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Punk rock

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Punk rock (from 'punk', meaning rotten, worthless) was originally used to describe the primitive guitar based rock and roll of '60s bands such as The Seeds[?], and later Detroit bands The Stooges and MC5. "Punk rock" now largely tends to mean the anti-establishment musical movement of the period 1976-80, exemplified by the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Ramones and their descendants.

The roots of punk rock lie in the earlier form of "punk", as well as the UK pub rock scene, glam rock groups such as The New York Dolls and the early driving forces of the avant garde new wave music, such as Patti Smith. Also of importance was a desire to return to the simplicity of early rock and roll and a rejection of what punk rockers saw as the pretension, commercialism and pomposity which had overtaken "arena rock" in the 1970s, spawning the grandiose forms of heavy metal and progressive rock. By contrast, punk rock emphasised simplicity of music structure—extolling a "DIY" ("do it yourself") ethic that anyone could form a punk rock band (the early UK punk fanzine Sniffin' Glue once famously included drawings of three chord shapes, captioned, "here's a chord, here's another one, here's another one. Now form a band") The lyrics introduced a new frankness of expression in matters both political: often dealing with urban boredom and rising unemployment in the UK, and sexual: such as the Dead Kennedys' "Too Drunk to Fuck" or the Sex Pistols' "Submission."

The influence of the situationist movement is apparent in much of the behaviour and artwork surrounding what could be considered as the vanguard of the British punk movement, e.g., the Sex Pistols, and those orbital to the group such as Jordan[?], the Bromley Contingent, Sex boutique[?], etc. This was a conscious direction taken by Pistols prime movers Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, and is especially apparent in the artwork of pro-situ Jamie Reid[?], who had previously been involved with Suburban Press[?] and King Mob[?].

The cover song, in the hands of a punk band, can often be an instrument for irony and commentary on popular culture. Patti Smith's Horses album contains two examples of reclaimed mainstream songs. Other examples include the Dead Kennedys cover of "Take this Job and Shove It," Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Helter Skelter" or Black Flag's lyrically-altered "Louie Louie".

At least as important as the music, however, was the associated culture, which at the time caused great furor amongst the establishment. Punk fashion revolved around severe haircuts, such as the mohawk, body piercing (often with safety pins[?]) and conversion of items such as bin liners and thrift store remnants into clothing. "Punk chic" has now been largely absorbed by the mainstream.

Punk devotees created a thriving underground press. In the UK Mark Perry[?] produced Sniffin' Glue. In the United States magazines such as Maximum Rock 'n Roll[?], Profane Existence[?] and Flipside were leading a movement of "fanzines". Every "scene" had at least one primitively published magazine with news, gossip, and interviews with local or touring bands. The magazine Factsheet Five chronicled the thousands of underground publications in the 1980s and '90s.

In the late 1970s punk interacted with reggae & ska subcultures, to form the 2 Tone movement that included bands such as The Specials, Madness and The Selecter[?].

Punk has had a lasting influence on all popular music and a thriving subculture can still be found almost anywhere in the United States. Punk rock underwent a brief renaissance in the late 1990s with bands like Rancid, Green Day, The Offspring, NOFX and others.

More extensive lists of relevant bands and so on can be found at the following sub-pages;

  • Related genres:

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