Here is your mini-guide to punk music and as an added bonus some useful new vocabulary too. Sit back, put on your favourite track and find out more.
Punk is not dead!
Nowadays, listening to men of a certain age reminisce about their ‘punk’ days is a little bit like hearing grandfathers discuss ‘the war’. However, I must confess that I too from time to time get sentimental over drainpipe trousers and picture cover Eps.
Sounds from the street
I was relatively young (12-13) when the first punk bands appeared, up until then my musical knowledge had been limited to rather uninspiring ‘rock’ music. I, like many others, was inspired by the energy and ‘do-it-yourself’ mentality of ‘new wave’. It wasn’t just about the music. The more intelligent bands referenced writers, artists and thinkers who had inspired them, often the artwork or appearance of a group was intriguing enough in itself. Bands sang about the ‘street’ rather than the dating dos and don’ts that dominated songs in the charts. On this basis I spray painted a jacket and trousers with diagonal stripes in order to become a ‘living painting’. Those were the days! A friend of mine’s ‘punk gear’ included a court-jester’s outfit he found in a rubbish tip.
It ain’t wot you say, it’s the way you say it!
We were lucky in that the North West of England had an abundance of punk venues, The Electric Circus, Rafters in Manchester, Eric’s in Liverpool. Here it was possible to see bands up close and get to know the performers personally. Sometimes it meant sleeping on the platform of a railway station if you missed the last train home but it was worth it. People realized that if they sold someone’s motorbike and robbed a telephone box they might have enough money to make a record. Lack of musical ability was a distinct advantage! Poland too had quite a vibrant punk scene.
Commercial success impact
Of course in time things became commercialized; the record companies took control back from the kids and ludicrous stereotypes of anti-social punk rockers began appearing in the newspapers. The music too became more mundane until it was barely distinguishable from the dinosaur rock we so despised.
A few fave raves!
For me the value of the best punk music still endures. Here are a few personal favorites which I still play (usually when my wife is out). They’re not everyone’s cup of tea but I love them. Read through and let me know which punk bands or songs are still on your playlists.
Mannequin – Wire
Germ Free Adolescent – X-Ray Specs
Ambition – The Subway Sect
4 Hours – Clock DVA
Nag, Nag, Nag – Cabaret Voltaire
After Hiroshima – Pink Military
Love Like Anthrax – The Gang Of four
Transmission – Joy Division
Sweetheart Contract – Magazine
Heart of Darkness – Pere Ubu
Did you know the meaning of the words or phrases in the text? See if you got them right:
 Drainpipe trousers (adjective) – straight, without flares.
 Extended Play – 45 RPM records with four or more songs.
 Do-It-Yourself – not needing outside assistance
 Dating dos and don’ts- good and bad advice for young people on a date
 Spray painted – decorated with aerosol paint
 Court-jester- in medieval times the man who would entertain the king with jokes.
 Abundance – very many
 Vibrant (adjective)- lively, full of energy.
 Dinosaur rock- term meaning ‘old’ rock usually liked by hippies