An attempt to explain
Whilst the uninitiated may not guess it from it’s apparent musical simplicity, Punk in it’s original form was in many respects the pivotal style which defined the majority of ‘alternative’ music from the late 1960s / early 1970s onwards.
Whilst the UK often claims responsibility for inventing, or at least popularising the style, the true birthplace of Punk was in New York, where a succession of Protopunk bands like The Velvet Underground in 1967, New York Dolls in 1971 and finally The Ramones in 1974 gave rise to the original sound of Punk, but it could also be argued that many of these bands also drew a lot of influence from what was happening with Protopunk and Garage Rock in the UK, not least The Who.
Back over to the UK, and the Punk scene really stepped up another gear, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Malcolm McLaren, who put together the original line-up of The Sex Pistols, certainly the most notorious and best-remembered figures of the original Punk scene, although it was The Damned that released the first ever UK Punk single and the first ever UK Punk album. Later UK punk acts such as The Clash and Billy Idol’s Generation X brought some musical integrity to the foul-mouthed primal rage of the Sex Pistols sound, and hence in their own way charted the end of the 1st wave of UK punk, to be replaced by a myriad other splnter styles, each a distinct development on it’s predecessor.
The UK bands typically developed into either New Wave or Post Punk, depending on whether their sound became lighter and more accessible or darker and more alienating (many musicians would in fact flirt with both styles at some point).
The US offered a number of other developments on the style, such as Hardcore Punk (particulary popular with West Coast bands such as Black Flag), New York’s "No Wave" and the Los Angeles sound Deathrock (America’s answer to the formative sound of Gothic rock).
Those bands who failed to develop their sound generally disappeared as quickly as they arrived.
Punk would continuously re-invent itself, notably in the UK with bands such as UK Subs and the socially-aware New Model Army, with several splinter scenes developing as a result. The politically-charged Anarcho-Punk movement, headed up by Crass, is regarded by many as a particularly relevant sub-genre in the days of Thatcher, Reagan and the Cold War. A converse movement saw the development of the ‘Oi!’ form of punk, characterised by bands such as the Angelic Upstarts and the Cockney Rejects. This incorporated rousing football-chant elements and hackneyed rock hooks to produced a street-level ‘working mans’ punk, and let's not forget Anarcho-Punk.
Punk would resurface once again in America during the 90s, where bands such as Rancid added new elements to the sound of Punk, which in turn gave rise to a tidal wave of Punk-oriented metal, the ground having already been laid a decade earlier by Hardcore/Heavy Metal crossover acts such as Corrosion of Conformity and Suicidal Tendencies (some might also argue that the sound of the entire Grunge genre is effectively a direct offshoot of punk rock). There was also a development of Hardcore punk into "Skate Punk" in the mid-90s, popularised by the likes of NOFX and Pennywise.
By the turn of the millennium, the music industry had spotted the demand for simplistic, pseudo-rebellious guitar Rock, pushing acts such as Good Charlotte and Blink 182 onto major music channels, into the arena of major commercial interest. These pretenders would play their guitars loudly, and make it look like they were angry about something, but such is the formulaic nature of much of their output that this is where any similarity with the original sound of Punk ends, as well as creating a genre that became known as Pop Punk, many have claimed that the words Pop and Punk should never be put together.
Key Punk Bands
See Protopunk for more information.
1st Wave USA Punk
1st Wave UK Punk
- The Buzzcocks
- The Clash
- The Damned
- Generation X
- The Sex Pistols
- The Skids
- The Stranglers
- The Undertones
Check out our Oi! page.
Other Punk Bands
To get some more Punk variants, you might want to check out;-
There is also Pop Punk, feelings are highly mixed as to whether this genre has any validity within Punk as an acceptable sub genre.