Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century by Greil Marcus - review by Charles Shaar Murray

Charles Shaar Murray

Punks in Perspective

Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century


Secker & Warburg 495pp £14.95 order from our bookshop

As the poet and lyricist Pete Brown once put it: 'Things may come and things may go, but the art school dance goes on forever.' The particular variation of the art school dance into which Greil Marcus stumbled while pursuing his fascination with the Sex Pistols has turned into a frisky old fandango indeed; keeping his research under control must have been a task akin to hanging on to an enthusiastic rottweiler which has suddenly decided to go walkies. Lipstick Traces begins and ends with a Ray Lowry cartoon satirising Johnny Rotten, Malcolm MacLaren and the in famous Kings Road SEX boutique, but this is only fractionally more than a framing device for the book's real agenda; by the time the MarcusTours round-trip is complete we have explored the furthest fringes of European avant-gardism via 16th-century heresy, the Paris Commune, the Cathars and The Slits.

The index betrays the breadth of the author's preoccupations: 'Trocchi, Alexander' rubs shoulders with 'Trotsky, Leon'; 'The Oils' with 'Dionysus The Areopagite'; 'Nazis And Nazism' with Bruce Springsteen's 1982 song 'Nebraska'; and 'Le Corbusier' with 'Led Zeppelin'. Appropriately enough, Situationist guru Guy-Ernest Debord is honoured with an index entry longer

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