Punk in Our Times

We are fast approaching that Diamond Jubilee. You know the one with the German and the Greek looking down guffawing at the rest of us whilst shimmying with one hand and holding their hot line to ‘God’ in the other. You can bet that the media and millions of people will be inflecting the rest of us to be ‘proud to be British’. This has to be more than irony! I mean crass stupidity and mass lobotomisation is an ultra conservative observation (non political please understand) of anyone who believes that our monarchy is anything more than a relic from a hostile and decrepit history. Whenever I think of the Queen I think of the Peter & the Test Tube Babies lyrics and that phallic symbolism fills my consciousness as does Anne. But like that song any point that our monarch had is in the past. Ask Phillip.

Why am I harping on about the monarchy? Well the most significant moment in their existence happened because of their existence. 1977! Well not the year exactly but the barge on the Thames with the anthemic spittle that was The Sex Pistol’s ‘God Save The Queen’. I can still see the depth charges blowing the deference of that youthful generation out of the brown murky water only to land in the lap of the credit fuelled commercialism of that proxy (or poxy) royal highness, Margaret Thatcher. The fact that she was awaiting in the vampiric shadows says much more about the megalomaniac disarray of the Labour Party at that time. However, whilst these two narcissistic monstrosities were fighting for the favour of monetarist parasites some of the most explosive and meaningful music came and went. Whilst Jim Callaghan was holidaying in the sun preparing to be replaced by the sadistic creature from down in the sewer the anger of disempowerment and marginalisation having been constructed and organised was now being disorganised and packaged to a whole new Britain (and other western alliances). From the 101’ers to Sham 69 we had the birth and death of punk rock. The most adrenaline fuelled music mounted Pegasus and then fell to the Earth when the master flexed its muscles.

Even Dorseteers got in on the act. Disenchanted youth who had experienced mostly failure in our local educational factories saw punk as an expression of how they felt. Many could not articulate it and many more went on to become everything that punk railed against but for a brief moment even some of the children of this shire saw the whites of the eyes of freedom. Then they blinked first and all was lost. We had The Clash; The Damned; The Stranglers; Siouxsie & the Banshees; The Buzzcocks; UK Subs; Crass… etc, etc who all came to the bottom of Britain to cater for the lost boys and girls. Working and middle class generally young and white kid’s pogoing and slamming. No fun to some maybe but wonderful to others. Pubs; clubs; garages; church halls; living rooms; bedrooms… across the county replaced Perry Como and Genesis with the emotions that were more often found outside of a mortuary than in it. The repartee of Lenny Bruce was about to supplant Groucho Marx as an en vogue iconoclast.

Out of this passion for meaning many bands and personalities were born. The Jam; Public Image Limited; Will Self; The Exploited; Half Man Half Biscuit; Mark Steel; Stiff Little Fingers; Tom Morello; Nobody’s Heroes… – the list is almost although not quite, endless. I haven’t even mentioned the beautiful people locally who carry the banner high above their heads proclaiming ‘get rid of these muppets and let’s have our say’. Life isn’t fair though is it? It’s not meant to be! ‘God’ gets Joe Strummer and we get Richard Drax and Oliver Letwin. If there was ever an argument against divine intervention it’s that.

Punk is more than the music though! It’s the spirit; the will; the hunger to want to be; the need to have fun and reject the monotonous. Descartes said ‘I think therefore I am’. Well excuse me but there are a lot of zombies out there if that is true because it should read ‘I don’t think therefore I am not’. If they did think they would not consume The Daily Mail or The Sun or Fox News or… they would battle it out with their conscience and imaginations and tell the didactics to go **** themselves. As John Cooper Clarke the great punk poet commented in ‘Twat’

Your bad breath, vamps disease, destruction, and decay.
Please, please, please, please, take yourself away.
Like a death at a birthday party,
you ruin all the fun.
Like a sucked and spat our smartie,
you’re no use to anyone.
Like the shadow of the guillotine
on a dead consumptive’s face.
Speaking as an outsider,
what do you think of the human race

The punks view from the outside or is it the inside? It doesn’t matter does it? The pin stripe brigade; the titled; the public school boy doing as he’s told; the combatants attire splattered in blood; the passive worker asking for more of the same and passing the baton to their children… You name it and the ghost of punk is screaming ‘wake up’. From Dorset to Tokyo to Mogadishu punk music had its time but the spirit of punk is needed more now than ever before. When you are lambasted for not waving that flag; for not being proud and patriotic; for not surrendering your sticky red fluid in foreign deserts; for preaching real freedom and not the illusory joke that the rest have bought and sold at the lowest possible price stand up and sing for all to hear

God save the Queen

the fascist regime,

they made you a moron

a potential H-bomb…

Then remember this is just the start. Punk in our times and we must never forget it.


Punks of ’77: Still angry after all these years?

Jason Cridland