The impact that Buzzcocks have had on not just punk, but music not tied to major label folk is incalculable. The band may not have been the first punk band to release a single – the Damned beat them to that by more than a year. But the Manchester based Buzzcocks were the first British punk act to release a single on an independent label. And while by 1978 in the States there were Bomp!
Without the No New York compilation, concocted by Brian Eno, the clutch of bands making a compelling racket and only tangentially tied to punk, would probably be lost to the backlog of alsorans. The Contortions, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Mars and DNA were featured on the compilation. And while each band has maintained a certain degree of cultural import within the underground music scene, DNA were one of the most difficult.
Hearing this backwards through the guise of time and a lot of subsequent punk groups – Canadian or otherwise – it’s difficult gauge how out of the norm the Diodes were. Today, these guys could easily been on the radio the day after tomorrow – or maybe featured on Pitchfork. But as the band got toward the end of its life a good deal of ‘80s style snuck into their punk. Of course, they weren’t the only group to suffer in this way, but by the time they reached 1980’s Action Reaction, it was pretty clear which way the band intended to move.
Even by 1982 a good deal of what punk or hardcore could be had been rigidly set out. Of course, Black Flag, Husker Du and other progressive acts weren’t ever going to be content with rehashing past works, but a great number of the second crop of American punk bands worked within very narrowly defined boundaries of what the music could be. Of course, some of those groups make those restrictions work all too well. But by and large, the mid ‘80s suffered from a glut of average discs.
It would be an overstatement to figure that if not for Cleveland, punk woulda turned out completely different. Growing up there, though, old dudes liked to tell stories about the hey-day. Probably some of ‘em were more than exaggerated, but some weren’t. There was a venue on Euclid Avenue on the boarder of East Cleveland that, supposedly David Bowie and Lou Reed would frequent when they were able to just check out the Dead Boys and the Pagans. It seems plausible, but who knows? Maybe I should just take to heart all the shit that old drunk punkers told me.
Part of the reason that Ian MacKaye has so vehemently commented upon the fact that he never meant to spark an organized straight edge movement can be figured after only a cursory examination of the Boston punk and hardcore scene of the early ‘80s. And while the cultural as well as musical importance of the bands that would make up thee Boston Crew can’t be negated under any circumstances, some of their actions can be regarded as little more than adolescent nonsense. Of course, if I was in Boston in 1983 and said that, I probably wouldn’t have my teeth.
Countless sad stories litter rock and roll. Some are more sorrowful than others, but that all depends upon perception. But it’s not really too difficult to figure that Johnny Thunders ascension to (semi) stardom and his subsequent two decade free fall to junkie hell ranks amongst the most sad.