Tag Archives: Joe Strummer

All that scratchin’ is makin’ me itch

I get a continued kick out of the fact that one of the most popular posts on this here ten minutes hate of mine continues to be the one called ‘stop being a sap!’  which features Joe Strummer’s words about taking control of your life and creating something for yourself.

Malcolm McLaren, whose funeral took place today, was another of that ilk.  As one of the better obituaries, written by McLaren collaborator Sylvain Sylvain of the New York Dolls, tells it:

When I remember Malcolm, I think that he taught me the idea that if you don’t like something, you’re the only one that can change it. That’s the mentality people need to make things happen. It takes a spark to build a fire, and Malcolm was definitely that spark

I worry for us though, because we are losing them.  The towers of controlled rage and puncturers of excess and stupidity who saw the year of my birth as less of an excuse to pat the Queen on the back for a job well done but more of an opportunity to create merry hell and up the blood pressure of the clueless as they railed against England’s lack of promise.

And here we are again, up to our necks in it… except all we have to throw at the problem are Scouting for Girls and a million poor Kate Bush knock-offs.

So if you are tired of sitting in the pub wondering what it all means, it’s time to start making it happen.  Stop chasing the dreams they sell you and make your own, let them come to you, just as McLaren did.  In his own words:

I was taught that to create anything you had to believe in failure, simply because you had to be prepared to go through an idea without any fear. Failure, you learned, as I did in art school, to be a wonderful thing. It allowed you to get up in the morning and take the pillow off your head

He’s right of course.  Make some noise, piss people off, do it your own way.  Don’t follow anyone else’s idea of a well-defined career path.  Your life’s worth much more than eat, shit, work, consume, sleep.  Make it count.

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Politics will make you mad

you don't have to be... but it helps

you don't have to be... but it helps

A couple of different commentators in the same paper today (read it while you can – it is still free!) musing on the possibility of politics not being for the sane.  Over here, there is Rachel Sylvester pondering if politicians are born mad or driven that way by the need to pander to the demands of the electorate and over here, David Aaronovitch considering if Obama’s opponents are off with the pixies, reduced to heckling at open forum meetings and concocting ever-more bizarre conspiracy theories:

Why did — and does — a section of the American Right insist that its opponents are not just wrong, but actually illegitimate; not just mistaken, but anti-American?

Recent events could lead to the drawing of an inevitable conclusion that every person involved in politics anywhere in the world is up to no good, things have ever been thus and that nothing can ever change.  Yet, that’s not the attitude that got ordinary people the vote in the first place and isn’t the thinking that sees the people of Iran risking all for a greater stake in their country’s future.  Instead the question needs to be: what next?

Now that my own idea of heads on pikes on London Bridge and armed uprisings seems to have been dismissed out of hand (you lightweights!), it is both interesting and heartening to see some proper proposals coming forward.  I am sure that to most sensible people, the thought of constitutional reform fills them with a kind of dread and horror, but I hope it is clear that if we don’t want to continue being lied to, killed and ripped off, there is little else for it.

As I concur with the thought that wanting to achieve higher office should automatically disqualify you from it, I was interested to read proposals to use lots to select representatives in the House of Lords from two writers, Anthony Barnett and Peter Carty in their book ‘The Athenian Option’.  Mr Barnett considers the expenses scandal and its implications in this article on Open Democracy:

You could smell their fear of losing their claim to leadership as the populace howled with derision. Yet they also played for time: we are on your side they said, like all good therapists. Now go back to your “real lives”…

The most difficult problem, the one that demands organisation and invention, is how to bring people together so that each can see that they are not alone, their anger is healthy and justified and not in need of therapy.

It is clear that we are all going to have to get off our collective arses if we are not to find ourselves in the same situation in a year’s time, after a general election in which we have merely swapped one bunch of misfits for another.  Unfortunately, no easy answer presents itself, we are going to have to take control.

Real Change is one group attempting to explore ways in which reform could happen.  They don’t want to set out some conclusions and have you say yes or no to them, they would prefer you to tell them what you think.  So what do you think?  Do any of us know?  Is it even possible to have that kind of conversation when the political weathervane points ever more firmly towards the ridiculous?

In my cynical moments I think I know the answer, but I want to be proved wrong.  I want politics to be for all of us, not just the ones who didn’t inhale, the ones who never had a real job and the ones who are in it to live up to their fathers.  A final word, as ever, goes to Joe Strummer:

You gotta be able to go out there and do it for yourself.
No one’s gonna give it to you.

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Stop being a sap!

spray-on leggings

spray-on leggings

Yes, you read that right.

Release your inner anarchist in a Sid Vicious meets Agyness Deyn ensemble

That sound you can hear is either Sid spinning in his grave or me banging my head against a wall, I’m not sure which will be louder from where you are.  I can’t help thinking that it would be great if young people today managed to have a scene or a sound of their own that wasn’t immediately co-opted in order to sell them and old bastards who should know better spray-on leggings.  Remember: no punk’s wardrobe is complete without them!!!

Everything has become so safe, such a carbon copy of what goes before and any glimmer of musical innovation is soon picked over, labelled and packaged for easy purchase by mainstream wankers who know nothing and can’t be arsed to look up the ideas behind the sneer.  Safety pin earrings – can it get any weirder?

And maybe Sid himself would laugh, at his name being invoked to sell you some shit clobber, as Malcolm McLaren once noted,

if Rotten is the voice of punk, then Vicious is the attitude

and McLaren always knew that nothing quite sells like attitude.  Why bother to create your own point of view or opinion when you can just pull on the trousers you bought that day and take a shortcut to credibility?   We are empty people, devoid of new ideas and new ways of thinking, doomed to keep going round and round and round on the same wheel because that is the way it has always been.

So if you want to take something from punk, instead of the aesthetic, take the true attitude: the Do It Yourself approach to getting published, getting your music released or whatever it is that defines your success.  Just like this man says:

I will always believe in punk-rock, because it’s about creating something for yourself.  Part of it was: ‘Stop being a sap! Lift your head up and see what is really going on in the political, social and religious situations, and try and see through all the smoke screens’.

Joe Strummer, July 2002

”I will always believe in punk-rock, because it’s about creating something for yourself.
Part of it was: ‘Stop being a sap! Lift your head up and see what is really going on in the political,
social and religious situations, and try and see through all the smoke screens.”
(July 2002)

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Everywhere you look

Everywhere you look, on all fronts, the cunts appear to be winning.  We, the right thinking people of this land, are being out manoeuvred and out gunned at every turn.

It used to be the case that you could rely on a core of people in the world to instinctively know the right side of an argument, who you could use as a litmus test to demonstrate that all was well.  I think here of Hunter S. Thompson and George Orwell, there are other examples, about whom it could easily be said: ‘if he/she agrees/disagrees with it, it must be correct’ as you went about your daily business.  Now all you can rely on is that everybody with a voice today uses it to come out with statements that no one in their right mind could hold to be correct.  The well publicised ‘death of ideology’ at the end of the Cold War seems to have mutated into a less well publicised murder of dissent.  To the extent that you have to ask…

“Where are the punks?”

Punk is the same age as me, but only one of us survived to celebrate our 30th.  The aesthetic got co opted; the ethos lost in a cloud of hepatitis-infected spit, safety pins and Sex Pistols reunions.  The hip young gunslingers now move closer to their first hip replacements, jostling the Zimmers for position in the establishment they once deluded themselves could be eviscerated with nothing more than razor sharp wit and a razor trimmed haircut.  The past is eating itself, as drama school rejects compete to replace the easy listening singers that the Beatles kicked out of the charts; The Kinks inspired Blur are replaced by the Blur inspired Kaiser Chiefs, in an ever decreasing circle of hell populated by careerist knock off merchants and rampant self-publicists.  Mika, Lily Allen and Kate Nash are not only allowed to live but to describe themselves as ‘musicians’ and be hailed as some kind of dynamic new voice in rock because their publicists set up MySpace pages.

Where is the anger?  Where is the outrage?
Why should you care?

Get another round of tequilas in.  Fight for your right to party, duuuuuuude.  The old battles have been fought and lost, you’re free to get on with your true vocation: drinking, shopping and fucking, all to a soundtrack of bland ooooohs and aaaaahs, hits of Soma provided by our sponsor for when the screaming in your brain becomes too loud….

Because it is not cool to care.  The last youth movement with a touch of the small ‘p’ politics about it was the loose gathering of nut jars that came together to try to fight the Criminal Justice Bill.  Once that motley crew of Loadsamoney style entrepreneurs, Do-It-Yourself-ers and Spiral Tribesmen had been overcome by surveillance, brutality and trumped up charges, it was understandable that few others would try to stick their heads above the parapet.  So we left the fields that should have been ours to party and protest in whenever we fancied and headed back to legality.  The baggy trousered philanthropists allowed themselves to be meekly herded into club nights with door policies more exclusive than Garden Parties at Buck House, where the big name, millionaire DJs turned the booths into altars for their own ego worship.  Music events became ‘brand dissemination opportunities’, sponsored by beer makers, a fantastic entrée to the youth market for the breweries who were starting to worry that their wares were going to appear like yesterday’s news next to the bright shiny ecstasy pills that the kids seemed so keen on.

They need not have worried.  For this is now a generation drunk on hedonism itself, not caring if the poison that it imbibes to get to that location has been bought in a wrap or over a bar.  Just get trashed, wasted, battered, fucked up.  This is the only goal worth pursuing.  The age old need to prove how much liquor you could hold has been surpassed by the urge to globally publicise pictures of you laying in the gutter in a pool of vomit.  Your politics is something you show with a coloured wristband, not something you FEEL.  Feelings themselves are messy things that can be treated with a kind of emotional Domestos, that kills all original thought dead.

God, how 70s, didn’t we leave all that embarrassing posturing behind with the three day week and footballer’s perms?  Just keep dancing, snorting, screwing – poking and preening at each other like a heaving mass of baby mice in a testing laboratory’s cage.  No need for any of that scary commitment stuff – why commit to an opinion when another one will come along in a minute?  How shameful to take a position when opinions are reduced to the status of a trend, something that can quickly become out of date.  Could you really be seen dead in last season’s trousers…?

Orwell believed with The Lion and the Unicorn that if he could speak over the heads of the self appointed intelligentsia, the ordinary men and women of Britain would hear his call to arms and right would prevail.  Joe Strummer tried the same thing: ‘London Calling… to the far away towns… war is declared and battle come down…’  And I would do the same, attempt to reach some mythical, silent majority if I had any faith in their existence.  But how can I have when I know, deep down, that they have been killed off by a real majority who voted for Hitler, loved Thatcher and who encourage their daughters to read Jordan’s ‘auto’ biographies because fucking a footballer is the best career path open to them?  The only thing that truly moves England’s dreamers is the relative upward or downward movement of the value of the pile of bricks that they rot their lives away in, drowning the regret in a vat of cheap wine, abdicating responsibility for righting the ills they created by delegating all control to a focus group version of benign fascism that rules us.

First published March 2008 in issue one of whaaat?

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