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The London Punk Scene

The upcoming 14th International Beefeater In-Edit Music Documentary Festival will be featuring the best music documentaries from the past and present. This time around, what caught our attention is the large number of punk-related documentaries. No wonder, as we happen to be celebrating the fortieth anniversary of this genre. You heard it – forty years have passed since a group of mates got together and crafted a band to start a riot. And, indeed they did. The Sex Pistols lit the fuse in late 1976 and, just two years later, the musical paradigm had changed radically. The system was transformed from a scene dominated by intellectualised, ultra-professional hard rock and progressive rock bands such as Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Genesis or Emerson, Lake and Palmer, into another, totally alternative and largely amateur scene. And, London was the nerve centre of this new circus act.

Some documentaries dealing with this genre will feature at this year’s In-Edit Festival. Check out the programme here. Following is a rundown of the documentaries in which London acted as the backdrop. It’s amazing to see what the City was like at such a major turning point in its history, just when it it seemed more like a time bomb on the verge of blowing up, on account of the wrangling between different political trends and the high unemployment rate, particularly among young people. Remind you of anything?

Jubilee (Derek Jarman, 1978)

Rather than a documentary, this is actually a feature film, albeit 100% punk. Its director skilfully captured the spirit of the moment in this marvellous dystopian movie in which Elizabeth I travels 400 years into the future and lands in a desolate, nihilist Britannia where gangs of evil girls and killer police roam the streets.

The Filth And The Fury (Julien Temple, 2000)

Set at the pinnacle of this documentary genre, this film was a watershed in its day. It does true-to-life justice to the story of the Sex Pistols, the band which caused a sea change that rocked the foundations of the music industry in just one and a half years. The documentary is crammed with references to the punk scene in London. Highly recommended.

Rough Cut Ready Dubbed (Hasan Shah and Dom Shaw, 1982)

This film documents the post-punk period (1979-1982), which saw a convergence between various urban tribes, notably the Mods, Rockers, Punks and Skinheads. The editing is markedly punk, while it’s interesting to see the prevailing looks and the way the folks moved in their milieu. The main characters are scene celebrities (press, musicians, DJs, etc.) and the movie is recorded in Super 8. Stills in motion from a fleeting period marked by upheaval.

Rude Boy (Jack Hazan & David Mingay, 1980)

Set in London in 1978 and early 1979, with The Clash as co-protagonists. The movie opens by setting the scene in the electoral context that London was steeped in at the time, with nationalist, anti-communist and even xenophobes on one side, and anti-racist and anti-Nazi protests on the other. The film blends fiction with documentary and also chronicles tours by The Clash.

Punk: Attitude (Don Letts, 2005)

This documentary makes the perfect introduction to the genre for the uninitiated. It features a huge gamut of celebrities who were involved in some capacity, notably Captain Sensible (The Damned), Mick Jones (The Clash) and Siouxsie Sioux (…and the Banshees), brought together by the hardened documentalist and DJ who mediated between punks and Rastafarians in the first year of London punk.

Four Accessories For the Punk Experience in London

1. Dr. Martens Boots

Worn by many of the lads that feature in the In-Edit documentaries. Nowadays you can buy them at the official Dr. Martens Store, and also at the Camden and Portobello street markets, sold by the odd specialty stall.

2. Second-hand Punk Records

If your thing is vinyl, with mangy, well-bent edges, the best deals can be found at All Ages Records in Camden.

3. Pubs

A number of pubs became part of the haunts of the punk movement in the 70s and early 80s, particularly those in the vicinity of the 100 club on Oxford Street, or The Roxy, in Covent Garden. If you still feel the urge to down a few pints among leather jackets with studs and crests, we recommend you head for The Elephant’s Head in Camden.

4. Garments

As much as some voice the opinion that punks were anti-everything – and even anti-fashion – we all know that was not true. The Sex Pistols were the first to be put through the fashion wringer. They were the living mannequins of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, who owned the Sex punk boutique at 430 King’s Road. Today, such designers as Westwood herself or Jean Paul Gaultier still display punk influences. There are currently a number of stores that carry iconic garments, but we recommend a futuristic update of this trend at Cyberdog.

Be sure to put on tight leather pants and spike your hair.  Discover the wild side of London – check out our flights here.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

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