About the Author

Warren Kinsella

Books by this Author
Fight the Right

Fight the Right

A Manual for Surviving the Coming Conservative Apocalypse
tagged : national
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Fury's Hour

Fury's Hour

A (sort-of) Punk Manifesto
tagged : punk
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Hey everyone would you look at me
At least what I’m supposed to be
Anything this, is it anything new?
Frustrated, confused, and acne, too
What do I think, I think someone said
Give me your hand, and touch my head
I think, I do not think, I do not care
I think what everyone put there
“I Am a Confused Teenager,”
the Hot Nasties
I Am a Confused Teenager
(or, the punk’s secret of immortality)


Now, this was going to be interesting.

“Listen, you little punk, you’re going to get arrested for inciting a goddamned riot, do you understand me? Get these people off this stage now, punk!”

I have to admit, the police officer’s bellowed threat sounded a lot more like an offer. To a rabble-rousing teenage punk like me – and to the anti-social bunch of punks that made up our band, the Hot Nasties – getting arrested for inciting a riot was pretty fucking cool. I kept playing, and kept hollering into the microphone, and kept looking at the cop, who in turn was glowering at me. He had his hand on his constable’s utility belt, which suggested to me that he was about to mace me, handcuff me or shoot me. Any one of these things would have brought the Hot Nasties big show at the Calgary Stampede to a crashing halt, but – man! – what an amazing finish it would be. I kept playing. The cop kept glaring. The “rioters” kept “rioting.”

It was July 13, 1980, and the Hot Nasties – along with quite a few punks and a dozen or so cops – were onstage at the Calgary Stampede. The nice people at the Calgary Stampede had invited us to play, I suppose, because they were interested in letting suburban moms and dads take a peek at this wacky new punk thing that everyone was talking about. We didn’t ask what their motivation was, frankly. When the earnest, cowboy-hatted organizers offered us a chance to spread discord and dissent in the middle of the family-friendly annual event that makes Calgary, Alberta, Canada, world-famous – well, hell. We would have paid to stir up shit on that scale.

But, still. Having the dozen cops onstage with us probably made our point better than the scores of punks could. Our point being, punk wasn’t about being comfortable, or complacent, or entertained. It was about pissed-off young people shaking things up, and having a bit of fun, and maybe changing a few attitudes (and redressing a few injustices) along the way.

The cop stepped closer, menacingly, apparently intending to signal how serious he was about arresting me for inviting punks onto the Stampede’s stage to dance, and thereby, to wit and henceforth, causing a “riot,” Your Honour. I stopped playing bass and waved to the rest of the Hot Nasties to cease and desist. Our song, a moderately popular three-chord rant called “Invasion of the Tribbles,” ground to an inglorious stop.

“Okay, okay,” I said into the microphone. Photos I have subsequently seen of that precise moment show me in my favourite biker jacket and a cowboy hat, the cop towering overhead, his back turned (rudely, I thought) to the one thousand or so folks in attendance. “I am going to be arrested for inciting a riot if you darn punks don’t stop dancing and get off the stage.” I paused and glanced at the cop, who seemed capable of murder at any moment. “You don’t want me arrested, do you?” I asked the crowd.

A wild cheer went up.

“I thought so,” I said. “But get off the friggin’ stage anyway, okay?”

Alright, let’s clear up a few things before this little punk show gets started, shall we?

Yes, I am in the first half of my forties. Yes, I live in a nice house and am happily married and have four great kids (all of whom love punk rock, by the way). Yes, I think I’m going to need reading glasses soon, and I am balding, and what isn’t falling out is getting awfully grey. Yes, I am not nearly as politically radical as I once was – although there are plenty of rightist assholes who’d tell you that I have become a crazed Bolshevik as I have become older. Yes, I am a middle-class dad, and I sometimes wear ties. Yes, the writing of this book is probably some weird manifestation of the beginning of a mid-life crisis. Yes, I am, in effect, a boring old fart of the type that I used to malign, back when I wrote songs for the punk outfit calling itself the Hot Nasties. Yes, I have become that which I once sought to destroy.

Big fucking deal. Piss off, as a punk might say, if you don’t approve. I still get excited by the music, and I still admire virtually every teenage punk I pass on the street – for their refusal to conform, for their guts, for their passion, for their commitment. I love punk, and – somewhere deep inside my geriatric chest – there is a sixteen-year-old in a black leather biker jacket, endlessly playing along to “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker.” Spitting.

As you will shortly discover, I am about as subtle as a hand grenade in a bowl of porridge, and the same (hopefully) goes for this book. Given that this little tome is about punk, and given that I used to be one myself, subtlety seems ill-advised in any event. Punk has always been loud, noisy and fast, and anyone who knows me will tell you I’m that way too.

Nowadays, however, I stand at the back of the dark, dingy halls, with all the other old farts, singing along with the great punk tunes (new and less new) and laughing at the young punks down in front, jumping up and down, smashing into each other, diving off the stage and hoping like hell someone will catch them before they meet up with concrete. It’s just so fucking great, this punk stuff, and I love it so much, I wanted to tell you why.

Oh, and there are a lot of swear words in this book. Punks swear a lot, and I’ve never lost the habit (ask my wife). When my kids get older, I’m going to get a fucking earful about this, believe me.

Okay, here’s some biographical crap.

When I was fifteen, I belonged to the Non-Conformist News Agency. It was a non-existent political party that a few of us cooked up in our final year at St. Bonaventure Junior High School. We used the NCNA to cause all kinds of shit at St. Bonaventure: burning the school constitution at lunchtime, reading the Communist Manifesto in English class, demanding a day off to commemorate the shootings at Kent State University in 1970, running a fictional candidate named Herbie Schwartz for the student council elections (Herbie won, so a couple of us were forced to serve by the crypto-fascistic vice-principal, who called us “Marxist agitators”). And so on.

Growing up in Calgary, Alberta, in the seventies, I was (not entirely surprisingly) unlike many of my peers. To me, a weekend spent smoking dope and listening to Led Zep on headphones was a wasted forty-eight hours. If I was going to irritate my teachers and like-minded authority figures, there had to be a better way.

As things turned out, all of us in the NCNA loved nasty, gnarly rock ’n’ roll – the raw stuff generated by early Who, Kinks and Stones (I had a soft spot for John Lennon’s Beatles contributions, too). One of the guys got a guitar, then another guy got a bass, and then we met a guy in the Calgary Stampede Band who had a drum kit. So we decided to form a band, which we called the Social Blemishes. I was the lead screamer, but not the only one. Anyone who had a case of beer to contribute could commandeer the microphone for a while.

The Blems weren’t actually a punk band at the start. Generally, we wrote songs that attacked people we didn’t like, which meant we had lots of subject matter. And, while we wrote our own songs, it wasn’t because we cherished creativity or anything like that; mostly, it was because we were too musically incompetent to figure out how to copy anyone else’s stuff.

Along with my pals, Ras Pierre Schenk, Alan “Flesh” Macdonald and assorted other acne-afflicted miscreants who attended Bishop Carroll and Bishop Grandin high schools, I had read a little bit about punk rock in the Calgary newspapers. In the main, it seemed to involve throwing up on old ladies in airport waiting rooms, as the Sex Pistols were alleged to have done. That sounded pretty good to us, so we decided that the Social Blemishes was a punk band.

On January 28, 1977, I bought a copy of the first album by the Ramones, and – later that same day – I stood slack-jawed by my tinny hi-fi in my basement bedroom, my life forever transformed. Nothing would be the same after that.

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New Dark Ages


Hello, you bastard.

It was hard to believe. Like a bad fucking movie. But it was happening, right there, right then, right in front of our eyes.

It was that night. The night before the last day.

I looked over at X, and his eyes — one pupil dilated, one not, as always — were squinting at the TV. His fists were clenched. He looked pissed, as if he was going to punch the screen or something.

The TV cast a bluish glow over my non-family’s family room. My mother was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, and she was watching, too. She had her arms crossed, but she seemed to be nodding about some of the things being said. By him.

I looked back at the TV, and at Earl Turner, who was still standing behind the podium in downtown Portland. There was an American flag on the front of the podium, and below that, in big block letters, was the word RIGHT. His slogan. His word.

As usual, Turner was wearing a white button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. As usual, his regimental tie was loose at the neck. You could tell he worked out. Behind him, an enthusiastic crowd of supporters were assembled. They were clapping and nodding their heads.

X and I weren’t really watching Turner. We were watching one of the people just behind him who was clapping and nodding his head, just like the rest of the assembled crowd.

I could not fucking believe this shit. I hated it. And hate was what Earl Turner’s speech was all about, pretty much. It usually was. Hate for refugees and immigrants and welfare moms and anyone, basically, who didn’t look like Earl Turner and his friends. Hate dressed up in fine-sounding words about patriotism and family and country and all that horseshit. Hate was Earl Turner’s thing, and it had brought him to this, his big moment. The confetti and the balloons — red, white, and blue — were ready to be dropped from above.

Turner was coming to the big wind-up in his speech. He always ended it the same way. “America,” he said, his booming voice sounding tinny on my mother’s old RCA. “America is for Americans. America is for the righteous. America is for the bold. America is for those who believe in God, those who love God, those who fear God. America isn’t for everyone. America is for normal people like us!” He paused, a big fist hovering above the podium. We couldn’t see them, but the crowd at the hotel had started to chant: “RIGHT RIGHT! RIGHT! RIGHT! RIGHT!”

Midway through — and this had happened before — “RIGHT!” changed, and the crowd started to chant a different word: “WHITE! WHITE! WHITE! WHITE! WHITE!”

Earl Turner smiled, that big square-jawed quarterback all-American douchebag smile of his, and waved for the crowd to settle down. “Right,” he said. “Right is …”

The crowd screamed as one, like a beast. “WHITE!”

Earl Turner leaned into the gaggle of network microphones. He smiled. This was his moment. This was it. He had won. He knew it. Everyone knew it.

He started to speak. It was the part of the speech about how God “created” America. At that point, the young guy behind him — the one we’d been watching — stepped forward. He was wearing a white shirt and tie, just like his hero. We could see his broad, freckled face clearly. At that moment, Turner saw him, too, and clapped a big hand on the young man’s shoulder.

It was our friend, Danny. When he was drumming in my band, his stage name had been Danny Hate. He looked different now. He was different. He and Turner looked at each other and smiled, like father and son, like some fucking Norman Rockwell painting. Behind me and X, my mother whispered just one word: “Danny.”

The crowd kept on cheering, calling out RIGHT and WHITE. They were screaming it.

“Enough,” said X, and that was all he said.

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Recipe for Hate

X entered Gary’s from the front, off Brown Street, like always. Many of us preferred to come and go through the door to the alleyway, because we were nervous about the regulars. It was also a good way to avoid paying a cover, if there was one. But X preferred to use the front.
X, my best friend, was like that.
On the heavy, reinforced black doors, below the number 13, a prehistoric sign had been screwed into place at eye level: “NO COLORS, NO KNIVES.” For a few years there, Gary’s had been a biker bar — mainly Outlaws, but some other gangs, too. Before punk arrived on the Portland scene, the bikers had filled the basement tavern every night. They’d chug cheap, watered-down draft in the long, narrow part of the bar. And, where it opened up at the other end, near the stage, they’d hate-stare any country-and-western or cover band stupid enough to agree to play. If they were really pissed off, they’d throw beer glasses at the stage.
None of us ever argued about the bikers’ claim to Gary’s. It was their place, no question. But toward the end of the ’70s, they were getting arrested a lot more than they used to. As Portland grew, and as it imported more yuppie douchebags from New York and Boston or wherever, tolerance for the Outlaws basically disappeared. A few blocks away, at City Hall, our idiot mayor had decreed that Gary’s attracted the sort of customers who didn’t fit into the “new Portland.” So the police started cracking down and most of the bikers started to move on. The hookers and junkies, too.
Gary’s owner was pretty unhappy at the thought of redecorating the place to attract a new crop of patrons, mainly because he was a cheap bastard. But he also knew that no self-preserving, upwardly mobile, Ivy League couple would ever come near Gary’s: it was a temple of filth. It was the church of dirt. Which kind of made us love it even more.
Dirt and dust and grime were everywhere. There was the ancient carpet that stretched from the front doors to the cracked tile on the dance floor. No one could make out the pattern anymore because it was so fucking dirty. There were these mismatched metal chairs with torn strips of vinyl-covered padding on the seats. The tiny round tables were covered with stained, orange cloths. There were frames containing ghostly paintings of plants and cowboys on the walls, decades of dust and cigarette smoke stuck to the cracked glass. A few yellowish light bulbs hung from what was left of the fixtures overhead. And there was the air itself, always reeking of cigarette smoke and dust and sweat and piss.
It was awesome.
Earlier in 1978, Gary’s owners had read in the local paper, the Portland Press Herald, that those of us in various local punk bands were putting on our own shows in veterans’ halls and community centers around the city. We were attracting hundreds of kids by word of mouth alone, the article said. The arch-conservative paper hated us, of course, but Gary’s owners decided to let us book bands a couple nights a week. Maybe they’d turn a profit on beer sales, they figured.
And they sure did. The bikers didn’t like the change, at first. But, eventually, they were sort of amused by us — these skinny, acne-scarred kids with weird clothes and dyed hair. We punks were misfits, like the bikers were, but we were also completely different. In the early days of the Portland scene, the punks were mostly Maine College of Art students, gays and lesbians, cross-dressers, poets, nonconformists, anarchists, socialists, the socially awkward, the overweight, the alienated, the angry, the underage, and assorted other urban outcasts. The factions that made up the local subculture were diverse, but somehow we all got along back in those days.
So the bikers stayed up near the front doors, and we punks were stuck at the back, hanging out around the stage and the subterranean alleyway exit. We left each other alone, sticking to our side of Gary’s demilitarized zone.
Gary’s owner — who rarely, if ever, enforced drinking age limits — was happy because our friends liked to drink almost as much as the bikers. Soon enough, then, our bands were on stage every night of the week except Sundays, when every bar was still required by Maine law to be closed. The Portland punk scene got a hub. It started to grow.
Christopher X!
X, thou art Christopher.
He moved through the mass of hulking bikers, completely unfazed. Some of them looked up and glared. They had heard about X, and a lot of them didn’t like him much. Unlike the other scrawny suburban kids, who seemed to cower whenever they were nearby, X was completely disinterested in them. To the other punks, the bikers were menacing, intimidating. But not to my buddy, X. And the bikers took notice.
Under one arm, X had a few copies of the New Musical Express — the super-hard -to-get British tabloid that had promoted the punk rock revolution first — along with a couple of notebooks. Under the other arm, he cradled some LPs, likely borrowed, by bands most people had never heard of. But it was him — his pale face, his blank expression, his total indifference to everything around him — that stood out. X was an outsider, even to the outsiders who made up the Portland scene. He was a misfit among the misfits.
X sat down with us, up near Gary’s tiny stage, where the Hot Nasties had played earlier — and where the Punk Rock Virgins were still playing, but had just gone on a break.
X had called some of us that day, saying that he had some big news. He moved a couple glasses of draft out of the way and dumped the LPs, the notebooks, and the copies of the New Musical Express on the center of the table.
“Where’s Jimmy?” he asked.
I pointed at Gary’s rear door, toward the alleyway. “I think he’s moving the van to the side, so nobody swipes everything again.” I punched X in his leather-jacketed arm. I was a bit loaded. “Now buy me a beer, fag.”
I could tell what he was thinking: Fag? Really?
X looked at me for a moment, an eyebrow up, then shook his head. He got up and went over to the bar to buy a couple of draft s for me and an RC Cola for himself. He returned to the table and pointed at the newer-looking copy of the New Musical Express. “Take a look,” he said, expressionless. “The Nasties are in it.”
Conversation stopped. We lunged at the magazines.
The Hot Nasties, as it turned out, had beaten everyone else in Portland at making a record, which was a pretty fucking big deal. They were one of the first punk bands in New England to do that. It had been Jimmy who’d pushed them into putting it together. The band recorded the four songs over three weekends at a garage converted into a mini-studio in Bayside. The two hippies who owned the place had never seen or heard anything like it before. They were totally disgusted.
The Nasties, however, were totally ecstatic with the results of the recording session. They came out of it with four original songs: “I Am a Confused Teenager,” “Th e Secret of Immortality,” “The October of Seven Oh,” and “The Invasion of the Tribbles.” Jimmy and Sam were big Star Trek fans, and they stuck references to the old TV show in a lot of their songs — along with plenty of other references to junk culture, because we loved junk culture. Serial killers, The Flintstones, AMC Pacers.
The good stuff.
The Hot Nasties didn’t have a recording contract; in 1978, no Portland punk bands did. So they put out the EP on their own made-up label, Martian Martian Records, taking the name from a Jonathan Richman song. The band members designed the sleeve. The cover had one of my photos of the Nasties, smiling outside Gary’s one night, clutching some smashed-topieces guitars and drums from a particularly demented gig. We glued the sleeves together late one drunken night at Sam’s parents’ place in Parkside, and then X — pretending to be their manager — sent a couple copies off to the New Musical Express, which along with Creem magazine and Melody Maker, were all we generally read, pretty much.
Someone — incredibly, unbelievably — had noticed. Buried within the pages of the NME, there was a section called “New and Noteworthy.” In there, in a single paragraph, titled “Portland Punk Pressing,” a writer with the initials CSM had written: “If you can’t locate Portland, Maine, on a map, fret not. We can’t either. But if tuneful, snappy punk rock still matters in late ’78, then the four lads in the Hot Nasties may well succeed in getting their portside hometown better known. The quartet is Sam Shiller, lead guitar; Luke Macdonald, rhythm guitar; Eddie Igglesden on skins; and bassist and lead screamer, Jimmy Cleary. Their debut EP, issued on their own label, crackles with Buzzcockian wit and snottiness, and is therefore worth a spin. Available through money order only, The Invasion of the Tribbles EP argues convincingly that punk — at least on the other side of the pond — ain’t dead yet. A quid will get it winging its way to you. Check it out.”
Holy shit. HOLY SHIT!
A thumbs-up from the New Musical Express: it was like getting a great review from God. We all stared at the review, speechless. Without warning, Luke jumped up on his chair and let out a Tarzan scream, beating his chest. He hollered: “I love you, X! I fucking love you! When we are famous rock stars, I will let you visit my mansion!”
We all laughed and read and reread the review. A few others started to wander over to see what was going on.
When X had told the Nasties that he’d sent their EP to the NME, none of them thought that it would ever get noticed. The magazine paid attention to the Clash and the Sex Pistols and other big British bands — not a band like the Hot Nasties, in Outer Buttfuck, New England, U.S.A. But X told me he thought the record was really good, like the Ramones. So he mailed it off with a cover letter that had somehow caught the attention of Charles fucking Shaar Murray at the fucking New Musical Express, for fuck sakes. Still hollering that he was going to be famous, Luke wrapped his arms around X, who was trying to resist smiling. X didn’t ever smile.

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The War Room

The War Room

Political Strategies for Business, NGOs, and Anyone Who Wants to Win
also available: eBook
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