Everything I learnt about Punk from Henry Rollins
What I learnt from watching a documentary tonight on the brief and strange history of punk music, ws not that it’s social beginnings were explosively remedial to widespread alienation in the youth of London and New York for a vbreif hundred days; not that it’s almost immediate overemphaasis on violence and hatred brought it down as quickly and quietly as it had risen; not, even that while hateful and perverse punk bands struggle throughout America, hiphop and punk momentarily formed a league in the years of 79, 80 and 81; but rather, that in spite of al this, it remained a continuous and unitaary thread of challenge to the hatred itself; paradoxically, those for whom hattred was not enough, punk became the vehicle for integrous success. By embracing proffesionlism, craftsmanship, and the commercial contingencies of touring and working with the authorities, punk transformed itself from a youth mioment to a commcercial voice for youth.
Nirvana, Henry Rollins in the Black Flag, are two of the most obvious popular manifestations of this underswell of suppport, both emerging in the early nineties, 91 and2
While I was first meeting the dance culture of the large cities, this other movement flourished among less secure and stable people and gave an answer to their angst and depression and loneliness. That answer was music.
I think of this enormous suffering and I felt that if it can be converted into something – not even something good –but something anyway, then maybe it stands a chance of becoming a transformative vehicle. For the downtrodden, anger can seem the only viable solution to fear and craving And this entire movement – not the dogmatic and reductionistic movement of music, but this motion of consciousness from which punk arose, seems to me to be the natural route of ascension to integrity, and a kind of twisted grace.
It did me good to see. Afterwards, I reflected – what was in this for me to know, to learn, to understand? But there was nothing to understand except that simple fact: they suffered, they did their best, and when it was done they looked upon it, and they saw that it was good. pervading even demonising and vilifying art, at its essence the mystery of creation still retains an inspirational quality.
Incidently, among the many voies of the documentary it was Henry Rollins that stood out. I knew that voice. I recognised it. It was the voice of a celibate speaking.
We have so few of them in the world now that it is impossible to know until you hear them And then it like hearing a castrati sing for the first time in is a liquid and mellow adult male soprando, and you recognised as if it had been around all along, hidden by the modern world. I wonder – idly, because it is none of my fucking business – if Mr Rollins is in fact celibate. It seems to me I can hear it in his voice, in his word choice, and the overall context of his personal presentation.