|The light side of Vicious.|
The Clash, a contemporary of the Pistols, provided a clearer articulation of the politics of punk. Frontman Joe Strummer, who previously called himself “Woody” after the great American folk singer, snarled lyrics relating to racism, unemployment, and poverty at crowds of pogoing kids. His ideas influenced an entire generation of activists as racial politics in punk era Britain turned ugly.
In 1976, Eric Clapton, the kind of Rock and Roll superstar punk despised, said in support of a Conservative politician:
Fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded…black wogs and coons and Arabs and fucking Jamaicans... This is England, this is a white country, we don’t want any black wogs and coons living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome.Way to go, Eric. David Bowie continued this line of thought, stating in a 1976 “I think Britain could benefit from a fascist leader. After all, fascism is really nationalism.” The stupid ramblings of British rock stars was compounded by the rapid growth of the National Front, a fascistic right-wing political party which fed off of the xenophobia of 1970’s Britain, which culminated to several highly publicized assaults on immigrants by white citizens. In 1977, at the height of punk rock’s popularity, a group of trade union leaders, along with members of the Labour Party and Socialist Worker’s Party, launched the Anti-Nazi League, which sought to counter the emergent racism in British politics. In 1978, the League hosted two shows titled “Rock Against Racism,” which featured The Clash as well as other popular punk and reggae musicians of the scene.
The spring following the Pistols performance, 100,000 people crowded East London to watch the first Rock Against Racism concert. It was, according to folk punk singer Billy Bragg, “The moment when my generation took sides.” Dorian Lynskey, music critic for The Guardian newspaper in London, said the concert “defines punk politics.”
There is a nascent punk scene in California’s Mother Lode, which denotes a series of foothill counties between the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada. At 8 PM, January 3, five local punk bands will play a benefit show for the Amador Tuolumne Community Action Agency. ATCAA is a remnant of President Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” and provides programs from homeless and transitional shelters to Head Start preschools. Unemployment in the region is in double digits, and support for these programs is more important than ever. Minimum recommended donation is six dollars. You should come.
Poster art by Blind Pig singer Rachel Pitzer
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