|Stylistic origins:||Psychedelic rock, pub rock, and garage rock – proto-punk|
|Cultural origins:||Mid 1970s United States, Australia and United Kingdom.|
|Typical instruments:||Vocals – Guitar – Bass – Drums|
|Mainstream popularity:||More success in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, in that order, than in the United States. Some success for pop punk, especially ska punk and Two Tone|
|Derivative forms:||Alternative rock – Hardcore – Emo – anarcho-punk – post-punk – queercore|
|Alcopunk – Anarcho-punk – Anti-folk – Garage Punk – Hardcore – Horror punk – New Wave – Oi! – Pop punk – Post-punk|
|Anti-folk – Crust punk – Death rock – Psychobilly – Ska punk – Two Tone|
|Cassette culture – DIY – Punk pioneers – First wave – Second wave – Punk cities – Punk movies – Fanzine|
Punk Rock is an anti-establishment music movement that began about 1976 (although precursors can be found several years earlier), exemplified by The Ramones, the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned. The term is also used to describe subsequent music scenes that share key characteristics with those first-generation "punks". The term is sometimes also applied to the fashions or the irreverent "DIY" ("do it yourself") attitude associated with this musical movement.
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The phrase "punk rock" (from "punk", meaning rotten, worthless, or snotty, often applied to a street hustler or juvenile delinquent; also meaning a beginner or novice ) was originally applied to the untutored guitar-and-vocals-based rock and roll of United States bands of the mid-1960s such as The Standells, The Sonics, and The Seeds, who now are more often categorized as "garage rock".
The term was coined by rock critic Dave Marsh, who used it to describe the music of ? and the Mysterians in the May 1971 issue of Creem magazine. The term was adopted by many rock music journalists in the early 1970s. For example, in the liner notes of the 1972 anthology album Nuggets, critic and guitarist Lenny Kaye uses the term "punk-rock" to refer to the Sixties "garage rock" groups, as well as some of the darker and more primitive practitioners of 1960s psychedelia. Shortly after the time of those notes, Lenny Kaye formed a band with avant-garde poet Patti Smith. Smith's group, and her first album, Horses, released in 1975, directly inspired many of the mid-1970s punk rockers, so this suggests a path by which the term migrated to the music we now know as punk.
In addition to the inspiration of those "garage bands" of the 1960s, the roots of punk rock also draw on the abrasive, dissonant style of The Velvet Underground; the sexually and politically confrontational Detroit bands The Stooges and MC5; the UK pub rock scene and political UK underground bands such as Mick Farren and the Deviants; the New York Dolls, and some British "glam rock" or "art rock" acts of the early 1970s, including Gary Glitter and Roxy Music.
The British punk movement also found a precedent in the "do-it-yourself" attitude of the Skiffle craze that emerged amid the post-World War II austerity of 1950s Britain. Skiffle music led directly to the tremendous worldwide success of The Beatles (who began as a Skiffle group) and the subsequent British Invasion of the U.S. record charts. Punk rock in Britain coincided with the rise of Thatcherism, and nearly all British punk bands expressed an attitude of angry social alienation.
Punk rock was also a reaction against certain tendencies that had overtaken popular music in the 1970s, including what the punks saw as superficial "disco" music and grandiose forms of heavy metal, progressive rock and "arena rock." Punk also rejected the remnants of the hippie counterculture of the 1960s. Bands such as Jefferson Airplane, which had survived the 1960s, were regarded by most punks as having become fatuous and an embarrassment to their former claims of radicality. Eric Clapton's appearance in television beer ads in the mid-1970s was often cited as an example of how the icons of 1960s rock had literally sold themselves to the system they once opposed.
The influence of the cultural critique and the strategies for revolutionary action offered by the European situationist movement of the 1950s and 1960s is apparent in the vanguard of the British punk movement, particularly the Sex Pistols. This was a conscious direction taken by Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, and is apparent in the clothing designed for the band by Vivienne Westwood, and the visual artwork of the Situationist-affiliated Jamie Reid, who designed many of the band's graphics.
The Emergence of Punk Rock
In the mid-1970s, influential punk bands emerged in three different corners of the world: The Ramones in New York, The Saints in Brisbane, Australia, and the Sex Pistols, The Damned (the first band to market an album as "punk"), and The Clash in London. Early punk bands were operating within small "scenes" that included other bands and solo performers as well as enthusiastic impresarios who operated small nightclubs that provided a showcase and meeting place for the emerging musicians (the 100 Club in London, CBGB's in New York, and The Masque in Hollywood are among the best known early punk clubs).An important feature of punk rock was an evident desire to return to the concise approach of early rock and roll.
One of the first books about punk rock — The Boy Looked at Johnny by Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons (December 1977) — declared the punk moment to be already over: the subtitle was The Obituary of Rock and Roll. The title echoed a lyric from the title track of Patti Smith's 1975 album Horses; this "obituary" for punk came when the Clash had only one album out and the Dead Kennedys had not yet formed.
In the UK, punk interacted with the Jamaican reggae and ska subcultures. The reggae influence is evident in the first releases by the Clash, for example. By the end of the 1970s punk had spawned the 2 Tone ska revival movement, including bands such as The Specials, Madness and The Selecter.
Punk attitudes and fashion
The punk phenomenon expressed a rejection of prevailing values in ways that extended beyond the music. British punk fashion deliberately outraged propriety with the highly theatrical use of cosmetics and hairstyles: eye makeup might cover half the face, hair might stand in spikes or be cut into a "Mohawk" or other radical shapes, and might also be drastically colored. The clothing typically adapted or mutilated existing objects for artistic effect: pants and shirts were cut, torn, or wrapped with tape, and written on with marker or defaced with paint; safety pins and razor blades were used as jewelry (including using safety pins for piercings); a black bin liner bag (garbage bag) might become a dress, shirt or skirt. Leather, rubber and vinyl clothing was also common, possibly due to its implied connection with transgressive sexual practices, such as bondage and S&M. A few musicians and fans also included Nazi -connected elements in their outfits, primarily the swastika, the Iron Cross and German Army helmets, but many of them claimed (somewhat disingenuously) not to understand the connection nor why people were so upset.
Punk bands and fans were often accused of nihilism, reflexive anarchism, willful stupidity, hooliganism, and of behavior and dress that existed merely for shock value. This may have been true for some bands and fans, but for many the music, dress and lifestyle also (or primarily) included elements of irony, absurdist humor and genuine suspicion of mainstream culture and values. Furthermore, many bands (The Clash being a prime example) openly espoused a liberal or progressive social and political philosophy. Others went farther; bands such as Crass and the diversely musical Chumbawamba (both of them anarchist/pacifist groups) actively participated in political protests and projects to alter their local or national communities.
Some of the furor over punk was caused by the behavior of the fans at shows, which often appeared to the uninitiated to be more of a small-scale riot than a music concert. This behavior included spitting on the band, throwing beer bottles at the band and each other, stage diving, pogoing and slam dancing (which eventually led to the mosh pit), the destruction of music and sound equipment and destroying or defacing the venue itself. Fights both in and outside the venue were not uncommon. Again, while for some bands and fans this violent and destructive behavior may have been an end in itself, for others it was a physical expression of frustration with both their personal lives and with the perceived shortcomings of society in general.
The DIY aesthetic of punk created a thriving underground press; you could not only start a band, you could also be a music journalist and critic. Initially, such amateur magazines took inspiration from the pre-existing fanzines in the science fiction fan community; probably the most influential of the fanzines to cross over from SF fandom to the punk fanzine tradition was Greg Shaw's Who Put the Bomp?. Later, in the UK Mark Perry produced Sniffin' Glue. In the United States, magazines such as Punk, Search & Destroy (later REsearch), the politically-charged Maximum RocknRoll, the anarchist Profane Existence, and Flipside were among the most important fanzines in the 1980s and onward. Every local "scene" had at least one, often primitively- or casually-published magazine with news, gossip, and interviews with local or touring bands. The magazine Factsheet Five chronicled some of thousands of underground publications and "zines" in the 1980s and 1990s.
In the 1980s a second wave of anti-establishment and "DIY" bands came into their own in the UK and the United States, a genre known as Hardcore punk. The period from approximately 1980 to 1986 is considered the peak of hardcore punk. Early hardcore bands include Black Flag, Bad Brains and The Germs and the movement developed via Minor Threat, Minutemen and Hüsker Dü, among others.
In the UK, meanwhile, post-punk bands as diverse as Joy Division, The Fall, This Heat, Public Image Ltd Scritti Politti and Gang of Four, each with their own distinctive sound, contributed to a musically adventurous era, although their influence on later 'punk rock' is debatable.
The punk rock of the early and mid-1990s was characterized by the scene at 924 Gilman Street, a venue in Berkeley, California, which featured bands such as Green Day, Operation Ivy, and Rancid, who would later go on to be well-known among the punk scene. Epitaph Records, an independent record label started by Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion, would become the home of the "skate punk" sound, characterized by bands like Pennywise, NOFX, and The Offspring. Around 1994, punk achieved a commercial renaissance due to these bands, followed by a short-lived ska punk revival around 1997.
Punk quickly became more accessible to the average person, amid complaints from underground punk fans that, by being signed to major labels and appearing on MTV, these bands were buying into the system that punk was created to rebel against, and as a result, could not be considered true punk. This debate continues with the popularity of pop-punk in the early 2000s, and the emo trend of recent times.
Regardless, there is still a thriving underground punk scene in both North America and Europe. The widespread availability of the Internet and file sharing programs enables bands who would otherwise not be heard outside of their local scene to garner larger followings, and emphasizes the DIY ethic started by the original punk bands. Many punk bands still retain the political streak of their forefathers. The political success of George W. Bush and Tony Blair have inspired both songs and political action, such as the Rock Against Bush movement, that can be compared to the original rage at Reagan and Thatcher.
In punk's original heydey, punks faced harrassment and even violence from others, such as in Britain, where punks were infamously involved in brawls with teds, or fans of rockabilly. Nowadays, it is relatively socially acceptable to be punk and play punk rock music, and it is often merely a fashion statement for youth. Thus, some maintain that the punk scene has lost the very heart of its former nature as one of explosive creativity, rebellion, anger, hate, and individualism, and that it has become a mere caricature of what once was.
- "I Wanna Be Sedated" by The Ramones, from Road to Ruin, 1978. 28 seconds, 540 KB.
- "Dot Dash" by Wire, a single from 1978. 30 seconds, 519 KB.
- "London Calling" by The Clash, from London Calling, 1979. 30 seconds, 616 KB.
Extensive lists of relevant bands and so on can be found at the following sub-pages:
- List of forerunners of punk music (ca. 1968-1976)
- List of musicians in the first wave of punk music (ca. 1976–1985)
- List of musicians in the second wave of punk music (ca. 1985-present)
- List of punk movies
- List of punk cities
- Timeline of punk rock
- Punk ideology
- Related genres:
- ABC No Rio A DIY punk venue/squat
- Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs, ISBN 0679720456
- The Boy Looked At Johnny: The Obituary of Rock and Roll by Julie Burchill & Tony Parsons, 1978, Pluto Press, UK, ISBN 0861040309X
- Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain, 1997, Penguin Books, ISBN 0140266909
- United Punk Resource Directory
- Genre: Punk at Bandnews.org
- Punk Inquiry and Study Site (PISS)
- Punk '77! Punk Rock In The UK 1976–1979
- Truepunk Dot Com – Popular Punk Resource
- Punknews.org – Daily Punk News Source
- History of punk in Derry, Northern Ireland
- Stiff Records
- Fast'n'Bulbous – History of Punk
- Ska, Punk & Other Junk – Online Punk Radio Station that features Punk and Punk-influenced styles