How much of teenage rebellion is driven by boredom?  While watching Sid & Nancy, I was struck by how many young punks kept saying that they were bored.  Attending a concert?  Bored.  Spray-painting a room?  Bored.  It seems as if being young means vacillating between boredom, misery and fits of hyperactivity.  Oh, and heroin.

I missed the heyday of punk by dint of my birth.  Oh sure, I could have been punk at the tender age of 5, but I don’t think my parents would have cottoned to the idea of me sporting a green mohawk in preschool. Instead, I adopted musical tastes directly from my parents (classical, Vietnamese pop songs), my brother (radio R&B, disco), and my sister (New Wave, more disco).  Later, I used a tape recorder the size of a toaster to record the theme songs to my favorite cartoons (Danger Mouse, the Smurfs, the Mighty Orbots).  Punk never appeared on my radar.

By the time I reached high school, punk had disappeared almost entirely.  Sure, in downtown Denver, along 13th Street, you’d still see that metal studded leather jackets, the gelatined and Manic Panicked hair, but they were as likely to be industrial heads as punks.  So while I now knew what punk was (with the implicit understanding from my parents that punks were the “bad elements” of society), the appeal of the music was lost to me.  It seemed overly loud, dissonant, angry.  (Of course, I would very shortly fall under the sway of industrial music myself, which is nothing if not loud, dissonant and angry.)

But I did get a small exposure to the Sex Pistols via Public Image Limited.  All I knew at the time was that the album had been produced by Stephen Hague (and his association with New Order meant that he could do no wrong) and that the track “Disappointed” got heavy rotation on MTV’s 120 Minutes.

My sister:  “That’s Johnny Rotten!”

Me:  “I don’t think so.  Dave Kendall said his name was Johnny Lydon.”

My sister:  “No, it’s the same guy.  He used to be in the Sex Pistols.”

Me:  “Sex Pistols.  Huh.  Odd name.”

My only other exposure to the Sex Pistols was through a cover of “Anarchy in the UK.”  No, not the Mötley Crüe or Megadeth versions.  This version was by Frazier Chorus, the dream-pop band who had a minor hit with “Cloud 8” (the track appeared as a b-side on the “Cloud 8” single).  So from nihilism and violence to sweeping synthesizers and lullaby-quality lyrics.  Well, it makes sense:  by the 90s, punk had become a moribund genre.  Other forms of music had come up to supplant punk’s role in the hearts of rebellious youths everywhere.  Hip-hop, heavy metal, grunge, New Kids on the Block — these were fierce slaps in the face of The Man.  I think that even Sid & Nancy realizes the unique but temporal place of punk:  its final image shows Sid slipping into a cab with the now-deceased Nancy as three African-American kids boogie to a newfangled style of music.   Anger always seems to fade away into a dance.

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