Punk’s Legacy?

Punk-27947The conventional wisdom amongst many musicologists, music journalists, and music fans is that Punk Rock was a seachange, a musical and cultural revolt against highly-produced and highly popular Glam Rock, Prog Rock, Disco, and the music of aging 1960s rockers who didn’t heed The Who’s call to die before they got old.

Punk was raw, unpolished, occasionally violent, and yet strangely intimate, a stark contrast to the aloof prettiness and preciousness of its predecessors. And most importantly, Punk endured and spawned many variations, and its attitude and Lo-Fi sensibilities inspired musicians working in other genres to get back to basics, to shed excess, and to speak with courageous abandon.

The Noisey article I tweeted today puts forth the argument that Punk was, musically speaking, not very good, and that it did not ultimately change anything. It’s a flimsy-if-earnest attempt to make a point, spurious in its use of two lazy rhetorical tricks:

  1. The vast majority of the article is phrased in general terms, referring throughout to all Punk music, but with a buried qualification at one point stating that it’s really referring to only the first wave of British Punk.
  2. On the question of whether or not Punk actually changed anything, the article criticized Punk for not having spurred a wider and lasting political revolution, as if Punks ever really claimed that they were out to change the world — as opposed to venting their disdain for the state it was in — and ignoring the fact that the conventional wisdom narrative about the Punk seachange is almost entirely limited to the impact it had, not on politics, but on music, art, fashion, etc.

Anyway, its worth reading for the very fact that it so miserably failed to convince, and rather, ironically, strengthened my belief in Punk’s lasting, powerful legacy.

Video Fridays: R.I.P. Paul Kantner

Airplane's Paul Kantner At Altamont

Wow, January’s been one helluva month for deaths of musicians and entertainers that I’ve admired, so much so that I haven’t been able to keep up and post my reactions.

I managed to mark the passing of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, but then came Glenn Frey of the The Eagles (not someone I was a big fan of, but a ubiquitous figure who inspired a lot of people to listen to and make music); the lovable actor Abe Vigoda (this time, for sure), cuz face it, who didn’t love him as Fish?; and now, sadly…

Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane/Starship fame.

Kanter, and Jefferson Airplane more generally, were — along with other favorites of mine, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and others — part of the extraordinary late 1960s San Francisco music scene, a scene that produced music of incredibly raw, wild, psychedelic power, thoroughly reflective of the explosive counterculture of the period.

Kanter was an archetypal rhythm guitarist, eschewing the spotlight that lead guitar players naturally attract in favor of playing an essential supportive role. Indeed he, along with a handful of other players, were my inspiration for becoming a rhythm guitarist myself.

One of the first vinyl LP records that I ever owned was the 1970 compilation, with its wonderfully ironic title, The Worst of the Jefferson Airplane, given to me in the mid 1970s by a cousin determined to rescue me from Top 40 music.

Though I listened to the album when I got it, the rescue ended up taking a few years. Eventually, after revisiting the record several years later, it was obvious just how fantastic the music was and how much better it was, by magnitudes, in comparison to most of what was popular at that time.

So, thanks, Paul Kantner, for all of the amazing music, for inspiring me as a musician, and for singing about revolution, still relevant to me today, as the candidate I’m supporting for President of the United States is calling for a non-violent political revolution.