Punk’s do-it-yourself call to arms led to a widespread adoption of the rhetoric, if not always the practice, of independence from traditional means of production – although it should be acknowledged that do-it-yourself ideals go back a lot further than the punk explosion of the 1970s, from traditional folk music through to the bottleneck rural blues players of the 1930s and 1940s, the 1950s UK skiffle boom and early 1960s US garage bands. The punks may have articulated the do-it-yourself vision most clearly, turning it into a mantra, but they were inheriting a tradition that was established many years earlier. During the early period of punk’s development in the United Kingdom, a distinct division of labour can be seen in the impact of an ‘anyone can do it’ DIY ethos on a range of activities. These range from live performance to the creation and manufacture of punk artefacts (clothes, posters, flyers, fanzines, records). While some of these areas offered new opportunities for amateur producers, within more technical areas of manufacturing, including the physical production of records, do-it-yourself could only have a nominal impact. Many punk groups did not have access to sound recording technologies, and even if they did, they would have to hand over the cutting and pressing of vinyl to a professional outfit. There was certainly a widespread and outspoken desire to take artistic control away from mainstream sources, but in reality the full ownership of the means of production was at best a naive ambition.
Russ Bestley is Reader in Graphic Design & Subcultures at the London College of Communication, and a designer and writer, specialising in graphic design, punk and humour. His publications include A Different Kind of Tension: Post-Punk Graphic Design in the UK, 1976-1990 (forthcoming), Action Time Vision: Punk & Post Punk 7” Record Sleeves (2016), The Art of Punk (2012), Visual Research (2004, 2011, 2015, forthcoming) and Up Against the Wall (2002), with chapters in The Oxford Handbook of Global Popular Music (2020), The Oxford Handbook of Punk (2020), The Routledge Companion to Popular Music and Humor (2019), Hard Werken: One for All – Graphic Art & Design 1979-1994 (2018), Comedy and Critical Thought: Laughter as Resistance (2018), Ripped, Torn and Cut: Pop, Politics and Punk Fanzines from 1976 (2018), Punk Pedagogies: Music, Culture and Learning (2017), The Aesthetic of Our Anger: Anarcho-Punk, Politics, Music (2016) and Classic Rock Posters (2012) among others. He has designed and curated exhibitions in London, Southampton, Blackpool, Leeds, Birmingham and Newcastle and designed books, posters and other graphic material for the Punk Scholars Network, Active Distribution, PM Press, Viral Age Records and other independent labels and publishers. Russ is also editor of the journal Punk & Post-Punk and co-editor of the Global Punk book series published by Intellect Books and the Punk Scholars Network. His research portfolio can be accessed at www.hitsvilleuk.com. See also: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5262-219X