February 09, 2006


Punk was essentially a DIY thing, supposedly driven by an ideology that claimed anyone could play, given enough enthusiasm ("this is a chord, this is another, this is a third. Now form a band" -- Sniffin' Glue).

And so some of us believed, in our inner-city front rooms and suburban Sydney garages. But somehow we'd got the message a little twisted. We took pride in our sloppiness, our inability, we wore our amateurishness as a badge of honour, we thought of ourselves as thumbing our noses at bands like Yes or Boston who could actually play (and who played upon that fact). We thought our technical badness was part of the whole point of what we were doing.

But I remember when I finally got to hear "Anarchy In The UK" -- those guys were sharp. Cook and Jones were tight. They knew exactly what they were doing, and how to do it. No sloppiness there, no studied slacking off or duff notes. These guys could play. I still think of them (with Glen Matlock) as being one of the best, most propulsive, and tightest rhythm sections around at that time. They gave the impression that they didn't give a fuck about it all -- but they didn't have to: they could play.

Shit. My idols had feet of gold. I could barely even aspire to play like that. It wasn't the badness that was the point -- it was the accessibility, the inclusiveness, the acting-on-your-enthusiasm... (and, of course, badness is difficult to sustain, and most of us quickly got better).

Sometimes it's hard to see what's really going on from the other side of the world, everything coming to you second or third hand...

Sometimes I just think we weren't the sharpest tools in the toolshed.

(Part of Punk (and Later)).


At 2/10/2006 11:09 pm, Blogger Phil said...

i never met a person at the time who openly liked the fact that they couldn't play well. maybe it was just my bunch of friends? as i've said before, i've always loved the interaction between inability and musical difficulty - the stretch when a person tries their hardest to play something that is just beyond their means. it's been a staple of my stumpy fingers since i picked up my 1st synth.

At 2/11/2006 12:57 pm, Blogger Jimmy Little said...

I suspect we had very differing experiences of early punk :-). I share your love of that stretch, but when I was 18, I knew nothing about music, had no ability, and like a lot of the people I knew, was experiencing punk third-hand, a bit like some sort of cargo cult. Urgh. Growing up was hard to do....


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