I can bull shit through most any conversation with a fringe understanding of the subject, but occasionally I am confronted with an equal, who happens to be speaking boldly on a subject I actually have knowledge of…and I see a reflection in them of someone who is creating oral argument for the sake of intellectual ego, not an exchange of fundamental knowledge. Those of us who intellectually specialize, pretend we know when we run off the reservation.
In someways, most Son-in-Law, Mother-in-Law have a similar flair, but by proximity and availability she has replaced my regular verbal sparing partner, Dad. With regards to my Dad and I, I have deeply analyzed this behavior and it’s effects on us and those around us. With my this new sparing partner, I am not sure anyone enjoys it. I know it leads to collateral eye rolling. A familiar side-affect.
Tonight, she was slinging some ripe bull and the eyes were a rolling. It peaked when she said something to the effect of, rap was made a cultural statement, while punk did not. How did she know this? Punk came from her generation, she says. I know this not true, based on history and her age. This was part of a discussion instigated by my wife and I sharing that we were going to see the neighbors band play and that it was their old stuff, punk rock and not the newer stuff, reggae. I was clarifying that there is a historical connection between the two. Now the real story will be revealed to me in the film, about the band, also playing; A Band Called Death. I had to stop the conversation, as much as I wanted to hear how Madonna made it clear to her that punk rock lacked a level of social commentary and was interested in pushing buttons.
If by chance she is reading this, I hope she understands this story was to priceless to keep to myself and everyone who knows either copes with this trait we share. One that on the positive side can be a well intended and accurate source of knowledge and on the negative causes eyes to roll.
John Cage would argue music has always been with humans, even before. I come from this Post Modernest school of thought. Punk Rock and Hip Hop are not alone in benefiting from this 1950’s theory shared in intellectually elite circles, perhaps not so far socially from the community that created Punk and Rap. My initial reaction to our discussion, was that there is a connection in musical communities and diversification. This is actually the fundimental understanding I have in my cultural upbringing (Multi-Cultural Bay Area Kid) and my musical and other artistic inspirations, principally comics and Mike Patton. It turns out history supports this theory.
All ainchent cultures had music, and given trade routes it’s not unreasonable to imagine an exchange of sonic interpretations. With technological changes today, this exchange is implied. But it wasn’t long ago that cultures and social levels were often identified by the music they consumed and/or created. In Cage’s era here in America there had already begun a recording influenced exchange beyond communities. However we had some basic categories on the main land; Classical, Jazz, Blues, Folk, Native American, Old Time Western, Latin and Cajon. Newer Immigrant music had already influenced from Yayue to Klezmer.
However, most popular music among the young generation (what we think of since as being the demographic to define contemporary music) was predominantly a product of Blues; be it Jazz, Doo Wop, R & B and Rock ‘n Roll. Obviously Rock ‘a Billy had a western and folk root. Some of these genre’s were preformed together. The music being more diverse than the audience often. Soon sub genre would emerge in Jazz, Country, Pop and Rock ‘n Roll. New influences would come around; The British Invasion, Surf, Garage Bands, Soul, SKA, Rocksteady, Psychedelic, Roots, and Progressive. Bringing on Reggae, Disco, Soft Rock (the music, my mother-in-law seemed to be most likely connected to in her teen/college identity), Glam, Metal, Funk, Electronic and posthumously called Protopunk. Many of these genre were pressed under the category of New Wave for the consumption of industry and mass appeal.
Around the time, but 1,800 miles away from my birth in ‘75 Punk was born, followed in a nearby neighborhood a few years later came Hip Hop. These events were not isolated, from each other, music history or other spontaneous geography mind bends.
First in NYC it must be understood that Punk was influenced by more than it’s rock ‘n roll roots through, Protopunk, Garage and Progressive. Rapidly Detroit, SF, Seattle, LA, DC, Canada, UK and Australia all had Punk scenes, before 1977 when most people started sensing the change in the music land scape. The scene in NYC was part of a social scene that came on the heals of Warhol and was part of a community in or near the Bowery that was made of poor kids, squatting or renting cheaply, hustling. They mostly all new each other and share in their passions. Which were laying down the foundations for broadly influential changes in Film, Music, Comics, Painting, Installations, Graffiti, Breaking, Social Commentary and Political Activism. This included, but was not limited to shared relationships an cultural exchange between Hip Hop & Punk. Hip Hop, who’s own blues roots traveled through not just, Soul, Funk, Electronic and Disco, but Rock ‘n Roll too.
Meanwhile across the Pond in Coventry Punk was experiencing a similar exchange between Jamaican SKA & Reggae. Just as in the Western US, Rock ‘a Billy and Punk or Punk & Metal became synonymous. None of these scenes were actually strictly made of one cultural make up. They all consisted of young people looking to socialize and share thoughts in a world they saw as flawed and oppressive.
This is a characteristic of young activism they inherited from their older siblings and parents in the Boomer Generation. The late Boomers and Gen X in general share out spoken critique that focused on individual freedoms, reduction of corruption, a sickening feeling they had from the falseness they perceived in the adult world. And yes they loved loud music and having fun with their friends. But not for the sake of being obnoxious. That was an absurdity that was labeled on them, those they saw as squandering their futures.
This is a sentiment the contemporary American can understand with even greater sobriety and one content with the ideals of America’s founding fathers most basic principles; personal relationships with their god, freedom of speech, an exchange of ideas and goods in an open market, community support, individual rights of happiness.
This was a shared ideal in Broklynn, Manhattan, London and The East Bay, regardless of background…at least among these friends.
Which underscores for me the obserdity of projected decisions between Punk, Reggue, Punk, Metal and Country at this time. Sure not everyone is friends with aceryone. But no one lived in a bubble and no one had a monopoly on the party scene or politically comentery reprisenting the generation. I don’t think that is how they saw it.
So I awkwardly pivot to the Detroit band Death (then VT), who predate D.C. Bad Brains (1977), Fishbone (1979), Living Colour (1984) and Ice-T & Body Count (1990) all bands that played music, people have tried to label as odd, because of the African American lineup. It’s no more odd than the white punk band turning to Rap; see Beastie Boys 1981. Romantically, I would love to think these bands spontaneously created better music than their contemporaries, in a bubble, free from influence. Who knows how true that is? I will be looking for answered as Death plays and we watch “A Band Called Death.” However, I know a little band from Eureka, Mr, Bungle and their lead singer (one of the most diverse musicians on the planet) did not arrive fully formed, or without continued influence from all over the globe and through out history of music. I see connections everywhere. Friendships and an active effort to have fun while speaking to influence a better future. Sometimes in self destructive ways. But hay, that’s Rock ‘n Roll.