Fashion is a fickle thing, especially in the music business. Musical trends, much like those in clothing come and go; often it seems in tandem with each other. No sooner are fashionistas back wearing ra-ra skirts, shoulder pads and fluro than music seems to suddenly be going electro again. Anyway, the gist of what I am saying is that generic types of music tend to flare into popularity after a build-up, then die down even more quickly, fading quietly into oblivion. I mean, who (other than die hard aficionados) listens to much Nu-Metal these days? Or bubblegum-rave-pop? Often a generally, sounds-OK-in-the-moment genre is killed off by a few lame acts that jump on the bandwagon and do their utmost to mimic and then suffocate the good stuff. For example Rap-Rock, which was started in many ways back in the days when Run DMC got their hands on the Aerosmith back catalogue, and then perhaps reached perfection with the aggressively politicised thunder of Rage Against The Machine (whose debut is one of the greatest of all times). This was a creative genre, with cross-over appeal and something to say. And then along came Kid Rock… Case Closed.
Sure, some genres limp on a little bit, bands playing generic bills at small venues with smaller crowds of only true believers (stand up Prog-Rock!), like lame horses that need a bolt to the brain. But in recent months, I have seen one genre, forever associated with a short period of history, and admittedly hugely influential on what has come since, continue to thrive on the underground scene. And that genre? Punk. Not that watered down, day-glo pop-punk that the Americans love so much. No, I mean proper old school, dirty and unfriendly Punk Rock. The stuff that traces a direct lineage back to 1977 and The Damned, The Buzzcocks, The Clash, Sham 69 and The Pistols. The real deal.
Over the years it has barely evolved, continually remaining popular but firmly underground. Some American bands stayed truer to the spirit, but here in Britain it has really thrived. My exposure to this was increased recently when The Racket (the band I look after) were booked to open a local show that was being headlined by original Punk legends Sham 69. The gig was set up by a local musician who fronted early 80’s Swindon group Charred Hearts, as a memorial show for his tragically murdered friend. Charred Hearts were around the scene in the early 80’s and regrouped a few years previously, so were well connected hence the involvement of Jimmy Pursey and co. Doing a little research around the gig as I like to do, I saw evidence of a huge number of Punk shows and festivals still doing good trade, with all the old bands still out there, whether they were originally successful (like Sham) or merely journeymen doing what they loved. It seemed to be a scene that really looked after itself with its own venues, promoters and events.
Since then, I see the evidence of it everywhere. I get sent review albums by punk bands signed to punk labels, I see on facebook some punk bands I have come to know putting together European tours that bands in other genres would be unable or unwilling to do. I have seen innumerable websites that review punk music, or promote it, or take the photographs. And that is what they do. Just Punk and nothing else. And frankly, that impresses me. I love the fact that it keeps on going, recognisable still as that music that sprung up in the suburbs of Britain’s cities in the late 70’s.
And that show we played with Sham 69? Complete sell out. The busiest the venue has been for many, many years. People had come from far and wide, and all night an amazing atmosphere, just a bunch of friends who have not necessarily met before (although lots of reunions were going on) having a good time and listening to the music they have always loved.
Punk is dead, long live Punk.