Ever Get The Feeling You're Still Being Cheated
The 25th anniversary of the UK Punk Explosion (1977) falls this year; 2002. Cash registers all over the record fairs of the UK are hoping for a chaotic upturn in turnover. Even EMI has come out of the cupboard with a tacky, tasteless 4 x cd "souvenier". Coffee table books, DVD expansions, boxed set collections & a mine of misinformation; Paul Simonon was in the Damned, Magazine were a major influence on Pere Ubu, Sid played a mean bassline, Paul Weller was a punk. Celebrity sellections, fashion collections, memoirs, anecdotes & misinterpretations. How do you intellectualise the anti-intellectual? Ask Jordan, she's got all the answers - well, she's got some cats & she has tea with Adam Ant every once in a while (& look out, he owns a plastic gun). Ask Vanessa Redgrave, but I don't know Vanessa Redgrave, & neither do you, Jon Savage.
Meanwhile, back in reality, the roots of punk are still shrouded in dispute; it's a Brit thang, it's a yank thang & everything inbetween. trakMARX.com is proud to welcome Phil & Tony from Timeteam to "shed some light" on the phenomenon - & we've got just 3 issues to uncover the truth;
Phil; "Come & have a look at this here trench, Tony. There's some absolutely incredible archaeology down here."
Tony; "This is trench # 1 - we've opened up a fairly deep incission running back from 2002 all the way to the 1950's. Some kinda legacy was obviously left by the Beats (directly in the music of The Fugs & David Peel & The Lower East Side) - Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerrouac, Cassidy & all. See this red-ish bronze deposit at a depth of about 6ft. That's where it all began for my money."
Phil; "Tangible evidence of a punk attitude in this era is fairly scant, Tony. Buried deep under stratas of ego. It's all rumour, conjecture & opinion, Tony, & as you may well know, opinions are like arseholes, everyone has one."
Tony; "Unquestionably, something began to stir in the garages of the USA in the early 60's. Bands like the The Sonics began to build walls of distorted gtr that would eventually come to be known & loved as punk as early as 1962. Misfits like The Monks (ex-US servicemen) practised sonic terror on innocent Germans around 65/66."
Phil; "That's right, Tony. In those days, however, a punk was mostly someone who took it up the arse, as Burroughs loved to point out. In Straightsville USA circa early 60's anyone who didn't dig work, Unkle Sam & Frank Sinatra was a punk."
Tony; "Yes, Phil. The Sonics & their ilk soon had some inspiration from another direction - The British Invasion (The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Angry Young Them, etc), & specifically, The Rolling Stones."
Phil; "Spot on, Tony. Young British musicians in the 60's had learnt their licks from rekkids brought to the UK by US forces servicemen during & immediately after WW2. The blues, doo-wop, country, bluegrass, proto-soul & R&B had all affected the output of these young UK beat combos - no wonder the Yanks couldn't believe their ears. Someone was abusing their heritage better than them!"
Tony; "The Beatles & The Stones changed the world of rock & roll for ever. The Beatles brought us a new kind of pop music; perfectly structured 3 minute vignettes, close harmonies, teen beat stars with gtrs, mop top cuts, skreaming girls, the top of the poppermost malarky."
Phil; "And here's the rub, Tony. The Stones were darker than that. By the time The Stones embarked on their second US tour at the end of 1964 they were fast becoming the anti-christs of the fledgeling new rock scene. The Stones were not for taking home to meet yer parents - parents hated the Rolling Stones, Tony: the arrogance, the attitude, the drugs, the sex, the loud gtrs - even The Beatles wanted to be the Rolling Stones. By the time their second tour hit the US the nation's youth were at fever pitch. The Stones were rebels, they were anti-establishment, they had long hair - for god's sake. They were punks, they probably took it up the motherfuckin ass & if you bring their fuckin rekkids into MY fuckin house I'm gonna kick yer freakin ass all the way to Baltimore - y'hear me?"
Tony; "Yes, Phil. The kids in Amercia heard fine, in fact their hearing was so good they heard The Stones plane touch down @ JFK from LA. They wanted a Brian Jones haircut, they wanted a Jagger stutter, they wanted a Richards sneer, they wanted Wyman's girls -but they could only dream about being as cool behind a drumkit as Charlie Watts. 100's of 1000's of garage bands fromed in the wake of that tour. From the North to the South, from the East to the West; The Standells, The Count Five, The Chocolate Watch Band, The 13th Floor Elevators, Captain Beefheart's Magic Band, The Electric Prunes, The Remains, Red Crayola, The Strawberry Alarm Clock, Love, The Seeds & 100's of 1000's more. Garage Punk was born."
Phil; "That's right, Tony. Meanwhile, back in the laboritaries of the demented, the finishing touches were being added to a drug that was gonna wipe the floor clean for the rest of the decade. LSD - relax, turn of yer mind & float upstream. LSD was an entirely different drug than the speed based pills & potions that had fired the rockers & the early punks. LSD heralded a new dawn for rock music - the peace & love vibe turned nascent punks inwards, causing them to mutate into pshycedelic travellers of the counterculture. Ken Kesey & his Merry Pranksters, Thee Electrcik Kool-Aid Acid Tests, Timothy Leary. The hangover from the summer of love lasted until around 1973 & was still potent enuff to provide early UK punks with inverted subject matter for their alienated rants - hate & war - turn it on it's head. Flared touser/long hair - straight trouser/short hair."
Tony; "Absofuckinlutely, Phil. Protopunks were naturally at odds with the hippy game plan & skulked around in angstville waiting for the man, The Velvet Underground & Andy Warhol's Factory in NYC. Although the Velvets remained failry obscure for most of the time they were aktually together as a band, their legacy has increased over the years to that of mythical status today. The original band recorded only two lp's before John Cale left, taking much of the experimental aspect of the band with him."
Phil; "Way to go, Tony. The Velvets are often sited by many as the birth of the modern punk movement. As we've already seen, that may be a bit previous, Tony."
Tony; "NYC was not the only city feeling the winds of change, Phil. In Motorcity, Detroit, the kids were also bored outa their skulls with peace & love. Five bad boys from Detroit formed the MC5 in an attempt to mix rock & roll, free jazz expressionism & revolutionary politiks. Their manager & guru, John Sinclair, even formed his own politikal party, The White Panthers, as a tribute to the revolutionary Black Panthers & their revolution of equality & human rights for all. Kick out the jams, motherfucker. Brothers & sisters, what I wanna know is; are you part of the problem or part of the sollution? The MC5 were caught up in the shit storm that raged around them - they were even once surrounded by a mob of Black Panther supporters after a show who questioned the 5's politikal convictions to the point of trousers being soiled in the name of rock. It's probably wise to point out at this stage that the boys did not support their managers beliefs quiet as wholeheartedly as he did & when he was eventually jailed for possession of TWO joints they failed to join him in prison."
Phil; "That's right, Tony. The MC5 may have made worse politicians than The Clash did some 10 years later but they did succeed in bringing the attention of the world to one of the most original & seminal punk rock bands in the history of the world; The Stooges. Busting outa Ann Arbour, Michigan, @ the same rate he busted out of his skintight jeans, James Jewell Osterberg took no prisoners & very little shit (& a shitload of drugs). Along with brothers Ron (gtr), Scott Asheton (drums) & Dave Alexander on bass, The Stooges provided the first real blue print for modern punk rock. Their influence was far reaching for such a relatively unheard cult band - Radio Birdman & The Saints, all the way from Australia, were amongst those whose music would never be the same again. Everyone wanted to be Iggy; Jonathon Richman famously won't listen to his early recordings because he feels he was merely impersonating Iggy back then. The Modern Lovers debut lp, however, still remains the perfect meeting of The Velvet Undergound & The Stooges."
Tony; "Yes, Phil. The Modern Lovers held the flag on their own for a while - NYC was stiring again - Suicide & The New York Dolls weren't far behind (Suicide were the first punks to use the word "punk" in their show in 1972). The Dolls were the blueprint for what would eventually be labelled Glam in the UK. They took The Stones basic rock & roll moves & covered them in make up, lurex & glitter. Androgeny had never been so hip - the band played gay haunts (although all were resolutely straight) - they played the crossdressing card with panache. The Dolls sounded the alarm, they excited the kids to create all over again."
Phil; "1-2-3-4-tastic, Tony. Suicide were a minimalist duo operating with a battered old synth & a drum machine, that much is for sure. Alan Vega's Elvis on Mandrax captivated all who bore witness. The New York Dolls & Suicide smashed the mould all over again. New stars were rising nightly; The Ramones, Television, Patti Smith (yet again, no stranger to that Stones legacy in the image dept) & Blondie. There was also a comparable scene growing in Cleevland, Ohio; The Electric Eels, Rocket From The Tombs &, later, Pere Ubu. A new wave had arrived, people began calling it punk rock all over again, Tony."
Tony; "This is where it gets a bit intriuging, Phil. Around this time a fey Englishman by the name of Malcolm Mclaren (he was a gentleman's clothier, by trade?, & the hep cats of the NY scene joked that he was their haberdasher) had began to infiltrate the Dolls entourage with a mind to being accepted & loved. He eventually became their manager as it all started to fall apart. His best idea was to dress them up in red leather & flirt with communist iconography. The Dolls were hated even more. The band split & Malcolm headed home with Thunders gtr sound, Hell's haircut & ripped t-shirt & The Ramones ripped jeans in his suitcase."
Phil; "Oi - Tony. Hang on there a minute. Malcolm had an idea, well he had someone else's idea, but it'd be futile to split hairs at this stage, wouldn't it? History (or the kind of history you get from intellectual "heavyweights" like Jon Savage or Anthony H Wilson) was in the making & myths would be duly written & absorbed - the press went mad, we all swallowed - hook, line & sinker."
Tony; "A very valid point quite confusingly put, Phil. What's it all about, Alfie? Pages of analysis & commentary have already been written about the UK Punk Rock Explosion of 1976/77, most of it from the perspective of style conniseurs who still own complete sets of Seditionaries t-shirts & copies of "God Save The Queen" on A&M. The fact that you couldn't buy a Destroy t-shirt in Coventry or Newcastle or Bristol speaks volumes about that kind of perspective. Real first wave UK punks made their own t-shirts, took in their own flared jeans, painted their own slogans on their own stolen biker jackets & nicked their own safety pins outa mum's sewing box. Real punks took their old rekkid collektions down to the rekkid & tape exchange & sold the lot to finance the purchase of first Damned, Buzzcocks, Adverts & Clash lp's."
Phil; "That's not bollocks, Tony. This year zero thing was all part of the indoctrination, the great white riot lie of the first wave. Skorched earth policy, we've never been in bands before, we've always had short hair - honest. Honesty is not a word you associate with many prime movers on the original London scene."
Tony; "That's right, Phil. Strummer was the son of a diplomat, Jones a Mott wannbe, Cook & Jones cockney wideboys, Matlock a frustrated pop star. Liars A to E, as that bloke out of The Killjoys would eventually point out. With the benefit of hindsight it is easy to nail the real punks - the ones who really meant it (& still do) - the lovers of the underground. The Damned, The Adverts, ATV, The Buzzcocks, The Vibrators, X-Ray Spex and a handful of others."
Phil; "That's so right, Tony. They always seem to confuse the fashion accessory posuer with the real street urchins who aktually lived & breathed the lifestyle. There's so much more to music than taking the moral high ground & cocking a snobbed nose @ the rest of the world, Tony. Those kind of cunts realy rile my goat."
Tony; "So, the end of a remarkable day that brings us neatly to the end of part 1. As you've seen, we've already amassed some incredible evidence that suggests that Punk Rock has been around far longer than The Man would have us believe. Join us again next issue for part 2 when we'll monitor punk's progress through the 1980's as it buckled & mutated again. Until the next time - don't touch that dial."
Tony & Phil Timeteam - Dec 2001