Sunday, December 12, 2004

Some thoughts about Punk

Did you see that programme about punk last night, 1-2 F U? At first I thought, why the hell have they got Jonathan Ross presenting it and why aren't those punks kicking his head in? But as the programme went on I thought he was actually quite a good host. Although his style can't really be said to be punk, he does wear some pretty unconventional clothes and he is a DJ/Presenter with a speech impediment which is again kind of going against the convention...
I was far too young to appreciate punk the first time around, I was only 7 and enjoyed my jubilee street party with the best of them. But by the time of the New Wave punk bands in the early 90s I was straight down to that mosh pit, pogoing like mad.
I graduated in 1992 straight into the recession. After having been told all my life 'be a good girl and get a qualification, you'll be guaranteed a top job' it was a blow to be considered 'useless' and temping on factory lines, cleaning, shop work etc getting treated like dirt, just to keep a roof over my head. Not that other people didn't have it worse than me. I was in South Wales, again too late to protest against mining closures, that way of life had gone forever. But I was there to jeer at Thatch when she visited, hoping to convince people that nice, clean electronics firms would fill the gaping wounds she'd left. And I discovered how the police treat peaceful protesters.
At this point I listened to the Levellers and was hit by a revelation, 'Wow! This is my Voice, my music!' I'd always loved celtic music and identified with their rage against capitalism and the love of Freedom that came across in the lyrics. From then on I thought of them as 'my' band, right up until they 'sold out' with their song about leaving the 'One Way Of Life' they'd formerly believed in, ie 'Celebrate'. This was when I sought out the old school punks, bands like the Clash and the Sex Pistols that were verboten to me aged seven. I also started going to folk-punk festivals and came across bands like Show of Hands, Oysterband, Lee Griffiths, Martyn Joseph, NMA, FOS Brothers...there's a whole treasure trove out there, all I had to do was look!
I prefer the philosophy of the Clash to that of the Sex Pistols. The Sex Pistols were just about wearing cool clothes and being as shocking as possible, but the Clash were about social justice for a generation. The Clash always believed that the audience came first, as illustrated by them slamming the producer's head in the door for trying to talk to them just before they were due to go on stage - excellent! But the Sex Pistols detested any weakness in anybody, including the need to applaud, so the only way to show them your appreciation was to gob at them or throw a bottle at them. Not a philosophy that really works. I found myself admiring the way Joe Strummer held the band together and kept them focused in spite of exhaustion, personal differences, the drummer's drug addiction etc etc. A true professional, and he wasn't afraid to care. RIP Joe.

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