more than music!?

(from the exhibition More Than Music!?, originally shown at Baracke, Münster, Germany 30 April through 15 June 2002. Click here for more information.)

photos by Benni and Urte
text by Christopher Jones

It's more than music
More than a new dance
More than fashion
More than a posed stance

It's more than music
It's something to live life with
Beyond cheap slogans
An act of love, an attempt to give

We have seen a lot of kids drift away
And now they're gone
But new blood and old ideals
Help keep our vision strong

It's more than music
It's our life

-Verbal Assault, "More Than Music" (1987)


There was much in it that I did not understand, in some ways I did not even like it, but I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for.

-George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (1938)



Urte has been kind enough to ask me for some thoughts on the question "punk: more than music?" I penned those lyrics fifteen years ago, and the band that I sang them with was gone some six years before these photos were taken. So here I speak only for myself. That said, and knowing many other people whose experiences are similar to mine, the answer to that question is an emphatic yes-it was more than music when Verbal Assault first formed and when we were around, and it's more than music now, since a lot of what it was about still influences me today.

When my friends and I were first getting into punk, it was much more difficult to actually find it. You heard about it through small fanzines, cassette tape trades and word-of-mouth. This in itself was important. It meant there was already a certain amount of commitment involved; you couldn't just turn on the radio or visit the local chain record store to hear the music we loved.

The bands that we looked up to put no stock in technical virtuosity (though many were quite good). More than anything else, this was an invitation to grab a guitar and give it a go yourself, to be a participant, not a spectator. Using friends' equipment, we would bang out primitive covers of our favorite songs. It's hard to describe the jolt you felt when you realized that you could do this too. And thus the racket coming from our parent's basement was both angry and joyous at the same time. Even when the playing was less than perfect, we realized that this was more than music.