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Ray's informal photographs in Vacant alongside extracts from Nils's diaries
document the early days of punk.

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Punk was a DIY revolution: iconoclastic and depraved. It was, perhaps, the last working class, youth movement. In the late 1970's, before the corporate might of MTV and fashion bibles like The Face magazine came to dominate youth culture, punk rejected the economic and moral constraints of British society by creating an anti-world in which worthless objects like safety pins, bin-liners and hastily drawn slogans on clothing defined a new aesthetic. The elevation of everyday 'found' objects to jewellery and desirable clothing challenged the foundations of the economy. the iconography itself signified glorious moral decay. This reevaluation of aesthetic values coupled with a laissez-faire, pre AIDS attitude to sex and drugs seriously undermined the status quo at that time. The music was basic, fast and loud.

The Sex Pistols were the primary instigators of punk in the UK and most effective agitators. With their entourage, risibly dubbed the 'Bromley Contingent' by the music press, they feature extensively in the the book and exhibitions. The groupattacked all of England's sacred cows from the Queen to those New Aristocrats the Rolling Stones and within months of their first gigs countless teenagers realised that reverence towards anything, even previously hallowed pop stars was undeserved - anyone who had the front to do it could do it. A nation of bored youths ripped and customised their clothes, dyed and razored their hair, picked up guitars and stuck two fingers up to the world.
Dispossessed punk adolescents grew up with the Pete Townshend doctrine "hope I die before I get old", burned into their consciousness', consequently some of the most colourful characters on the scene went too far, God rest their souls.The most notable of these was Sid Vicious who, after his arrest at the Chelsea Hotel in New York on 12 October 1978 for stabbing his girlfriend, Nancy Spungeon, died of a heroin overdose in February 1978.
Rays 1976 - 1979's photos capture punk's chaotic growth and rapid evolution, from the Sex Pistols early gigs with Glen Matlock to Sid Vicious' enrolment as bass player. All of the most significant groups inspired by the Sex Pistols are represented in the Vacant book and exhibition from the Clash to Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Slits and the Adverts.
Without Punk there would be no Oasis, Manic Street Preachers or Prodigy. There would be no Damien Hirst or Tracy Emins in the art world had it not been for punk: in literature no Irvine Welsh or Will Self: in fashion there would be no Alexander McQueen or John Galliano.
We live in punk's afterglow.

Nils Stevenson

Colour pictures by Spizz, Black and White pictures by Paul Slattery
Above montage: colour pictures by Spizz, black and white pictures by Paul Slattery

The K-Bar staged the first Vacant exhibition in London's Soho in the Spring of 1999. The preview was attended by a host of music business celebrities including: Paul Cook and Glen Matlock from the Sex Pistols, Siobhan Fahey, Gary Numan, The Fun Loving Criminals, Saffron, the Buzzcocks, Spizz, Edwyn Collins, Terry Hall, Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17 and Hugh Cornwall of The Stranglers.

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