Is British Punk Really Dead?

In Britain, punk bands don’t seem to be appealing any more. This may be attributed to the fact that in the seventies, people had a lot to rebel against; doing so in the form of music. However, I believe that now would be the perfect time for a punk revival: due to the rise in student fees, the recession in full-swing and inflation at an all-time high. So, can British punk be saved, or should we just leave its rotting corpse to rest?

Evolving from the hard-core scenes in America and Europe, British punk shaped a generation of wild-haired, Dr Marten-wearing, mutineers.

Arguably being the most controversial music scene to have ever hit the UK, punk-rock stuck its middle finger up to the British political system with its aggressive music characterized by lyrics depicting Britain as an oppression-fuelled, capitalist, black hole.

Bands such as The Clash and The Sex Pistols used their music as a voice for the younger generation of seventies Britain. Encompassing lyrics about controversial issues such as un-employment, which is depicted in The Clash’s, Career Opportunities, where Joe Strummer nasally yells, ‘Do you wanna make tea at the BBC?’ over an aggressively strum guitar; and the monarchy, which can be heard in the infamous Sex Pistols, anti-monarchist anthem, God Save the Queen …“The fascist regime”. This was punk – and it had taken Blighty by storm.

Punk-rock has often been linked to drug culture, and excessive alcohol use – you would seldom see Sex Pistols frontman, Jonny Rotten, on stage without a bottle of whiskey clasped tightly in his hand; and heroin and cocaine were all the rage during the seventies/eighties punk era. However, with the appearance of nineties rave culture, people started swapping their lines of coke for ecstasy, and their mohicans and leather jackets for glow-sticks and tie-dye: it would appear punk was slowly diminishing.

Punk never really recovered. The majority of modern-day punk bands seem to be dominated by political correctness, and the thought of trashing up a stage would probably leave them shaking whilst reaching for their watered-down pints of Carlsberg.

Nowadays, British teens seem to be infatuated with the American punk scene – a scene full of wannabes who try to appear rebellious by constantly winging about how they were outcast at high school, refuse to accept that ripped 3/4 length jeans are so 2003, and appear to be convinced that they are the next Joey Ramone. 

Maybe I am just seeing the seventies punk-scene through rose-tinted glasses. But, as research for this article, I have spent most of the day watching multitudinous videos of post-nineties punk bands, yelling out lyrics such as: “Well I’m a no goodnick lower middle-class brat,” and, “They call kids like us vicious and carved out of stone.” So who can blame me?

My philosophy on the British punk scene dying out is being further enhanced by the fact that venues such as The Electric Ballroom – which has housed bands such as Blur, The Smiths and The Talking Heads – have now resorted to blasting Robin Thicke and Tinie Tempah out of their speakers. 

We can’t be 100% sure as to whether British punk is dead, or just dormant for the time being, but I think it’s safe to say it’s looking pretty rough!

By Emma Wynne