Saturday, April 10, 2010

Farewell Malcolm McLaren - and thank you

Never Mind the Bollocks. For me, a teenager living in England in 1976, punk was an entirely British phenomenon at the beginning. We weren't really aware of any American punk bands back then - it seemed to us as though it started in London with the Sex Pistols - and that Malcolm and Vivienne's Sex shop provided (in a massively important way) the "look" that went with the sound.

All the bands we loved and pogo'd to and spat at at innumerable gigs in those first two or three years of punk were either English, Irish or Scottish (our discovery of American punks such as The Ramones and Blondie came a couple of years later) - and for us, the clothes were almost as important as the music - and the attitude was equally important.

It was the classic teenage rebellion "fuck you if you're over 25" thing - but in addition (and this was something we'd certainly never come across in popular music before) - it was the DIY ethic. The idea that any one of us could pick up a guitar and form a punk band and that it would be good, and joyous, and wonderful, and angry, and rebellious, and political if we wanted it to be - this was an entirely new concept, and one which we all embraced with great enthusiasm.

I think Malcolm had a lot to do with fostering and developing this ethic, whether he did it deliberately or not.

He lit a fire in those of us at the perfect age to appreciate and adopt all the aspects of punk culture - and what a blaze it was! I'm so incredibly grateful to have had punk as my seminal musical influence. It was a wonderful time to be growing up, and a wonderful soundtrack to my teenage and University years.

I can see shadows of that same DIY ethic coming through at many other times of my life - like travelling to the far side of the world straight after University when no-one we had ever met had even considered doing such a thing; eventually coming to live in NZ even though I didn't know a soul when I arrived; forming a world music band in Welli in the 90s; organising dance parties and eventually getting involved in The Gathering; making our own documentary about TheG; even the freelance and contract web design/dev work I do these days - it's all about making things happen yourself and not relying on anyone else to do it for you.

I learned when I first went travelling that "you can make anything happen if you want it badly enough" - and although I thought I'd figured that one out for myself, in retrospect I think it was a concept that was already sitting in my brain, planted there by all the punk bands I ever saw, and ever loved.

Malcolm McLaren introduced me to the very first of those punk bands, and for that I am extremely grateful.

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