Saturday, April 5, 2008

Plasmatics and Tom Snyder

The hardcore punk movement in the 80s reached one of its cultural high points when Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics were on TV. It was a grand scandal, and so popular they were back on TV for sweeps week. With her spreading shaving cream all over her chest, being angry and rebellious, with mohawks to rival the best in Trafalgar Square, with her blowing up a car on stage--TV couldn't resist and neither could I. From my post-adolescent-male-point-of-view it was a theatre of pain and suffering, with boobs! What's not to like? At least that's how it was back in the day. These days I appreciate the best of punk for its raw accomplishments in tweeking the hegemony from within its own capitalist system, infecting even as it's held to the margins of the radio dial and cultural landscape.

There's one aspect of punk (such as hardcore punk music like the Plasmatics, FEAR, Germs, Circle Jerks, Dead Kennedys) that is as alive for me now as it was when I was first discovering it in the late seventies and into the eighties, and that is the humor, the ironic deadpan hilarity of this work. In this clip we can hear the band opening with a count "One, Two, Fuck You." It's not the kind of humor you'll read in the New Yorker, but it's funny anyway. I like to think about how Kafka's K would react, sitting in the audience at a Plasmatics show, feigning disgust and disinterest but mesmerized by the sexualized rebellion against the system. Either he would forget himself and dance upon his chair, get some shaving cream on his hands, or he would cower in guilty shame for having liked it. Either way, he would not leave the theatre. He certainly would not be as comfortable as that badass Tom Snyder, who had lots of great punks on his show.

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