And On The Eight Day, Punk Was Born: Punk I By
As the 21st century
welcomes us into a world built upon technology, corporate laws and commercialism,
the bittersweet memory of Punk and its philosophy and ideology may seem a bit
tarnished in our minds. What is Punk? What was Punk? How has it altered the music
and culture of the late 20th century? What will it become in the years to come?
The truth is that
punk has no place of birth, no identity, no social security and definitely no
rules! Punk is the citizen of the world: colorful, yet simple. Regardless of
what Punk really was or what it still is, it is impossible to separate it from
the shape of our society. I have always believed that Punk was the bastard child
of economical and social inequalities. Unemployment, injustice and poor social
conditions produce depression and frustration. And that's exactly where Punk
came from; it came from the hearts and minds of the underprivileged working-class
disaffected youth in Britain and the U.S.. They needed something more than the
Beatles to express their feelings of dissatisfaction and alienation. The music
was no longer about musicianship and quality audio recording; it was all about
letting the music shape itself through reality.
In the 1960s,
when "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was becoming the global pop anthem
and the Beatles were taking over the world, no one expected the garage rockers
to challenge the scene simply by returning to the very basics: three simple
chords and a melody. Punk sounded louder, faster and noisier than anything ever
heard before. In the U.S., the Velvet Underground, the Stooges and the New York
Dolls were the incredible active garage rockers of the late 60s who were warming
up the stage for the pre-punk movement in England. The Velvet Underground (named
after a paperback book about sadomasochism) were experimenting with Rock in
a whole different level. They brought a unique social-sexual realism into their
lyrics and performance. The Velvets may have had a brief lifespan but they certainly
had a considerable amount of impact on what the punk music sounds like today.
released their first debut album, Stooges, in 1969 and Iggy Pop's vocals on
"I Wanna Be Your Dog" bought their pass to the underground scene of
the late 60s (it is worth noting that the word "scene" in punk vocabulary
refers to the punk community itself). The Stooges' performances consisted of
Iggy's body covered in blood or peanut butter, self-mutilation, stage diving
and vulgarity. Collaborating with David Bowie on their third album Raw Power,
Iggy Pop and the Stooges adopted a more brittle sound and despite the release
of the album on Columbia Records, the band stayed an underground sensation and
never really broke into the mainstream. Iggy finally went solo but the group's
legacy was carried on over the next two decades to influence the post-punk acts
such as Chrome, Placebo and the Foo Fighters.
By the mid
70's, Punk was ready to leave the underground walls and head out to the real
world. In December of 1973 CBGB opened on 315 Broadway in the Lower East Side
of Manhattan. A few days after the grand opening, Television got their first
gig at CBGB
the cover charge: one dollar! The show was not a success and
Hilly Kristal (the owner and founder of CBGB) booked the Ramones to make up
for it. "As for the Ramones, they were even worse than Television. At that
first gig at CBGB, they were the most untogether group I'd ever heard. They
kept starting and stopping - equipment breaking down - and yelling at each other.
They were a mess
Little did I suspect that both Television and the Ramones
would eventually get it together and become two of the most important punk bands
of the 70's," says Hilly Kristal. The Ramones went on to make history with
their first four albums from 1974 to 1978. They celebrated the punk aesthetic
through a revolutionary sound and became the leaders of the New York Punk Rock
At the same
time Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Richard Hell (from Television) were making
a more self-conscious and intellectual sound which was closer the "profile"
of punk music: loud and weird. Richard Hell was the first punk rocker who wore
ripped clothing and safety pins. He brought out not only the sound of Punk but
also the face. All of a sudden, wearing torn shirts and blue hair wasn't all
that bad! Whether Hell or the rest of punk rockers of the 70's wanted to make
a fashion statement or not, the audience embraced the "look" of Punk.
The sound of Punk did not appeal to everyone but the "look" went main
stream and put an end to everything that Punk ever stood up for: being labeled
and forming a standard shape. As the physical style of Punk became more and
more popular, the media began to portray punks as violent and self-destructive
individuals. Soon the American talk shows used the term "Punk" to
refer to every drug-junkie, aggressive, or unemployed person.
As the American
punk rock scene was blending into the main stream culture, the Sex Pistols in
the U.K. were considered a serious threat to the political and social structure
of England and were banned across the country. The band nourished the dying
roots of independent music in both the U.K. and the U.S. and their singles "Anarchy
In The U.K." and "God Save the Queen" caused much controversy
to be banned on BBC. The Sex Pistols made music for about 3 years before they
disbanded in 1978, but both Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten went on to become
the godfathers of Punk.
The Sex Pistols
were the inspiration behind many musical acts in the 70s and numerous bands
in both countries followed the path of the Pistols into the world of Punk Rock.
Johnny Rotten once said in an interview with Zigzag (U.K. music magazine) that
they wanted to see thousands of different bands form and instead they ended
up with thousands of different versions of the Pistols. Putting aside the nihilistic
notions of the Sex Pistols' music, The Clash was formed in 1976 in England with
a more leftist-idealistic point of view. Singing mostly about the working-class
and revolution, The Clash released their first album The Clash in 1977 in England.
The band won over the U.K. scene but it took them a couple of years to break
into the U.S. market in the early 80s (just a few months before they imploded).
movement will resemble a nice scar in the face of the music history, a scar
left by the creation of art and music not through the beauty of love, peace
and happiness but through the ugliness of inequalities and unhappiness. To deny
Punk's rejection of conformity and authority would be to deny its very creative
freedom. Some are more politically and socially conscious than others and use
their freedom in writing song to oppose authority in society and some refuse
to produce "corporate rock" and take pride in staying a free artist.