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Better late than ever

February 22nd, 2016

In preparing an ebook version of John Armstrong’s Wages, New Star Books discovered an entire section of the manuscript, about working at “Ready Home & Garden,” hadn’t made it into the print book.

“Against the advice of our legal team,” the press has announced, “we decided to publish the missing chapter.”

In between his punk band gigs with the Modernettes, Armstrong became “a menial-labour mercenary, selling his surplus value to any scoundrel with a paycheque, from slaughterers of bunnies to producers of newspapers.” Hence his second book Wages is an alienated but funny follow-up volume to his better-known memoir, Guilty of Everything (2001), Armstrong’s autobiographical account of life as Buck Cherry in Vancouver’s old-school punk scene.

In 2007, publicity material for Wages (New Star, 2007) stated: “Whether he’s writing about the Bobbsey Twins, a pair of strippers who really love their vegetables, the Golden Road personal fulfillment seminar, where you learn that you choose your own cancer, or the literal bowels of hometown paper the Picayune-Standard, Armstrong simultaneously excoriates and delights… He is co-owner of Paramount Recorders, a Downtown Eastside recording studio, where he is finishing his first album of new material in 23 years. He currently lives in East Vancouver’s Skid Row with a Rotweiller named BoBo. In his spare time he drinks.”

Born on August 15, 1956, John Armstrong (aka Buck Cherry) grew up in White Rock. Dropping out of high school, he joined Vancouver’s emerging punk scene. With room-mate Art Bergmann he formed the Modernettes and later the Los Popularos. A compilation of Modernettes recordings was issued in 2005 by Sudden Death Records, and a reconstituted Modernettes toured Europe and Japan in 2007. Armstrong received nominations for a Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences award and for a West Coast Music Award.

Armstrong joined the Vancouver Sun in 1986 as a journalist and briefly served on the editorial board. His “Too Much, Too Often: The Lonesome Death of Johnny Thunders” won him a B.C. Newspaper Award in 1992. He has also worked as as a paperboy, a caddy, and a Bible camp counsellor; as a janitor at the Regal Theatre and as a shipper of video porn.

Having licensed the name Buck Cherry to an American band, the “punk packrat” Armstrong sold his extensive collection of punk memorabilia (flyers, set lists, gig posters, photographs, magazine articles, newspaper clippings, backstage passes and handwritten lyric sheets) to Simon Fraser University in 2008, as arranged by Special Collections archivist Eric Swanick.

“I started with a plastic Safeway bag,” he told the Globe & Mail’s Tom Hawthorn, “Then it was two bags. Then three. Then a box. The box turned into a suitcase bought at Value Village. I just hung onto stuff and it grew and grew and grew.” Eventually he purchased a wardrobe from a second-hand store to hold his collection. Swanick bought everything, including the wardrobe. According to Hawthorn’s article in the Globe & Mail, it was a case of good riddance. “I hung onto all this stuff,” Armstrong said. “I did my duty. I’m sick of having it around.”

Review of the author’s work by BC Studies:
Guilty of Everything


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