I’ve been warned I’m getting too nostalgic and my friend has a point but recently I was trying to work out why I like the net so much and I only understood it last week up in London, so you’ll have to put up with this.
Back in 1977, when I was a Punk, I spent a lot of time in Covent Garden. Now it’s a tourist destination – pretty old buildings, nice shops, a museum and an opera. There are buskers and acrobats, licensed of course. Back then it wasn’t nice and it wasn’t licensed.
It had been London’s fruit and veg market since the middle ages (think “My Fair lady”), but that had closed and moved further out.
In 1977 it was derelict, the old market buildings boarded up, the wholesale shops shuttered. No money around for old buildings. People didn’t hang around there at night, if they could help it.
Punk grew up as an attack on the music business and tried to operate outside of the commercial world. It needed to; the commercial world of newspapers and record companies didn’t want to know.
Punks promoted their own bands, produced their own records, wrote their own fanzines. No one had any money and so it was also a protest against a failing economy, cuts in public expenditure and growing inequality. It was a violent time and I was there.
If you went to Covent Garden, there were illegal squats in the shops – there were parties and music. The boards on the empty buildings were covered in posters put up on the fly; it was like our own newspaper, free to all. You could check out what bands were playing, what was going on in the world. You could even put up a poster yourself.
All the main clubs were in walking distance. In China Town, Soho market was a place to buy records and chat with bands. Everything was in reach, most things were free or so cheap you could afford it.
Of course, in the end we lost that battle; gradually the music business recovered and found a way back.
“Oh no, you think it’s funny’
Turning rebellion into money”
(The Clash, White man in the Hammersmith Palais)
The Greater London Council started to clear things up, property developers moved in. The police pushed us out.
It wasn’t all nice; as I said it was violent, there were fights to be fought. But we had a space to make a protest.
Just like the net, just now.
I hope you do a better job of protecting it than we did in 1977.
(a don’t stop till you drop production)