So, just a quickie, (a more detailed post on a more interesting/controversial topic later today or tomorrow), but on my way to work I saw a couple of young ladies walking down the road with very dramatic ‘punk’ haircuts and outfits discussing haircare. From what I could gather from my eaves droppings Punk 1 was giving advice on the unsettled nature of Punk 2′s hair, which was apparently fresh from the box (ie a new cut…in case my idiom confuses). Just to explain what I meant by Punk haircut and clothing, in this case it was lots of tight ripped denim and a swooshing blond asymmetrical cut with a pink ‘flash’ (perhaps it was more electroclash than punk but that’s just splitting hairs)
Anyway, this is all well and good and no problem, but it got me thinking how Punk means a hell of a lot of different things to different people. For a start, in the good old Elizabethan days it meant prostitute, and that’s about all it meant. Then all of a sudden (well…a coupla centuries later…but whats a couple o’ centuries between friends) ’77 comes along and the word suddenly means fans of a type of music, becomes associated with anarchy and pins in the ear and spitting and rebellion and all that jazz (although in fact, very little Jazz was involved). I always think of punk being more of an attitude thing (and as being one of the most influential types of music in the western world to ever evolve, I doubt that dance music would have the same shape if Punk had never come about, partly because of the ‘anyone can do the music thing’ and partly because of the underground mentality that came with it) than a fashion/identity thing, but then, part of it is that. A social statement is made by wearing the clothes. You become identified with a specific group, and the boldness of the rejection of mainstream cultural norms is very striking.
What struck me as odd about these two girls was that it made me think about how much she might have paid for that haircut (it looked very professionally done) and how much that fits in with the punk ethic. Is there even a punk ethic? I always think that there is, but a lot of the punk-types I know don’t necessarily fit into this ethic (the vegan anarchist who loves punk and jazz and nothing else is one of the notable exceptions). A lot just like the music (‘I just like the noise and the fact you can dance to it’) and love the underground-ness of the thing they love, but are still quite ‘commercial’ and ‘mainstream’ in their beliefs and lifestyle. I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with this, I just find it quite interesting. Elements of the punk ‘ethic’ can be dropped at will, mainstream capitalist ideology is merged with the rebellious side and the ‘smash the state’ style attitude without any sense of irony. Part of this is because punk (like most underground music that you’re likely to have heard of) has been co-opted into the mainstream. The banality of the ‘pop-punk’ movement bears no resemblance to the aggression and energy that the early players on the scene had. The whole thing is full of contrasts.
As well as all this, many people will merely adopt the aesthetic, without even liking the music: ripped jeans and asymmetrical haircuts are popular among many different cultural groups. The aforementioned electroclash movement (punk attitude toward the electro musical schema) is just one of those types that could be mistaken easily for those earlier punks. Also, there are some ‘true’ punks out there who fight for anarchy, dress the right way, have the attitude, and in the case of the guy I’m thinking of, are lovely, lovely people.
Anyway, just a bit of a ramble to see what people thought. I’ve got more ideas on this but want to keep this short (I’ve got an album review of the new Squarepusher album to write for a friend’s website).
The ‘Baster’s final thought is to make sure everyone knows that my favourite punk band is the Talking Heads, and I won’t have anyone tell me they aren’t punk, cause they damn well are. (This post created using Pandora for music, awesome Jazz list running at the moment (mostly piano jazz) last track was Salt Peanuts by Phineas Newborn Jr Trio, and was awesome…I only mention it to demonstrate my eclectic tastes for those who might be impressed by boasting about pointless and irrelevant things).
Oh yeah, bless the punks and freaks and weirdos..they’re lovely, and they’re my kind of people
Oh,and PS, there’s an edit on a previous post that you should check out, I just updated it to point to another article by the same guy I’d pointed in the direction of in the original post…its kind of inspired by something I said to him previously and is the first time I’ve ever been name-checked in an essay that was as professionally written as this one…have a look at the update if you’re interested in the issues