And On The Eighth Day, Punk Was Born!: Part II By
The survival of
Punk was almost impossible in a decade when leveraged buyouts and mergers generated
a new breed of millionaires and the stock market became a career. But the punk
rockers continued making the sound while the Forbes' list of 400 richest people
was becoming more significant than its 500 largest companies!
In the early 80s,
cable TV was born and the VCR sales rose by 72%. The decade that brought us
The Sex Pistols and The Ramones, was being replaced by a new generation with
different goals and ideologies (not to mention the Casio keyboards). A 1980
study by UCLA and American Council on Education, indicated that college students
were more interested in status, power and money than at any time during the
past 15 years and of course, Business Management was the most popular major.
On of the most memorable events in the music world was the birth of MTV on August
1, 1981. The new 24-hour music video channel was the first cable channel to
broadcast commercial-free and in stereo. The network cost $20 million dollars
to set up but the concept was brilliant because the programming (at that time)
didn't cost them a penny to make since all the music videos were provided by
the record labels. MTV and its logo became the holly signs of the 80s and the
nation's youth became addicted to the network and it's culture. The pop culture
was fabricated and distributed by MTV and making music videos became much more
important than the music itself.
Electronic and digital music was topping the music charts and the faded spirit
of Punk was felt more than ever before. The punk scene was splitting into "New
Wave" (pop-oriented), "Post-Punk" (more experimental) and "Hardcore"
(a more rasping version of Punk Rock). New Wave was, basically, pop music; simple
and melodic. Mixing the irreverence and dynamics of Punk with an artistic touch
of sound and style, New Wave produced a very diverse sound in the 1980s. There
was now a new genre that would bring Power Pop (Nick Lowe), Pop-Rock (Rockpile),
Synth-Pop (Gary Numan), Ska (The Specials) and Pop-Reggae (The Police) all under
MTV embraced new wave and the business of New Wave music videos received a boost
in 1982-83. Culture Club, Adam Ant and Duran Duran dominated the playlist of
MTV and the corporate radio stations. Duran Duran was the personification of
new wave and the 80s pop-culture. The band gained much of its popularity and
reputation because of their cinematic music videos, which eventually converted
this underground British band to teen idols. The Duran Duran mania took over
the fashion of the 80s and their haircut and white jackets became the international
uniform of the teenagers.
bands were considered progressive and commercial. They signed huge record contracts
and put on high production shows at the arenas.
Punk's statement was all about rebellious against and independence of any corporate
tights while in the disparate world of new wave, mainstream success was on top
of the list. So what did punk have in common with new wave? Perhaps, only the
fact that new wave was as visual and theatrical as punk. Aside from the sound
of the music, punk rockers demonstrated their looks and fashion (body mutilation,
safety pins, chains and colored hair) on the underground stages of bars and
clubs to make a statement. New wave did the exact same thing, except on the
stage of MTV!
New wave did bring some decent artists and many great records but by the end
of the decade there were also countless number of one-hit-wonders. The emergence
of the guitar-oriented bands such as R.E.M. and The Smiths put an end to the
glittery life of new wave. What was then called new wave is now "Alternative
Rock" which, not surpassingly, consists of various musical styles. Alternative
is anywhere from Sonic Youth, The Meat Puppets and Nirvana to Blur, Weezer and
The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
release of Nirvana's "Nevermind" in 1991, nothing was quite the same;
flannel shirts were in and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was the national
anthem of the generation "X". The commercial success of the Seattle
grunge trio drew a dividing line between the bands who stayed independent and
those who held their punk ideologies but signed with larger labels and used
their resources to reach a larger audience. Coming from the indie-aeasthetic,
Nirvana popularized punk and indie-rock unintentionally and opened a new chapter
in the history of rock music.
For a couple
of years, after the rise of Nirvana in the mainstream audience, punk-derived
music received more attention and popularity than many of the pop-new wave acts
of the late 80s. But at the same time bands such as Bad Religion, The Suicide
Machines and The Circle Jerks retained their hardcore sound and played a vital
role in the hardcore punk scene of the 90s. Hardcore punk was perhaps the most
solid and extreme offspring of the original punk sound of the 60s and the 70s.
It was exactly what the real punk was striving to be in the 70s; a fast loud
simple sound produced with the least amount of money. The vocals were, for the
most part, shouted and the image was as dark and aggressive as it could be.
Hardcore was mainly an American sensation and most of its acts were concentrated
in Los Angeles, however, there were always smaller hardcore scenes in other
parts of the country (mainly in New York).
in 60s and 70s eventually lost those ideals and went mainstream in both the
sound and the fashion, the hardcore rockers of the 90s adopted a more aggressive
attitude towards both the labels and the media. Most of the signed hardcore
bands required full creative control over their lyrics and music, which gave
them more creative freedom in the production of the album. Many bands also rejected
to go on tours or perform in large arenas.
In the mid
90s a newer generation of punk sound was born; Green Day and The Offspring followed
the indie-rock traditions but sold millions of records on the independent labels.
Most of the post-punk bands were played on both the rock and the alternative
radio stations. Nowadays, almost all radio stations play both rock and alternative
and the differences between the two have become much less audible than in the
of 00s has not reached its maturity level yet and I am not sure if it ever will!
Most bands sound and look the same and there seem to have a standard life span
of about two major releases for them. No band or artist has had a major influence
in the music and culture of the 00s yet and obviously Loui Vuitton is more popular
than punk! And let's not forget the role of the Internet and the new technology
in not only the production of the records but also the marketing and distribution.
Downloading songs from the Internet and burning CDs are much more conventional
for the listeners than shopping at the record stores. However, in my opinion,
the incredible decrease of the record sales is not solely due to the availability
of music online; it is also affected by the lack of "fanship" and
loyalty among the listeners. Now, more and more bands share an overlapping audience
than ever before, which is why the promoters and the labels insist on adding
to the number of bands per concert. There's also an increasing interest among
musicians to work with two or more bands at the same time (something that was
almost taboo in the last decades).
facts contribute to the role of music in the 00s. Punk can certainly benefit
from the threat of the Internet to the large record labels in the sense that
the artists will no longer have to be restrained by corporate contracts. The
Internet and computer-based home studios offer them the opportunity to produce
and distribute (whether by downloading or purchasing the actual album) and promote
their music on their own. It will be interesting to see the new structure of
the music industry and the attitude of fans/listeners as we enter the 21st century
and as far as punk is concerned, there's always a band making a loud noise in
a garage somewhere