Punk rock is a music genre that emerged in the mid-1970s. Rooted in 1960s garage rock, punk bands rejected the perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. They typically produced short, fast-paced songs with hard-edged melodies and singing styles, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics. Punk embraces a DIY ethic; many bands self-produce recordings and distribute them through independent record labels.
|Cultural origins||1960s to mid-1970s, United States, United Kingdom, and Australia|
The term "punk" was first used by American rock critics in the early 1970s to describe 1960s garage bands and subsequent acts understood to be their stylistic inheritors. When the movement now bearing the name developed from 1974 to 1976, acts such as Television, Patti Smith, and the Ramones in New York City; the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Damned in London; and the Saints in Brisbane formed its vanguard. As 1977 approached, punk became a major cultural phenomenon in the UK. It spawned a punk subculture expressing youthful rebellion through distinctive styles of clothing and adornment (such as deliberately offensive T-shirts, leather jackets, studded or spiked bands and jewelry, safety pins, and bondage and S&M clothes) and a variety of anti-authoritarian ideologies.
In 1977, the influence of the music and subculture became more pervasive, spreading worldwide, especially in England. It took root in a wide range of local scenes that often rejected affiliation with the mainstream. In the late 1970s, punk experienced a second wave as new acts that were not active during its formative years adopted the style. By the early 1980s, faster and more aggressive subgenres such as hardcore punk (e.g. Minor Threat), street punk (e.g. the Exploited), and anarcho-punk (e.g. Crass) became the predominant modes of punk rock. Musicians identifying with or inspired by punk also pursued other musical directions, giving rise to spinoffs such as post-punk, new wave, and later indie pop, alternative rock, and noise rock. By the 1990s, punk re-emerged into the mainstream with the success of punk rock and pop punk bands such as Green Day, Rancid, the Offspring, and Blink-182.
The first wave of punk rock was "aggressively modern" and differed from what came before. According to Ramones drummer Tommy Ramone, "In its initial form, a lot of [1960s] stuff was innovative and exciting. Unfortunately, what happens is that people who could not hold a candle to the likes of Hendrix started noodling away. Soon you had endless solos that went nowhere. By 1973, I knew that what was needed was some pure, stripped down, no bullshit rock 'n' roll." John Holmstrom, founding editor of Punk magazine, recalls feeling "punk rock had to come along because the rock scene had become so tame that [acts] like Billy Joel and Simon and Garfunkel were being called rock and roll, when to me and other fans, rock and roll meant this wild and rebellious music." In critic Robert Christgau's description, "It was also a subculture that scornfully rejected the political idealism and Californian flower-power silliness of hippie myth."
Technical accessibility and a Do it yourself (DIY) spirit are prized in punk rock. UK pub rock from 1972-1975 contributed to the emergence of punk rock by developing a network of small venues, such as pubs, where non-mainstream bands could play. Pub rock also introduced the idea of independent record labels, such as Stiff Records, which put out basic, low-cost records. Pub rock bands organized their own small venue tours and put out small pressings of their records. In the early days of punk rock, this DIY ethic stood in marked contrast to what those in the scene regarded as the ostentatious musical effects and technological demands of many mainstream rock bands. Musical virtuosity was often looked on with suspicion. According to Holmstrom, punk rock was "rock and roll by people who didn't have very many skills as musicians but still felt the need to express themselves through music". In December 1976, the English fanzine Sideburns published a now-famous illustration of three chords, captioned "This is a chord, this is another, this is a third. Now form a band".
British punk rejected contemporary mainstream rock, the broader culture it represented, and their music predecessors: "No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones in 1977", declared the Clash song "1977". 1976, when the punk revolution began in Britain, became a musical and a cultural "Year Zero". As nostalgia was discarded, many in the scene adopted a nihilistic attitude summed up by the Sex Pistols slogan "No Future"; in the later words of one observer, amid the unemployment and social unrest in 1977, "punk's nihilistic swagger was the most thrilling thing in England." While "self-imposed alienation" was common among "drunk punks" and "gutter punks", there was always a tension between their nihilistic outlook and the "radical leftist utopianism" of bands such as Crass, who found positive, liberating meaning in the movement. As a Clash associate describes singer Joe Strummer's outlook, "Punk rock is meant to be our freedom. We're meant to be able to do what we want to do."
The issue of authenticity is important in the punk subculture—the pejorative term "poseur" is applied to those who associate with punk and adopt its stylistic attributes but are deemed not to share or understand the underlying values and philosophy. Scholar Daniel S. Traber argues that "attaining authenticity in the punk identity can be difficult"; as the punk scene matured, he observes, eventually "everyone got called a poseur".
Musical and lyrical elements
The early punk bands often emulates the minimal musical arrangements of 1960s garage rock. Typical punk rock instrumentation includes one or two electric guitars, an electric bass, and a drum kit, along with vocals. Songs tend to be shorter than those of other popular genres. Punk songs were played at fast, "breakneck" tempos, an approach influenced by The Ramones. Most early punk rock songs retained a traditional rock 'n' roll verse-chorus form and 4/4 time signature. However, later bands have often broken from this format. In critic Steven Blush's description, "The Sex Pistols were still rock'n'roll ... like the craziest version of Chuck Berry. Hardcore was a radical departure from that. It wasn't verse-chorus rock. It dispelled any notion of what songwriting is supposed to be. It's its own form."
The vocals are sometimes nasal, and the lyrics are often shouted rather than sung in the conventional sense. Punk rock's "hoarse, rasping" vocals and chanting were a sharp contrast to the "melodic and sleeker" singing in mainstream rock. Early punk vocals had an "arrogant snarl". Complicated guitar solos are considered self-indulgent and unnecessary, although basic guitar breaks are common. Guitar parts tend to include highly distorted power chords or barre chords, creating a characteristic sound described by Christgau as a "buzzsaw drone". Some punk rock bands take a surf rock approach with a lighter, twangier guitar tone. Others, such as Robert Quine, lead guitarist of the Voidoids, have employed a wild, "gonzo" attack, a style that stretches back through the Velvet Underground to the 1950s' recordings of Ike Turner. Bass guitar lines are often uncomplicated; the quintessential approach is a relentless, repetitive "forced rhythm", although some punk rock bass players—such as Mike Watt of the Minutemen and Firehose—emphasize more technical bass lines. Bassists often use a pick due to the rapid succession of notes, which makes fingerpicking impractical. Drums typically sound heavy and dry, and often have a minimal set-up. Compared to other forms of rock, syncopation is much less the rule. Hardcore drumming tends to be especially fast. Production tends to be minimalistic, with tracks sometimes laid down on home tape recorders or simple four-track portastudios. The typical objective is to have the recording sound unmanipulated and real, reflecting the commitment and authenticity of a live performance.
Punk rock lyrics are typically frank and confrontational; compared to the lyrics of other popular music genres, they frequently comment on social and political issues. Trend-setting songs such as the Clash's "Career Opportunities" and Chelsea's "Right to Work" deal with unemployment and the grim realities of urban life. Especially in early British punk, a central goal was to outrage and shock the mainstream. The Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K." and "God Save the Queen" openly disparaged the British political system and social mores. Anti-sentimental depictions of relationships and sex are common, as in "Love Comes in Spurts", written by Richard Hell and recorded by him with the Voidoids. Anomie, variously expressed in the poetic terms of Hell's "Blank Generation" and the bluntness of the Ramones' "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue", is a common theme. Identifying punk with such topics aligns with the view expressed by V. Vale, founder of San Francisco fanzine Search and Destroy: "Punk was a total cultural revolt. It was a hardcore confrontation with the black side of history and culture, right-wing imagery, sexual taboos, a delving into it that had never been done before by any generation in such a thorough way". The controversial content of punk lyrics led to some punk records being banned by radio stations and refused shelf space in major chain stores.
Visual and other elements
The classic punk rock look among male American musicians harkens back to the T-shirt, motorcycle jacket, and jeans ensemble favored by American greasers of the 1950s associated with the rockabilly scene and by British rockers of the 1960s. In addition to the T-shirt, and leather jackets they wore ripped jeans and boots, typically Doc Martens. The punk look was inspired to shock people. Richard Hell's more androgynous, ragamuffin look—and reputed invention of the safety-pin aesthetic—was a major influence on Sex Pistols impresario Malcolm McLaren and, in turn, British punk style. (John D Morton of Cleveland's Electric Eels may have been the first rock musician to wear a safety-pin-covered jacket.) McLaren's partner, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, credits Johnny Rotten as the first British punk to rip his shirt, and Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious as the first to use safety pins, although few of those following punk could afford to buy McLaren and Westwood's designs so famously worn by the Pistols, so they made their own, diversifying the 'look' with various different styles based on these designs. Young women in punk demolished the typical female types in rock of either "coy sex kittens or wronged blues belters" in their fashion. Early female punk musicians displayed styles ranging from Siouxsie Sioux's bondage gear to Patti Smith's "straight-from-the-gutter androgyny". The former proved much more influential on female fan styles. Over time, tattoos, piercings, and metal-studded and -spiked accessories became increasingly common elements of punk fashion among both musicians and fans, a "style of adornment calculated to disturb and outrage". Among the other facets of the punk rock scene, a punk's hair is an important way of showing their freedom of expression. The typical male punk haircut was originally short and choppy; the mohawk later emerged as a characteristic style. Along with the mohawk, long spikes have been associated with the punk rock genre. In addition to the mohawk many punk rockers would also have bright neon color hair.
The characteristic stage performance style of male punk musicians does not deviate significantly from the macho postures classically associated with rock music. Female punk musicians broke more clearly from earlier styles. Scholar John Strohm suggests that they did so by creating personas of a type conventionally seen as masculine: "They adopted a tough, unladylike pose that borrowed more from the macho swagger of sixties garage bands than from the calculated bad-girl image of bands like the Runaways." Scholar Dave Laing describes how bassist Gaye Advert adopted fashion elements associated with male musicians only to generate a stage persona readily consumed as "sexy". Laing focuses on more innovative and challenging performance styles, seen in the various erotically destabilizing approaches of Siouxsie Sioux, the Slits' Ari Up, and X-Ray Spex' Poly Styrene.
The lack of emphatic syncopation led punk dance to "deviant" forms. The characteristic style was originally the pogo. Sid Vicious, before he became the Sex Pistols' bassist, is credited with initiating the pogo in Britain as an attendee at one of their concerts. Moshing (slamdancing) is typical at hardcore shows. The lack of conventional dance rhythms was a central factor in limiting punk's mainstream commercial impact.
Breaking down the distance between performer and audience is central to the punk ethic. Fan participation at concerts is thus important; during the movement's first heyday, it was often provoked in an adversarial manner—apparently perverse, but appropriately "punk". First-wave British punk bands such as the Sex Pistols and the Damned insulted and otherwise goaded the audience into intense reactions. Laing has identified three primary forms of audience physical response to goading: can throwing, stage invasion, and spitting or "gobbing". In the hardcore realm, stage invasion is often a prelude to stage diving. In addition to the numerous fans who have started or joined punk bands, audience members also become important participants via the scene's many amateur-written and informally distributed periodicals—in England, according to Laing, punk "was the first musical genre to spawn fanzines in any significant numbers".
Garage rock and beat music
According to one theory, punk rock all goes back to Ritchie Valens's "La Bamba." Just consider Valens's three-chord mariachi squawkup in the light of "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen, then consider "Louie Louie" in the light of "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks, then "You Really Got Me" in the light of "No Fun" by the Stooges, then "No Fun" in the light of "Blitzkrieg Bop" by the Ramones, and finally note that "Blitzkrieg Bop" sounds a lot like "La Bamba."— Lester Bangs, 1980
In the early to mid-1960s, garage rock bands, often recognized as punk rock's progenitors, began springing up around North America. The Kingsmen had a hit with their 1963 version of Richard Berry's "Louie, Louie", which has been mentioned as punk rock's defining "ur-text". After the Beatles' first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, success of the British Invasion, the garage phenomenon gathered momentum around the US. By 1965, the harder-edged sound of British acts, such as the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Who and the Yardbirds, became increasingly influential with American garage bands. The raw sound of US groups, such as the Sonics, the Seeds, the Remains, the Standells, and the Shadows of Knight predicted the style of later acts. In the early 1970s certain rock critics used the term "punk rock" to refer to mid-1960s garage bands and subsequent acts perceived to be in their stylistic tradition, such as the Stooges.
From England in 1964, largely under the grip of the mod youth movement and beat group explosion, came the Kinks' hit singles, "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night," both influenced by "Louie, Louie". One of the earliest examples of proto-punk is "She Lied" (1964) by the Rockin' Ramrods. In 1965, the Who released the mod anthem, "My Generation", which according to John Reed, anticipated the kind of "cerebral mix of musical ferocity and rebellious posture" that would characterize much of the later British punk rock of the 1970s. The garage and beat phenomenon extended beyond North America and Britain. "Wild About You" (1965) by Australia's the Missing Links, was covered a decade later by Australia's the Saints. In 1965 Peru's Los Saicos recorded "Demolicion", a prominent example of prototypical punk.
In August 1969, the Stooges, from Ann Arbor, premiered with a self-titled album. According to critic Greil Marcus, the band, led by singer Iggy Pop, created "the sound of Chuck Berry's Airmobile—after thieves stripped it for parts". The album was produced by John Cale, a former member of New York's experimental rock group the Velvet Underground. Having earned a reputation as one of the first underground rock bands, the Velvet Underground inspired, directly or indirectly, many of those involved in the creation of punk rock. In the early 1970s, the New York Dolls updated the original wildness of 1950s' rock 'n' roll in a fashion that later became known as glam punk. The New York duo Suicide played spare, experimental music with a confrontational stage act inspired by that of the Stooges. At the Coventry club in the New York City borough of Queens, the Dictators used rock as a vehicle for wise-ass attitude and humor. In Boston, the Modern Lovers, led by Velvet Underground devotee Jonathan Richman, gained attention with a minimalistic style. In 1974, an updated garage rock scene began to coalesce around the newly opened Rathskeller club in Kenmore Square. Among the leading acts were the Real Kids, founded by former Modern Lover John Felice; Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band, whose frontman had been a member of the Velvet Underground for a few months in 1971; and Mickey Clean and the Mezz. In 1974, as well, the Detroit band Death—made up of three African-American brothers—recorded "scorching blasts of feral ur-punk," but couldn't arrange a release deal. In Ohio, a small but influential underground rock scene emerged, led by Devo in Akron and Kent and by Cleveland's Electric Eels, Mirrors and Rocket from the Tombs. In 1975, Rocket from the Tombs split into Pere Ubu and Frankenstein. The Electric Eels and Mirrors both broke up, and the Styrenes emerged from the fallout.
Britain's Deviants, in the late 1960s, played in a range of psychedelic styles with a satiric, anarchic edge and a penchant for situationist-style spectacle presaging the Sex Pistols by almost a decade. In 1970, the act evolved into the Pink Fairies, which carried on in a similar vein. In 1971 Marc Bolan, completed his transformation from half of hippy psychedic folk duo Tyrannosaurus Rex to glam rock superstar leader of T.Rex, rejecting hippy values of authenticity and humility in favour of glamorous artifice and arrogance that would ultimately bear fruit in punk attitude and contempt for the earlier hippy generation. With his Ziggy Stardust persona, David Bowie made artifice and exaggeration central—elements, again, that were picked up by the Sex Pistols and certain other punk acts. The Doctors of Madness built on Bowie's presentation concepts, while moving musically in the direction that would become identified with punk. Bands in London's pub rock scene stripped the music back to its basics, playing hard, R&B-influenced rock 'n' roll. By 1974, the scene's top act, Dr. Feelgood, was paving the way for others such as the Stranglers and Cock Sparrer that would play a role in the punk explosion. The pub rock scene created small venues where non-mainstream bands could play and they released low-cost recordings on independent record labels. Among the pub rock bands that formed that year was the 101ers, whose lead singer would soon adopt the name Joe Strummer, a performer who has been called the link between pub rock and punk rock. Despite the presence of some shared approaches and values, pub rock aimed to continue the tradition of earlier rock'n'roll bands, while punk rock aimed to break with tradition.
Bands anticipating the forthcoming movement were appearing as far afield as Düsseldorf, West Germany, where "punk before punk" band Neu! formed in 1971, building on the Krautrock tradition of groups such as Can. In Japan, the anti-establishment Zunō Keisatsu (Brain Police) mixed garage-psych and folk. The combo regularly faced censorship challenges, their live act at least once including onstage masturbation. A new generation of Australian garage rock bands, inspired mainly by the Stooges and MC5, was coming even closer to the sound that would soon be called "punk": In Brisbane, the Saints also recalled the raw live sound of the British Pretty Things, who had made a notorious tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1975.
Etymology and classification
Between the late 16th and the 18th centuries, punk was a common, coarse synonym for prostitute; William Shakespeare used it with that meaning in The Merry Wives of Windsor (1602) and Measure for Measure (1603-4, published 1623 in First Folio). The term eventually came to describe "a young male hustler, a gangster, a hoodlum, or a ruffian". As Legs McNeil explains, "On TV, if you watched cop shows, Kojak, Baretta, when the cops finally catch the mass murderer, they'd say, 'you dirty Punk.' It was what your teachers would call you. It meant that you were the lowest."
The first known use of the phrase punk rock appeared in the Chicago Tribune on March 22, 1970, attributed to Ed Sanders, cofounder of New York's anarcho-prankster band the Fugs. Sanders was quoted describing a solo album of his as "punk rock—redneck sentimentality". In the December 1970 issue of Creem, Lester Bangs, mocking more mainstream rock musicians, ironically referred to Iggy Pop as "that Stooge punk". Suicide's Alan Vega credits this usage with inspiring his duo to bill its gigs as a "punk mass" for the next couple of years.
Greg Shaw was the first music critic to employ the term punk rock: In the April 1971 issue of Rolling Stone, he refers to a track by The Guess Who as "good, not too imaginative, punk rock and roll". Dave Marsh used the term punk rock in the May 1971 issue of Creem, where he described ? and the Mysterians, one of the most popular 1960s garage rock acts, as giving a "landmark exposition of punk rock". Later in 1971, in his fanzine Who Put the Bomp, Greg Shaw wrote about "what I have chosen to call "punkrock" bands—white teenage hard rock of '64–66 (Standells, Kingsmen, Shadows of Knight, etc.)". Lester Bangs used the term "punk rock" in several articles written in the early 1970s to refer to mid-1960s garage acts. In his June 1971 piece in Creem, "Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung," he wrote, "then punk bands started cropping up who were writing their own songs but taking the Yardbirds' sound and reducing it to this kind of goony fuzztone clatter. ... oh, it was beautiful, it was pure folklore, Old America, and sometimes I think those were the best days ever."
By December 1972, the term was in circulation to the extent that The New Yorker's Ellen Willis, contrasting her own tastes with those of Flash and fellow critic Nick Tosches, wrote, "Punk-rock has become the favored term of endearment." In the liner notes of the 1972 anthology LP, Nuggets, musician and rock journalist Lenny Kaye, later a member of the Patti Smith Group, used variations of the term in two places: "punk rock," in the essay liner notes, to describe the genre of 1960s garage bands, and "classic garage-punk," in the track-by-track notes, to describe a song recorded in 1966 by the Shadows of Knight. In May 1973, Billy Altman launched the short-lived punk magazine, which pre-dated the better-known 1975 publication of the same name, but, unlike the later magazine, was largely devoted to discussion of 1960s garage and psychedelic acts.
In May 1974, Los Angeles Times critic Robert Hilburn reviewed the second New York Dolls album, Too Much Too Soon. "I told ya the New York Dolls were the real thing," he wrote, describing the album as "perhaps the best example of raw, thumb-your-nose-at-the-world, punk rock since the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street." Bassist Jeff Jensen of Boston's Real Kids reports of a show that year, "A reviewer for one of the free entertainment magazines of the time caught the act and gave us a great review, calling us a 'punk band.' ... [W]e all sort of looked at each other and said, 'What's punk?'" In a 1974 interview for his fanzine Heavy Metal Digest Danny Sugerman told Iggy Pop "You went on record as saying you never were a punk" and Iggy replied "...well I ain't. I never was a punk."
By 1975, punk was being used to describe acts as diverse as the Patti Smith Group, the Bay City Rollers, and Bruce Springsteen. As the scene at New York's CBGB club attracted notice, a name was sought for the developing sound. Club owner Hilly Kristal called the movement "Street rock"; John Holmstrom credits Aquarian magazine with using punk "to describe what was going on at CBGBs". Holmstrom, Legs McNeil, and Ged Dunn's magazine Punk, which debuted at the end of 1975, was crucial in codifying the term. "It was pretty obvious that the word was getting very popular", Holmstrom later remarked. "We figured we'd take the name before anyone else claimed it. We wanted to get rid of the bullshit, strip it down to rock 'n' roll. We wanted the fun and liveliness back."
1974–1976: Early history
New York City
The origins of New York's punk rock scene can be traced back to such sources as late 1960s trash culture and an early 1970s underground rock movement centered on the Mercer Arts Center in Greenwich Village, where the New York Dolls performed. In early 1974, a new scene began to develop around the CBGB club, also in lower Manhattan. At its core was Television, described by critic John Walker as "the ultimate garage band with pretensions". Their influences ranged from the Velvet Underground to the staccato guitar work of Dr. Feelgood's Wilko Johnson. The band's bassist/singer, Richard Hell, created a look with cropped, ragged hair, ripped T-shirts, and black leather jackets credited as the basis for punk rock visual style. In April 1974, Patti Smith, a member of the Mercer Arts Center crowd and a friend of Hell's, came to CBGB for the first time to see the band perform. A veteran of independent theater and performance poetry, Smith was developing an intellectual, feminist take on rock 'n' roll. On June 5, she recorded the single "Hey Joe"/"Piss Factory", featuring Television guitarist Tom Verlaine; released on her own Mer Records label, it heralded the scene's do it yourself (DIY) ethic and has often been cited as the first punk rock record. By August, Smith and Television were gigging together at another downtown New York club, Max's Kansas City.
Out in Forest Hills, Queens, several miles from lower Manhattan, the members of a newly formed band adopted a common surname. Drawing on sources ranging from the Stooges to the Beatles and the Beach Boys to Herman's Hermits and 1960s girl groups, the Ramones condensed rock 'n' roll to its primal level: "'1-2-3-4!' bass-player Dee Dee Ramone shouted at the start of every song, as if the group could barely master the rudiments of rhythm." The band played its first show at CBGB on August 16, 1974, on the same bill as another new act, Angel and the Snake, soon to be renamed Blondie. By the end of the year, the Ramones had performed seventy-four shows, each about seventeen minutes long. "When I first saw the Ramones", critic Mary Harron later remembered, "I couldn't believe people were doing this. The dumb brattiness." The Dictators, with a similar "playing dumb" concept, were recording their debut album. The Dictators' Go Girl Crazy! came out in March 1975, mixing absurdist originals such as "Master Race Rock" and loud, straight-faced covers of cheese pop like Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe".
That spring, Smith and Television shared a two-month-long weekend residency at CBGB that significantly raised the club's profile. The Television sets included Richard Hell's "Blank Generation", which became the scene's emblematic anthem. Soon after, Hell left Television and founded a band featuring a more stripped-down sound, the Heartbreakers, with former New York Dolls Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan. The pairing of Hell and Thunders, in one critical assessment, "inject[ed] a poetic intelligence into mindless self-destruction". A July festival at CBGB featuring over thirty new groups brought the scene its first substantial media coverage. In August, Television—with Fred Smith, former Blondie bassist, replacing Hell—recorded a single, "Little Johnny Jewel", for the tiny Ork label. In the words of John Walker, the record was "a turning point for the whole New York scene" if not quite for the punk rock sound itself—Hell's departure had left the band "significantly reduced in fringe aggression".
Other bands were becoming regulars at CBGB, such as Mink DeVille and Talking Heads, which moved down from Rhode Island, as well as Cleveland, Ohio's The Dead Boys. More closely associated with Max's Kansas City were Suicide and the band led by Jayne County, another Mercer Arts Center alumna. The first album to come out of this downtown scene was released in November 1975: Smith's debut, Horses, produced by John Cale for the major Arista label. The inaugural issue of Punk appeared in December. The new magazine tied together earlier artists such as Velvet Underground lead singer Lou Reed, the Stooges, and the New York Dolls with the editors' favorite band, the Dictators, and the array of new acts centered on CBGB and Max's. That winter, Pere Ubu came in from Cleveland and played at both spots.
Early in 1976, Hell left the Heartbreakers; he soon formed a new group that would become known as the Voidoids, "one of the most harshly uncompromising bands" on the scene. That April, the Ramones' debut album was released by Sire Records; the first single was "Blitzkrieg Bop", opening with the rally cry "Hey! Ho! Let's go!" According to a later description, "Like all cultural watersheds, Ramones was embraced by a discerning few and slagged off as a bad joke by the uncomprehending majority." At the instigation of Ramones lead singer Joey Ramone, the members of Cleveland's Frankenstein moved east to join the New York scene. Reconstituted as the Dead Boys, they played their first CBGB gig in late July. In August, Ork put out an EP recorded by Hell with his new band that included the first released version of "Blank Generation".
At this early stage, the term punk applied to the scene in general, not necessarily a particular stylistic approach as it would later—the early New York punk bands represented a broad variety of influences. Among them, the Ramones, the Heartbreakers, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and the Dead Boys were establishing a distinct musical style. Even where they diverged most clearly, in lyrical approach—the Ramones' apparent guilelessness at one extreme, Hell's conscious craft at the other—there was an abrasive attitude in common. Their shared attributes of minimalism and speed, however, had not yet come to define punk rock.
Other U.S. cities
Chickasha, Oklahoma gave birth to avant garde, glam-punk bands Victoria Vein and the Thunderpunks in 1974 and Debris' in 1975 whose self-released underground classic Static Disposal was released in 1976. The album has been touted as an inspiration by numerous bands including Scream, Nurse With Wound, the Melvins and Sonic Youth. In 1975, the Suicide Commandos formed in Minneapolis. They were one of the first U.S. bands outside of New York to play in the Ramones-style harder-louder-faster mode that would define punk rock. Detroit's Death self-released one of their 1974 recordings, "Politicians in My Eyes", in 1976. As the punk movement expanded rapidly in the United Kingdom that year, a few bands with similar tastes and attitude appeared around the United States. The first West Coast punk scenes emerged in San Francisco, with the bands Crime and the Nuns, and Seattle, where the Telepaths, Meyce, and the Tupperwares played a groundbreaking show on May 1. Rock critic Richard Meltzer cofounded VOM (short for "vomit") in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, performer Alice Bag formed the punk music group the Bags in 1977. Alice influenced the Hollywood punk scene by incorporating Mexican and Chicano musical culture into her music through canción ranchera—which translates to "country song" and is associated with mariachi ensembles—as well as estilo bravío, a wild style of performance often seen in punk. In Washington, D.C., raucous roots-rockers the Razz helped along a nascent punk scene featuring Overkill, the Slickee Boys, and the Look. Around the turn of the year, White Boy began giving notoriously crazed performances. In Boston, the scene at the Rathskeller—affectionately known as the Rat—was also turning toward punk, though the defining sound retained a distinct garage rock orientation. Among the city's first new acts to be identified with punk rock was DMZ. In Bloomington, Indiana, the Gizmos played in a jokey, raunchy, Dictators-inspired style later referred to as "frat punk".
Like their garage rock predecessors, these local scenes were facilitated by enthusiastic impresarios who operated nightclubs or organized concerts in venues such as schools, garages, or warehouses, advertised via inexpensively printed flyers and fanzines. In some cases, punk's do it yourself ethic reflected an aversion to commercial success, as well as a desire to maintain creative and financial autonomy. As Joe Harvard, a participant in the Boston scene, describes, it was often a simple necessity—the absence of a local recording industry and well-distributed music magazines left little recourse but DIY.
At the same time, a similar music-based subculture was beginning to take shape in various parts of Australia. A scene was developing around Radio Birdman and its main performance venue, the Oxford Tavern (later the Oxford Funhouse), located in Sydney's Darlinghurst suburb. In December 1975, the group won the RAM (Rock Australia Magazine)/Levi's Punk Band Thriller competition. By 1976, the Saints were hiring Brisbane local halls to use as venues, or playing in "Club 76", their shared house in the inner suburb of Petrie Terrace. The band soon discovered that musicians were exploring similar paths in other parts of the world. Ed Kuepper, co-founder of the Saints, later recalled:
One thing I remember having had a really depressing effect on me was the first Ramones album. When I heard it [in 1976], I mean it was a great record ... but I hated it because I knew we'd been doing this sort of stuff for years. There was even a chord progression on that album that we used ... and I thought, "Fuck. We're going to be labeled as influenced by the Ramones", when nothing could have been further from the truth.
On the other side of Australia, in Perth, germinal punk rock act the Cheap Nasties, featuring singer-guitarist Kim Salmon, formed in August. In September 1976, the Saints became the first punk rock band outside the U.S. to release a recording, the single "(I'm) Stranded". As with Patti Smith's debut, the band self-financed, packaged, and distributed the single. "(I'm) Stranded" had limited impact at home, but the British music press recognized it as a groundbreaking record. At the insistence of their superiors in the UK, EMI Australia signed the Saints. Meanwhile, Radio Birdman came out with a self-financed EP, Burn My Eye, in October. Trouser Press critic Ian McCaleb later described the record as the "archetype for the musical explosion that was about to occur".
After a brief period unofficially managing the New York Dolls, Briton Malcolm McLaren returned to London in May 1975, inspired by the new scene he had witnessed at CBGB. The King's Road clothing store he co-owned, recently renamed Sex, was building a reputation with its outrageous "anti-fashion". Among those who frequented the shop were members of a band called the Strand, which McLaren had also been managing. In August, the group was seeking a new lead singer. Another Sex habitué, Johnny Rotten, auditioned for and won the job. Adopting a new name, the group played its first gig as the Sex Pistols on November 6, 1975, at Saint Martin's School of Art and soon attracted a small but ardent following. In February 1976, the band received its first significant press coverage; guitarist Steve Jones declared that the Sex Pistols were not so much into music as they were "chaos". The band often provoked its crowds into near-riots. Rotten announced to one audience, "Bet you don't hate us as much as we hate you!" McLaren envisioned the Sex Pistols as central players in a new youth movement, "hard and tough". As described by critic Jon Savage, the band members "embodied an attitude into which McLaren fed a new set of references: late-sixties radical politics, sexual fetish material, pop history, ... youth sociology".
Bernard Rhodes, a sometime associate of McLaren and friend of the Sex Pistols, was similarly aiming to make stars of the band London SS. Early in 1976, London SS broke up before ever performing publicly, spinning off two new bands: the Damned and the Clash, which was joined by Joe Strummer, former lead singer of the 101'ers. On June 4, 1976, the Sex Pistols played Manchester's Lesser Free Trade Hall in what came to be regarded as one of the most influential rock shows ever. Among the approximately forty audience members were the two locals who organised the gig—they had formed Buzzcocks after seeing the Sex Pistols in February. Others in the small crowd went on to form Joy Division, the Fall, and—in the 1980s—the Smiths.
In July, the Ramones crossed the Atlantic for two London shows that helped spark the nascent UK punk scene and affected its musical style—"instantly nearly every band speeded up". On July 4, they played with the Flamin' Groovies and the Stranglers before a crowd of 2,000 at the Roundhouse. That same night, the Clash debuted, opening for the Sex Pistols in Sheffield. On July 5, members of both bands attended a Ramones gig at Dingwalls club. The following night, the Damned performed their first show, as the Sex Pistols opening act in London. In critic Kurt Loder's description, the Sex Pistols purveyed a "calculated, arty nihilism, [while] the Clash were unabashed idealists, proponents of a radical left-wing social critique of a sort that reached back at least to ... Woody Guthrie in the 1940s". The Damned built a reputation as "punk's party boys". This London scene's first fanzine appeared a week later. Its title, Sniffin' Glue, derived from a Ramones song. Its subtitle affirmed the connection with what was happening in New York: "+ Other Rock 'n' Roll Habits for Punks!"
Another Sex Pistols gig in Manchester on July 20, with a reorganized version of Buzzcocks debuting in support, gave further impetus to the scene there. In August, the self-described "First European Punk Rock Festival" was held in Mont de Marsan in the southwest of France. Eddie and the Hot Rods, a London pub rock group, headlined. The Sex Pistols, originally scheduled to play, were dropped by the organizers who said the band had gone "too far" in demanding top billing and certain amenities; the Clash backed out in solidarity. The only band from the new punk movement to appear was the Damned.
Over the next several months, many new punk rock bands formed, often directly inspired by the Sex Pistols. In London, women were near the center of the scene—among the initial wave of bands were the female-fronted Siouxsie and the Banshees and X-Ray Spex and the all-female the Slits. There were female bassists Gaye Advert in the Adverts and Shanne Bradley in the Nipple Erectors. Other groups included Subway Sect, Eater, Wire, The Stranglers, the Subversives, Johnny Moped, the aptly named London, and Chelsea, which soon spun off Generation X. Farther afield, Sham 69 began practicing in the southeastern town of Hersham. In Durham, there was Penetration, with lead singer Pauline Murray. On September 20–21, the 100 Club Punk Festival in London featured the four primary British groups (London's big three and Buzzcocks), as well as Paris's female-fronted Stinky Toys, arguably the first punk rock band from a non-Anglophone country. Siouxsie and the Banshees and Subway Sect debuted on the festival's first night; that same evening, Eater debuted in Manchester. On the festival's second night, audience member Sid Vicious was arrested, charged with throwing a glass at the Damned that shattered and destroyed a girl's eye. Press coverage of the incident fueled punk's reputation as a social menace.
Some new bands, such as London's Alternative TV, Edinburgh's Rezillos, and Leamington's the Shapes, identified with the scene even as they pursued more experimental music. Others of a comparatively traditional rock 'n' roll bent were also swept up by the movement: the Vibrators, formed as a pub rock–style act in February 1976, soon adopted a punk look and sound. A few even longer-active bands including Surrey neo-mods the Jam and pub rockers the Stranglers and Cock Sparrer also became associated with the punk rock scene. Alongside the musical roots shared with their American counterparts and the calculated confrontationalism of the early Who, the British punks also reflected the influence of glam rock and related bands such as Slade, T.Rex, and Roxy Music. One of the groups openly acknowledging that influence were the Undertones, from Derry in Northern Ireland.
In October, the Damned became the first UK punk rock band to release a single, the romance-themed "New Rose". The Vibrators followed the next month with "We Vibrate" and, backing long-time rocker Chris Spedding, "Pogo Dancing". The latter was hardly a punk song by any stretch, but it was perhaps the first song about punk rock. On November 26, the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K." came out—with its debut single the band succeeded in its goal of becoming a "national scandal". Jamie Reid's "anarchy flag" poster and his other design work for the Sex Pistols helped establish a distinctive punk visual aesthetic. On December 1, an incident took place that sealed punk rock's notorious reputation: On Thames Today, an early evening London TV show, Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones was challenged by the host, Bill Grundy, to "say something outrageous". Jones called Grundy a "dirty fucker" on live television, triggering a media controversy. Two days later, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Damned, and the Heartbreakers set out on the Anarchy Tour, a series of gigs throughout the UK. Many of the shows were cancelled by venue owners in response to the media outrage following the Grundy interview.
1977–1978: Second wave
By 1977, a second wave of the punk rock movement was breaking in the three countries where it had emerged, as well as in many other places. Bands from the same scenes often sounded very different from each other, reflecting the eclectic state of punk music during the era. While punk rock remained largely an underground phenomenon in North America, Australia, and the new spots where it was emerging, in the UK it briefly became a major sensation.
The California punk scene was in full swing by early 1977. In Los Angeles, there were: the Weirdos, the Zeros, the Bags, Black Randy and the Metrosquad, the Germs, Fear, The Go-Go's, X, the Dickies, Bags, and the relocated Tupperwares, now dubbed the Screamers. San Francisco's second wave included the Avengers, The Nuns, Negative Trend, the Mutants, and the Sleepers. the Dils, from Carlsbad, moved between the two major cities. The Wipers formed in Portland, Oregon. In Seattle, there was the Lewd. Often sharing gigs with the Seattle punks were bands from across the Canada–US border. A major scene developed in Vancouver, spearheaded by the Furies and Victoria's all-female Dee Dee and the Dishrags. the Skulls spun off into D.O.A. and the Subhumans. The K-Tels (later known as the Young Canadians) and Pointed Sticks were among the area's other leading punk acts.
In eastern Canada, the Toronto protopunk band Dishes had laid the groundwork for another sizable scene, and a September 1976 concert by the touring Ramones had catalyzed the movement. Early Ontario punk bands included the Diodes, the Viletones, Battered Wives, the Demics, Forgotten Rebels, Teenage Head, the Poles, and the Ugly. Along with the Dishrags, Toronto's the Curse and B Girls were North America's first all-female punk acts. In July 1977, the Viletones, Diodes, Curse, and Teenage Head headed down to New York City to play "Canada night" at CBGB.
By mid-1977 in downtown New York, punk rock was already ceding its cutting-edge status to the anarchic sound of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and Mars, spearheads of what became known as no wave, although several original punk bands continued to perform and new ones emerged on the scene. The Cramps, whose core members were from Sacramento, California by way of Akron, had debuted at CBGB in November 1976, opening for the Dead Boys. They were soon playing regularly at Max's Kansas City. The Misfits formed in nearby New Jersey. Still developing what would become their signature B movie–inspired style, later dubbed horror punk, they made their first appearance at CBGB in April 1977.
Leave Home, the Ramones' second album, had come out in January. The Dead Boys' debut LP, Young, Loud and Snotty, was released at the end of August. October saw two more debut albums from the scene: Richard Hell and the Voidoids' first full-length, Blank Generation, and the Heartbreakers' L.A.M.F. One track on the latter exemplified both the scene's close-knit character and the popularity of heroin within it: "Chinese Rocks"—the title refers to a strong form of the drug—was written by Dee Dee Ramone and Hell, both users, as were the Heartbreakers' Thunders and Nolan. (During the Heartbreakers' 1976 and 1977 tours of Britain, Thunders played a central role in popularizing heroin among the punk crowd there, as well.) The Ramones' third album, Rocket to Russia, appeared in November 1977.
The Ohio protopunk bands were joined by Cleveland's the Pagans, Akron's Bizarros and Rubber City Rebels, and Kent's Human Switchboard. Bloomington, Indiana, had MX-80 Sound and Detroit had the Sillies. The Suburbs came together in the Twin Cities scene sparked by the Suicide Commandos. The Feederz formed in Arizona. Atlanta had the Fans. In North Carolina, there was Chapel Hill's H-Bombs and Raleigh's Th' Cigaretz. The Chicago scene began not with a band but with a group of DJs transforming a gay bar, La Mere Vipere, into what became known as America's first punk dance club. The Crucified, Tutu and the Pirates and Silver Abuse were among the city's first punk bands. In Boston, the scene at the Rat was joined by the Nervous Eaters, Thrills, and Human Sexual Response. In Washington, D.C., the Controls played their first gig in spring 1977, but the city's second wave really broke the following year with acts such as the Urban Verbs, Half Japanese, D'Chumps, Rudements and Shirkers. By early 1978, the D.C. jazz-fusion group Mind Power had transformed into Bad Brains, one of the first bands to be identified with hardcore punk.
The Sex Pistols' live TV skirmish with Bill Grundy on December 1, 1976 was the signal moment in British punk's transformation into a major media phenomenon, even as some stores refused to stock the records and radio airplay was hard to come by. Press coverage of punk misbehavior grew intense: On January 4, 1977, The Evening News of London ran a front-page story on how the Sex Pistols "vomited and spat their way to an Amsterdam flight". In February 1977, the first album by a British punk band appeared: Damned Damned Damned (by the Damned) reached number thirty-six on the UK chart. The EP Spiral Scratch, self-released by Manchester's Buzzcocks, was a benchmark for both the DIY ethic and regionalism in the country's punk movement. The Clash's self-titled debut album came out two months later and rose to number twelve; the single "White Riot" entered the top forty. In May, the Sex Pistols achieved new heights of controversy (and number two on the singles chart) with "God Save the Queen". The band had recently acquired a new bassist, Sid Vicious, who was seen as exemplifying the punk persona. The swearing during the Grundy interview and the controversy over "God Save the Queen" led to a moral panic.
Scores of new punk groups formed around the United Kingdom, as far from London as Belfast's Stiff Little Fingers and Dunfermline, Scotland's the Skids. Though most survived only briefly, perhaps recording a small-label single or two, others set off new trends. Crass, from Essex, merged a vehement, straight-ahead punk rock style with a committed anarchist mission, and played a major role in the emerging anarcho-punk movement. Sham 69, London's Menace, and the Angelic Upstarts from South Shields in the Northeast combined a similarly stripped-down sound with populist lyrics, a style that became known as street punk. These expressly working-class bands contrasted with others in the second wave that presaged the post-punk phenomenon. Liverpool's first punk group, Big in Japan, moved in a glam, theatrical direction. The band didn't survive long, but it spun off several well-known post-punk acts. The songs of London's Wire were characterized by sophisticated lyrics, minimalist arrangements, and extreme brevity. By the end of 1977, according to music historian Clinton Heylin, they were "England's arch-exponents of New Musick, and the true heralds of what came next."
Alongside thirteen original songs that would define classic punk rock, the Clash's debut had included a cover of the recent Jamaican reggae hit "Police and Thieves". Other first wave bands such as the Slits and new entrants to the scene like the Ruts and the Police interacted with the reggae and ska subcultures, incorporating their rhythms and production styles. The punk rock phenomenon helped spark a full-fledged ska revival movement known as 2 Tone, centered on bands such as the Specials, the Beat, Madness, and the Selecter.
June 1977 saw the release of another charting punk album: the Vibrators' Pure Mania. In July, the Sex Pistols' third single, "Pretty Vacant", reached number six and the Saints had a top-forty hit with "This Perfect Day". Recently arrived from Australia, the band was now considered insufficiently "cool" to qualify as punk by much of the British media, though they had been playing a similar brand of music for years. In August, the Adverts entered the top twenty with "Gary Gilmore's Eyes". As punk became a broad-based national phenomenon in the summer of 1977, punk musicians and fans were increasingly subject to violent assaults by Teddy boys, football yobbos, and others. A Ted-aligned band recorded "The Punk Bashing Boogie". The radio censorship, refusal to stock some punk records and large venue bans of punk groups had two impacts on punk: some groups reclassified themselves as new wave to garner airplay and venue access, while other bands shifted to a DIY approach, pressing their own records and delivering them by hand or via mail-order.
In September, Generation X and the Clash reached the top forty with, respectively, "Your Generation" and "Complete Control". X-Ray Spex' "Oh Bondage Up Yours!" didn't chart, but it became a requisite item for punk fans. BBC refused to play "Oh Bondage ..." due to its controversial lyrics. In October, the Sex Pistols hit number eight with "Holidays in the Sun", followed by the release of their first and only "official" album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. Inspiring yet another round of controversy, it topped the British charts. In December, one of the first books about punk rock was published: The Boy Looked at Johnny, by Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons.
In February 1977, EMI released the Saints' debut album, (I'm) Stranded, which the band recorded in two days. The Saints had relocated to Sydney; in April, they and Radio Birdman united for a major gig at Paddington Town Hall. Last Words had also formed in the city. The following month, the Saints relocated again, to Great Britain. In June, Radio Birdman released the album Radios Appear on its own Trafalgar label.
The Victims became a short-lived leader of the Perth scene, self-releasing "Television Addict". They were joined by the Scientists, Kim Salmon's successor band to the Cheap Nasties. Among the other bands constituting Australia's second wave were Johnny Dole & the Scabs, the Hellcats, and Psychosurgeons (later known as the Lipstick Killers) in Sydney; the Leftovers, the Survivors, and Razar in Brisbane; and La Femme, the Negatives, and the Babeez (later known as the News) in Melbourne. Melbourne's art rock–influenced Boys Next Door featured singer Nick Cave, who would become one of the world's best-known post-punk artists.
Rest of the world
Meanwhile, punk rock scenes were emerging around the globe. In France, les punks, a Parisian subculture of Lou Reed fans, had already been around for years. Following the lead of Stinky Toys, Métal Urbain played its first concert in December 1976. In August 1977, Asphalt Jungle played at the second Mont de Marsan punk festival. Stinky Toys' debut single, "Boozy Creed", came out in September. It was perhaps the first non-English-language punk rock record, though as music historian George Gimarc notes, the punk enunciation made that distinction somewhat moot. The following month, Métal Urbain's first 45, "Panik", appeared. After the release of their minimalist punk debut, "Rien à dire", Marie et les Garçons became involved in New York's mutant disco scene. Asphalt Jungle's "Deconnection" and Gasoline's "Killer Man" also came out before the end of the year, and other French punk acts such as Oberkampf and Starshooter soon formed.
1977 also saw the debut album from Hamburg's Big Balls and the Great White Idiot, arguably West Germany's first punk band. Other early German punk acts included the Fred Banana Combo and Pack. Bands primarily inspired by British punk sparked what became known as the Neue Deutsche Welle (NDW) movement. Vanguard NDW acts such as the Nina Hagen Band and S.Y.P.H. featured strident vocals and an emphasis on provocation. Before turning in a mainstream direction in the 1980s, NDW attracted a politically conscious and diverse audience, including both participants of the left-wing alternative scene and neo-Nazi skinheads. These opposing factions were mutually attracted by a view of punk rock as "politically as well as musically ... 'against the system'."
Scandinavian punk was propelled early on by tour dates by bands such as the Clash and the Ramones (both in Stockholm in May 1977), and the Sex Pistols' tour through Denmark, Sweden and Norway in July the same year. The band Briard jump-started Finnish punk with its November 1977 single "I Really Hate Ya"/"I Want Ya Back"; other early Finnish punk acts included Eppu Normaali and singer Pelle Miljoona. The first Swedish punk single was "Vårdad klädsel"/"Förbjudna ljud" released by Kriminella Gitarrer in February 1978, which started an extensive Swedish punk scene featuring act such as Ebba Grön, KSMB, Rude Kids, Besökarna, Liket Lever, Garbochock, Attentat, Grisen Skriker and many others. Within a couple of years, hundreds of punk singles were released in Sweden.
In Japan, a punk movement developed around bands playing in an art/noise style such as Friction, and "psych punk" acts like Gaseneta and Kadotani Michio. In New Zealand, Auckland's Scavengers and Suburban Reptiles were followed by the Enemy of Dunedin. Punk rock scenes also grew in other countries such as Belgium (the Kids, Chainsaw), the Netherlands (the Suzannes, the Ex), Spain (La Banda Trapera Del Río, Kaka De Luxe, Kortatu, Eskorbuto, La Polla Records, Zarama, RIP, Barricada, Siniestro Total), and Switzerland (Nasal Boys, Kleenex).
Indonesia was a part of the largest punk movement in Southeast Asia, heavily influenced by Green Day, Rancid, and the Offspring. Young people created their own underground sub-culture of punk, which over time developed into a style that was completely different from the original movement.
Punk emerged in South Africa as direct opposition to the conservative apartheid government and racial segregation enforcement of the time. Bands like Wild Youth and National Wake led the way in the late 1970s and early 1980s, followed by Powerage and Screaming Foetus from Durban and Toxik Sox in Johannesburg in the mid 1980s.
Mexico's punk/ska music has innovated the political standard has how the world is view in both countries. Production and reception of particular texts in a global context of inequality in which Mexican are racialized and objectified generate transnational archives of feelings in relation to migration from Mexico. The cultural memories reflects upon the power relations that affect social categories and social identities. (Zavella, 2012) Punks embrace the ethic of do-it-yourself (DIY), which disavows materialism and consumerism and the individualist fame of rock stars. (Zavella, 2012) Being a punk was a form of expressing freedom and not caring of judgement.
1979–1984: Schism and diversification
By 1979, the hardcore punk movement was emerging in Southern California. A rivalry developed between adherents of the new sound and the older punk rock crowd. Hardcore, appealing to a younger, more suburban audience, was perceived by some as anti-intellectual, overly violent, and musically limited. In Los Angeles, the opposing factions were often described as "Hollywood punks" and "beach punks", referring to Hollywood's central position in the original L.A. punk rock scene and to hardcore's popularity in the shoreline communities of South Bay and Orange County.
As hardcore became the dominant punk rock style, many bands of the older California punk rock movement split up. Across North America, many other first and second wave punk bands also dissolved, while younger musicians inspired by the movement explored new variations on punk. Some early punk bands transformed into hardcore acts. A few, most notably the Ramones, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, continued to pursue the style they had helped create. Crossing the lines between "classic" punk, post-punk, and hardcore, San Francisco's Flipper was founded in 1979 by former members of Negative Trend and the Sleepers. They became "the reigning kings of American underground rock, for a few years".
Radio Birdman broke up in June 1978 while touring the UK, where the early unity between bohemian, middle-class punks (many with art school backgrounds) and working-class punks had disintegrated. In contrast to North America, more of the bands from the original British punk movement remained active, sustaining extended careers even as their styles evolved and diverged. Meanwhile, the Oi! and anarcho-punk movements were emerging. Musically in the same aggressive vein as American hardcore, they addressed different constituencies with overlapping but distinct anti-establishment messages. As described by Dave Laing, "The model for self-proclaimed punk after 1978 derived from the Ramones via the eight-to-the-bar rhythms most characteristic of the Vibrators and Clash. ... It became essential to sound one particular way to be recognized as a 'punk band' now." In February 1979, former Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious died of a heroin overdose in New York. If the Sex Pistols' breakup the previous year had marked the end of the original UK punk scene and its promise of cultural transformation, for many the death of Vicious signified that it had been doomed from the start.
By the turn of the decade, the punk rock movement had split deeply along cultural and musical lines, leaving a variety of derivative scenes and forms. On one side were new wave and post-punk artists; some adopted more accessible musical styles and gained broad popularity, while some turned in more experimental, less commercial directions. On the other side, hardcore punk, Oi!, and anarcho-punk bands became closely linked with underground cultures and spun off an array of subgenres. Somewhere in between, pop punk groups created blends like that of the ideal record, as defined by Mekons cofounder Kevin Lycett: "a cross between Abba and the Sex Pistols". A range of other styles emerged, many of them fusions with long-established genres. The Clash album London Calling, released in December 1979, exemplified the breadth of classic punk's legacy. Combining punk rock with reggae, ska, R&B, and rockabilly, it went on to be acclaimed as one of the best rock records ever. At the same time, as observed by Flipper singer Bruce Loose, the relatively restrictive hardcore scenes diminished the variety of music that could once be heard at many punk gigs. If early punk, like most rock scenes, was ultimately male-oriented, the hardcore and Oi! scenes were significantly more so, marked in part by the slam dancing and moshing with which they became identified.
In 1976—first in London, then in the United States—"New Wave" was introduced as a complementary label for the formative scenes and groups also known as "punk"; the two terms were essentially interchangeable. NME journalist Roy Carr is credited with proposing the term's use (adopted from the cinematic French New Wave of the 1960s) in this context. Over time, "new wave" acquired a distinct meaning: bands such as Blondie and Talking Heads from the CBGB scene; the Cars, who emerged from the Rat in Boston; the Go-Go's in Los Angeles; and the Police in London that were broadening their instrumental palette, incorporating dance-oriented rhythms, and working with more polished production were specifically designated "new wave" and no longer called "punk". Dave Laing suggests that some punk-identified British acts pursued the new wave label in order to avoid radio censorship and make themselves more palatable to concert bookers.
Bringing elements of punk rock music and fashion into more pop-oriented, less "dangerous" styles, new wave artists became very popular on both sides of the Atlantic. New wave became a catch-all term, encompassing disparate styles such as 2 Tone ska, the mod revival inspired by the Jam, the sophisticated pop-rock of Elvis Costello and XTC, the New Romantic phenomenon typified by Ultravox, synthpop groups like Tubeway Army (which had started out as a straight-ahead punk band) and Human League, and the sui generis subversions of Devo, who had gone "beyond punk before punk even properly existed". New wave became a pop culture sensation with the debut of the cable television network MTV in 1981, which put many new wave videos into regular rotation. However, the music was often derided at the time as being silly and disposable.
During 1976–77, in the midst of the original UK punk movement, bands emerged such as Manchester's Joy Division, the Fall, and Magazine, Leeds' Gang of Four, and London's the Raincoats that became central post-punk figures. Some bands classified as post-punk, such as Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, had been active well before the punk scene coalesced; others, such as Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Slits, transitioned from punk rock into post-punk. A few months after the Sex Pistols' breakup, John Lydon (no longer "Rotten") cofounded Public Image Ltd. Lora Logic, formerly of X-Ray Spex, founded Essential Logic. Killing Joke formed in 1979. These bands were often musically experimental, like certain new wave acts; defining them as "post-punk" was a sound that tended to be less pop and more dark and abrasive—sometimes verging on the atonal, as with Subway Sect and Wire—and an anti-establishment posture directly related to punk's. Post-punk reflected a range of art rock influences from Syd Barrett and Captain Beefheart to David Bowie and Roxy Music to Krautrock and free jazz.
Post-punk brought together a new fraternity of musicians, journalists, managers, and entrepreneurs; the latter, notably Geoff Travis of Rough Trade and Tony Wilson of Factory, helped to develop the production and distribution infrastructure of the indie music scene that blossomed in the mid-1980s. Smoothing the edges of their style in the direction of new wave, several post-punk bands such as New Order (descended from Joy Division) and The Cure crossed over to a mainstream U.S. audience. Bauhaus was one of the formative gothic rock bands. Others, like Gang of Four, the Raincoats and Throbbing Gristle, who had little more than cult followings at the time, are seen in retrospect as significant influences on modern popular culture.
Television's debut album Marquee Moon, released in 1977, is frequently cited as a seminal album in the field. The no wave movement that developed in New York in the late 1970s, with artists such as Lydia Lunch and James Chance, is often treated as the phenomenon's U.S. parallel. The later work of Ohio protopunk pioneers Pere Ubu is also commonly described as post-punk. One of the most influential American post-punk bands was Boston's Mission of Burma, who brought abrupt rhythmic shifts derived from hardcore into a highly experimental musical context. In 1980, Australia's Boys Next Door moved to London and changed their name to the Birthday Party, which evolved into Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Led by the Primitive Calculators, Melbourne's Little Band scene would further explore the possibilities of post-punk. Later alternative rock musicians found diverse inspiration among these post-punk predecessors, as they did among their new wave contemporaries.
A distinctive style of punk, characterized by superfast, aggressive beats, screaming vocals, and often politically aware lyrics, began to emerge in 1978 among bands scattered around the United States and Canada. The first major scene of what came to be known as hardcore punk developed in Southern California in 1978–79, initially around such punk bands as the Germs and Fear. The movement soon spread around North America and internationally. According to author Steven Blush, "Hardcore comes from the bleak suburbs of America. Parents moved their kids out of the cities to these horrible suburbs to save them from the 'reality' of the cities and what they ended up with was this new breed of monster".
Among the earliest hardcore bands, regarded as having made the first recordings in the style, were Southern California's Middle Class and Black Flag. Bad Brains—all of whom were black, a rarity in punk of any era—launched the D.C. scene with their rapid-paced single 'Pay to Cum" in 1980. Austin, Texas's Big Boys, San Francisco's Dead Kennedys, and Vancouver's D.O.A. and Dayglo Abortions were among the other initial hardcore groups. They were soon joined by bands such as the Minutemen, Descendents, Circle Jerks, Adolescents, and T.S.O.L. in Southern California; D.C.'s Teen Idles, Minor Threat, and State of Alert; and Austin's MDC and the Dicks. By 1981, hardcore was the dominant punk rock style not only in California, but much of the rest of North America as well. A New York hardcore scene grew, including the relocated Bad Brains, New Jersey's Misfits and Adrenalin O.D., and local acts such as the Mob, Reagan Youth, and Agnostic Front. Beastie Boys, who would become famous as a hip-hop group, debuted that year as a hardcore band. They were followed by the Cro-Mags, Murphy's Law, and Leeway. By 1983, St. Paul's Hüsker Dü, Willful Neglect, Chicago's Naked Raygun, Indianapolis's Zero Boys, and D.C.'s the Faith were taking the hardcore sound in experimental and ultimately more melodic directions. Hardcore would constitute the American punk rock standard throughout the decade. The lyrical content of hardcore songs is often critical of commercial culture and middle-class values, as in Dead Kennedys' celebrated "Holiday in Cambodia" (1980).
Straight edge bands like Minor Threat, Boston's SS Decontrol, and Reno, Nevada's 7 Seconds rejected the self-destructive lifestyles of many of their peers, and built a movement based on positivity and abstinence from cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and casual sex.
Skate punk innovators also pointed in other directions: Big Boys helped establish funkcore, while Venice, California's Suicidal Tendencies had a formative effect on the heavy metal–influenced crossover thrash style. Toward the middle of the decade, D.R.I. spawned the superfast thrashcore genre. Both developed in multiple locations. Sacramento's Tales of Terror, which mixed psychedelic rock into their hardcore sound, were an early influence on the grunge genre. D.C.'s Void was one of the first punk-metal crossover acts and influenced thrash metal.
Following the lead of first-wave British punk bands Cock Sparrer and Sham 69, in the late 1970s second-wave units like Cockney Rejects, Angelic Upstarts, the Exploited, Anti-Establishment and the 4-Skins sought to realign punk rock with a working class, street-level following. For that purpose, they believed, the music needed to stay "accessible and unpretentious", in the words of music historian Simon Reynolds. Their style was originally called "real punk" or street punk; Sounds journalist Garry Bushell is credited with labelling the genre Oi! in 1980. The name is partly derived from the Cockney Rejects' habit of shouting "Oi! Oi! Oi!" before each song, instead of the time-honored "1,2,3,4!"
The Oi! movement was fueled by a sense that many participants in the early punk rock scene were, in the words of the Business guitarist Steve Kent, "trendy university people using long words, trying to be artistic ... and losing touch". According to Bushell, "Punk was meant to be of the voice of the dole queue, and in reality most of them were not. But Oi was the reality of the punk mythology. In the places where [these bands] came from, it was harder and more aggressive and it produced just as much quality music." Lester Bangs described Oi! as "politicized football chants for unemployed louts". One song in particular, the Exploited's "Punks Not Dead", spoke to an international constituency. It was adopted as an anthem by the groups of disaffected Mexican urban youth known in the 1980s as bandas; one banda named itself PND, after the song's initials.
Although most Oi! bands in the initial wave were apolitical or left wing, many of them began to attract a white power skinhead following. Racist skinheads sometimes disrupted Oi! concerts by shouting fascist slogans and starting fights, but some Oi! bands were reluctant to endorse criticism of their fans from what they perceived as the "middle-class establishment". In the popular imagination, the movement thus became linked to the far right. Strength Thru Oi!, an album compiled by Bushell and released in May 1981, stirred controversy, especially when it was revealed that the belligerent figure on the cover was a neo-Nazi jailed for racist violence (Bushell claimed ignorance). On July 3, a concert at Hamborough Tavern in Southall featuring the Business, the 4-Skins, and the Last Resort was firebombed by local Asian youths who believed that the event was a neo-Nazi gathering. Following the Southall riot, press coverage increasingly associated Oi! with the extreme right, and the movement soon began to lose momentum.
Anarcho-punk developed alongside the Oi! and American hardcore movements. Inspired by Crass, its Dial House commune, and its independent Crass Records label, a scene developed around British bands such as Subhumans, Flux of Pink Indians, Conflict, Poison Girls, and the Apostles that was concerned as much with anarchist and DIY principles as it was with music. The acts featured ranting vocals, discordant instrumental sounds, primitive production values, and lyrics filled with political and social content, often addressing issues such as class inequalities and military violence. Anarcho-punk musicians and fans disdained the older punk scene from which theirs had evolved. In historian Tim Gosling's description, they saw "safety pins and Mohicans as little more than ineffectual fashion posturing stimulated by the mainstream media and industry. ... Whereas the Sex Pistols would proudly display bad manners and opportunism in their dealings with 'the establishment,' the anarcho-punks kept clear of 'the establishment' altogether".
The movement spun off several subgenres of a similar political bent. Discharge, founded back in 1977, established D-beat in the early 1980s. Other groups in the movement, led by Amebix and Antisect, developed the extreme style known as crust punk. Several of these bands rooted in anarcho-punk such as the Varukers, Discharge, and Amebix, along with former Oi! groups such as the Exploited and bands from father afield like Birmingham's Charged GBH, became the leading figures in the UK 82 hardcore movement. The anarcho-punk scene also spawned bands such as Napalm Death, Carcass, and Extreme Noise Terror that in the mid-1980s defined grindcore, incorporating extremely fast tempos and death metal–style guitarwork. Led by Dead Kennedys, a U.S. anarcho-punk scene developed around such bands as Austin's MDC and Southern California's Another Destructive System.
With their love of the Beach Boys and late 1960s bubblegum pop, the Ramones paved the way to what became known as pop punk. In the late 1970s, UK bands such as Buzzcocks and the Undertones combined pop-style tunes and lyrical themes with punk's speed and chaotic edge. In the early 1980s, some of the leading bands in Southern California's hardcore punk rock scene emphasized a more melodic approach than was typical of their peers. According to music journalist Ben Myers, Bad Religion "layered their pissed off, politicized sound with the smoothest of harmonies"; Descendents "wrote almost surfy, Beach Boys-inspired songs about girls and food and being young(ish)". Epitaph Records, founded by Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion, was the base for many future pop punk bands. Bands that fused punk with light-hearted pop melodies, such as the Queers and Screeching Weasel, began appearing around the country, in turn influencing bands like Green Day and the Offspring, who brought pop punk wide popularity and major record sales. Bands such as the Vandals and Guttermouth developed a style blending pop melodies with humorous and offensive lyrics. Eventually, the geographically large Midwest U.S. punk scene, anchored largely in places like Chicago and Minneapolis, would spawn bands like Dillinger Four who would take a catchy, hooky pop-punk approach and reinfuse it with some of punk's earlier grit and fury, creating a distinctive punk rock sound with a regional tag. This particular substrate still maintains an identity today. The mainstream pop punk of latter-day bands such as Blink-182 is criticized by many punk rock devotees; in critic Christine Di Bella's words, "It's punk taken to its most accessible point, a point where it barely reflects its lineage at all, except in the three-chord song structures."
Other fusions and directions
From 1977 on, punk rock crossed lines with many other popular music genres. Los Angeles punk rock bands laid the groundwork for a wide variety of styles: the Flesh Eaters with deathrock; the Plugz with Chicano punk; and Gun Club with punk blues. The Meteors, from South London, and the Cramps, who moved from New York to Los Angeles in 1980, were innovators in the psychobilly fusion style. Milwaukee's Violent Femmes jumpstarted the American folk punk scene, while the Pogues did the same on the other side of the Atlantic.
Other bands pointed punk rock toward future rock styles or its own foundations. Synth-punk (also known as electropunk) is a fusion genre that combines elements from electronic rock with punk. It originates from punk musicians between 1977 and 1984 that swapped their guitars with synthesizers. The term "synth-punk" is a retroactive label coined in 1999 by Damien Ramsey. Chicago's Big Black was a major influence on noise rock, math rock, and industrial rock. Garage punk bands from all over, such as Chicago's Dwarves, pursued a version of punk rock that was close to its roots in 1960s garage rock. Seattle's Mudhoney, a central band in the development of grunge, has been described as "garage punk".
Legacy and later developments
The underground punk rock movement inspired countless bands that either evolved from a punk rock sound or brought its outsider spirit to very different kinds of music. The original punk explosion also had a long-term effect on the music industry, spurring the growth of the independent sector. During the early 1980s, British bands like New Order and the Cure that straddled the lines of post-punk and new wave developed both new musical styles and a distinctive industrial niche. Though commercially successful over an extended period, they maintained an underground-style, subcultural identity. In the United States, bands such as Hüsker Dü and their Minneapolis protégés the Replacements bridged the gap between punk rock genres like hardcore and the more melodic, explorative realm of what was then called "college rock".
In 1985, Rolling Stone declared that "Primal punk is passé. The best of the American punk rockers have moved on. They have learned how to play their instruments. They have discovered melody, guitar solos and lyrics that are more than shouted political slogans. Some of them have even discovered the Grateful Dead." By the mid-to-late 1980s, these bands, who had largely eclipsed their punk rock and post-punk forebears in popularity, were classified broadly as alternative rock. Alternative rock encompasses a diverse set of styles—including indie rock, gothic rock, dream pop, shoegaze, and grunge, among others—unified by their debt to punk rock and their origins outside of the musical mainstream.
As American alternative bands like Sonic Youth, which had grown out of the no wave scene, and Boston's Pixies started to gain larger audiences, major labels sought to capitalize on the underground market that had been sustained by hardcore punk for years. In 1991, Nirvana emerged from Washington State's underground, DIY grunge scene; after recording their first album, Bleach in 1989 for about $600, the band achieved huge (and unexpected) commercial success with its second album, Nevermind. The band's members cited punk rock as a key influence on their style. "Punk is musical freedom", wrote frontman Kurt Cobain. "It's saying, doing, and playing what you want." Nirvana's success opened the door to mainstream popularity for a wide range of other "left-of-the-dial" acts, such as Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers, and fueled the alternative rock boom of the early and mid-1990s.
In its original, mid-1980s incarnation, emo was a less musically restrictive style of punk with focus on emotional lyrics, developed by participants in the Washington, D.C. area hardcore punk scene. It was originally referred to as "emocore", an abbreviation of "emotional/emotive hardcore" and was pioneered by bands such as Rites of Spring and Embrace. In the 1990s the emo label was adopted by a number of indie rock acts, particularly in the Midwest, while other groups went for a more abrasive style influenced by their hardcore punk forebears which employed screamed vocals and came to be known as screamo. Jimmy Eat World took emo in a radio-ready pop punk and indie rock direction, and had top ten albums in 2004 and 2007. Bands such as My Chemical Romance, Paramore, Fall Out Boy, The All American Rejects, and Yellowcard also popularized the emo subgenre known as emo pop during the 2000s and helped define the associated subculture. In the 2010s a number of underground emo acts have taken strong influence from the emo acts of the 1990s and early 2000s, a movement known as the "emo revival".
In the 1990s, the queercore movement developed around a number of punk bands with gay, lesbian, bisexual, or genderqueer members such as God Is My Co-Pilot, Pansy Division, Team Dresch, and Sister George. Inspired by openly gay punk musicians of an earlier generation such as Jayne County, Phranc, and Randy Turner, and bands like Nervous Gender, the Screamers, and Coil, queercore embraces a variety of punk and other alternative music styles. Queercore lyrics often treat the themes of prejudice, sexual identity, gender identity, and individual rights. The movement has continued into the 21st century, supported by festivals such as Queeruption.
The Riot Grrrl movement, a significant aspect in the formation of the Third Wave feminist movement, was organized by taking the values and rhetoric of punk and using it to convey feminist messages. In 1991, a concert of female-led bands at the International Pop Underground Convention in Olympia, Washington, heralded the emerging riot grrrl phenomenon. Billed as "Love Rock Revolution Girl Style Now", the concert's lineup included Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, L7, and Mecca Normal. The riot grrrl movement foregrounded feminist concerns and progressive politics in general; the DIY ethic and fanzines were also central elements of the scene. This movement relied on media and technology to spread their ideas and messages, creating a cultural-technological space for feminism to voice their concerns. They embodied the punk perspective, taking the anger and emotions and creating a separate culture from it. With riot grrrl, they were grounded in girl punk past, but also rooted in modern feminism. Tammy Rae Carbund, from Mr. Lady Records, explains that without Riot Grrrl bands,"[women] would have all starved to death culturally."
Singer-guitarists Corin Tucker of Heavens to Betsy and Carrie Brownstein of Excuse 17, bands active in both the queercore and riot grrrl scenes, cofounded the indie/punk band Sleater-Kinney in 1994. Bikini Kill's lead singer, Kathleen Hanna, the iconic figure of riot grrrl, moved on to form the art punk group Le Tigre in 1998.
Revival and mainstream success in the United States
In the late 1970s the genre failed to help the economy, with punk music being anti-conformity and anti-mainstream they failed to get into the commercial music. By the 1990s, punk rock was sufficiently ingrained in Western culture that punk trappings were often used to market highly commercial bands as "rebels". Marketers capitalized on the style and hipness of punk rock to such an extent that a 1993 ad campaign for an automobile, the Subaru Impreza, claimed that the car was "like punk rock".
In 1993, California's Green Day and Bad Religion were both signed to major labels. The next year, Green Day put out Dookie, which became a huge hit, selling nine million albums in the United States in just over two years. Bad Religion's Stranger Than Fiction was certified gold. Other California punk bands on the independent label Epitaph, run by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz, also began achieving mainstream popularity. In 1994, Epitaph released Let's Go by Rancid, Punk in Drublic by NOFX, and Smash by the Offspring, each eventually certified gold or better. That June, Green Day's "Longview" reached number one on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart and became a top forty airplay hit, arguably the first ever American punk song to do so; just one month later, the Offspring's "Come Out and Play" followed suit. MTV and radio stations such as Los Angeles' KROQ-FM played a major role in these bands' crossover success, though NOFX refused to let MTV air its videos.
Following the lead of Boston's Mighty Mighty Bosstones and two California bands, Anaheim's No Doubt and Long Beach's Sublime, ska punk and ska-core became widely popular in the mid-1990s. By 1996, genre acts such as Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake were being signed to major labels. The original 2 Tone bands had emerged amid punk rock's second wave, but their music was much closer to its Jamaican roots—"ska at 78 rpm". Ska punk bands in the third wave of ska created a true musical fusion between the genres. ...And Out Come the Wolves, the 1995 album by Rancid—which had evolved out of Operation Ivy—became the first record in this ska revival to be certified gold; Sublime's self-titled 1996 album was certified platinum early in 1997. In Australia, two popular groups, skatecore band Frenzal Rhomb and pop punk act Bodyjar, also established followings in Japan.
Green Day and Dookie's enormous sales paved the way for a host of bankable North American pop punk bands in the following decade. With punk rock's renewed visibility came concerns among some in the punk community that the music was being co-opted by the mainstream. They argued that by signing to major labels and appearing on MTV, punk bands like Green Day were buying into a system that punk was created to challenge. Such controversies have been part of the punk culture since 1977, when the Clash was widely accused of "selling out" for signing with CBS Records. The Vans Warped Tour and the mall chain store Hot Topic brought punk even further into the U.S. mainstream.
The Offspring's 1998 album Americana, released by the major Columbia label, debuted at number two on the album chart. A bootleg MP3 of Americana's first single, "Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)", made it onto the Internet and was downloaded a record 22 million times—illegally. The following year, Enema of the State, the first major-label release by pop punk band Blink-182, reached the top ten and sold four million copies in under twelve months. On February 19, 2000, the album's second single, "All the Small Things", peaked at number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. While they were viewed as Green Day "acolytes", critics also found teen pop acts such as Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, and 'N Sync suitable points of comparison for Blink-182's sound and market niche. The band's Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001) and Untitled (2003) respectively rose to numbers one and three on the album chart. In November 2003, The New Yorker described how the "giddily puerile" act had "become massively popular with the mainstream audience, a demographic formerly considered untouchable by punk-rock purists."
Other new North American pop punk bands, though often critically dismissed, also achieved major sales in the first decade of the 2000s. Ontario's Sum 41 reached the Canadian top ten with its 2001 debut album, All Killer No Filler, which eventually went platinum in the United States. The record included the number one U.S. Alternative hit "Fat Lip", which incorporated verses of what one critic called "brat rap." Elsewhere around the world, "punkabilly" band the Living End became major stars in Australia with their self-titled 1998 debut.
The effect of commercialization on the music became an increasingly contentious issue. As observed by scholar Ross Haenfler, many punk fans "'despise corporate punk rock', typified by bands such as Sum 41 and Blink 182". At the same time, politicized and independent-label punk continued to thrive in the United States. Since 1993, Anti-Flag had been putting progressive politics at the center of its music. The administration of George W. Bush provided them and similarly minded acts eight years of conservative government to excoriate. Rise Against was the most successful of these groups, registering five straight Billboard 200 top ten records between 2006 and 2017 with The Sufferer & the Witness, Appeal to Reason, Endgame, The Black Market, and Wolves. Leftist punk band Against Me!'s New Wave was named best album of 2007 by Spin. Politicized DIY punk also sustains active and inter-linked communities across Europe, as demonstrated by independent international events such as Fluff Fest in the Czech Republic.
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