When you start getting into Tiki bars you realize quickly that not all Tiki bars are created equal. There are different ways you can go with a Tiki theme. I’m mostly into the traditional Tiki bar. I like Tiki bars that provide an escape and create a mood of relaxation…
Then there is the punk rock Tiki bar, which creates neither of these things, but that’s not a bad thing!
So what makes a Tiki bar a punk rock Tiki bar? More importantly, why are they still cool even though they go against everything that makes a traditional Tiki bar so great?
To answer this question, you have to go back to the late ’60s. Tiki bars were very popular from the ’40s through the late ’60s, but then quickly faded away. What happened? I can answer that with one word: hippies.
The late ’60s was the first time there was a strong counterculture that went against the establishment (parents, the government, etc.). The ethos of the hippies was that anything your parents were into wasn’t cool or hip. A great example of this is was in the TV show Mad Men. After a couple seasons, the show moved into the mid ’60s. There were scenes in which Don Draper was dressed in his usual suit and tie (which I think is great look) and ended up at some party with hippies and other alternative types. Needless to say, he stood out like a sore thumb and looked, for lack of a better word, old. Don Draper was a square in the eyes of these people!
By the late ’60s you didn’t want to be considered a square. You didn’t want to be like your parents. Everything that your parents were into needed to go. This included dressing up nice, going out to a supper clubs, dancing, drinking martinis, and of course, hanging out at Tiki bars. Within a few years, Tiki bars were no longer “cool.” If a bar isn’t cool, people aren’t going to go. That means the bar isn’t making money. The bar owners have two choices: change the décor to fit with the changing times, or shut down.
Another point I want to bring up is the mindset of people today as opposed to “back in the day.” I would say within the last decade or so, we’ve become very nostalgic. Let’s be honest. Over the last decade or so, nothing has really changed much as far as what we wear, how cars look, how furniture looks, or how houses and buildings look. If you look at pictures from say 2006 and compare these with now, there wouldn’t be much of a difference.
Here is an example. Guess when this picture of me was taken…
The answer is 2002. That’s over 13 years ago! Could you tell?
I feel we don’t think about “the future” so much anymore.
But up until the ’90s that’s all we thought about! The mindset was about having the newest and greatest. Nobody wanted something that was considered old or a relic from the past. That’s why fashion and hairstyles changed all the time. That’s why cars got sleeker and more stylish. That’s why homes and furniture were always being changed or remodeled and why everyone followed suit. That’s why when you see something from the past like a piece of furniture, a home that had never been remodeled, a classic car, vintage clothes, records, and so on, it means that much more to us. It survived!
Let’s talk about music. To be more specific, let’s talk about punk rock. Punk rock started in the mid ’70s. At the time, big arena bands like Led Zeppelin and Kiss were huge. Progressive rock bands like Yes and Rush were big as well. The music was bloated. The songs were long with many parts and solos. Everything felt contrived, because it was.
Punk rock, on the other hand, wasn’t. The songs were short and fast. Bands like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols borrowed their musical influences from rock bands from the ’50s and ’60s. Early songs by bands like the Beach Boys, the Who, and the Beatles were important influences. One punk band called the Cramps was heavily influenced by ’50s rockabilly, surf, and of course the King himself, Elvis! If you liked punk rock music, there was a good chance that you would dig the old stuff from the ’50s and ’60s as well. Surf music has a very tropical vibe to it. The songs are about surfing and being on the beach. The Beach Boys even have a song called “Hawaii”! One of the most famous movies from Elvis is Blue Hawaii.
Now, to bring everything together here. The punk rockers brought back interest in ’50s and early ’60s rock ‘n roll. Along with a love of the music, they also brought back an interest in the styles and cultures from the mid-20th Century as well. This included fashion, furniture, mid-century modern homes, and last but not least, Tiki bars!
As I stated at the beginning of this post, I really like Tiki bars that are relaxing and create an escape. I’m also into punk rock. I think punk rock Tiki bars are a good combination of both. It’s like listening to the Ramones covering “Surfing Bird” from the Trashmen, or listening to “American Nightmare” from the Misfits, which is a total rockabilly song. It all seems like it shouldn’t mix, but it totally does! You just have to understand the connection…