Punk Rocker

punkrockerpinsmediumtransPunk Rocker (previously Nihilism on the Prowl) is a website containing an amazing collection of old school punk rock reviews, interviews, profiles and music links. Peter from Wolverhampton, UK, has poured his heart and soul into this project, archiving material that would otherwise probably be lost and forgotten. The result is a real treat for anyone into punk rock music and culture.

I have already spent hours exploring the material on this site. Peter’s own reflections on his life in punk – and his life in general – made me think about how similar all veteran punks are, regardless of where we come from. We start off playing in bands and publishing zines and then, as we age, move on to dealing with health issues and taking care of ill and aging loved ones. Peter writes about this common life trajectory with humor and honesty.

Although there are many nooks, crannies and dark corners of the website that I have not yet fully investigated, here are some of the gems that have grabbed my attention so far:

swazjrrippeddestroy77Peter’s article “Swastika & Punk” is an interesting exploration of the use of the swastika as a symbol by such early punk artists as The Ramones, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and The Sex Pistols. Peter (rightly) observes that an advocacy of Nazism was not the inspiration behind the punk appropriation of the swastika; rather it was used as a gesture of provocation, inspired by the Situationist art movement and employed in order to inflame discomfort among the mainstream. Peter points out that while many anti-racist bands punk bands did flaunt the swastika, ironically an explicitly racist band like Screwdriver never did.

Scotland Uber Alles” is a 1979 piece by Garry Bushell, first published in Sounds Magazine, that focuses on a variety of Scottish punk and new wave bands, mostly from around Glasgow and Edinburgh. Not a lot of well known punk bands came from this part of the UK – The Exploited, Rezillos, and The Skids are the most familiar names – but Bushell’s coverage of this scene is especially fascinating as it highlights the idea that much real British punk, even in 1979, was happening outside of the London spotlight, in places like Scotland, “the land of the strapping jocks.”

various-allquietcovershadowCloser to my own home, “Thrash and Blood” is a 1983 article first published in the New Musical Express showcasing California hardcore bands from the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas. Some of the bands highlighted here are still among my favorites: The Angry Samoans, MDC, Social Unrest, Flipper. The article puts a lot of focus on the compilation album Not So Quiet on the Western Front, a record that came out when I was a teenager and that featured underground bands from Northern California like: NBJ, No Alternative, The Church Police, UXB, and many, many others. This was music not fit for mainstream radio, made by people we all knew and hung around with. As was the case in the UK, this album emphasized the fact that in the early 1980’s some of the best and most confrontational underground music came from places outside of the big, high profile cities, and was made by kids playing in garages in front of their friends.

avengerspenelopelive1977jamesstark An article on Penelope Houston, lead singer for the Avengers (and now the head archivist of Special Collections at the San Francisco Public Library), is hilarious for the inane questions asked by the interviewer and for the old photos from 1978. First published in Search and Destroy, the interview covers everything from Houston’s violent behavior (she once hit someone in the face for playing a Damned album while she was trying to sleep), to her hair color, fashion sense, and the loss of her virginity. Silly and fun, it brings back memories of what it was like to be an angry, creative, emotional teenager.

There is a huge amount of material on this website, and with each click there is more to be discovered. Peter has put together a vast scrap book of punk rock memories; a music and culture fanzine for the internet era. If you are into old school punk this is a site that I highly recommend checking out!

Free Music Download

SacricaseI have posted the 1993 Sacripolitcal EP Peace: Under Our Supervision as a free download on bandcamp.  There is talk of a band reunion, so now is the time to acquaint yourself with this wonderful musical nihilism!

You’ll also find a short bio of Sacripolitical at Screams From the Gutter.

Angelic Upstarts

6ruopt6qoib54u2tilhfThe Angelic Upstarts roared through a stirring set of old and new songs when they performed at Thee Parkside in San Francisco last night. Ever since I was a teenager, the Upstarts have been one of my favorite bands, although I never had the chance to see them play live until now.

This is a band with lots of heart and plenty of passion. Starting in the late 1970’s, The Angelic Upstarts recorded albums for Warner Brothers, EMI and Anagram, before producing an almost countless number of EPs, singles and albums on independent labels, the latest of which is the excellent Bullingdon Bastards. I still find myself a bit dumbfounded that a band with the intensely aggressive sound and political stance of the Upstarts was at one time thought a marketable commodity by major record labels; but the atmosphere of the late 1970’s was a unique one. On the heels of the Sex Pistols and The Clash, record executives were apparently looking for the next big punk act to cash in on. The appeal of the Angelic Upstarts, however, is different from these other well known punk bands. The Upstarts are not at all philosophically ambiguous, they are not playfully ironic, nor do their songs dance around the issues, only vaguely hinting at politics. No, the message of the Angelic Upstarts is clear and in-your-face, making them a hard act to package and market to a mass audience. Wearing their left-wing politics on their sleeves,  this is a band that unapologetically bashes right-wing politicians and the police, while also promoting socialism and communism. While this might stand a chance of gaining some traction in Europe, here in the US it is an attitude that immediately relegates a band to the underground. But that’s fine with me. Vague, mainstream pap bores me to tears. Say what you want about the Angelic Upstarts; but you can’t say they are boring!

During the show at Thee Parkside, the Upstarts performed just about every song that I was hoping for: 2 Million Voices, Anti-Nazi, Shotgun Solution, Kids on the Street, Solidarity, Police Oppression, Red Flag, and others. The crowd enthusiastically sang along, fists raised skyward, chanting the choruses as one. Despite a single altercation on the dance floor between two fans – which was moderated and diffused by Mensi, the lead singer – the atmosphere in the club was friendly and filled with unity. The message of the music was well heeded by the crowd: we’re all in this together; we are all part of the same movement whether we are young or old. The show came to a fitting conclusion when the band covered Sham 69’s If the Kids are United.

Angelic UpstartsThomas “Mensi” Mensworth is remarkable on-stage. He is old, fat and not as tall as I imagined. He is not – and has never been – a polished or trained singer, but that is beside the point. It is his passion, humor and authentic commitment to punk that is exhilarating. Punk rock, after all, has been the focus of the majority of his life, and it is obvious that he really enjoys it. When introducing songs that he wrote decades ago, Mensi reminds the audience that he still believes in the message after all these years. In addition to singing, he preaches, he jokes, he spits anger. During a lull between songs he recited poetry provoking a young man standing next to me to  groan, shake his head and leave the performance area in apparent disgust. But so what? The Angelic Upstarts don’t just want to entertain; they want to incite, inflame and confront their audiences. Mensi is a master of this art.

Toward the end of the show, as the temperature in the club climbed to uncomfortable heights,  Mensi informed the crowd that he was about to impress the ladies by taking off his shirt. Doing so, he revealed a torso emblazoned with tattoos as well as a huge gut displaying a pattern of serious looking surgery scars. “My body is a temple,” he laughed, “but it’s in ruins!”

He is an impressive ruin, and his band is still amazing after almost 40 years!