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Forgotten Stories of Punk
Reviewed by Cardinal Cox


Write Dope on Pnuk part 40

PUNK GUARDIANS Part 1 - Punk History

On Friday 20 July 2007 'The Guardian' newspaper's film and music section devoted half of its contents to a look back at punk and tried hard to find something new to say.

For the music side, John Harris wrote a quarter page intro which ref'd everything to Swiss fempunk Kleenex/LiLiPUT. Keith Cameron gave a page to the Australian scene of The Saints, Radio Birdmen, Scientists and others. Jez Scott remembered the last Sex Pistols gig (a benefit for the children of striking firemen), which possibly one of my ex's claimed to have gone to. Dave Simpson gives a page to the mid-'seventies reggae scene of Misty in Roots, Burning Spear, Aswad, Steel Pulse, etc. The centre page spread was devoted to Jonathan Richman's record 'Roadrunner' and the road therein.

On the film track, there's half a page from Marcus Gray on Ray Grange and The Clash movie 'Rude Boy'. Alex Cox ('Sid And Nancy' and other films) pulls apart punk cinema to massage its stuttering heart. Stuart Jeffries trawls various biographies to devine the horrorscope of Derek Jarman's 'Jubilee'.

Now I always thought that the spelling mistakes of 'The Guardian' were just a satirical thing, but in a blurb for its website they say "'Orgasm Addict' is recignised (sic) as the best single sleeve of all time".

So, 'The Guardian' has managed to unearth some pieces that are genuinely interesting. As for why, will those late forties old punks pick up this paper, if they don't already? I suspect not.

PUNK GUARDIANS Part 2 - Lost Women of Rock Music

On the eighth of August 2007 'The Guardian' newspaper had a three page article relating to the release of Helen Reddington's book 'The Lost Women of Rock Music' (published by Ashgate, price £55).

The pictures on the spread included Gaye Black (aka Gaye Advert of The Adverts); Poly Styrene (of X-Ray Spex); The Raincoats and The Slits. Now, it is important to remember the vital part women played in the punk era (Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Siouxsie Sioux, Beki Bondage, etc.), but not just in music, but also in fashion and art (Vivienne Westwood, Linder, etc.). Yes, the women on stage were creating their own paths to comment on the world, which, in their ways, was to lead to both Bananarama and The Poison Girls. in the early-'nineties these same punk sensibilities became the Riot Grrrl ethos.

So, I can only commend any new view of punk that looks further than the half-dozen main bands, though I do have to wonder if women have been lost from any view of punk. My reference books contain them, documenatries include them, compilations feature them.

Elsewhere in the same supplement there was a feature on soul singer Ayo and Hitler's record collection. In the main paper they noted that the Yangtze River Dolphin was extinct, and that World War 1 military records were going on-line.

PUNK GUARDIANS Part 3 - Sex Pistols Bill Grundy Interview

As part of the series 'Great Interviews of the 20th Century' given away by 'The Guardian' newspaper in September 2007, number 8 was The Sex Pistols and Bill Grundy.

The foreword is by author Nick Hornby, who clearly hadn't read the interview, as he credits something to Glen Matlock where the transcription credits it to Steve Jones. The afterword is by Malcolm McLaren, who once again, spins his tale of how punk stepped forth from his head fully formed after he had dined on Art School, Situationism, and Rock 'n' Roll.

As for the interview, it is in the style of Lee Harvey Oswald interviewing JFK or the paparazzi interviewing Di and Dodi in Paris. You just can't tell if it is an attempt at character assassination or career suicide. Memorable, yes, but a great interview...I think not.

Elsewhere in the paper that day, savers were besieging Northern Rock branches and India was accused of promoting land mines at an arms fair. In the 'Weekend Magazine' supplement there was an interview with (and photos of) Debbie Harry. She talked about her past, being single and about her solo album. In the 'Guide' supplement, Ian Brown ("Wild Man of Rock" TM) outlined his policies from the back of an envelope. While some might be serious - cars powered by alternative fuels (chicken shit), starter homes at Balmoral, bring back boredom - others might not be - banning booze (yes, this is Ian Brown), answers from dolphins, carrots grown on Big Ben - but you can't be too sure which are which. And most of the ideas show more thought than you get from the politicians.

PUNK GUARDIANS Part 4 - Patti Smith Lyrics

In June 2008 'The Guardian' newspaper included a series of booklets about great lyricists. Artists featured included Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Chuck D, and Leonard Cohen. Number 6 in the series was the big sister of New York punk, Patti Smith.

They printed eight sets of lyrics, over fifteen pages, highlighting the dense wordiness of her work. The first chosen was 'Piss Factory', a single from about 1974, and ran through to recent work such as 'Radio Baghdad' and 'My Blakean Year'. However, missing from the collection is what I guess we should now call 'Rock 'n' Roll N-word'. This is a shame as, as well as starting with an actual poem, it is also one of the most anti-racist songs in the world. (Though The Equals with the song about "the ink is black/the page is white/together we learn to read and write" or Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder wittering on with "ebony and ivory/together in perfect harmony" - despite the fact that piano keys aren't in harmony but instead in a graduated scale - obviously come close.)

Also in the booklet are an introduction and a reprinted article from 1976.

In the rest of the newspaper, stories included 'Met faces race claims from Muslim police chief' (note that he wasn't the chief of Muslim police but a police chief who is a Muslim). 'Boy, 12, had terrorist video on mobile' (though the local chief constable said "He is not driven by ideology - he is too young to spell the word."). 'Police clamp down on beach 'snob yobs'' (this was in Cornwall, around the coast from where my nephew Paul is a punk DJ). 'One in five gay people suffer hate attacks' (and this is the twenty-first century). Salman Rushdie received his knighthood, though no-one was sure what for. A pensioner Gurkha was protesting against inequalities, well if he was willing to risk his life, he deserves the full package. The American court cut what Exxon had to pay for the Alaskan tanker disaster back in 1989, can you believe that that was still dragging on? America said that its nuclear stores in Europe are poorly guarded. Brazilian prisoners trained pigeons to bring in drugs. Plus an op-ed piece on problems faced in abusive families of ethnic minorities, because social workers and other authority figures are fearful of being accused of prejudice.

In the technology section they reported on robots being developed for battlefield duties. In the G2 section they interviewed both Danish photographer Jacob Holdt, about his picture of American Ku Klux Klan members, and British rapper Roots Manuva. All enough inspiration I think.


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