Styles & Forms | Punk | The Aftermath (1981) | Key Events


Talking Heads’ ‘Once In A Lifetime’

With its African-inspired rhythm conflicting with the rhythm played by the band, ‘Once In A Lifetime’ made for an unlikely hit single for Talking Heads. Although it failed to dent the American chart, the song made more impact in Britain where it reached No. 14. Much of its success was due to an innovative video, which featured Heads’ leader David Byrne’s ungainly dancing style. The clip became a staple of early MTV. ‘Once In A Lifetime’, released on 2 February 1981, was taken from the band’s fourth album Remain In Light, which saw them continue to develop beyond the confines of new wave rock.


The Oi Scene

A peculiarly British offshoot of punk, Oi was meant to return the music to the working classes with a style that combined energy with terrace chant choruses. Its leading exponents were The 4-Skins, Angelic Upstarts, The Exploited and Cockney Rejects. The last were standard-bearers for the scene, with their song ‘Oi, Oi, Oi’ giving the movement its name. In 1980, The Rejects’ single ‘The Greatest Cockney Rip-Off’ was a UK Top 30 hit. Subsequently, Oi became associated with fascist and racist politics and the firebombing by Asians of a gig in Southall on 4 July 1981 spelled the beginning of the end.

Anarcho-Punk In The UK

Anarchy had been associated with punk rock since the release of The Sex Pistols’ debut single, although the term was often used as a slogan with little real understanding of the political theory behind it. Formed in 1977 at a London commune, Crass were instrumental in creating the sub-genre known as anarcho-punk, which developed alongside hardcore in the States and Oi in Britain. The scene grew to embrace Poison Girls, A Flux Of Pink Indians, Subhumans, Conflict and The Apostles. Anarcho-punk mutated into grindcore in the mid-1980s, but Crass remained true to its original ideology.

The Ramones’ Pleasant Dreams

The sixth Ramones album, Pleasant Dreams, released on 20 July 1981, was a different affair to its predecessor, but fell short of returning the band to their punk roots. Instead, The Ramones developed a sound that was condemned by singer Joey Ramone as too slick. The producer was former 10cc man Graham Gouldman, whose brief from the record company was to give The Ramones a more radio-friendly heavy metal sheen. There were no covers, the songs were all written by either Joey or Dee Dee Ramone. Joey’s lyrics frequently refer to guitarist Johnny Ramone stealing his girlfriend and the tension caused by that.


Black Flag Go Hardcore

One of the first punk outfits on America’s West Coast, Black Flag went on to become pioneers of hardcore. The Californians recruited fan and sometime roadie Henry Rollins as lead vocalist shortly before recording Damaged, their debut album. When major label MCA baulked at the content, Black Flag released it on their own imprint on 5 December 1981. Very much an underground classic at the time,...

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