Punk Puritanism

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I have been writing a fictional autobiography of Vincent which is quite an entertaining and rather extensive project. I am writing as if he is writing it now 2013 (the date to be moved as the book takes longer and longer to write!), looking back as far as the 1950’s and some family background to 1900. He is 65 and has lived, or maybe imagines he has lived, a highly adventurous and entertaining life, the point is whether he has or is this just his imagining, so I am trying to write each of the events as realistically and credible as my meagre skills can do. Real life characters people the story as well as fictional – Ronald Reagan, John Lennon, Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Erich Mielke and many more. I am writing it rather in the way a film is made, writing sequences all over the place then eventually I will bring them all together as I hope a coherent whole (don’t expect this for some time yet if I have wetted your appetite).

This has meant a considerable amount of research, again most enjoyable and something which can take me up long winding by-roads which quite often lead nowhere, but are most entertaining or worrying. If anyone looked at my Google searches they would think I was a gun crazy stalker!

The next part of Vincent’s life I am starting to write is when he is a manager of a fictional punk band, who I have called either The Vomitters or Dog Heads, they will make one pink plastic single given away free on a one issue magazine, and sink into obscurity. This will lead Vincent (who is a photographer most of the time) towards the Miner’s Strike infiltrating and reporting on the union activities.

Anyway, having lived through the punk period and seen quite a few bands, though I did not have safety pins in my lip or spiked hair, it struck me how in reality they were just another group of puritans which now and then come to the fore regularly in British history and culture.

It may seem an odd thing to say, but much as the Puritans in the time of King Charles wanted to smash what they saw as a flamboyant church which thought more about ceremonies and decoration, than about the message they believed was in their religion. The outcome was a ‘hardening’ of religion and sects which fought hard for their versions of Christianity. Punk took much the same course, it stripped down the beauty and flamboyance of the late 60’s and early 70’s, gone were the orchestral arrangements, fantastic light shows and both music and fashion became very basic until punk disappeared in 1979, and just became a style.

The same had of course happened before in popular music. Elvis Presley’s early stripped down sound has to be set against the lush ballads so popular in the early 50’s, he took ‘race’ music and sang it to a white audience. Ten years later The Beatles did exactly the same, just listen to early 60’s pop, it is soft sentimental stuff, they took away all those strings and arrangements and again sang black American music for white youth. Of course you will find many other examples of bands and singers who were working at the same time much more radically, but The Beatles and Elvis took their music to a mass audience, in many ways like The Sex Pistols did, in the 1970’s you didn’t get singles in the Top 10 without selling to just a few hard core fans, hundreds of thousands had to be sold.

I have been trying to think if this has happened since the punk ‘revolution’ of 1976-78. I can think of nothing that has really changed, simplified – puritanised things in the same way, to a wide public and probably with the dilution of music and media will not for a long time.

Today’s photograph was taken at about midday on an overcast but mild day, it is of one of the many derelict factories, this a former kiln maker in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent.

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