Remembering the Politically Incorrect Punk of the 1980s
When punk first exploded in the middle 1970s, it was liberating. The central tenets all centred on the idea that anyone with anyone to say should be able to say it, regardless of musical ability, gender, or background. In other words, there were no rules.
But the time we got to the early 80s, punk became codified, governed by rigid competing and often contradicting dogmas. There were plenty of rules–and woe to those who transgressed. The punk rock thought police roamed the scenes, attempting to keep things pure. Reason.com takes a look at that era.
In September 1984, the widely read punk zine Maximum Rocknroll published its review of Victim in Pain, the debut album by a New York City band called Agnostic Front.
“I’m approaching this band with caution,” it warned. “Unfortunately, much of the narrow-mindedness, fanatical nationalism, and violence that has destroyed the New York punk scene seems to have revolved around AGNOSTIC FRONT.”
The author of that review was the publication’s founder and editor, Tim Yohannan, a 40-something ex-Yippie who thought punk music should march in lockstep with left-wing politics. As Ray Farrell, a punk veteran who once worked at the independent record label SST (run by Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn), told Steven Blush, author of American Hardcore: A Tribal History, “there was an ideological development at Maximum RockNRoll, making everything move towards a Socialist bent.”
Agnostic Front quickly became one of Yohannan’s primary targets. In one 1984 column, he claimed “the N.Y. Skins apparently have embraced the British National Front’s racist and nationalist attitudes.” He rarely missed the opportunity to depict the band’s members and their friends as goose-stepping goons.
This August, Agnostic Front singer Roger Miret published a new memoir that tells his side of the story.