Under the rubric of delighting in all manifestations of the Terpsichorean muse, having just added a meretricious page on Gregorian chant, I now offer an equally piecemeal post on punk.
Further to Lives in jazz, Viv Albertine’s memoir
- Clothes clothes clothes music music music boys boys boys
(to give it its full title—her mum’s reproach to her as a teenager)  is a beautiful inspiring book, full of sincere humanity and insight. We can draw a veil over the story of her messy “dalliance” (dunno why I’m suddenly coming over all Jane Austen) with Johnny Rotten. The account of her post-punk life is no less compelling than that of her time in The Slits, with their amazing singer Ari Up (RIP). Women, and sexism, in punk are justly favoured topics in musicology and glossies alike—more so, I note, than Daoist ritual (funny, that).
I was sadly unaware of all these brilliant singers at the time, except (for some reason) for Nina Hagen—Naturträne (1978) has long been one of my favourite songs:
You can, and must, watch her singing it live on video too, but that recording is astounding. I was busy being a Boulez groupie… OK, there’s room for technique in punk too, but it’s not quite the point; I could presumably square that song with my snobby sensibilities long before I also learnt to rejoice in the Sex Pistols or the Ramones. Or Daoist ritual…
Just as much as the Matthew Passion, or Wozzeck, it makes want to learn German:
Natur am Abend, stille Stadt
Verknackste Seele, Tränen rennen
Das alles macht einen mächtig matt
Und ich tu’ einfach weiterflennen
We can save punk in China for another time—
but again, it’s all part of the rich ethnographic tapestry.
Not quite punk, but Cui Jian’s classic song Nothing to my name
prompted a fine complaint from Wang Zhen, veteran of the Long March:
“What do you mean, you’ve got nothing to your name? You’ve got the Communist Party haven’t you?”
Mutatis mutandis, Thatcher might have concurred.
 Pedantic note: most superior reviews abide by the title’s lack of punctuation.