In Praise of Punk

I don’t care how nice a person you are, I don’t mind betting you occasionally have a bad thought. What distinguishes us is how we deal with the feeling: how we expend it.

Back in the day, while working on a supermarket cash register during my school holidays, I noticed that the well-to-do lady I was serving was visibly sneering at a couple of punks who had joined the queue behind her. They were a boy and a girl obviously in love: classic, charismatic punks with torn clothes and spiky hair. 

The supermarket (Booths) was as quirky and eccentric as supermarkets went in those days, stocking strange product lines like tinned partridge, so you had to expect more of the customers to be characterful in their different ways. 

The well-to-do lady teetered with meaning from her high heels, expecting validation. Wide eyes and firmly raised eyebrows eloquently conveyed her outrage. 

I’m sure I would have given her a gentle smile. I try not to be too judgmental about people, but the lady wasn’t my ideal customer in other ways too. 

Perhaps the punks had thrown her into a flurry, or my neutral stance had upset her: what’s certain is that I wasn’t seeing her at her best. She slowly fitted all her shopping into her bag before attempting to pay me, then discovered her purse was at the bottom of the bag and had to unpack it again. I remember wryly noting after I’d served all three that the punks had been considerably more patient and courteous than the lady who had been so offended by their style of self-expression.

It was an early lesson but throughout my life, I’ve found people who get the true spirit of 1970s punk (I usually call it ‘new wave’) to be on the kind, thoughtful, gentle, creative side of things. 

I wonder if it’s because the music itself offers such a wonderful means of releasing the occasional bad thought or indignation by expressing it in a vibrant way? 

If you already love this genre of music, you’ll be able to think of lots of cathartic songs. 

For those who do not, I thought long and hard about whether I should offer two or three songs that can dispel all bad thoughts and have you cheery again in 2 mins 31 seconds, providing you can appreciate their humorous spirit. The trouble is, they would have had to come with a public health warning to the easily offended who might find themselves doing a passable imitation of the lady I was serving in the supermarket.

And, of course this would only work if you find you actually like new wave and have been missing out all these years. If you conclude it’s a horrible racket, you’ll feel 3.14 times worse (it’s a scientific fact; something to do with circles). 

OK, you’ve rumbled me – it’s not a real fact, but it ought to be. Is there such a thing as a metaphorical fact?

Anyway, the result of my in-depth thinking is that I prize too highly my site as a safe, inclusive space to squander it by sharing punk songs with a few naughty lyrics in them, especially when (1) they don’t need any recommendation or endorsement from me and (2) music is such a personal thing and (3) you’ll no doubt have a song of your own that makes you feel better. Play that!

So this is a music post without any music in it, shared in response to today’s Discover Challenge: Song.

36 Replies to “In Praise of Punk”

  1. Happy songs! The 70s! For me, the best 70s songs were Bert & Ernie’s “L” song, the “-l-y” song from “Electric Company,” and the train song from “Captain Kangaroo.” My young mom years, and Punk didn’t happen for me. But anger happens, and I agree completely that channeling it is everything, and channeling through music is especially eloquent. I also agree spiked hair can be a sign of a gentle soul. Now I must cogitate on “metaphorical fact.” It has kinked my brain.

    1. I checked out your songs. They reminded me of one of my childhood favourites ‘Paint The Whole World With A Rainbow!’. I liked ‘Top Cat!’ too. It strikes me that the children’s theme tunes I like properly need exclaimation marks after them.

      1. I checked out your songs. I see why they stuck with you. I ransacked my memory for “Top Cat” and got nothing. Then I saw that it ran from 1961 to 1962, my first year of college. No tv that year! I agree about the exclamation point!

  2. I am a huge fan of new wave, especially Talking Heads and Blondie. And I feel as though the Ramones song “I want to be sedated” is a perfect song for the times. (I am listening to it right now.) Interesting observation about the well-to-do woman and the two young punkers. Rock on, dudes!

  3. Back in 2009, when I was awaiting a hip replacement, in a crowded tube train I had to ask for one of the disabled seats in a group of four. Only when I persisted did one of the young, able bodied folk take his eyes from his newspaper and vacate his seat. Another person standing looked, I thought, like a punk biker. I sat there with prejudiced negative thoughts about what he must be like. When we arrived at the terminal station I waited until the crowd had left the train. He waited too, then offered me a hand up. Boy, was I chastened.

  4. Oh, PLEASE give us the songs!!!
    I loved your post. What beautiful descriptive writing.
    But it’s not right to tease us with “two or three songs that dispel bad thoughts” and then not follow through!
    As far as judging, remember, “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

  5. I mostly like rock, punk, metal and classical. I find songs I like in most styles of music

    1. I find songs I like from different genres too, but the first cut is the deepest. I still find the old new wave songs the most exciting and whenever I listen to live music, I’m always hoping someone will play one of my favourites. And the odd time they do!

      1. Of the early 80s new wave, I really like Wall of Voodoo. Their music is briliant.

  6. Music is something I would never want to live without, now more than ever. I’ve been putting on dance tunes just to rock out for a while. It is exercise, but also lets me let loose all the pent-up tension!

    1. It’s the best form of exercise if your neighbours are a reasonable distance away – and from your pictures. I’d guess they are. 🙂

  7. Great post! It’s true, music, punk, in particular, got me through some of my most difficult times. I still listen to it occasionally, along with classical, rock, alternative, folk, etc, all music has it’s time and place!

    1. You’re right. I like a classic pop song too. ‘Happy’, for instance, is such a perfect song, when I first heard it I wondered why it hadn’t been written before.

  8. A great post, but I think you’re right to decide against including any actual music. You’d upset as many people as you entertained. I’ve never even heard of New Wave music, but I suspect that may be just fine … for me.

  9. Yes, sister! All things punk, post-punk, new wave, and especially dark wave/goth. Oh, my cold, dark heart! Haha!

    A particular favorite is Ceremony, written by Ian Curtis and performed by New Order after his death ended Joy Division. 🖤

  10. Punk and new-wave has something that’s been missing until very recently* Numan’s (Tubeway Army) – Steel And You for an angry positive feel (also presages Prodigy RIP_Keith and Nine-inch-Nails; same rising pulse) also Are Friends Electric – amazing tracks listened to very often, and the Heads and Iggy – real people with real energy.

    * eg Sleaford Mods. Punk was defiant and people who still punk are like that, positive, still wanting to change things…

    1. I keep having to break off from answering comments to play tunes either mentioned or that remind me of something. 🙂

      You’ve reminded me of when the Kaiser Chiefs came out with ‘I Predict a Riot’ which people were comparing to punk and I took a look and thought – this lot look super healthy, like their mothers have been taking care of them, and I am glad the years have made a difference, whereas punks looked hungry, and as if they had nicked one of their mother’s cardigans and were wearing it well after the elbows wore out. I quite liked the KC song and I was glad they looked prosperous, but it wasn’t the spirit of punk.

      1. en route to finding KC’s Riot (agree it’s not punk) I saw Tom Morello RATM promoting his guitar masterclass – punk (plus hiphop) altho a bit more modern, very justifiably angry. And Sleaford Mods – they’re ribald to say the least but their heart’s in the right place – strong punk \ working class ethos.

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