Mick Jones is my hero.
Not in a glamorous way; not in the sense he might have liked when he was in his twenties, rock-star sensibilities and slicked-back hair. Not because he’s one of the world’s greatest guitarists, which he is, or one of my favourite singers, which he is. I love Mick Jones because for seven years, he worked with Joe Strummer, put music to Joe’s words, made something great with him, and he still loves and honours that to this day. I love Mick Jones because he stood by Joe onstage and off, even when Joe was constantly surrounded by admirers and Mick was off in the corner with one awkward kid who wanted to ask him questions about music. I love Mick Jones because he never minded being that person; he never minded being the rhythm to Joe’s lead. I love Mick Jones because regardless of anything that happens, anything in his life, he’s kind and sincere and in love with the world and he’s just a source of so much happiness.
Mick Jones is my hero. I’ve said before that if I could be like Joe Strummer, I’d be proud, but I think I might be even prouder to be like Mick.
Mick Jones is my hero.
Here’s a mixtape.
This is what I look like.
The Manchester Library Theatre are doing a play over the next month called Manchester Sound: The Massacre. It’s about the Peterloo Massacre and the acid house scene and it’s all tangled up in music and madness and if you are local, you should consider giving it a try; it looks like it’s going to be a great production!
Anyway, long story short, they were looking for music recommendations, late 1980s Manchester classics, from various sources and somehow I ended up compiling a playlist for them. You know. As so often seems to happen.
And, well. Here it is.
Anonymous asked: Just to ask, are you able to explain the difference between the punk wave and the post-punk wave?
“Punk enabled you to say, ‘fuck you,’ but somehow it couldn’t go any further. It was just a single, venomous, one-syllable, two-syllable phrase of anger, which was necessary… But sooner or later, someone was going to want to say more than ‘fuck you.’ Someone was going to want to say, ‘I’m fucked.’”
— Tony Wilson
Though I’m afraid I can’t put it as neatly or as succinctly as Tony Wilson, I can take a shot at explaining those terms for you! Caveat lector, though, it’s a nebulous division at best and neither genre has a sharply-defined edge.
Punk is basically a subculture that arose from the musical influence of rock (along with other things, mod and ska and early industrial sounds) and the cultural backlash of a generation that had had more than enough of oppression and disadvantage and societal stratification. A few angry people came along, found the right sort of guidance in the forms of people like Malcolm McLaren and Bernie Rhodes, and began making their mark. They couldn’t necessarily actually play (please see: everyone’s bassists), but the point was that they wanted to say something. That’s where you got people like Joe Strummer, who picked up a guitar because he wanted to be a musician, and two years later he was the frontman for The Clash. That’s where you got people like Johnny Rotten, who, let’s face it, was many things, but not exactly melodic. Paul Simonon, who wanted to be punk, but who didn’t necessarily want to be a punk rocker (and yet). Sid Vicious, who wanted nothing more than to be a punk rocker, but whose method of learning bass was, shall we say, unorthodox at best. Punk rock broke down the barriers between the musical elite and the world at large; it made music, it made being a musician, belong to everyone. It made everything belong to everyone. The point of all of this is that punk was more about the message than about the music*, and the message of “we’re not going to take it,” “we can see what’s wrong with the world,” “it isn’t our fault, but we know it’s yours,” “we’re going to tear down what you built and put it up again our way,” that’s punk.
* Undeniably, there was a musical style to punk as well, of course – hard and fast, high volumes and tempos, bare-bones bands and basic instrumentals, shouted vocals and short songs with rudimentary musical forms, but that wasn’t what was most important, and later progressions of punk rock often did away with that style.
Post-punk, on the other hand, was what happened when punk rock started to influence the world around it and a slightly different type of person, someone with a different background and a different approach to life, decided, “hey, we can do that, too.” Post-punk was what happened when the world got the message that punk rock was sending, that all of this belonged to everyone and it was everyone’s job to seize it and do something with it, tear it down, build it up, change it – even punk itself. Post-punk was what happened when punk rock diverged so far from its origins that it was no longer the same genre; when the sound was different, harsh and atonal, or lighter and gentler, or hollow and spacious, but no longer typical of the greater ‘punk’ movement. Post-punk was complex, was introspective, was more about people than politics. It was experimental, synthesizers and machines and new playing techniques and new production techniques. It was avant-garde, borrowing liberally from other musical genres (not in the same way as punk rock; post-punk adopted elements of everything from gothic and German rock to funk and disco, electronic and dub). It was made by people who had no idea what they were doing, only what they wanted to do (and from there, you had the genesis of bands like Joy Division, who wanted to be punk and never made it, or A Certain Ratio, who wanted to be funk and almost sort of pulled it off). Post-punk was what happened when people saw punk rockers baring their souls about the world around them and turned that gaze inward; tore down the walls and bared their own souls about the worlds inside them as well as the outside.
… my apologies for the slightly romanticized rambling about punk and post-punk. If you wanted me to talk more about musical stylings, please do ask, though that’s practically impossible to define with regard to post-punk. Otherwise, I hope that’s at least the beginning of an explanation, but if not please feel free to make me clarify!
gilesdraws asked: Smother me with britpop please.
I hope when you said “smother,” you meant it, because I appear to have made you a triple album, which you can download here (tracklist here). Seventy-two tracks. I daren’t even check the total playing time, lest it turn out to be something like nineteen actual discs.
(Random fact: did you know that a standard 12” LP plays for exactly twenty-two minutes on each side? CDs fit eighty minutes, which is probably a good thing given the way I put together mixtapes, but on the other hand, there’s something beautiful about the succinct elegance of having exactly forty-four minutes and no longer to construct your message. I think I’m going to try putting together forty-four-minute mixtapes sometimes.)
Anyway, back to Britpop. I went with seventy-two tracks (all different artists) here because there is just so much of it and I am not very good at prioritizing. Many of them you’ll have heard before; some of them I very much hope you won’t have. I hope you like it.
abstractpanther asked: I really, really like your posts about the links between the Situationist movement and punk and post-punk. I've been thinking a lot about this stuff (is there a word for the whole Situationist-Spanish Civil War-punk-post-punk thing?) and I was wondering, how did you learn about all these things and tie it all together? Can you recommend any important music or books? This is really fascinating, exciting stuff, but I don't know where to start with it all!
Oh, wow, thank you so much! I didn’t know anyone but me even cared about those posts, so it’s fantastic to know that someone else out there is interested.
Really, there isn’t a lot of text on this sort of thing. I’ve got to be honest, I’ve picked up most of what I know through extensive random Googling, picking through books and articles and interviews and whatever obscure paperwork is publicly available, scattered remnants of things I learnt in philosophy classes, and spending far too much time thinking about this sort of nonsense.
If you Google for it, you’ll find plenty of information, but it tends to be the same information over and over, and some of it is questionable or mis-interpreted. It’s still a good way to start, though, and although I ought to be roundly told off for this from an academic perspective, I’d honestly recommend reading the related Wikipedia articles as a good jumping-off point.
If you want to read more about the Situationist movement, that’s easy; the Internet has all sorts of great resources for it. And if, once you’ve had a look around, you want something more in-depth, I recommend The Society of the Spectacle, which is the book wherein Guy Debord sets out the basic tenets of his idea of what it means to be Situationist (though he’s admittedly one of the stricter Situationists). It’s not too difficult a read because it’s divided into loads of really short sections, and it is the original text. Also good is the “Formulary for a New Urbanism,” by Ivan Chtcheglov, which is where Tony Wilson’s the hacienda must be built quote comes from. (And here is an archive of short Situationist texts, in case you want to just click around and read things.)
There is a really cool book by Stewart Home called Cranked Up Really High: genre theory and punk rock, which is available for free online here (you can buy a hard copy, too, but it’s out of print). Since writing it, Stewart Home has rather turned his back on punk rock and the whole thing makes him quite snarky now, but the book is good; I’ve used it many times.
Also good to look into: some of Malcolm McLaren’s philosophy (he was the original punk rock Situationist, manager of the Sex Pistols and general artist of the moment), some of Joe Strummer’s and Bernie Rhodes’ philosophies (particularly later in life), everything Tony Wilson ever had to say about the Situationist movement (although he mis-interpreted some things, he embodied the spirit of it better than anyone), and, actually, Vini Reilly of The Durutti Column, who’s fascinated by it and knows a hell of a lot.
There’s a book out there called Let Fury Have the Hour: Joe Strummer, Punk, and the Movement That Shook the World, and it’s got some really great essays in it (though beware; there are a number of factual inaccuracies). Most of the essays aren’t specifically Situationist, but if you sort of know your way around the general ideas, you can pick it out in a lot of the content. And at any rate, it’s just a really cool read. There’s also a biography of Tony Wilson called You’re Entitled To an Opinion… that’s pretty decent, though I haven’t managed to get a copy of my own yet, so I’ve only read it about halfway through. England’s Dreaming and The England’s Dreaming Tapes have some great stuff about Malcolm McLaren (classically Situationist, probably moreso than anyone else on the punk, as opposed to post-punk, scene) and the early punk movement; Jon Savage is really sharp and knows his stuff backwards and forwards. I love books a lot and there are some great ones about this stuff, so feel free to ask for more recommendations!
Unfortunately, the bulk of what I know about Situationist ideals in relation to the post-punk era is accumulated from years of random articles and interviews here and there; anything by or about Tony Wilson will have something to be gleaned. He throws little bits in most of the time (there’s a bit about praxis in the New Order “Play at Home” video and a bunch of little things in the 24 Hour Party People: What the Sleeve Notes Never Tell You book, the one Tony Wilson annotated, but it’s not in large, easily-referenced chunks anywhere), and a lot of this is just piecing together little things and having bits of information in your head (which happens, the more you read). I just happen to have a truly tragic amount of this information kicking about.
Thanks so much for asking about this; it’s so cool that you’re interested! Also, you (or anyone else who’d like) can always message me about it; I’m always game to talk about this stuff. It isn’t often I get the chance!