thenextwave

Punk as scapegoat, culture as crisis

Posted in music, politics by thenextwavefutures on 26 September, 2016

img_20160923_160018

The British Library has a brief pop-up exhibition running at the moment marking the 40th anniversary of the explosion of punk in the UK in 1976, and wandering around it made me realise how much punk was an expression of the political and economic crisis of the 1970s.

Greil Marcus quotes Bernard Rhodes, one of punk’s animateurs, in his book Lipstick Traces, a utopian history of music inspired by the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the UK“:

I was listening to the radio in 1975, and there was some expert blabbing on about how if things go on as they are there’ll be 800,000 people unemployed by 1979, while another guy was saying if that happened there’d be chaos, there’ll be actual — anarchy in the streets. That was the root of punk.

In fact, unemployment reached a million by July 1977, at the height of the punk moment.

Obviously, there was something cultural going on as well. The Sex Pistols’ manager Malcolm Maclaren, had been running his King’s Road clothers shop with Vivienne Westwood for several years before the oil shock. Popular music was becoming both bloated and sclerotic. The Ramones’ first record also upped the speed of the music, as Tony James of the proto-punk band London SS recalls in in an interview in the exhibition. But it’s hard to believe that the music would have broken through, or perhaps broken out, without the crisis.

(more…)

Advertisements