How Did Punk Rock Come About?



Punk rock and culture was born from 1975 to 1980. Its origin was founded on youth rebellion and angst. The 1960s saw the youths protest against the violence of the Vietnam war as they called for peace, love, and unity. They also supported Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, and an environmental movement that produced calm and laid-back music to combat negativity they saw in the world. But how did this give birth to punk rock?


Influence of theatre on punk rock


The genre of punk rock is not only music but also includes fashion. It is a culture in itself and its nascent rise was first seen in the Theatre of the Ridiculous founded by Ronald Tavel, who was the screenwriter for Andy Warhol’s Factory. The theatre produced works with social commentary critiquing popular culture. It featured camp elements with cross-dressing and drag culture to shock and disturb.


When the cast of the play Pork by the Theatre of the Ridiculous made an appearance in London, they influenced David Bowie to change his image to the androgynous look that became familiar to his fans. When Lee Childers, the assistant director of Pork returned to New York, he influenced the music and fashion of the New York Dolls. The group did not meet mainstream success but was one of the early groups that had an impact on the formation of punk rock.


The start of punk rock


MC5, formed in 1964 was an American rock band and could be considered the first punk rock band. Their lyrics were highly politicised and were combined with hard and fast sounds. The politicization of their lyrics created the foreground for punk. But the band broke up in 1972. It was Iggy and the Stooges that went the distance with punk rock. Iggy Pop’s self-mutilation and unpredictable stage antics. Iggy Pop is regarded as the ‘Godfather’ of Punk’ and together with David Bowie, they became cultural icons of the punk rock era. The Stooges’ debut album in 1968 featuring the song “I wanna be your dog”, is one of the most important proto-punk songs with simple three-chord riffs played continuously throughout the 3-minute runtime. Their music style, heavier than Motown songs and simpler than progressive rock songs by Led Zeppelin, is closer to punk than any other sound produced during that time.


Formation of punk rock culture in New York


Iggy and the Stooges eventually moved to New York City from Michigan and joined the club scene in the Lower East Side. That’s why Andy Warhol’s entourage hung out, where Patti Smith was discovered and New York Dolls played. CBGB was one of the clubs where new punk acts performed. The club saw bands such as The Ramones, Blondie, and the Talking Heads perform. A community of punk rock music and culture soon formed with the Ramones credited as the band that created the punk rock sound associated with the scene. Their songs were short, fast, hard, and loud and their fashion consisted of basic apparel, leather motorcycle jackets, blue jeans, t-shirts, and long hair.


Anarchy in the UK


Richard Hell, the original bassist for the punk rock band Television contributed to punk aesthetics. He donned torn-up clothes held together by safety pins, which became a major punk rock symbol. Punk became a celebration of urbanism after the pastoral concerns of the hippies. The term punk was spread to Britain where the Sex Pistols established punk as a national style combined with confrontational fashion, packaged by Malcolm McLaren to promote his London store Sex.


The Clash added to the socially conscious lyricism of punk and dealt with issues facing British society in the 70s. They used their music as a vehicle for protest and to bring awareness of wealth disparity to race and violence to the masses. It was the British bands that gave punk its style and political edge not seen in the New York bands.


Punk was formed by many influences from the theatre, hard rock, Iggy, and the Stooges to the British bands that added the signature style and lyricism to punk rock.


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