Friday, August 12, 2016

The filth and the fury

It was rather fitting that yesterday's trip to London began with a walk past Buckingham Palace and ended up with a listen to the Sex Pistols' incendiary anti-Jubilee song 'God Save The Queen' at the British Library's Punk 1976-78 exhibition.

The show was brought to my attention by Viv Albertine's defacing of one of the information boards. She did perhaps have a point: there's a section dedicated to women in punk (which includes excerpts from a forthcoming film on the subject, and which features Albertine and her band The Slits), but this could conversely be seen as ghettoising their contribution rather than celebrating its centrality - much of the rest of the exhibition is devoted to the boys.

If that aspect of the curation could be criticised, then it was good to see an acknowledgement of the pioneering endeavours of British punk's American forebears: The Ramones, The New York Dolls, The Stooges, The MC5, Patti Smith. Take note, Jon Savage...

As might be expected given its location, the exhibition focuses largely on printed/written materials: amateurish but zealous fanzines, Situationist pamphlets, formal contracts and internal record company memos, posters for gigs with jaw-droppingly good line-ups (the Pistols' Anarchy In The UK tour, Siouxie & The Banshees on the same bill as Wire). There's much for the designer to admire, too, in terms of iconic items of punk apparel and 7" record sleeves.

I wouldn't recommend going to London with the sole purpose of visiting the exhibition, as it's not that large, but we didn't and I don't suppose many people would. Despite it not being particularly extensive, I still didn't get the opportunity to spend as much time as I'd have liked, thanks to the impatience of a wearied three year old - though he did at least break into a broad grin and a bit of a mosh when listening to 'Blitzkrieg Bop' and The Buzzcocks' 'What Do I Get?' on the headphones.

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