Like the real thing

I suspect when it comes to the existence of black punk bands like Death and black rock bands and musicians in general, they often feel like the real thing. There are black people, even some Africans who like listening to rock music and there’s a Goth scene in Kenya and a metal scene in Botswana. So rock music does exist in Africa.

Actually if you want a stretch, black guitarists (irrespective of genre) do exist. You’ve got Cameroon’s Kareyce Fotso who did a number of delightful songs. Then there’s Tinariwen, an all-Tuareg band. Those are some that I could name but they do deserve a mention. It seems parsimonious to say that they often get ignored in favour of their white counterparts.

It’s not that Clash necessarily did cultural appropriation but that those bands are not being given enough credit. Let alone any focus outside of their relation to white musicians that they’re worth listening to and given a damn about.

Is it cultural appropriation?

It’s debatable whether if The Clash participated in cultural appropriation or not but you could say similar things about Blondie and David Bowie to varying degrees with regards to ‘black’ music. They were certainly influenced by soul and the like but I sometimes think black rock musicians and black guitarists are oftentimes overlooked. Maybe not entirely overlooked.

But it seems the only well-known black rockers are Slash from Guns and Roses, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Skunk Anansie and well that’s pretty much what I could name. Death might be one of the earlier all-black punk bands but they’re not that well-known. It’s not that The Clash necessarily did cultural appropriation but with Death being an all black punk band, the latter feels like the real thing.

Maybe cultural appropriation’s not the best word to describe this but rather racism in the form of ignoring those bands until recently and even they still seem like a footnote even when they shouldn’t be.

All those other punks

I’ve come to the conclusion that even if Velvet Underground, Death, Jayne County, The Stooges, New York Dolls and David Bowie all influenced punk rock to varying degrees The Ramones get credit for being not only that recognisable (though you could make a good argument for the Ziggy Stardust character being the prototype for almost any spiky-haired punker) but almost commercially successful compared to Death and Jayne County.

Jayne County, if I’m not mistaken, is a transgender musician who wore very shocking outfits and might possibly be ahead of their time. In that transgender celebrities weren’t that openly supported, acknowledged and considered until recently. David Bowie was certainly a genderbender but he was also a married man with a son at the time. Death, likewise was one of the earliest all-black punk bands.

But if the stereotype of black bands at the time were rhythm and blues pop bands (especially the Jackson Five and the like), despite Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry and 1973 Hanson being a thing (the latter is a British rock band), Death were also too left-field to be readily accepted by the public. (There are also African rock bands and guitarists but still too niche to be accepted.)

It could be that my uncle was something of a fanboy. Even if you point out there were other punk bands before The Ramones (Iggy Pop and the Stooges shouldn’t be forgotten), he seemed to like The Ramones a lot to seemingly ignore the others. I also think The Ramones were pretty commercial compared to Death and Jayne County.

That’s still saying in that whilst The Ramones did have less wholesome moments, they seem more approachable to the public when you think about it.

Joey was a punk rocker

As for The Ramones, some people have stated there were other musicians and bands that predated them. Be it Death, The Stooges (and thus Iggy Pop), The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, New York Dolls, Joey Ramones’s early band Sniper, Wayne/Jayne County and the Backstreet Boys/Electric Chairs and even David Bowie at some point (let’s not forget that he and Mick Jones have admitted his influence and oddly enough Paul Simonon doubled for him before).

That’s not to say some of those bands lacked any influence or mention. Like I said, some of the Ramones and the Clash were influenced by David Bowie and Malcolm McLaren managed both the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols. It seems parsimonious to say that The Ramones was possibly the most recognisable proto-punk band. (I’d say David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars were commercially successful in their own right.)

There was a proto-punk band called The Punks and Blondie could also be considered proto-punk, but The Ramones were eventually recognised as such. For some reason, especially commercial reasons at that (Death and Jayne Country were probably too left-field to be readily embraced by the mainstream). I think that’s the easiest one.

The dark scene

Something that’s oddly more articulated in German speaking circles (though there may be significant shady undercurrents in German speaking and perhaps Nordic cultures, as far as I’ve assumed), the dark scene according to this post encompasses significantly more. To sum it up, there are several communities under this banner, some more accessible than others and those more widely known in the mainstream are emo punk music and old school Goth music.

Like I said before, the major salient difference between Goth and Emo’s that the latter hasn’t gone this far at least thematically and sartorially speaking so is thus readily understood by the mainstream. The Goth scene proper however has things that would offend the general public. (Emo’s not necessarily any more offensive but I don’t think emo music’s doesn’t seem so openly indebted to the supernatural, at least not to the same extent.) Both of them evolved from punk rock.

But Goth as a moniker and sensibility has developed an identity of its own, especially as a subculture. It’s not that emo hasn’t done the same but that of all the subcultures/genres that evolved from punk, I have the feeling that it’s Goth that’s gone the furthest. However oddly enough according to that very post, both punk and heavy metal are part of the dark scene or at least some genres are. No surprise as there could be a lot of cross-pollination.

(There might be emo bands that do take inspiration from 80s new wave and post punk and might even be the direct heirs in this regard.)

It may also be parsimonious to say that for some odd reason, punk’s rather prone to creating a lot of those dark-clad apparently emotionally minded bands/music (I suspect it probably gets tiring doing politically minded lyrics that even the Clash and Johnny Rotten would come to do similar stuff at some point). Though similar sensibilities could also play into account how and why the dark scene came to be.

Barbaric but not emotional

As I said, there are differences between Goth and Emo despite the overlap whether in music or fashion. The biggest salient differences for me’s that Goth’s the older subculture with a profound interest in the supernatural/macabre and significantly more sexualised fashions. Emo, to me, hasn’t gone this far thematically and sartorially speaking.

Likewise there are differences between Goth and heavy metal, the biggest one’s that Goth often tends to look to 19th century literature and fashion for inspiration. As far as I know about it so to speak. If Emo and Goth are considered to be punk, it may be parsimonious to say that Emo seems generally less sexualised (not too many Emos wear corsets, let alone as often as Goth do).

Goth seems more like 70s Punk in the sense of wearing openly sexualised outfits (the BDSM influence) and being as influenced by glam as it is by electronic music. Actually and oddly enough, the New Romantic subculture also had a lot of electronic acts and also looked to Bowie for inspiration. (Honestly, punk owes much to glam rock in terms of aesthetic and admitted musical influence or in Paul Simonon’s case, doubling for Bowie.)

If Emo’s considered to be similar to Goth, it’s what Goth would be like if it weren’t for the coincidental or accidental New Romantics confluence (although New Romantics initially didn’t have much to do with Goth, since it didn’t last long it’s likely some of those NR members went on to join Goth). This might be my opinion but it does make sense in a way that both Goth and New Romantic descend directly from post-punk.

Emo’s influenced by post-punk (MCR did encounter Bauhaus and were also influenced by the Cure) but not to the same extent of being in contact with another post-punk scene in its inception. Though some emo musicians may come to do electronic music and some admit to being influenced by new wave, Goth in the 80s was practically contemporaneous with New Romantic.

(This may not always be the case but if NR didn’t last long, some of those NRs would’ve become Goths immediately.)

Also the real one’s that Emo seemed fairly mainstream in recent memory whereas Goth’s generally more of an underground thing. Not that there aren’t underground emo bands and mainstream Goth acts. But I often get the impression of Goth aesthetics and sometimes the Goth sensibility to be too extreme for mainstream press to enjoy that it patronises the likes of Nine Inch Nails and emo instead.

In short, emo and Goth are different enough to have their own sensibilities but if emo’s considered to like Goth it’s what Goth would be like if you remove the New Romantics confluence and tone down the aesthetics significantly. I don’t mean it in a bad way but I do get the impression of emo bands being at some point more palatable to mainstream press than Goth bands are.

So there’s that.

Teutonic Shadiness

Though not always the case, it’s more of an odd coincidence (in my opinion) that countries like Britain, Germany and much of Scandinavia have an air of shadiness that more or less cultivates dark subcultures like punk, Goth and heavy metal. If they’re held up on a pedestal, there’ll inevitably be people (both outsiders and insiders) who feel as if there’s something dubious about those countries (that insiders live in).

It’s like how Sweden’s often held to be a good beacon of gender equality but not too many conservatives like it. Even some native Swedes can’t it either. When compounded with a heavy metal subculture, there’s going to be some natives feeling as if this country’s kind of fishy enough to want to focus on the dark side. Same with Goth and punk in Britain and Germany. Not that Romance countries are any less (or more) shady either.

But it’s more to do with being held up so high that what if it’s going to fall down any time sooner. I do harbour my own suspicions about these countries myself, being into their dark sides at some point or another. But I’m not alone since some conseratives also feel the same way too to some extent. The takeaway’s the more seemingly perfect that thing is, the more ironically imperfect it turns out to be.