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Don’t Mention the P-Word!

So back in February I was asked to participate in a little mini documentary. My friend’s daughter is at Film School and her group were working on a short film entitled ‘Is Punk Dead?’. Given my age, musical history and involvement in the Satellite Exhibition I was deemed an appropriate interviewee. A little bit of me was quite tempted to go along to the Horn (an appropriate venue for filming) and simply give the one-word answer ‘Yes!’ – but I of course would not be such a curmudgeon. It was actually quite a fun experience and the students were very professional. I attempted to answer the questions candidly (and there were some good questions) – I think my own conclusion from the experience is simply that it probably doesn’t really matter. Like anything in life, if you lived it, then the vision and definition of an event is always going to be a bit different from those who have since absorbed their own ideas on it. This is perhaps doubly true of a movement and culture such as punk, which divided definition and allegiance from it’s very (pre) birth.

I have since seen the trailer for the new Danny Boyle Sex Pistols mini-series and I have to admit it did make me cringe a bit. I’m sure he has the best intentions, but I think it’s always going to jar with anyone who was immersed to any extent in the culture of that time at the time. The influence and inspiration of those times is now simply part of our global DNA, like traces of coke on our currency or indeed an ever-mutating virus. If kids wanna bash out three chords in a chain store Ramones T-shirt and call themselves punk, I don’t really have a problem with it – life’s too short, knock yourself out!

John Cooper Clarke with The Sindys at The George Robey circa 1993

I finally finished the John Cooper Clarke autobiography which was a great read. My band of the early 90’s, The Sindys, supported John at one of his many George Robey gigs and he was (and I’m sure still is) a lovely bloke. My enduring memory is of the first words he spoke to us, in that endearing Manc drawl as we stepped from the stage – ‘I love your go-go dancers!’. John’s probably a great example of the differing and fluid definitions around the p-word – a sharp dressed poet who started his performing life in the pay of Bernard Manning – and still punk as f***! Something I had somehow never known was that the good doctor resided in Stevenage Old Town for a few years – so there ya go.

All that said, I’ve actually been listening to a fair number of young (mostly US) bands that one could best describe as loosely garage-punk over the last year or so and there’s some great stuff out there. It coincided with me getting together with my old friends Mary and Bruce to put together Skull Puppets which is by very definition something of a ‘garage’ outfit. We have finally (post-pandemic) managed to get a recording out there – produced by the lovely Billy Lunn (The Subways) – and I am enjoying making a racket on my old Hofner electric, and reconnecting with some trashy fuzz. We got beamed out of a radio show from the Florida Swamplands the other day - sweet!

Quite often (around 2am of a Sunday morning) I watch the gigs over at Indianapolis Punk Rock Night and that, along with a weekly dose of Paste magazine, has led me to a fair number of great acts over the last couple of years. Never far from the CD player in recent times are releases from The Black Tones, Enumclaw and The Bobby Lees along with a bunch of other furlough discoveries – check ‘em out!

Los Chicos Muertos have been back treading the boards and I’m excited to be getting a few festival dates in the diary. Recent outings have included great fun gigs at The Blue Angel Acoustic Café and The Kevolution along with the long postponed ‘Andy’s Magic Garden Party’ – a celebration of our dear departed friend and fiddle player Mr Andy Keeble at Club 85. I felt strangely nervous about this gig as I just wanted it to be right, both for Andy’s memory and on behalf of his family, loved ones and friends that would be present. I shouldn’t have worried really as it ended up being a wholly appropriate rock ‘n’ roll party featuring great sets from The Metatrons, Skimmington Ride, The Astronauts (acoustic) and ourselves. We raised a schnapps, folks danced and smiled and reminisced and I think Andy would have enjoyed the whole thing – and that, I guess, is all that really matters!

Los Chicos Muertos at Andy's Magic Garden Party, photo Steve Garry Holdway

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