Had this sent in by June Icon in Australia.
It was posted by an Annonymous surfer
but I thought you'd find it amusing!
|Admit it: punk stunk
A cold and cheerless Saturday night in December 1975. Spend the rest of
Saturday evening getting pointlessly drunk in Henekey's Wine Bar in Bromley
High Street, London, or go the short distance to Ravensbourne College of Art
to see an unknown band called the Sex Pistols? We opt for the latter and
hand over our money at the door. Within minutes we wish we'd stayed in the
pub, for there is more future in getting mindlessly obliterated on Newcastle
Brown ale than in listening to this racket.
The Sex Pistols can barely play their instruments. Each tuneless thrash that
passes for a song sounds the same as the one before. And while the spotty,
undernourished frontman knows how to sneer, he certainly doesn't know how to
sing. After retrieving our Afghan coats from the cloakroom, we shuffle off
into the night, back to our squat to skin up a joint and listen to the new
Little Feat album.
Some months later, we set off to see an R&B band called Roogalator at the
100 Club. They have cancelled and the replacement is the Jam, playing one of
their first London gigs. They are almost worse than the Sex Pistols and we
ask for our money back.
Yes, I admit I never got punk. I was 22 years old in 1976, and by rights I
should have loved it. But I hated its lack of imagination, its absence of
musicality and its empty nihilism. Yet today, as we face a nostalgic jubilee
around the 25th anniversary of the Pistols' God Save the Queen, it has
become heretical to point out that punk actually wasn't very good.
Talking to young fans at recent gigs by the likes of the Strokes, the White
Stripes and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, I have frequently been told how
lucky I was to have been alive during the punk revolution. I don't have the
heart to tell them how truly awful most of it was. Sure, it had energy. It
had attitude. But so does a pub team of no-hopers playing football on a
Not everyone who saw that early performance at Ravensbourne College shared
my judgment. Also in the audience that night was Susan Dallion, then 18
years old and soon to become Siouxsie Sioux. She and her mates decided they
had just witnessed the future of rock'n'roll, and went on to become punk's
famous "Bromley contingent". A little later she formed Siouxsie and the
Banshees, one of the more imaginative bands to emerge from the punk scene.
Several years ago, I met Siouxsie again. We reminisced about the occasion
and I asked her who, with the benefit of hindsight, she thought was right in
their assessment of what we heard that night. "Er, I suspect you probably
were," she admitted.
The truth is that the reverence in which punk is held a quarter of a century
after it first rattled the bars of youth culture is based on a series of
myths and misconceptions.
First: it is now received wisdom that by 1976, popular music was so
complacent, self-indulgent and moribund that punk was a necessary reaction.
True, we could have done without the tedious triple-live albums from
Emerson, Lake and Palmer. But punk threw the baby out with the bathwater.
The mid-1970s were actually a golden period for rock. David Bowie released
Low, Roxy Music made Siren and Led Zeppelin produced Physical Graffiti. In
America, Bruce Springsteen had just released Born to Run, Dylan had returned
to form with Blood on the Tracks and Tom Waits was finding his boho voice on
Nighthawks at the Diner.
Second: punk, they say, was responsible for launching the most prolific crop
of great bands since the 1960s beat boom. Really? The Sex Pistols made one
studio album - which I admit was a classic. The Clash made a handful of
great records and Siouxsie had a certain style when she got over the
swastika. But after that, can anyone seriously claim that the Damned (about
to embark on a reunion tour), Sham 69 or Slaughter and the Dogs have stood
the test of time? Of course, there was Ian Dury and the Blockheads. But the
great man was 35 years old by the time of God Save the Queen and had been
peddling his inspired songs for years in various parts of north London.
Third: we are asked to believe that punk not only rescued rock'n'roll from
its deathbed, but gave birth to the "new wave". The so-called new wave
happened not because of punk but despite it, as those who could write proper
songs and had some musical ability began to reassert more traditional
values. Elvis Costello may have astutely adopted some punk "---" attitude.
But he knew more than three chords, and hardly needed the example of Johnny
Rotten to make My Aim Is True and This Year's Model.
Fourth: we are regularly reminded that punk ensured music would never be the
same again. In fact its influence was ephemeral. By the end of the 1970s,
punk's self-styled barbarians at the gate had exhausted themselves and pop
music went back to its old ways. Only worse - as the 1980s were drowned out
in tinny synthesisers and boring drum machines programmed by men with
risible perms. And the old farts the punk hordes promised to consign to the
dustbin of history? They just go on and on.
Let's face it. Punk was rubbish. But perhaps it was always meant to be.