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Monday, September 12, 2005

Review: Jonathan Ross Presents: 1-2 FU Punk Rock Music & Culture

At 10:50PM on December 15th, 2004, BBC Three presented a landmark one-hour event in music journalism history. Well, not really, but 1-2 FU is a funny, fast paced and even informative look at the 1st and 2nd wave British punk scenes. Steeped in Jonathan Ross' fond personal memories and feelings of middle-aged inadequacy, it presents serious material in the context it deserves - a healthy dose of indirect mockery. Fans of 24 Hour Party People will recognize and love this brand of fictionalized non-fiction.

The show's central focus is on Ross himself, so if you don't find him appealing you'll probably want to skip this. I thought he was perfect. 1-2 FU is a series of sketch comedy pieces, stream of consciousness ramblings on what it all means and interviews with various old-timers like Vivienne Westwood, Don Letts, Morrissey, Captain Sensible, Dave Vanian, Vic Godard, Ari Up (who seems insane), Mark Perry (Sniffin' Glue fanzine), Marco Pirroni and Jordan (employee at SEX and sometimes model). Years back I realized punks were old enough to be middle aged parents. Looking at Westwood and Jordan it just hit me that punks can now be your great -great grandmother. It looks like the Life Bus ran over Jordan on the freeway and then backed over her again just to make sure.

1-2 FU opens with a grandmother type warning about objectionable language in the show. Then she says a lot of them, even the "C" word. I don't want to listen to a 70-ish old lady curse like a whore. Do you? Later on they show old film of Jordan's saggy glad-bag boobs being zipped into bondage gear. Which reminds me of a joke: 2 flies are eating on a pile of poop. One fly farts and the other looks over and yells "Hey, I'm eating here!"

1-2 FU at first operates on the assumption the 1st wave lasted 18 months (roughly the rein of the Sex Pistols) and then it all went downhill. Later on that changes, which leads me to believe it was written as they went along depending on what those being interviewed said. There's the standard angles of art vs. youth culture vs. the media vs. commerce. As with most if not all punk documentaries, everyone has an axe to grind or an ego to stroke. It's a Rashomon where everyone's too stoned, dumb, angry and or deluded to be taken seriously. "What is punk about?" is a trick question. Punk isn't "about" anything. The effort of defining it specifically disqualifies any explanation that follows.

Near the end The Fat Punks go on stage and sing for the kids. The singer opens by saying "All of us are over 40. Most of us have a waist over 40". Then they do a new song called "Punk Daddy", which goes something like this:

"He can't stay out late/'cos the kids need their school/He think's he's done their lunchbox/But he still thinks it's cool/He's a Punk Daddy//He fell asleep , back in '78/But when he woke up he had a swollen prostate/He's a Punk Daddy//He can't pogo for too long/He don't like the modern songs/He can't believe that it all went wrong/Inflate-Deflate-It's over/Punk Daddy"

Then there's a bit at the end of their cover of "No Future" and the singer is singing "No Future, No Future..." and he adds, as a revelation of factual truth, "Except, there is, really". Now THAT'S funny!


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