When I was 15 or so, I was invited to a rather unusual birthday party. It was an impromptu, spur of the moment invite from a fellow I barely knew. But I was curious, so me and a couple of friends checked it out.
We heard music blasting a block away on a chilly spring evening and approached the ‘birthday house’ with trepidation. It was music I had never heard before, loud, angry and screaming!
We were escorted into a basement crammed with colourful characters. There were a few mohawk hairdo’s, body piercings, neon dyed hair, and strange attire.
This was Punk.
The birthday was a high energy, loud celebration that was fury, not joy.
I wondered what everyone was so mad and unhappy about, especially at a birthday party. But I couldn’t find out, I couldn’t talk to anybody, the music was louder than a rocket launch.
The fellow who invited us pleaded with me to stay at least until the cake was served.
Suddenly, the music was silenced and people burst into the traditional Happy Birthday song. I was relieved to hear the familiar tune, and happy to see smiling faces. But it was only a fleeting reprieve. A candle less cake arrived, coated in a sickly green icing with cigarette butts stuck in it – among other things.
After a polite refusal of cake, my friends and I hightailed it out of there, convinced that once the music started back up, police sirens would not be far behind.
Fast forward to today. I read a book about the 1980’s punk scene (We’re Not Here to Entertain)and according to the author, boy, was my perception wrong. To tell the truth, I really didn’t have much of any kind of opinion, other than punk was weird, unquestionably hostile and more than a bit scary, based on that single episode in my life. I never gave it much thought after that.
My teenage world was the total opposite of punk. I didn’t understand their rage. But it appears that they were disaffected youth, just like my somewhat hippie upbringing – mad at our leaders, disappointed with our government, upset with events in the world, terrified by the nuclear war threat, sickened by environmental issues, unloved by parents and peers, and feeling powerless. Punk rockers screamed their hostility, while I quietly squirrelled it away. They rebelled and I surrendered.
I could never be like punk rockers, I never fully embraced hippie rebellion either, but I have a new respect for their ‘in your face’ resistance to an unfair and often corrupt system in which we must live, navigate and ultimately, survive.