Good morning from the mists of the Pacific coast to your living room once again. I’m going to be adding more new features on The Clash Blog news to see what you like, some will last and others will never appear again but if you don’t try you’ll never find out…or something like that. I want to share some of the better stuff I’m seeing on other small and large blogs or related music sites on a semi-regular basis because bloggers are, on the whole, all doing it for free and because they like to write – so read their work! We no longer have fanzines (sadly) but a good blog is the online equivalent if you ask me, without the bad fonts and stapled pages.
First up is a great post from Tapewrecks who have put together a list of songs called ‘Nuclear Platters’. Songs that kept the Cold War rocking when we were growing up. It seems a long time ago now but I distinctly remember hearing ‘Man at C&A’ by The Specials as a young teenager who was already convinced America and Russia were always moments away from ending everything and being less than comforted by the haunting lyrics. The list has a number of tracks by The Clash as you’d expect (guess before you check the link) but more importantly it’s a reminder than when people weren’t being distracted by Antmusic or Royal Weddings that smart songwriters were as anxious about the Cold War as we were. The best thing about the list is in the details going all the way back to 1963 and through to the late 80′s. By the time Nirvana and grunge came along all they had to moan about was being a misfit.
The New York Times music blog is always worth a read and this week speculates that ‘Punk’s not Dead’ which was never really in debate anyway. Not sure that the SXSW is the place to be for evidence of that though, despite their tongue in cheek evidence of Nick Cave (post punk) and Iggy Pop (pre punk) showing the youth how it’s done. Still worth a read especially for the link to NPR’s coverage of which more below…
NPR are becoming the unlikely saviours of independent music in the US these days. I guess that’s what happens when 3 corporations own 95%+ of all radio stations in the country and formulated playlists result in the most depressing FM radio market since the medium was invented. Thus it’s good to see NPR spend taxpayers money on something worthy, resulting in great journalism and interviews with new and old acts alike, the pinnacle of which might be this years coverage of SXSW with live performance and interviews in depth and not a penny going to Budweiser or Apple.
I’ve really enjoyed the debate caused by a strange commentary written in Seattle Weekly called ‘Punk Rock is Bullshit’ which used every tortured cliche in the book to label anyone who ever bought a punk record (while missing the point that it’s about the way you think and actually can be about inclusiveness and DIY ideals) – John Roderick opined:
“Punk rock was nothing new in 1976, and it’s nothing new today. The Beatles’ cover of “Roll Over Beethoven” is more punk than 90 percent of all punk rock; the Ramones were way more conservative—musically and socially—than Sha Na Na; the Sex Pistols were just dumb David Bowie; The Clash was a world-music band and the direct antecedent of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. If anything, the mantle of “punk rock” was an umbrella to describe a reactionary retro-ness, a feeling that music was best played with old-fashioned dumb energy, simple to the point of being simplistic—which not coincidentally corresponded to the period of the widest proliferation of recreational drug use in world history. It was music to validate being too wasted to think.” -John Roderick
It gets even better in as much as it gets much worse, rambling along for over 3,000 words and suggesting Punk is the heart of modern day negativity. That’s the part I find remarkable, the people I know who might be labeled punk and those I communicate with via the blog are anything but negative. In fact it’s the unbridled spirit of effort and change that sets many apart and I trace much of that back to the era when we grew up and the impact of the music we listened to. Whilst Roderick suggests that laziness is the output of punk wasn’t it Joe Strummer who said “No input, no output” and yes it really was that simple to many of us. Billy Bragg suggests that our new enemy is cynicism above anything else and I’m inclined to agree, this article in the Seattle Weekly is that exemplified.
A more cogent response than mine was penned rather brilliantly by Ally Schweitzer in The Washington City Paper which is well worth your time. I especially enjoyed this reasoning:
“Punk can transform kids into snotty contrarians, yeah—but it does one important thing: It teaches young people how to think critically about the options their parents or friends array before them. That’s not a small achievement. Maybe a lot of those kids go on to become disdainful pricks, but just as many of them probably become activists, nonprofit employees, teachers, and attorneys for a cause.” -Ally Schweitzer
By all means join the discussion as it’s a good one. The letters page on Seattle Weekly gives me only a little more hope. I’ll be back shortly and if you come across something you think is worth a share just let me know. Comments welcome, even to say hello and you can keep current below.