Punk And Censorship

There’s a spat between Scouse punk band The Accelerators and Merseyside Women’s Action Group in the letters page of Spare Rib, 65, December, 1977.

Fascist Punk?
Dear Spare Rib,
Our experience of punk has been really bad. A local punk band, The Accelerators, offered to play at a benefit for two people who’d been busted, one of whom was in the women’s movement, so a lot of movement women were there. One of the band was wearing a patch on his clothes saying ‘All women’s libbers are cunts’. The volume of the music was so loud that there was no possibility of talking together. One of us went and tipped a pint of beer over the player’s head. She was attacked by the singer, as a result of which she had to have 20 stitches in her face. The band carried on playing and their music became even more aggressive. The women from the movement left.
Was one of us right in acting on her own initiative in such a situation? Some people saw it as a personal, not a political, act. It has been looked at as a trivial incident magnified out of all proportion by hypersensitive feminists. We don’t think that a band with such an anti-women attitude should be playing at alternative or left-wing events. If the band had displayed equivalent racist sentiments what would the reaction have been?
It seems difficult to discuss the relationship between direct sexism and the way music is performed. Still, we don’t think that the volume at which the music is played, the aggressiveness of the sound and rhythm and the violence in the gestures of the lead singer are separable from a contemptuous and subordinating attitude to women.
Just because something is against established authority doesn’t seem to us to mean that it should be regarded as progressive. For us, the sounds and mannerisms of punk rock are an expression of fascism in music and we want nothing whatever to do with it.
In sisterhood,
Anne Cunningham, Carol Riddell,
Liverpool 8.

… or just noisy rock ‘n’ roll?

Dear Spare Rib,
I play rhythm guitar with The Accelerators. On August 2, we played a benefit gig and several of the Merseyside Women’s Action Group (WAG) were present. Some of them persisted in haranguing the drummer’s girlfriend because of the sexy clothes she was wearing. He reacted by writing a slogan on his overalls, which read ‘All women’s lib. are cunts’.
In the middle of our first number, one of the WAG, Ms Tasker, walked onto the stage and poured a glass of beer over Brian, his drums, and a plugboard. He hit her once, and Chris, the singer, bundled her offstage. Some of her friends rushed forward, one of them wielding a mikestand. In the brief fracas Ms Tasker’s face was cut, either by the glass she was originally holding, or by one held by one of her friends. No-one in the band was holding a glass. We later learned that she had to have 20 stitches.
The WAG has been trying to make things hard for The Accelerators. They influenced the Merseyside Area Students Association to propose a motion to ban us from local colleges. Now a nationwide NUS ban is being requested. Isn’t democracy wonderful?
We were requested to play a benefit gig for Rock Against Racism (RAR) at a local pub. We arrived to find a picket line of feminists outside, urging people not to see the “sexist” Accelerators. All the wrangling delayed us and we didn’t get to play. The WAG may see this as a blow for women’s liberation, I see it as a blow against RAR and as a blow against rock’n’roll.
No-one in the band denies that the slogan Brian wore was offensive to some, but we refuse to let anyone dictate our individual opinions. We defend the right of the band to wear any slogans they want and will always abhor censorship, be it from Mary Whitehouse or extremist feminists. We see Ms Tasker’s act as physical censorship.
It is sad that the WAG’s campaign has totally ignored the music itself. My political stand is to play a dirty, noisy, rock’n’roll guitar. But the WAG wants to silence the band I play in. What a great step for women’s liberation.
Yours sincerely,
Kathy,
Liverpool 8.

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