Press clipping on Sydney punks, paper, Sydney Morning Herald, collected by Mark Ritchie, New South Wales, Australia, c. 1983
This press clipping is an important record of the early to mid 1980s Sydney punk subculture. A movement that went to to greatly influence many aspects and mainstream and alternate culture post 1980s.
Punk subculture was born out of a strong discontentment with mainstream culture, politics, religion, and western capitalist ideology. In the UK, where most believe the culture grew from, unemployment, conservatism, complacency and conformity in the music and fashion industries led many young people, most without much income, to create an alternative culture which fit with the reality of their existence.
Music in particular was a major part of the punk movement. In reaction to the tired dominant forms of popular music in the 1960s and 70s, bands began to write music and lyrics that rejected the self-indulgent musicianship of prog rock, the irrelevance of folk music in that era, and insipidness of pop music. North America led this charge, with bands such as New York's The New York Dolls and The Ramones, and Detroit's Iggy and the Stooges, though Sydney's Radio Birdman cannot be overlooked here. However, whereas these bands were not necessarily consciously punk, UK bands such as The Clash and The Damned were quite un-self-consciously punk rock. The Sex Pistols even more so - their genesis being contrived for the punk rock market.
Fashion too was overhauled by mid-to-late 1970s youth culture. With little disposable cash, punks designed and made their own clothes. Mixing styles and textures, roughly sewn and attached with safety pins, punk fashion was individual and the antithesis of mass market clothing. The fashion of long hair popular through the 60s and 70s was shaved and coloured away too.
Through music, the press, and international travel, punk culture made its way to the youth of Australia. By the late 1970s, there was a healthy punk subculture in Sydney. Bands such as The Saints were continuing what Radio Birdman were doing with their re-invention of rock music; and other bands were going further and rejecting the established music industry altogether - producing their own records and booking their own shows.
Australian punks were rejecting mainstream culture as their European and American cousins were. Living in squats, collecting unemployment benefits, recycling clothes, establishing hang-outs, Sydney punks developed a public presence - not a very popular one in the eyes of mainstream culture. Indeed, as the donor of this collections recalls, he was simply walking up to a car stopped in traffic on William Street Darlinghurst, Sydney, wearing his everyday DIY clothes to ask the driver for the time, when every motorist in sight locked their car doors. Due to their alternative look and lifestyle, Sydney punks were constant victims of the NSW Police's summary arrests and assaults. According to the donor and his friends, one punk was even bashed to death in the Central lock-up. One of the press clippings in this collection relates to this incident.
Although many punks were intelligent and creative individuals, because of their appearance they found it very difficult to secure employment and other trappings of mainstream culture. Thus confirming their status as a culture existing on the fringe of the dominant paradigm.
The donor collected this press clipping when he was part of the punk subculture in Sydney, Australia during the 1980s. Although the punk subculture may have dispersed to some degree, friendships have survived the decades, and the donor and his friends have kept important documentation of their time as Sydney punks. Mark Ritchie donated this material to the Powerhouse Museum in 2009.