OPEN SOURCE EVERYTHING, EVEN PUNK ROCK

Yeah, I know Open Source Everything is too radical for the masses and will never manifest in my lifetime but I feel its rumblings. I can imagine that some day we will open source food, water, shelter, electricity, transportation, education, art, music. Love. More than feeling, I’ve been riding the rumblings ever since I ran away to join the punk rock circus. Busy playing music, we didn’t talk politics all the time but knew we were teetering upon the precipice of revolution. It fueled us. Fed us. And now, is a quantum leap or perhaps even a new paradigm upon us at last? Did our caterwauling lead to anything?

As we lament the glacial pace of change, it seems we can’t keep up as it pertains to media. The subject of vinyl arose this past week.  People’s feelings about vinyl reveal their feelings about change. Adapt or die, right? But, resourceful to the bone, we find ways to make the old new again. I kept my turntable but moved around so much it was impossible to hold onto all my records. I still mourn the loss of some LPs like deceased friends. Apparently, there is a resurgence in vinyl. Check out the Vinyl Engine. Our friends, the scintillating Petunia & the Vipers just released an album and I hear that young people are only interested in vinyl these days. They may acquire mp3s but when it comes to buying, crave cover album artwork and liner notes. Just like we did!

And then there’s video, which has evolved to the point of digital. I don’t regret the demise of tape, revel in the mobility of the camera, to the point of one-in-every-cell phone, hence the rise of citizen journalism, Arab Springs, etc.

The subject of videotape and the schism between several old school punk rock camps roared to the fore recently when a Mongrelzine article quoted my Zellots band mate Christine deVeber as saying she was frustrated in her attempts to track down footage of the Zellots in performance at a Rock Against Prisons benefit. Apparently some of Doreen Gray/Lenore Herb’s vital Vancouver punk rock scene videotape was digitized for use in Susanne Tabata’s documentary Bloodied But Unbowed, but remains inaccessible, and the cause of controversy. I have to believe that everyone in our punk rock community is grateful for Lenore’s vision and hard work, sad at her passing-taken too soon-and yes, it will be a huge undertaking to preserve all that old-format footage, but unfortunately there seems to be no consensus on how to get the job done. It’s not only the bands who covet the video but historians and archivists as well. I hear that the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa is interested in preserving all things punk rock and I’ve spoken with special collections librarian Eric Swanick at SFU about donating flyers and memorabilia to his Vancouver punk rock archive. For some reason incorporating Lenore’s precious footage has not happened, far as I can tell.

We constitute a fraternity, a literally dying breed and whatever brought us together in the beginning surely must have survived all these years along with our expansive and blazing spirits.  Obviously a sore subject, I just hope it isn’t a closed subject. Back in the day camaraderie and a strong feeling of goodwill prevailed among the musicians who shared rehearsal space, PAs, vans, billing, door proceeds and of course, beer. We were so wide open, to anyone, anything I can’t understand what’s happened to the common ground we once shared. Has it eroded entirely away? Must I accept that change is irrevocably stymied by territorial human conflict? As radical as we were, it seems we’re incapable of overcoming our differences in order to advance the cause, rendering us as ineffectual as those we once railed against. I have thrown my hands up in despair, nearly given up, but still hope against hope that we can trust each other. Again. Learn to share. Again band together, cooperate, open source the underground. Our legacy. Our small part of the renaissance.

And just for fun, here’s an excerpt from my novel, The Town Slut’s Daughter depicting young, idealistic punk rockers discussing politics between sets:

Shannon raised her hand. “Hey, everybody! Meet my best girlfriend, Fiona Larochelle.”

“Jeez, you don’t have to make an announcement.”

They all hailed like a cheerful kindergarten class. “Hi Fiona!”

She waved, blinded by the radiance of their smiles, then sat down, bass and drums rumbling at her feet.

“So, the people living here, they’re not making a statement?” Art’s girlfriend Jenny challenged a lanky young man with round, horn-rimmed glasses, matching John Lennon countenance. “They’re just bums?”

“That’s Angus,” whispered Shannon.

Skewing his expression, Angus replied, “That’s not what I mean. But why should they make a statement? ‘Only the rich can afford principles.’ Are you familiar with the Shaw play, Major Barbara?” Angus paused for a long drag on his cigarette, casting a hooded look at Fiona. “In London people squat because they have to. Because they have no place to live.”

Jenny shrugged. Trent grinned and asked if they’d ever heard of Marx’s Whatever It Is I’m Against It?

“Groucho Marx, that is.”

Titters, from everyone except Angus.

“I’m just saying poverty created rage and it’s that rage that created punk rock.”

Shannon feigned yawning. “Set it to music Angus.”

His ears turned red.

“Disenfranchised youth?” said Trent. “It’s that simple, is it?”

“Fuck politics.” Art muttered his two cents worth.

“Yeah,” chimed Jenny. “At least music is changing.”

“New blood!” Spooner pumped his arm into the air. “I was pukin’ on all that pap they force fed us. Not to mention twenty-minute drum solos.”

“Okay,” said Jenny. “Let’s not mention twenty-minute drum solos.”

Dennis cocked his hand like a gun. “Let’s kill all the old farts! Smash the status quo.”

“Did you know Fleetwood Mac took almost two years to record that fucking-piece-of-shit album, Rumors,” Angus asked rhetorically, “and spent half a million dollars on it?”

Spooner rolled his eyes. “Baw—ring!”

“God bless Charlie Manson.” All heads turned to Angus. “He killed off the hippies! It was such a reality check, the Tate-LaBianca murders. The end of an era. Peace out.”

“Hey Angus,” said Trent, “Ever read Animal Farm?”

“In high school,” he huffed.

“Well, there is the real danger of the oppressed becoming the oppressor. The Machiavellian Principle—power corrupts, you know.”

“Yeah, well, what do you replace the status quo with?” asked Shannon.

“This!” Jenny pointed, indicating the din downstairs.

“Nothing,” deadpanned Trent.

Shannon scowled. “Nothing is right!”

Angus sighed. “It’s not about nihilism. Despite the media hype. Punk’s about renewal. Regeneration.” He picked at the label on his beer bottle. “Besides, destruction resembles creation, and creation, destruction. Floods, avalanches, forest fires, tornadoes tear things up but they sow new seed. New life, up from the ashes, etc, etc.”

Shannon shook her head. “The world according to Angus Tucker.”

Fiona heard a loud bang and a strangled cry, Dennis’s pals dragging him toward the door. “No, I don’t wanna go!”

“Come on,” said Mad Dog, “We gotta do a beer run. We’re almost out! You’re the only one who knows how to get in.”

Dennis forlornly surveyed the regiment of dead soldiers standing guard on the tables. He looked to Fiona. She shrugged her shoulders. Angus chuckled.

“Those gumbas go down to Carling’s and steal flats of beer. Dennis used to work there.”

Art continued to hold court without saying much, as Jenny, Trent and Spooner carried on about Britain and its wretched, hypocritical class system. Angus sat down next to her.

“Well Fiona, where were we?”

He remembered my name. She pointed to a corner nearly black with graffiti. “That is sickening. Are you guys Nazis?”

“You’re kidding right?” He paused for a big swig. “But you know, the swastika’s universal. Ancient, but then the Nazis appropriated it, unfortunately, and maligned it for all time.”

“That’s not all they appropriated.”

“It’s just a symbol.”

“But symbols are powerful.”

“Precisely why we use them, especially the swastika. Pure shock value. No need to get hung up on it. It’s actually quite beautiful.” Angus showed her one of his pins, a silver eagle with spread wings and muscular chest, like a man’s, huge talons clutching a swastika. “See the arms rotating in the same direction? Like the rays of the sun.”

You’re the one that’s hung up on it. Angus inched closer. I wonder if he has a girlfriend.

“Have you read Joseph Campbell? The mythologist? He wrote a book called The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Star Wars is based on it.”

“Is that what you are?”

“I think we all are. On a journey. A quest.”

“Me too?”

“I’d say that’s obvious. Gender doesn’t matter.”

“Do you really believe that?”

Angus sighed. “I’ll be right back.” Angus needed another beer.

Soon Fiona was watching him talk up another girl. Oh well. Maybe I’m a pain in the ass. Maybe I’m just not cool enough. She saw Shannon who had apparently been watching all along. Fuck him. He’s not that cute. In fact, he’s a jerk, with all those opinions he shoves down your throat.

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