Book: Trouble in the Camera Club

Blondie, El Mocambo, 1978

As a child born in the early ’80s, I missed out on (or was too young for) a lot of great things: real goth music, being age-appropriate to watch Degrassi High (though I watched it anyway, and couldn’t wait to wear one-shouldered sweaters and have my own locker), Trudeaumania, the social relevance of John Hughes films, the crumbling of the Berlin wall, and of course, the punk movement.

Thanks to Don Pyle, I am now able to vividly imagine what it must have been like to be a teenager growing up in Toronto during this incredible time. His book, Trouble in the Camera Club, documents both his personal experiences and musical adventures sneaking into Toronto fixtures like the Horseshoe and the El Mocambo from ages 14-18.

Imagine a time before the internet, when communication was done in the form of letters, phone calls and word of mouth. Now imagine a shocking new genre of music thumbing its nose at pop music and social mores finding its way to Toronto and changing the way a generation lived and thought.

Intersecting narrative of live shows, daily life and explanations of his photography technique, Pyle reveals what it was like to grow up in a city that was just starting to do the same.

But the punk scene wasn’t perfect. For many, it was just the closest fit.

Teenage Head, Horseshoe Tavern, 1978

“In retrospect,” writes Pyle, “I see aspects of how conservative punk was. Long hair and wide pants were not allowed, women were rarely equal and “faggots” were often reviled, even though the origins of the scene were in gay discos with homo art-school cliques.”

“By 1978, any illusions about punk clearing the psychic slate of everything that┬ásucked about music and society crumbled, as splintered factions laid the groundwork for today’s segregationist approach to self-identity.”

Still, I can’t imagine how far back my generation would be – musically, socially, politically – had punk never made it to our young little city and been celebrated by so many forward-thinking freaks who weren’t afraid to change.

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