Thursday, August 10, 2006

Does Punk Lack Soul?


I remember reading Johnny Ramone's obituary, where he was quoted as saying that the Ramones music was all dorky white guy stuff without a trace of soulful influence. Sure, the Ramones power-chorded their way through punk and pop music... but was Johnny right?

Today, Billy Miller of Norton Records dropped by my NY hosts, Pass Out Record Shop to drop off some records for the store - Thee Midnighters, and Billy and I began to talk about the difference in old skool garage and current garage rock. And the difference was horns, and a little bit of soul. We discussed the clear generational rift between music fans who either loved or were indifferent to The Alarm Clocks, who played in Brooklyn a couple weeks ago.

It got me to thinking about the presence - or lack thereof - of soul in punk rock.

David & Syl

The New York Dolls always referenced a little bit of soul, Motown, Stax or R&B - and especially in his solo career, David Johansen drew from the well of soul music - with "Bernadette" being a show stopper in his solo live show.

The Jam's Paul Weller is my generation's Blue Eyed Soul Man.

Paul Weller

Its more obvious in the Style Council, but be sure that the Jam drew on American Black music more than they drew on the more traditional punk antecedents like The Stooges or MC5.

Perhaps it is that one ingredient that separates punk from garage/punk and that separates US punk from UK punk -- the UK punks were quite into their reggae influence too, let's not forget, with The Slits and countless others invoking the Jamaican dance hall.

London Punks in Los Angeles

If Johnny Ramone is accurate in his appraisal of his own music, and the Ramones lack soul, they at least had energy in spades!

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