photo manipulation by nacrowe
PUNK: ATTITUDE (3DD PRODUCTIONS, 2005) by legendary DJ / MUSICIAN / DIRECTOR and original PUNK ROCK scenester DON LETTS is probably the most comprehensive documentary about the beginnings and evolution of PUNK ROCK, both stateside and in ENGLAND. it includes an exhaustive yet entirely impressive cast of participants, many now deceased, whose insights provide an appreciation for the wide array of interests and backgrounds that led to the formation of the genre. this includes, but not limited to, musicians such as JOHN CALE (THE VELVET UNDERGROUND), JELLO BIAFRA (THE DEAD KENNEDYS), MARTIN REV (SUICIDE), CHRISSIE HYNDE (THE PRETENDERS), DAVID JOHANSEN, SYLVAIN SYLVAIN & ARTHUR KANE (THE NEW YORK DOLLS), MICK JONES & PAUL SIMON (THE CLASH), DARYL JENIFER (BAD BRAINS), POLY STYRENE (X-RAY SPEX), HENRY ROLLINS (BLACK FLAG), WAYNE KRAMER (MC5), PAT SMEAR (THE GERMS), SIOUXSIE SIOUX (SIOUXSIE SIOUX & THE BANSHEES), TOMMY RAMONE (THE RAMONES), CAPTAIN SENSIBLE (THE DAMNED), ARI UP (THE SLITS), STEVE JONES & GLEN MATLOCK (THE SEX PISTOLS), THURSTON MOORE (SONIC YOUTH), K.K. BARRETT (THE SCREAMERS), RAY CAPO (YOUTH OF TODAY), GLENN BRANCA (THEORETICAL GIRLS), KEITH MORRIS (BLACK FLAG / CIRCLE JERKS), ROGER MIRET (AGNOSTIC FRONT), PETE SHELLEY & HOWARD DEVOTO (THE BUZZCOCKS), DEE POP (THE BUSH TETRAS), ALICE BAG (THE BAGS), RICHARD MANITOBA (THE DICTATORS), JAMES CHANCE (JAMES CHANCE & THE CONTORTIONS) and film director JIM JARMUSCH, CBGBs owner HILLY KRISTAL and various managers, writers, artists and photographers.
i think one strong suit of this documentary is its ability to elucidate the long line of influence that followed one band to another over time. how bands like THE DOORS influenced THE STOOGES who influenced THE SEX PISTOLS and BLACK FLAG and NIRVANA and so on. in essence you see how bands such as THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, SUICIDE, THE DEAD KENNEDYS, PATTI SMITH, THE DAMNED and THE RAMONES (among many others) are all linked and part of a greater movement towards challenging, complicating, questioning and, in turn, revitalizing the form of ROCK AND ROLL.
examples provided included the concurrent POST PUNK and NO WAVE that came about after the first wave of PUNK ROCK. both took the ethos of originality and freedom and applied such to the music, creating new takes on song structures and experimented with expanded palette of instruments.
the HARDCORE scene of the 1980s was the opposite of such in that songs got condensed and sped up even faster. scenes that began with first wave PUNK adherents more interested in art and originality were taken over by HARDCORE bands that were largely aggressive and violent. part of that anger was political at the REAGAN administration as well as a feeling that their lives were set to be disrupted by economic uncertainty. that scene begat the ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene of the 1990s, or as JELLO BIAFRA puts it "punk inspired rock bands." as the 1990s dragged on you get bands like KORN and LIMP BIZKIT with their dumbed down break down sections and shocking lack of social consciousness.
there was nothing revelatory about this documentary, but it serves as a welcome definitive statement about a genre for anyone new or interested in the place of PUNK ROCK in music history. it really gets at the core idea of the genre in spite of its many permutations: that being the value being an individual. finding your voice, whatever that may be, and speaking your truth vociferously with an almost disregard for the opposition. thats a healthy sentiment for anyone to learn.
my only gripe with this film is that they spends way too much time talking about THE CLASH and JOE STRUMMER, but that is my own personal bias making itself apparent. i still find that band, despite their influence, to be full of themselves. just my opinion.
photo by nacrowe
i found the recent memoir RECKLESS: MY LIFE AS A PRETENDER (ANCHOR BOOKS 2016) by CHRISSIE HYNDE of THE PRETENDERS-fame to be quite an affecting read. not so much because of her deftly-articulated descriptive accounts of growing up working-class in the midwest and watching the landscape, economy and culture shift around her or even her ZELIG-like ability to be in the center of the hurricane for culturally significant events (KENT STATE shootings, center of UK PUNK explosion).
what really caught my imagination with this book was her emotional distance from her own narrative. i don't want to make too much of this but it would seem that she has persevered through several traumatic events including the aforementioned shooting, sexual abuse and the untimely deaths of her friends, peers and band-mates. the perspective of this story seems to be one of a survivor unemotionally stating events or at most commenting on them from a remote perspective, which seems odd. as a male reader, i don't want to project any expectations of how a survivor of trauma should behave, as that is not my place. all i am saying is that it was something i noticed and found interesting.
i think what made this seeming omission that more glaring was the fact that this book pours an exorbitant amount of energy into describing her relationship with drugs. in fact, this book seems to be a cautionary tale about narcotics and how they effected her and those closest to her. to me this was probably the dullest aspect of the book, but i can see how it was vital in relaying her story as it was the basis for many interactions in various locales.
as a reader and a fan of her music my interest was more in the relationships she had with band members, past and present, but seemingly the story ends after the second PRETENDERS album and sparingly little about her work with PETA or any advocacy work thereafter. the same for her relationship with RAY DAVIES. i suppose exposing one's relationship with drugs is one thing, but delving into complicated adult relationships is another. that was a missed opportunity in mind opinion, but most likely a deliberate one.
my sense of HYNDE from reading her memoir is that she is a fiercely independent artist who takes risks aware but unencumbered by potential consequences. i can only imagine the chutzpah needed to leave AKRON for LONDON and making your way alone. it is more than remarkable. the fact that she collaborated with such a formidable list of musicians (MARK MOTHERSBAUGH, THE CLASH, THE DAMNED, etc.) during their formative years is a testament to her eye for talent and maybe just serendipity for being at the right place at the right time. the idea that her story may not resonate in a post-#METOO environment may also speak to her not wanting sympathy, or worse excuses, for her decisions or unfortunate situations she's encountered as a young woman. i read this memoir as someone who wants to OWN her past, not be passive participant in it.
in summation this was a great read. especially interesting to hear her descriptions of growing up a boomer and how the cultural and political landscape shifted post-WWII into the 1960s to create a generational divide that has never truly healed. one of the best descriptions of this tension that i have ever come across.