A very wise Canadian once wrote that 'fish don't know water exists until they're beached. Without anti-environments, all environments are invisible. The role of the artist is to create anti-environments as a means of perception and adjustment' (Marshall McLuhan, Culture as Business, 1970). Back in the mid-1970s when the world was young enough to believe that art could change the world, a bunch of New Yorkers, among them Patti Smith, Television, The Ramones and Talking Heads formed a 'scene' around a couple of lower East side clubs and set about making a musical anti-enviuronment that wasn't generally to be found via the airwaves in America (or anywhere else, for that matter). When they made it to London in 1976, Patti Smith and the Ramones inspired a bunch of scruffy oiks into forming bands and making similarly loud, raw, exciting music without guitar solos, ambient bird-song or pompous, nonsensical lyrics. Punk music was the thrilling epitome of anti-environment.
For two brief years, London and a few other urban British centres spewed out some great Punk bands intent on making music and records in their own way, without the interference of corporate record companies or old-school promoters or managers who'd fleeced countless young hopefuls in the past two decades. By 1978 the spontaneity and originality of the scene had dissipated, with the majority of the pioneering Punk bands either burning up or selling 0ut and turning into stadium-bound 'alt-rock' acts. Former pub rock bands adopted dumb names in order to cash in on what they hoped would be a fad to make them rich (The Stranglers) and 'New Wave' acts (Boomtown Rats) sailed into the music press and pop charts propelled by the tail wind whipped up by the original Punks.
Thirty-five years later a new wave of revisionist 'opinion' is spewing onto the airwaves, television screens and newsprint (newscreenprint?) purporting to tell us all about the 'original' Punk scene. Because only the victors get to write history, arch exploiters of what had been genuinely artistic movement—one that sought, however inarticulately, to create a new perception on the environment from which they wanted to escape—are being paraded as 'experts' on Punk. Fashion designers who thought Punk was about ripping off a punter with ripped shirts, record company 'entrepreneurs' who wanted only to build a new EMI, record stall owners who wanted to start their own chain of stores and musicians who wanted a forty-year career churning out ludicrously nihilistic nonsense will doubtless tell us all how lucky they were to be a 'part' of the scene. Even if they weren't.
The BBC series 'Punk Britannia' (Friday June 1, BBC4) begins with what promises to be a cliché-filled hour of irrelevant nonsense…TO READ MORE, GO TO http://rocket88books.com/