Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Opinions: What Punk Rock Means To Me – Daragh Guest

In 1977, a large percentage of angst-ridden young adults and teenagers in the U.K. decided to put greasy dishwater in their hair, wear outfits custom-made out of bin bags and jump up and down rhythmically (or at least enthusiastically) to music played by mostly musically illiterate peers… and the reason for this unorthodox behaviour you might ask? Because of this thing is called Punk… or more specifically, Punk Rock music.

But this is just a portion of a story that, to me, has its roots set far back in time, quite possibly to the day the first organism had the intent to question conformity and wriggle its way out of the unforgiving seas and onto dry land.


You see, I am one subscriber to the thought that Punk is far beyond what the music genre has to offer our ears, and it is more than safety pins and torn homemade garments. And it is most definitely more substantial than what the characters; Zed McGlunk; in Police Academy and Vyvyan Basterd; in The Young Ones represent.

Mainstream popular culture was given a highly reliable archetype by the time Teenage Kicks and Anarchy in the U.K. were released. It is because this Punk attitude is one we all identify with, a spirit that has possessed some of human history’s most forward-thinking individuals. Emmeline Pankhurst certainly was possessed with such spirit when she founded The Women’s Social and Political Union, helping establish the right for women to vote. Steve Biko had Punk’s spirit when fighting against apartheid, helping popularise the slogan “black is beautiful; Oskar Schindler could be credited with harnessing the power of punk, saving the lives of 1,200 Jewish people during World War II.

This may be a stretch for some readers, as these examples would not have been exposed to the music of Punk (minus Biko) but all three examples questioned the norms in their respective societies,
helped set new standards in extremely hostile environments and were not afraid of being an underdog. That is pretty Punk Rock, is it not?


It seems to me that this revolutionary mindset would manifest into musical culture sooner rather than later, as we humans seem to want the truth and nothing but the truth! In a musical landscape where Rock and Roll giants and gods ruled the airwaves with the likes of Queen, Led Zeppelin and Rush, there was little for the listener to identify with, especially in the working-class communities. Stories of fairies, wizards and witches simply did not resonate with young people who were experiencing and witnessing routine power cuts, chronic racism and gruesome violence as part of the standard life of a British citizen. Something had to give, something had to change. And it did.

Joe Strummer summed Punk up to a tee… “Give us some truth. That’s the energy of Punk Rock” Although the sound of 3 chord progressions and blistering drum beats are the backdrop for many punk songs, it is the message in the lyrics that matters. It is the intent of saying screw this, this is my truth, however big or small. Standing up for your truth,

no matter how ugly or beautiful. Punk is everywhere.

Article written by Daragh Guest