My first introduction to a defined punk band was in grade five, when my friend David gave me a cassette of Rancid’s Out Come the Wolves for my birthday. Over the next 10 years, I was exposed to every aspect of punk rock that I could imagine.
My first and longest lasting taste of punk belonged to Epitaph Records, a Californian company that produced a plethora of southern American skate punk bands. A combination of a lack of money, a thirst for aggressive music, and the fact that I lived three hours away from any extensive music scene led me to purchase dozens of compilation punk CD’s.
Through this, I discovered hundreds of bands producing sounds that I would later learn were classified under the sub–genres of New York hardcore, DC straight–edge, rockabilly,
street punk, crack rock steady beat, cider punk, hardcore punk, political punk, two tone ska, third wave ska, d–beat punk, crust punk, skacore, ska/punk, and, of course, my skate punk.
By looking at the CD booklets of musicians, myself and other peers who enjoyed similar music concluded that punk was not only a fast aggressive type of music, but also a clothing style.
By ninth grade I had another understanding of what punk rock was about. I studied older students who wore the same skater clothing and listened to the same hardcore music and noticed a similar attitude among them all. It seemed that a majority of the people classified as punks in my school were basically all bullies — however, I never had personal problems with them, because my social group was linked to theirs through weekend interests and by sibling birthright. These “punks” made punk further representative to me as having a lack of interest in school, a tendency to ostracize students, an obvious disrespect for faculty and staff, and a habit of drinking and drugs.
Five years later, my age group was the oldest grade in the high school. This is where I consecrated my half–decade suspicion that the punks were, in fact, not punks at all, but just basically the typical bullies you saw in high school. The bully punks that existed when I was in grade nine still existed to this day, they were just my age now, and people I had known my entire life.
The people who belonged to bands — the ones involved in interesting activities, and the ones who dressed differently — were not these people. In my last year at school I met literally about one hundred new people who were more punk than the bullies would ever be. They didn’t need to mock mentally handicapped persons to be punk. They didn’t need to skip, fail, or drop out of school to be punk. They also didn’t have to listen to one genre of music to be punk. These people were punks because they knew who they
were and who they weren’t, and understood what life was about and to what lengths they were going to take it.
Punk rock isn’t about hair and clothes, music, or being angry. Simply put: It’s a lifestyle. Punks will understand what that means — ask one. If you don’t want to do that, or can’t find a real person through the sea of trends and false self–identities, I have a cure.
I have a book that I suggest you read namely, to save time in the future when you would otherwise classify something as “punk”. I’m not going to beef up the book…well…because that would be the un–punk thing to do, right? The book is called Please Kill Me and was written by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain. The book totals 424 pages (with tons of glossy photos) and explains the phenomena of punk by way of thousands of interviews from important individuals in the music scene from 1960 until the 1980s. The passages are full of exciting rock and roll, horrible drug addictions, daily hanging out, personal confrontations, and love affairs.
Probably the coolest thing Please Kill Me taught me was that Dee Dee Ramone of the famous Ramones from New York City used to be a john and pimp himself out to rich New Yorker men. Ever wonder what the song 53rd and 3rd was about? Punk doesn’t seem so suburb-friendly now, does it?