Oh So Pretty: Punk in Print (1976-80) By Toby Mott
(£19.95, Phaidon) Review by Belinda Morris
During Frieze London last month, the John Varvatos London flagship storeheld an exhibition to celebrate the launch of Oh So Pretty: Punk in Print (1976-80). The book is a collection of rarely seen, visually striking ephemera of Britain’s subculture that comes from the Mott Collection – over 450 items including fanzines, gig posters, flyers and badges.
British artist, designer and punk historian, Toby Mott explains that the selection “illustrates the energy, boredom, dynamism and diverse social and class issues that were all part of punk”. Meanwhile men’s lifestyle designer John Varvatos adds that his brand “is firmly rooted in rock & roll and the punk subculture really shaped my own love of music and creative direction”.
For anyone around at the time, who loved punk, this book is a ‘must’, bringing back as it does, the true DIY nature of the time. It leans heavily toward the musicians (The Clash, Buzzocks, Sex Pistols et al) but other punkish elements – like fashion and politics – get plenty of coverage. And while the expected names, such as Johnny Rotten and Vivienne Westwood, are in there, so too are a few of the more obscure ones that you may have forgotten… like The Vibrators perhaps?
A couple of essays set the scene, ahead of a chronological trip with occasional and fairly random forays into exotic areas like the National Front or the fanzine ‘Temporary Hoarding’. Archival flyers, posters, leaflets, magazine pages… provide the illustration. A great book to dip in and out of; it's captured the dirty, snarly, vivacious, DIY, energetic, in-your-face essence of punk.