The other week, the BBC repeated it’s ‘Punk Britania’ television triptych – ‘Pre-Punk 1972-1976’, ‘Punk 1976-1978’ & ‘Post-Punk 1978-1981’, first aired in 2012.
I could, and frequently do, watch things like this until the cows come home. Gleaning ever more intersections, connecting ever more “goddamned dots”, with each renewed viewing.
This time I was struck with two things, firstly that the copy of, ‘The Truth of Revolution, Brother: An Exploration of Punk Philosophy’, that I had bought a year or so ago, still sat languishing, unopened on the bookshelf. Secondly, that if 1977 had been the high-water mark of the Punk movement, was there something more to this, just beyond half-way through the decade, watershed moment?
After all, in 1957 Rock ‘n’ Roll had gripped the popular imagination, 67′ brought us the “Summer of Love”, 77′ – Punk, 87′ the seeds of the “Second Summer of Love”, in 97′ “Britpop” was on the wane and by 2007, pretty much anything that could be revived, lay quivering on the corporate, A&E resuscitation table. Repackage, resell, repeat…
2017 in almost upon us – what should we expect?
The unifying principle to the majority of these fin de siècle moments, before being high-jacked, watered-down, commoditised and re-packaged for the “mainstream”, is REBELLION…
Dada, at least the Viennese variety, found it’s epoch in the Cabaret Voltaire (1916). It’s prescient protest, raged against the machine of bourgeois nationalist and colonial interests, deemed the root cause of war, and against a stultifying and prescribed, cultural and intellectual conformity. Dada became an often quoted, blueprint for the Punk manifesto.
This desire for self-expression, was embodied in the continued evolution of Surrealism, the search for free association, and the liberation to be found in unexpected juxtapositions, encouraging freedom from false rationales. Finding it’s maxim in André Breton’s call, “long live the social revolution, and it alone!”
Morphing into the Malcolm McLaren hobby-horse (sic), 1957, yup, that seven again, saw the formation of the Situationist International. Their penchant for the détournement, “turning expressions of the capitalist system against itself”, and the central tenet of ‘The Society of the Spectacle’ (1967), attempted to open our eyes to the “rigged game” of rampant consumerism. Where anything deemed subversive by the conservative mainstream, is trivialised then sterilised, before being subsumed by the status quo, stripped of any promised vitality.
“Guy Debord pointed out the flaws and merits of both Marxism and anarchism. He argued that “the split between Marxism and anarchism crippled both sides. The anarchists rightly criticized the authoritarian and narrowly economistic tendencies in Marxism, but they generally did so in an undialectical, moralistic, ahistorical manner… and leaving Marx and a few of the more radical Marxists with a virtual monopoly on coherent dialectical analysis—until the situationists finally brought the libertarian and dialectical aspects back together again.” – Ken Knabb
The necessity for confrontation, has perhaps seldom felt keener. The mass media manipulations, which have brought us Brexit, a Sith-Lord hiding in plain sight in Downing Street, the prospect of a Clinton or Trump, military industrial puppet in the Whitehouse, austerity eclipsed by Trident, an apparently neutered and duplicitous “left”, etc… etc…
The Secessionist movement’s motto, written above the entrance of their purpose built pavilion, opened in, you guessed it, 1897 reads, “To every age its art, to every art its freedom”…
The soundtrack to 2017 in reality then, will be the same one, that has always been the anti-national anthem of the counterculture.
In much the same way that the composers of the Romantic era, seized the popular zeitgeist, wrestling the reins of composition away from despotic “patrons” of the arts, discord has found it’s welcome expression, in all anti-establishment quarters.
“In the young hippie baby-boomer stampede towards an undefined mass Utopia, the smaller, tangible fantasies of the individual were trodden down, even as history seems to suggest that it is the mass alignment of private utopias that truly has the power to change society.” – Patrick Lundborg.
Recent family circumstance has allowed me to fully indulge in the Dérive or “drift” of psychogeography, finding myself inexorably, “drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there”.
Identify your individualistic and tangible fantasies, align your private utopia, the Age of Aquarius will afford the opportunity to unleash our collective chimera, devouring timid subservience, championing societal change.
The DIY soundtrack to bohemia, is everywhere the corporate tentacles don’t reach, all you have to do is dig a little deeper and listen…