Saturday, June 1, 2019

Raised by the Racket




Thanks to my parents, the soundtrack of early childhood resounded with The Beatles, Janice Joplin, Errol Garner, and Bach. After that, I was on my own.

For years I turned the dial, continually underwhelmed by what vibrated through the speakers. Billy Joel was lame, early rap clunky, and new wave had as much soul as the supermarket aisles over which it now plays. 

Then a girl in tenth-grade social studies let me borrow a Memorex mixtape starting with The Dead Milkmen’s “Bitchin’ Camaro.” I replayed that snotty, sarcastic lo-fidelity raving until my Sony Walkman chewed it up, and then spent an hour performing surgery on the tangled mess of magnetic ribbon so as to salvage the cassette as well as my chances with this chick.

But the Milkmen are to punk what Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi are to the blues, so it was quickly on to the legitimate intensity of The Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, Circle Jerks, Minor Threat, and early D.R.I. That shit? Made me wanna kick down doors, burst through walls, and whirlwind-destroy every room therein!

In a good way.

Punk was uniquely cathartic and motivated fans to surge toward any goal set to its soundtrack: causes fought for; democracy exercised; broken hearts welded; workouts conquered. Most importantly, the scene connected scatters of colorfully awkward outcasts too creative and brave to surrender, but nonetheless worn down by Top 40 expectations. Minorities in our far-apart high schools, suddenly five-hundred-strong in a charged concert hall.

So, what happened?

Like the hippies it replaced and the hip-hop that’s replaced it, punk’s just another iteration in the grand timeline of counterculture. A stop along the evolution of revolution… eventually a mohawked anachronism. 

In the meantime, for those old enough to remember, the fire that music ignited continues to light the path of our current endeavors, fueling productive rebelliousness and keeping us spiritually honest until we slam dance into the great beyond.

I hope they blast “Rock for Light” at my funeral and catapult my studded coffin into the grave at the center of the ensuing mosh pit. My last stagedive.

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