Saturday, June 4, 2016

Punk 1976-78. Curated by Hot Topic

A middle-class adolescent walks up to a punk rocker leaning against a wall smoking a cigarette and says, “I like some punk songs, how do I become more punk?” The punk rocker takes a drag, walks up to a car window, puts his fist through it, and walks back with blood dripping from his hand.  The young adolescent mimics that act and asks, “Am I punk now?” The punk rocker replies, “No, you’re a fucking poser.”
That has been my favourite way of describing the punk scene, as I know it, and I think it captures the essence of what Punk 1976-78 should have tried to convey.  I appreciate the collection the curators put together but looking at glass boxes displaying artefacts of the early punk scene feels soulless.   In hindsight, any attempt to bring punk into the larger fabric of British culture, as the British Library attempted, is doomed to failure
What I also found notable was the strict rules associated with attending the exhibit.  No food, drink or photos allowed.  And if you missed the sign, there was another one a couple feet ahead of you.  But what happens if you break these sacred rules? You know, like the people in the movement the exhibit is about would have done.  You can be sure to be reminded of them or, in Anthony’s case, told to delete ALL the photos he had of the exhibit.  Not just told but watched to make sure no images survived.  He did go back and take more photos. PUNK ROCK!

While perusing the exhibit, I came across the video of the Sex Pistols on the “Today” programme.  This is a famous interview because Johnny Rotten and Steve Jones said “fuck” and the description labelled it  as such.  What I found fascinating while watching the video is the apparent acceptability, at that time, of a 50-something-year-old man hitting on a teenage girl on national television that led to Rotten’s and Jones’ profanity-laced response.  To further drive the point that the Sex Pistols were outside of their element in the studio, as the final credits are rolling, “Windy” by the Association is playing.  
            Then there was the unfortunate punk pop-up shop.  What is less punk then selling merch in a library gift shop?

            This sounds like I did not enjoy what I saw which is quite the opposite.  I LOVED it.  I listened to The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, and The a library!  But that’s the issue.  Libraries are not the right fit for music based in anarchy.  And the library apparently did not have the wherewithal to realize this.  Maybe this is the greater point.  40 years after these cultural revolutionaries rejected what London was thought to be about, confusing and scaring those in the mainstream, they are still misunderstood by the establishment.

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