In The Gutter by Val Hennesy
Publisher: Quartet Books
In the Gutter is a curious and illuminating artifact from the late 1970’s in London – a time during which Britain was experiencing sizable rifts between the established mainstream and the developing punk and counter-culture movements. Written by Val Hennessy, a Fleet Street columnist – the text in the book attempts to explain the emergence of a subculture which the author clearly found both threatening and bewildering.
The book’s production initially stemmed from a series of programmes on punk presented by Hennessy for ATV, which at the time of their release were described by one critic as a ‘chaotic disaster’, and by another as ‘a triumph of originality’. Similarly, the tone of this book has been somewhat contentious, and the subject of bemused disapproval by many. However, conflicting opinions aside, the text of the book does little to compete with its strong selection of images, which depict proud and riotous London youths, clearly revelling in the freedom punk offered. Surprisingly, it is the discordant tone of In the Gutter which gives us such a vivid and particular insight into the punk movement as it was seen and (mis-)conceived from the outside.