Monthly Archives: July 2009
My Biog page mentions the “dogma of punk” which is something I experienced first-hand in the late 70s. I just beat my brother to it by owning the first “punk” single in our household in 1977 – The Stranglers’ “Go Buddy Go/Peaches”. On the same day he bought “The Crunch” by The Rah Band which we both thought was punk because they wore bin-liners on TOTP. However, being five years my senior he soon became the authority on punk due to his attendance at a tough Bristol comp.
One of the rules that he brought home with him was the fact that you were only allowed to like punk music or in the eyes of other punks you would be viewed as a fraud or specifically a “poser”. This was the ultimate humiliating insult when your musical credibility was on the line so it became a directive I clung firmly to. When I gained precocious entrance to my senior school this proved of great value. Kids who previously wouldn’t even acknowledge my existence now deigned to actually take an interest in me once they’d found out about my collection of Sex Pistols jap imports.
Those who had no particular musical allegiance were also dismissed as posers, I remember clearly the disdain with which one of my brother’s friends was regarded for issuing the statement “I quite like Blondie, actually”. I disowned Blondie in 1980 when Debbie Harry made the announcement that they were going disco on TOTP. My kind of behaviour was perpetrated by a large element of the punk scene and even encouraged by elements of the press with “sell-outs” being exposed on a weekly basis. You wouldn’t believe it now but back than it was a reality. The battle-lines had been drawn early on and we all had to decide which side of the bed we’d been lying on.
The reality was much different – Johnny Rotten’s 1977 Capital Radio interview included music by the likes of Peter Hammill and The Third Ear Band, Keith Levene was a big Yes fan (even rumoured to be Steve Howe’s roadie shortly before joining The Clash), Pete Shelley loved Can and Joe Strummer was a Springsteen/Dylan Obsessive, to name but 4 of the “guilty” few.
Of course, in retrospect it was all utterly absurd especially as The Stranglers – much as I loved them were just a speeded up R n B band who, by their own admission, had jumped the bandwagon and Blondie had clearly always been a disco band anyway. It’s funny to see how the party-line Chinese-whispered its way out to the provincial playgrounds. At least I had the excuse of only being 8 or 9 years old.
All of which brings me to why I love this clip so much – the long-haired hippy in the front row loves The Clash more than anyone else in the place!
It’s highly probable that the source of all this dogma was Bernard Rhodes, the manager of The Clash. Rhodes was an ardent Marxist and is viewed by many to be the true architect of the UK punk scene. A close associate of Malcolm McLaren, it was Rhodes who both initiated the birth of the Sex Pistols and discovered Johnny Rotten, inviting him to the famed miming audition at the Roebuck pub. Joe Strummer was so inspired by Rhodes’ vision that he adopted a year zero approach which involved sacking many of his friends as well as his band, The 101ers – a move that (understandably) rankles some, even to this day. It’s a similar dogmatic approach to that employed by fellow musical Marxists, Ewan MacColl with his region-specific school of folk revivalism in the 50s and Cornelius Cardew’s early 70s denouncement of the avant-garde in favour of an idealised proletarian popular song.
Thankfully, the birth of a post-punk “scene” within about 18 months of year zero brought with it a welcome and vital musical cross-pollination. You can read all about that in Simon Reynolds’ excellent “Rip It Up And Start Again”.
So it looks like my brother was right buying “The Crunch” all along.