Punk is not dead
“Standing in the line we’re aberrations / Defects in a defect’s mirror / And we’ve been here all the time” go the opening lines of The Germs’s song “What We Do Is Secret,” a punk “masterpiece.”
“In your dream, there is the nighttime sound of crickets, and nothing else. In your dream, punk stayed a secret forever. It never became a trend, it never caught on, or there was never a backlash against it, it never became the object of nostalgia, it never had any of its songs used in the commercials of ‘Guitar Hero’ or ‘Rock Band’... whoever you are, wherever you are,” read A Cultural Dictionary of Punk: 1974-1982.
The 1980 cover of the alternative newspaper, the East Village Key, focused on the “death of punk,” the word “punk” as a movement and perhaps an idea. The beauty of this particular cover was in its self-defeating honesty; its bittersweet acknowledgement that punk - at least in its initial formulation - was dead.
In the past few days, three members of Pussy Riot, a feminist Russian punk band, were found guilty of “hooliganism driven by religious hatred,” and were sentenced to two years in jail.
The three women were Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, who staged a flash protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral in February, when he was elected president for a second time. With the members remaining unapologetic at the verdict, Tolokonnikova raised her fist as she was led out of the courtroom.
Russia’s authoritarian president Putin is generally accused of having a hand behind their jailing.
If you look at their Google videos, Pussy Riot’s music is largely naive, or badly performed. But despite the support of Western pop music’s usual jerks - including Sting, Madonna and Paul McCartney - the whole event proved one fact: punk music is not dead, and this is a human rights violation.
The Russian group’s song was found to be as offensive as The Sex Pistols’ 1977 masterpiece “God Save the Queen,” in which the British royal family was described as a “fascist regime.”
Pussy Riot’s “Virgin Mary, Put Putin Away” opens with:
Virgin Mary, Mother of God, put Putin away
Put Putin away, put Putin away
Black robe, golden epaulettes
All parishioners crawl to bow
The phantom of liberty is in heaven
Gay-pride sent to Siberia in chains
The head of the KGB, their chief saint,
Leads protesters to prison under escort
A number of leading Russian stars, such as Pyotr Mamonov, indeed had strong punk roots in their music. Pussy Riot is another candidate in that direction. Such music is probably a representative movement against authoritarianism in countries such as Russia.