Blog John, Mental Health

Disability and the Punk Attitude (John)

We’ve all got our heroes in life. One of my main entry points into the arts was discovering the Sex Pistols around nine years old. Pretty young for a punk but I was genuinely enthralled by them. Over my days I’ve remained a big fan, of not just the music, but of John Lydon and his general mischievousness and disdainful attitude towards the  established order of things.

I was watching a documentary on the Sex Pistols recently and I was struck by the amount of physically disabled people who kept popping up at clips of their live performances. I realised that the punk movement and its open arms welcome of the outsider, the different and the disenfranchised must have felt welcoming environment to people who were normally marginalised by society. This was the second half of the 70s and I imagine attitudes towards disability at the time must have been downright draconian. Yet here they now had a movement where they were seen as equal.

There’s a Sex Pistols song called Bodies. Lydon tells us the story in the lyrics is actually about a young woman Pauline who lived her life in a local psychiatric institution. He tells us the male staff would often take advantage of her sexualy. Just as the Sex Pistols were becoming famous she arrived at Lydons front door one night carrying a foetus in a plastic bag. A baby she had just lost. He invited her in to spend some time with him so he could see her back safely to some form of ‘care’. I think the way John Lydon dealt with this situation again reflects how the punk movement viewed people in society in general. You could come from the dustbin and still be welcome, still be validated as an equal human being.

Lydon and many other artists, people, friends, family and peers have influenced me in many ways. But the one thing I do watch out for in people is that punk attitude. It’s not just an attitude of when to accept people for what they are but an attitude of when not to accept what may been seen as societies norms. It’s an attitude that says, yes I am different and you’ll just have to get on with that or get out the door. Or you can join in the fun. Welcome to our movement of the different!

When I first met Elle with whom I write this blog I saw that punk attitude in her. Since getting to know her it’s a side of her I admire. I love hearing her voice on here. Punk wasn’t about nihilism or destroying things as is often perceived. It was a celebration of individuality, a giant F.U. to unacceptable persecutions and a voice for those who were rarely given one. In 1977 four young men had the establishment on the run. It’s never really happened again but the influence of it is as much part of being British as is fish and chips. That’s what this blog is about for me a lot of the time. Giving voice to something I felt I shouldn’t really talk about. I’m glad I did finally start talking. I know what it is to be disenfranchised, to be institutionalised. More importantly I know how it feels to break free of these things. It’s a great feeling. After all these years…Punk’s not dead. And may the road rise with you. 😉



4 thoughts on “Disability and the Punk Attitude (John)”

  1. My wee daughter was a Sex Pistols Punk. It was a wonderful mad time and lovely to see people being individuals, particularly in fashion, instead of one of the herd. Her technicolor hair and technicolor clothes lit up our life. Your stories about them endears me to them even more


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