Friday, November 11, 2005
Punk in Roanoke
Before Green Day went all MTV and made punk fashionable, there was gritty garage noise smashed from cheap instruments by vaguely skilled musicians.
Kids who couldn’t be bothered to draft a term paper penned angst-laden anthems and screeched them over cacophonous, 90-mph “tunes.”
Even then, 20 years ago and more, punk rock was a national phenomenon, but not one built upon the appeal of national stars such as Green Day. It was a network of do-it-yourself music scenes strung out across America from punk’s birthplace in New York to Los Angeles, and towns of all sizes in between.
Even in Roanoke, there was a small but enterprising band of kids who, in the fuzz and howl of The Ramones and The Sex Pistols and The Clash and Black Flag, heard something that made sense to them.
Riding the crest of cultural change has never been a strong suit for Roanoke. Embracing counterculture seems to be even slower.
Yet when it came to punk rock, Roanoke found itself in the thick of the mosh pit.
The Ramones, godfathers of punk, formed in 1974. “Nevermind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols” hit record stores in 1977. American punk icons the Dead Kennedys put out their landmark album, “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables,” in 1980.
And right on the heels of all that came Roanoke’s first punk acts, with seminal bands such as The Raticals and Blemish on Society. They were followed by second-generation bands such as MNP and Eggbert.
Roanoke didn’t exactly embrace the punk ethos. The newspaper was amused, the cops were wary, old people were shocked, parents were worried and dismayed.
Maybe all that was justified, but for the kids in the throes of it, it was a freewheeling and sometimes painfully defining moment in all of their lives.
Those old punks still are among us. We talk to some of them for this package on the heyday of punk music in Roanoke. Some look the part more than others these days — but it’s the rarer one who in adulthood has altogether left those punk roots behind.