punk is a musical


The function of theater is to exaggerate life. In doing so, theater dissolves any claims on authenticity. Nothing is real in the theater; there is only commentary. And fabulous outfits. Funnily, this is also the function of punk. Including the outfits. To understand punk as authentic, as untheatrical, is a gross misconception. Flamboyantly adorned protopunk musicians in the 1970s such as David Bowie and Marc Bolan — musicians who overtly referenced theater — had their roots in Weimar cabaret and opera. Punk bands had their roots in Dada and agitprop. The Clash (for example) has much more in common with Awake and Sing! — Clifford Odets’ subversive 1930s play about defiance and youth — than (say) the lazy, grungy cock rock of the ’90s that declared itself punk’s true heir. “Kick over the wall ’cause government’s to fall/How can you refuse it?/Let fury have the hour, anger can be power/D’you know that you can use it?” sang the Clash in “Clampdown.” “If this life leads to a revolution,” Jacob says in Awake and Sing!, “it’s a good life. Otherwise it’s for nothing.”

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