So, I was never a punk, back in the day. Although I did do my fair share of pogoing when occasion warranted.
I never did the pins and needles thing. Although the black eyeliner made more than one showing with the blood-red lippy and the back-combed hair.
I never felt the need to conform to a particular style set nor adhere to only one musical form. For me, back then, it was a bit like Hallowe’en. I occasionally dressed up the exterior while the truth was somewhat different.
You know, like politics. I knew who I was inside but it didn’t stop me from celebrating variety.
Radical wasn’t in my nature. I was much more conservative (never with a capital ‘C’!) in my younger days.
I look back now and wonder at myself and what I didn’t say and do because of notions of correctness – not politically – rather, an inherent or instilled sense of the right thing to do. To be what my elders and betters expected. To follow on from where I had been led by those who wanted the best for me and lived lives that demonstrated the way to do that.
Not to say I didn’t have my own rebellions. That I didn’t have my share of questions and wonderment at the world. And voice them loudly. All kids do. I’m dealing with them with my own kids day and daily and have to remind myself that that is the nature of youth. Mini-rebellions and a few of the grander ones thrown in to keep parents on their toes and to remind them of their own path through adolescent angsts.
In fact, I like to think that my rebellions were a journey of discovery graduating to the ‘who I am’ and ‘the whats’ I have come to believe in all spheres of life. That imbibing culture in all its myriad forms and selecting/deselecting was a sign of the growth that we all go through. I like to think that I’ve always been fairly rational in my life choices even while embracing everything with a sort of manic heartfeltness.
I like to think.
Funny thing is that I think I might be in time reversal mode here.
Reason still rules in my head and feeling still rules in my heart. But, the sense of how they should be made manifest is altering in a way I did not expect.
Last night, I went to a gig in King Tut’s in Glasgow to hear The Men They Couldn’t Hang.
I adorned myself with black eyeliner (not too much!), the now perfectly normal red lippy, slipped into my black skinny jeans, topped off with a long black sweater cinched with four inches of belt and buckle and added three inches to my 5’ 6” with a pair of black ankle stiletto boots. One fitted multi-zipped donkey jacket later and a homemade hooded scarf for the rain and I was good to go. Well, it is near enough Hallowe’en! Except that’s kind of my normal now. (One person mentions mutton and lamb or mid-life crisis in the same sentence there’s a Glesca kiss in it for them!) ;)
Past and present have caught up with each other in a new unity.
Which is just as well.
The flavour and feeling of the whole performance from the get-go was one of unity and rebellion. Gathered in a large room – you could never really call it a hall – were around 300 people varying in ages from mid-twenties to older than me! (I’m 35 btw, having decided last year to reverse my age and stick with that one. I’m good with it!)
The twenty-somethings were in pogo mode and danced as one to almost every song played as if they had discovered punk for the first time and found it liberating and energising.
When I looked around me though I saw the faces of the older crew and was met by rapturous looks that they were witnessing, live, the voices and sentiment of a socially-conscious group who no longer could be called punk/folk in appearance but whose lyrics and verve in performance stay true to that legacy and called out to a renewal in political awareness and asked the question over and over again, ‘Do you see what’s done in your name?’
The history of the Britain that I have grown up in and other parts of the world I’ve never seen, during times I haven’t lived, was retold in music. News footage I can remember from my youth and right through till now was streamed all over again in words that called for reason and feeling.
The first song played, ‘Devil On The Wind’, set the mood of the occasion, a look from the long viewpoint at what passes for our humanity. Their next had me jumping as I had fervently hoped they would play, ‘The Ghosts Of Cable Street’. Oh, they played it all right! And so did all in the audience. No, not audience. Rather, part of the band. Part of their raison d-etre. Here was a recognition in music and recollection of a generation past but whose voices still carry. Their voices carried on the wind from a not so very distant time to the present where the same issues still apply, just dressed differently.
For Cole, here is as much of the set I could manage to note.…quite hard to scribble when you’re dancing! I wish you could have been there. You’d have been in your element. And we could have pogoed together, although the boots would have to have come off for that, and I might not then have seen over the few heads in front of me that separated me only feet – not years – from a band whose socio-political message needs no dressing up. Not at all like many of our politicians nor their political agendas.
Devil On The Wind
Going Back To Coventry
Donald Where’s Your Troosers
Shirt of Blue
Green Fields of France
One of the band dedicated ‘Shirt of Blue’ to insights behind the miners’ strike of 1984-1985 as depicted in a new documentary film released on 4th October and being screened in and around the UK at selected cinemas.
I remember it well because teachers were taking strike action too. I was marching with my union in George’s Square back then (I know. I was a very young teacher. Only five!) I remember seeing myself on telly later on the news and admiring my dad’s coat that I had been wearing!
When I think about it, maybe I’ve not changed all that much in the intervening years. I’ve always been involved in politics in one shape or form although I had, in recent years, taken a total scunner to it all.
All the music and voices from the past and present caught up with me last night, all the rebellions I have ever experienced, the ones I am still experiencing – ‘cos, fuck, I ain’t dead yet! – and I had a night of semi-wild abandon, because, well you know, you can’t change all that you are but you can embrace life and passion …with reason.
And music, poetry, words, actions, thoughts, shared hopes and dreams are a reason. Back to the black eyeliner and some hellraising. :)