Old Punk Rockers Never Die

Okay, well, technically they do, eventually.

Last night, Greg and I attended a photo exhibit called Toronto Calling, of photos of concerts that took place in the early 80s in Toronto featuring bands like the Clash and the Ramones. We didn’t actually stick around to see the photos, though, as the gallery space was packed solid with old punk rockers, so much so that we couldn’t get in to see the photos.

The era in question took place before my time in Toronto, with most of the gigs featured taking place between 1979 -1981. I arrived in Toronto in late ’87, so this was not my scene per se, although I was listening to all of these bands back home in Halifax, a no-man’s land when it came to international tours. Hats off to Billy Idol for not forgetting about us in 1984.

But the remarkable thing was that here was a group of people in their late 40s – early 50s… and there was a still a solid punk vibe going on. Piercings, tattoos, oddly-coloured hair. These folks were still flying the freak flag.

Now, I don’t know how many of them had to dig into the depths of their closets, or haul out trunks in dusty attics to find something appropriate to wear. No doubt there were a few accountants or investment bankers amongst the 200 or so people in the gallery. But there is also no doubt that there were people who managed to follow the creative streak that the 80s alternative music scene represented and who went on to become artists, writers, photographers, or musicians. People who were able to grow up, become responsible adults and still stay true to everything that scene represented back in the day.

I’ve heard it said that you can tell a person’s real personality by looking at their shoes. And there was some truly fabulous footwear at this show last night. That in itself is reassuring.

I go through periods of self-doubt in terms of what I’ve done with my life. Not that I’m not happy with where I am, but sometimes I have people come at me who think that I should be living by their terms, not my own. People who make me feel that I have to give up my ethics, my ideals and my whole personality to be accepted and successful. People who would be a whole lot happier if I were to run my life – and my business – as part of the status quo instead of striving for quality and originality.

To them, I flip a hale and hearty punk rock bird. It is possible to live your life without bowing to the pressure to be just like everybody else. To not succumb to the drab, the mundane, the safe. I’ve spent years wondering when I’d finally have to give in – to be “normal” in order to get ahead. Wondering if I’d have to sell out to fit in. But fuck fitting in – it didn’t work for me back in the day – there’s no reason to expect that will change just because I’ve got some wrinkles and grey hair.

And yeah, maybe these folks have all put those days behind them and now live drab little lives in the burbs; 2 cars, 2 kids, mortgage, trip to Disneyland. But there’s also a grain of hope in me that many of them don’t. Because I don’t – and I’m done apologizing for that fact.