Eeegads…okay, a request, then a post: if you tweet, go follow Duff and Loaded on Twitter, please. Duff has suddenly decided that tweeting rocks; help the man out and show them some Loaded love. Also, as an additional PSA, if you’ve not heard Loaded’s Sick–get out there and have a listen! Myspace, with tracks from the album, is linked at the bottom of the page (it works now, I promise).
Love, love, love my Loaded boys.
Maybe that should be a weekly post (because, you know, I’m so good at keeping up with my own injunctions about what I’ll write each week–how many marathon posts do I owe? Forget the sobriety posts–I’m so far behind on my initial dictum that I’d probably be writing until sometime next Juvemeber to approximate catching up to TODAY. Oh, and the punk history I should have finished 6 months ago? *Snort.*) But it would be fabulous, right? A weekly edition of “Have you Loved Loaded Lately”? Or maybe just “Loaded Love”…someone help out here. Need a decent name for the weekly blog posts I’ll inevitably forget to do.
Finished? Thank you! I’d say that Duff, Mike, Geoff, & Jeff thank you too, as it seems to be a reasonable guess, but, well, I’m not one to speak for other people.
So, the post part–we’re going to pick up on the aforementioned punk history track [link provided if you’ve no clue what I mean, or have forgotten those vast pearls of wisdom (*snort*)]. Two places I have not yet had a chance to wander though yet: gender and consumption. As you might guess from the title, we’ll look at the latter of these first–> ye olde drunk punk.
As I have mentioned before, the “drunk punk” rhyme has been around from the get go, so far as I can tell. The first time we have record of “punk” being employed in written text is in 1575, in the bawdy little poem: “Old Simon the Kinge ” (can be found in a collection called Loose and Humorous Songs, which can be found here*). The notice that precedes the collection is itself a fabulous study of culture; check this out:
…but we make no excuse for putting forth these Loose and Humorous Songs. They are part of the Manuscript which we have undertaken to print entire, and as our Prospectus says, ” to the student, these songs and the like are part of the evidence as to the character of a past age, and they should not be kept back from him.” Honi soit qui ma y pense**. They serve to show how some of the wonderful intellectual energy of Elizabeth’s and James I.’s time ran riot somewhat, and how in the noblest period of England’s literature a freedom of speech was allowed which Victorian ears would hardly tolerate. That this freedom dulled men’s wits or tarnished their minds more than our restraint does ours, we do not believe.
I love this rationale, as it reveals so much about Victorian England (when the book was published)–don’t judge the Elizabetheans*** on the standards used by Victoriana, their “wonderful intellectual energy” may have “run riot somewhat” (brilliant!!), but we do not believe that it somehow lessened their intellectual force, anymore that the restraint celebrated by our Victorian England does now. We have the same farking argument all the time now–what mode best supports art–freedom or restraint? What limits (if any) should be placed on art? It’s clear, of course, that their (editors Percy, Hale, and Furnival) perspective required defense inside their particular culture. What a fantastic glimpse.
Anyway, in the text of the poem, the poet remarks “Soe fellowes, if you be drunke,of ffrailtye itt is a sinne, as itt is to keepe a puncke,or play att in and in…” Put short, the line will go on to tell readers that, while drinking, whoring, and gaming are sinful (and will, result in “want & scabbs”), one must take risks in life–and these are worth it. The worth of wine, women, and game is set out by King Simon, he of the “ale-dropped hose**** & […] malmsey***** nose ,” when he notes that “ffor drinking will make a man quaffe,& quaffing will make a man sing, & singinge will make a man laffe, & laug[h]ing long liffe will bringe.” Indeed, laughter is the finest of all medicines, says our king, but laughter sufficently lubricated is even better. When a fellow of the puritanical stripe calls him out for his behavior, he points out that even the puritans, when caught in “human habits” will claim that “‘truly all fflesh is ffrayle.”
Thus begins a loooong association between punk and drunk. Here, of course, we have two points to ponder. First, the words rhyme (duh), which is one of the primary reasons that they are both employed here. Second, song celebrates wine, women, song, and gaming, so we are most likely dealing with the first of the definitions for “punke,” which is, of course, prostitute and, in the case of this song, most likely female prostitutes, given that the context reveals nothing to indicate homoeroticism. We see that second definition, the young male “made punk******” in 1698, in the equally delightful “The Women’s Complaint to Venus.”
In this bawdy tune, we have an apparent chorus of women decrying the men’s recent interest (blamed entirely on France, incidentally) in other men:
How happy were good English Faces Till monseiur from France Taught Pego a dance To the tune of old Sodoms Embraces But now we are quite out of fashion Your whores may be Nuns Since men turn their Guns And vent on each other their passions
I’m particularly delighted by the second stanza here, which conflates war and sex–it almost makes the complaint sound like a Lysistrata one–our men keep going off to war and not giving us or due pleasure (not quite the complaint in Lysistrata, I grant, but not far off either), particularly in the last two lines where “men turn their guns” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and “vent on each other their passions.” One could read this, if one had a sufficiently “clean” mind, as a protest on war, I guess, but the poet fairly quickly annihilates the possibilities (if vented passions weren’t enough) two stanzas later:
The Beaus whom most we rely'd on At Night makes a punk of him that's first drunk Tho' unfit for the Sport as John Dryden
What a great moment. Not only are the speakers complaining that the men “make punk” the man who is “first drunk” (wow…totally passivity here–>”makes punk” of the drunk, who, presumably, is unable to give consent. Holy hell.), but they are also complaining that the men don’t really care what the punk looks like, suggesting that even one as ill-fit as John Dryden (who was notoriously ugly) would do for the “sport”.
[An Aside: the careless use of rape imagery here is a bit astonishing and unfortunately familiar. Ever heard the “insult” that someone is “too ugly to be raped” (the weirdest attempt at insult I’ve ever run across–how to respond to this, “thank you”???)–yeah, that’s EXACTLY what the complaint is here.]
So, there’s the beginning of the association, steeped as it is in the sexual politics of the days (seems that gender and consumption may be inextricable…interesting). The rhyme between “punk” and “drunk” would never go away, of course, so that it crops up time and again is of no particular surprise. Now, let’s fast forward to the late 20th century and the rise of “punk” in it’s most recent sense, that of punk music (however you choose to define it, even if you honestly believe it was (and remains) dead in the water by 1980. Or 1982, for you Seattlites). “Punk,” we have already seen, is employed to describe music that precedes 1970, such as the Garage Punk of the 1960s, but for the purposes of this adventure, we are going to look at “punk” as it appears in the 70s and 80s (we’ll even, much to my chagrin, avoid the 90s and beyond for now).
We surmised previously (see corrections here) that “punk” was appropriated from British prison culture, where the skinheads/hooligans were “made punk” within the system; it’s a bit unclear when the conflation occurs, clearly that is not the use employed in the 1950s South U.S., where punk simply referred to an outcast and was, so far as I can tell, often conflated with the greaser type. It’s neither here nor there at this point, an interesting artifact of language, true, but the particular etymology doesn’t alter what happens when we examine the punk drunks of the 70s and 80s.
Colleague Sam pointed out recently that punk seems to operate from a triangulation of contempt, fashion, and poverty, and I tend to agree. Various punk musicians will fall at various places within that triangulation, with “old punks” veering toward contempt and poverty, and the punks who arose in the era after the media appropriation of the label (think Quincy punks) tend to veer toward fashion and contempt, as many of them hail from the suburbs and have no vested commitment to the politics of punk*******, many of which arise from poverty or, at any rate, fears of poverty.
Next, we’ll begin to delve into the question of style and culture within punk, which we’ll pick up on our next installment, lest I try your patience with yet another obscenely long post. Part II will follow early next week.
*So delighted to find this online!
**Translation: “Shame be to him who thinks evil of it.” Reminds me of a joke:
What is the word for someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual
What is the word for someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual
So, what is the word for someone who speaks one language?
***BTW, if you or anyone you love is under the impression that our forbears in the English Language were not capable of being dirty, first read Shakespeare. Then, Herrick. Finally, I leave you with these gems of the middle ages. Oh, hell, here’s an Italian one as well–>Put the Devil Back in Hell, dammit! If the last doesn’t quite resonate with you, shoot me an email for an explanation.
**** Use your imagination, kiddos. If you don’t have a sufficiently naughty imagination, you should borrow someone’s for a spell. It’ll make it much easier.
*****Malmsey = wine; therefore, malmsey nose = alcoholic rosacea
******You know, I don’t think I have ever seen the phrase “made punk” used to describe women, though it is equally fitting, as women were made to prostitute through various circumstances and were certainly “made punk” by dominant men in several cases. Huh. So, for women they simply are “punk” (which allows for intent) but men have to be made that way–the masculine is rendered in the passive voice (which eliminates intent). Boy, if that’s not discomfort screaming out of the authorial text, I don’t know what it.
*******Granted, neither did a fleet of the “old” punkers, many of whom rejected the notion that punk was simply meant to be political.