I’ve had this tape for over 30 years. It was given to me by my good friend’s older brother. It changed my life.
I’m pretty sure I was in 5th grade at the time, which would have been 1984 (I think). I was currently listening to Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Iron Maiden and the like. Skateboarding and jean jackets were coming into fashion amongst my friends. It didn’t take long before the hand-made (out of masking tape) “CRUE” sticker on my skateboard was replaced by hand-made DK stickers.
Like most kids at that age the image of rock and roll was the big influence. Before Dead Kennedys entered the picture, we wore torn jeans and bandanas on our legs because that’s what we saw on MTV and the local heavy metal public access show (think Wayne’s World). The lyrics were never really part of the allure. We just assumed that “shout at the devil” and all of Ozzy’s songs were about devil worship, and that was all we needed to scare our parents and teachers, while ultimately making us bad-asses.
At first I just liked the new sound I discovered from DK, The Circle Jerks, and Government Issue. I couldn’t see these bands anywhere. They weren’t played on MTV, or printed on huge posters in the big record stores. They were just a new sound and something the older skaters talked about and listened to. My friend’s brother had the albums and I’d look at those and fill in the blanks with my imagination. But then there were the lyrics. So I started paying attention to what was being said, as best as I could. I probably got seventy-five percent of what they were saying wrong in the early years. But that didn’t matter… the twenty-five percent gave me the idea… and that’s all I needed to become a “punk rocker” (as much as my suburban upbringing allowed). It didn’t take long before I was all-in… combat boots, suspenders, jean jacket with a hand-drawn skull and mohawk motif on the back, and of course the anti-establishment attitude that went along with my early teens. Granted, my dad would’ve shaved my head had I come home with a mohawk, so I did the next best thing and bleached my bangs that hung over my eye. The punk rock / surf / skate scene was it.
Apart from trying to rebel and be cool, I started understanding the lyrics more. It took well into high school and beyond to grasp what was being said, but the core message of being smart, paying attention, not accepting the status quo, and questioning authority always resonated with me. For the most part I always leaned towards doing my own thing despite the shit I got from my family and peers. So, punk rock played an integral roll in shaping my future and present. I love the quote by Yvon Chouinard (the founder of Patagonia)… “If you want to understand the entrepreneur, study the juvenile delinquent. The delinquent is saying with his actions, ‘This sucks, I’m going to do my own thing.” That’s how I’ve felt my whole life, and boy was I a delinquent.
Nowadays I say things like “that’s punk rock” when referring to people going against the grain or challenging the status quo. Design, branding, and entrepreneurial endeavors are not necessarily what come to mind when you think “punk.” But Yvon’s right, the kids and the companies that stands out above the rest are the ones being original. They’re also the ones that get made fun of… until people realize they’re the trend setters. Look at big corporations and how they jump on the band wagon, clumsily I might add, after an outsider has become cool. Probably after years of bullying and ridiculing the business that started the movement. Or they just buy the leather jacket off the company’s back and think they have instant street-creed. It’s doable to some degree but people see through it more than ever today. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to convince companies they need to be more “punk rock,” and to stand out and be different. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don’t. But it always pays off for them when they do.
Punk rock means a lot of things to a lot of different people. Some think of the leather jackets, mohawks and piercings, while others think of a bygone music scene. For me it’s a state of mind, a way of looking at things and doing things differently… going against the grain despite the ridicule. It’s hard, I get it… but it’s worth it. Listen to Punk Rock!