A long time ago, back before The Ramones could count to 4, before the Black Flag so proudly waved, before The Clash had enough rope, before X marked the spot and before the Sex Pistols backfired punk was knocking at the door. Now in 2005 “Punk” is just another genre in your local music emporium. A product to be bought and sold at the local mall.
Even the most suburbanized suburbanite can now take a trip to their local mall and come out two hours later as an Insta-Punk. Just add beer, a little attitude and voila: Dude yer a punk. Just walk the mall, any mall, anywhere U.S.A from Maine to Mississippi, Alaska to Arizona, Nevada to New York and you too can be Punk Rock and I mean it maaaaan. Stop by Hot Topic pick up some creepers, a pair of Docs or some Chuck Taylors, drop into the local hipster hair emporium “Hair ‘Tis” or whatever, get pierced, tattoed, pick up some black clothes and a handful of CD’s and there ya have it. You are a punk rocker, congratulations.
Well anyway you have the outward trappings of some such a thing. You are an individual, different than everbody else, into something new and hip, not just another jerk in oversized clothes & a backwards baseball cap (speaking of which no one should be allowed to wear but catchers) no, you are walking and talking statement on the vitrues of non-conformity just like the other 7 or 8 million of the non-conformists out there. Punk Rock, shmunk rock. There was a time that I thought it was new, interesting and cutting edge. Well it was new and interesting for a couple of years. But like any other pop culture movement in crashed and burned within a few years of inception in regards to momentum but it did leave behind it an interesting recorded history.
I used to be young once, I think, and loved Punk Rock. I was raised on it, and I was in on what I saw at the time as ground zero. I saw the NY Dolls make their splash, The final death rattle of Raw Power era Stooges, The Stones go from being a parent’s nightmare to a band your parents might listen to and a bunch of limeys from across the pond taunt, tease, terrorize and try the patience of any and all who came into contact with them, fans included. Of course, this didn’t last long and by the early 80′s elements of metal, pop and art rock were coming into the mix diluting Punk in its purest form.
In fact for me personally speaking I declared Punk Rock oficially dead after I’d seen the Dead Kennedys play in Hollywood with T.S.O.L., The Cheifs & I forget who all else ca. 1981 and there probably a couple hundred of San Fernando Valley headbangers holding up their lighters as they shouted encore, while the rest of the crowd was pelting the stage with beer cups,sneakers,flyers and any & all many of flying projectile. They did encore and Jello had a good chuckle at the hair farmers and the lighters. But these are just the long winded reminisces of a event close to 25 years ago. Sheesh I’m getting old.
Well, anyway for a brief point in time, Punk was something that was fun and interesting, different, unique and driven by intelligent,like minded but not too like minded people who were looking for something that you could call your own for the time being, something that would remedy the doldrums of late 1970′s F/M radio. Misfits, artists, musicians, anti-musicians, poets, rejects, drug addicts, gay people. In general, marginalized people, angry people, people looking for kindred spirits in dive bars and anywhere else you could pull of a gig or two before you got booted by the owners.
Or as the case may be literally booted by the cops upside your head or square in the ass. I narrowly escaped arrest after a punk show in East Hollywood at The Polish American Hall at which The Weirdos, Screamers, Mau Maus, Vicious Circle, The Speed Queens and some other bands the names of which escape me at the present played and which L.A.P.D raided for improper permit, so they claimed.
A handful of L.A.’s finest walked into the hall, saw a couple dozen kids doing the alligator and pogoing declared it a riot and charged off into the crowd swinging truncheons & flashlights while people were sent off screaming, running and just scattering to anywhere and everywhere there wasn’t a cop coming from. By a miracle of sorts, my friends and I escaped and spent the next couple of hours hiding behind a dumpster in a completely horrible gang & drug infested Mexican neighborhood praying that the helicopters and /or rollers didn’t see us. We could not go back to get our car and with our leathers, boots and gear we were just asking for it should the police see us. By comparison, the local gang bangers we ran into were mellow.
OK, back on course here. Let see where we were. Bitching, moaning about what a silly commodity Punk Rock has become, a little autobiography, an old man punk rock story and blah blah blah. Anyway even when Punk was “new” it was not new. Just another step up the ladder towards modernity. Just as the bands of today draw upon the 70′s and 80′s for inspirations, the groups of the 70′s drew upon the garage and art damaged psych outs of the 60′s and the high energy sounds of 50′s R & B, Rockabilly, Blues for theirs.
The 1950′s is where Punk in earnest started in my book. Out of the boredom and fading prosperity of post WW2 Stepford America came the juvenile deliquent and the first real youth movement. As with any movement there has to be a soundtrack and Perry Como and Patti Page just were not cutting it. Kids were looking for something to call their own. Hot rods, fashion, slang above all: Music.
The amalgamation of Hillbilly, Blues and R&B which came to be known as Rock N Rool gave birth to the likes of Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard. They were new & unique to the ears and disliked by the older generation.