Sunday, September 12, 2010

So You Think You're "Punk", Punk??

PUNK DIGEST: The Pages That Fell Out
by Jonathan L.

So where did the word "punk" originate from? Not from the 70s, as most of you think. Most envision Johnny "Rotten" Lydon of the Sex Pistols wearing a safety pin in his ear as a defining moment. Punk rock man.

But where did the slang word originate from?

Let's take a stroll down memory lane, that is if you still have one. Back in 40's and early 50's there were a series of films and then a television show, first titled "The Dead End Kids," then later "The Bowery Boys". You can thank Leo Dorcey and his cohorts for uttering the word as part of their Brooklyn-ese vocabulary.

You could say James Dean and Sal Mineo were punks from the film "Rebel Without A Cause". The hairstyles gave it away. Slicked back on the sides and the pompadour in front. That lasted all the way through the 60's. In the 70's hair grew, but in the 80's it became the mohawk, and from that point all the way up to today, a shaved head signifies at least the look.

And what was a "punk"? Was it an attitude. But, of course it was and still is.
The author as a young fresh-faced punk
To the masses and the church going public, a punk was a juvenile delinquent, later called a "greaser". The look was different also, as compared to the 70's through todays. Punk spelled trouble. Athletic types would love to beat up on punks. Punks would love to beat up on athletes, and bookworms. It was simply a progression of lifestyle clash.

Perfect name for the next real "punk" rock band, The Clash, of course. Less attitude, but a hell of a lot better musically.

Was "Punky Brewster" a punk? No, but a nice use-age of the word anyway. Was "Cow punk" for real? I don't think so. Maybe Scott Goddard would dispute that.

The implications of "punk" in society has left its mark in society. No doubt about that. Let's slice it up into
different categories, shall we.

Punk-a-loco: The lowest form. Has the look. Has very little brains. Acts before thinking. Usually from a poor background, and has little common sense.

Punk-a-boo: Has the look, and that's all. Just wants attention. Could be the man or woman that has so many
metal piercings, but that is just for self-expressionism.

Punk-ability: Has a realism about them, and maybe the look. Maybe not. But the attitude is in check.

Punka-alicious: The true punk. Has the look in their eyes. Is bright, has a 'tude, and make no mistake, taken seriously. Oh, that would be me. lol

A true punk is considered a "bad boy" in society's eyes. Many women love them. Many clean cut men despise them.

"Bad boy's" from Robert Mitchum to Sean Penn and so many more are adored by the mass appeal audience in film.

Shaving your head into a mohawk like DeNiro did in "Taxi Driver" didn't make him punk, although for looks it had a point, it just made him a wacko.

Punk doesn't mean that you have to prove a point to anyone or everyone. On the other hand, punk is most definitely a lifestyle. Be it looks or attitude.

My belief is that as a true punk, I really don't even know it. It is just pointed out to me over and over, how punk I am. Not just punk rock. That is just an expression. Example. "He's so punk rock". Now that doesn't mean I sit around and dwell on the music from the early days of punk. Of course not. Dig it. I like all styles of music. Okay, so maybe I'm a bit hard edged in my tastes. That's just me.

The author as an old scruffy punk
The Southern California so called "Pop Punk" of the 90's which still is remarkably around today, led by Blink 182, Green Day, etc originally, was never my cup of tea, but the masses ate it up and are lapping it up today.

To me, someone like New England white boy rapper is much more punk, musically, then 90% of the musicians trying to recreate the old sound in 2010. He is a wordsmith. His prose and style is so punk. Believable.

Punk is very much a state of mind. The thousands that recently converged in the small town of Duisburg, Germany went under the guise of a festival called "The Love Parade". Many were trampled to death due to
a poor setup in security and a tunnel that was a death trap. The music they went to see was not what you would call punk rock, it was an electronic music festival instead.

But, very punk in the whole scheme of things. The promoter, who could not do the festival anymore in Berlin, after years of leaving rubbish in the streets, took his caravan to a city that had a mayor Adolf Sauerland who okayed it so the town could make money. Most likely according to report's, this was the last festival.

As an observer, this was absolutely 'punk rock' from the beginning to the fatal end.

The new punk, is to not drink, not do drugs, and eat healthy, so you will live longer and you views will be heard for many years to come. Yes my friends, being self destructive is now the norm.

Hope I have put some of the pages back in for you. Now it is time for me to take a nice long walk. Come home and drink der wasser, eat some fruit, and crank some Rammstein loud.

-Jonathan L

About the author: He published a monthly magazine called Newsreal from 1974-1985 in Tucson, Arizona. In the last years it included Howard Salmon's "Slit Magazine". He began his radio career in 1982 in Tucson on KLPX-FM with a show "Virgin Vinyl". Jonathan founded the most known alternative radio station ever in Arizona, KUKQ-AM in 1989 in Phoenix, Arizona. That came after a failed attempt with KEYX-FM "The Key" in Mesa, Arizona in 1986. After returning to Phoenix from Los Angeles in 2005 and doing the award winning "Lopsided World Of L" on KUPD-FM, he left in April 2010 to live in Berlin, Germany. For more information, go to his website
 (Note: This article originally appeared in the print edition of SLIT 2010)

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