Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Guest Post: 1977 and all that … Turning Rebellion Into Money?

It’s time for another Guest Post, where we welcome our good friend Porky to the everythingsgonegreen pigsty. Porky tries to claim he was “too young” for the first outbreak of punk, but he still has some thoughts about the legacy of 1977 and all that …

This year is the 40th year of punk, if you take your starting point as 1977, rather than 1976 or 1969, or even 1956.
Punk’s origins are less important, the essence is. The Sex Pistols’ anger, The Clash’s passion, the Slits female revolution, the Saints and Radio Birdman’s honest, upfront bad attitude, the Suburban Reptiles’ uncomfortable Auckland abrasiveness and Bad Brains’ fusion of hardcore punk and roots reggae. These and many other bands shaped music in a way that still has some authority today.
Punk was the kick up the backside music needed in the 1970s, the swift sweep of the broom to prog, American MoR, cockrock and novelty guff that permeated the airwaves and Top of the Pops at the time. Music had become the mere background to lavish costume designs, puerility and daft dances as style supplanted substance.
 It wasn’t just angry; it was political: whether from 1977 (Pistols, Clash, Adverts) to its younger siblings (Crass, Dead Kennedys, The Exploited), on through the ongoing revivalist acts such as NOFX and Rancid, punk has been resolutely anarchist, socialist, feminist, reggae-loving, anti-racist, eco-warrior, and opposed to conservatism. It’s the voice of the disaffected.  
And yet, four decades on, I feel a cold breeze feather my skin as I think of what punk has become. What exactly does punk mean anymore? Is it about rebellion or has it become a nostalgia it’s okay to like? Was it even radical in the first place, and just another phase that the music industry soon latched on to and exploited? Oh my, I never wanted to have these questions floating around in my head. I was too young for the first outbreak, but you didn’t have to live through the Punk War to know what it fought for, daddio. 
So now we have the ungainly sight of John Lydon becoming John Liedown. The antagonistic rebel typified the movement in 1976 when he reflected the views of millions of bored British teens, beaten-down by the threat of rising unemployment and austerity, with Thatcher’s ghastly ‘I’m all right Jack’ vision just an election away.
John Lydon
 Now, Lydon is happy to reveal he thinks ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage is fantastic, Brexit is good for the working class and that Donald Trump is a nice chap and not racist at all. Always an enigma, Lydon carefully crafted himself an image of the apolitical warrior, the man on the street who just wants to stick two fingers to the man. His latest comments seem to suggest he is part of the establishment, happy to promote New Zealand butter.
He is only one, of course, and I’m unaware of any other punks that have drifted to the right. Joe Strummer’s final gig was a benefit for striking firefighters, Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers remains resolutely anti-fascist, and most new punk bands retain some semblance of that bolshy youthful angst.
But what of one of my original questions, has, in the Clash’s words “turning rebellion into money” become a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Perhaps the answer lies in the actions of Joe Corre, the son of ex-Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren.
On a barge on London's River Thames late last year, the businessman set fire to his ₤5 million collection of punk memorabilia in protest against the commercialisation of the once-feared movement.
Joe Corre
Corre didn’t have anything to lose, he’s already rich, so the excessive worth of his pile of bondage trousers, bootleg recordings and trinkets would never have made a dent in his bank balance.
“Punk has become another marketing tool to sell you something you don’t need,” he said before striking a match to some Sid Vicious posters.
Who indeed is making money from the many punk special publications, the compilation albums and the books reflecting on the productive period from 1976-79 when anything seemed possible? I’d bet my prized copy of The Clash’s self-titled 1977 debut that the people that many punks hated are banking that filthy lucre.
But strip away all the exploitation and murky views and punk remains the one true musical revolution, when hating the British monarchy, opposing the fascist National Front, and wanting a riot of your own was not merely two fingers up to the establishment, it was the voice of an angry, youthful working class.
Now, fuck you. 

You want more Porky? ... you can find him here.

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