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June 03, 2012


Chris Bertram

Demographics? There are fewer of them than there were?

Pete B

That the punk generation (and the protest generation before it) didn't actually achieve anything other than self-publicity and self-agrandisement. It's still the same shit from the same arseholes - just like the apathetic cynical majority always said it would be. The current generation have at least learned what doesn't work from us.

Perhaps it's time for religion again.



Ironic that you yearn for a more noble past, Mr Dillow

Marx I think would be pleased. Your right under age sex and sex in general are no longer taboos and as such teens and "society" in general have been pacified.

The resulting feminisation of society (the girls after all are the gatekeepers and as such rule the game) has brought forward the strange phenomena of female artists ruling the music charts and wall to wall internet porn were females can indulge their hidden egos and either beat men or be beaten (and the rest)

I have no opinion either way, things change and will change again some for the better and some for the worse. Evolution is about adaptation to conditions not progressive transformation, something Marx really did not understand.

So from a spitting 13 year old sneeked into Mexboro working mans clubs by my older brother to see the sex pistols to a one woman man and father of six. two of which ive taken to Buck palace to receive their duke of Edinburgh awards. those existential things that dont compute or rationalise always get you in the end.

I did listen to NMTBHT Sex Pistols on the way through the gates though.


Agree with most. Take issue with "...healthy relations between the sexes..." As a secondary school teacher I see bullying, sexism, & misogyny at worst, confusion at best, among my teen-aged students.


I like the way you touched on a less repressed sexuality, but I guess its a red herring.

I think you're right that people are more conformist generally now. I suspect the problem is that not being so is more likely to brand you as lazy rather than rebellious.

There are still kids with serious anger and rage (not least in the riots when police provocation backfired) but this anger is of a very violent and malignant type. Automatically turning off others.


Me too. We all 'play by the rules' now, we're just where the politicians want us.


The most successful British punk bands were the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Stranglers.
Only the Clash were political and had any staying power.
As much as I like the Pistols and Stranglers music they were libertarian capitalists. Having fun and making money.
Most punks were into the fashion more than the message.

Stephane Genilloud

The punks were the swan's song of a movement that began with the beatniks 25 years earlier. By the mid-80s, every piece of culture or individual reflection that had been the rule during that time was gone. But most of the freedom the previous generation had fought for remained. What our generation made of this freedom might ben an embarrassing question...

gastro george

We're re-living the 50s - listening to our parent's music in an age of austerity where alternatives are "unimaginable".

Some of the gains of the 60s and 70s are now the consensus - as social liberalism is accepted by everybody except the lunatic right - and are taken for granted. The hegemony of economic liberalism still exists and TINA still rules - but is starting to come under threat.

Which way this goes will depend on whether the public can be sold the inevitability of austerity and reduced standards of public services - if the managerial class can keep their noses on the individualistic grindstone - more concerned about paying off their debts than changing the system. It's working so far.

But if the euro-crisis explodes onto the streets then anything could happen.


I think it is arguable that Punk was not really progressive as it was mainly a form of Libertarian rebelliousness. Being against a ill defined system is not the same as having a coherent alternative.

What are you for? You can see clear signs that the punk sub culture had a hostility to what would be regarded as conventional left wing and social democratic ideas. The extreme individualism and Narcissism has a rather fascistic or Thatcherite aspect. Indeed did not punk feed into working class free market loads of money conservatism? So they were the vanguard of this economic tendency. What are they rebelling against, capitalism or the obligations of a social welfare state? Where you have to think of other peoples welfare and happiness and not just your own contentment. The futurists welcomed the first world war and embraced Mussolini. Is not punk in retrospect the 70s version of futurism as proto right wing Thatcherism?


@ Paul, Keith - I agree that most punks had no coherentish leftist ideology - and nor did most young rebels. But this just deepens the puzzle. You don't need a particular ideology to rebel, just some inchoate grievance - which raises the question why there are so few rebels. The decline of rebelliousness is different from the decline of socialism.

Account Deleted

You ascribe the decline in rebelliousness to a drop in the quality of the rebels, but it's just as likely to reflect the lack of a clear target to rebel against.

Punk was essentially libertarian, but accomodated both left and right politically. The spirit of DIY had elements of both workers' control and individualism. What mattered was rejection as a mode of practice.

Punk developed in reaction to a seemingly monolithic music culture, exemplified by the shared experience of TOTP and the conventionality of stadium rock. Fast, loud, in yer face, down the pub. This was clearly different.

The ideological change that punk ushered in, together with the technological changes that started in the 80s, led to a proliferation of variety and pseudo-choice. What should today's kids rebel against: Simon Cowell, Jay-Z, Jools Holland, Glastonbury, Lady Gaga? Novelty no longer surprises and shock is just a smart career move.

gastro george

"Novelty no longer surprises and shock is just a smart career move."

In general I agree with your post but, for me, there is a big difference between shock and spectacle. Too much of today's "shock" is pure confectionery - spectacle dreamed up by executives for the masses to drool over - but all it amounts to is the passive reception of hyperventilated gossip.

Ian Leslie

I agree with (4). Regression to the mean.


The realisation that the world has nothing for 'em is kicking in later. A lot of punks were 18, 19, 20 and 21-year-olds who found themselves out of school and with nowt to do. Nowadays, after the massive rise in university attendance, lots of 'em will be drinking their way through students loans while studying for one of the innumerable humanities degrees. Sure, they'll be vexed once they've left and found their qualifications are barely worth the paper they're printed on but by that time they'll be getting a bit too old for youthful rebellion.

Also, mainstream culture has become so libertine, in such a short period of time, that teenagers would struggle to outdo it. Sexual adventurism? Drug experimentation? Shit, man, they've all been storylines on Hollyoaks.


I watched Punk Britannia and was struck by how self absorbed and insular all the protagonists seemed to be - we are going to change the with this riff - and so on and on. What a small slice of life. Just another bunch of conformists who conformed to the type.


So to avoid trouble making teens you merely need to send them to Hull where they "will be drinking their way through students loans while studying for one of the innumerable humanities degrees" that are worth less than toilet roll.

If only Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin had hit on that idea the gulag would have been unnecessary.


"Last summer's riots, for example, contained less political motive than their 1981 equivalents."

No they didn't. It's just that they were harder for old people to understand, unless they really, really tried. Most did'nt try.

Churm Rincewind

Well, in my normal grumpy mood, I don’t buy any of this. “Punk was more disquieting to the establishment than anything we see today. Nobody of my generation is as appalled by dubsteps as 40-somethings were by punk”. Whoever mentioned dubsteps? Let’s look instead at the most popular music genre of today, gangsta rap - usually misogynistic, frequently homophobic, and occasionally racist. Is the suggestion that this is less appalling than mocking the British monarchy?

“It’s unlikely that a single today would be banned for political reasons.” No. Given government legislation, it’s more than likely.

“Laurie Penn is a milk and water Julie Birchill.” So what? Julie Burchill simply inherited the mantle of Lynda Lee-Potter – take a conventional opinion and argue against it – which makes for arresting journalism but uninteresting analysis. See Glenda Slag passim.

“Today’s more healthy relations between the sexes have reduced such frustration.” Have you any evidence whatsoever for this bizarre assertion?

As for young folk being “more passive” I guess we have to overlook last summer’s riots, the UK Uncut movement, and indeed all recent similar demonstrations of which there do seem to have been quite a few.

I could go on. What I’m reading here is a lot of middle-aged men keening that young people today don’t necessarily share their values. But twas ever thus.


"Being against a ill defined system is not the same as having a coherent alternative."

This isn't just a Punk thing: see the famous exchange from The Wild One: 'What are you rebelling against?'/'Whaddya got?'

Plus, the attitude of the state towards black people and black dance music (reggae, ragga, rap, jungle, drum 'n' bass, grime, dubstep) has always been suspicious, if not hostile compared to whatever a bunch of skinny white kids with guitars were getting up to.


I missed punk by two or three years (though I liked the music). I was part of the nothern soul end of the scooterist movement of the early 80s - thousands of kids riding Lambrettas and Vespas to seaside resorts to fight the locals, take drugs and get drunk, and, if you were very lucky, have sex in tents. Great fun.
But I suspect it was less about rebellion than just having a good time, in the way that young people always would have if they hadn't been involved in a fight for mere survival.
We were no different from the kids of 200 years ago, except that we had less or no religion, more money, more free time and two stroke engines.
Today's kids have more free time, better drugs, easier sex and better electronic diversions than we did.
What's to rebel against, unless you're quite a deep thinker?


we can all be philosophical, being a 15 year old in a small village in a provicia town [derby],we realy were bored teenagers and i still think the late 70,s were in away a more violent time[ football matches,pubs,on your council estates],punk really liberated us,the first wave were to us the arty middle class,were as 77 onwards were the real working class.punk educated me,taught me to question everything and gave me a certain attitude of rebellion,i still have and passing on to my daughter.to me punk was not a fad and its still here with the young.


Create a culture, movement, trend, go mainstream, get bought up, fade into capitalism.
That seems to sum it up.
After all: after all the ranting, raving & raging, the majority of us yearn to be part of the herd...


Paul "Only the Clash had staying power"? The Stranglers are still going strong, like most bands they have had ups and downs but never split and their new album charted recently. I saw them live a few years ago and they still have it!


This post and the comments show how underground punk went after the press got bored.
It never went away, you're just unaware of how much of an influence it's been- all these DIY craft programmes, Riverside cottage, folk making thir own music, putting on gigs, housing co-ops, micro funding- these all owe as much to punk as the DIY ethic of punk did to yippies and the UK underground scene in Portobello and free festivals, combined withthe realisation that commercial providers were never going to give what some people wanted, they would have to DIY if it needed done. Every generation seems to reinvent the wheel with this, it's just that punks didn't settle down in the same way as other movements have- combined with the ability to produce things like zines and cassettes and communicate what you're doing to people around the world. Zines and tapes were the proto-internet, and no group was as involved in communicating music and ideas around the world as punks. From making music and putting on gigs to making clothes and doing your hair, folk went on to DIY their housing, work, education, food and other essentials, drawing on a symbiosis with earlier movements. Of course all these people doing things for themselves and each other doesn't often make news, and isn't particularly attractive to advertisers except when there's a nice image to use to sell something else. These might be minority activities, but they have a tendency to gentrification, as much as the Mission area in San Francisco or what's happening in Hackney- DIY becomes Art becomes saleable becomes atractive to bohemians, becomes attractive to hipsters, becomes attractive to mainstreamers. There are still loads of punk zines, gig exchanges, lables and so on, a lot have become commercial, but there are still plenty of DIY non-profits out there. Just becomes something gets adopted by others who water it down doesn't mean that it no longer exists- just that someone ripped it off and sold it to idiots. Much of the criticism here refers to watered down ripped of mince and the idiots who bought it, not to punk. Have a nice day and DIY!


Sorry about the typos above. Someone commented on wanting to belong- for most people I ever talked to on the subject, that's one thing that punk's about- people you belong with and will stand by each other. Apart from the music, one of the biggest pulls is the feeling of not belonging anywhere else. While there are some places and micro scenes that can be quite elitist, for the most part gigs and other gatherings are very welcoming and you'll see all different kinds of people there apart from what you might think of as a 1977 punk. Many folk express a feeling of being rejected by the mainstream, of not belonging there- punk is a positive, diverse community with its own infrastructure that everyone can participate in. That's why it's survived, and possibly also why you don't hear about it.



One key thing that I think you have missed from your list - legislation passed during the last twenty years aimed at reducing the opportunity for cultural/music-based alternative youth movements.

The Criminal Justice Act of 1994 specifically outlawed free parties, in response to the huge outcry following the illegal raves that had blossomed across the country over the previous few years. Famously it included the reference to 'music wholly or mainly comprised of a series of repetitive beats' - often said to be the only time a particular style of music had been singled out in this way in a piece of legislation (though I have never been able to substantiate this). This legislation had a direct, devastating, impact on the physical ability of sub-cultures to gather on their own terms - and without the act of gathering there can be no collective rebellion.

Secondly, and much more recently (and insidiously), did you ever read about the '696' form promoters have to fill out for the police in London? Club owners have to tick boxes to say which kind of music will be played - with grime & hip-hop in particular highlighted; the original form even asked them to identify the likely racial demographic of the audience. Unsurprisingly many in the underground grime music scene view this as an attempt by police and the powers-that-be to discourage clubs from putting on those nights - again, without a means to gather people remain atomised and are unlikely to find common cause, much less common action. It also becomes much harder for a cultural movement to gain the momentum that enables it to (initially at first) break into the mainstream on it's own terms, before being pop-ified.

(As a final, anecdotal aside: I'm the oldest of 6 brothers and sisters spread over about twenty years, the youngest of whom has just turned 21. Talking to her and her mates about this kind of stuff there is a fatalism that makes me sad, it's almost as if many (most) young people who would have in the past at least felt politically engaged with *something*, however fruitlessly, have an end-of-an-era feeling to them, a decadence that fits the nature of the world they seem to be inheriting - 'We can't change anything, so fuck it, lets dress up and get pissed...')


Punk was only ever a movement of blind reaction anyway. Reaction against whatever there was around: in the UK middle classes they were anti-monarchist and, in reaction to the RRA in 1974, they were racist; in the Eastern Bloc their offshoots were anti-communist; in the East End of London their offshoots were anti-fascist. Mainstream punk was the final decline into irrelevance of the anti-establishment spirit that started in 1918; with all its worthwhile battles won, the punks' pathetic attempts to shock for the sake of shocking were about as deserving of respect as the Sealed Knot.

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win" is wrong; it's "first they ignore you, then they fight you, then you win, then they laugh at you".




Funny as fuck this , a bunch of pretentious cunts pouring out their theories for other pretentious cunts to dribble their dead ideologies over.
Last Summer's riots were political, not in my neck of the woods they weren't, good excuse to make a bit of cash though.
Some great comments but some absolute shite as well.
Instead of wanking yourselves off on the internet, get off yer arse and go do something useful something instead.
Rhetoric is masturbation for the social impotent intellectual class..
You fuckers start revolutions, us poor fuckers fight them and when its over, you lot sell out and become the statues you kicked over.
But then of course, some of us just like the music whilst your kind argue your dead ideologies.
All typos intended :0


one of the greatest legacies of punk is still with us to-day,,,new model army,a band that still as true punk honesty

Matt Wardman

7. Does age have something to do with it?

You prototypes - Laurie Milquetoast and Subbuteo Jones - are both over 25.

Why are 'youthful radicals' still in their late twenties rather than being - say - 19?

Perhaps being forced to stay in school until 18 then being shovelled through HE has something to do with it, combined with repeating a lot of nonsense which doesn't stand up to a few facts, even before we get into idealogy.

Radicals I can take, if they have started to think. Radicals who claim they are right because the moon is made of cheese are just funny.

Consider that OJ's aspiration currently seems to be to live in Zone 2 ...

Vince O'Neill

Another documentary by the establishment that yet again doesn't even mention CRASS ! Not just a band but the next generation of punk that started in 1978 (well within the remit of this series) and began one of the most enduring aspects of the movement. Maybe just too political for the BBC even after this amount of time but then again that says a lot about their true impact on modern society and all the anarchic bands they inspired post Pistols et al

Vince O'Neill

OK take it back. Just looked and seen they are mentioned in last episode. LOL

Jim Parker

Punk was another attempt to make a change. Every generation does it. If it inspired 1 person to better their life then great.
Loads of new wave punk bands weren't mentioned. Anti Nowhere League, GBH, Exploited even NMA which shows what a brilliant legacy it left.
Enjoy yesterday, plan for tomorrow.


Answer #6:Affluence and technological opportunities have bought off rebellion.

With the social safety, it is increasingly the case that the poor have made lifestyle choices that result in them being poor.

The riots in Greece, or Wisconsin protests, are going to be from gov't workers, getting money collected by force, who don't want to get less money.

The Ramones were not really political, but still punky for 20 years. My dubstep (yechh) liking teen sons don't like punk, and are mostly angry only when told they've played too much video game.

Videogames -- the opiate of the masses.


I just like(d) the music.

Penny Rimbaud

Copy of email sent by myself to the producers of Punk Britannia. -


I just watched the documentary. What a total disappointment. You had the opportunity to actually say something valuable about the state of society then and now, but you chose rather to take the consensual commodity culture approach. Why, when you know as well as I do that Crass had a profound, broad and positive cultural effect, did you choose to concentrate so much more on those bands(with pitifully few exceptions) who belonged only within the limited, predictable and tedious parameters of pop music? Your portrayal of punk as an almost solely music based interest is a denigration of what was (and in some ways still is) a powerful movement for change. Thirty years down the line, the effects of that movement are still manifest, which is considerably more than can be said for the forgotten 'new wave' narcissists to whom you devoted so much time. Just as in your 'documentation' of the festival movement, you chose to take the safe option. Regardless of whether that is BBC policy (as I suspect it is), you and your team gave every impression to me that you were attempting to create a serious documentary about punk and its very considerable social effects. I'm sure that you are every bit as aware as I am that you failed. But why? The punk 'movement' inspired very positive personal and social awareness in thousands of people across the globe. To turn its history (as does most of the popular media) into just another commodity circus is a grave disservice to all those who in punk found something worthwhile and positive upon which to build their lives. You have trivialised our 'struggle', a struggle which I am almost certain you would at least pay lip service to. To repeat, I am disappointed and, for your sake, hope that you are too.

I would be more than happy to meet up again to discuss the above issues.

Love and blessings,

Penny Rimbaud.

Keith Savage

I agree with Penny Rimbaud (haven't said that for a long time). Disappointing series. Lots of interesting people interviewed (they nearly all had lovely fireplaces) but some only got a sentence, mostly talking about themselves as that's what they were invited to do and they were the performers don't forget. It's easy to keep repeating it all went so shit etc but it didn't matter because the punk ethos gave you the confidence to re-invent it yourself if you didn't like it. I liked The Fall, Crass, PiL, Ramones, The Slits, Buzzcocks, Cabaret Voltaire, Cockney Rejects, Specials etc etc all at the same time. Punk gave all these people confidence to do it themselves and have a chance of getting heard by their peers. I think that confidence has maybe petered out now- hence all this nostalgia. Mr Rimbaud's Crass had a huge effect on lots of people as did other bands and "the thing" as a whole. The programme would have been helped by talking to some "ordinary" people, non-performers, inspired by whatever punk was to be different and do things differently as well as be entertained and sustained through those difficult but heady years of youth.

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