Letter to the editor

The Wire

To the editor:

In the review of notable cover versions (The Wire 261), if Biba Kopf’s extended and mixed metaphor about China’s fiery Dragons covering the incendiary Sex Pistols was taking the piss, good work. If, as I suspect, it was not, the joke’s on Kopf. The Dragons were not from China. They were French, and the band was a prank played on music journalists. While it is true that punk rock, within a few years of 1977, had spread to every western, and many an eastern, European country, as well as the Philippines, Japan, Tunisia, South Africa, Israel, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and elsewhere, there is no evidence that it existed in China in 1982. Rather, a French punker and a couple of Chinese immigrants living in Paris who understood the power of the pisstake sent out a press release accompanying their album, “Parfums de la revolution,” discussing their goals, such as, “To subvert the National economy by trying to boost the consumption of superfluous goods which in the long term would increase their own marketable value.” Admirable, indeed, but how could anyone think it was serious? Perhaps because Dragons fit punk stereotypes that papers like NME loved to hate when they said things like, “We make noise. The more noise we make, the happier I am.” They seemed to be a confirmation that punk rock’s tone-deaf idealism and naïveté could be translated into a mysterious language and smuggled across closed borders. Or was it actually the music press itself that was idealistic and naïve?

In addition to the LP, Dragons released a split single with a punk band—actually an amalgamation of two bands, Deadlock and Kryzys—from Poland, far behind the Iron Curtain. That recording was an authentic illicit expression of revolutionary ideas, which Dragons parodied. In some repressive regimes, punk rock’s emergence was a precursor to glasnost, circulated then, as punk was, on samizdat cassettes, but recognition of this achievement is still precluded by the belief, to quote another review on American hardcore in the same feature, that the music was “aesthetically repressed”—as if the police cared! In the end, it is true that the Dragons’ version of “Anarchy in the UK” is a cover, and a rather inspired one at that. It is also apparently true that the “dim glow of a legitimate grievance aired with the excitement of a toothache” continues to be relevant today as the music press remains credulous—or should I say gullible?—when it comes to the exotic, especially if it seems to confirm preconceived notions about the local.

Stuart Schrader
Brooklyn, NY, USA

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