Where have all the punks gone?

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Sometimes I wonder what happened to all the men and women who were Punks, Goths or New Romantics in their days of youth. I was friendly with a Punk who had what was described in the olden days as a Mohican hair style who lived on Caledonian Road. Curiosity led me to spend many hours with him and his girl friend – a young woman of mixed race extraction who had grown up in Luton. I wanted to experience the edginess of the punk lifestyle, even though I never went as far as dressing up in the look of the movement. After a short while, I realized there was very little to discover. These were regular folks like me who were attracted to a cultish way of dressing. Youngsters of more recent times also have their social mores – maybe sagging trousers, hoodies and trainers are simply updated versions of the shortened skinny jeans, tee shirts, braces and Doc Martens boots of a bygone era.

The rock music media of the time explained the punk ethos in words which didn’t always make a lot of sense, but at the heart of the debate was the idea that potent creativity should not be conflated with technical skill. Musicians who were identified with Progressive Rock or Jazz were regarded as old fashioned, because they seemed to be preoccupied with fluency and eloquence as instrumentalists, instead of focusing on generating musical ideas that could touch the heart.

Looking back at the attitudes of the time, it seems to me that there was no one who clearly expressed the idea in public that the most accomplished artists should aim to achieve a balance between being technically proficient and expressing thoughts and feelings succinctly in symbols.

A lot of feathers were ruffled in recent times when a musical elder from the USA made some disparaging comments about the skills of The Beatles. This elder was obviously taking the opposite view to the one expressed by the media champions of the punk ethos. He also missed the point, in my humble opinion.

What The Beatles achieved (in very simple terms) was a sublime balance between generating a constant stream of remarkable ideas and having enough chops to play them in a band. Credit should be given, where it is due.