Europunk Exhibition, Paris – review

Cut The Crepe – Europunk, an artistic revolution.

Cite de la Musique, Paris

Running until January 19th.

Cite de la Musique is an excellent area of music celebration that seems to give as much weight to Motörhead as Mozart, tribal chants as chamber music. Therefore the only Tchaikovsky I may see here would be Bram, the explosive date not 1812 but 1976. I was lucky enough to see the Django Reinhardt exhibition here last year so was pretty sure of some delightful items being on display. And it in no way disappoints.

There is one avenue through the exhibition giving a Punk time-line.

Starting 1970-74 it overviews the social climate that greenhoused Euro-Punk – Red Brigade, Manson trial, politically impotent youth. A Pete Frame family tree labelled “Influence Of The New Wave” is central to 1975. Branching out from the London SS early doors appearance with Mick Jones learning his chops (and later Gen X, Boys and Damned members passing through) – and the transition of the Bromley Contingent from fans to bands. I’m pleased to see glam alt freaks Doctors Of Madness get a photo in too (featuring Richard Strange last seen a couple of weeks back narrating Zappa’s 200 Motels at the Barbican). Outside of this timeline, rather than feature too many records, there is a stunning collection of fanzines on display including (aside from the obvious Sniffin’ Glue) such titles as Pick Of The Poseurs and Attack. An issue of I Wanna Be Your Dog mag from ’77 Paris draws no obvious distinction between listed bands Pistols, Dictators, Deville (Mink) & Doors. While Sniffin’ Glue is central to the DIY ethic of Punk (and wisely the exhibition shows that the grass roots who couldn’t manage the 3 chords could at least dispense “the truth” with the ‘Zines as – if not more – important as the 7”s). The Euro mags more stylish work was no doubt breeding the graphic designers of the future.

Europunk Exhibition, Paris – review

Radical comix art, often with third world horror/terrorism/nuclear war themes, is displayed as concurrent underground work along with the music and posters and waybills abound. An insert for Give ‘Em Enough Rope’ by The Clash has a map listing the global whereabouts of Dictators and discrimination, not bad for a CBS major label release. We see a gig bill where the Damned perhaps repay a debt to the Watneys warriors of pub rock by getting support from Tyla Gang, Lee Brilleaux, & Rockpile (a benefit show for promoter Marc Zermati, though why he needed one as he still seems to be in the industry I don’t know!). The sleeve of Bend And Flush by the Pork Dukes from ’77 shows that Spinal Tap sexist imagery wasn’t laid waste by Punk (though the band were old rock lags in disguise). A central display of LP covers has the excellent and familiar “Armed Forces” cover by Barney Bubbles and is with similar work by French collective Bazooka productions on the La Perversita sleeve also from 1978 – worth noting Kiki & Loulou Picasso from the collective provide the cover for a tie in album of French Punk.

A 1979 NME asks “Is Britain Ready For French Rock?” and while hindsight provides a resounding “No!” we have had some fine shots across our bows (Les Negress Verte my personal favs) and even before ’79 Metal Urbain from Paris were on the first Rough Trade release – and a bloody fine band.

And the back door influence of European sensibility can be seen on a poster for 1980 (the approximate final date of this collection) cassette compilation ” Brussels With Love” featuring Bill Nelson, Brian Eno, Gavin Bryers & Harold Budd who rub shoulders with Thomas Dolby & ACR as Joy Division’s Transmission pounds from the rooms speakers. Mouth-watering shirts designed by Elisabeth de Senneville form a centre piece.

Perhaps appropriately the route starts and finishes with the Pistols. A poster designed by McClaren, Rhodes and (interestingly) Matlock screams “ London’s most notorious band!” with a confrontational image of a nude boy with a fag on the go for a Sept 76 Paris show. “Sex” clothing (amazingly small t-shirts that only the amphetamine thin could wear) is obviously a huge influence on much street wear that followed. The famous “Only anarchists are pretty” shirt features Karl Marx, now philosopher chic is common place. A sad “Believe in the ruins” banner from Swindle shows how fleeting it all was. But so important.

Europunk Exhibition, Paris – review

Near the back of the exhibition a mock recording studio set proudly displays the famous Sniffin’ Glue call to arms “This is chord, this is another, this is a third…now form a band” door is ajar to signify the sudden inclusivity that Punk offered up. Thanks chiefly to the artists on display that door is now wide open.

Cité de la Musique
221 avenue Jean Jaurès
19e, Paris

Opening hours: Tue to Thu 12noon-6pm; Fri-Sat 12noon-10pm; Sun 10am-6pm

Words: Martin Brimicombe

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