Monday, June 13, 2011

johnny thunders died for your sins!

an important element in punk's community-building abilities was its existence as a secret in plain sight. it was so unusual to experience it many places the few moments one did make it an extraspecial moment that links one with unseen others for whom it's equally occasional.

for me, a broadway-loving fat kid growing up in the woods 2 hours north of nyc where the local radio station's idea of cutting edge was playing early era disco, saturday night live was a revelation, and getting my 1st taste of devo was a taste of acid delivered by communion wafer. I had never heard devo nor heard of them. it was like digging a hole in the backyard and finding an electrical cable you'd never known was down there. coming across them in late-night 78, in their shit-yellow jumpsuits and jerky motions and visors and mark mothersbaugh's nasal whine against a washedout background set, was like accidently finding a broadcast from some underground bunker where the last remnants of culture were desperately airing a plea that there were others out there somewhere. monday morning high school around the cafeteria table was full of "did you see that?"s and "what was that?"s. the following thursday, our usual family ride into town for dinner at burger king and shopping because the stores stayed open late, I scoured barkers and jamesway in vain, and had to wait until a later-in-the-month trip to colonie center mall near albany to locate the album nestled in the bin among def leppard and doobie brothers platters.

the fact I can so easily conjure up the devo clip that made me stare drooling at the tv so long ago on youtube and can even program a punk pandora station if I want doesn't mean that sensation is in the past. I don't know how many students I've turned onto 3rd wave ska and gutbucket and moshpit skittle by introducting them to it in my classes, acting like a walking 70s snl in glasses and untucked shirt and barefeet. just like then, it doesn't matter it's been there for a while, being made suddenly aware of its existence sears the experience on the cortex and makes one part of a small, select, amazed elite. it's a selfselection into a community with no other boundaries than the space between one's ears and the breadth of one's hands but still a deep connection via some dharma transmission between otherwise tentative allies. it isn't that these things didn't exist before one heard them it's that they existed all along and a curtain is drawn slightly aside just enough to remind one that there are other equally mesmerizing places back there to be explored.

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