Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Tales from the Punkside

Gregory Bull & Mike Dines (editors) Tales from the Punkside (2014)
There's been some utter shite written about punk over the years, mostly by people who weren't there, and the worst of it usually being a variation on how it was the most amazing of Malcolm McLaren's many amazing ideas, a phenomenon which was like really cool for a year or so but, you know, by 1979 most of us were listening to Spandau Ballet blah blah blah...

If you're reading anything purporting to be a history of punk, if it mentions McLaren more than once during the first chapter, just stop reading. You're wasting your time.

Rather than attempt to shoehorn anything into a single narrative, Bull and Dines simply present a variety of voices and accounts from across the spectrum of experience, from free-range memories of first discovering the joys of the glue bag, to dryer, more academic discussion of, for one example, punk in Northern Ireland. Whether by accident or design, the broad span of writing seems well chosen. I found some contributions significantly more entertaining than others, but it's all part of the same thing and born from the same basic drives, and should be understood as such.

To digress, having passed the age of fifty, I find myself seemingly in a position comparable to that of all those whom I regarded as old farts back when the first Nocturnal Emissions album came out. I wasn't even particularly punky, but I understood, and it felt very much like our thing because it was always about more than just a certain style of music or dress, and anyone who needed that explaining to them was never going to get it anyway. It was about doing your own thing, making your own way, seeking out something new or different simply because it was new or different, and above all it was about escape from the future which had been mapped out for you. It was about questioning everything, taking nothing for granted, not believing whatever we were told by the media, and not being some mere product sponge. It was about all sorts of other stuff, but those were the elements which drew in all of those who have contributed here, and which also drew me in.

These days, whilst I may well be out of the loop and therefore subject to a distorted view, I see those of the generation who should be telling me that I'm past it all queueing up and paying for the privilege of becoming the very thing we once sought to avoid. Increased means of communication have seemingly served mainly to boost the signal of the brainwashing. Expression has become the fun of dressing up as your favourite corporate mascot at a comic convention, helping to pull the wool over your own eyes, and having a facebook punch up over how an adult dressed as a fucking Care Bear is supposedly challenging something or other. There are people out there who actually seem to believe that corporate entertainment is on our side, rather than just a generic identity in which we are subsumed so as to keep us docile and buying stuff. Doctor Who carries an important message about tolerance and understanding, which is why I've spunked away a thousand quid on merch, and that's just this month. They even refer to it as the brand or the franchise or the property. They're proud to wear the gang colours of their plantation. If you have a story to tell, there's always fanfic.

Anyway, I'm not particularly sociable and my facebook feed is full of science-fiction types, so as I say, I'm probably getting a distorted view; or at least I hope I am, because it very much looks as though I'm living in a world of good little consumers who believe everything they're told and for whom selling out is simply the first rung of the ladder. I realise it's not all that way, that there are still tiny pockets of free-thought and resistance to the status quo forming even now, or there should be, probably; but these currents are no longer so visible as they were when I was a spotty teenager, or at least not to me; and that's why a collection such as this is important, because it reminds us of who we were, who we could be again, or who we should aspire to be by some measure. Of course, some of this stuff is kind of grim, as will be the existence of anyone with a conscience trying to get by under the eye of a carnivorous system, to some degree; so, in case it isn't obvious, my point is not that we need to usher in a new era of glue sniffing or that the Apostles should be forced to reform*, but that we were simply doing whatever it took to keep ourselves from turning into the same boring lumps of shit as our parents had mostly been, and somehow that's one we've stopped worrying about; and that's why we have all the horrible stuff that's going on in the world and getting worse year by year.

So these are tales which should be preserved, remembered, and even taught, because they're important, regardless of where each one may sit on the academic spectrum. This is not the version of cultural history you're going to get from the likes of Robert Elms, so educate yourself because no-one else is going to do it for you.

 Get it here.

*: Although it couldn't hurt.

No comments:

Post a Comment