Saturday, September 9, 2017

"Punk is..."

In the August 1977 issue of New Wave, Lester Bangs, charged with writing about the roots of "punk," launched an epic treatise on the word, a careening manifesto that's ridiculous, profane, mean, true, immature, self-absorbed, in-character, mock-heroic, probably three-quarters correct and entirely authentic. "The roots of punk was the first time a kid ended up living with his parents till he was 40," Bangs writes. "The roots of punk was the first time you stole money out of your mother’s purse and didn’t know what to spend it on because you weren’t old enough to buy beer. The roots of punk was the first time your father got so frustrated with your intransigence he almost raised his fists against you, and you not out of high school yet, and you didn’t even care, you just wanted to drift a few blocks away and get fucked up."
Punk may (may?) be essentially passive. Punk is stupid proud consumerism. Punk is oblivion when it isn’t any fun and unlike winos you do have a choice in fact; you're young. Punk is bleared out of your mind watching Lancelot Link at 12 noon on Saturday and having no idea of what you're seeing. Punk is getting up early Saturday morning to jack off to Isis. Punk is vomiting all over your “motherfuckers”/ John Sinclair liner notes version of Kick Out the Jams and not particularly caring. Punk is ten thousand tattered skin magazines under your bed but never getting any satisfaction from masturbation not the kind that leads to languorous rest anyway so you exist on a thin hot prostate wire of tension and jack off three, four times a day, knowing it’s stupid and pointless and hating it for that more than submerged guilt but doing it because there’s nothing else to do but get drunk. Punk is having favorite girlfriends in the skin mags you come back to again and ahain. Punk is finally getting a girlfriend and then treating her shitty because you’re too stupid, drunk, and self-absorbed. Punk is being a girl and fucking your husband/ boyfriend while watching TV over his shoulder as he gets his gun. Punk is not punk, because it has become too codifled. Punk is sitting in a half-dark room alone wishing you had Valiums with an indifferent record playing wanting to claw the stuffing out of the chair but feeling futility in your fingernails. Punk is hating poeticization of your condition. Punk is vague dreams of carnage and bloody revenge when you can barely swat a comatose fly. Punk is wine stains across the grooves of Between the Buttons and “Sister Ray.” Punk is pointlessness. Punk is ripping up articles like this one. Punk is lacking the energy or interest to bother ripping them up. Punk is reading this article mechanically because there’s nothing else to do and the words glide by like cinders. Punk is hurling the magazine across the room, dropping your hands into your lap, idly scratching your dick or clit wondering if you wanna jerk off again, deciding it’s not worth the trouble, staring blankly into space. Punk is thinking maybe we should go to the movies tonight and not having the energy or self-discipline to get up and walk across the room to pick up the daily paper. Punk is talking back to situation comedy rerun syndicated characters on afternoon TV. Punk is seeing girls in TV commercials and croaking “Take off yer clothes . . .” when you haven’t been laid in two years. Punk is running out of beer at 5:30 A.M. and taking three Chlor-Trimetons to see if they'll exacerbate what’s left of it. Punk is waking up in the morning and not having the energy or motivation to get up and turn on the soap operas on the color TV atop the dresser across the room from your bed. Punk is starting to jerk off, getting a hardon, thinking oh fuck it what’s the use, and giving up. Punk is putting on a record you love, lying down on the couch, rolling over and trying to go to sleep at four in the afternoon or seven at night just because you want that state of twilight consciousness which is better than drugs. Punk is being so lazy you want girls to jack you off or suck you instead of bothering to fuck. Punk is being willing to eat pussy while dreaming of some record you wanna buy. Punk is laziness at apogee with no apologies. Punk is saying fuck rock ’n’ roll. Punk is saying fuck punk rock. Punk is treating your 2,000-plus LP collection like dirt. Punk is passe’. Punk is just a word dug by media. Punk is anything you do that should have consequences but either doesn’t or you ignore them. Punk is a meaningless word that everybody is sick to death of purporting to represent a state of mind and lifestyle which while not so very complex cannot be reduced any further than it has been already in inchoate preverbal practice. Punk is something worth destroying posthaste. Hopefully this article will speed that process. Punk is being old and smart enough to know that your girlfriend is too young but not having the balls to kick her out. Like when she keeps saying “Oh, I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH YOU” everytime you say some ridiculous alkie crazy thing only Bukowski has a right to, and instead of attacking her or just withdrawing you chuckle indulgently. Punk is playing father to teen pussy when you should be a shark but haven’t got the teeth. Punk is getting stuck months later like the old curmudgeon as she chases local deejays at press parties in front of you and all you can say is maybe she’ll grow out of it because you love the taste of her twat and the fact that no other woman will fuck all nite to “Raw Power." Punk is when you throw her over and pick up a barfloozy same day take her home drink gin fuck and in the nite she menstruates all over your bed and in the morning you drink more gin. That is when you know you are growing from punk into what some people think of as a man. At least some blood marks the spot, like Grauman’s prints or the hollows ‘of Pompeii. You don’t feel like such a punk no more with all that history under you. I suppose that’s when you grow up to Jon Landau productions. Either that or a dusty window and an eye that needs a toothpick.


Photo of Bangs in 1977 via CBGB.

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