My favorite person in the early New York punk scene may be an eight-year-old girl.
Let me explain.
A large part of my research thus far has involved trawling the “vault” of PUNK magazine, whose website includes select scans from the magazine’s back issues. The one thing in the magazine that really grabbed my attention – more so even than John Holmstrom’s illustrated front covers – was a feature called “PUNK of the Month,” in which the magazine took submissions from readers who would explain, through often-sardonic claims of the ways in which they embody the punk rock lifestyle, why they deserved to be crowned punk of the month.
The submissions vary greatly from each other, each of them showing, through both text and layout, the unique style and temperament of the person who submitted it. There are huge disparities in tone above all else, with some “punks of the month” writing in a relatively calm tone while others went straight for the jugular with whatever cynical, shocking, and offensive statements they could come up with. The November 1977 PUNK of the Month, instead of submitting a photo, sent a “blood smear” (maybe fake; maybe not; who knows?) and proclaimed: “Here’s more of me than a picture could ever have.” (This particular submission also employed a non-reclamatory use of a homophobic slur, which just goes to show that even within what is meant to be an anti-establishment, anti-“ism” scene, you still come across a lot of “bro” types who just don’t Get It.)
And then, on the other end of the spectrum, you have little girls who love Patti Smith and beat up boys with their hairbrushes.
I admit I was surprised to see eight-year-old Nellie the “Live Wire” in a publication that is known for lewdness, swearing, and all sorts of inappropriate content. I was much more surprised to see how indulgent the magazine was with her submission, captioning her challenging pose with “Don’t get in her way!” Too often do we see adult male fans of rock music – from hardcore punk to pop-punk to alt. rock to emo – dismiss the musical tastes of young girls and even attempt, both consciously and unconsciously, to chase them out of the scene. It’s incredibly important to see that, even from the very beginning, young girls have been fans of punk rock, and it’s important that the magazine that gave the scene its name is not ashamed to acknowledge that.
I hope to find a place for Nellie in my exhibit. I’m not yet sure where I could put her, but the girls of the punk scene are an important part of the development of the punk aesthetic and its journey into the mainstream, so this gem may not be a complete tangent after all.
To see the rest of the PUNK vault, click here.