Tuesday, 4 September 2007
A FEW THOUGHTS ON 'I WISH I WAS A PUNK ROCKER' BY MS. SANDI THOM
Oh I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair
In ’77 and ’69 revolution was in the air …
The first thing to address is Ms Thom’s somewhat confused, confusing elision of two entirely distinct musical epochs. Most glaringly, punk rock, as many people are aware, was at least in part a violent reaction against the hippy movement, apparently the target of Ms Thom’s mention of flowers worn in the hair and ‘’69’.
True, recent revisionist theories have been propounded arguing for a reassessment of this notion, pointing to such sites of inter-movement agreement such as the shared interest in leftist politics, an underground press, an emphasis on individual expression and anti-authoritarianism etc. On this reading, punk was not a repudiation of the sixties generation, but a restatement/repackaging of the earlier era’s core values in bondage clothing, in much the same way some latter day commentators have argued that the Renaissance, Romanticism and Modernism were merely successive artistic convulsions in the gradual unfolding of a far more wide-reaching cultural shift towards ‘modernity’. You might say, therefore, that Ms Thom is attempting to give lyrical expression to such ideas, embodying the notion of a common ground between the punk and hippy movements by constructing sophisticated, almost surrealistic imagery, conflating two caricatured archetypes (a punk wearing flowers in his hair – fancy!), in the process demonstrating a remarkable awareness of certain currents in contemporary cultural thought.
However, whether or not this was Ms Thom’s intention, this assertion is unlikely to be supported by the remainder of the song’s lyrics, which continually reiterate a facile and erroneous running-together of the late sixties, the late seventies, and pretty much every other recent historical era, as part of the wider attempt to posit a mystified, vaguely-defined idyll that will support Ms Thom’s clumsily constructed myth of decline (I would also like to point out at this stage that Thom also rehearses the common (typically American, it must be said) misconception that 1969 was the annus mirabilis of the sixties counterculture. The 'summer of love', as many people know, ocurred in 1967, while 1968 has been dubbed (with possibly a hint of irony) the ‘year of revolutions’. Quite why 1969, the year of Altamont and Let It Bleed, commonly held to have been a ‘come-down year’ after the explosive events of ‘67 and ’68, is so widely celebrated is something of a mystery, although perhaps an inflated sense of the Woodstock Festival’s importance has something to do with it).
When music really mattered and when radio was king ...
Again, quite why radio should be judged an intrinsically purer technological medium than, say, music television or the internet (presumably the focus of Ms Thom's ire in this line), is not clear.
When accountants didn't have control ...
Do accountants run the world? Did they not in '69/'77?
And computers were still scary and we didn't know everything ...
So being frightened of computers is a good thing? And being knowledgable isn't?
And footballers still had long hair and dirt across their face
For a start, it should be faces. This is possibly the most baffling line of the whole piece.