Whatever happened to... Punk

Fascist Regime

Twenty years ago this weekend, the Sex Pistols were disintegrating amid recrimination. Yes, the celebrations for the Queen's Jubilee were about to dominate middle England, but the country was still in the full throes of Punk. In the last week of June 1977, the Mirror wrote a piece headlined "Punk Future". On the back of new dole figures, they proclaimed that `"A brave new generation of talent and purpose is turning sour before our eyes. Punk rock is tailor-made for youngsters who feel they only have a punk future."

Spirits in the Material World

But within a couple of years, Punk was gone. The stars who survived proved the movement was dead (Elvis Costello's King of America with its arch character studies; Sting at Live Aid, being urbanely ironic with Dire Straits). Johnny Rotten's Public Image Limited had dwindling audiences and plummeting credibility. Enter "New Wave" acts such as The Jam and the Boomtown Rats. It wasn't until the end of the Eighties that Punk began to stir from its tomb with Nirvana's huge world-wide success with "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Nevermind.

Nevermind the Offspring

At Glastonbury, bands such as Longpigs, the Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk will carry on some sparks of the flame this weekend. American bands like Green Day and Offspring are self-proclaimed imitators of late Seventies London music. This year, Blur's "Chinese Bombs", a hardcore, thrash-bite, one minute of guitars and shouting, showed that Damon can do more than just rhyme "Balzac" with "Prozac" and badly imitate old hippies like Ray Davis. Punk seems contemporary again. But it is now one of many versions of the contemporary; Blur's album, like so many big-selling artists (see REM's New Adventures in Hi-Fi and U2's Pop) is a mesh of slow trip hop tracks, jolly Beatles-like songs and shows influences from Dylan to Pavement, from Bowie to Sonic Youth. Tamed it may be, but Punk may just still be the future.