22 January 2017
The Spirit of '76 - 40 Years On
It began a little before this date. 40 years ago. Punk rock. For me. Just what a young Anarchist needed - a proper soundtrack for his life inside and outside the schoolyard I was still fenced in by.
What I mean by "a little before this date" would push my punk rock days to either when Lester Bangs tipped me off on the Sex Pistols a year or so before I first heard them on a morning English pop music show in late '76 (or thereabouts) or much further back when I bought Lou Reed's first solo record in my neighbourhood department store. The streets Lou Reed was singing about were much like the streets I was walking on - every lowlife up to and including Clifford Olson could be found there - and looking at through fogged up bus windows except there were no transsexuals on the streets of Sliverville then - they would have been beaten to death within minutes of stepping onto the street.
A little after that I saw Sweeney Todd play a dance in a town near where I lived - they had a little of the punk rock sound then and covered Mott the Hoople - a massive punk rock influence - extensively. Soon thereafter I saw my first rock shows. I like to think of Slade's (again a massive punk rock influence) roller rink show as my first rock show. There were enough fucking police hanging uselessly around that show to make an instant Anarchist of me.
But, alas, it was not really Slade who were my first rock show. It was Arlo Guthrie. My Guitar 11 class went to see Arlo on a field trip at the big university in town. Everybody there but my class were smoking dope like it was going out of style. Rolling it up out of huge bags in their laps. We all wanted to join in, including our teacher, who was probably the only straight person in the audience. Her whole class had dropped acid just before we headed for the rock show.
The punk rock moment of that rock show was Arlo telling the wasted members of the audience who kept yelling for "Alice's Restaurant" to "Go buy the fucking record!"
Heart played a high school dance that year too. 1975 was not a bad year for rock 'n' roll itself.
Having passed all my grade 11 courses, including Guitar11 (C+), I continued my schooling in England. Lot of work that was - in a school that had and continues to have high expectations of its students. After first adapting to the increased workload I managed free myself up all day Saturday and Saturday night so I could catch rock shows at a nearby club that had, not so long ago, once hosted bands like The Who and the Rolling Stones. Club had an adjoining pub with a huge oval bar as its centre piece where its patrons could fight one another for a bartender's attention. The English may be good for fuck all else but in those days they could sure drink and make great music.
The first rock show that was very much like a punk rock show was Eddie and the Hot Rods. Amphetamine rock 'n' roll band they were. I already owned their "Teenage Depression" 45. (Treasure it still.) I was not the only kid in the audience who needed some of the ecstasy a high energy rock show and a lot of liquor will get you. I would get to see them once more a few months later. Two of my favourite rock shows ever. I would not be without their first three albums - great songs enthusiastically played.
But I knew I had not seen or heard nothing yet.
Soon enough I would hear and see the Sex Pistols on television. Lester Bangs could not have been more right. My generation, the first in the west faced with grimmer prospects than our parents' in several decades, had produced the greatest rebel culture of them all. And did I fit in! Noisy, obnoxious, drunk and wasted as all fuck it was. The biggest FUCK YOU ever.
Never did get to see the Pistols until the '90s in Dope City. They played a place I saw The Adverts, Chelsea and Generation X but word did not reach me of their secret appearance until it was too late to make travel plans to get to the somewhat distant show.
Indeed it was The Adverts who were my first punk rock show. Their singer TV Smith is one of the greats and I think it is Gaye Advert I still dream about when I make one of my less and less common nocturnal emissions.
Chelsea would be one of my favourite rock shows ever. They encapsulated the anger and hopelessness of the time as well as anybody. Gene October, their singer, was one of the scariest, biggest motherfuckers of the day.
Generation X was my first sold out punk rock show. Audience was more than half girls - all there to see Billy Idol in his black fucking leather. I think it was Sandy from the legendary Pink Fairies, who I had seen a week or two earlier, who I saw and spoke with at the show. He was so wasted! Just what I needed - another fucking wasted role model.
There were other shows - the Stranglers a couple times, the Runaways, Talking Heads, Ramones, (Lou Reed, Television and Blondie in London - where I saw only a few shows), Ultravox and others I cannot think of just now. Plus the non-punk rock shows! Judas Priest, Curved Air, Stray, The Groundhogs, John Cale, Hawkwind, Motorhead and more.
It was a great year to be a rock 'n' roller. A great year to get pissed and destroy. A great set up for the years of wild, wild west coast punk rock just around the corner that would leave me for dead several times in the coming years but never quite kill me.