Kosmo Vinyl Brings Punk Rock to Rose Library

Artist Kosmo Vinyl shared his international perspective on punk and D.I.Y. culture, as well as his experience with The Clash and other bands, at the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book (Rose) Library, which boasts a growing collection of punk and Do-It-Yourself (D.I.Y.) culture in Atlanta, on Sept. 26.

Rose Library Curator of Modern Political and Historical Collections Randy Gue introduced Vinyl as a man who holds many titles including, but not limited to: “A press agent, a conceptual publicist, rogue manager, manager, a force of nature, emcee, ringmaster, conciliary, chaperone, factotum, fromage du pompadour, the creative director of The Clash, a producer and an artist.”

Earlier this year, Vinyl opened his art exhibit “Cisco Kid vs. Donald Trump,” featuring punk, pop-art, and political commentary at Different Trains Gallery in Atlanta. Because of his work with The Clash, Ian Dury and the Blockheads and other musicians, the Rose Library invited him to join a conversation on punk and D.I.Y. culture.

Vinyl said music was always an integral part of his life — he grew up with the radio on everywhere he went.

“[Music] was literally in the air,” Vinyl said.

He cited the early Mod Movement, a rebellious youth subculture based in London, as his biggest influence. Vinyl said his very first memory is of a torn Buddy Holly album cover from his father’s collection. He bought his first LP, more expensive in those days, at age nine, and amassed 14 by age 17. Because of music’s ubiquity in his life, Vinyl said it felt natural to continue to pursue it professionally.

When the early ‘70s rolled around in London, Vinyl said he had no interest in wildly popular rock bands like Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd, but rather, he preferred punk rock. At the time, punk was blowing up; all he could think was getting into the scene. As a self-described “music fanatic,” Vinyl was determined to make a name for himself in the music industry.

However, his first job in the business was far removed from creating music, as Vinyl began his career doing manual labor and any other jobs presented to him. He said he was “no stranger to hustle.” In fact, he was known as the “Odd Job Man” at independent record label Stiff Records.

Before his managerial role with The Clash, Vinyl was Stiff Record’s emcee for tours, a job he never envisioned for himself. Stiff Records organized a four-act tour and asked Vinyl to do public relations work, where he later met and bonded with Ian Dury of Kilburn and the High Roads.

Fast-forward to 1979 — Vinyl’s relationship with the members of The Clash and Ian Dury deepened. He had been close with Ian Dury from the song “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” to “Reasons to be Cheerful.” He became more and more involved with the band, and eventually became the manager of The Clash.

“The Clash had more of a sense of purpose, in that ‘wake the town and tell the people’ kind of thing,” Vinyl said. “They saw themselves as a conduit. They saw themselves as some kind of network that maybe could pull these things together.”

Rose Library Manuscript Archivist Sarah Quigley attended the event to support Kosmo as a punk music fan.

“[The most interesting part about the conversation was learning about] the democratization of the music industry of punk and how you don’t have to know how to play an instrument to start a band or to be a musician,” Quigley said.

Kosmo’s experience shows that one does not need to be a musical prodigy to get involved with the industry. Sometimes, passion, determination and initiative is enough.