FEATURE PUNK'S NOT DEAD I
to the scams. the image. and those plentiful slabs oftruly great music. many ofwhich still sound sharper than a freshly-inserted safety-pin nowadays.
This is the Punk we‘ve endeavoured to remember here: that essentially fun and exciting period when you could switch on the telly and watch Bill (irundy being called a dirty fucker. open your paper and read about the kids kicked out ofschool for
wearing bondage trousers. and check the
charts to see the Pistols' ‘(iod Save The Queen' offering a sane note of vileness in a
Jubilee-crazed nation. Sure. plenty ofit-was contrived hype. tabloid exaggeration and exploitation. but when you were showered in phlegm and chanting along to ‘London‘s Burning‘. maybe that didn’t matter too much.
Part ofthe attraction was that No Future
E attitude ofsustained irresponsibility. Maybe
it does need to be pointed out that Punk. a phenomenon that appeared to offer little
constructive at the time. beyond encouraging The Rotters to record ‘Sit on
My Face Stey ie Nicks‘. ultimately shattered the cosiness of the criminally elitist music scene. paving the way for the intricate network of independent labels that are responsible for the diversity of the current indie scene and even the do-it-yourself dance ofthe 90s. L‘tah Saints are as much the Sex Pistols’ spawn as Manic Street Preachers. But. hey. this is beginning to sound like a Punk Was Important spiel. Time for some music. All together now: ‘IIII am an anteeeechriiiist. I am an
anarkeeeeesttt . . .‘
‘w ’3; ' » s
t , .’\ .'
Why are all the old punk bands reforming. or mulling-over offers to reform. ifthey hated dinosaurs so much? Paul W. Hullah attempts to get some of the answers from Poly Styrene.
()ne ofthe first ‘punk‘ singles to make the mainstream crossover was a feisty toe-tapper named ‘ldentity' by X-Ray Spex. 'l‘he Brixton five-piece were ably fronted by a Ms Poly Styrene (nee Marion Eliot). a chubby. grubby urchin whose ‘r‘s came out as 'w‘s (a la Jonathan \Voss). arguably due to the fact that she had metal teeth.
‘01)! you do I'Ifoiglanu’. did you do it in afil." Did you do it before you read about Hf" demanded ‘ldentity". capturing the spirit of punk‘s oppositional energy and oft-trumpeted craving for originality. Punk was always an attitude. over and above irresponsible claims to being a unique musical form. The Jam and (‘rass are still cited as 'punk' bands: what. apart from attitude. did they ever have in common'.’ Musically. punk began as speeded-up Rhythm and Blues music (‘ldentity‘ had a sax on it. for (iod‘s sake) and ended up as slowed-down heavy metal minus the drum solos. 'l'he punk attitude was the original element. never so easily pigeonholed as the musical aspect. Punk was about cocking a snoot at authority. sneering in the
face ofestablishment mores. Whether you came from Brixton or Brechin. punk was a vehicle for asserting your individuality. your difference in the face of prevalent complacency. “Identity. that‘s the crisis, can 'I you seal" chorused X-Ray Spex. appropriately.
Which makes laughable the fact that — in true Spinal Tap fashion — the Spex. along with Shani (i9. UK Subs. Chelsea. 99‘) and sundry other
pound carrot on offer than any desire to kick against the pricks again. l lypocrisy. anyone‘.’
‘Music's music. isn’t it‘.’ It‘s eternal.‘ says Poly. now a Hare Krishna devotee. ‘lt has a life of its own and doesn’t have to fit into the world. But we're not rehashing: we're playing new material. and we
I were reforming anyway. 'l'here was
suspects. have reformed this year for
‘reunion anniversary" gigs. 'l‘he Buzzcocks are at it too. What odds the (‘ortinas. or Sore Throat having another bash (except that nobody liked them the first time around anyway )'.’ As they say. you can't put your arms around a memory. but -- if the price is right — there's always someone willing to try. But fifteen years on. it seems rather incongruous for a bunch of middle-aged loafers to be singing about adolescent identity crises while the session men yawn out the three-chord thrash. Rumour has it that The (’lash are set to reform for an ‘old time's sake‘ tour. tempted more by the umpteen thousand
no financial inducement. though I can‘t speak for the other bands. Of course. X-Ray Spex has got a past. but it’s got a present and a future as well. You‘re right. though. that the old material’s not really relevant today.
‘l'm not against the whole punk thing. but you have to move on.‘ she continues. reassuringly. ‘l‘ve not dropped my punk ideals — whatever they were — btit I need something new. Nobody from that period. if they‘re still true to the principles we were putting forward. would dare sit back and live in the past. I’m currently working with Adamski. The whole idea of punk was to be always neu'.‘
Quite. So what was is punk rock‘.’ What it wasn '1 was fat thirtysomething has-beens churning out Butlins-band renditions of records that mattered a decade and a half ago. ('orrect me if I'm wrong. but isn‘t that the kind ofthing that punk set out to exorcise from the music scene'.’ Punk was about post-hippiedom youth and energy and attitude. And. as such. it was timely rather than timeless. Remember. we had a Labour government when punk started. Now. after aeons of'l‘hatcherism. it’s impossible to reinvent mid-70s angst and staple it lamely onto 1%] 1 why bother trying to tailor a fifteen-year-old protest around these newly embittered times'.’ A new wave is needed. no doubt about that — musically and politically. we're back with the satne dinosaurs that wc had in 1976 — but let it be as fresh and exciting and original as the punk perspective once seemed. Face it. ‘punk‘ is dead: here’s hoping.
Stitt Little Fingers shocked no one by reforming. but theirrecentacquisition max-Jam bassistBruce
Foxtonthreatensto make SLFlook like a punks‘graveyard.
Poly Styrene. as she was in the days otDay-Glo andbondage.