning of his career, wearing a Kangol bucket that would become his trademark and expose the brand to a legion of scenesters. But it's the 1987 shot of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five in a Manhattan garage that somehow manages to encompass the entire style spectrum in a single frame: white cowboy boots, furs, acid-washed denim, sunglasses, gold foil, studs, a pith helmet and a pasture's worth of leather tanned into trenches, suits, pants and black and white jackets appliques with the words "Ca$h Money."