Punk – A Dirty Word?

Over the past week, I feel the word “punk” has been sullied by a couple of people. One retrospectively. Let me explain:

In a previous post here on the blog, I talked about a letter that John Foxx had shared on his FB page. The letter was from David Bowie to Tony Visconti of a shopping list of new singles and albums DB was keen to get his hands on. Within it he talked about punk and flippantly used the words “pink, peak poak, pan” and then said “Oh, yes. PUNK” in brackets referring to the shop that Visconti may find the records that were on said shopping list. I felt DB’s flippancy was about the stupid labels and pigeonholes we place upon things – but I could be wrong? Perhaps by this time for Bowie “punk” was indeed a dirty word?

The other has been in recent days. A fan on SMOG talking about the influence punk had on early Simple Minds. He seemed to talk about it with much disdain. Saying stuff like “thank God you guys moved away from punk.” I didn’t get involved in it because, well…to each their own what they think about particular genres of music. I thought their ideas and opinions were rather misguided but…it’s not my place to educate anyone on anything. He ruffled enough feathers to even have Jim himself (? It’s a bone of contention, actually. I was led to believe by a certain source that this account *is* genuinely Jim but…I dunno. Who knows? I’m trying to get myself away from all this “hanging on his every word and feeling like my life isn’t worth living if he doesn’t speak to me” bullshit that I keep cycling through endlessly and doing my own fucking head in with!) reply to him.

The guy followed it up with a further post about the hypothesis of what/where/how things would have panned out for SM had they stuck with punk. This was when I came in on things.

For one, punk started much earlier than its deemed apex in 1977. I definitely hear and feel and get a sense of punk from Velvet Underground recordings. Listen to the album with Nico – the Warhol banana covered one. Where is the maestro musicianship on that? Tell me! No one plays THAT well on it. Lou Reed is not exactly the best singer in the world. Nico does that kind of – and there is an actual German word for this that eludes me right now – “speak singing” she does. The only one that sounds like he tries to hold a note when singing is John Cale. The Velvet Underground is DEFINITELY punk. In its truest context. That the music, the story, the telling of the tale is MORE important than the musicianship. Or that…it’s okay not to be perfect, if the message is conveyed right.

Because, Lou might not be the best singer in the world – but he’s a poet and a realist and an orator for the time. And, a damn incredible songwriter. A filter. A channel for the message to be projected through.

Likewise, Nico may not have the voice of an angel, as such – but she certainly conveys emotion and she makes you take notice.

The Stooges were formed in the late sixties. Iggy Pop by much touted definition is deemed the “Godfather of punk.”

The New York Dolls were punk. Well, perhaps straddled punk with aspects of glam. I mean, nobody ever sees Slade as glam in terms of their musical output compared to their wardrobe. Well, for me it’s the same with New York Dolls. To me they are 100% punk. They just didn’t dress punk.

The Ramones – punk all the way. But there is sssoooo much rockabilly in their sound too. Listen to Rock n’ Roll High School, FFS. It’s far more 50s throwback rockabilly to my ears than what the UK brings forward as punk.

And as I said to Philip – there is so much more to the word “punk” than a strict musical styling. It’s a culture. A mindset. An ethos. An attitude. A banner. A proclamation.

And there’s also one of its earlier exponents too! MC5 – Kick Out The Jams! Released in 1969, my friends. NINETEEN SIXTY NINE!

When I saw Alice Cooper last year, they were on the bill of support acts as (as they are called these days) MC50. They still have it.

Punk, as a word that became a touchstone, is ssooo much more than music. Look at all that it gave to a generation of the UK as a result! An attitude, a mindset that said “I have creativity inside of me. I don’t need a fine arts degree to be told I am good at this. I’ll get ahead and make my own way!” It gave the working classes freedom to believe they could express their creativity and pursue a future in the arts without – one: feeling they needed a financial foundation – because frankly – there was NOTHING to lose and two: that they should suppress what they feel they want to express due to their background.

Vivienne Westwood is punk.
John Cooper Clarke is punk.
Smash Hits magazine is punk.
Postcard Records is punk.
Factory Records is punk.
The Hacienda is (was) punk.

Anything that you can think of…not just in music…all if it that comes out from the late 1970s, it’s all rooted in that punk spirit.

As Jim said in his reply to Philip: “without the punk ethic we would never have begun and evolved into Simple Minds. That is a fact!”

Punk was a gateway to so much more.

Photo by the wonderful Laurie Evans

Is it a dirty word? It seems to be for Philip. Why? I’m not quite sure. I just don’t think he sees the fluidity in the word itself. To him, I am guessing “punk” is this awful style of music that he doesn’t like very much and that’s that.

Oh, but it is ssssooomuch more than that! It is all of the above! And – it is Simple Minds! Even their name is rooted in punk. Yes, it may have come from a David Bowie song but…just listen to it. Really take in what the name sounds like.

I’m not sure I have put this post across as I wanted to. SOMEONE came along throwing a spanner in the works this morning – distracting me with a post just as I was getting my brain cogs in motion and piecing together this post – making bullet points to it and giving myself a bit of dictation on my phone so I would stick with how I wanted this post to go.

Oh, well. He can disturb and distract me whenever he likes! I shouldn’t be bloody complaining that he distracted me now, should I? Geez! Lol. Cry out for the man’s attention and then when I got something from him, I’m there saying “Fuck off, Jim! I’m busy. Do you mind, pal?!” Lol. Hilarious!

And hey, I just remembered – I’M “Punk”! Lol. This silly nickname my brother David gave me many moons ago. When he wanted to antagonise me. Wind me up. He’d call me “punk”. With a kind of spit of disdain he’d say it to me. “Go away, punk”, when I was annoying him. Lol. Oh, god I loved him! ❤️

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