Netpicking part 2: Punk VS reggea
When it comes to punk there has always been a direct link towards hardcore. Still Dutch people like beating dead horses and this debate has been going on for ages. Whether you like it or not, the biggest wave of punks jumped just as hard on the bandwagon like the newer kids did. When listening to most tales of the older people you might notice a whole different picture and they are going to tell you it actually meant something back then. I couldn’t care less how punk someone is or was and what it means to people. Simply because you can put any label on the genre or the movement and it will fit. Still it is always nice to look at the history of the genre. And while most documentaries focus on the Sex Pistols and how they changed the lives of countless youths over the years there is much more to discover. Both documentaries can be found on youtube.
In a three-part series the BBC delves into the archives of Britain’s rich rock history. Like I said before, you can’t mention punk without mentioning the Pistols (it’s like talking about Heavy Metal and not mentioning Black Sabbath). For some it is the ultimate punkband and ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ the ultimate punkalbum. I have to say that The Damned did a far better job with ‘Damned Damned Damned’. And at least I have Lemmy on my side. But truth is, without the pistols there also would have been a punkscene. The funny thing is that most people forget that before that there was a pubrockscene with bands that were a little bit rawer and aggressive that also preached a message of rebellion. Most bands never got the recognition that they should have and the first part nicely concentrates on those bands.
The second part delves into the more juicy period and you get to see much more bands that are well known to us now. The Clash, The Damned and of course the Sex Pistols get attention but also a lot more smaller bands are mentioned. This episode deals with a lot of topics we already know about. It’s nice to see all the familiar heads again and they are still sharp as nails. The glory days might seem romantic to a lot of people but the bitterness and disappointment of the originators started early on. Which is pretty weird since most bands have reunited over and over again to do the same old boring tricks after various failed experiments.
The third part is a little bit more depressing and much of the screen time is wasted on the politics of Britain in those days. The highlight of this episode comes from Jimmy Pursey and Sham 69. The band attracted much right wing attention while the band had nothing to do with that philosophy. Besides from that Johnny Rotten offers the most insightful moments of the whole series. His sarcastic sneers come across as powerful as ever and his struggle to make interesting music is iconic since this episode also deals with the post punk movement.
The people behind this series did a pretty good job offering a whole new approach to the subject. Even if you are a veteran punk you might learn a thing or two. This doesn’t mean the series is without flaws. The Ramones are barely mentioned and even a legend like John Peel gets little or no screen time. Even if the politics of England add some background information about the motivations behind a lot of the songs a mere mention of a documentary about this subject would have been enough. Because after all, music is the soul of the past and mere facts might give some insight about what tainted the soul, there are more than enough bands that deserve more screen time.
Verdict: With some minor flaws this is one of the best documentaries about punk. There is a lot to learn and hey, The Damned are in there!
What does Reggae have to do with punk? A lot it seems. While punk reached H&M stores as a fashion novelty you still have to go to Dutch coffeeshops and souvenir stores to buy yourself a nice Bob Marley T-shirt. While Bob Marley’s music might be pretty good I always hated some part of it. White people slow dancing on ‘No Woman No Cry’? It’s almost the saddest thing someone can see. There is actually a pretty good well thought political message in that song. It’s even more understood than Righeira’s Vamos a la playa which is a pretty radical song against nuclear warfare.
Early punks found a kinship in the reggaescene in Britain. Just like punk this was the sound of rebellion. What even surprised me more was that the genre itself was overlooked by media, music fans and the rest of the world. Nowadays the genre is pretty well-regarded and even its limited range is seen as a positive thing rather than a mistake. The tricks the reggae bands had to pull off to get their music played in Britain, they only wanted the Jamaican artist, are a great lesson in DIY ethics.
The funny thing is that there is a lot of punk to be found in the movement. The old couple that pressed the vinyl in their own house did it because they liked to make records. This is one of the weirdest parts of the whole documentary. Because one of the reasons that the music didn’t get the attention it deserved was firmly rooted in racism. And here are these stereotype old British folks are surrounded by big black men. It’s one of the weirder moments of the whole episode and it makes you think about how horrible these times were for the black youth in the UK.
I guess I have a general interest in music and love to learn new stuff. It’s like the drone genre. The stories behind the music and the scene are far more interesting than the music itself. While I might not go out and buy a lot of reggae records I can still enjoy this stuff.
Verdict: You might not like the music but the story behind it is essential viewing. A few cameos of The Clash members should be enough reason to watch it. Especially Junior Murvin’s reaction on their version of Police and Thieves is hilarious. Besides the Slits and The Police are featured so why not watch it?Back to specials overview