I am an antichrist
I am an anarchist
The most memorial opening lines of a rock song ever are arguably those of the classic Sex Pistols’ Anarchy In The UK, the group's debut recording on 26 November 1976 (hell, was it really that long ago?!!)
I was too young to recall its release but one of my earliest childhood memories was attending a London street party to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of “Her Majesty”.
My cousin busted his teeth as I remember (falling off a skateboard), but generally it was all good fun and there were lots of bright balloons and jelly.
But trouble was brewing.
I was too young to know what but there was something in the air that didn’t smell quite right. And it wasn’t just the fumes of the glue that youngsters were sniffing at the time.
Anyway, I got home and heard it.
The Pistol’s rip-roaring “God Save the Queen”.
Basically, the UK was screwed. If it had been a car you would have had it scrapped. Hell, in 1977 Old Blighty was in worse shape than Les Dawson after a night of binge eating. In fact so bad was the UK’s political malaise that it makes Indonesia’s current political shenanigans look pale by comparison (during the 1978–1979 winter of discontent the dead weren’t even being buried in Liverpool and plans were being made to dump the bodies into the sea if necessary!).
Looking back at that era raises one of the biggest questions in rock music: did punk music originate from the UK or the US? Well, the US had the Ramones. But we had the Pistols and The Clash. Sorry, but that’s no contest in my book: the UK was where the punk spirit was truly born.
One kid at my school lived next door to Jimmy Pursey – lead singer of the legendary Sham 69 (Hurry up Harry, Borstal Breakout, Hersham Boys). Needless to say, he was the most popular kid in school and we came up with all sorts of ridiculous excuses to visit his house just for the chance to get a glimpse of Jimmy (or more likely hear him playing loud music through the walls of the house!) There were tons of other great British punk bands of course, my favorites including: The Stranglers, The Vibrators, The Buzzcocks, Ian Dury (God Bless him) and the Blockheads, The UK Subs, Peter and the Test Tube Babies, Stiff Little Fingers etc etc.
The musical nitroglycerin of punk helped it to attract many followers of course, but most importantly punk was a two-fingered salute to the British establishment – a war cry of the young against the UK’s class-based society – as perpetuated by both the left and right in British politics.
But even at its peak noone expected the punk phenomenon to last long. And sure enough it didn’t - it quickly gave way to the post-punk and new wave musical genres.
But punk ain’t dead and it lives on in the most unlikely of places: Indonesia!
I witnessed this myself a few months ago when I was in Bandung and one Sunday morning found myself among loads of young punks - a more incongruous sight you will not see – not far from the Siliwangi football stadium. The punks told me they were going to a live gig. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera on me at the time so I wasn’t able to get any shots.
In Jakarta, punks aren’t around in great numbers but you do occasionally come across them – like this girl I saw a few weeks back:
“If we play in front of the wrong audience ... maybe we could be killed or we could be in trouble,” says Wimo Ambala a member of the provocatively named Indonesian punk band Punkasila.
And he’s not kidding either.
Sid Vicious would be proud: Indonesian punks in Batik military uniforms (WTF!) and armed with guitars resembling AK 47 and M16 machine guns! Go for it lads!!!