Wednesday, 10 March 2010
Late for the punk revolution
I missed the punk revolution the first time round.
Of course, I was aware of punk rock - it was impossible to miss the shock-and-horror news stories or the deliberately outrageous album covers - but I never paused to listen to the music. Looking back, this seems startling, especially since I headed to Anti-Nazi League festivals - I think I may have heard The Clash play live in Victoria Park without noticing.
It's hard to be sure why I missed out. In part I was busy discovering other aspects of music. I was prepared to travel a long way for a Monteverdi opera and to sit through an otherwise dull concert for a spectacularly good performance of Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasileiras number 5.
I first encountered punk through an Oxford filter, which didn't help. Punk was greeted enthusiastically by mostly well-off students - the students who would soon vote Thatcher into power. They loved the excuse to dress down. My sense of punk in those early years is crystallised by watching a gang of twenty or thirty Oxford undergraduates dressed in carefully-styled binbags with imitation safety pins stuck to their faces. They were on their way to a fancy-dress party. I hated the aura of condescending fakery and avoided the whole movement.
It was a long time later that my son started listening to punk as well as metal, folk and other genres. I began hearing snatches of his albums an realising that I'd missed something exciting, angry and thoughtful. A friend who was much more open to a wide range of music educated me further with recommendations of bands beyond my experience.
Sadly, I didn't follow up all his recommendations as he gave them - I tended to listen to a clip or watch a youtube video and mentally file it for later reference. It was only when he died at the end of last year that I re-read his emails and returned to his recommendations. One band cropped up again and again: the Yorkshire-based Sex Patels. I started visiting their myspace page to hear the few tracks there. I watched all the youtube videos I could find. Eventually I managed to acquire their rare and wonderful CD (I shan't say how I did this - I'll just thank the people who helped) and have been listening to it ever since.
I don't know if I'll ever get to see the Sex Patels perform live. I don't know where they would be - and I feel a little uneasy at the idea of going to a gig alone, especially at my age. I fear I've missed something tremendous - a mixture of celebration, anger and fun that fuses punk classics with bhangra .
I'm a little sad that Jacqui Wicks has left the band - she has such a terrific voice. I'm sure her new work will be successful but, just at the moment, I'm sticking with the Sex Patels - and I've a feeling I'll be playing that CD for ever.