The History of Punk Rock

Punk rock to the uninitiated isn’t just loud and fast. It seems feral and untamed, with a kind of ignorance that’s dangerous. It’s like a demented child holding a sharp knife out in a crowded mall—you want to get away from it as quickly as possible, yet the sight (or in this case the sound) is undeniably fascinating. So is the history of punk rock.

Punk rock is associated with the music of the 1970s and they were a cultural shock for adults. NBC News even featured it with the famous description: “This is punk rock and its purpose is to promote violence, sex, and destruction, in that order.”

The Seed of Punk in Detroit

The sound of punk rock can be traced back to Detroit during the late 1960s. Back then, bands such as Iggy & The Stooges and MC5 were stripping down sound of rock to just the basics as a way to counter the saccharine and overly produced music of the era.

The sound was brutal compared to the mild rock songs of the day, and the fans rejected the clean-cut looks of mainstreams music. They sported torn jeans and shirts, and their greasy hair often sported strange colors. The music wasn’t about peace and harmony, but about rage. 

CBGB and the Ramones

The punk revolution exploded on both sides of the Atlantic. Here in the US, it bloomed from the confines of the iconic CBGB New York night club. It was here that future legends such as Talking Heads, Blondie, Dead Boys, and Television first began.

Of them all, perhaps the band that best exemplified the punk rock movement was the Ramones. They started playing in 1974, and by 1976 their seminal debut record laid down the foundational sound that would be alter recognized as punk rock. Here they offered short bursts of manic energy, and their 14 songs lasted just half an hour long.

You only need to listen to “Blitzkrieg Bop” to understand the very essence of punk. The cheap and half-assed production quality, the chords that sound like buzz saws, the rough vocals—these qualities defined punk rock as the very antithesis of mainstream music.

The Sex Pistols in London

Meanwhile, the same counterculture movement was also brewing in the UK. Here the music and the rage were represented by the Sex Pistols and the Clash. The youth had good reason to be angry, as the recession made many of them poor and jobless. It was fertile ground for songs like “God Save the Queen” and “Anarchy in the UK”.

While there was a political aspect to punk rock, it was also noted for its wild behavior. After all, punk rock was about rebelling and in this case, the fans rebelled against expected standards of etiquette and courtesy. They were rude and wild, and they reveled in the disapproval of their elders.

The Sex Pistols proved that punk rock was accessible to all, as the members of the band were hardly able to play their instruments, and they couldn’t hold a tune. But the Clash proved that punk rock can also offer more polished productions while still retaining the raw sound and manic energy.

Punk Rock Today

Today, punk rock still has dedicated fans around the world and many kids have “rediscovered” the sound. However, its core values of passionate rebellion can still be found in modern rock and rap music.

As the New York Times have noted in its February 3, 2017, headline, punk rock is alive and well. It seems that the history of punk rock isn’t over just yet.

Take a stroll down punk rock history lane…

Posted by Firecracker 500