Sunday, 13 April 2014

“YES IT'S A PROMISE, AND IT'S A THREAT...” - A HISTORY OF HARDCORE PUNK IN THREE-AND-A-HALF CHAPTERS


Firstly,  from the 'American Hardcore' documentary, Keith Morris and Vic Bondi “go off”...


...leads us neatly into this gloriously grainy footage of Black Flag tearing through 'Rise Above'. With, as was the way of things, ample audience participation...


Next up, a hardcore anthem if ever there was, 'Drink Deep' by the short-lived but perpetually influential Rites of Spring.(And source of our title quote.)


...and last, but by no means least, an inexplicably suited-up Minutemen playing 'History Lesson – Part II'...


Keith Morris is right of course, that was what it was. The stuff Mark E Smith called “R+R as primal scream”. But let's focus on that last clip for a second, what about the Minutemen?

“Punk rock changed our lives.” Such heady words, can they actually be backed up by anything? After all, detractors commonly claim the politics in punk songs was crude, naïve and sloganistic. Which it normally was. But, really, they're missing the point! I've often laughed out loud at the earnest imbecility of punk lyrics, yet loved the very same song.

These were songs, not political treatises. Perhaps the most classic hardcore lyric of all was by Ignition, “I know what my anger means.” Punk was a means to articulate something inside you. Punk songs did for you what spinach did for Popeye. Ther archetypal hardcore band Bad Brains formed after the singer read a self-help tract 'Positive Mental Attitude.' Like most punk stories, that's absurd – but fittingly absurd.

Since the blues days, singers and musicians had tended to change their names – McKinley Morganfield becoming Muddy Waters and all the rest of it. Those were something more than stage names, I can't imagine anyone other than his mother still called Muddy 'McKinley'. But with punk the audiences often changed their names too. Punk was a step towards self-transformation. The first step towards not accepting the world as it was - that was not accepting you as you were. From that point on the watch-words were “question everything” and “be self-reliant.” The hardcore resource guide everybody was expected to read was called 'Book Your Own Fucking Life'.

And that's what it's all about. We didn't come out of that the people who went in. It did what it said on the lid. Punk rock changed our lives.

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