Wednesday, April 28, 2010

History: How to Make a Scene

May I present A History of Punk by A.S. Van Dorston. There's also You'll never be 16 again... on Punk 77!.

Coming late to a new cultural scene is almost inevitable.

When a scene is forming only a few people are involved. By it's very nature it's a fringe of the mainstream. Only a few artists and not many more followers are involved. Most of us discover cultural shifts as they hit the mainstream. For each creek of culture we pay attention to there is an entire watershed we can't be part of. We are only able to follow so much at a time. If we're lucky we'll be able to say "I was there when...".

But cultural creeks become brooks and then streams. More followers and more artists. What starts as a couple of guys making music stretches to another city and more groups. Musical movements grow before they have names given to them. Classic songs are written. Records are recorded. The rest of us start to take notice. Before we notice the cultural mainstream has changed. What was a tiny movement in a couple of clubs starts being used in advertising and then *gasp* turned into Muzak.

In retrospect the history of all those little creeks is shortened to a simple history. One or two musical groups in particular are chosen to be the most influential of the time regardless of the how many others influenced them. We're told which songs are the important ones but not about the others that were sung night after night on stage. For every moment where "you should have been there" there are countless others that weren't so spectacular.

It's much more intricate and detailed than any simple explanation of course. History isn't only full of black and white moments when everything changed. There's a lot of small moments that influenced in much smaller ways. Shades of grey that change the landscape. We need some of the people who were there to expand the simple history.

That way we can look back and live vicariously through what we didn't even know was happening.

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