Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 1 March 2015



The bass player
picks from the hip,
stands splay-legged,
clings to his phallic guitar.

the lead singer
falls on the microphone,
holds it like a woman,
leers lupine at the audience.

You can't sing – scream.
You can't dance –
don't dance:
bounce up and down.

On the crest of a new wave
their day is marked by the tide.

24 September 1978

I was a seventeen-year-old civil servant when punk arrived late in 1976 and I know this sounds terrible to say considering how young I was but I was already too old-fashioned, too established to embrace the punk lifestyle except in spirit. I agreed wholeheartedly, however, with what Bob Geldof said in 1979 on the revived Juke Box Jury that punk was the enema the music industry needed at that time. It was. I recorded the whole of Punk Britannia when it was shown back in 2012 and I watched it during one of my wife’s trips to the States and I have to say I got terribly nostalgic. Carrie is not only an American but twelve years older than me and at the time I was enthralled by the Sex Pistols and The Stranglers she was bringing up two kids and listening to country music so my fascination is somewhat lost on her although she is tolerant. She wasn’t here in 1977; she doesn’t get it. During another one of her trips I watched the documentary series The Seventies. I found it fascinating. I really didn’t remember things being as bleak as they clearly were and I actually look back on the latter half of the seventies with genuine affection; I had some good times then. ‘Holidays in the Sun’ was my favourite Sex Pistols track at the time and The Stranglers’ ‘No More Heroes’ never leaves my all-time Top Ten. Before Carrie comes back from her trips I usually give the house a bit of a spring clean (irrespective of the actual season) and quite often while doing that I’ll stick on The Best Punk Album in The World ... Ever! or something like that that and crank up the volume a bit.

‘Punks’ was first published in Sepia #9 (incorrectly numbered #10).


Kass said...

I had very little exposure to this type of music. My daughter's best friend was in Salt Lake City Punk as an extra because she fit the look. I was glad my daughter didn't jump on this bandwagon.

Your poem is very descriptive.

Jim Murdoch said...

What was so great about the punk ethos, Kass, was the ‘anyone can make a record’ mindset. It was very similar to what’s gone on with self-publishing in recent years. And, yes, both produced a pile of tripe and what’s happened? No one remembers all the truly awful punk records but the great ones—and there was a goodly number of absolute classics—have survived. On top of that some excellent musicians like Paul Weller and Elvis Costello are still with us. Talent will out. At least that used to be the case. In the seventies there was no Internet and so the music we were exposed to was still local. When I talk about punk I think of bands like The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Buzzcocks and The Damned. An American would probably highlight bands like The Ramones, New York Dolls, Richard Hell and the Voidoids and even Patti Smith. We, of course, were aware of them just as America would’ve been aware of what was happening here but we still stuck to our local heroes. Now I don’t see that happening as much. I really don’t have the same loyalty to local artists: there’re good records and bad, good books and bad, good films and bad and that’s the end of it.

Kass said...

Robert Mapplethorpe cover of Patti Smiths "Horses"... so cool.

Jim Murdoch said...

I think I prefer the cover to Wave, Kass. Have your read her memoir, Just Kids? I kept meaning to get round to it but you know what it’s like. She’s a photographer herself. Not in the same league as Mapplethorpe but there’re some interesting shots.

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