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Once a Punk, Always a Punk. Was: Which is the easiest style to learn?
12/11/2000 11:31 PM
Howard Owens (3129) wrote:
In a recent Jacob Dylan article I read, Dylan talked about how difficult he found it to write compelling, interesting three chord songs. It's much easier, he said, to write songs using a variety of non-major chords.
Three chords offer a really limited pallatte. It doesn't surpise me that a writer like Dylan finds it difficult to express himself in a way that is fresh and interesting in that format.
Anybody can smash together three chords, but it takes a much more creative mind to write something like "Anarchy in the U.K." (the Sex Pistols) or "White Riot" (the Clash) than it does to write some of the dronning, rapid fire noise many so called punk bands create today (or many LA punk bands created in the early '80s).
The Ramones are another band that really demonstrated how invigorating such simple formula could be, but even for them, the well eventually ran dry.
Another factor in writing credible punk songs is to have something to write about. One of the problems many white, middle class American guys run into is that outside of the typical teen angst born more of being spoiled, they have nothing, really, to complain about. And their life observations are of a rather limited spectrum. The New York and London teens of the mid to late '70s were really dissaffected from society and given the econmic reality of the time had no reason to hope for much of a working life. Most white middle class teens in the U.S. live far too comfortably and have too many advantages to really have much to whine about. It took an incredibly dysfunctional childhood and truly wacked out parenting -- not economic hardship -- to create America's most inspired punk, meaning, of course, Kurt Cobain.
That's not to say teens today shouldn't form and play in punk bands, if that's what turns them on. But I'm not sure most teens today really know what punk is. They think it's just about making noise and acting angry. They don't understand or appreciate the whole punk ethic.
As for old punks ... Sure, if you're a punk, once you start becoming more proficient guitar player, your art starts maturing in subtle and distinct ways. But once a punk, always a punk. I can't tell you about how many retro swing bands, rockabilly bands, alt. country bands, roots blues bands, etc. I've read about that have members who profess to have first played in a punk band. It's a common theme. Once a punk, you never loose that DIY attitude, and I honestly believe that's really a better place to be as a musician.