The Morecambe Tour Diary Epilogue
Hi there. My name’s Chris, I’m twenty-three and I have a confession to make. Whilst it might be a slight faux pas on my account to own up to this in front of all you streetwise professors, I went to Morecambe in the summer of 2004 for the first time in my life. It was great…I love The North, every little bit Thatcher brought to its knees…and that’s before all the other white supremacists and I set one foot on the prom. Yes ladies and gentlemen, today I thought we’d talk about the distinct lack of ethnicity I couldn’t help but notice that weekend passed.
Just listen to how quiet it’s gone all of a sudden. You’re waiting for me to slip up aren’t you? Now I know I’m treading on risky material because as soon as you start talking about anything gay or racial all of a sudden you’re branded homophobic and a racist? No? No! Let’s just take a step back, look at the facts (1) listen to the lyrics (3) and not jump to any conclusions here.
Happy now, ok, let’s go back to Morecambe; highpoint of the punk calendar, a thick wedge of history past and present and for some of us, that one chance to see the Adicts that year. Unless you’re one of the brown shirts who turned out to see Condemned 84 the year before I went, complete with Nazi regalia and Zeig-Heils! It just struck me as a little strange that I didn’t see one black person in the whole four days I was there yet lost count of the number of anti-swastika patches proudly on display amidst the hoards of so-called egalitarians. What’s wrong with us, are we really that intimidating? You should meet these people! Charlie Harper’s a nice guy who overdrinks, Jello Biafra’s a nice guy who overtalks, I’m a nice guy who oversimplifies just to get the point across that we’re all equal in our capacity to be nice or nasty human beings (4).
Is punk rock forever doomed to be overcast by a stereotype of white supremacy? Stzah from Leftöver Crack commanded the crowd with some bravado that weekend, yelling ‘all you Nazis get the fuck out, you’re not welcome here!’ A sincere statement that sadly proved not to be the voice of a majority; a steady undercurrent of boos could nonetheless be heard flowing beneath the prevalently louder supporters of his claim. We realised that living in a van outside a church for the duration of the festival might not have been such a good idea come Sunday morning. Whilst brushing my teeth with the aid of a bottle of water and a nearby drain I was thoroughly concerned when one of that mornings congregation strolled over to the van for a brief chat. However, I was pleasantly surprised by his amiable nature. He must have been in his early sixties, and sincere in his desire to have a chat with his new found neighbours. Understandably he was aware of the festival and as we chatted further he came across as a canny lad; perfectly transgressing both the generational and culture gaps between us…albeit until he asked us if we had ‘many problems with immigrants’ in Ipswich! Looks like Condemned 84 could be goose-steeping their way back to the Market Arena as we speaks; the seeds sown long ago!
Perhaps there’s simply better things to aspire to? Why smash the system and up the punks when you could be the next 2-Pac Shakur. With role models like Michael Jordan and the pervasiveness of branded youth culture is it any surprise political activism and social equality is falling by the wayside? Whilst Dick Lucas vituperates his spleen at the insatiable desire big business and governments have for ‘more money than they could ever need’ Michael Jordan’s been perpetually shrugging his shoulders and saying that his job was to ‘shoot hoop, not play politics’ (5) In response to some of the worst labour rights atrocities Nike have committed this century. What’s it to be peeps? Dick Lucas, the activist informant or Michael Jordan, the bullet in the head of Muhamed Ali’s conscientious objection? I know who I’d rather talk to, but then again Nike has always targeted the inner cities, the styles of poor black and Latino youth to load up on imagery and attitude; with Nike’s branding power so thoroughly intertwined with the African-American heroes who have endorsed its products since the mid-eighties: Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Michael Johnson, Spike Lee, Tiger Woods, Bo Jackson, not to mention the rappers who wear Nike gear on stage. Phil Knight must have known that as long as Nike was ‘King Brand’ with Jordan fans in the Bronx, he could be stirred but not shaken. Sure, their parents, teachers and church-leaders might be tut-tutting over sweatshops, but as far as Nike’s core demographic was concerned the swoosh was made of Teflon (6). Imagery and attitude? Whatever happened to the united front the punk movement presented in mid-70s London? Bad Brains across the pond? The Specials and the common enemy? I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this argument, but I’m angry. I’m angry that my parents generation make comments like, ‘oh, wasn’t he a lovely chap for a black man.’ I’m angry that one of the biggest gatherings of supposedly like-minded punks visually presented itself as nothing more than a BNP Bottle Bank and I’m angry about the image our music is ‘really’ portraying the world. Anger is a weakness; it affects my ability to reason and express the way I feel coherently.
PS: One of my closest mates recently pointed out a dormant, comical, yet highly relevant question to me throughout our time at Morecambe…why doesn’t anyone ever say ‘I was hassled by a white guy the other day’ or ‘I saw this white man pushing drugs on the street?’ Just try specifying the skin colour of every third person you talk about for a day and you’ll see how farcically absurd citing anyone’s skin colour is in describing their actions!
PSS: The new Leftöver Crack/Citizen Fish split 7” Meltdown/Baby-punchers is great! Can’t wait to hear the album.
Fussnote (2) No.1
..that genetically we’re all the same. Skin colour merely a biological reaction between the melanoma in our skin and the amount of sun our bodies were geographically afforded over the years, FACT, so next time you’re having a little chat with Mr Reichsführer BNP tell him that it’s highly likely that his genetic make-up is more similar to that of a Black Trinidadian than one of his drinking buddies (and then remember to duck).
Ok, I’ll fess up, the whole ‘Fussnote’ thing isn’t my own machination. I borrowed it from the columnary(sic) genius of Jessica Hopper, and seeing as I’m absolutely besotted with her command of the English language I hope she won’t mind too much.
‘If you’ve got a racist friend…etc, etc.’
I actually lifted these words out of Dick Lucas’ essay in ‘Threat By Example’ a book of essays written by members of the punk community about what makes them tick, and compiled by Martin Sprouse. The book itself is long out of print, but the essay has been recently reproduced in Dick’s book ‘Write the Way Up’ (AK Press).
Naomi Klein: No Logo: P369