Posted on 6th Apr 2016
-MALCOM MCLAREN, 1982
LONDON -- Punk may have been brewing on both sides of the Atlantic for some time by 1976, but it was that year, and particularly in London, that it really came off the leash and snarled its way into the public consciousness forever.
A bunch of bands, labels and icons, from The Sex Pistols to The Clash, The Damned, Stiff Records, Siouxsie Sioux, Vivienne Westwood and Malcom McLaren, came together to define an era and trample an indelible mark on popular culture.
Beyond the calling cards that have long since been reduced into cliché – the safety pin, the three chords, the vomit green mohawks – the punk spirit lives on loudly to this day. Its DIY and non-conformist mentality, its focus on empowerment and individuality, are as prevalent now as they were when Johnny Rotten spat his way across the country four decades ago.
2016 has been hailed a year of punk to mark 40 years since the scene exploded in 1976. Here’s how its influence still resonates loudly today.
Contemporary music has been infected with the spirit of punk again and again, from post-punk’s experimental expansion at the end of the 70s, via hardcore, grunge and riot grrrl right up to the stripped down rock of the Sleaford Mods and Slaves of the current day.
It’s away from the world of guitars that punk’s made itself known in the post-millennial music landscape, however. The capital’s grime scene is the genre’s obvious successor, a DIY-driven British success story spawned on the streets of east London and propagated via pirate radio and warehouse raves. While the likes of Dizzee Rascal quickly jumped into the mainstream, others like JME and Skepta have largely kept it punk.
It's punk's "malleable" qualities that allow any individual to apply it to their art, says Jane Beese, Head of Music for The Roundhouse, the iconic north London venue that hosted The Ramones and Patti Smith in 1976. She points to Peaches and Savages as just two acts who have the spirit of punk in them. "You won’t find many artists performing at the Roundhouse today that haven’t been influenced by punk,"
2016's most punk British musician? Perhaps FKA Twigs, who's blazed an uncompromisingly unique trail over the last four years.
"Me and my mates, we do whatever we wanna do," she said in an interview last year. "And actually, I think there’s something quite punk about that. Not screaming into a mic or wearing leather straps every day, but doing whatever the fuck I wanna do. So to me, that's punk. That’s not a wet blanket."
Art & Design
The worlds of punk and art have been intwined since The Sex Pistols played their first gig at Saint Martin's College of Art in London at the tail end of 1975.
Bob and Roberta Smith (Patrick Brill) is one modern day artist upholding the genre's activist ethos admirably, his slogans and signs reminiscent of an earlier era. For a long time the punk fan has combined art and politics, becoming a thorn in Conservative MP and Justice Secretary Michael Gove's side and even running as a candidate for his own Art Party in the former Education Secretary's constituency.
The cut and paste aesthetic, pioneered famously by artist and anarchist Jamie Reid on the Sex Pistols' album covers, borne out of a disdain for conventional formats and perfect for DIY designers without typesetting facilities, has resurfaced again and again. The Libertines' logo, for example, sees their colours pinned to the mast at every gig.
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