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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Friday, August 19, 2005

minneapolis 1984: mcpunks

"They can raid this corner all they want, but we're here to stay. We are city kids and the city is where we want to be."

A. Slater, 19, Minneapolis, 1984

The McDonalds at Hennepin and Lagoon in Minneapolis was home...for a brief window of years in the 80's...to a tiny movement of kids who got called mcpunks.

We might have even called ourselves that...though I wouldn't much know because I was younger and more of a hanger-on than anything else...

What unified the mcpunks was the fact that we were too young to go most shows, we had time on our hands, we were into punk music and the rebellion it stood for...and not much else. You could get to Hennepin and Lagoon easily by bus...and the Uptown theater across the street showed double features like: Buckaroo Bonzai and Repo Man.....Wizards and Lord of the Rings. There was a coffee shop that served espresso on the first floor...and hard-drinking rockers could be seen there in black leather and torn black hoodies and black jeans at all hours of the day.

We were across the street. At McDonalds. We were all under twenty.

I don't think we were welcome...but the accomodations weren't exactly in high demand...a beat-up outdoor playground with a few picnic tables surrounded by spiked metal bars that got locked up at night.

You could hang out there and just meet people and talk. We'd talk about shows, about bands, about records...about life and politics and stuff. Minneapolis, at the time I started hanging out, had just received a visit from the Dead Kennedys...and that show, more than anything, galvanized a ton of kids to go punk....to rebel...to join punk's second wave. There were also kids who were out for trouble regardless of the music or the times. Like all of us, they came and went.

Now, the punk music club, First Avenue, would try to do a few all ages shows every month or so for the youth...and it didn't really matter the band, it could be Black Flag, it could have been Bad Brains it could be Flock of Seagulls....we'd all show up (okay, uh, not so many showed for Flock of Seagulls...but, hey, I'm not proud...I was there.) There was something cool about how, in this seemingly big city, you'd leave your neighborhood or suburb and end up someplace where you were surrounded by other kids like you, kids you recognized...you went from feeling like a freak to feeling like you were a part of something, a movement.

There was a spirit in the air, and it had managed to filter through to the heartland: Punk. Oppositional culture. Reggae. Independent music and radio. People talked politics. They rode skateboards and changed the way they dressed. People circulated videos of the scene from different parts of the country. Tapes from Mabuhay Gardens. CBGBs. Washington DC. LA. We tuned into community radio to listen to Maximum Rock 'n Roll. And it was political: punk asked questions about diet and consumerism, about government, about personal freedom, about racism and poverty, about sexuality and chemical dependency, about commercialism and hype. It got kids talking and writing and photocopying....it got kids making music.

But there was one common theme...resisting the status quo...fighting back against Ronnie Reagan and his buddy George Bush. The odds seemed insurmountable...but that didn't matter to us. It never does to kids.

Now, we mcpunks were the 'little kiddies' of a much broader punk scene. But we were happy to be a small part of the furniture in the room. And since we were new and since the kids messing around with crime and drugs hadn't yet permanently labelled the culture with the "gutter punk" moniker that seems to have hardened into a "fix"ture...literally and sadly...on our streets to this day, we were also a visible reminder to our city that kids were unhappy with things. We were fed up. And our hanging out at this crossroads sent that message. To paraphrase the Replacements, a band that seemed not much older than us....the kids won't follow.

(If you like the Replacements...follow that link...and watch the video of Johnny's Gonna Die...trust me.)

I don't know what got me thinking about this...other than to reflect on how innocent this oppositional culture was, how available and pure it was if you sought it out. And at times, how reviled. Hell, I used to get chided by older folks in St. Paul just walking down the street with my hair uncombed or my shoes "untied"....and I was a nice boy.

Things have changed. On some level...as stupid as the whole idea of the 'mcpunks' was...there was also something to it. Something real and alive. I find myself thinking about that right now. The question of what young folks are doing and thinking...of where the punk spirit of our times resides...where it points...and where the kids are hanging out because they have to, because they've got no place else to go. It's an active question, one prone to romanticizing...but, in my experience, nevertheless, it's a question essential to understanding this moment in history, and vital to understanding the social and political movements that might arise to change and challenge it.

Yeah, in this, I sound like just another wistful old punk...laugh out loud....I'm not that old, and I never was a pure punk. But, like the rest of you, young and old, I've still got my eyes and ears open, and that's what really matters.

In honor of that...here's what proved to be a prescient lyric from the Replacements. It's from their 1984 album Let it Be: (you can hear a sample at the link, or even, uh, buy the thing from their original indie label, Twin/Tone, it's worth it.)

Here come Dick, he's wearing a skirt
Here comes Jane, y'know she's sporting a chain
Same hair, revolution
Same build, evolution
Tomorrow who's gonna fuss

And they love each other so
Closer than you know, love each other so

Don't get him wrong and don't get him mad
He might be a father, but he sure ain't a dad
And she don't need advice that's sent at her
She's happy with the way she looks
She's happy with her gender

Mirror image, see no damage
See no evil at all
Kewpie dolls and urine stalls
Will be laughed at
The way you're laughed at now

Now, something meets Boy, and something meets Girl
They both look the same
They're overjoyed in this world
Same hair, revolution
Unisex, evolution
Tomorrow who's gonna fuss
And tomorrow Dick is wearing pants
And tomorrow Janie's wearing a dress
Future outcasts and they don't last
And today, the people dress the way that they please
The way they tried to do in the last centuries

And they love each other so
Closer than you know, love each other so

That was the world we were trying to make and, in some ways, an "ideal vision" of the world we aspired to. You wouldn't get many folks to say it at the time, but punk rebellion, behind the anger and the front, was always about justice and equality...and a radical vision of a society where individual freedom, and, yes, love, were the governing operating principles that bound us together, or let us stand apart.

Paul Westerberg, a truly wise soul, knew this...and he was spot on in asking "tommorrow who's gonna fuss?" about cross-gender styles and punk fashion...he seemed to know, in 1984, how little fussing we were actually in for.

You see, in my view, it was a love of equality, the equality of love and a hunger for justice, not the hair styles and the posture, that, at the end of the day, was at the heart of punk.



  • Needless to say that any given person who lived in Minneapolis at the time might have an equally valid or more accurate point of view...

    what can I say?....I was 16 and 17 years old.

    I know that some folks who were more involved or have better memories...could add to this.

    please do....

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 11:49 PM  

  • k/o did not know you truly are a kid. i've read more of your political stuff from dkos and assumed you were actually older. i'm 55. so, i'm truly kind of surprised at your tender years. you write older. and quite well.

    my trip, in youth, was the sixties. sweet sixteen in 1966. Beatles, Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa freaks out.

    seventeen in the summer of love 1967. and there was a clear sense of "movement", similar to that you evoke among the young. very similar with one very important exception. you could get drafted into the army and be forced to fight the war. that made my 18th kind of dreadful.

    poor, from a grimy industrial town, in the year RFK & MLK were gunned down and also the year of the Tet Offensive. our scene was more desperate, though no less fun, than yours because of the god damn draft.

    if there were one explanation for why the antiwar movement of that day and today are so dissimilar it is because there is no draft. i can guarantee you that nothing gets people on the streets more than getting volunteered into the army to fight a useless war.

    the only truly lucky break i recognize in life was getting # 348 in the draft lottery in 1969.

    ironically, as my youth passed away i spent many an afternoon peering out the second floor window of the office of my ann arbor studio at the local kids of your generation. my primary thought was that they had better start learning chinese because as lazy as they appeared they as a generation were destined to become slaves. and they weren't going to fight for freedom.

    and those damn drum circles.......... YOWWWW. can't a man get some sleep ?

    ann arbor is a university town. youth is the lingua franca our little burgh. especially state st. where my studio was. so i had a front row seat.

    i never felt there was any underlying ethos to "those kids". they were just as disaffected as me, but not as angry and seemingly aimless.

    i guess the purpose of youthful rebellion is to demonstrate a separateness as well as disapproval of the way things are. so, if you are not inside, you are likely to be clueless to the true meaning of what's happening. i don't have intimate discussions with the kids (no offense) i know personally of your cohort and it's kind of neat to see that just as the old folks ahead of me that i'm as blind to what's real as they were.

    Zappa's political stuff of the eighties is dynamite. Truly scathing. And even more relevant than ever.

    May I suggest you try to track down these songs.....

    Dumb All Over
    Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk
    The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing
    Dickie's Such an Asshole

    if you're unfamiliar with any of them I urge you to find someone who may share. 100% guarantee of satisfaction or your money back.

    best regards, dude

    By Blogger Ratprick, at 10:56 PM  

  • flock of seagulls? really? in person?

    i saw bob marley in columbus, ohio and I thought THAT was cool.

    By Blogger Ratprick, at 12:05 AM  

  • I think you have me beat by a "country joe and the fish" mile, ratprick. I'd trade FOS for a Bob Marley show any day of the week, or Frank Zappa for that matter...(I'll take your advice.)

    Yes, in answer to your comment above, I'm younger than you thought...but still pretty old for all that....36 is creaky...and cranky at times.

    I consider myself fortunate to have a spent some time at the tail end of one of those "cultural nodes"...Minneapolis in the early 80's...

    and then to get to jump to nyc and catch the tail end of the 80's in new york was frosting on the cake.

    hmmm, actually, I was here in the Bay Area for .com too...and the .crash...

    and now blogging...hell.

    I'm either really lucky

    or it says something that I'm last guy to show up at the party...over and over again...and over again.

    Did I mention that I worked on indie films?

    laugh out loud. what a poser!

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 9:16 AM  

  • God, what a mess, on the ladder of success
    Where you take one step and miss the whole first rung
    Dreams unfulfilled, graduate unskilled
    It beats pickin' cotton and waitin' to be forgotten

    We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
    We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
    The daughters and the sons

    Clean your baby womb, trash that baby boom
    Elvis in the ground, there'll ain't no beer tonight
    Income tax deduction, what a hell of a function
    It beats pickin' cotton and waitin' to be forgotten

    We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
    We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
    The daughters and the sons

    Unwillingness to claim us, ya got no war to name us

    The ones who love us best are the ones we'll lay to rest
    And visit their graves on holidays at best
    The ones who love us least are the ones we'll die to please
    If it's any consolation, I don't begin to understand them

    We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
    We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
    The daughters and the sons

    Young...take it, it's yours...

    --P.Westerberg, Tim (1985)

    By Blogger wg, at 10:47 AM  

  • hey k.o. have you heard about the free show opeation ceasefire hosted by d.k.s jello comming up?wish i could go sounds like alot of fun, look it up.old punks never die.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:01 PM  

  • Looked it up. And, with the dawning of the school year...looks like there'll be quite a crowd bussing in would be my guess.

    West Coast version?

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 8:29 PM  

  • enjoying the cnn special report on the iraq clusterf... .united for peace and justice's peace gathering( of which the pop music show is part of)is at the same time and place as the W.B. gathering. no w.c. gathering. now if they could just get the back street boys, that would be a show. sid lives. peace.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:09 PM  

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