Protopunk

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Intro and Info

A style of music which was at its hight from the mid '60s to mid '70s, it had a huge influence over Punk, as we know it today, and is highly respected amongst those who follow today's interpretation of Indie.

Generally speaking, most Protopunk artists are not always classified under the banner of Punk, also, as a style, Protopunk is not a distinctive genre as it covers a wide range of styles.

Definition

The dictionary tells us that "Proto" means this;-
A combining form meaning “first,” “foremost,” “earliest form of,” used in the formation of compound words (protomartyr; protolithic; protoplasm), specialised in chemical terminology to denote the first of a series of compounds, or the one containing the minimum amount of an element.

Then of course we have our definition of Punk.

Put the two words together and you start to get towards defining this genre.

Origins

Punk itself, could be referred to as a subgenre, some of its sound and attitude being derived from Rock n Roll, which can also see a degree of its generic elements traced back to early Rhythm and Blues, and Rockabilly.

Jerry Lott had a record in 1958, "Love Me" (recorded under "The Phantom") which some have cited as a precursor to Punk.

Looking back to the early to mid '60s, a number of Garage Rock bands gained a reputation as Punk progenitors, bands like The Kingsmen, from Portland, Oregon, had a breakout hit with their 1963 cover of "Louie Louie", cited as "Punks defining ur-text".

The minimalist sound that came out of many Garage Rock was influenced by the harder-edge of the British Invasion, for example The Kinks' 1964 hit, "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night", have been described as "predecessors of the whole three-chord genre—The Ramones' 1978 'I Don't Want You', for instance, was pure Kinks-by-proxy".

In 1965, The Who quickly progressed from their debut single "I Can't Explain", to a virtual Kinks clone, to "My Generation". The Who's Mod anthems presaged a more cerebral mix of musical ferocity and rebellious posture that characterised much of the early UK Punk.

The Who and fellow Mods The Small Faces were among the small selection of Rock legends that were acknowledged by the Sex Pistols.

Once 1966 rolled around, Mod was on decline, Garage Rock began to lose steam within a couple of years, but the raw sound and outsider attitude of bands like The Seeds presaged the style that would later become known as Protopunk.

Over to the USA

In 1960 comes one of the firs Protopunk bands, The Sonics, following them was The Monks, formed in 1964 and consisting of American GIs stationed in Germany, who released one album, "Black Monk Time", in 1966, during '69, there were debut albums from two bands based out of Michigan, that are commonly cited as essential Protopunk records; in January of that year, the MC5 gave the world "Kick Out the Jams", then in the August, The Stooges, produced their self-titled album. The Stooges album was produced by John Cale, a former member of New York's experimental group The Velvet Underground. Having earned a "reputation as the first underground rock band", The Velvet Underground inspired, directly or indirectly, many of those involved in the creation of Punk.

On to the early '70s, the New York Dolls updated the original wildness of '50s Rock n Roll with a fashion that grew to become known as "glam punk".

The New York duo Suicide played sparse, experimental music with a confrontational stage act inspired by that of The Stooges, proving another link between electronic music and guitar driven music.

On to '74, and an updated Garage Rock scene began to coalesce around the newly opened Rathskeller club in Kenmore Square, among the lead acts were the Real Kids, founded by former Modern Lover John Felice; Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band, whose frontman had been a member of The Velvet Underground for a few months in 1971, and Mickey Clean and the Mezz. In Ohio, a small but influential underground rock scene emerged, led by Devo in Akron and Kent and by Cleveland's The Electric Eels.

In 1975, Rocket from the Tombs split into Pere Ubu and Frankenstein. The Electric Eels and Mirrors both broke up, and The Styrenes emerged from the fallout.

Back to the UK

Bands from the London based "Pub Rock" scene had started to play a much more stripped down/back to basics, hard edged, Rhythm and Blues influenced Rock n Roll style.

By the mid '70s, this scene's top act, Dr. Feelgood, plus many others, had paved the way for others such as The Stranglers and Cock Sparrer that had a massive influence over the late '70's UK Punk explosion.

Among other Pub Rock bands from the mid '70s, were "The 101'ers", whose lead singer would soon adopt the name Joe Strummer, a name that most would recognise from The Clash.

Noteworthy Artists

From America

From the UK