The Story of Punk Rock

Rock music has been feared ever since it's origins. From Elvis referencing the Devil in his songs, to ACDC singing about Hell. Whether it's been devout religious groups or simply concerned parents, people have always been concerned about the music their children listen to. But no other genre has created so much fear, so much danger, and so much excitement as punk rock.

Back in the 1970s, popular music was dominated by disco and complicated rock and metal bands. Those teens who wanted to pick up an instrument (without barely being to play it) and start a band had nothing to relate to and no genre where they could fit in. Until in early 1974, a new scene started up in Manhattan.


The scene was home to many bands who would prove to be some of the most influential musicians in the punk genre, and rock in general. With bands such as Television, Ramones, The Misfits, Blondie, and Talking Heads, the scene would be so groundbreaking that it quickly spread overseas.


How Punk Began


Punk is generally thought to have evolved from the garage rock phenomena now known as 'proto-punk.' Bands such as MC5 and The Stooges were two of the biggest influencers of the powerful, raw sound, but punk can be traced back even further than that. Elements of the genre can be found in the RnB and Rockabilly scenes of the late 1950s.


One song considered by many to be the first proto-punk song is Jerry Lott's 'Love Me' which was recorded in 1958. The chaotic, thundering song, along with Jerry Lott's screaming vocals, is an early forerunner of what punk would sound like twenty years later.


1964's 'You Really Got Me,' by The Kinks, is another influential proto-punk song. One of the first to bring distorted guitars into the mainstream, the song had many contemporary guitarists striving for similar sounds.


For some, punk is all about finding an outlet for pent up emotions, and one song that really captured a sense of teenage angst was The Who's, 'My Generation.' The song is a blast of energy and frustration and is still considered to be one of the best examples of youthful rebellion in music.


MC5's, 'Kick Out the Jams' is another song that had a huge influence on punk, and the aggressive lyrics would later become the trademark of many punk rock bands, both in the US and the UK.


Perhaps surprisingly, yet another musician considered to have laid some of the foundations for punk rock is David Bowie. Okay, maybe he only made one or two punk-ish type songs, but Bowie definitely had an influence in what would later become 'the image' of punk rock. Bowie's Ziggy Stardust persona had a very exaggerated style and look, and this is something that bands like the Sex Pistols would take massive inspiration from.


The Rise of CBGBs


The term 'punk' began life as a word for depicting a young hooligan or hoodlum. But it was first used to indicate a form of music by American DJ and talk show host, Dave Marsh, when he described the band '? and the Mysterions' as '... giving a landmark exposition of punk rock,' back in 1971.


Marsh was a regular visitor to the New York club, CBGBs, probably the most innovative and popular scenes of punk that has ever existed. The bar was originally a venue for country, bluegrass, and blues music, of which 'CBGB' is an anagram.


In 1974, owner Hilly Kristal booked the British band Squeeze as a residency, which started a trend of rock bands playing at the club. One of the early punk bands to play regularly at CBBGs would be Television, whose music was not quite fully punk, but had a huge influence on the punk scene, especially in the sub-genres post-, and art punk.


The band's debut album, Marquee Moon, was listed on the Rolling Stones' 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and Patti Smith, another giant staple in the genre, got her first taste of punk when she was in the audience at one of Television's CBBG gigs.


And then there was the Ramones. Thought by many to be still the greatest and most influential band in not just punk, but also rock in general, their first performance at CBBGs was described by music journalist Legs McNeil as, '...a wall of black leather jackets and noise, not hippies, but something completely new..'


Many believe the Ramones were the first 'real' punk rock band, although at this point, the term was used more to describe the scene rather than the actual genre. True, the groundstone had been firmly laid and the sound of punk was (more or less) fully developed, but some defining qualities of the genre were yet to be made. And they would be made in London, in 1975.


Punk in the UK


By this time, the punk scene in London was already established and growing fast. After witnessing the CBBG scene, artist Malcolm Mclaren renamed the fashion boutique he co-owned to 'Sex,' and set out to create an anti-fascist reputation with his clothing brand.


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