Punk rock

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(From 'punk', meaning rotten, worthless.)

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 tends to be used strictly to mean the anti-establishment musical movement of the period 1976-80, exemplified by the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Ramones and their descendents.

The roots of punk rock lie in the earlier form of "punk", 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 "do it yourself" ethic that anyone could form a punk rock 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."

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 into clothing. Sadly, but inevitably, "punk chic" has now been largely absorbed by the mainstream.

Punk devotees created a thriving underground press. In the United States magazines such as [Maximum Rock 'n Roll] 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 1980's and 90's.

In the early eighties punk interacted with reggae & ska subcultures, producing bands as The Specials, Madness and The Selecter.

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

Important early punk bands:

Important later punk bands:

Important Punk Cities:

Related genres:


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