Even Punks Sing the Blues

Beneath the flattering floor mirrors and flashing light strobes of the steady disco pulse, the ignored malcontents of the new wave in rock are being driven by some mad energy.

These are the days of the disco juggernaut and the electronic blip. No longer can you go to Jamson's Nook in San Francisco and hear the players ball their twisted soul-horns into the night.

The days when buttoned-down teenagers of the '50s dropped their books at the jittering of rock'n'roll are gone. Also departed are the summery afternoons when the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane gave free concerts to a second generation of rock'n'rollers, the flower children of the '60s, who ate acid and dressed down and became disenchanted and noisy for reasons no one is yet sure of.

Today America can go to the disco after work to unplug all that pent-up9-to-5 workday energy and see it gush and explode in the hanging mirrors.

Intellectual America shuns the shallowness of disco and instead unleashes its soul somewhere in the space maze of blips and unpredictable tones of electronic jazz.

America has mellowed out.

"In the '60s, kids realized what was happening around them," Joe says, "and their music became very rebellious and energetic. Then there was a lot of disillusionment because they realized that all the work of the '60s really didn't accomplish much.

"So now you have the generation that doesn't want to give a fuck about anything, it wants to be laid back, it wants to listen to jazz so they can sit back in their easy chair and smoke a j or have a drink and not think about it.

"People have had enough of problems, they just want them to go away," Joe Incagnoli '80, a first-semester sophomore and self-acclaimed punk, says. (Joe prefers his neighborhood nickname, "Lulla.") Incagnoli plays rhythm guitar for "Ricky and the Invaders," a local punk band from East Boston, where he grew up.

"Eeeez Baw-ston" sprouts up in craggy, square-nosed triple deckers behind Boston's Logan International Airport. It is one of Boston's old ethnic neighborhoods--Italian and working class--and it is isolated from the rest of the world by Boston Harbor and connected only by the Callahan Tunnel. East Boston is a cultural island.

The East Boston kids hang out on street corners, play street hockey, take drugs, "beat on each other," Incagnoli says. The streets are narrow and idiosyncratically crooked. The tall, narrow tenements seem forced against each other, like crowded teeth. Joe and his friends proudly call East Boston home, and they call their band "Ricky and the Invaders."

"When you're faced with something like punk," Incagnoli says, comparing the new wave to disco, "it has to make you re-evaluate the society around you--it's sink or swim where I come from."

Lulla, lying back in his bed in the corner, grimaces at the use of the term "new wave."

"It's so-o-o-oh...general," he moans. He points out the differences in punk that hails from various cities, to emphasize the inadequacies of the general term. While the British punk rockers vomit on their audiences and cry for anarchy, Boston punk rock is at times nothing more than pure late-'50s-early-'60s rock'n'roll. Joe is quick to point out that punk is the song of a culture, and different cultures shape different songs.

Only hours earlier, Lulla and I had gone to Cantone's Restaurant in Boston to hear a couple of local bands, "The Thrills" and "Baby's Arm," play tunes like "Bad Boy" (a Larry Williams oldie the Beatles activated for their gigs in Hamburg, Germany):