Tag Archives: Punk

Punk Rock and How it Influenced My Entry into Public Health…And How it Continues to Influence Me

Everybody has influences in their life.  Their parents, their friends, pop culture.

For me, it was–and continues to be–punk rock.

I currently work in health communication.  Working in health communication is all about focusing on how to make health messages more impactful.  Many studies have shown that there is a dearth of research that gets into practice.  In other words, many resources are spent and used to create impactful things…Without an impact being created.

Communication is a large reason for this.  Many ideas are brilliant in their creation and potential use, but are simply never used or maybe not even known about.  Effective communications and branding can also make an ineffective program get a better reputation from outsiders (i.e. DARE).

I grew to enjoy punk rock as an adolescent.  As a teenager (and even when I got older) it represented an outlet.  There are more than a few reasons why.

Accessible and Immediate

In my opinion, punk rock is rock in its simplest form, undistilled and raw.  Punk is also incredibly accessible and immediate.  Anyone with a guitar can play a punk rock guitar riff.  And in many ways, that’s what has made it attractive to me.

The only main musical rules of punk are loud, fast, and accessible.


Punk often appropriates previously used musical tropes into a new package.  The Jam is a perfect example of this.

The Jam is one of my favorite punk acts, often using mod fashion from the British Invasion (think The Kinks, The Beatles, The Who) and soul to new ends.  Peter Weller and the rest of the band were huge mod fans, all it takes is a look at their third album title All Mod Cons.


Punk rock, quite plain and simply gets to the point.  Quick.  It’s even better when it uses humor.  Just like The Rezillos.  One of the greatest debuts of all time.

Impactful and Powerful (visceral)

Historical points of view/Storytelling

Punk rock is often unpleasant, intentionally so.  It often pushes truth to the forefront and doesn’t sugarcoat.  Rather than ignore, punk rock often brings injustice into the light.

I also truly believe the only way we can move forward is often when looking towards the past.  Punk rock has some amazing songs focused on a point of view unlike any other, that of the disenfranchised or misunderstood.

One of my personal favorites is “Little Boy Soldiers” off of The Jam’s Setting Sons. It tells a heartbreaking, harrowing story of British youths who go off to war with noble intentions and leave forever changed.  Absolutely amazing lyrics.  Pure angry poetry.

Righteous Anger

Speaking of anger, much punk rock is focused on righteous anger, fighting for those without a voice.

An extremely formative band during my youth was The Clash.  My pick for greatest punk band of all time, The Clash is a perfect amalgam of straightforward rock, catchy hooks, excellent lyrics, and a belief in the potential for something better.

This wasn’t summed up in a better fashion than The Clash’s song “The Magnificent Seven”, detailing various forms of corruption and injustice, including but not limited to police corruption, alcoholism and overall ignorance.

In my humble opinion, we should all use punk rock as a compass.  It has many virtuous values that have guided where I have gone and continue to go.

Punk rock: Not just for punks.


Music That Is Owning Me: “Setting Sons” by The Jam

I used to really think war was cool.  As a child of the 80s, I was raised on video games, sugary cereals, and ubiquitous product placement.  On a constant sugar high, I thought explosions were the bee’s knees, as were action/adventure movies.  War movies were a natural extension of the action/adventure genre and films like “Top Gun” and “Red Dawn” further infused me with jingoistic thoughts.  USA! USA! USA!!!

Where were we?  Oh yeah, anyway, when I got older I decided to move further into films and one of the first war movies I saw as a teenager was “Platoon”.  “Platoon” may be a bit overwrought and a little over-the-top (as is Oliver Stone’s wont), but it affected me tremendously as a fourteen year old.  I never thought war was cool again and found violent conflicts incredibly disturbing.

Combining an anti-war attitude with teenage rebellion is always an interesting mixture.  And with that, I present “Setting Sons” by British punk/mod outfit The Jam.

The Jam is a band I originally got into when furthering my interest in punk.  Specifically, 70s british punk.  To me, the Clash will always be the best punk band of all time, but The Jam is most likely a close second.  The Jam is the brain child of one Paul Weller, basically an angry (angrier?) version of Ray Davies, the lead songwriter of The Kinks.  Just like The Kinks, The Jam paints a very vivid image with its lyrics.  Some of his songs are simply gorgeous or uplifting, with the song “English Rose” a particular standout.  However, most are incredibly pessimistic and full of anguish. 

As a disappointed and angry youth–no doubt aided and abetted by my then-current displeasure with the government in representing what young people wanted or needed–The Jam resonated with me on a deep level.  Despite his high use of British slang and mention of many exclusively British phenomena (what is a tubestation, exactly?), Paul Weller and the rest of the band spoke to me on a very personal level.

“Setting Sons” is a further refined vision of The Jam’s debut “In The City”.  Many of the same angry ideals are present in the album, but the songwriting and production values are of a higher standard.  The album is also the closest The Jam came to making a concept album.  The concept here being that war is hell.

“Little Boy Soldiers” is a particularly haunting song focused on a young man from recruitment to his ultimate death on the front lines.  Much of the song is focused on the youth’s troubled soul and his disillusion with not being heard.

“Burning Sky” is another standout track with some of Bruce Foxton’s best bass playing during his time with the band.

One heck of an album

“Setting Sons” is one of my favorite albums of 1979 and quite simply a masterwork of punk.  One of the best things about the album is that the anger on display is for a reason, not just to provide controversy.  Unlike many punk bands at the time, The Jam is not there to merely shock.  Paul Weller and The Jam have some very sobering things to say and do so in an effective way, one that works on both cerebral and visceral levels.

The Jam and “Setting Sons” will always provide a bookmark reminding me of a time in my life when I was truly angry about the injustices that took place all around me. Without the tools to address those injustices, I was incredibly frustrated.  The messages The Jam present in their music still resonate with me today and I still view the incredible challenges of injustice and inequity winnable battles.  Hopefully battles that won’t be violent in nature.

John still loves punk music…And long walks on the beach.  He can be tweeted at @jododojo10 or emailed at jodonovan1984@gmail.com

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