It’s a funny feeling when someone you never knew dies. If I’ve never even met the person, I rarely get all teary eyed. When Michael Jackson died last year, I couldn’t wait for the hysteria and music to stop. Back in my younger days I had listened (and yes, break danced I’m embarrassed to say) to Michael Jackson. But back in those days, pre i-tunes, you-tube and myspace, you had no choice but to listen to what the radio stations forced on you and that was about it.
Now if you lived in a big urban area, the chances are you’d hear about this thing called Punk Music and get a chance to sample it at a live event, if you were adventurous and brave. I grew up in rural Tennessee, so any punk rock images or music I was exposed to were only the kind that bled into popular culture (i.e. The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go”, etc.).
But it’s funny, the first time I heard a Social Distortion song (years later in New York City), it felt as if I’d heard it before, and maybe I had. Bands like Social Distortion and in an earlier time the Sex Pistols, had made a splash on the pop culture scene. Social Distortion more on the fringes in the 80s, Sex Pistols pretty smack in the middle in the 70s, but from another place.
When I first consciously listened to the Sex Pistols, “God Save the Queen” and “Anarchy in the UK”, once again, I felt I had heard these songs before. But only in passing, probably as you subconsciously pick up information when changing channels on the “tele”, as they say across the pond.
To this day, I’m not in love with 70s British punk. I like it, it’s cool. But it has taken me a while to warm up to the raw sound. Similarly, punk Gods, the Ramones, I like them, but I don’t love them. In some punk circles this is blasphemous, but I’m sorry it’s the way it is. The bands consistently at the top of my love lists are typically from the 80s and later and often from the west coast.
But music aside, I, like many people, was and am fascinated by The Sex Pistols (and the Ramones). Their short life span (2 and 1/2 years), the perfect storm of incredible personalities, the early demise of Sid Vicious, etc.
And really, what can I write or say about the Sex Pistols that hasn’t already been said or written. They have been documented, probed, explored, lauded, memorialized to death. I’m much more interested in telling one of the millions of untold stories that are just screaming to be heard.
But it doesn’t mean their music and their story isn’t intriguing to me. I’ve been in a weird, weird place the last few days. It often happens to me in April (birthday, spring, etc.), and it’s painful but exhilerating at the same time. I’m 10 times more sensitive to stimuli, my brain is cranking at 100 mph making it impossible to sleep, I crave a cigarette (and I’ve never had that habit), I work out twice a day, lose weight and I question everything in my life.
I feel inadequate and incredible at the same time. I feel creative but frustrated at my inability to act on that creativity. I listen to punk music and I feel empowered, like I want to start my own punk band, which is a ridiculous, silly thing for a grown man who has no musical experience whatsoever.
I’m getting older, yet I’m the same kid I was when I was 8 (I was a mature 8 year old), self indulgent, self centered, myopic and still not that smart in so, so many ways.
When I heard Malcolm McLaren died (thank you loyal reader, for the article, you know who you are), I cried. I don’t know this guy. I don’t particularly love Sex Pistol’s music, I am not hysterical about their contribution or influence on punk music, so why would I shed a tear over him but not Michael Jackson?
It has something to do with the difference in punk and pop music. Pop music is for the masses who don’t know any better but to form their taste around the music that is crammed down their throats. Like a duck being force fed for “Foie Gras” , the masses are fed a steady diet of overproduced, hyped up formulatic offerings that are designed from the get go to make money. The songs are produced, tweaked and re-tweaked to “perfection” or copy a previous successful artists or style. They sing into machines that distort their voices and people lap it up.
Living in NYC, I can’t tell you how tired I am of walking down the street and having some wannabe rapper or hip hop artists doing his thing in the streets, cause that is what 50 cent or whatever did and made it. It’s like man!, that was years ago dude. Forge your own Fxxxing way and quit copying. Be original and stop feeding stereotypes. And I don’t like rap and I don’t like hip Hop, I hate it actually and I don’t want to be forced to hear your bad taste in what you call music.
But then I sound like an elitist or an arbiter of cool or some might even say racist. Idiots! I hate the music even more when silly wanna be white boys from the burbs crank it from their car stereos or spit the rhymes like they are all hard and shit.
I don’t hate Hip Hop music for it’s skin color or cultural undertones, what little respect I have for it, I have exactly because of that. Hip Hop did after all start out a lot like punk music, from the streets, expressing a voice of a culture that was not heard and was being drowned out. There were a lot of concurrent running themes. Now that interest me!
But that was 30 years ago. Now it’s a caricature of its former self and so mass it disgust me. But besides all that, I just personally don’t like the music. Thumping beats, bass and no melodies, its’ just not me. Mass or not, if I liked the music, I’d say so. and it’s ok if you like it, that’s cool, but stop forcing me to hear it 24/7.
I love punk and what it represents. Punk empowers me. Punks are a different breed. They don’t force their music on anyone, in fact they seem to almost hide it from the mainstream, as if afraid it will get corrupted if too many people discover it and when a guy like Malcom McLaren dies, it saddens me, because I wonder what the world would have been like without a guy like him? A more bland place for sure and who knows, perhaps that would be me on the corner spitting rhymes trying to be the next Snoop Dog or 50 cent.
Thanks for saving me from all that and R.I.P. Malcolm McLaren.