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A Reflection on the UK's 70's/80's Anarchic Movements

A reflection on the phenomenons of the punk movement and hooliganism

Sex Pistols performance, 1977

The Origins

Although there is some controversy about the exact origins of Punk Rock, it is widely accepted that the music genre emerged during the mid 1970’s in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Australia, with deep roots in garage rock and resulting in short and fast-paced songs, frequently containing reactionary and anti-establishment lyrics. During this period, the movement was lead by bands like The Ramones, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks or The Clash. This would fuel an underground culture of rebellion among the younger crowd, also know as the Punk Movement, in the aforementioned countries, with a particular impact in the UK due to the general dissatisfaction with the economical and political situation of the country, causing the extensively jobless youth to show this discomfort not only in violent and anarchic ways but also through some distinctive spiky hairstyles, styles of clothing like leather jackets, spiked bands or even offensive T-shirts. Some groups of Neo-Nazi and fascist ideologies also kept on self-identifying with the Punk movement throughout the years but consistently faced rejection. The American band Dead Kennedys even published a song entitled “Nazi Punks F*ck Off”, clearly showing the attitude of the movement towards this ideology. An anti-Nazi anthem was even adopted by many followers of the Punk Movement.

Development & Consequences

The election of Margaret Thatcher as the new Prime Minister of the UK on the 4 May 1979 deeply affected the socioeconomic status of the country in the following decade. In fact, the Iron Lady was expected to reverse the high inflation and to help the country recover from the recession over the previous years. Although this milestone was achieved in 1982, the unemployment rate was still growing, peaking at 3.3 million jobless people in 1984, prompting then the government to implement a set of measures to revert these numbers. Some of these were quite controversial, namely the emphasis on the economic policies of deregulation and privatization of many companies, but mostly the barriers created with the purpose of hindering the access to unemployment benefits. This lead to an increase of the general frustration and many turned to violence to express their feelings, boosting also the acts of hooliganism, as another way to escape from reality and show discontent. Although this was not a new phenomenon, it was definitely boosted by the social and political circumstances felt throughout the country. The fighting against hooliganism would reach a new stage in 1985 after the Heysel Stadium disaster involving fans from Juventus and Liverpool, causing 39 deaths. As a result, all the English clubs would receive a 5 year ban from all European football competitions and the UK government would take new and reinforced measures in order to identify, control and ultimately ban violent fans from football stadiums.

Music Examples

“Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols” is the name of this groundbreaking album released by the band in 1977 and is considered by many as one of the most influential of all time, while the name of the band and album frequently appear on many top musical ranking charts, including the ones published by Rolling Stone.

If irony could assume a musical format, it would definitely be called “God Save The Queen“. Although the music was banned from many of the major radio stations due to its deeply anarchic nature, it still found its way to the top spot in the UK charts.

by YKW // 2 February 2022

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