Age gives an the advantage of perspective on earlier years. Is it an advantage? Maybe. I guess. I’m sure that in future decades, should I be lucky enough to have a few more, I will think that as of today I didn’t know a damned thing. However, I think these dudes are a bit of an exception.
The guys in these pictures — they got it right.
Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, and Jello Biafra. (You can click on these images to go to their sources).
In my mind these guys are the Trinity of Punk Rock. When I want to listen to some punk, it’s going to usually involve Black Flag, Fugazi (or Minor Threat), and the Dead Kennedys.
But when I say they got it right I’m not talking about the music. I’m talking about everything else.
These are pretty much the three smart dudes from punk. They are the ones who have grown into intelligent, progressive, well-spoken adult human beings.
I am constantly amazed by how many people I know who “love” punk rock, and are skateboarders, grow up to adopt a repressive, conservative political and social ideology. I think part of this conundrum stems from the fact that punk (at least the kind from the 1980s) tends to be very aggressive music, and thus it attracts not only smart people but some fairly not-quite-as -smart people too. I’m sure a lot of young people are just trying to “find themselves” or enjoy being part of an outsider group, so they get into it. I’m sure this happened with my generation. My friend Bosco says young people are often just “trying on different uniforms.” Then they grow up and become their parents. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes not so much. Honestly, I have never “worn the uniform” of anything but a skateboarder. But as I’ve gotten older, and these guys have gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate them more and more.
I just find it fascinating because these three guys, while they have grown up and evolved and become more sophisticated in their thinking and more articulate in their communication, to me, seem like they kind of got it right in the first place.
Somehow, from a young age these guys had a clarity of thought that a lot of people just don’t have. Some people never get it. I think Henry probably had a rougher time with his youth, but he made it, and if you listen to his spoken word, he is right on target on almost everything.
I am reminded of a quote from Bike Snob NYC, regarding the music of Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedys. Here’s the quote. Click through and read the whole post though. He’s a great writer.
As I got older, however, I “matured,” and my outlook on life became more pragmatic. I no longer grouped things into “good” and “evil” categories based on where they fell on the Jello Biafra Outrage Scale. (The more shrilly Jello Biafra sings about something the more evil it was.) I no longer automatically rejected anything “mainstream,” and I stopped assuming that anything that was part of the mainstream was somehow automatically tainted. Most of all, I laughed at my own naïveté, I dropped the attitude, and I got down to the non-ideological business of becoming an adult.
But then, years later, something amazing happened, and I realized that all those albums I used to listen to were right. Well, maybe they weren’t right about a lot of the specifics, but it turns out that the general message–that mainstream culture is vacuous and bankrupt–is pretty much entirely correct.
In the last 7 years I’ve had the chance to see Henry and Jello both do spoken word performance. Both these guys are downright masterful in this craft. Entertaining, engaging, thought-provoking, and just provoking. Really good. Ian doesn’t do spoken word, but I keep up with him and if he is ever in this area I will surely to see him play. I saw him with Fugazi back in the 1990s.
Well, that’s all I’ve got to say today. Go have some fun.