The first time I went to London was in 1985. I was a wannabe preppy preteen from Cincinnati, Ohio, dressed in Jordache and Forenza — just on the cusp of full adolescence … and radiating the “nobody understands me” angst that comes along with puberty. It was a trip to Trafalgar Square in London that changed everything for me. There I saw punk rock kids hanging out in Doc Martens and leather jackets, sporting Mohawks, piercings, and tattoos. I was fascinated. It was like nothing I’d seen in Ohio. And then I heard their music. It was raw, edgy, angry … and I was hooked. I didn’t bring home the look, but I did bring home the music. Years later, I still listen to the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and the Ramones — and on a recent trip to England, I wondered: Where has all the punk gone?
The anti-establishment ideology which, in the ’70s and ’80s, spread to the worlds of fashion, art, and literature, seems to have been taken over by young urban professionals. The Roebuck pub, which was the epicenter for punk, is now an upscale drinking club, and Vivienne Westwood’s infamous Sex shop is no more. The music scene has been put through Auto-Tune; the spiky hair is gone from Trafalgar Square; and leather jackets, neon leggings, tattoos, and piercings are the norm.
But I wanted to know if the spirit of punk was still alive, so I met up with Bruno Wizard, founding band member of two ’70s bands (the Rejects and the Homosexuals), and Jimmy Jagger (son of Mick) to find out.
Bruno claims that REAL punk—the initial movement—only lasted for a scant six months. “It took six months for the establishment and the record companies to move in and take over,” Bruno said. But just because punk was absorbed into the mainstream doesn’t actually mean it’s dead. “Punk is about kids doing it for themselves,” Jimmy said. “It’s about not becoming a part of everything …”
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Watch the video above, and judge for yourself, but the more we talked, the more I think that the Internet, and the opportunity it creates to be able to run your own business, make your own art and music, or write your own blog — outside of a major company — is the ultimate embodiment of what punk rock stands for.
Paula Froelich is Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo! Travel.