As an inverse to how Kissinger’s winning of the Nobel Peace prize rendered Tom Leher’s career no longer relevant, Whitney and Michael’s deaths have given GG’s demise a dignity that he would have found repellent. How low can a punk get? Pretty low. My view of the state of punk is the same as my view of the State of Israel; entirely indefensible but I don’t want it to die. And both are like the music of Lana Del Rey; sure I’ll make fun behind closed doors, but get me in the bar and I’ll take positions no sane man could support just to remain, in my mind, in stark opposition of the stupid, stupid faces of the naysayers. My god, I’ll defend ‘90s era Bad Religion before I concede the point. What point? Any point. That’s what being a punk is about.
I was once asked, after GG Allin’s death, if I wanted to try out to sing for the Murder Junkies. I was threatened with bodily harm for making some Johnny Thunders crack and asked if I liked rape rock. That’s not my story. I’m just establishing my credentials.
Listen, it’s late and you’re the only paying customer here, so please don’t let me bring you down. I know I rolled my eyes when you said Nina Simone was the first punk, but you have to understand; giving the souls of black folk the unasked for validation of a Minor Threat t-shirt is a sucker’s game. One you should stop playing at the exact moment you stop pretending to enjoy Greil Marcus. But I’m here to serve you, not insult you, not shave you with my eyes, not rearrange the letters of your neck tattoos so that they no longer spell out the names of all the line cooks who have died on your watch, but instead say something true like: “Given the choice between getting all the pussy in Gainesville while actually Being in the Moss Icon reunion and President Obama being re-elected and National service being instated therefore ensuring a genuine rebirth in civic pride and actual community rather than the half assed insular compromises of house shows and bike clubs, I don’t actually know what I’d choose. Probably the tan lines and Sub Springsteen sing alongs of the Against Me! pool party. Sorry. PS. Not really sorry.”
So let me get you another drink. No, we don’t have Lonestar. Yes, I know where you first had it.
I may just be a bartender and a journey man in bands forever destined to be slandered in the pages of Jersey Beat, but I hope you believe me when I say my soul is so lofty that it could be a misunderstanding of Bad Brain’s intent, it could be free and not just another god, another master. I know the high keening pain of the Ethan Hawks thought foolish and pretentious by the world, and rightly so, but made tragic, not by being noble or good but by the existential unfairness of a James Franco coming along, doing exactly what we were so justifiably mocked for but, through the fickleness of a capricious God, being taken seriously, being felated by the admissions departments of a 1,000 Ivy soaked institutions. I feel that pain when I watch anyone, doing anything. I want what they have, even if what they have is less than me. Life is profoundly unfair. Like Andrew Eldritch on his sword cane cross, I want so much more.
The greatest three minute punk story is the career of Vic Godard. Vic Godard, who only nerds and Dan Melchior sidemen remember. Vic Godard, who wrote “me and my shadow, ill at ease” summing it all up and then going jazzbo before no one’s eyes. Vic Godard who was never cool like Joe Strummer or, hell, even Elvis Costello. Sure, they all turned their knees inward but Joe was a rocker and Elvis was just a terrible clown waiting to become more terrible, waiting to be a TV host, a fucking songwriter, while Vic Godard was just a weirdo who couldn’t understand why playing Cole Porter wasn’t punk. What a wonderful, useless jerk. Vic Godard was the best of all the punks and then he became a postman because he was too good for this world. He had to deliver the mail because jocks and phonies rule. And his rise, his comeback, his goddamned ascension from the depths was doing the backing vocals on a song from the soundtrack to Empire Records. I look to Vic Godard as beacon of, well, not hope, obviously, but a respectful resignation. An attainable worth. I look to him because, living on the outskirts of the wrong Bushwick (not the gilded utopian Pretoria of the Morgan stop) I have terrible mail service. I know that he would see me though. He would deliver my limited fanclub edition blue vinyl Discharge seven inches promptly and he would wipe the sweat from my brow and say so sweetly, so nasal-y…
“I recognize you. You too will always have to have a job.”
Look, you’re young, approximately, and you have so many goodish years ahead of you. You may have expressed the “no” of punk in your dissertation, but your eyes, your watery, watery eyes are the “yes” of a Punk Planet punk. I know you still vote and you still vacillate in your behavior towards cops. I’m not suggesting you follow my example. If you have a choice, for the love of god, don’t listen to Vic Godard. Listen to Black Flag like you, if that tote bag is telling the truth, already do. There is a winner’s circle, even in a loser’s subculture, and you should set your, well, I was going to make some sort of fixed gear joke here, but how many harmless completely apolitical hobbies can I mock without exposing myself as utterly gutless to hate anything that matters? So just, you know, walk in that direction. I have an unflappable faith in you, loathed customer I just met. I know there’s a Joe Strummer mural in your future, a Please Kill Me entry written in gold leaf, a Real Life Rock Top Ten with you, spring lamb of positive hardcore, as both the number ten and the number one. You can be Jacob and I’ll be Esau, even though we’re both vegetarians, you can have my birthright and I forgive you. Of course I do, you’re just like me at my age. You’re my Patty Duke image in the doorway. And, just like Patty Duke, you’re a punk.