This week I was getting involved in a heated net debate about whether there were any youth cults left. Many of the older media types in the debate felt that the days of youth tribes and youth culture were over.

I don’t agree.

With misty eyes I think we always tend to look at our youth as being the time when everything cool happened. I remember clearly in the punk days sixties vets would tell us punk had all be done before with the mods and rockers and that we were just pale imitations of their glory days. The sixties were rammed down our throats forever, the golden decade, the only decade that matters- we were the hangover.

And that was annoying.

Oddly my generation is doing the same thing, sniffily looking at all the quirks of contemporary youth culture and not seeing them. Adamant that are no youth tribes and discounting whole swathes of teenage culture because they don’t see it. And that’s the point- it’s teenage culture- it belongs to them- the parents are not meant to ”Ëœget it’ or understand that one band T shirt trumps another one, that the amount of hair zig-zagging across your head can mean everything.
When you start noticing there is youth culture everywhere”¦

It’s hard to walk around any town centre and get past the hordes of black clad emo/goth/mini punks/metallers”¦. there’s masses of them in every city and in every town.

Then there’s indie kids, danceheads, kids into T shirt culture, ”Ëœchavs’ with socks tucked in or out and as many myriad and weird and wonderful quirks and twists in the dressing up and dressing down code as there ever was.

The only difference in 2011 is that many of the teens are not so tribal as we were, but then the tribes were never as clear-cut as we get told. We may have been punks, but we would never say we were punks and we would do the opposite of what we were expected to, our music taste was broad from punk rock to dub to jazz to blues to Captain Beefheart to Killing Joke to Orange Juice. When you read about it now these were all different scenes but there were no rules then so why should there be rules now? People pick and mix their culture but still hazily belong to a tribe- they always did.

I see loads of teenage tribes as I tour and when I speak to the youth that come to our gigs they tell me that the clothes you wear can cause as much discrimination and random violence as it ever did. These details are still important, a black clad Emo with eye liner is going to get nervous walking past a bunch of ”Ëœchavs’ he/she could be in for beating and the line of defence that his parents tell him that there is no such thing as youth tribes any more is not going to wash as fists fly”¦

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. I have always held the belief that part of the point of Teenage/youth culture was that anyone over 25 didn’t get it.
    They don’t make it for ” us “, Why the hell should they and who the hell are ” we ” ? whoever we may be to judge the validity of it anyway.

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