Positive punks in the February 1983 issue of The Face
In 1983, Michael Moorcock, the science fiction writer who collaborated with Hawkwind and wrote the novelization of The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, hosted an episode of London Weekend Television’s South of Watford that investigated the new phenomenon of “positive punk.” Yer tiz.
In the frame story, Moorcock visits the Tribe to take in a bill of Blood and Roses and Brigandage and meet some of these positive punks of whom he has heard tell. But it feels like the story Moorcock really wants to tell is how punk rock fell short of its revolutionary ambitions, and he interviews several ‘76 alumni about punk’s failure to bring about “permanent change.”
Jon Savage, punk’s Herodotus, says everything that followed the Sex Pistols was a disappointment:
I remember Jamie Reid telling me that they all hoped—they all thought that they would just be the start. And what in fact happened is [the Sex Pistols] were the only punk group, and most of the other ones that came out afterwards were, if not pathetic, then sort of fatally flawed. I mean, the Clash, after being initially wonderful, turned into a bunch of social workers. Very successful, very honorable social workers, but social workers nonetheless. And, you know, the Damned and all the others were just sort of hyped-up entertainment, really. I mean, I’m not putting them down for that, but it meant that the original thing was diluted, and that sort of very pure expression of energy got diluted.
Identifying Siouxsie Sioux as the main inspiration for punk’s resurgence, Moorcock meets up with her and Steven Severin in a Camden shop about halfway through the show. As they tell it, punk 1.0 collided with a music industry “full of idiots” and a sclerotic media environment.
Speaking of, at Brigandage’s website, singer Michelle reproduces a letter Moorcock sent the band after the show aired in which he acknowledged the network’s influence on the final cut: “Someday I’ll tell you how they go about slowly removing content from a programme like that (not to mention people!).” Michelle also allows as how she has some regrets about the outfit she chose for her appearance on the The South Bank Show (“No not the south bank show- what am I on- The South of Watford show”).
If nothing else, this will remind you why you liked negative punk so much.