TVD Radar: Laura Davis-Chanin’s The Girl in the Back in stores 5/15

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Punk rock in downtown New York City seduced Laura and her friends. By day they attended school, and by night they snuck out to hear Patti Smith poetry readings, Jonathan Richman concerts, and early Ramones, Blondie, and Talking Heads gigs in the exploding clubs, CBGB, and Max’s Kansas City. These clubs also featured bands such as the Dead Boys, the Heartbreakers, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, Television, the Cramps, the Erasers, the Fast, the Mumps, and so many more.

Laura became the drummer of the Student Teachers, not because she had always wanted to be a drummer, or even a musician, but because it seemed like a great thing to do at that time. Female drummers were unusual in the late ’70s. Girls were usually in the front. Not in the back! When Jimmy Destri of Blondie discovered the Student Teachers, he was hooked and signed on as their producer. Even more provocatively, he became interested in Laura, which led her on a whirlwind experience with Blondie and, astonishingly, David Bowie.

It was Bowie who developed an interest in their band, led them into new territories, and shepherded them through complicated decisions, which, curiously and unfortunately, contributed to them not signing with RCA Records in 1979. Finally, it was Bowie’s intelligence and influence that pushed Laura to go where she really wanted to go—very far from rock ’n’ roll.

In this book, Davis-Chanin takes readers on a thrill ride though the late 1970s punk scene that ultimately crashed to a sudden halt. After playing a show at Town Hall in 1980, Laura was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. That was the end of her life as a teenage girl drummer.

Says Davis-Chanin, “we are all kicked in the gut by many things. And honestly, I was lucky. Lucky to have been stopped when I was, because rock ’n’ roll, despite the glamour, the fun, the money, was not an easy life. Many of us were really young at that time, and there were a lot of drugs. It felt like it was getting dangerous and, even scarier, possibly fatal.”

With a foreword by Yo La Tengo drummer Georgia Hubley and prose that flows like music, The Girl in the Back is a rich work of narrative nonfiction that is not only deeply personal but also revealing of the punk rock heyday in New York City.

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