What’s Wrong With Celebrating The 40th Anniversary Of Punk?

Our punk history…say no more.

I am lucky to have been a music and fashion obsessed 15 year old when punk broke in 1976. Whilst the early 70s were exciting for a teenager who liked to dance, with Bowie, Roxy, T Rex, Northern Soul and funk spoiling us for choice, punk was something else. This was real rebellion, something that older generations couldn’t get their heads around and in its infancy, a movement that only the brave joined. Punk with its DIY aesthetic was perfect for those of us with no money, living in small towns with little access to fashion shops but with generational skills of being able to shop in charity shops and adapt clothes…along with a  subscription to Sounds and the NME. The raw music, the hand drawn and Xeroxed flyers, the gigs in scruffy pubs, were everything that the masses who went to faux tropical town centre discos couldn’t and didn’t want to understand. At last another underground and “outsider” (at least for the next 18 months) had come along to add to our other misunderstood movement “Northern Soul”.

Punk Fanzine
Wayne Young

Right image: Waynaged 15 in 1976.

Punk helped me start to question authority at school (simply by wearing drainpipes, winkle pickers and making my tie half as narrow as the standard issue). Punk helped me become creative by learning how to put outfits together using second-hand clothing and accessories (I learned to use a sewing machine to sew a bondage strap onto trousers).

Punk got me around too…first to grow to love Manchester (The Russell Club and Electric Circus) and Liverpoo1 (Eric’s) and punk opened my eyes to what a great city London is. Trips down to Beaufort Market gave me the confidence to move to London 3 years after punk broke in 1976.

Punk introduced me to Kensington Market where 4 years later Red or Dead got it’s first big break.


Punk was the inspiration for the first incarnation of the band I sang (if that is what it’s called!) in.

Wayne band

Punk was political and it’s Rock Against Racism brought issues into the open that have taken society forward.

Right now punk is in the headlines again as Punk.London, a year of events, gigs, films, talks and exhibits celebrating four decades of punk with £99,000 grant from the Heritage London Fund, is taking place. Some are not happy with this celebration saying it’s a sell out of the movements principles. Joe Corre, son of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood says he’s ready to burn his punk memorabilia collection with an estimated worth of £5 million. Corre states: “I don’t know why 40 years is more important than 25 years or 50 years or 10 years. It’s just some arbitrary thing, backed by all of the establishment, basically. You’ve got a few old grey haired, spiky topped blokes pulling together various events with bands you’ve never heard of and pub walks. If that’s what it’s come to, it’s really sad, and it’s meaningless”.

“People are more interested in the monetary value of these things that are going to get burnt, than what it is and what it means. It follows on in the tradition of the K Foundation – Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond from KLF, who burned a million quid [in 1994] and it’s a statement. It’s about saying these artefacts in themselves don’t have value. I’m burning a load of [the boutique run by McLaren and Westwood] clothes and stuff that’s actually my family heritage, but at the same time, what was great about punk rock was that you didn’t need any clothes – all you needed was a packet of safety pins”.

“You talk to people about it these days and it’s almost like Antiques Roadshow. ‘I wish I kept those bondage trousers, they’d be worth a fortune now’. What’s that got to do with anything? That’s why I think it’s appropriate – to say punk rock is extinct. Otherwise, it’s all going to end up in some tourist shop, in a glass case, like the Hard Rock Café or something, and they’ll be selling ‘God Save The Queen’ mugs with a safety pin through her nose at Buckingham Palace. People don’t remember that in the 1970s people hated punk rockers – they were public enemy Number 1. When I was a little kid, grown men would spit in my face for dressing like a punk rocker – we had the National Front come ‘round and smash all our windows at home because we were against the establishment. You had to run the gauntlet every day.”

“I’ve got so much bloody stuff. I’ve been wondering why the hell I’m collecting it. I’ve got everything from the door handle of Sex on Kings Road [McLaren and Westwood’s shop], the first ever ‘Anarchy in The UK’ record, which is on acetate I’ve got all sorts.”  Read more… 

Well Joe, in my eyes you are wrong, punk is a reminder to new generations that you don’t need to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth to be creative to be part of the most vital thing that is going on in your town, city and in what was the  case with punk, your country.

So Historic England is right to recommend that the “lean to” at the back of that guitar shop in Denmark Street (which I have been lucky enough to have been in) should be listed. The historic importance of where the Sex Pistols recorded demos of God Save the Queen and Anarchy in the UK is immense. So yes save all those walls graffitied by John Lydon. Actually his caricatures aren’t at all bad – John do you want some freelance work?

Sex Pistols