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Punk Pt I - Protopunk

Punk – Protopunk

You have to go out there and do it for yourself, because no one’s going to give it to you.

–Joe Strummer

The Beard – Ep. 3 – Punk Pt. I by Beard Radio on Mixcloud

To whom it may concern,

Hello. During the closing moments of last week’s Beard show on Elvis Presley, it may have sounded as if I were endorsing the lifestyle choices of certain pop stars who focus their attention on their younger fans, which while possibly overlooked in the time and place of that era, remains morally outrageous, and potentially illegal today. In the heat of the moment, clouded from reason by my undying ardor for the mutton-chopped, hip-shaking hunk of burning Elvis of my dreams, I may have inadvertently projected my own childhood obsession and in doing so, ok’d the King’s—and by default all pop culture icons who think they can get away with it—transgression. In doing so I insulted the posterior region of my co-host’s dear mother, the karma of which I will never be able to outrun. I apologize for this. And although I do not apologize for Elvis, who despite tales of his innocent courtship (stuffed animals and pajama parties), was still in the wrong, I’m still all shook up.

Woody Guthrie - This Machine Kills Fascists

Woody Guthrie – This Machine Kills Fascists

Woody Guthrie wrote this “This Land Is Your Land” in 1940, and it was originally called “God Blessed America For Me.” The song is a great tribute to the working class, and an editorial on the distribution of wealth and power in the America. It’s the epitome of the protest song, claiming this land belongs to us, and no one can take that away.

1) Play Woody Guthrie- This Land Is Your Land

What is Punk?

Is it a spiked mohawk? A guitar riff? A persona?

At its heart punk is protest. Looked at in this way, it is almost a natural evolution in the grand tradition of protest music: blues, jazz, reggae and rock and roll. Almost. Today our show will be focusing on the punk bands that served as a catalyst for the movement as a whole spreading all across the globe following its inception.

So…What makes “punk”, punk? How did multiple bands from all different genres come to fame in totally different places throughout the 1970s. The punk movement can be divided into several different sub-genres, so what is it that exactly defines punk?

Punk – Protopunk

Take, The Talking Heads, who are seen as more New Wave than typically “punk” yet were playing CBGB and touring with other punk bands at the time– are they any less valuable simply because they did not follow the typical protocol of the punk archetype? What determines a particular band’s value to the punk movement?

2) Play The Kinks – You Really Got Me
3) Play MC5 – Kick Out The Jams

Bands like the Kinks & MC5 may not be what you might call your typical punk bands, or punk whatsoever, but it’s undeniable that when “You Really Got Me” first played on the air, it spawned thousands of bands. Like Wayne Kramer of Detroit’s MC5, kickin arse n taking names surnames, to be proper. These bands began what was later termed Protopunk.

Iggy Pop & The Stooges - Raw Power

Iggy Pop & The Stooges – Raw Power

When Johnny Rotten says that “We don’t give a fuck what you think of us…” he is being somewhat disingenuous, because he does care. Why else would you change your name from Lydon to Rotten? John Mellor to Joe Strummer. James Newell Osterberg, Jr to Iggy Pop. Jello Biafra. All of the Ramones. There does exist some extremes of artifice and persona. Iggy may exemplify this best of all.

4) Play Iggy Pop & The Stooges – Gimme Danger
5) Play The Velvet Underground- Rock and Roll (INTRO) (Lou Reed)

So how does the Velvet Underground fit into the protopunk scene? Much like the Pixies, they are credited with having influenced every band that came after them, while not selling many records. They certainly had the stagecraft down, playing shows all over NYC and partying at Studio 54 with Andy Warhol and his drug-addled Pop Art entourage. Their image, if not so much their music, is very big punk middle finger to the established mores of the time.

Around the same time, The New York Dolls, one of my personal favorites, was an American protopunk band whose claim to fame was short lived, only surviving from 1971-1975. The New York Dolls not only liberated the musical movement for bands following them, but also had dashing good looks, skintight pants and amazing fashion sense.

6)Play The New York Dolls- Personality Crisis
7)Play The New York Dolls- Trash

For many pioneers of the punk movement it was a way of life. Growing up listening to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan led many to the well of music, but having missed Woodstock, what was left? Angst, fueled by poverty, privation, and misunderstanding, and coupled with second-hand guitars gave many the only chance out of the ghetto of the 70s. The Clash, a band we will be devoting an entire episode to in the future, went on to become one of the biggest bands, not only of the punk movement, but of all time. They spanned the entire century with nods to Americana, reggae, rockabilly, soul, and straight forward rock, all the while sneering, and making you dance.

8) The Clash – White Riot
9) The Clash – White Man in Hammersmith Palais

The infamous New York City punk clubs CBGB and Max’s played a paramount role in the punk movement. A lot of these bands really rose from the underground simultaneously, taking the world and its youth by storm. In correlation with the New York Dolls is The Ramones, which is for myself the be all end all of punk rock entirely…and my unexplainable crush on Joey Ramone only had a small bit to do with it. My long lived love affair with the ugliest lead singer ever definitely helped spawn my slight obsession with tall skinny white guys that tend to look slightly malnourished…oh and playing a musical instrument, even poorly, was key.

Here’s The Ramones- “Teenage Lobotomy” off of Rocket to Russia 1977. I chose it because I really identified with the song during my adolescence and stayed up at nights waiting for someone to perform the surgical procedure on me…or for my mother ship to come and take me home.

10) Play The Ramones- Teenage Lobotomy
11) Play The Misfits- Hybrid Moments

The Ramones had a quick, hard hitting style with a 4-chord rhythm, essentially only changing the words to each song making from a long last career from 1974-1996. However, I feel as though with the shuffling of members and the changing of the times, The Ramones kind of fell off the map and strayed away from their true punk roots around 1984 with the release of their album Too Tough to Die… its my opinion that perhaps, they should have let a good thing die rather than running it dry.

Can I ask you a question. Are the Misfits really Punk Rock?

Why do you ask sir?

Dead Kennedys - Fresh fruit for Rotting Vegetables

Dead Kennedys – Fresh fruit for Rotting Vegetables

What about Brian Eno, Roxy Music, Modern Lovers (Jonathan Richman), Television (Richard Hell), DEVO, Patti Smith, Talking Heads (David Byrne), The Heartbreakers (Richard Hell), Pere Ubu, Throbbing Gristle, Gang of Four. What about Garage, Glam & Hardcore Punk? Nazi, Noise, Riot Grrrl & Skate? East coast vs. West Coast? Washington D.C.? Chicago? Toronto? We will focus on the different scenes next week in the second part of our Punk trilogy.

12) Play The Dead Kennedys- California Uber Alles
13) Play The Dead Kennedys- Holiday in Cambodia

What can you say about The Dead Kennedys? Well for one, they are aweeesoome (high pitched)! Also, despite the fact that the hail from San Francisco, rising with the west coast movement, they spawned a punk subgroup known as American-Hardcore…also, they were the first American punk band to have a HUGE impact in the United Kingdom.

Active from 1978-1986, The Dead Kennedys often had to play under pseudonyms because their provocative name tended to stir up quit a bit of controversy. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen wrote in November 1978, “Just when you think tastelessness has reached its nadir, along comes a punk rock group called The Dead Kennedys.” Caen was referring the controversy surrounding the band’s infamous name, often misconstrued as a jab at the Kennedy Family. However, despite popular belief, the name was not meant to insult the Kennedy family, but according to lead singer Jello Biafra, “to bring attention to the end of the American Dream”.

“California Uber Alles” was a single on their first album, Fresh fruit for Rotting Vegetables (1980).

14) Sex Pistols – “Anarchy in the UK”

Holiday in Cambodia” was the second single by the DK. The record was released in May 1980 on Alternative Tentacles with “Police Truck” as the b-side. The title track was re-recorded for the band’s first album, fresh fruit..,. The cover picture of the single is taken from a massacre in Thailand, and depicts a member of the rightist crowd beating the corpse of a student protester with a metal chair. The song attacks both Eastern totalitarianism and Western materialistic complacency. The song’s lyrics offer a satirical view of young, self-righteous Americans and contrast such a lifestyle with a brutal depiction of the infamous Pol Pot.

15) Play Woody Guthrie- Goin’ Down The Road

Labeled by their elders of another generation of lazy hippie ne’er-do-‘wells pissed them off. Written off as impotent adolescents, they were increasingly incensed by the continued imperialist agenda of their homelands abroad—Vietnam, Guatemala, Chile. Spurred on by the new style of no-holds-barred media coverage, kids in the U.S. and the U.K. rebelled openly. Their anger palpable, many went for the only form of expression allowed them: music. But rather than the saccharine stereogum replayed ad nauseam on the radio and tv, they opted for the rawness of unfiltered guitar, machine-gun drums and patchy basslines.

The Evolution of DEVO

Evolution of DEVO

I saw DEVO play in Brooklyn’s McCarren Park Pool in the Summer of 2008. Opening for the resurgent quintet on the humid day was Dan Deacon & the Tom Tom Club. DEVO, after several years of playing summer festivals and shows, had recently started touring non-stop. It showed. The band, a mathematical equation exploring the asymmetrical universe of disjointed melody and chaotic meter, had never played tighter, more together. Or so I imagined. It was my first DEVO show, but these five natives of middle Ohio had been pioneering their weird and beautiful synth-pop together off and on for more than 30 years. And their first recordings are some of their best.

When was the last time you took park in some kind of human chain? Uniting you and your brothers and sisters together in some sort of somehow holy communion–touched, reached, clamored and willingly held hands with hundreds of people you didn’t know while beneath you runs the ever ebbing and flowing mass of those same folks from one end of the chain to create the other…This during Dan Deacon’s set. It only got better from then on…

Evolution of DEVO

I had had a beer. Or two or three. Probably four by the time the heat had evaporated into night and the Tom Tom Club had evanesced into the sound of a milling crowd waiting for dark, waiting for the cool, waiting for DEVO. And with DEVO who knows what to expect. Something in me heard a call, and as I happened to be near the front of the stage–and had my camera and press pass on me–I jumped in line and followed the photographers as they lined up past security into the photo pit. I pushed Fuji x-chrome 400 with a 17-35mm Nikon wide angle lens and when I pulled out my plastic Holga 120N to go a bit more expressionistic, I felt the old competitive push sink in and began to think that HOLGA is the ultimate concert photographer’s equalizer. As with any professional photography there is a lot of cock and swagger going on, a lot of, “Whose got the biggest lens…?” especially down in the pit, but when shooting with the snub-nosed HOLGA, expect to get looks that suggest more than just banal stock topics over afterdinner drinks with vague allusions to Hello Kitty anal beads and dildos as swizzle sticks. I glanced left and right, clicking the plastic shutter without care to where it was pointed thinking, “That’s right, with HOLGA you can move beyond the quotidian latent faggocy of testosterone-driven lens-envy and into the eternal, the asexual, the plasticine, into HONG KONG manufactured light itself. Thank you DEVO for freeing my mind tonight.”

Hardcore Devo Volume One

Hardcore Devo Volume One

DEVO hits the road in June to perform songs from Hardcore Devo: Volume One, the experimental music the band created between 1974-1977 in Akron Ohio. The tour is dedicated to the memory of Robert Casale, (A.K.A. Bob 2), who passed away this February, one of the five original DEVO band members and a portion of all proceeds from the tour will go to Bob Casale’s family.

June 18- Baltimore, MD – Ramshead
June 19- NYC – Best Buy Theatre
June 21- Chicago, IL – Arcada Theatre
June 23- Denver, CO – Summit Music Hall
June 25- Seattle, WA – Neptune
June 26- Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom
June 28- Oakland, CA – Fox Theatre
June 29- Los Angeles, CA – Wiltern
June 30- Solana Beach, CA – Belly Up
July 2- Austin, TX – ACL/Moody Theatre

Devo-Homepage

Devo Live in Brooklyn

DEVO live at McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn, New York

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