This is something that I was thinking a lot about since I watched and reviewed Punk’s Not Dead this weekend.
In the film, there were some classic clips of punk rock’s early, maligning treatment by the American media. One of the most blatant and clueless was the now infamous episode of Quincy M.E., “Next Stop Nowhere”, or “The Quincy Punk Episode” as it’s now better known as.
In the episode, a kid is stabbed while slamdancing at a punk show, during a performance at a club called the Ground Zero by the band Mayhem (they were concocted for the show, but I think it’s a decent guess that they were inspired by the band Fear, who had performed a now-legendary but catastrophic set on SNL the year before). As is the case with every episode of Quincy M.E., Jack Klugman (as Quincy), performed the autopsy then set out to solve the crime.
It’s a straightforward setup for a formulaic show, but where the episode went wrong was in its sensationalistic, ill-informed attack on punk rock. It featured a melodramatic teen and her mother who was quick to blame any relationship problems with her daughter on punk rock.
The episodes portrayal of punk rock as a blatantly nihilist movement was laughable to. There are a million classic bits of dialogue, but some of the episode’s more legendary moments include:
Quincy: You’re not blaming what happened to that girl on music?
Dr. Hanover: Don’t underestimate this particular kind of music, Quince. You tell a kid, a vulnerable kid, over and over again that life isn’t worth living, that violence is its own reward and you add to it the kind of intensity that this music has, and you just might convince her.
Quincy attributes the kid’s murder, in part, to punk rock (which I’ll go on record saying that the music couldn’t have acted alone, because the ice pick was an equal participant at least). Quincy even goes onto a Springer-styled talk show to reveal the truth about punk rock, and offers this gem:
I believe that the music I heard is a killer. It’s a killer of hope. It’s a killer of spirit.
While an overly preachy and sensationalist show, it’s become a cult classic, spawning many references, including the song “Quincy Punk Episode” by Spoon (listen) and a street punk band simply called Quincy Punx (listen).
I’m not sure if Klugman ever made a statement on the message of the episode and whether he agreed with it (if you know, please let me know). Regardless, it probably served to stress the relationships of countless families with teenagers who’d fallen under the influence of “that violence-oriented punk rock music.”
Over the years, many bands would be blamed for murders and suicides. Judas Priest and Ozzy were blamed for suicides, Marilyn Manson and Slipknot were blamed for murder. None of these charges would ever stick, but they at least took the heat of off Mayhem and their involvement in the murder on the punk episode of Quincy M.E..
And while I hadn’t planned on taking this post in any direction other than to point out a silly TV moment from the ‘80s, what about the deaths attributed to the influence of bands? It may be opening up a can of worms here, but do you believe that bands have that kind of influence over the youth of America?
Before we get into that, I just want to add that the entire episode of Quincy M.E. is available on YouTube, in six- or seven-minute chunks, starting with the first part here. For those of you who want an abridged version, you can find a few laughable highlights here.