It was fifteen years ago today — or near enough —— and now. as Britain seems about to be whipped by a wave of Punk Nostalgia. Tom Lappin. Alastair Mabbott and Paul W. Hullah pay tribute to the cult that shook a nation.
t‘s unsettling to think that out there. scattered around these islands. there‘s a whole generation of respectable middle-aged citizens. holding down responsible jobs as plumbers. double-glazing salesmen. leisure-centre managers or accounts clerks. who. a mere fifteen years ago. were perfecting their pogos in the front row of the White Riot tour. gobbing at Subway Sect. demanding The Slits get their tits out. and smashing up the seats to The Clash‘s two-minute anthems. Heady days indeed. and it‘s still a little hard to believe that the Blank Generation are now running the nation. But the market doesn‘t lie. and Punk nostalgia is on sale with a vengeance this autumn. Flogging the dead horse of late~7()s three-chord pop classics on CD back to the original punters who bought the crackly 7-inchers at the time. the Sound Of The
Suburbs compilation tested the water and found it was just lovely — come on in! With more compilations arriving thick and fast. along with Jon Savage‘s dry but definitive England's Dreaming tome and Craig
Bromberg‘s racier biog The Wicked Ways of
Malcolm McLaren. plus a Channel 4 even‘ing ofspeed-fuelled flashback. presaging a more sober BBC Arena documentary in November. and we have all the ingredients of a full-scale Revival. Confirming our suspicions. the sad old punks who didn‘t have the grace to die get rich and piss off to California/disappear without trace are practising their arthritic guitar-slashing technique. spiking up their receding hairlines and taking to the road again to play all those faves about dying young and not trusting anyone over 25. It‘s a funny old game. rock‘n‘roll.
Savage and other. less meticulous.
observers have invested Punk with a degree ofsocial and historical importance that sits a little uneasily on the shoulders of the spotty South London sociopaths with an abnormal interest in bodily secretions that comprised the personnel of most Punk bands. It is arguable (although ling/ands Dreaming seems to take over 500 pages and the name-dropping of a variety of obscure philosophers to do it) that ‘Anarchy In The UK' was the natural result ofa nation in industrial decline. a disenchanted youth uniting for a nihilistic bowl of protest. and all that sort ofstuff probably best left to academics. What takes less than 200 seconds to argue is that ‘Anarchy’ was the best piece of passionate. pointed pop that had come along in a decade. After all the theories. the arguments. the furrow ed brows and references to bulky l’rencli collections of social theory. in the end Punk boiled down
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