The music industry is, in general, not in the position of initiating trends, but reacting to them. Collectively, the ten or so major labels have, to some extent, the power to dictate the market because of their new monopoly of the means to dictate the market because of their new monopoly of the means of production and promotion. The are however, vulnerable to the speed in which fashions can arrive and disappear, particularly in a centralized, fast-moving music economy like Britain’s. In effect, they are in the position of attempting it will strike, nor with what power.
Jon Savage, England’s Dreaming, Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond
England’s Dreaming (the playlist)
For those of you playing along at home, I’m currently about half way through Jon Savage’s incredible book about the rise of punk rock: England’s Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond. It is greatly influencing my music (and video and photo) posts and if you’re just catching up, or looking for a pretty good playlist, here’s what I posted so far:
“Hong Kong Garden” by Siouxsie and the Banshees
“Your Generation” by Generation X (video)
“What Do I Get?” by The Buzzcocks
“Dog Eat Dog” by Adam and the Ants (video)
“Precious” by Chrissy Hynde and the Pretenders (video)
“Beat on the Brat” by Ramones
“Gloria” by Patti Smith
“Blank Generation” by Richard Hell and the Voivods
“Personality Crisis” by New York Dolls
“Street Life” by Roxy Music
“White Light/White Heat” by Velvet Underground
“Stay With Me” by Faces
Coming up: The Clash, The Damned, and, yes, Sex Pistols.
“Dog Eat Dog” by Adam and the Ants
Another musician influenced by the early Sex Pistols shows was Adam Ant.
“The impression they [Sex Pistols] left on me was total. They had a certain attitude I’d never seen: they had bollocks and they had very expensive equipment and it didn’t look like it belonged to them. They had the look in their eye that said ‘We’re going to be massive.’ I stood there transfixed. When Danny [Kleinmann, Bazooka Joe’s guitarist] jumped John, I didn’t jump in to help him. I left Bazooka Joe the next day: I came out of that gig thinking, ‘I’m tired of Teddy Boys’ and it seemed to me that the Sex Pistols were playing simple songs that I could play. I just wanted to go away and form my own band.” - Adam Ant in England’s Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond
In “Dog Eat Dog,” Ant takes what I perceive to be a shot at the establishment in the opening lyrics: “you may not like the things we do/ only idiots ignore the truth.” With an entire generation attempting to survive, many of them gave up and turned to a life of trying to shock and get attention. One of the ways they did this was through loud and fast music. Ant, however, was more attuned to Malcolm McLaren’s sense that fashion would lead the way. After all, people can’t hear the music when you’re walking down the street, but they an see your hair spiked and dyed, a heavily and chaotically made-up face, and clothing that stands out because it is ripped and torn, contains suggestive sayings, or is overtly flamboyant (or all three.)
“Julie’s Been Working For the Drug Squad” by The Clash
(Words/Music: Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, Album: Give ‘em Enough Rope, CBS Records 1978)
I know that a song by The Clash is an odd thing to find as a Blues and Jazz Tuesday post, but part of the spirit of Blues and Jazz Tuesday is to examine the forms and styles of music that eventually led to what we now call rock. And while The Clash came along at a time when rock was not only well-established in the mainstream and underground and had long since splintered into various types of rock, I always found it interesting that a band so entrenched in the punk movement (which many promoted as anti-rock) would so blatantly reach back to the roots of rock. With its Chuck Berry style back beat and double stops and its honky tonk piano, “Julie’s Been Working For the Drug Squad” connected to the garage band spirit that began rock in the first place and helped solidify The Clash’s reputation among the punks because much of what the the movement was rebelling against was the flamboyance and immensity of arena rock bands like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones and studio rock bands like The Beatles. They recognized a disconnect between the performers and the audience, not only musically but also socio-economically. No longer were these musicians struggling to play their instruments and struggling to make ends meet; instead they were able to hire the best behind the scenes songwriters and studio musicians while they were jet-setting around the world with supermodels. The punks saw this and condemned it under one term: “rock ‘n’ roll,” which is why many of punks refused to describe their music as “punk rock,” opting for the simpler “punk.”
Long before they received the unofficial moniker as “the only band that matters,” they were already distinguishing themselves from the more hardcore versions of punk. But the problem that The Clash eventually encountered was that even though they were in the punk scene, it became obvious that they were too talented (and mainstream) to be held in the highest regard by the rest of the punks. This only became more obvious on later records (especially Combat Rock) which sought to fuse their brand of punk with many other styles of music. Many felt that they had lost their aggression and edge and had become the very thing they started out condemning. Even though their initial spirit of rebellion and anarchy helped found the punk ideal, they were’t punk enough for punk because they didn’t want to continue to play the same style throughout their careers (like The Ramones) and they lasted long enough to outlast the actual punk movement (unlike the Sex Pistols). In the end though, “Julie’s Been Working For the Drug Squad” represents their ability to recreate the essence of early rock ‘n’ roll and return to a time when it was still underground music. The only problem is that they did it too well.
More from The Clash: AmazonMP3 - last.fm - AllMusic - eMusic
More Blues and Jazz Tuesday posts from shelterfromthenorm
“American Jesus (live)” by Bad Religion
(Words/Music: Greg Graffin and Brett Gurewitz, Album: 30 Years Live, Epitaph Records 2010)
I’ll be honest; Bad Religion is one of the bands I wish I listened to more and knew more about. They popped up on my radar with “21st Century Digital Boy” and, while I listen to and love the rest of Stranger Than Fiction for its incredible energy and socially conscious lyrics, I never actively listened to anything else by the band. In conversations with friends, I would bring them up as one of my favorite punk (or new punk) bands, hoping that they wouldn’t call me out for my lack of knowledge and never realizing (until now) that I am probably one of the hypocritical people their lyrics are aimed at. I am sure it is partially for fans like myself that they released their 30 Years Live album earlier this week and, in fact, gave it away for free to anyone who pre-registered at their website. I don’t know what surprised me more: that they were giving away an album for free or that they have been around for 30 years. The first action is incredibly punk while the second is punk’s antithesis.
Of the songs on this disc, many of which were released as singles and most of which were new to me, “American Jesus” is the one that jumped out at me on the first listen. While many punk songs have very limited lyrics (mainly because of the length of the song), Bad Religion manages to pack this song with enough irony and sarcasm to fill an entire album. Pointing its sarcasm at religious fundamentalists who use their faith to inform their politics, the most memorable part of the song is the variation on the third “verse” which is a litany of all of the negative things religious fanaticism causes like war, famine (or at least economic imbalance), racism, and murder. These images come at such rapid pace (like most punk rock) that the listener is overwhelmed by them and the full force of their power is realized and is faster (and therefore more effective) on this live version than on the studio release. In a time when certain punk rock bands are turning to acoustic guitars and Broadway shows, it’s good to see that Bad Religion is still rocking good classic punk rock. Here’s to another 30 years.
More Bad Religion: AmazonMP3 – last.fm – AllMusic – eMusic
More Feelin’-it Friday posts from shelterfromthenorm