[sic] Magazine

The Complete Capitol Punishment, Book & compilation CD.

The Complete Capitol Punishment, 1980-1984: A History of Nebraska Punk

The eighties get badly mistreated by public and press alike. At best, the decade has a kitsch appeal. At worst, it is portrayed as a kind of big-haired laughing stock. It is unfair because the music, the alternative scene, was thriving. Inspired by the likes of New York Dolls , Ramones and Sex Pistols , people started forming bands which were about ideas first and foremost. Musical ability? Well that would have to follow. It was the time of ‘do it yourself’. The music was fantastic. Indeed much of what is good about the current music scene looks back to the early eighties post-punk scene. There was a lot of doom and gloom, probably due to the oppressive economic and political climates. (It was the era of Reagan and Thatcher) Yet the anti-establishment groundswell wasn’t confined to just the bands. Independent labels sprang up, new distribution channels were forged and Fanzines were the perfect literary accompaniment.

Capitol Punishment was one such fanzine. It ran for five years under the stewardship of editor/founder Jim Jones . Though subtitled “a history of Nebraska punk”, I feel this is somewhat misleading in that a large part of the magazine was devoted to national/international bands and releases. Plus it wasn’t purely punk. In the UK punk had been a flash in the pan movement that was over almost as soon as it had began. 1976 was its heyday. In the US punk rock lingered on but there was a good deal of overlap with post-punk, college rock and alternative generally.

Loose leaf copies of Capitol Punishment were sold by Lincoln (and other) record stores, given away and passed around. If any still exist they are probably in loft or garage boxes somewhere and of the ‘well-thumbed’ variety. Now all the issues of the magazine have been complied into book form.
Here’s the thing; you don’t have to be particularly into the Nebraska scene to enjoy Capitol Punishment. Fanzines themselves were huge fun and this has all the hallmarks that I can recall – weird stories and poems interspaced between gigs, record reviews and general opinions. Capitol Punishment doesn’t feel overly political (There were a great many worse) and although irreverent, it isn’t so juvenile as to actually jar in any way. In fact it strikes my mind as very witty and informed. Of course, the lack of professionalism is there to behold, the spelling mistakes, the crossings out, the daft pictures and cartoons. Remember this was at a time well before Word Processing became standard. One issue even went out with the title misspelt. Honestly, I’m not sure I would have cut it on Capitol Punishment. Spellchecker aside, the simple joy of playing around with the words on the page was denied to these guys. They had to write it as they thought it, in linear terms. Respect.

Fanzines were superb fun and Capitol Punishment was obviously one of the better ones around. Many notable music journalists cut their teeth on fanzines. My overriding impression though concerns the writer teams’ great taste. Hindsight, (like Spellcheck), is a wonderful thing but CP were saying it how they saw it, right at the time. And boy were they right. For example bands like TSOL , Husker Du and REM all passed through the region with uniform and rightful praise whilst the fledgling Duran Duran were dismissed as worthless. Capitol Punishment loved Wire , The Sound , Postcard , Bauhaus … I could go on and on.

I was always indebted to the Nebraska scene as it gave me the wonderful For Against (Both Jeffrey Runnings and Harry Dingman featured in bands covered by CP. Indeed Jeff contributed to the magazine.) Now I have further reason to be grateful. The disc is pretty good too.