The Colloquium for Unpopular Culture
Asian/Pacific/America Institute, New York University
"Last week I was in receipt of a most curious record from Rotterdam on the King-Kong label, which featured on one side a band called the Rondos . . . Three tracks on either side, and none of them actually sound Dutch if you know what I mean . . . [plays song] . . . As I say, it doesn't sound at all Lowlands, does it really? Because as I hinted on the program last week, there's nothing they like better in that part of the world than songs about drunks falling into mounds of manure. And that quite clearly is not one of those." --John Peel
One explanation for the rise of punk rock in the late 1970s is that the failures of 1960s social movements to create durable radical social transformation meant that antagonisms previously fought out on shop floors and in the streets would now be contested in the realm of popular culture. Punk rock, with all its spit and bile, encapsulated both frustration at these movements' failures and seeds of reaction to their successes. Yet the history of punk rock is far more variegated and complex than many of its chroniclers have recognized. A chief exemplar of this complexity is the Rotterdam punk band Rondos and their Red Rock Collective. To the extent they are today known outside Holland, the accompanying legend has them as the first punk band to break up because they became popular. Rondos have been compared to London's Crass but also accused even by Crass of being Maoist thugs rather than peace-loving anarchists like their London peers. In the view of Rondos, their short career represented the meeting of theory and praxis, whereas Crass were lofty idealists who disdained the often unpleasant street-level work revolution would require. This presentation will include music, videos, and photographs of Rondos. It will offer a history of the band and their place in punk's trajectory, as well as a discussion of how a more precise analysis of bands like Rondos (and Crass) can help us understand the cultural and political transformations of the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the role of the Left in them.
© 2017 Stuart Schrader