Realitology

“The Study of Reality”

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Punk Not Dead?
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A friend of mine made this post about John Lydon AKA Johnny Rotten. He was pretty spot-on about the whole punk movement. Punk was a huge influence on the world and in my life too, in almost every way possible–musically, politically, fashion-wise, socially, etc.

I remember back in ’76. I was 11 years old. The US was celebrating the bicentennial and patriotism was high and everything was painted red, white, and blue. It was the time of old hippie bands wearing their mother’s nightgowns and playing 15 minute guitar solos. Disco music was on the radio, there were bell bottom jeans, CB radios, truckers songs, custom vans, and lots of horribly ugly polyester leisure suits and lady’s pant suits. They weren’t at all ready for "She was a girl from Birmingham , she just had an abortion…"

We were visiting my grandma’s house. Walter Cronkite was giving the evening news and had a story about this horrible and shocking thing going on in England. The built up to it before every commercial break-"stay tuned folks, you won’t believe the terrible things going on in London." It was like they were talking about a serial killer or something. Then, on the last segment of the news they showed it.

They showed pictures of all the punk rockers hanging out on the King’s Road in London. Kids with ripped up clothes, green and blue hair and (gasp) safety pins in their noses. My parents and grandparents made the comments you’d expect "idiots", "stupid looking", "how can their parents let them dress that way", etc.

Me, an innocent and normal kid, from a normal household; I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen in my life! It was something different. It was cool. It was weird. I didn’t really know what it was, but I got the sense that if my parents and grandparents hated it so much then it must be something interesting. I remember thinking about it a lot and how I wanted to go to England and see those people. But being a kid of that age, there wasn’t much "punk" I could get into in our little country town, so those thoughts were put on hold for a while.

Fast forward to high school. I was the only one into anything remotely "weird". It was a little country school and Van Halen and Bocephus were the limits of what was acceptable. Sure you could get by admitting you liked Men at Work and The Police, but anything beyond that was considered "fag music."

As it turned out, I was both the most popular guy in high school and also the most hated. I got along with everyone except the cowboys and jocks who always wanted to "kick my ass" for doing "faggy" things like wearing earrings and listening to that weird music. That whole experience taught me a lot about people, what made them tick, what they were scared of, and who you could call a friend.

(By the way, two weeks out of high school I went backpacking in England, and Europe. The first place I went to in London was the Legendary King’s Road, the birthplace of punk. I wanted to  hang out with the "real" punks. I though we’d have some comroderie, talk about music, maybe go to the pub…What a letdown. They weren’t friendly, they wouldn’t talk to anyone not in their crowd and I found them to be pretty much assholes. Sigh.) 

After high school I was more into "the scene", was playing in a quasi-punk band, drinking too much and taking too many drugs and trying to get over the girl who’d ripped my heart out, and of course, living in all black clothes.

Actually they were really great times. As much hell as I put myself through, I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for the punk scene I might not have made it. Most of us were totally fucked up emotionally and otherwise but at least we had each other. And a night of dollar Jagermeister shots and singing along to The Misfits was sometimes all I had to be happy about.

But as that post about Johnny and the Sex Pistols said, it soon got to be too limiting and arrogant in some ways. After a while I realized that while punk talked about breaking the rules, it also made quite a few rules of its own. This music is acceptable and that’s not. These clothes are OK and those are not. I always had a ton of influences and interests and punk was only one of them so the cracks started to show.

I heard Henry Rollins say something similar. He said he realized the scene was full of shit when kids who were supposed Black Flag fans gave them shit because they tried to expand their musical style beyond what was "acceptable" punk rock music. I had the same experience in my band at the time. The "cool" people would come up front and dance or slam for the hard and fast songs but walk away when we’d play anything with a melody.

When it really to be too much is when the hardcore scene started taking off. Most of them were pricks. If they weren’t Nazi Punks then they were just assholes-full of testosterone and looking for a fight. They didn’t slam dance like we did, they skanked; which is kind of like slam-dancing but more selfish and violent. It’s about yourself and not so much about the group. It’s more about waving your fists around, and kind of trying (while not appearing to) hit people while you skip around in a circle. It wasn’t fun. It was just angry, selfish, and violent.

Then all the "cool kids" started getting into the scene. You know, the artsy-fartsy crowd who’s always looking for the cool thing to do and be into, and looking to show off (while appearing not to) for their friends about how cool they are (while trying to appear not to care). They were so full of angst because their BMW (that their parents bought them) just ran out of gas. Oh the horror.

That was the beginning of the end for me although I’m sure it died much earlier in the bigger cities. When it’s hip and it’s been absorbed into the mainstream then you can be fairly sure the innocence is gone. The great blob that it commercialism and marketing white-washes it and sanitizes it so it’s fit for kids at the mall and it doesn’t make their parents angry or scared. And when it’s been sanitized enough, you get things like Blink 182.  

But anyway…Punk was a huge influence on music and culture. Much more than most people realize. Almost all rock played these days owes a huge debt of gratitude to it and I’d honestly say that as country music has become more rock and roll a part of that is owed to punk as well. (I won’t trace the lineage here.)

The post I referenced earlier gives a good history of punk and its influence so I won’t go over it here. Johnny Rotten is still mad at the world and still spittin’ venom. Good for him. (Although I hope he can relax and enjoy life sometimes.)

The world needs that now more than ever as it becomes more and more corporate, more and more politically correct, more and more conservative, and more and more boring and dead.

Punk Rock was a big kick in the ass to a world that needed it. And I think the world could use it again. And Fast! Vive le Rock!

 

One Response to “Punk Not Dead?”

  1. Sid VIcious, on June 5th, 2007 at 12:36 am, said:

    Thanks for the link. It’s a shame, but those days sure were a hell of a lot of fun now that I look back. Of course then I thought I was “miserable”. Little did we know.

    While Punk was taking off our “Commander and Chimp” was snorting coke. Sweet.

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