Table of Contents
- What is Punk Rock?
- Punk Rock Definition
- What is Punk Music?
- Punk Rock Groups and Bands
- Different Punk Rock Genres
- Lesson Summary
Punk rock is a genre of rock music that started in the 1970s in both America and the United Kingdom. It was influenced by earlier genres like garage, glam, rock, and rockabilly, but it also constituted a revolution in popular music by attempting to reject all previous influences and start from scratch. It attempted a back-to-the-roots, do-it-yourself (DIY) musical aesthetic that was often harmonically discordant. It rejected the excesses of stadium rock and the musical complexities of prog rock that were dominant in the early 1970s and instead used basic instrumentation and simple melodies. An illustration in the fanzine Sideburn expressed punk's DIY amateurish spirit: it showed three basic guitar chords, and read "This is a chord. This is another. This is a third. NOW FORM A BAND."
Punk also had an associated social and political movement that was generally left-wing and anti-authoritarian or even nihilistic. It was born in a period when the post-World War II period of economic growth had come to an end in both America and the UK. This gave punk as a social movement a more pessimistic viewpoint compared to the attitude of peace and love in the 1960s--as for example in the Sex Pistols' song "No Future." Some punks, like Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, also adopted the politics and style of the French Situationist movement and rejected the consumerism of the post-war period, what the Situationists called the "society of the spectacle." Punk's aggressive musical aesthetic was thus meant to challenge what adherents saw as the mindless propaganda of pop music. This oppositional stance also applied to punk fashion, which was often deliberately ugly and featured things like ripped clothing, safety pins, and extreme hairstyles like the mohawk.
The word "punk" had originally referred to a hoodlum, and sometimes to the passive partner in prison sex. It had first been used as a musical term by writers for the Detroit rock magazine CREEM to describe garage rock in the early 1970s.
Musically, punk is characterized by minimal instrumentation (almost always the standard rock lineup of guitar, bass, and drums), simple melodies that are often yelled rather than sung, discordant harmonies, and upbeat, loud, fast songs. The simplicity and aggression of the music were meant as a rejection or parody of popular music and went along with punk's anti-authoritarian or even nihilistic politics. Sex Pistols singer John Lydon said that "The sounds of anger are not melodic."
There is some disagreement about whether punk began in the United States or England. There were important punk bands in the U.S. that served as inspiration for English punk, but it was only later in London that punk became a widespread phenomenon.
Most early American punk bands came from New York, playing in clubs like Max's Kansas City and later CBGB:
English punk was initially influenced by New York punk. Malcolm McLaren was a British clothing impresario who was exposed to punk in New York. He was impressed by the anti-fashion ripped t-shirts of former Television bassist Richard Hell, and briefly managed the New York Dolls before they broke up. McLaren returned to England with the ambition of promoting a punk band.
Although there was plenty of misogyny in punk rock, the idea that anyone could play music also provided the opportunity for outspoken female punk bands:
After its confrontational and sensationalist first wave, punk evolved into numerous subgenres, some moving in a more popular direction and others becoming more experimental:
Punk is a musical and social movement that started in the 1970s. Musically, it is simple, loud, and aggressive. It was a reaction against the complex rock music of the early 1970s, which punks thought was pretentious. Politically, punk was nihilistic and anti-authoritarian, perhaps because it emerged in a period of pessimism at the collapse of the stable postwar economic order.
Important punk bands emerged first in New York City and influenced more radical punk bands in England, especially the Sex Pistols. Punk later diverged into numerous subgenres; some were more pop-oriented while others were more avant-garde. Punk remains a popular genre of rock today.
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Punk's political attitude was generally left-wing and anti-authoritarian or even nihilistic, and its aggressive musical aesthetic was meant to challenge what it saw as the mindless propaganda of pop music. It attempted a back-to-the-roots, do-it-yourself (DIY) musical aesthetic that was often harmonically discordant.
The word "punk" had originally referred to a hoodlum, and sometimes to the passive partner in prison sex. It had first been used as a musical term by writers for the Detroit rock magazine CREEM, to describe garage rock in the early 1970s.
Punk rock is a genre of rock music that started in the 1970s in both America and the United Kingdom. It is characterized by minimal instrumentation, simple melodies that are often yelled rather than sung, and often discordant harmonies. It tends to include upbeat, loud, fast songs.
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