Before you can create, you must destroy.
Punk rock emerged in the mid-1970s seeking to destroy the stagnant and unattainable mainstream music, art, and fashion scenes that existed at the time. Like a wildfire that re-seeds a forest, punk became the most potent and wide-ranging example of destruction in the name of fertile cultural rebirth and stylistic reinvention.
Punk’s greatest gift to the world was perhaps the idea that anyone from anywhere could pick up an instrument and make music of some kind, even if they had no experience at all. Spirit, passion, and a sense of fun mattered more than an expensive production job, stage dressing, or the length of your drum and guitar solos.
This attitude emboldened an entire generation to make DIY music, release their own records, and create their own artwork and fashions for themselves. However, baiting and provoking the establishment and shaking up the status quo were also key approaches taken by many bands over the years, and this list details some of the prime examples of provocation in the name of exposure, profit, political agitation, or just for the sheer hell of it.
10. Crass - The Thatchergate Tape
Crass formed in 1977 and, disillusioned by the big punk bands who signed to major labels, decided instead to make and release their own records and artwork and organise their own shows, coming to define the DIY punk movement. One of their numerous tricks involved producing the ‘Thatchergate’ tape and posting it to various newspapers and consulates.
The tape appeared to document a conversation between US President Ronald Reagan and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, discussing using Western Europe as a ‘guinea pig’ to show the USSR the might of US nuclear weapons. It was spliced together from various genuine clips of the leaders talking, and edited to sound like a fairly natural conversation.
The tape did fool some in the media upon its reveal in 1983, with publications including The San Francisco Chronicle and The Sunday Times running stories about it. It eventually drew the attention of the CIA and MI6 and appears to have caused significant momentary alarm, with suspicion initially falling on the Soviet Union, who it was thought may have produced the tape to sow panic amongst the public. However, MI6 documents declassified in 2014 (dating back to 1984) showed that it had been fairly quickly dismissed as the rather amateurish hoax that it was, and a decision was soon made not to devote further resources to investigating it.
Crass were eventually tracked down as the source by a journalist from The Observer, and after some initial protestations of innocence, the band later admitted responsibility.