❚ HOW MUCH MORE IS THERE TO KNOW ABOUT PUNK? Not much, you might think. Yet today Derek Dunbar — the King’s Road fixer, model, singer, Jarmanite and McLaren acolyte, now styling himself as project manager — announced on Facebook that he is producing some T-shirts emblazoned with Jordan’s image (Jordan the queen of punk, immortalised in Derek Jarman’s movie Jubilee). “These are the first samples we will produce once Six has finished at his exhibition in London so I hope to start in 3 weeks or 4 weeks.”
Exhibition? Six? Who? Those in the know know that Six is aka Simon and Simon was the quiet one in among Susan Dallion (later Siouxsie Sioux), Steve Severin, Debbie Juvenile and Soo Catwoman in those seminal 1976 snaps of the Bromley Contingent — first followers of the Sex Pistols and the Chelsea retail outlets of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. Some of the Contingent became headliners in the punk explosion, Simon playing his part by appearing with the Pistols on the infamous teatime TV show that lost television journalist Bill Grundy his job. More discreetly, as a resident of the St James’s Hotel in Westminster, Simon provided a refuge for punk’s suburban protagonists.
Under his pseudonym Six, he now reveals: “In 1976, I bought myself one of the cheapest pocket cameras available. Fully automatic, with no controls or settings… Subconsciously I concentrated on the women and artists at the heart of what would later be known as punk in London. The photos you see were spur-of-the-moment shots taken by myself for myself and, up until now, I used to think they weren’t good enough to show people.”
Far from it. A quick google reveals these early snapshots to be “a rare and intimate account of punk’s ability to mint newness” and they evince “the cool stillness of seeming to live beyond the end of history.” Ohhhhh!!! Orgasmic! And you’re asking, Who said THAT?
Google, please tell. The verdict comes from Michael Bracewell (author of England is Mine: Pop Life in Albion from Wilde to Goldie, 2009), one of those writers whose cultural observations you know are worth the effort to read, wrapped though they are in ripely purple prose. And in a recent article about Six, he announces what these days is the official line, that “Punk lasted in the UK for little more than 14 months, between 1976 and the Jubilee summer of 1977.” Anything later was accounted an offshoot of punk, or dubbed simply New Wave!!!
You raise an eyebrow, salivating for more. And more is delivered in his Independent piece from last March when he defined punk once and for all…
- “ To some, punk was primarily political in its energy, carrying class war or a reclamation of the Situationist desire to ‘wreck culture’ to the brutalist Britain of the pre-Thatcher 1970s.
- To others, it was an avant-garde fashion parade: a damply British reclamation of the Zurich Dada or the Ballets Russes.
- And to yet others it was the gleeful desecration of rock music’s Church of Authenticity, in which had been worshipped the sanctity of the Blues.
- Speaking with Malcolm McLaren – arguably punk’s architect – shortly before his death in 2010, the case was put more simply: if punk could lay any claim on historic status, he said, it would best be remembered as ‘like doing the Twist in a ruin’. ”
Sensational, whichever way you take your pick! But he’s warming to his own conclusion:
- “ Punk … appeared to confront the stagnation of cultural consumerism – by describing, in a language of self-parody, the notion of modernity itself reaching critical mass and unsurprisingly imploding. Hence, perhaps, the slogan above the door of the SEX boutique at 430 King’s Road in Chelsea: ‘Modernity Killed Every Night’. ”
Divine! We can go to our graves sure about the meaning of punk, once and for all. Or rather, five times and for all.
➢ Punk’s Dead by Simon Barker is an exhibition of his intimate punk photographs, open for a month from June 7, at Divus Temporary Gallery, 4 Wilkes Street, London E1 6QF.