Between 1978 and 1981 Phil Munnoch (punk name captain Zip) pointed his 8mm film camera at a group of kids whose weekly ritual and reason for living was to gather together on the Kings Road every Saturday to hang out, preen and be seen. By 78 the idea of punk was well and truly out of the bag and across the country 100’s of kids were dressing up up and rebelling against whatever they wanted. At the time Munnoch had moved to London to work as a copywriter in an ad agency but soon he was drawn in to the scene and for him too the week became focussed on the saturday afternoon ritual of the time:
“Everything was very wide, and very big and Punk went to the other extreme – everything became very narrow and tight, and a lot sexier i think…I think it was a way of escaping the mundanity of averageness. It was a great sort of liberation of the human spirit where you could just put on what you wanted.”
The footage he shot captures perfectly a ‘second wave’ of punk, its particpants too young to have been involved in the initial punk outburst and the home movie quality of his casually pointed camera captures beautifully a group of kids dressing up and having fun in new outfits and looks like previous generations before them.
There is a wonderful charm and innocence revealed here and the intial films (early in 78) are amongst the best in his extensive archive. The looks on display still resonate with a shocking, alien freshness – the simple idea of a ‘bad’ haircut, sticking out and up, basic jackets and jeans dishevelled and torn, twisted further away from the norm when adorned with DIY jewellery like safety pins and chains. The addition of heavy eye make-up and hair dye pushed the look out further. Like all great looks it was at once instantly readable by the like-minded but contained enough skewed weirdness about it to cause an unease amongst the pedestrian public.
Sections of the films also show how elements of the look went on to feature in the bright and breezy pop looks just a few years later. Gelled and dishevelled hair, bright make up and a pick n mix attitude to clothing all featured in the pop mainstream of the early 80’s (I swear I saw at least two future members of Bananarama in some of the clips).
As the years pass Munnoch continued to film, inadvertently recording the subtle changes in the punk look and attitude. In one interview he describes how at the begining of his involvment the participants were happy with soft drinks and the thrill of the times (including as the footage records handfuls of Space Dust, the crackling, fizzy sweet of the day) but later on were robbing alcohol from local off licences, chugging on spliffs in broad daylight and sniffing glue. Slowly but surely the ‘spikier’ aspects of the original look and attitude came to the fore and ultimately, as with all youth subcultures, a rigid, pared down look emerged, the original scenes quest for originality and creativity trampled and replaced with a simplified, easy to copy but ultimately empty uniform.
The footage is great, unrivalled in its simplicity and providing an honest portrayal of a bunch of kids dressing up and messing about in a short but very specific time period.