Wednesday, 7 March 2012

A 1977 punk festival in Bath? Damned right...

Bath, as we all know, is a city of festivals. Last week, for instance, we had our fantastic LitFest kicking off and throughout the year there are many other great festival events to look forward to celebrating all aspects of culture and business.

However, I’m sure one newly announced festival this week will raise a few eyebrows.

For a three-day festival to celebrate that peculiarly English musical tradition of ‘punk rock’ has been pencilled in to take place at the Bath Racecourse at the start of June.

It is designed to be an alternative way of celebrating the Jubilee because, as every pop musical historian will know, 1977 – which was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee – was also the year that punk rock really took over the nation to provide an unforgettable contrast between the pomp and circumstance of royalty and the rough and ready excitement of a glorious musical genre which genuinely frightened the establishment.

Now, as some of you who are regular readers of this blog will know, I am an unabashed child of punk and to me the news of this new festival is like three chord manna from heaven.

I can genuinely say that just as ’50s rock ‘n’ roll defined the life and lifestyle of many people who grew up with it and the ’60s pop culture left an indelible stain on all those who lived through it, the advent of punk and its gentler sister, new wave music, changed my life forever.

I was a spotty 13-year-old in 1977 when I first heard the strains of this new musical movement through my tinny (and decidedly non-digital) radio. To say it was love at first sight (or rather first aggressive note) would be an understatement and I went on to be an ardent fan (to this day) of many of the greatest exponents of this particular musical art form – including of course Bath’s own Stranglers who I’ve managed to see the best part of, ahem, 100 times.

The thing about the whole punk era was not just that I think it produced some stunning and challenging music at a time when pop really was in a pretty bad state but it also brought with it a sea change in how music should be perceived. The punk ethos was that bands shouldn’t be aloof, distant figures but everyone should be encouraged to pick up a guitar, learn three chords and form their own band.  And that is exactly what me and my small but proud bunch of punkified-teens in my hometown of Tamworth, Staffordshire, did and music took over our life and has stayed central to it ever since.

As I look at the line up of Bath’s three days of punk prowess at the racecourse (The Buzzcocks, The Damned, The UK Subs, Rezillos, 999, The Lurkers et al)  I know it will be a wonderful if bone-creaking trip down memory lane for both fan and artist alike and should be a loud and timely reminder of a truly unique and exciting period of music which really rocked the nation.

And the fact that the city is hosting such an event is amazing. What other cities could enjoy Mozart and Jane Austen festivals alongside one featuring bands like The Anti-Nowhere League and The Vibrators?

I always said this was a fantastic and eclectic city for music but even I didn’t expect to see a celebration of all things punk right at the same time as our legendary international music festival. 

So crank up the volume – and bring it on . . .

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