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Billie Joe Armstrong: “Punk Rock Has Been Rather Queer Since The Beginning”

I had a feeling [gay punk band] Pansy Division would definitely get a mixed reaction. When our crowds were getting more mainstream, we didn’t want to represent the typical Mohawk stereotype. Pansy Division was truly challenging, and their songs are melodic and catchy. I got letters from teenagers saying, after seeing Pansy Division, they had the courage to come out. I saw certain idiots in the crowd yelling “faggots” or throwing shit. But I also saw people dancing and having a good time. Homophobia has no place in the punk scene or the mainstream. I think we share that belief with Pansy Division. Punk rock has been rather queer since the beginning.

Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong tells Out‘s Adam Rathe that he thinks punk rock has some strong gay roots

By:           Evan Mulvihill
On:           Apr 12, 2012
Tagged: , , , , ,

  • 18 Comments
    • Allen D.
      Allen D.

      Their album “Absurd Pop Romance” is BRILLIANT. The rest is kinda “m’eh”.

      Apr 12, 2012 at 1:07 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Seamus
      Seamus

      Punk rock has roots in the writings of Queer author William Burroughs. The very nature of punk is a rejection of mainstream, contemporary society and all of its moral and ethical expectations. Armstrong is right.

      Apr 12, 2012 at 1:19 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • WillBFair
      WillBFair

      I’m not sure about that. I was into punk from the beginning. Saw the Ramones constantly and the Pistols when Vicious was alive. My gaydar never beeped, and it’s a finely tuned and hyper sensitive instrument.

      Apr 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • frank
      frank

      @3

      I don’t think he means queer as gay per se. To me, he is saying that punks were always outcasts, “weirdos,” etc. While I wasn’t part of the scene, I know that many punks were beaten up and called fags, queers, etc. by the “mainstream” jocks, etc.

      Apr 12, 2012 at 2:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DenverBarbie
      DenverBarbie

      I think Billie Joe is way right!
      The very first Los Angeles punk record was released by The Germs, fronted by a gay man named Darby Crash. It has been said that he did experience some homophobia within the scene, but the bulk was coming from the fresh faced suburban kids who started attending shows after LA punk bands started getting press- not the other punk bands themselves. This would have been the late 1970s and early 80s (Darby killed himself as part of his “Five Year Plan” on December 7th, 1980), when punk bands were gaining steam internationally. It is true that some of these early bands were less political or apolitical, like The Ramones, but many were outspokenly progressive and decades ahead of their- and maybe still our- time. LGBTQ themes during this start up period may have been more ambiguous or absent, but the overarching left wing ideology most likely resonated with queer youth as it did other outcasts and rebels.

      The mid-80s through the mid-90s seemed to belong to a generation who was increasingly interested in the struggles of the LGBTQ community. During this decade, partially due in thanks to GB Jones’ and Bruce LaBruce’s zine “J.D.s,” punk rock gave birth to QueerCore. QueerCore was a movement of artists interested in celebrating not just their “deviant” sexual orientations, but the intersection of sex, politics, and art. QueerCore was also intertwined with Riot Grrrl, which stayed vocal about LGBTQ causes while also addressing sexism within punk rock and culture at large.

      LGBTQ themes in punk rock are among the loudest at present, perhaps only rivaled by issues pertaining to our military presence in the Middle East. “Popular” contemporary punk bands like Anti-Flag, Strike Anywhere, and NoFX have been wildly unreserved in their support for the community.

      -Sorry so long winded, Queerty. Again, I need an enjoyable job.

      Apr 12, 2012 at 2:47 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tyn
      Tyn

      Of course queers have always been a part of the punk scene. Who do you think taught good punk boys like Billie Joe how to wear eyeliner in the first place?

      Apr 12, 2012 at 3:33 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • cam
      cam

      I thought Billie Joe had said that he was a little bit Bi for years. Or am I completely misremembering?

      Apr 12, 2012 at 4:40 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mark
      Mark

      Cam and Tyn actually Billie Joe is bisexual and therefore “queer”. Though I wouldn’t really consider Green Day to be punk at all. Then again the grandfather of punk Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground is also bisexual.

      Apr 12, 2012 at 5:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jacob
      Jacob

      @DenverBarbie: Very interesting, didn’t know about ‘The Germs’ or ‘Darby Crash’. I never really got into the whole ‘queer core’ scene, mostly listen to modern punk. Thanks for the history lesson though, haha.

      Apr 12, 2012 at 5:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Larry-bob
      Larry-bob

      WillBFair: Ramones logo was designed by Arturo Vega, the band’s art director, who was there from the beginning of the band and attended almost every single gig – he is practically a member of the band – and he is gay. Also on the early NYC punk front: Wayne/Jayne County, Richard Sohl of Patti Smith Group, Chris Robison of later NY Dolls live lineups.

      For the UK side, gay erotica imagery was used on the clothes the Sex Pistols wore. The Bromley Contingent (see Wikipedia article) were a group of punks that included Siouxsie who hung out at Louise’s, a lesbian bar in London. See gay Bromley Contingent member Bertie Marshall’s memoir Berlin Bromley.

      As JDs zine frequently pointed out, the original definition of “punk” was prison slang for a homosexual catamite.

      This is just in reference to the question about punk being queer from the beginning.

      Apr 12, 2012 at 5:47 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Clockwork
      Clockwork

      @frank:

      Frank here, is obviously a very culturally observant individual.

      I have never seen Slam Dancing in a gay bar, and I never will.
      But I have seen gays with shaved heads who are not punks.

      Thus, Punk queer is not techno queer, and it never will be.

      Apr 12, 2012 at 7:35 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • WillBFair
      WillBFair

      @Larry-bob: You’re right about all that. And I had forgotten about Lou Reed as well. But at the time, it didn’t seem that way, in spite of the Ramone’s song 53rd and 3rd. I just wouldn’t say it’s totally ours. There were plenty of other elements.

      Apr 12, 2012 at 9:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Clockwork
      Clockwork

      On second thought:

      Punk never really had any origin or link to gay culture.

      However, New Wave – has BIG origins in gay culture, especially on the British side.
      Pet Shop, Cure, Culture Club, Erasure, Bronski Beat…long, long list
      The band members, music and styles of dress are too numerous too mention.

      Apr 13, 2012 at 10:02 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • arbiter
      arbiter

      I remember listening to a Lookout records comp in my room while playing video games with my Dad, which he would do, on occasion, to humor me. Anyway, Headbanger was on this comp and I was paralyzed, mid game, unable to do anything while the whole scenario of hooking up with a straight hair metal guy played out of my stereo. That was probably a good four or five years before I came out… MORTIFYING. But, I liked them, they are really catchy and very bold for doing what they did. I’m sure they weren’t strangers to getting called names and throwing shit, they didn’t fucking care.

      Apr 13, 2012 at 2:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • XTIAAN
      XTIAAN

      I always hung with the goth/punk scene when I was a kid, gay bars scared me and they played such godawful music
      Although I did see Pansy Division in a gay bar in the early 90′s that I took a bunch of my str8 punk mates to, their first time in a gay bar, a good time was had by all, but pansy division seemed way more alt rock than what we thought of as punk at the time……

      Punk has links to queerdom in that they both came of age at the same time in the 70′s, they were both outside the norm and transgressive, so of course there was lots of crossover, look at the films of derek jarman for example, queer as fuck and full of punks!

      Apr 14, 2012 at 4:12 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • amo
      amo

      Mark is right. Armstrong is bi so Queerty’s use of the phrase “gay rights” is offensive (whether or not they intended to be).

      Apr 14, 2012 at 8:20 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • BlackRockRitual
      BlackRockRitual

      Very true. This is one reason I always related far more to punk music as a kid, and still do, than those machismo obsessed metalheads. Heck, in the music community, metalheads are often decrying punk music as “gaying up heavy metal”.

      At least punks are socially relevant and in support of gays and taking a stand against social problems in general. And aren’t obsessed with banging elves.

      There are of course great metalheads out there. But I have to say punk seems a lot more queer friendly than metal.

      Apr 23, 2012 at 7:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Chainsaw Vince
      Chainsaw Vince

      @Jacob:

      dude…if you don’t know who the Germs are…you missed out on a whooooole back log of EXCELLENT punk rock…modern punk rock doesn’t even touch what has been happening out there. do some research…learn about REAL punk rock…you can even start by area…los angeles punk rock is a fantastic area to start…try dangerhouse records for starters.

      Aug 16, 2012 at 8:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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