Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Who do you always see in Punk documentaries?

Well, BBC Four has finally got round to making Punk Britannia. Old idiots such as this one have greatly enjoyed previous efforts such as Folk Britannia (Ah, The Incredible String Band), Jazz Britannia  (Ah, Joe Harriott), Heavy Metal Britannia (Ah, …

Mon, Jun 4, 2012, 15:45

   
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Well, BBC Four has finally got round to making Punk Britannia. Old idiots such as this one have greatly enjoyed previous efforts such as Folk Britannia (Ah, The Incredible String Band), Jazz Britannia  (Ah, Joe Harriott), Heavy Metal Britannia (Ah, Uriah Heep) and — in spite of ideological objections — Prog Britannia (Ah, Soft Machine). It is almost as if the TV station was toying with us. Why did it take them so long to get around to Punk?

At any rate, it is now here and, as expected, it offers the expected collection of talking heads interspersed with delightful archival footage. The first episode, broadcast this weekend, worked hard at dispelling any heretical notions that the movement may have originated in the United States. The New York Dolls did eventually turn up, but only after we’d enjoyed performances by pub-rock pioneers such as Dr Feelgood, Kilburn and the High Roads and the barely remembered (by me anyway) Ducks Deluxe.

Here’s the point of this facetious post. Who do you always expect to see in the first five minutes of a punk documentary. The Clash and The Sex Pistols? Of course. The makers of Punk Britannia cheekily failed to include the expected shots of Iggy Pop. But the most regular accidental contributor was on hand. The film-makers clearly know the rules. It is against the law to launch such an enterprise without including footage of Rick Wakeman playing four keyboards at the same time. If the documentarists are to be credited, Mr Wakemen — an amusing man well aware of his own absurdity — is single-handedly (well, double handedly obviously) responsible for the launch of the musical movement that changed popular culture. He is to punk as hyper-inflation was to the Nazis. You would never have had one without the other.

It’s about time the aging punks acknowledged his contribution. Perhaps John Lydon could take time off from advertising butter to encourage Public Image Limited to cover Knights of the Round Table in its ghastly entirety. Big pointed wizard hats are doffed to the Wakester. You are some sort of national treasure.

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