How Punk Changed My Life

For some, the anarchic music scene defined by Malcolm McLaren and the Sex Pistols was terrifying. For others it was an inspiration. They tell their stories to Rob Sharp



Knox



Lead singer with The Vibrators, played at the 100 Club Punk Festival along with the Sex Pistols in 1976.


John "Eddie" Edwards, our drummer, was there when the Sex Pistols played their first gig at St Martin's Art College in November 1975. The pub rock band Bazooka Joe were supporting, and Eddie had been driving them around on tour.

I'd been in a few bands already and Eddie and I decided to have some rehearsals with our guitarist John [Ellis] in Eddie's garage. We were into the Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop; Eddie liked the Rolling Stones. We started the band soon afterwards, first with covers, then doing our own songs.

But I don't think the punk sounds, in my case, came from the Pistols. I'd always done that aggressive stuff – I think it's in my nature. But we were included under that umbrella term punk rock. Punk was a big deal – you got a lot of attention because of it. You'd get work because you were in a punk band. It was a shame that the press chose to write about all the violence, though that came much later. There was that gig at the 100 Club where a girl lost an eye. That wasn't so great; the music was supposed to be fun, but that gave it a nasty edge.

People think the Sex Pistols set off the trend for the clothes, but a lot of people, like the Ramones, were wearing leather jackets already, though I suppose Malcolm McLaren made it exciting. It's great that we're still playing punk. It's still going on.

Wherever you go in the road, if you meet another punk you can go up to them and have a conversation. It's a great community.

I sometimes get the impression when you see punk music emerging in these horrible countries with totalitarian regimes that they are on the way to having democracy.

Princess Julia

ex-punk, DJ

I was 16 and living in London when punk exploded. I was working as a hairdresser and used to save up my tips and buy clothes from Sex; I had a pair of bondage trousers. It was the coolest shop really. A girl I worked with called Kiki was going out with Paul Cook, who was in the Sex Pistols, so we'd go to punk gigs.

That look was the main source of inspiration for the style I still have now. I remember seeing the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie Sioux being interviewed by Bill Grundy in 1976; it was really exciting. It was all part of this wave of culture, starting in the early 1970s with glam, then Ziggy Stardust and all the rockers and Teddy boys. But when punk came along no one really called it punk; all the people I hung around with were at art school or were involved in fashion, or creative people interested in rebelling. It was complemented by the music but the actual scene didn't last very long. It did, however, send big ripples across the pond. Then people started getting into the charts and the New Romantic scene was made up of a lot of people who were originally punks. It was a time of experimentation, especially with the music. Then there were those who did punk by numbers. But it was still a great time.

Alan McGee

Music industry executive, former head of Creation Records

If it wasn't for Malcolm McLaren bringing punk over from the US in 1975, [fellow Glasgow musician] Bobby Gillespie and I would never have got out of Glasgow.

We played in a punk band together for a short while, the Drains. It was all part of the same impetus to take control: it made Creation Records, my label, possible, something people like Bobby Gillespie and I were the driving force behind. We attracted like-minded souls like the Gallagher brothers. Without Malcolm, Bobby and I wouldn't have had a job, and I wouldn't have ended up launching the biggest band in the world.

Malcolm was clever, although I'd always appreciated it from afar. I met Malcolm for the first time way after punk had finished, in 1995. He was a complete visionary. He was talking about MP3s taking over the music industry about 10 years before it happened – that was punk all over.

As a kid I was into The Clash but punk only became an obsession, bizarrely, when I got older. At the time I didn't really appreciate it. Now it's much more important to me. I can quantify it. Then I couldn't really understand how significant it was. With Malcolm, though, he always believed in it, and that spoke to a lot of people. Punk was an important cultural paradigm.

Eugene Butcher

Editor of Britain's leading punk and hard rock magazine Big Cheese

I first came across punk in 1977 when I was living in New Zealand. We'd always hear about everything after everyone else; we'd wait two months for the new Clash video or a copy of the NME arriving by boat.

But we'd head down to the second-hand shop and get a knackered old jacket and put safety pins in it. I got a job, working in the advertising department of a newspaper, but every evening I would put on my leather jacket and my drainpipes and we'd go off and listen to the Sex Pistols or I'd get together with some mates and try and bash out some tunes. We were copying what was going in England; in a way we had similar trouble. In between playing our gigs, we'd have to avoid being beaten up by the local Maori gangs because we stood out like sore thumbs.

The music was always the key. It was teenage rebellion; we wanted to rally against the system like most teenagers do. We saw all these bands, like the Ramones, and it made us want to move to London. I arrived in the early 1980s and went straight to the 100 Club where the remaining punk bands would play.

I still consider myself a punk; I'll consider myself a punk rocker until the day I die. It's a lifestyle choice, like mod culture, and biker culture; if you fall in love with something, that's it. I still go to the Rebellion festival in Blackpool – there you'll find punks from six to 60. Malcolm McLaren and the early purveyors of punk opened people's eyes to the fact that there was something different to Led Zeppelin – you could have your own limits and everything has value.

Chris Sullivan

Co-editor of anthology, Punk

In the early 1970s I arrived in London from south Wales. Life was no picnic. Even to have short hair would mean you'd get into all kinds of violence.

My friends and I were from a small town, and we were bored – we'd started looking further afield, in Cardiff, then Newport, then ended up in London. I was only 16, and was walking down the King's Road when I happened on Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's shop, Sex it was called. Then things all changed. Malcolm and Vivienne were always encouraging people to hang out.

In many ways, the music was immaterial. It was all about doing something different. It was about being opposed to what everyone was feeling in England in the mid-1970s – a pretty beige place. There is this caricature of punk – you know, people with pink hair – but very few of the original punks adhered to that. They were more a bunch of individuals who hung around together. Now, I still haven't got a proper job.

Punk gave people a DIY ethic. That way of living has permeated my entire life and that of so many others, people like Jonathan Ross and those who created ID and The Face. It was a period that opened the doors and said, "Do it yourself". All that stuff like being in a band, being a writer, filming pop promos seemed liked it was out of the reach of the working class before then. Coming from south Wales you felt like you'd cracked it if you became a plumber or electrician. That's why the 1980s were such a creative period. Punk told you not to take orders from the man, though I hate that phrase.

Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape