Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Punk - year zero

I never liked punk.  The bad language, the attitude, the clothes and most of all the uncouth music.  No, it wasn't to my taste.

As time has gone by, however, I have listened to The Clash and The Stranglers and come to appreciate that not all the songs were bellowed, tuneless and ultimately worthless.  Some had qualities that I didn't hear at the time.  And I also realised one thing.  Punk year zero wasn't 1976.  It was 1963.

You see, two bands of 1963 define our ideas of the Sixties and the music that was made and they tend to blind us to the enormous upheaval that happened, not only in music but also in culture.  A mix of black music, white music, music hall and variety all came together at once to create something revolutionary.  I was sort of there but wasn't, if you see what I mean.  So what do I really know.

When The Beatles arrived at Abbey Road Studios on the morning of 11 February 1963, well rehearsed and keen, they brought with them an urge to get the job done.  They knew their long term career depended on getting an album out and this was their day.  In the course of ten hours or so, they turned out ten tracks that would make up most of their debut album, and an outtake that is lost forever (and was remade for their next album).  And in the course of those ten tracks there was little semblance of sweetness and light for the most part.  No, this was an assault on the ears.  And it began with the count in for track one, "I Saw Her Standing There".

I Saw Her Standing There Take 1

If you aren't convinced by this piece of punk rock, then try this version performed live in Sweden a few months after the studio version.

Or take the song "Chains", a minor part of the album a bit of filler to some.  Listen out for the dodgy equipment in the middle, the uncorrected crackle of a bad connnection.
The clincher of course is "Twist And Shout".  The studio version is enough but here they are again in Sweden shouting this one as if they had safety pins in their noses.  Enough said.

And there's plenty more examples.  My thesis is that The Beatles were punk rockers 16 years ahead of punk rock itself.

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