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Punk Britannia tells the story of punk on BBC4



Punk Britannia tells the story of punk on BBC4
Punk Britannia got off to an interesting start. The first In a three part series on the history of punk explored the roots of the music in a detailed and thorough manner.
The latest in a series of specialist, high quality documentaries that have expertly covered several genres of music has entered the sticky subject of punk.
The slavering and drooling beast known as Punk means something different to everybody and is almost imposable to define the whole scene in a book or in a three part TV series. Whatever is up there on the screen will always be wrong to somebody!
They have certainly done their homework and with a heavy duty cast of interviews they have the most stellar cast for a punk history series since the 10 part punk TV series I worked on a few years ago. From John Lydon to the normally more secretive Siouxsie Sioux and Paul Wellar as well as an eloquent Adam Ant and even Billy Idol, the big names were all there and their views were dignified and informative as part me covered the many tangled roots of punk.
The only slight drawback to the first of the three programmes was the heavy amount of pub rock on it. Whichis unusual as normally pub rock is left out of the equation, maybe they were redressing this balance but when Bees Make Honey or the Tyla Gang get more time than David Bowie in a  punk documentary then it is a bit lop sided. The pub rockers were, of course, key to the whole scene, afterall they opened up the space for the punk bands a few years later but without glam rock punk could not have existed and even the mush sneered at Prog was much more of an influence than history would dictate. Maybe part two will explore the glam influence on punk more and include the nascent New York scene.
There were some fantastic archive clips as you would expect from the BBC, afterall they own all the stuff and there were some clips that even I have not seen before. Dr. Feelggood in the context of the long pub rock section looked like something else and a million miles away away from their cohorts on the pub circuit adding an air of menace and switchblade sharpness that was a million miles away from the bearded warm ale bands on the same circuit. They also had a big section on the normally overlooked The Damned which was very welcome with New  Rose still sounding like an outrageous adrenalin rush.
When Dr Feelgood appear you suddenly feel like something really is going on. Less beer and fags, more beer and speed…
Part two next week will be about 1977 and the Pistols and the moment when punk hit the mainstream whilst the final part should be about the fracturing of punk into a myriad of scenes- already there are concerns from the punk community that the second wave of punk, the Crass scene and bands like the Ruts will be left on the cutting room floor and the post punk bands will get to dominate the narrative but let’s wait and see, for once someone may have taken the opportunity to tell the whole story on a mainstream TV series and include everything warts n’all.
Afterall if you dare to have lots of Bees Make Honey then you will definately not be missing out UK Subs and Crass.
Looking forward to part 2 next week.

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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. Ha ha…Post punk that will be everything pass 78 then ? punks enduring legacy Green day, the strokes and the libertines? really!!! I like those bands but damn people like to shoe horn everything into a genre!!
    I’m betting like John Robb said they will miss the likes of the Anarcho bands such as Crass and Conflict and I don’t know why but the likes of the Exploited,Discharge,Broken bones and GBH always get missed out. Believe it or not the eighties were not always about Duran Duran and leg warmers

  2. how can you have a documentary bout punk without mentioning the Stooges(Iggy pop), Ramones and even Alice Cooper, ok their American but its like discussing pop art and not mentioning Andy Warhol!

  3. Definitely the series should mention the regionalism of punk, or at least the way it spread around the country – like a disease! It won’t, though. Maybe Manchester.
    Mick Farren, The Fairies. All nutters. All punk, really, but with very long hair.

  4. […] week in 1977, punk gobbed its way into the mainstream just as The Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations got […]


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