Book Review: Punk Under the Sun

Who knew? Years before gaining a prominent spot in popular culture by becoming filmmakers’ go-to actor when you need to cast a character who dresses and acts weird (and not much else), Johnny Depp had a credible career as a punk rocker. Yes, I know he’s currently in the busman’s holiday aggregation calling itself Hollywood Vampires, but time was, Depp was part of a proper south Florida music scene.

That this may come to news to some is indicative of how important a book like Punk Under the Sun truly is. Authors Joey Seeman and Chris Potash chronicle the 1980s punk scene in and around Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach. That scene was vibrant and original, happening in an era (the last, probably) when individual cities or regions could have their own musical scene, influenced only a bit by outside forces, and thus displaying true local color.

This 220pp trade paperback is stuffed with photos, and the cooperation of most everyone who was part of the South Florida scene makes it feel authoritative and comprehensive. The authors weave a narrative of sorts, and place the scene into a larger context. Chances are good that most readers won’t be familiar with any of the music nor with the artists (save Depp), so digging into Punk Under the Sun requires a bit of faith. But that leap will be amply rewarded with the knowledge that comes from reading this volume. The ‘80s almost certainty did represent the final flowering of local music culture in the U.S., and this book lets readers get a sense of what it was like in one of the overlooked corners.