The Origination Of Punk Rock Essay, Research Paper
Mrs. Barbara Simpson
English Comp II
25 March 2000
The Origination of Punk Rock
The time was in the mid-seventies, there was a void in the music industry that needed to be filled. This need for a new sound was aptly filled by punk rock, a new type of sound that had evolved from mostly rock and a little pop music. The focus of this paper is on punk rock and it?s ample beginnings, early pioneers of the new sound, punk rock listener?s cultural background and their ideas as a whole, bands influenced by the punk rock movement, and the state of punk rock today.
The year is 1974, this year marks the birth of punk rock (1974). There is controversy as to where punk started out at, some say it began in London while others say it started out in New York City. It can be safe to say that two very distinct sounds classified as punk originated at about the same in both London and New York City (Punk). Punk rock began in the bars and nightclubs until the bands garnered enough support to receive a record contract.
When the punk rock explosion occurred in the mid-seventies, a number of new, excitingly innovative bands burst upon the scene. Bands like the Ramones, The Clash, The Velvet Underground, The Virgin Fugs, Patti Smith, The New York Dolls, Iggy Pop and The Stooges, and the punk band with the most success, The Sex Pistols. The thing that made punk rock so unlike anything the music industry had heard before was the notable lack of talent displayed on the musician?s part. Not to say that all punk bands were devoid of any talent, just that anyone with second-rate instruments and the ability to play at least three chords on the guitar could form a punk band. This is part of what punk?s appeal was, it was a new sound that appealed to many of the youths of that era. As Johnny Ramone, the guitarist for the Ramones, stated, ?We were new at writing songs and new at playing our instruments, so we couldn?t write anything too complicated, really? (1974). Punk rock bands often had a flair for the flamboyant, not just with their appearance but with their humor, sarcasm, and often carelessness about society and social norms. For example, The Virgin Fugs, their outlook on life is often displayed in the titles of their songs. Songs like ?I Saw The Best Minds of My Generation Rot?, ?Kill For Peace?, and ?New Amphetamine Shriek? captured the Fugs? sense of humor and satire (History). There were also bands like The Velvet Underground who relied on their detailed studies of urban realism that is evidenced in songs like ?Heroin? and ?I?m Waiting For The Man?, were a far cry from the three chord, ultra-fast, guitar displayed by the Fugs and most other punk bands (History). Another one of punk rock?s pioneers was the animated Iggy Pop. Iggy began his musical career, or let me say, his career took off after leaving the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Iggy formed a band with friends who really had no idea how to play their instruments. This way their lack of musical knowledge would allow Iggy to incorporate his zany and unorthodox style into their playing style (History). Iggy was a maniac on stage, cutting himself, screaming at fans, and displaying obscenities unheard of in that time. Although Iggy never achieved much commercial success back then, Iggy just released a song ?Corruption? which is on the charts.
The punk subculture is often seen as a rebellious group of misguided youngsters who often come from lower class dwellings and haven?t gotten the attention that they needed so they dye their hair, dress differently, and act differently. In Facing The Music edited by Simon Frith, Mary Harron reduced the meaning of punk to ?the spectacle of middle-class children dressing up in a fantasy of proletarian aggression and lying desperately about their backgrounds? (History). The flipside to that is that maybe these youths are expressing their individualism and choose to stray away from societies values because they are bored with society. Either way you look at it, punk is about being your own person, at least that?s the ideal. Punkers even have their own unique style of dress, which is illustrated by Alison Lurie in The Language of Clothes:
It featured hair cropped to a fuzz and dyed startling, unnatural colors: often very pale yellow, sometimes red, green, orange or lavender. Faces were powdered pasty white, with sooty eyes and heavy lipstick. In clothing, red, black and white were the favorite colors.
There are many people who believe punk is dead, I personally believe that punk is in the process of being incorporated into mainstream culture. Bands like Blink 182, Eve 6, The Offspring, and Greenday still carry on the punk flame. The difference is that their image has changed in that the bands often focus their energy into positive topics, rather than using obscenities and shock technique to garner attention. The punk bands of today?s era are also more musically talented in that they actually know how to play their instruments. There aren?t quite as many true hardcore punk bands as there were in the past but bands like SST, Dischord, Homestead, Twin/Tone, The Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Butthole Surfers, Scratch Acid, Husker Du, The Replacements, Dinosaur Jr., Squirrel Bait, The Effigies, Big Black, Naked Raygun, Sonic Youth, The Swans, Fugazi, Bad Brains were all heavily influenced by the punk revolution (History). Also, bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam seem to have the mind frames of punk rockers and were undoubtedly influenced by them, the sound doesn?t carry over into their own music.
Punk, as it was really intended, will never become commercialized and incorporated as a large part of the music scene. But then again, punk was based on rebellion against mainstream culture and to be publicized and critically acclaimed would be contradictory to the basis of everything punk stands for. True, one can see bands on MTV that claim to be punk, but the true hardcore punk fans will tell you that they are posers. The industrialized, commercialized, mainstream music seen on MTV is really more like punk/pop, it?s good music that may have been influenced by punk, but not true punk rock.
?A History of Punk?
?The Birth of Punk?