What a week!
Meeting my 'misspent youth' face to face again, bumping into the bass player of Kilburn and the High Roads, Keith Levene the lynchpin of English punk from forming the Clash to Public Image to playing with me now, Gaye Advert and Gina Birch [of the Raincoats] two of the original rrriot girls, Steve Diggle blazing on guitar at last night's full Buzzcocks reunion, Pig Youth of Killing Joke bringing memories of massive CND demos we both played at. At the other day's Stop the War gathering with Brian Eno without whom Roxy Music and Bowie's street glam punk would have never emerged and seeing my local MP from those crucial years Tony Benn the punk of Parliament Square together with Dennis Skinner. They are all still dripping attitude.
Media hijack / The lunatics are taking over the asylum
The threat of a right wing coup hung over 1976, as a 15-year-old in a backwater coma town, my next door neighbour decided to take a 'defiant pose' and form the Cortinas. Bristol punk kicked off and we all formed our own subway sects. From sink estates to the terraces we rallied at Barton Hill Youth centre and forgotten bands like The Media, The Android Pups, and The Pigs rocked our world.
"I had an innate desire to be free. To be free from unwanted desires seems to be desirable" from Poly Styrene's unpublished personal diary on the day she wrote Oh Bondage Up Yours.
All the young Droogs stomped and pogoed across the nation, a brand new loute-couture spread from Malcolm's [McLaren] mannequins of mayhem. We deliberately engaged in an 'image war' of interventions, provocations and brandalism. With a 'ripped and torn' piratical view of other cultures, sacred symbols and icons. Our clothing suggesting institutional settings or supposedly taboo behaviour, featuring straight jackets and bondage trousers, implied either escape from a mental home, or a taste in sado-masochistic sex. With the scrapbook of shocking signs that punk drew from, we intended to shock, we courted controversy and arrest by blatantly wearing such imagery in the streets of seventies black and white Britain. Before punk all was monochrome, dread was in the air, the nuclear winter.
Paramilitary police were used as a private army in order to try to break the backs of organised labour, leading on to the summer of a thousand fires when Babylon was truly burning from Toxteth to St Pauls.
The Clash's sixth gig
Took Patti Smith to see A Night of Treason at London's ICA, Paul Simonon's bass with stickers on, showing him where to put his fingers inspired us all and tore down the controlling myths of the music biz. Igniting punk's DIY ethos that continues to inspire to the present day, spreading its alternative tentacles across the world from indigenous resistance to John Trudell from Burma to Beijing Bubbles [the recent film about Chinese punk rock]. All are a fitting tribute Joe Strummer's internationalism.
Punk in Britain in 1976 was a natural progression of the [punk] attitude that began in the US with the likes of Gene Vincent, whilst the music changes and mutates, that attitude is still present amongst many, young and old.
Mark Stewart's new album The Politics of Envy sees him collaborating with fellow punk and post punk greats Richard Hell, Keith Levene (Clash / PiL), Gina Birch (The Raincoats), Tessa Pollitt (The Slits) and Youth (Killing Joke) amongst others.