Punk on film

With Californian punk-rockers Green Day riding high in the charts and a Comic Relief number one for fake teen punks McFly, Cinema City is giving old punks a chance to remember the movement’s birth.

It's nearly 30 years since punk music first broke out of record shops and radio stations, bursting eardrums around the world.

And although the Sex Pistols' verbal assault on TV host Bill Grundy now seems like a distant dream, punk is still with us today.

You can hear its distant echo in the pop-power chords of teen favourites like Busted and you can see its junk aesthetic in everything from hair gel adverts to baggy jeans and comic T-shirts.

But what a disappointment all this must be to the rag tag band of anarchists, socialists and drug addicts who kick-started the movement three decades ago.

Today being a punk means having a piercing or a stray tattoo, perhaps a Green Day poster in your bedroom or a pint of cider on a night out.

At the tail end of the Seventies it meant more than that.

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Although the reality was almost certainly far from the truth, being a punk implied having a nihilist attitude, a disrespect of authority and, above all, a taste for music your parents couldn't understand.

Of course 'society', 'the establishment' and 'the man' had spent the past two decades getting used to the youth crazes that had been a part of everyday life since the invention of the teenager in the 1950s.

But punk was different.

While the Beatles gingerly mocked Britain's bourgeois attitudes in the subtle coded lyrics of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, punk outfits like the Sex Pistols or the Buzzcocks launched a direct assault on the values of the nation.

The music gloried in technical simplicity verging on ineptness and lyrics documenting such charming subjects as nuclear war, masturbation and suicide.

In America all a punk required was to be young, dumb and have enough energy to keep time with the 100mph distortion of pop peddled by the Ramones.

The Ramones were four 'brudders' from the Queens in New York. Early gigs of theirs, often at the achingly cool CBGB club, consisted of around six songs in less than 15 minutes. Singer Joey Ramone's seemingly subject-less lyrics revelled in the shallow experience of late 20th century America.

Although they never found mainstream success, their 1976 debut album kick-started a movement which found its fullest expression on the other side of the Atlantic.

In Britain punks didn't just rebel against the society of their parents, but nearly everything that had gone before them, including the surviving stars of the 1960s who had become bloated and self-indulgent.

A favourite target was beardy hippies Pink Floyd, whose intricate orchestral albums became more grandiose with every release.

In 1976 Sex Pistols leader Johnny Rotten could often be seen wandering down London's Kings Road on his way to Vivienne Westwood's Sex Boutique, his puny chest covered by a Pink Floyd T-shirt with his own slogan scrawled across it - “I hate Pink Floyd,” or “Die hippie scum”.

Although it's lived on in so many ways, not least the inescapable sarcasm of British life, true punk was very much of its time - so much so that many of the performers have failed to make it to the present day.

Only one of the four original Ramones is still alive (drummer Tommy). Former Sex Pistol Sid Vicious is more famous for his death than his music and Clash leader Joe Strummer passed away in 2002.

t End of the Century: the Story of the Ramones, is at Norwich's Cinema City, currently based in the Playhouse, at 3.30pm and 8.15pm on Sunday, March 20, and 5.45pm on Monday, March 21. The Monday screening is followed by a punk night in the bar with DJs spinning a selection of classic tracks from the era from 7.30pm.

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