What is punk? Who is it? Where is it? When is it? And obviously, why is it?
To identify yourself as a punk (in certain company) is to lay yourself bare in front of sharks and prepare for them to nip at your expendables. I can’t think of any other genre of music where so much scrutiny is given to the definition of the word and all those that identify with it. I doubt classical music fans have to put up with this- “Think you’re a classical music fan? Yeah? What symphonies do you like? What composer? Early stuff or experimental wilderness years? Mozart? Pfft….he’s a fucking sell out.” And yet punk- with all its rhetoric about non-conformity and anarchy, is a potential social and cultural minefield of a discussion.
And, despite the annoyance at having my penchant for Greenday admonished, I can kind of understand this defensiveness. Punk goes beyond mere musical compositions and instead offers so much more- a lifestyle blueprint. And if you decide to live your life by a set of values you identify as ‘punk’, then you might want to be precious about what is being touted around under that name.
But if person A thinks one thing is punk and person B doesn’t, what can we do? How can we define it? Is it the nihilistic, sneering destruction of Sid Vicious? Is it the political soberism of Minor Threat? Is it the eye-linered emo warblings of Black Veil Brides? (No says me. End of discussion). What do punks look like? What do they believe? Where are they? Are you one? I have pondered these questions and after years of intense contemplation and consideration I have come to a ground breaking, earth shattering conclusion- it depends. On lots of stuff. And with so many sub-genres, schools of thought and competing voices, it’s almost impossible to give a text book answer (and obviously being punk we would probably wanna rip up the textbook anyway).
So, this blog will work it’s way through the different incarnations of a still vibrant and relevant subculture- from the gobbing to the skateboarding, from the safety pins to the Dickies. From the cross-genre class warfare of the Clash, to the punch-throwing intensity of Black Flag. From the avant-garde 80’s-ness of Talking Heads to the patriarchy smashing fierceness of Riot Grrl. Let’s try and answer the question- What is punk and what does it mean?
But- whilst I’m on a mission to document, explore and archive the aforementioned genre- I am almost certainly going to digress. Music should be enjoyed autobiographically and it would be remiss to let other important musical moments slip by without even a nod to the all the other stuff that has been going on in music over the years. That’s why, in between serious exploration of the punk genre, I am also going to explore the following:
-Why country music was the original punk.
-Why 90’s girlbands were feminist as fuck
-If you haven’t loved a boyband you’re dead inside
-Why Cher is one of the greatest musical icons of all times and shits on Madonna
-A Marxist analysis of every Frank Zappa album*
*That’s a lie. That’s way too much work. Plus I’ve never listened to any Frank Zappa albums and don’t plan to start.
If you take your musical tastes too seriously, then you may well cringe at this blog (although if you wanna troll me in the comments then I guess you might get something out of it)**. If you don’t mind admitting to getting teary at Billy Joel songs and dancing shamelessly to 90’s club classics, then this might be the musical melting pot for you!
**Please do not do that.