How Punk Rock Fueled a Generation of Entrepreneurs
Punk Rock ‘happened’ because of several things colliding at the same time.
The youth of the day were creative and challenging the status quo, asking questions that previous politer generations hadn’t asked. We were curious, not accepting the ‘blah blah’ answers of the grey-suited politicians as they led the world into a dark and dismal decline.
Back then, the UK was described as the ‘sick man of Europe’ which was especially difficult to comprehend when our parents and grandparents had fought so hard and with such loss through World War II and had been victorious against an evil enemy.
Our industries were in tatters down to neglect of the management, and lack of regard by the Unions - the auto industry, manufacturing, and the coal industry were all in a state of collapse. British cars used by the Police were being replaced by foreign-made cars driven by the British Police. We were forced into buying our once staple coal from around the world. Unemployment rates were at the highest in history, yet we were sending jobs overseas in our pursuit of cheaper is better.
There was social unrest, strikes, riots, the Yorkshire Ripper was on the loose, the IRA indiscriminately bombing people and places, and the Russians threatening nuclear war – those were dark times, and we were wracked by the fear, or was it a reality, that if we didn’t stand up to these things, then there really was NO FUTURE.
In the face of this fear, the Punk Rock movement was born - creative, full of energy, as John Lydon once said, anger is also an energy. We didn’t care what the establishment said because we knew that theirs was the wrong path. We went to jumble sales, bought old clothes no one else wanted, took them home, ripped our jeans, painted our Doc Martens, added studs, tartan, Union Jacks, and safety pins to hold them together. Our leather jackets were a source of pride, our own colors, our own unique identity, every Punk Rocker an individual and not just another cutout clone of the same clan.
Often lost is that the Punk Rock movement was also an all-inclusive movement. We didn’t care about sex, sexual orientation, color, creed, skin, or religion – all we cared about was how we were united in our love of our individuality, our divided togetherness, our message to the establishment, and our desire for change.
We were a generation of entrepreneurs, whether from a council house, parentless, or wealthy parents, it didn’t matter – entrepreneurism was no longer reserved for the upper classes. Have a handful of instruments, form a band, go on tour, whether you could play or not, it didn’t matter. It was an age where everyone could have a go regardless of wealth, or talent, good, bad, or indifferent always with great pride.
It was a fallacy when they said, “they couldn’t play,” the sounds of the time were edgy, often loud, and full of political statements and calls for change, but the music of the era lives on today and was arguably the most influential of all musical genres in modern history. The iconic Sex Pistols, The Clash, Blondie, the Ramones, The Damned, The Boomtown Rats, and even the early Adam Ant music were not only musical but impactful and thought-provoking too.
We were free from ties, we could do what we wanted, live how we wanted, listen to what we wanted, say what we wanted, and do what we wanted. Anything was possible was our thought, unlike the politicians that professed doom was inevitable.
Enter an unlikely hero, Maggie Thatcher, the Iron Lady. She also stood up for change, a brighter future, and an alternative to the status quo. She confronted the Unions who were mindlessly wrecking our industries, Arthur Scargill, the head of the Miners Union driving around in his chauffeur-driven Jaguar whilst the country’s mines were falling derelict, and most would never reopen again in what turned out to be the end of an industry.
The Argentinians invaded what was an otherwise unknown set of islands in the South Atlantic prompting the assembly of the greatest armada since World War II to traverse 8,000 miles to take on the invading force and repel them. This was a momentous victory and a seminal moment in realizing that it wasn’t all doom, that anything was possible, and Britain began to win back its pride.
It was a combination of all these factors, on both sides of the pond, and globally that created a new class of entrepreneurs determined to make a difference, without the fear of failure, and that anything was possible.
Sir Richard Branson, suffering from dyslexia dropped out of school aged fifteen. He set up his record label in 1972 when opening his recording studio, The Manor in Oxfordshire. One of the very early signings to the label included the Sex Pistols, but Virgin went on to sign many of the biggest artists at the time before expanding into airlines, hotels, financial services, and a range of other businesses on the back of his success.
Did Bill Gates fall into the status quo when creating Microsoft, absolutely not? Did he listen to the doubters on the basis of the personal computer would be in every household? Did Steve Jobs listen to his detractors on his journey to building one of the most successful companies of all time? And today, Elon Musk, the world's richest man, still pushing the boundaries today as he builds electric vehicles for the world, sends rockets into space and more recently demonstrating a Punk Rock attitude in his bid to acquire Twitter.
The Punk Rock movement created a generation, and generations to come of fearless entrepreneurs, and without the bounds of the norms, the obstacle of safety versus risk, the absence of the fear of failure, then even in business, anything is possible, and that’s what Punk Rock taught us.
In Silicon Valley today, the counterintuitive phrase “Fail Fast” still is as current today as it resonated back in 1977.
Willy Mitchell is an author, a writer, and a storyteller having published five books so far and 1 on the way. NORTHERN ECHO Boys Don’t Cry is a story of two boys growing up in the North of England at the height of the Punk Rock era.
Willy Mitchell is an indie author, writer, and storyteller.
Mitchell's first title was Operation ARGUS, and then the sequel Bikini BRAVO where a group of former Special Air Service operatives enter the dark and murky world of maskirovka and discover the lengths that some people will go to for power and greed.
Cold COURAGE tells the epic tale of Shackleton's 1914 Trans-Antarctic Expedition and all that was happening in those extraordinary times.
Book four, Northern ECHO tells the story of two boys growing up during the punk rock revolution in the north of England, and how a dark secret keeps them apart until the end.
Gipsy MOTH is about his Aunt Nikki, her friend, and fellow Aviatrix, Amy Johnson, and Amelia Earhart on the other side of the pond during the golden age of aviation.
SS INDIGO is due to be released by the end of 2021 and tells the story of a group of eclectic guests invited by a mysterious billionaire to a luxury cruise in the Caribbean, they all have one thing in common.
All of Mitchell's books so far are novels, works of fiction, blended with real events. For further information or on how to buy his books, visit his author's website: