A brief exploration into British Punk philosophy and how the invention of grass-roots DIY magazines played a vital role in kickstarting the initial punk movement of the 70's and the feminist punk revival during the 90's.
Punk represented a breakdown and assimilation of almost every previous youth culture in the Western world since World War II, stuck together with scraps of thread. The initial scene was supposedly very diverse, a melting pot of working class, LGBT and ethnic groups. To some degree all united in their political disaffection and mobilised by their shared anger at the social suppression of conservative state policies during the seventies.
Politically, it came from themes of individualism, rebellion and anti-authoritarianism and was triggered by the austerity of conservative policy under both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Musically, the golden era of the sixties had begun to perish and corporate greed was embedding itself within the industry at all levels. This stagnation provoked punk musicians to respond with rebellious aggression.
CBGB's bar in New York City was the a site for some of the most groundbreaking American Punk with The Ramones, Patti Smith, The Stooges, Blondie and Talking Heads all playing it during the early seventies.
Fashion was a foundation stone of punk culture, whether as a rejection of or complete apathy toward mainstream styles. Hairstyles, piercings, tattoos and clothes were aspects of punk identity that could be publicly displayed in the gallery of the everyday. For many punks it was a badge of honour and what marked them outside the status quo. Perhaps the most famous punk designer alive today is Vivienne Westwood, who along with Malcolm Mclaren, pioneered many of the early iconic punk designs and aesthetic.
An early example of the punk zine is Sniffin Glue, which owes its title to Ramones track ‘Now I wanna Sniff Some Glue’ and was set-up by Mark Perry in '76. The Zine was well known for pioneering the DIY ethos of the punk ethic. The idea was to chronicle punk music from the insider perspective, armed with a children’s typewriter, felt tip pens and limited access to a photocopier at his girlfriends work. Perry set about swearing and writing in rudimentary working class slang, speaking to punks in their own language and having all the more effect because of it, reflecting the deep class split that was glossed over in the mainstream media.
Up yours, and Slash are a few of many examples of other zines that encapsulated also this grungy, DIY aesthetic...
A audiovisual flashback to some of the sentiments that were behind these types of DIY magazines is captured in the BBC Open Door documentary on the punk zine Guttersnipe. It offers a personal look at the young people the zine reached and what it meant to be a young punk rocker in the industrial heartland of northern England during the 70's and 80's.
An aggravated masculinity that had hovered on the fringes of the punk scene since its birth, began to rear its head by the late eighties - the scene becoming often marked by a pronounced sexism. The music was more aggressively brutal, less political and altogether less punk as a result.
Female punks from all walks of life were quick to dismantle this masculine appropriation of the punk scene through a number of collective endeavours orchestrated by female musicians, artists and writers - often all three at once.
Two female punk bands, Bratmobile and Bikini Kill, played a key role in coming together with zine makers, activists, artists, musicians, and members of the punk community to create the Riot Grrrl zine. By 92’ Riot Grrrl had multiple rapidly growing chapters across the US and held a female only convention to discuss issues of sexual identity, self-preservation, racism awareness, surviving sexual abuse and the place of the feminine within punk.
Shocking Pink was another prominent voice within the movement. These punk zines and their principles are still relevant to anyone disaffected by mainstream culture and inspired enough to reimagine it.
We should not forget punk, the Riot Grrrl movement or the DIY spirit of rebellion and action that they have helped inspire within various movements across the world since. Particularly at a time when we must all be challenging institutional oppression and actively rewriting social norms.
All references and sources of these zines can be found at this source.
- PSYCHIC GARDEN