Punk rock

Punk rock (or "punk") is a rock music genre that developed in the mid-1970s in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. Rooted in 1960s garage rock and other forms of what is now known as "proto-punk" music, punk rock bands rejected perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. Punk bands typically produced short or 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 and other informal channels.

The term "punk rock" was first used by certain American rock critics in the early 1970s to describe 1960s garage bands and subsequent acts then perceived as stylistic inheritors. Between 1974 and 1976 the movement now bearing the name "punk rock" emerged. It produced a new generation of bands such as the Ramones, Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, Richard Hell and the Voidoids in New York City, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Damned and Buzzcocks in the UK, and the Saints in Brisbane—by late 1976 these acts were generally recognized as forming its vanguard. As 1977 approached, punk rock became a major and highly controversial cultural phenomenon in the United Kingdom. It spawned a punk subculture expressing youthful rebellion characterized by distinctive styles of clothing and adornment (ranging from deliberately offensive T-shirts, leather jackets, studded or spiked bands and jewelry, as well as bondage and S&M clothes) and a variety of anti-authoritarian ideologies that have since been associated with the form.

In 1977 the influence of punk rock music and subculture became more pervasive, spreading throughout various countries worldwide. It generally took root in local scenes that tended to reject affiliation with the mainstream. In the late 1970s punk experienced its second wave in which 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. Subhumans) became the predominant modes of punk rock. Musicians identifying with or inspired by punk often later pursued other musical directions, resulting in a broad range of spinoffs, giving rise to genres such as post-punk, new wave and later indie pop, alternative rock, and noise rock. By the 1990s punk rock re-emerged in the mainstream, as punk rock and pop punk bands such as Green Day, Rancid, The Offspring, and Blink-182 brought the genre widespread popularity.

Characteristics

Philosophy

The first wave of punk rock was "aggressively modern" and differed from what came before.[3] 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."[4] 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."[5] 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."[6]

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.[7] Pub rock also introduced the idea of independent record labels, such as Stiff Records, which put out basic, low-cost records.[7] 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.[8] 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".[5] 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".[9] The title of a 1980 single by the New York punk band Stimulators, "Loud Fast Rules!", inscribed a catchphrase for punk's basic musical approach.[10]

Some of British punk rock's leading figures made a show of rejecting not only contemporary mainstream rock and the broader culture it was associated with, but their own most celebrated music predecessors: "No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones in 1977", declared the Clash song "1977".[11] The previous year, when the punk rock revolution began in Great Britain, was to be both a musical and a cultural "Year Zero".[12] Even as nostalgia was discarded, many in the scene adopted a nihilistic attitude summed up by the Sex Pistols slogan "No Future";[3] 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."[13] 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"[14] 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."[15]

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".[16]

Musical and lyrical elements

Members of rock band The Sex Pistols onstage in a concert. From left to right, singer Johnny Rotten and electric guitarist Steve Jones.
Johnny Rotten and guitarist Steve Jones of the UK band Sex Pistols

Punk rock bands often emulate the bare musical structures and arrangements of 1960s garage rock.[17] 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.[18] 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."[19]

Punk rock vocals sometimes sound nasal,[20] and lyrics are often shouted instead of sung in a conventional sense, particularly in hardcore styles.[21] Shifts in pitch, volume, or intonational style are relatively infrequent.[22] Punk rock's "hoarse, rasping" vocals and chanting were a sharp contrast to the "melodic and sleeker" singing in mainstream rock.[23] Early punk vocals had an "arrogant snarl".[24] Complicated guitar solos are considered self-indulgent and unnecessary, although basic guitar breaks are common.[25] Guitar parts tend to include highly distorted power chords or barre chords, creating a characteristic sound described by Christgau as a "buzzsaw drone".[26] 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.[27] Bass guitar lines are often uncomplicated; the quintessential approach is a relentless, repetitive "forced rhythm",[28] 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.[29] Hardcore drumming tends to be especially fast.[21] Production tends to be minimalistic, with tracks sometimes laid down on home tape recorders[30] 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.[31]

The rock band The Clash performing onstage. Three members are shown. All three have short hair. Two of the members are playing electric guitars.
The Clash, performing in 1980

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.[32] 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.[33] Especially in early British punk, a central goal was to outrage and shock the mainstream.[34] 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".[35] The controversial content of punk lyrics led to some punk records being banned by radio stations and refused shelf space in major chain stores.[36]

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.[37] 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.[38][39] (John D Morton of Cleveland's Electric Eels may have been the first rock musician to wear a safety-pin-covered jacket.)[40] 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,[41] 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.[42] Early female punk musicians displayed styles ranging from Siouxsie Sioux's bondage gear to Patti Smith's "straight-from-the-gutter androgyny".[43] The former proved much more influential on female fan styles.[44] 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".[45] Among the other facets of the punk rock scene, a punk's hair is an important way of showing their freedom of expression.[46] The typical male punk haircut was originally short and choppy; the mohawk later emerged as a characteristic style.[47] Along with the mohawk, long spikes have been associated with the punk rock genre.[46] In addition to the mohawk many punk rockers would also have bright neon color hair.[37]

Two young men dressed in black trenchcoats are shown in a subway car. The man on the left has bright red dyed hair. The man on the right also has bright red dyed hair, but his hair is in long pointed spikes.
British punks, c. 1986

The characteristic stage performance style of male punk musicians does not deviate significantly from the macho postures classically associated with rock music.[48] 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."[43] 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".[49] 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.[50]

The lack of emphatic syncopation led punk dance to "deviant" forms. The characteristic style was originally the pogo.[51] 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.[52] Moshing (slamdancing) is typical at hardcore shows. The lack of conventional dance rhythms was a central factor in limiting punk's mainstream commercial impact.[53]

Breaking down the distance between performer and audience is central to the punk ethic.[54] 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".[55] 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".[56]

Other Languages
العربية: بانك
aragonés: Punk
asturianu: Punk
বাংলা: পাংক রক
Bân-lâm-gú: Punk rock
беларуская: Панк-рок
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Панк-рок
Boarisch: Punk
brezhoneg: Punk rock
català: Punk rock
čeština: Punk rock
Cymraeg: Pync-roc
dansk: Punk-rock
Deutsch: Punk (Musik)
eesti: Punk rock
Ελληνικά: Πανκ
español: Punk
Esperanto: Punko
euskara: Punk
فارسی: پانک راک
français: Punk rock
Frysk: Punk rock
furlan: Musiche punk
Gaeilge: Punc-rac
Gàidhlig: Punc
galego: Punk
한국어: 펑크 록
հայերեն: Փանկ ռոք
hrvatski: Punk rock
Bahasa Indonesia: Punk rock
íslenska: Pönk
italiano: Punk rock
עברית: פאנק רוק
ქართული: პანკ-როკი
kaszëbsczi: Punk
latviešu: Pankroks
lietuvių: Pankrokas
Limburgs: Punk
lumbaart: Punk rock
македонски: Панк рок
Bahasa Melayu: Rock punk
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ပန့်ခ် ဂီတ
Nāhuatl: Punk
Nederlands: Punk (muziek)
नेपाल भाषा: पंक रक
norsk: Punkrock
norsk nynorsk: Pønkrock
occitan: Punk rock
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Punk rock
polski: Punk rock
português: Punk rock
română: Punk rock
русский: Панк-рок
sardu: Punk rock
Scots: Punk rock
shqip: Punk rock
sicilianu: Punk rock
Simple English: Punk rock
slovenčina: Punk rock
slovenščina: Punk
کوردی: پەنک ڕۆک
српски / srpski: Панк рок
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Punk
svenska: Punkrock
தமிழ்: பங்க்
татарча/tatarça: Панк-рок
Türkçe: Punk rock
українська: Панк-рок
vèneto: Punk
Tiếng Việt: Punk rock
中文: 朋克搖滾