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How punk became a four-letter word

Malcolm McLaren, young manager of the Sex Pistols rock group, munched at a sausage sandwich in a North London caf‚, cleared his throat, and delivered: "Punk rock players are nearly all ex-Borstal* or unemployed lads. They are England's next generation and we will learn to be proud of them."

At a neighbouring table a little earlier, four punk rock musicians had drunk tea out of glass cups. Their hair was close-crapped, sometimes almost shaved, sometimes dyed a vivid orange. Safety-pins, old bicycle chains, razor blades served as jewellery. Clothes were torn or odd. Teeth seemed a little green.

Punk rock has arrived so quickly that there's not even broad agreement about what to call it. "High energy rock," say the Sex Pistols. "New wave rock," say the Damned. "Nasty kid rock," says a critic. But all are agreed that punk rock is played almost exclusively by working-class kids, that it has come from nothing in the last 12 months, and is doing its job by inflaming the good, the decent and the hard-working. They also agree that punk rock musicians have a lot in common: outside music they'd be dead-end kids.

Malcolm McLaren, an ex-art student, said: "They are part of this generation, which has come out of school with no future, no jobs, no chance to buy decent clothes because they have no money, and only a lot of unemployment ahead of them."

The punk rock musicians produced their pedigree. Johnny Rotten of the Pistols: "Unemployed and bored to death." David Vanium of the Damned: "I had a job as a gravedigger for a year." Two other damned musicians met while employed as lavatory attendants at Croydon.

In contrast to the public rage, experienced observers of rock music are by no means willing to write off punk rock. Laurie Taylor, Professor of Sociology, said: "Rock music always starts off with something outrageous. But in a very short time it becomes refined and acceptable. Memories of past outbursts about rock groups are quoted by protectors of punk rock. They remind us of the days when television cameras would not show us Elvis Presley's lower limbs when he sang, the days when the Rolling Stones were considered dangerous and degenerate." As one man said: "In 10 years or so, we'll be hearing the Sex Pistols on 'These you have loved'."**

 

 

 

*coming from an institute for young criminals
**programme of popular songs of the past

 

 

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