I used to say the exact opposite to anyone who called me a punk, but I've learned that being such a cynical asshole is no way to be. Anarcho-peace-hippie-insert-buzzword-here punks Crass said the same thing I did in 1978 when punk was just getting started for most of the world (in fact, I stole it from them, I did):

"Yes that's right, punk is dead
It's just another cheap product for the consumers head

This of course earned them the wrath of The Exploited, who retaliated with "Punk's Not Dead", which was to become a battle cry for many. Was one side right? No, but neither side was wrong either. Both had good points and bad. Perhaps Crass' declaration of punk being dead on arrival was a bit hasty and melodramatic. Crass hated the Sex Pistols and The Clash, who were selling loads of records in the UK. But that was due to a different factors: with the 'Pistols, shock rock won the day. They frightened England and attacked her sensibilities. Thus, they sold records. Meanwhilst, The Clash's appeal stemmed from a furious attitude and genuine songwriting ability, not to mention early signs of fusion between punk rock and reggae. The whole notion of punk, which already starting to become a "stale cartoon" then, had nothing to do with it.

Meanwhile, The Exploited sought to cling to the idea of punk, instead of rejecting the label as Crass did. This would lead to the current state of affairs in the USA, where a whole generation of punks are reviving this idea, clad in black leather covered with patches of none other than The Exploited, and torn with scissors rather than thru actual wear and tear, while they blast their Casulaties records and pick up some Manic Panic Midnight Blue to re-dye their 8 inch trihawk. It seems as if some of the trailblazing done in the 80s has been forgotten - bands like the Dead Kennedys, Operation Ivy, Black Flag, and The Descendents tossed conventional ideas of what punk is in the garbage and created their own art. Unfortunately, in some cases, this pioneering has been mutated into something horribly sinister - the inception of hardcore by bands like Minor Threat, Bad Brains, and the Gorilla Biscuits has led to the wasteland of sludgy, Victory Records-style tuffguy metalcore touted by bands like Earth Crisis and Hatebreed, and The Descendents beautiful "I'm a nerd, but I don't care, so fuck you" rock has been co-opted by generic emo and geek rock. It's really a sad place we're in now . . . but hey, change could be coming soon: if Bush is elected, it could spawn a similar furious explosion of musical creativity and originality to that that the Reagan years brought.

Interesting how such a simple phrase could conjure up so many words and thoughts.
If you pay close attention to those old The Exploited t-shirts, they actually read, "PUNKS NOT DEAD". It isn't "Punk's not dead", it's "PUNKS NOT DEAD". Evidently, The Exploited were not as worried as the rest of the word is with putting apostrophes where they belong, or, verily, including them at all.

This really upsets me, as an intelligent, educated punk rock fan. Is it any wonder that punk as a movement never caught on? With bands like The Exploited, and fans of bands like The Exploited, proudly showcasing, and revelling in, their own ignorance, potential punk newcomers are reticent to give smart bands like Bad Religion or Dead Kennedys a chance.

The missing apostrophe perpetuates every stereotype and rash judgment ever levelled against punk rock and punk rockers, and that missing apostrophe makes me very happy that I do not own any of The Exploited's albums. I am sure I should rather hear "The Decline".

"Cindy, what are you doing?" I asked my classmate as she was frantically carving something into her plastic pencil case. She blew on it a few times, then handed it to me proudly.


"What's this supposed to mean?" I asked, not sure if our exchange student from Denmark knew exactly what she was exclaiming to the world. " I'm not stupid! You know what it means!" she said fiercely, grabbing the case and proceeded to etch an Anarchy sign on the other side. "So what you protesting? Who's oppressing you?" I said, leaning on her desk. "The government, man! They're fucking everywhere!" I laughed as she scowled at me. "What's so fucking funny, fascist?!" she growled. "Good luck with your rebellion, girl." I replied as I left the room, wondering how long we'd last if Punk actually became a system in society.

I walked into Cindy the other day. She's sporting a tattoo on her arm now ("NOFX" in huge letters) and has a few piercings in her lip. "How's life?" I asked her, casually. She jumped, snapping out her own little universe. "Punk's still not Dead" she said, smiling. I invited her to coffee, she declined. "My boyfriend's coming to pick me up in a second. I think you should meet him, he'd like you" I looked at her, noticing that her hair was a dark tint of blue in the sun. "Really?" I replied.

I ended talking to Paul for three hours, five pints of beer each had made the conversation flow quickly from our minds, making us oblivious to the other people in the bar. He set up the pool table for the seventh time as he explained how he'd never read an Anarchist's Manifesto that didn't contain explicitly that beer would be free. As we parted ways that night, Cindy made me promise to keep in touch, so we swapped numbers and I headed off to the bus stop.

Why those three words stuck in my mind for all these years, I don't know. They mean nothing to me. But to see a whole lifestyle change in a few years like that gives one hope. If Punk's not dead, imagine what else just needs to be carved into plastic once in awhile?

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