No Thanks

This year’s awesome box set was a gift from my brother: No Thanks – The 70s Punk Rebellion. Rhino put together 100 songs covering the period around 76 – 79 — great creative/raw music from Patti Smith, The Buzzcocks, The Mekons, The Germs, Pere Ubu, Richard Hell, X-Ray Spex, The Fall, Sham 69, etc.

Rhino did a good job keeping the catalog on the punk side of the punk / new wave tight rope (no B-52s here, though there is one Devo track). But at the same time, by stopping at the end of the 70s, the collection avoids the harsher, less musical (and less creative) spit and broken glass punk of the early 80s (Fear, Saccharine Trust, DK, etc.)

Though not every track is awesome or even “seminal,” it’s a really nice slice of a period that was a turning point in the evolution of my own musical tastes. At the time, I too was wearing a “Disco Sucks” badge on my backpack and dissing Led Zeppelin and arena rock.

The funny thing is that I believed my own tripe about disco and anthem rock. Now I’m simultaneously enjoying the incredible 2-DVD set Jimmy Paige put together covering a decade of Zep in video. Talk about “Hammer of the Gods!” The punks wrote off Zep and the like as pompous bombast — they wanted to take rock back to roots. And they did. But to dismiss Zep is to miss out on a whole other flavor of roots rock – totally elemental yet soaring, majestic. The Rhino collection is fantastic, but not one band on it can hold a candle to Zep in terms of pure passion, presence, musicality, intensity…

I’d like to apologize to my former self for years of digging punk at the expense of loving Zep.

Music: The Modern Lovers :: Pablo Picasso

5 Replies to “No Thanks”

  1. i’m trying to follow your line of thinking here….early 80’s ‘punk’ bands were “less musical (and less creative) than late 70’s bands were. Hmmm….

    It’s obviously hard to make the delineation 70’s/80’s, punk/new wave, but allowing for arbitrariness it seems Crass (to mention one ‘broken glass’ group who straddled the bandwith) to separate the 2 decades.

    Germs (70’s) were certainly one-dimensional, tho’ briefly compelling. Black Flag and X evolved thru some interesting phases in 80’s.
    Minutemen’s best work was 80’s. Meat Puppets (were they punk?) the same.

    I think the discussion points out the impossibility of capturing a scene as broad as punk, heavy metal or dada.

  2. Joshua —

    What I’m getting at is that I think punk existed in a continuum stretching from the mid-70s to the mid-80s which sort of progressed from more creative to less creative, and from less harsh to more harsh. Of course there are lots of tributaries, offshoots, and exceptions to that and the Minutemen and the Meat Puppets were definitely two of them. Meat Puppets because they straddled country and punk and because of their psychedelic side. Minutemen because musically and lyrically they were so far beyond most of their contemporaries.

    In other words, my generalizations are just that. Exceptions prove the rule?

  3. i don’t know. i think Public Image Ltd were more creative than Pistols, tho’ less influential (who could follow Wobble?) and i think this is one of myriad examples of the endless permutation we call Music. Not better or worse, just depends on where your looking. Like radio more open in the 70’s and TV too (remember New Wave Theater–was that what is was called?), but the profusion of different bands/evolution impossible to follow now .

  4. There’s punk and there’s hardcore.

    Punk: Velvet Underground, MC5, The Stooges, NY Dolls, The Ramones, The Damned, Sex Pistols, UK Subs, The Dickies etc.

    Hardcore: Black Flag, Minor Threat, Fugazi, The Descendents etc.

    At least that’s a distinction I’ve always made. Try this. If it’s punk, you can whistle it.

    And I don’t think being punk was being anti-Jimmy Page’s talent. It was about music and talent being defined by excess and inaccessibility. Hate the game, not the player. That’s why there’s still a punk sentiment 40 years in. Now, if only the kids could get off the 70s/80s look. Eeesh, that was cool when we were trying NOT to look like we were 20 years out of date. ;)

    Scot, don’t write off hardcore. Get some Fugazi.

  5. Hi mnep –

    Right, that’s the distinction I’m making (b/w punk and hardcore). I guess I’m just saying that the hardcore was less creative and less musically interesting than the earlier punk, with exceptions of course.

    Much respect to Fugazi – I’ve always admired their refusal to sell CDs at industry prices. One of their discs even had a sticker reading something like “If this CD is being sold for more than $7.99, please contact so-and-so.”

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