Kids today, trying to reconstruct the deconstruction of rock and roll. "Could it be possible? This old saint in the forest has not yet heard anything of this, that Punk is dead
!" I'm not saying it because Crass
said it or the Exploited
didn't say it, but because I've had to watch is choke on its own tired glory each time "punk
" is reduced to a word or a style of playing music.
The obvious superficial root is the Sex Pistols, a post-dadaist designer experiment somewhere in Europe. There is no where else to start--stylistically you have much of the guitar-driven pop of the 20th century, emotionally you have the blues, in attitude you might even have bebop. Intellectually you could take the dadaists or Ulysses, if you want. But there can be no organism exactly like another, and punk lived and breathed like any other. It lived an infancy in the late 70's--learning to read with the Clash, discovering masturbation with the Pistols, innocently frolicking through an urban wasteland with the Ramones--and began puberty with the Germs. The '80's was the beautiful epidemic, but where do you go from there?
And where did it come from, anyway? As I listen to Son House, I feel like I could draw comparisons here but I can't quite bring myself to do it. They do overlap in huge ways--the whole idea of not giving a shit. You can see this in every kid playing as fast and hard as they can, and it's fucking punk. But there was usually some agenda involved, or there would have been some attempt to master the instrument for the sake of beauty. Even art-based punk had an intellectual agenda. Punk came to come in an attempt to make sure the next generation was not as fucked up and superficial as the last. The sincerity in blues can be equated to the feeling brought on by being conscious and walking through a shopping mall, wanting to burn the place down and knock some sense into the shoppers.
It was organic. It came from the same place in everyone who felt it, and it died when people perpetuated the idea of being punk for the sake of being punk. Imitating the style of playing music or the style of dressing, because you liked the idea of being a punk.
This is when it became a rock. It became a Punk Rock.
At first it didn't matter. It was fun, so what could you care that the hill led nowhere, that there was no purpose in trying to get that rock up there. But then you get tired, and you start wondering if this is what punk was about. Is that what punk is? Pushing a rock up a hill? Living for the sake of a tradition, a ritual? Or for Sisyphus, a punishment?
You won't find punk in a rock. Put on your Black Flag records to remember where you came from, but you have to create it for yourself. And don't let anyone tell you what punk is, not even me.