Friday, January 26, 2018

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Post Punk Changed The World

Christopher Owens again delves into the world of music, this time the post punk scene. 



We all know the story with punk and how it influenced people who would never have thought of picking up an instrument/pen/art canvas and gave them an outlet. John Lydon famously talked about there being "no future", but for many who heeded the call of punk, the future was unwritten.

But what post punk did was that it encouraged the same people to go beyond three chords. To think why they were picking those chords. To examine the role of words in their songwriting: were they telling a story or painting a picture. To deconstruct the world that they lived in and rebuild it in their own image.

And while this could be high faulting talk (the first wave came to be in 1979, the year Margaret Thatcher came to power, ushering in the "mememe" era), the amount of independent labels, self sufficient bands and underground fanzines showed that it was possible to construct a genuine alternative to the mainstream. Hell, even the biggest band in the world (U2) come from a post punk background, and were arguably the only band of their ilk to retain their roots despite massive success.

Published in 2016, Post Punk: Then and Now is a collection of essays which originated out of lectures, talks and discussions in 2014. Several questions lay at the heart of these discussions: what were the conditions of possibility for art and music-making before the era of neoliberal capitalism? What role did punk play in turning artists to experiment with popular music in the late 1970s and early 1980s? And why does the art and music of these times seem so newly pertinent to our political present, despite the seeming remoteness of its historical moment?

All very interesting and worthy questions to ask. As we all know, movements of any kind (be they social, political or musical) are all reflections of their time. NICRA arguably wouldn't have been possible without the combination of the civil rights movement in America, the emerging university educated nationalist class and the increasing influence of Marxism within the IRA. All three were as important as each other.

Where the book succeeds is discussing the social and historical contexts that led to the rise of the genre, as well as the implications that its re-emergence in the last 15 years has to say about our retro charged culture, as well as interviews with the likes of Lydia Lunch and Green Gartside (Scritti Politti) on their working methods and their thought processes behind their art, as well as looking at the roles that art and fanzines played.

As all three editors state in the introductory lecture, the immediate influence of punk, the state of Britain in the late 70's and the paranoia over the four minute warning drove manys a person. Makes perfect sense to me.

Ellen Willis is then quoted in order to explain how:

she talks of a frustration she felt, an incompatibility between the kind of desires that were articulated and propagated by the counterculture, and mainstream left wing politics...We're haunted by the failure of the left to come to some arrangement with the libertarian energies that came out of music culture. Instead, the right absorbed and converted the energies of the counterculture into its own project of re-individualisation.

Now this is a very interesting point of view for two reasons. Firstly, it means that the post punk period can be defined, historically speaking, as being from 1979 to 1985. From the rise of Thatcher to the consolidation of her reign with the defeat of the miners, that period of post punk where countless people started up record labels based on the British governments Enterprise grant went from being perceived as radical subversives (see "God's Cop" James Anderton raiding record shops in Manchester for copies of 'Penis Envy' by Crass) to being seen as Thatcherite yuppies, out to make a few quid for themselves in the world of dog eat dog.

Secondly, this talk of the mainstream left failing to absorb the energies of the counterculture. Although it's tempting to think of Jeremy Corbyn with Stormzy, or Tony Blair with Noel Gallagher, Willis is driving at the failure to harness the power and influence of these radicals in order to change our governments.

The only example of such a thing we have is Green Party MLA Steven Agnew, who emerged from the Giros scene, and who recently embarrassed himself over comments about a salary cut, so maybe it's best such a failure to link up remains that way.

As you can see, the book really set my imagination on fire. The essays on the movement in places like Poland in the early 80's and Brazil were just as fascinating, not only to see how they flourished in such differing circumstances as Britain, but also to read about how the local music had such an influence on what these bands did, as opposed to the concept of ripping it up and starting again (as articulated by Orange Juice).

The best essay/lecture in the book is 'Going Overground: The Jam between Populism and Popular Modernism.' Here, Mark Fischer examines the career of the Jam and how their appeal and legacy has been hijacked by a bunch of nostalgic, backwards looking types, when the actual music and lyrics are just as challenging as those found in a Killing Joke or Gang of Four LP (with the main difference being the Jam's huge commercial success).

He argues that their signature song, 'Going Underground', was an archetypical response to the rise of Thatcher, and how it also symbolised a retreat into the sidelines for the radical left: I don't like what I see so I'm going to retreat instead of attempting to change anything. It's a potent argument, and expertly articulated.

Overall, this is a book which forces you to rethink your conceptions on music from this period. Those who are already in tune with this subculture will find an awful lot to interest them and argue about. Others may find it too dry and overwhelming for those with no prior knowledge or awareness of post punk. Such people would be advised to persevere, as the concepts are universal enough and the comparisons to our modern world will provide an easy foot hold.

Gavin Butt, Kodwo Eshun, Mark Fisher 2016 Post Punk: Then and Now Repeater ISBN-13: 978-1910924266


Christopher Owens reviews for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland.
Follow Christopher Owens on Twitter @MrOwens212

24 comments :

PaulJPMN said...

The post punk period can be compared to the period of jazz in the late 50s/early 60s when the artists turned away from the market and pursued their own selfish ideas driven vision and much great creativity resulted. I would say 1979 was the high point of post punk creativity rather than the starting point. The Slits debut session for John Peel in September 1977 was the first sign that things were starting to move away from 123!. The Fall had already recorded their first single in 1977 though it would not be issued till the following year when they got their first Peel session too.

Do not forget the Labour Party did try to ‘harness the power and influence’ of artists like The Smiths, Paul Weller and others with Red Wedge in 1985 and on to the 1987 general election. Weller has spoken of his regret about ever getting involved with it. Perhaps artists have no wish to be used by politicians or activists who don’t value creativity for it’s own sake but as a tool to be used like any other. By the mid 1980s the unstated battle within the Labour party and the left was between the cultural leftists with their identity politics (Ken Livingstone/GLC/The South) and the old labour working class trade union left (Arthur Scargill/NUM/The North). The middle class culturalists/multiculturalists won eventually (with Thatchers help in her defeat of the trade unions which they would never admit to) and now predominate in the arts and academia to the detriment of both as places of creative original non conformist ideas. The political class wish to control the terms (language, imagery) of artistic expression not listen and look without prejudice.

Paul Weller came from a conservative voting working class background and at the height of punk in the summer of 77 declared in an interview that he would ‘vote conservative’ at the next election. He is the only one I can think of from that period who made such an artistic/political journey concurrently and compellingly so publicly. Just as an aside since you mention them, Jaz Colman’s vision expressed through Killing Joke has more in common with the libertarian leaning lyrics Neal Peart wrote for Canadian prog rockers Rush. And “Ether’ by Gang Of Four is the most bare boned view of NI and it’s prison system of the time, no comforting metaphors.

John Peel’s producer John Walters said that by 1981 while there was a huge amount of music being released it was becoming increasingly harder to to find enough good music to fill the 2 hour shows. As Ian Dury sang ‘The chances were slender, the beauties were brief’.

Niall said...

Having lived through the Punk era and experienced it first hand I find it difficult to associate that era with being anything other than a music / fashion trend that disappeared as quickly as it had emerged....we didn't care about the impact on society and we certainly didn't care about the quality of the music....look at SLF...what a seriously crap band but we still went to see them but they were just another Punk band and besides we were all fully aware that they were a bunch of Orange bastards from the Shankill!!!!!
Plus the music had a few 'memorable' tunes but the rest was just someone screaming in to a microphone and trying to be as mad as possible.....just like the Bay City Roller fad prior to it....it was just a trend....it's impact was minimal as kids moved on from it very quickly....Ska replaced it and then the New Romantics with a late splattering of American rock and then the Indy band scene...as for it's impact on society, I find it difficult to make anything of it....it was just a music trend...let's not try and turn in into some sort of major civil movement...it wasn't.

Peter said...

PaulJPNM
I don't think 1979 was the height of the post-punk scene. 1980 saw the release of Siouxsie's Kaleidoscope, Joy Division's Closer, SLF's Nobody's Heroes (and Hanx the greatest live album of all time!) and The Jam's Sound Affects plus the arrival of bands like Echo & the Bunnymen and Killing Joke. But I agree that it was pretty much all over by '81 and the split into numerous sub-genres.

DaithiD said...

The Smiths are my favourite band, and Morrissey would claim to be a Provo supporter In the 80’s, and generally anti-Thatcher in a few songs.Its not one of their best, but A Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours is said to be about the Republican Movement.

Christopher Owens said...

PaulJPMN,

Thanks for the passionate reply. I really enjoyed reading that. Good to see someone else with such an awareness for this period.

However, I am going to have to disagree with you on a few points:

1 - 1979 was definitely a high point of creativity, but the pinnacle? Can't agree with that at all. What's This For...!, Solid Gold, Flowers of Romance, Movement, Prayers on Fire, Deceit, Red Mecca, Mission of Dead Souls, Slates and Insect & Individual Silenced all came out in 1981. All stone cold classics.

2 - Red Wedge was more of an attempt to make politics seem cool by a lot of commercially successful artists (once again, Jeremy Corbyn and Stormzy). What I (and Ellen Willis) am referring to are people who came of age in the underground and decide to enter politics as a result of this. Again, I refer to Steven Agnew as an example.

3 - Weller made that comment as a way of winding up the Clash. Ian Curtis was a Conservative voter, and no one gives him grief for it. It's also worth bearing in mind that Britain, at that time under the Callaghan government, was in dire straits (although arguably that was a legacy of Heath's government) and it wasn't a big surprise that people associated Labour with the Winter of Discontent.

4 - Jaz Coleman may have become more openly libertarian later on in his lyrics, but the early Killing Joke albums saw him focusing on the blurred boundaries between us and them (much like Gang of Four).

5 - 'Ether' is a song that has two conversations going on through it. On one hand, it is a fairly bare bones look at the H-Blocks (much like 'H-Block' by Hit Parade) but it's also a look at an individual trapped in a consumerist lifestyle and not sure if he enjoys it or not. The two join together with the line "There may be oil under Rockall."

Niall,

Maybe for you it was a fad (and that’s cool). However, the influence of punk cannot be denied. Aside from it influencing the world of fashion, advertising and music, it also led to people taking the opportunity to take control of their own lives without having to toe the line. This could take the form of becoming a vegetarian to playing in a band to being a promoter. People who never thought they could do such a thing or be introduced to a way of thinking

In Belfast, we had the Anarchy Centre (the first of its ilk in this country) and Giros (lasting from 1986-2003 before being resurrected in 2011 and continuing to this day). Out of these places spawned so many bands (many of which would never have existed without the influence and encouragement of Giros/Anarchy Centre) and arguably one of the first vegan/vegetarian restaurants in the city.

This documentary puts it in perspective:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7R_tJpihHs

Peter,

All great albums but I can’t agree with the “ended by 81” remark. See above why.

DaithiD,

I’m very sorry to hear that!

PaulJPMN said...

Niall
The great post punk albums never sold that much - albums by ELO and Supertramp were the big sellers in 79. But John Peel had his biggest audience in that period and was at his most influential. NME and Melody Maker likewise.

Peter
It’s just my personal perspective re 1979. 1980 was great too, just less so. I love ‘Kaleidoscope’ and saw the Banshees live in 1980 (and got backstage too). I prefer ‘Unknown Pleasures’ to ‘Closer’, the production/sound on ‘Closer’ has never got me. Also I don’t think the album will ever be judged separately from Ian Curtis suicide. ‘Sound Affects’ was The Jam’s last great album. The Bunnymen’s peak came years later in 1984 with ‘Ocean Rain’. Killing Joke’s debut from 1980 still sounds stunning. Also Simple Minds made probably the best album they would ever make in ‘Empires and Dance’. Likewise Magazine with ‘The Correct Use Of Soap’ And not forgetting Dexys, The Beat and UB40 - all great debut albums (and big singles hits) in that year too. But the big leap forward was made in 1979 like it was for jazz in 1959. 1979 was the high point for Disco too.

PaulJPMN said...

Christopher

Thanks for reading and replying.

I think it is an age thing, something hit me at a certain age. By 1981 I was no longer listening to Peel though still buying records and going to see bands through the early/mid 80s.

Red Wedge was an attempt to get young people to vote for the Labour Party. When anyone tries to get young people more involved in politics they usually mean the particular politics they are pushing whether it is Crass or SWP fronts like RAR. I knew people in the 80s who went from anarchism to the far right. I wondered if it was a sense of belonging they sought rather than having any awareness. I am very cynical about politics through pop culture having worked for a company that was founded in the late 60s with the political/cultural ethos of the time.

What Weller said was in an interview with Record Mirror in 77. He was expressing a view quite common at the time though maybe he has since tried to wish it away. Mark E. Smith voted conservative at one point too. The ‘Winter of Discontent’ came later in early 79 and lasted a few weeks and by the admission of an ex Fleet Street editor in a doc about it was hyped up to the level of a national crisis for maximum damage to the Labour Party. Looking back the late 70s were maybe not quite as grim as people think economically. Margaret Thatcher interviewed in 1977 on the BBC said that any government pursuing a course of action that led to 3 million unemployed ‘would be a thoroughly irresponsible thing to do’. Something she had achieved by 1983.

A band I really loved called Poison Girls played the Anarchist Centre in 1981. Meeting (and speaking long into the night) with anarchists in Belfast gave the band an insight into trying to make anarchism a reality in a city where the main political force was deep historical divisions.

Christopher Owens said...

PaulJPMN,

I would certainly agree with you about age playing a factor in the individual's perception of a certain period of time (hence the various remarks I've heard from people over the years which are a variation on the old "there was no good music after (insert time period)."

Agreed about Red Wedge, but not about Crass. Today, they will tell you that their biggest regret was not persuading people to vote in the 1979 election. Although some of their fans were active in street politics, Crass themselves generally didn't get involved. Penny Rimbaud talks about how the group initially had a sizeable contingent of NF / British Movement supporters among their fans, and first adopted the anarchist symbol merely as a way of keeping both the NF and SWP at bay by taking up a position that was neither Fascist nor Socialist but independent of both.

I can very well believe you about people changing sides. Certainly, the perfect example is John Cato (frontman for the anarcho/hardcore band Admit You're Shit) who ended up as an ideologue for Combat 18. You're correct when you suggest a kind of herd mentality, but I suspect that the actions of some crusty anarcho punks with their self righteous attitudes and middle class parents also helped push people away.

I certainly don't blame you for being cynical about the link between politics and pop culture. The recent show at the Grammys where so many artists, who openly praised Obama despite his mass use of drone attacks, made anti Trump remarks (and even got Hillary Clinton in) is a perfect example.

Thank you for pointing out that I'd mixed up the dates with Weller and the Winter of Discontent.

Poison Girls were great. Funnily enough, next month is the second anniversary of Vi Subversa's death.

PaulJPMN said...

Someone I know posted a list of their favourite Fall tracks online after the death of Mark E Smith. The guy is only a few years younger than me but I don’t know any of the tracks he posted! His Fall era is years down the line from mine.

I don’t think Crass had much influence around the time of the 79 election, it came later, seemed to hit a peak around 81/82. I used to write to Steve Ignorant, he was a very clever guy. He was the youngest by some way and also the only one who was not middle class. There is an interview online from 1984 of Crass in their kitchen with Penny Rimbaud talking about being disillusioned with The Clash. He was in his early 40s then which I think is far too old to be disillusioned by any rock band. As Rimbaud and the other members of the band espouse what is really hippy philosophy, Ignorant says nothing. Always wonder what he was thinking. But I respect Crass and Poison Girls. They found themselves in the polarised space of the left/right street politics of the London of the time and stood their ground. The far right attacked them, even turned up at the house where Poison Girls lived to try and intimidate them. The far left tried to co opt Crass and then attacked them when they refused to get on board. Interesting what you say re the anarchist symbols, a fanzine went to interview Crass in 1980 and specifically discuss anarchy and found they didn’t know much about it.

Veteran war correspondent John Pilger has said that 100,000 bombs were dropped by the US during Obama’s 8 years. Liberal America just looked the other way. I suppose having found a candidate they could feel good about themselves for supporting, the truth was unwelcome. Their feelings were what mattered above all else, like the display at the Grammys this week.

I had no interest in listening to Vi Subversa when she talked about ‘the patriarchy’ in interviews but when she sang - she was a very gifted lyricist, a compelling stage presence and just a brilliant unique artist. Poison Girls were heads above the rest of the anarcho punk bands they got lumped in with.

AM said...

Great review followed by commentary which felt like a breath of fresh air - something totally different from the stale political discourse we are so used to here

Peter said...

AM
Indeed, we have argued Irish politics into a coma. More footy and music please.

AM said...

Peter,

practice what you preach and throw us a sporting piece!!!

Christopher Owens said...

PaulJPMN,

The Fall were a strange band. Although their peak (for me) was 1979-1983 (Dragnet through to Perverted by Language), they always delivered a handful of great songs on each album right up until the end. Bend Sinister (1986), The Infotainment Scam (1993), Fall Heads Roll (2005) and Sub-Lingual Tablet (2015) are the best post peak albums.

Steve Ignorant nowadays will tell you that he really had no interest in politics and it appears . In 1979, their gig in Conway Hall was attacked by fascists, and anti fascists responded with attacking the fascists. Crass condemned this, and this led to the following response from anarcho punk fans: http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/900/888/1600/crassconway4.jpg

AM and Peter,

in that case, expect a few more soon.

PaulJPMN said...


CO

You are right about The Fall still coming up with great songs periodically. BBC Radio 6 replayed a Fall doc after MES death and I was surprised how good some of the career spanning tracks were. I saw The Fall in 82 and 84. In 82 they were a shambles. I cannot remember anything about the 84 gig! On record only for me.

Thanks for the link. I see Penny Rimbaud replied with a very long response. I think someone in Steve Ignorant’s position as the singer and lyricist in a band must have wondered if all this was what he actually what he signed up for!

Daithi D

Morrissey expressed support for the Brighton Bomb. The Smiths came to Ireland on their ‘Hatful Of Hollow’ tour a month later in Nov 84. See this article for a little known factor about that tour:

https://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/the-smiths-were-ordered-to-play-the-north-by-irish-govt-26719453.html

Morrissey also had a visit from the UK police regarding his song ‘Margaret On The Guillotine’!

Christopher Owens said...

PaulJPMN,

Was the 1982 gig McGonagles in Dublin? If so, you're not alone on thinking that about the gig. If the 1984 one was also in Dublin, that was the night of the Brighton bomb. According to Steve Hanley's book, Brix got it into her head that the British were going to retaliate by blowing up Belfast (where the next gig was) and refused to come out of the Europa. So they played without her (wonder if someone brought that up to her at her recent gig in the Black Box)!

Yes, Penny Rimbaud did respond and it's interesting to note how he says “You talk about the ‘class war’; what is the class war? We are all oppressed by the same system, is it any difference what class you are from, oppression knows no barriers.” Yet, by 1984, the band were playing benefits for the miners. The weight of reality had pushed the band towards a class-struggle position. Not a big surprise they chose that time to break up.

PaulJPMN said...

Yes, it was the night before St Patrick’s Day. I am not sure why I went as I had no interest in The Fall by then. Hex Enduction Hour had just come out and I still don’t know it. Mark E Smith had a cassette recorder that he kept holding close to the mic. Maybe there were some sounds on it he was putting into the mix but I couldn’t hear anything. He put it down on the stage at his feet and somebody swiped it! He stopped the band and demanded it back and that went on for a few minutes. That was the highlight of the night! Brix was on stage at the TV Club gig in Dublin. I remember the conversation about the Brighton Bomb with my friend at the bus stop on the way to see the band. The bomb was in the early hours of 12 Oct 84 and the Dublin gig was that evening of the same day. The Brighton Bomb came at the time the miners strike had been going on for over six months. Both of those events appear to have caused politically minded activists and artists in the UK to realise that the politics of even a year before were a world away. I had a letter from Penny Rimbaud in 1985 saying he was ‘becoming increasingly sympathetic to the IRA’. He did not mention the Brighton Bomb but for some in the UK the violence directed by the state against the miners and the bomb attack on the government at that particular time could not be separated. I read it to mean that perhaps Rimbaud felt that his and Crass’s pacifist stance was no longer realistic by 1984 rather than support for the IRA, though I am just guessing. They always said they would stop in 1984. Remember the countdown numbers on their albums/singles.

Christopher Owens said...

PaulJPMN,

That's very interesting re. Penny Rimbauld. Bear in mind he'd felt compelled to place this insert with the Hit Parade 7' (Dave Hyndman from the Belfast Anarchist Collective) http://images.45cat.com/hit-parade-heres-what-you-find-in-any-prison-1983-3.jpg. I'd say you're on the money with linking the Brighton bomb with the miner strikes, as it was around this time that anarchist groups in England began to see the IRA in a different light. This would come to a head when Chumbawumba (pre UK top 5 success with 'Tubthumping') played the Feile in the mid 80's, and stated in fanzine interviews they had no problem with the IRA using beatings and shootings as a kind of street justice. This led to a succession of fanzine articles from people in this country attacking English anarchists for romanticising the situation over here.

PaulJPMN said...

The letter I got from Penny Rimbaud was in Oct 1985. I should have mentioned the ‘Battle of the Beanfield’ where the police attacked the convoy of ‘new age’ travellers on their way to Stonehenge a few months earlier. I think that too was also something that made people like PR feel that the state (after the end of the miners strike) was now emboldened to brutally attack those it saw politically as enemies or just outsiders and what was the realistic response to be from those targeted by the state. I remember an interview with one traveller years later where he said during the miners strike as the police travelled from county to county in their vans they would mouth and gesture to ‘new age’ travellers they passed on the road, ‘you’re next’. Arthur Scargill said in a speech in Conway Hall in 2009 he believed that a striking miner who was picketing named David Jones had been killed by the police on the picket line. He also said 20,000 miners had been injured during the strike and 13,000 arrested, unprecedented. In David Peace’s novel GB84, a brilliant and depressing book, he makes the connection between state activity in NI and tactics used during the miners strike. I was living near (but not that near) to Tottenham in late 1985 and the police presence and attitude in the area after the riots there and murder of PC Blakelock was like nothing I have ever seen before or since.

Steve Ignorant said in a letter to me in 1982 that his sympathies regarding NI were with working class nationalists. Though he also expressed sympathy for people on the loyalist side trapped by a tradition they were born into. I had asked about his thoughts after a member of the Au Pairs had said in an NME interview that she supported the IRA. She was middle class, left wing and comfortably distanced from from the situation (somewhat like Chumbawumba perhaps).

I wasn’t a Crass fan but wrote to them as I thought what they were about was so different from anything resembling politics in the Rep of Ireland where I grew up. I asked them lots of questions, they replied and even sent me singles by other bands they were releasing on their label.

The music that conveys the darkest sense of the darkest times of the 80s in the UK for me is not Crass or anarcho punk but Killing Joke. The album ‘Firedances’ especially. I think middle class Jaz (Jeremy) Coleman from Cheltenham was always more attuned to the times than the leftist music journalists who mocked him.

Christopher Owens said...

Well remembered re. Battle of the Beanfield. That was a devastating blow to the underground, leading to people becoming embittered and there was (according to Amebix) an increase of heroin usage among such people around this time (similar with miner towns).

That's very interesting regarding Tottenham. I reviewed 'A Climate of Fear' on this site, and I found it highly disturbing that (among other things) the subsequent investigation saw children as young as thirteen were detained without access to parents or solicitors and pressurised into signing statements implicating certain people. Clearly, the Met were a law unto themselves in those days.

Crass, musically, had their moments. I won't pretend to be a big fan, but I certainly admire them for their musical ideology (being as influenced by Stockhausen and Cage as much as punk rock) and Dial House. Other singles on Crass Records (Hit Parade, The Mob, Zounds, Flux of Pink Indians, Cravats, Poison Girls, Captain Sensible) were great. Very eclectic and very unlike Crass. A trap Conflict fell into later on when they started their own label.

Jaz certainly was/is, and I suspect that is because his world view was a mix of political intrigue, Crowley and LSD paranoia. Long live Killing Joke.

https://www.revolvermag.com/music/killing-joke-weird-wild-story-one-rocks-most-revered-uncompromising-cult-bands

frankie said...

"The post punk period can be compared to the period of jazz in the late 50s/early 60s when the artists turned away from the market and pursued their own selfish ideas driven vision and much great creativity resulted"

PaulJPMN,
We must have read very different versions about music...Post Punk, or anything thing Punk can be compared to Rockabilly music of the mid 50's and nothing else.. It wasn't a bunch of jazz session men who broke away but a bunch of white kids who grew up on cotton fields south of Mason Dixon line who broke away from mainstream music and put their own selfish music dreams to wax...People like Presley singing Big Boy Cruddup's Thats alright or Cash singing Leadbelly.'s Good Night Irene. They were the original Punks. When Holly played The Apollo in New York in the 50's, Buddy and the Crickets blew the crowd away (the crowd was black)..Trust me Paul, it was a bunch of share cropper kids who can be compared to 70's punk and nothing else.....

Fast forward to the late 70's/ early 80's in Belfast...When groups like Built for Speed, Chevys where playing in the Bailey Bar, BTC and today in 2018 McKenna's and McHugh's Where groups like The Outfits, Culprits and The Saberjets still play. Punks and Rockabilly's who used to meet up at the old bandstand in Corn Market made a pact to cover each other, help out in fights, and then laugh at that Saturdays escapades in The Delta complete with a carry out.. No one liked the Mods or the Skinheads. I don't remember the Rockers in the 147 club in Queen Street bothering anyone. I remember protestant mods with a red, white and blue target, catholic mods had a green, white and orange target, Pumks and Rockabilly's it was all about the music and sticking fingers up at the world.. Here is probably first Punk record cut...No Jazz influences.

Christopher Owens said...

frankie,

"...Post Punk, or anything thing Punk can be compared to Rockabilly music of the mid 50's and nothing else..."

Sorry, but how can you possibly say that about this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Y1NAqQEWck

Yes, the notion of the original wave of punk being no different or revolutionary from rock n roll is a popular one. Yes, the likes of Little Richard were doing something genuinely far out there for their time. But also one that is easy to play, such as "Beethoven was a punk rocker due to his unorthodox compositions."

Suggesting that the original punk milieu was nothing more than rehashed rockabilly not only ignores the socio-political conditions of the time that infused the movement, but also ignores the bands who sprung up in the wake of the first wave who were inspired by the attitude, not the music (Human League, Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, John Foxx, Cabaret Voltaire).

frankie said...

Chris,
I took umbrage to Paul's first line about how Jazz musicians broke away in the late 50's/ early 60's and paved the way/influenced Punk. That's bollicks and lazy..

But on a few points you made about Rumble not being the first Punk record. This is what Bobby Gillespie who formed Primal Scream said when asked about Link Wray...If I could play the guitar the way I'd like to, it would be in a style between Johnny Thunders and Link Wray. Both of them play reckless, dirty, sexy rock'n'roll., (not unsurprisingly the opening credits to Johnny Thunders linked show is a souped up version of Pipeline, originally recorded by The Chantay's in 1963)

Which is basically what Punk is "dirty, sexy and reckless rock'n'roll". Take two of the Sex Pistols biggest hit's Something else or C'mon everybody, both penned by another early Punk, Eddie Cochran, who unlike Crass as you rightly pointed out regretted not telling people to vote. Back in the 50's Cochran was singing about being told by his Congress man in Summertime Blues that "I'd like to help you son but you are too young to vote..

"Yes, the notion of the original wave of punk being no different or revolutionary from rock n roll is a popular one"

Here is an extract on the history of Punk (from www.punk77.co.uk) "I had never seen anyone put on a show like that ...it was just shocking...he looked like a real street kid...that show really changed my life...I was overwhelmed by Elvis, I was overwhelmed by the musicians. I could feel the playing." Jerry Nolan (Heartbreakers, New York Dolls) from the book 'Please Kill Me." Just like many kids of the late 70's early 80's thought when the seen who ever on TOTPS, watching a kid on a stage singing about something they could relate to, that was as a far away from their parents music as possible.

Suggesting that the original punk milieu was nothing more than rehashed rockabilly....

I am saying 70's Punk owed and borrowed a lot from 50's Rockabilly music in it's delivery, energy, raw naked aggression, clothes and the two styles of music both enjoyed about 18mths of fame before they mutated into the Bobby Vee's of yester-year or the Human League of the early 80's. I am not forgetting about socio-political whatevers. What about the problems that sprang up around the same time as Rockabilly started being played on radio stations... Where the miners strikes any different to the race riots of the 50's in Alabama? Or was dealing with the KKK and state police in Mississippi really any different to a British police offer cracking open your head because of human rights?

frankie said...

Cont....

, but also ignores the bands who sprung up in the wake of the first wave who were inspired by the attitude, not the music (Human League, Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, John Foxx, Cabaret Voltaire).

Take John Foxx as an example who's first group Tiger Lilly on their first single recorded a cover of a Fats Weller song Ain't Misbehavin. Same can be said for groups like The Clash who recorded a reggae version of James Waynes 1951 original. One of The Clash's biggest hits I fought the law was penned and recorded by The Crickets (yep those Crickets who backed Buddy Holly). No matter what you look at it a lot, if not all of the progressive post Punk electro music took their inspiration from music of a bygone age not really that progressive and forward looking as it appears...

This is the attitude that inspired a musical generation. According to Jim Marshall is probably the most ripped of photograph in rock'n'roll while according to some sources recorded the best punk rock album ever in front of some of America's most hardened criminals. Although the title of being the first punk rock group without doubt has to go to Los Saicos of Peru who recorded punk in the mid 60's with tracks such as Demolición.

Yes, the likes of Little Richard were doing something genuinely far out there for their time. But also one that is easy to play, such as "Beethoven was a punk rocker due to his unorthodox compositions."

"Well there ain't nothing wrong with the long-haired music, like Brahms, Beethoven and Bach. Well I was raised with a guitar in my hand and I was born to rock"

The big problem with long haired hippies writing fantastic pieces of music is they weren't penned for the working class of the time but for elites of their day. I am not knocking their collective geniuses but it wasn't Punk and in no way can it be compared to anything, unless you put their music along side some of The Beatles or Beach Boys tracks. Little Richard, who wore more make up than any of the post Punk New Romantics in a song recorded in 1951 called Taxi Blues , telling the driver to take him anywhere because he just beat up his girls face and she is in a terrible mess. (that song that could easily have been talking about one of Sid's and Nancy's infamous bust ups} a bad ass song with attitude, the same thing that punk is and new Romantics wasn't ...

Bit like people being offended by Hip Hop artists singing about sex....They have a lot to learn from Lucille Bogan

Christopher Owens said...

frankie,

that isn't what Paul was saying. What he was saying was that the post punk period was COMPARABLE to that period of jazz in the 50's/60's where "...the artists turned away from the market and pursued their own selfish ideas driven vision and much great creativity resulted." And I agree. Take Pubic Image Ltd, who delivered the Pistolsesque first single 'Public Image', and then gave us three albums of krautrock influenced dub. Same with Killing Joke and Joy Division, who took the punk template and fucked with it so much that it became their own respective sounds.

That's what he is saying. He's certainly not saying that jazz influenced punk.

Re. 'Rumble.' Absolutely pivotal tune to the development of rock n' roll as a musical force to be reckoned with. Sad to see that Gillespie quote. As much as I hate his music, he obviously has a great record collection.

"No matter what you look at it a lot, if not all of the progressive post Punk electro music took their inspiration from music of a bygone age not really that progressive and forward looking as it appears..."

Strawman argument. It's about the music they produced. Are you honestly trying to say that the likes of 'Underpass' (with it's JG Ballard references), 'Down in the Park' and 'Very Friendly' (a song about Ian Brady murdering Edward Evans) sounded like 50's rock n roll?


"The big problem with long haired hippies writing fantastic pieces of music is they weren't penned for the working class of the time but for elites of their day."

I'm not sure who you're referring to here. If you mean prog bands like Pink Floyd, Yes, ELP etc I'm afraid that you'll find they used to fill big arenas back in the day. I doubt it was purely middle class types buying tickets. And, on top of that, just because it wasn't exclusively written for a particular audience doesn't mean that that particular audience can't enjoy and analyse such pieces of music.


The problem I have with your argument is that, even though what you say is essentially correct, you're taking the idea of punk and applying it to scenarios which, although similar, fall outside the period. Punk, as well all know, has come to be known as a form of music that has it's roots in the 50's rockabilly, 60's garage and 70's glam rock but is very much music of the time. And it's only punk that people do this with, holding it up to a higher standard than other forms of music. Does Jackie Shane get listed as a pioneer of glam rock? No, because her music has nothing to do with it (despite it being astonishing).