New Book Documents New York Punk Scene, KISS, Van Halen and More
Warner Music Group recently introduced Single Notes, a new line of short form, digital-only books about music and pop culture. The series launched with five titles on the Rhino imprint back on June 12, including My Life In The Ghost of Planets: The Story of a CBGB Almost-Was by Binky Philips.
The book paints a picture of bad timing and missed opportunities in the '70s New York City rock scene from the front man of the most revered CBGBs act you've never heard of.
What started as a series of punchy blog posts and email blasts eventually congealed into a wildly entertaining book that rockets the reader back in time to the fertile New York City underground that produced the New York Dolls, KISS, the Ramones –and Binky's band, The Planets.
Binky's colorful, downtown stream of consciousness rap is laced with buckets of anecdotes, stories, and brutally honest revelations that put you right there – in the Coventry, at Kenny's Castaways, the Mercer Arts Center, Max's Kansas City, CBGBs – where the punk revolution was slowly taking root back at the turn of the '70s.
"When I met the Ramones, there was nothing about those guys that indicated a revolution," Philips told Noisecreep. "They were just a weirdo band trying to get a record deal. And I dug them. They didn't even have lead guitar! I just loved that band."
Philips loved other bands, hated other bands – but his tastes aside, he has a true knack for capturing the moments in such a way that one can almost smell the stale beer and cigarettes after a 4 A.M. Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers gig at Max's.
The Planets, one of the only multi-racial bands to ever emerge from the New York punk scene, made plenty of noise around New York City back then, and Philips recalls in sharp detail the day Paul Stanley called him in '73 to tell him that KISS had gotten signed.
He remembers thinking, "How cool, Paul got there first! We're three months behind." Then the Ramones got signed. Blondie. Television. Talking Heads. Patti Smith. And many more. But The Planets, who boasted true arena chops vs. the quirky, simplistic styles of many other bands, were left behind – victims perhaps of their own proficiency and creativity.
But there is no bitterness in Philips's voice; rather he treats the reality with a New York style tough humor and bluntness. Philips's story also goes on to cover jaw-dropping stories involving Iggy Pop, Van Halen and many other iconic musicians, all brought to life with his chainsaw prose that carves out a story that's as historic as it is entertaining.
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We read a lot of music books at Noisecreep – and it's been a longtime since one has crackled, buzzed and sucked us in like this one. Binky still plays in a version of the Planets today, and works in the music industry as promoter of new bands to major labels and radio. And we're grateful that he was able to so dutifully capture an era the way that he did. Read this book.
Download My Life in the Ghost of Planets: The Story of a CBGB Almost-Was on iTunes.