'punk is sexy' | 

Author claims punk was so so sexy it is claimed by people who ‘weren’t there’

Micky Cassidy’s Punk as F*uk tells the stories of ordinary people whose lives were transformed by the Seventies music revolution in Belfast

Pacemaker Press 11/05/23 Author Micky Cassidy who's written a new book about the punk movement. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Mick Cassidy as a punk

Punk has become so sexy it’s being claimed by people who were never there, says the author of a new book.

Micky Cassidy’s Punk as F*uk tells the stories of ordinary people whose lives were transformed by the Seventies music revolution in Belfast.

At the time Northern Ireland was “an ugly bastard of a place” in the grip of the Troubles, says the author, and the music became a uniting force.

The ripples are still being felt with bands like The Outcasts currently on a world tour and the hit film Good Vibrations, which is back as a stage show in Belfast before heading for New York.

But not everyone who claims to have been there ever set foot in the hallowed Harp Bar, the sticky centre of punk in Belfast in the four years when the scene burned brightest, from 1978 to 1982, spawning Stiff Little Fingers, Rudi and The Undertones.

“There were only a few hundred of us but there are so many people who are claiming they were there,” says Micky.

“It would make them about 12 years old at the time. It’s become fashionable again to be a punk.”

Mick Cassidy as a punk

He wanted to share the impact of punk on the people who were at the heart of it and asked some of the original followers to share their experiences, including Joan Murphy, Yvonne Cowan, Colin Fletcher and Andy Mulholland.

“I didn’t want to just name check the bands because that’s been done,” says Micky.“These are the people who were at ground level whose story needed to be told.

“I missed the start of punk by about six months and the whole thing just happened over a couple of months. This place was ripe for it because living here was brutal. It was custom built for punk.

“Punk was an attitude, and it was no big deal if you couldn’t play music, it was just about getting up there with your mates.”

He says the music and the culture never got the recognition it deserved for overcoming sectarian divisions at the height of a violent civil war, and for embracing equality.

“It would never have happened without the punk girls because they had all the skills we needed. They knew the hairdressing and the clothes making and the window dressing.

“They were as equal as we were and that was a novel idea at the time. It was a male-dominated society but in punk we were all equal and it was the first youth culture that happened in.”

The 63-year-old electrician from Belfast reveals punks literally suffered for their art, surviving physical violence at gigs in Ireland, England and France.

As a roadie during the height of punk’s fame he found the anti-sectarian message often didn’t translate at gigs outside Northern Ireland.

“Dublin was the first one, but we also had trouble in Paris and Bristol because we were Irish,” says Micky. “The Provos were dropping bombs and we were the public face of it. Some outrage would happen and at the gig that night the bottles would be flying. It was a lot to deal with, and we were a mixed bunch of both religions.”

The movement started to fade in Northern Ireland when skinhead bands elbowed into the Harp Bar, the only pub which welcomed punk bands and fans.

But the music and the attitude never died.

“It’s rebellious music, like reggae. It’s anti-state, and everyone loves an underdog. It’s a mindset.

“Punk is sexy,” says Micky.

  • Punk as F*uk is available from michaelcassidy@live.com

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