Saved by Punk


(First published 2015)

So Punk…. It’s 1977, I’ve just hit teenage, and there’s something wrong….I don’t know who’s in the Top Twenty, and my friends are taking the p.  Plus, I’m always wearing the wrong clothes or shoes, or being too gobby, or not lady-like enough, and I don’t have a boyfriend (did any of them?).  And it appears that these are the MOST IMPORTANT things in the world.

Then along comes this grubby set of characters, and I’m on a roll.  It wasn’t nice, it wasn’t clever, and it was calling my name. Punk was more than just the music. Punk validated me.  It said you don’t have to be a nice young lady, you can be clever and witty and a bit gobby, and you can voice your opinions and climb trees and wear trousers.  All the things my Mozart and Miles-loving family had taught me, but that 1970s Britain said a girl shouldn’t be.  I shouldn’t be a trouble maker.  I wanted to be a trouble maker and punk helped me.  By 16, I was running political campaigns, standing up to authority, and being generally arsy.  Could I have done that while listening to Abba and wearing blue eyeshadow?  Possibly.  Was it easier with Poly Styrene and Chrissie Hynde and Siouxsie Sioux and Viv Albertine and Ari Up and Patti Smith standing behind me?  Without a doubt.   Punk held my hand and walked me into Attitude.  “Girl-power” : ha!, this was proper, grown up, don’t-mess-with-me-power.

It was also about justice for people who didn’t have power. Punk spoke about something other than romance – and I know that’s why I was particularly drawn to that Marmite of a band, The Clash.  There’s a ’77 interview where they are telling Tony Parsons what makes their music better than the Rolling StonesPunk, and Joe Strummer says “it’s rubbish: they’re singing about – well I went down to see my baby but she weren’t there… you know what I mean like, oh I kissed a girl on ‘er lips – Oo What?  I don’t wanna sing about that …when we write songs right, we don’t write them about rubbish…”  Hell, I’ll let him talk for himself:


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