England’s Dreaming #7
After last weeks miserable post about the presence of grime getting Just Jam cancelled, I started thinking about how punk music used to face a similar demonization, born of a genuinely scared mainstream. That fear has almost entirely vanished now, long disappeared up the arse of jovial BBC archive programs, where some no-mark from The Skids chortles about flashing the Nolan Sisters, like he was an extra in Carry On fucking Spitting or something.
To be fair, the 70s punks have had their whole threat to society status quite dramatically undermined by the quivering cigar of Jimmy NecroNonce Saville nothing they did is ever gonna match up to the horror of his ghoulish grasp. Savilles status as a mainstream insider makes the opposition of young punks to a society they castigated as hypocritical seem all the more appropriate*, and lends some credence to the way that the scene is so lovingly documented by the mainstream today. But, forgetting all these rose tinted retrospectives, in its day punk laid down some serious battle lines in England, ushering in the demise of a host of 20th Century English values some 20 years before the century had concluded.
Theres a clip in Julian Temples peerless Sex Pistols doc The Filth and The Fury that really nails the shrill reaction contemporary society had to punk, and Ive been trying to source it for an age. Its the bit where a British news anchor announces straight faced – something along the lines of: for some people punk rock represented a greater threat than communism itself. Genius. So, good news! Ive finally found where Temple took it from, along with a clutch of other clips used in Filth & Fury; a fascinating period piece made by Yorkshire Television called Brass Tacks.
Brass Tacks is part punk documentary, part studio debate. Unlike most of the other contemporary punk docs, its filmed in the North of England, so offers a different perspective to the usual well-worn stories. This is the punk diaspora, the far flung kids enraptured by the Pistols, fighting councils city by city. Theres Denise, whos mum reluctantly sews her bondage threads, or Alan, the bike mechanic who plays in a band called The Worst, and speaks eloquently about futureless youth. Theyre charming and seem quite innocent to modern eyes, a breed apart from the world weary punks of the London scene.
The debate section has The Buzzcocks Pete Shelley taking on some truly unpleasant city councillors. Filmed a couple of years before Maggie Thatcher got hip to the power of media training, these are politicians with terrible haircuts, weird speech patterns and googly eyes. They are the least sexy people in the universe, and they hate punk rock. Top quote comes from walking Daily Mail column Bernard Brook-Partridge:
My personal view on Punk rock is that it's disgusting, degrading, ghastly, sleazy, prurient, voyeuristic and nauseating. I think most of these groups would be vastly improved by sudden death.
Anyway heres the doc. I hope you enjoy it. Ive posted another, more Londoncentric one underneath if you just cant get enough its got the usual footage of Pistols madness/ the changing of the guards/ a young Danny Baker, with the addition of some great shots of The Slits in action.
*In fact heres a 78 interview with Johnny Rotten where he brings up everyones favourite Fixer, pointing out that Id like to kill Jimmy Saville Ive heard hes into all kinds of seediness. Unsurprisingly the BBC decided not to broadcast.