Against punk

Punk, we are told, came about as a reaction against the bland, bloated corporate rock of the 1970’s. Punk represented a violent and healthy shrugging off of the politeness and dullness of mainstream music (Stevie Wonder/Earth Wind and Fire/Marvin Gaye…), it was a great rebellion, a rising up of the masses who were being, in some ill-defined sense, oppressed by this meretricious pap, and who were terribly angry about it. (Quite why they were buying it in such numbers has yet to be fully explained.)

So the answer, of course, was noisy, amateurish music with a lot of rage in it. Music that could be produced by anyone. You didn’t need anything to play punk. You didn’t require any fancy musical training or high-priced skills or anything, just some mates, a shed (or garage) and guitars and amps and a drum kit and mikes and amplifiers…

OK, you needed a fair bit of kit. As much, in fact, as the muso oppressors needed to make their polite (spit) well-polished (blaaaah) music with. And you needed to know how to play chords, no fewer than three, the same three that all those poncey, sell-out mainstream bands used actually. Plus of course if you were going to actually get anywhere there would have to be someone around with some rudimentary marketing skills. You would have to have some promotional machine so that the world could know just how angry you really were about being oppressed by Stevie Wonder and Earth Wind and Fire. For the gig you would need further things: a PA (public address system), and probably a van, or  at least large car, to carry all the stuff to the gig. You would have to produce some promotional flyers for the gig, which would mean having to deal with The Man at the photocopy shop. Someone to take money. If there was a bar, you would need staff to take money there as well. Still, it was as anarchic as anything (at least as far as the constraints of being a commercially operated venture would allow, of course).

Then, if you wanted to record just how angry you were about it all, you would have to operate within the constraints of a record producing entity of some kind. Even if this was your own label (financed by daddy’s money, of course), this would involve owning or hiring plant and machinery plus expertise. It would, undoubtedly, all start to oppress the bejesus out of you at some point, so you would retire straight away and go back to your day job at daddy’s car valeting company. Unless you made it big, in which case you would  give a great many interviews to a great many angry young journalists like Julie Burchill, and then wait until it was your turn to do the butter adverts. Meanwhile the enemy, in the form of corporate media whores like Prince, would be making Sign o’the Times

Maybe it all made sense at the time. Maybe you had to be there. Though possibly even that didn’t really help much. (I was, it didn’t.)

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10 thoughts on “Against punk

    • An honour to have you, Mr. Joel. I often find myself humming ‘Uptown Girl’ and thinking, mmmm, what a well-crafted entertainment commodity this is. And who could forget the little dance in the video? Forever green, sir.

      • Billy Joel says:

        Why thank you, Mr Maginn. I like to think I can turn most musical genres into saleable units. Hot funk, cool punk, even if it’s old junk. I can do all that.

        Also, next phase, new wave, dance craze, anyways, I’m quite good at those too.

        Anything really. Has to be on piano though.

      • England's Dreaming says:

        I meant no offence. I’m just very catarrhal at the moment. I also have glue ear, but that’s a blessing because my neighbour is listening to Effing Fulfillingness’ First Finale, (whatever that actually means). I think it might be alliterative.

      • I think it’s fair to say that some of Mr Wonder’s work, post Songs in the Key of Life, is of variable quality. I think you should consider yourself lucky that your neighbours haven’t got I Just Called… on repeat play. Sorry to hear about the catarrh. Have you tried chewing raw garlic? It won’t make any difference but it won’t half take your mind off it.

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