New feature: Writing women back into punk
Jess McCabe // 15 March 2010
In the second installment of her series, Cazz Blase looks at how punk was covered by the music and feminist presses, the work of female journalists, and how women punks came to be largely written out of the history books
When punk exploded onto the British musical and cultural scene in 1976, it was thanks to the hard work of a merry band of mythmakers. The story of the Sex Pistols has been told, re-told, mythologised, de-mythologised and re-mythologised more times than I can count, and that’s just one band.
This myth originated with Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood in 1975, it was re-spun by the tabloids between 1976 and 1979 as part of a textbook moral panic about punk, and was later reclaimed and re-told by a number of other interested parties, all of whom sought to put their own spin on it for their own purposes. They aren’t the only ones, but accounts of punk, both in the popular sense and the academic sense, do tend to concentrate on a very specific canon, comprised largely of the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, sometimes The Jam, sometimes The Buzzcocks, sometimes The Stranglers, suggesting that not only was punk a purely British phenomenon, but (Buzzcocks aside) it was also exclusive to London, and to white young men.
The earliest punk books were a mixture of insider accounts (Caroline Coon’s 1988: The New Wave Punk Rock Explosion, which was published in 1977, and Fred and Judy Vermorel’s The Sex Pistols: Inside Story, which was published in 1978), personal polemic (Tony Parsons and Julie Burchill’s The Boy Looked At Johnny: The Obituary Of Rock’n’roll, also published in 1978) and dense academic subcultural theory (Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning Of Style, which was published in 1979). With the exception of Coon’s book, and – to a lesser extent – Parsons and Burchill’s, they were not really interested in exploring the female experience of punk.