Friday, June 03, 2022

The Punk Jubilee

Of course I remember the last jubilee. I was in Brighton, squatting in a house with no bath or hot water- just two cold taps for around eighteen of us. We wandered around in a small group, inspecting street parties, and felt alienated by the whole shebang.There was something almost camp about that jubilee; there was just as much pressure to celebrate, but people naturally took it for granted that punks wouldn't have anything to do with it. 

It was an odd thing to be a punk in not-London. A friend came to see us in 1977. 'Punk's over in London, you know', he said, as though that would stop us from being in a band; by then, I suppose, even punk had become almost establishment in the capital and embraced as a quirky 'event'. Small squads of Brighton punks still used to head to King's Road from Brighton despite it being 'over'. Big Bruv and his friend got stopped and searched by the rozzers. His friend had a pill in his pocket; it was a joke pill that you put in a cigarette to make snowflakes come out. Big Bruv's coat pockets were filled with the little grobblies that paper tissues turn into if you don't clear your pockets out (this was the same coat that a sock emerged from the sleeve of, as he swung his arms when we were walking down the road one day). That's where I saw Poly Styrene's wonderful stall at World's End, stocked with lime green and yellow Dayglo vinyl dresses, with Poly herself sitting proudly in her perfect setting, glowing as much as her dresses- Poly Regina!

The London punks were a nobility of sorts. As though in a copy of an anarchic Beano, we read about their adventures and felt liberated by them. Oddly, there was a mixture of scorn and celebration when we integrated with them on our home turf. It must have been great to visit towns and cities outside London and find like-minded people, but at the same time, people like us must have seemed a bit like also-rans who didn't have any ideas of our own. The thing was, if you rejected Malcolm McLaren's spin, we all had much more in common than not: we too had been listening to reggae music, The Velvet Underground and Hawkwind. We lived in the margins, alongside the gay community, the trans community and sex workers (it was Brighton, after all).

I was sad to miss Jordan's celebration last weekend. It seemed apt that it happened in Brighton, because her partner was a Brightonian, and I chatted with her properly for the first time at The Louder Than Words Festival in Manchester late last year which they attended together. They seemed very happy and bouncy; what a great way to spend the last part of your life, in a happy relationship. God Save the Punks, I say!

(I'm watching Rod Stewart just now on TV talking about his 'pride in being British'. Oft-times resident of the USA, Rod. Get a grip. Sing 'Do Ya Pay Your Taxes' to the melody of 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy')).

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