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Transcript of Punk Rock
Presentation by Chamath W
Siouxsie & the Banshees
Introduction To Punk Rock
Punk rock is a genre that was developed initially in the mid 70s consisting of generally loud, aggressive and simple music, and encompassing the anti-government and anti-establishment attitudes of the youth and working class of the time.
Punk was a term originally coined by critics to describe the aggressive and confrontational attitudes and sound of the music and their anti establishment and anti government themes and attitudes towards society, and was initially seen as a derogatory term, but became the defining term for the music that we now call punk rock.
– their self titled album is considered as the most important punk rock album and as the definitive sound of the genre, and they were one of the most highly influential and popular punk rock bands, widely regarded as the benchmark for punk rock.
Their repertoire typically consisted of songs with 3 chords which were usually 2 minutes in length and majority of which started off with a 1 2 3 4! and their songs took on a very minimalistic approach. But their very stripped down simplistic approach, a very huge influence in the defining punk sound, didn’t necessarily come from purpose but also due to lack of musical ability of the band.
Along with The Ramones, the Sex Pistols were one of the pioneers of punk, and their debut and only studio album,
Never Mind the Bollocks
, was a very important and influential album regarding both the very in-your-face, harsh raw punk sound and the very confrontational themes against British society.
Underneath the attitude and the aggressive sounds of the album was an underlying attack on the British establishment and the 'bitterly sarcastic attacks on pretentious affectation perfectly articulated the frustration, rage, and dissatisfaction of the British working class' (Huey S)
The album influenced many other later bands to make rebellious statements and stand against society and form the attitude that is now permanently associated with punk music, while also influencing the sound and style of playing which became punk.
Initially beginning as a ‘sub’ genre/development of garage band/garage rock, the genre that is considered as punk mainly evolved and happened during 1974-76. The bands that formed and developed in this period are considered as the true punk bands, but there were many ‘punk’ bands and bands that displayed elements from punk after this period, being influenced by the sound, image and attitude of the initial era of punk.
Punk music was a rebellion to the overly virtuosic and self indulgent playing of the era before them, taking music back to basics, with very simple chord progressions, straight 4/4 drum beats and violently yelled lyrics. Image and attitude was just as important as the music, if not more important, and the attitude and culture was just as significant to a bands reputation as their music.
Even though it is formally accepted that punk developed in the mid 70s, the actual beginnings of punk rock is a highly debated topic as the definition of punk is open to interpretation, and punk is a genre with a lot of open ends, especially regarding the attitude and the sense of freedom as everyone is free to say and do as they please, the term can be used to describe a variety of earlier styles that evolved to form what became formally coined as ‘punk rock’
The elements of ‘punk’ and punk attitude was always around in rock n roll, but when ‘punk rock’ formally developed is when it came to the forefront and became the main aspect of a bands music, image and attitude, instead of just one of the aspects.
An aggressive and unapologetic attitude with the freedom to say and do as you please was key in punk, and the whole idea of rebelling against society and being anti-establishment and basically anti-everything, while being as socially controversial and shocking as possible was what the punk attitude was all about.(Eriksen, N 1980)
The classic sound of punk consists of aggressive, heavy power chords, with very simple and basic hard and fast 4/4 beats, with vocals that are usually yelled rather than sung and pitch is no problem or concern. Virtuosic guitar solos and talented playing was unheard of in punk, and the punk scene rebelled against self indulgent guitar playing and skilled musicianship, but occasional simple lead guitar melody breaks were allowed, although not in the case of The Ramones.
Since the initial wave of punk rock music from 1974-76, punk has evolved heavily and many sub genres have emerged, including post punk, hardcore punk, garage punk and countless other sub genres that have emerged since then.
What is considered true punk rock though remains the same, and the defining punk rock sound from the mid 70s continues to be recognized as original punk rock sound, although the variety has broadened and bands that display certain elements of punk rock can nowadays be classified as punk rock.
New Wave Punk/Punk Revival
Modern Bands considered punk rock/influenced by Punk rock
All Time Low
Jimmy Eat World
The All-American Rejects
Fall Out Boy
MC5 was a huge influence on punk, and a very large amount of aspects can be considered punk. Yelled vocals and heavy use of crude language and rebellious themes over distorted guitars and violent live performances, MC5 are considered as the punk before punk.
Iggy and The Stooges were one of the bands that set the foundation for punk rock, with their raw sound, onstage antics and stripped down approach, heavily influencing the punk movement. Their 1973 album
set the groundwork for the garage band sound that evolved into punk, and was a highly influential record regarding the punk movement.
The punk movement in itself was a rebellion against the commercial aspects of music and society, with a very strong sense of anti authority and anti social behavior in punk culture. Punk rock very heavily addressed issues in society and the economy at the time, in most instances with a very violent and aggressive attitude.
Rebelling against authority, not for the sake of image, but for the sake of freedom and independence was the heart of punk. And underneath the violent and aggressive image, lyrics and attitude, the underlying meaning of many punk songs were very real and raw, addressing the many issues and principal faults of society.
Image was one of the most important aspects of punk music and the culture that came along with it, and ripped clothing, jeans and accessories were essential, with ridiculous mohawks and hairdos, piercings and hair colors also emerging in punk later down the track. Safety pins were also a common accessory in keeping ripped clothing from falling apart and for attaching band logos to jacket sleeves.
"Blitzkrieg Bop" (The Ramones) - considered as definitive sound of Punk
Lack of technology was an important aspect in punk culture. With a strong sense of do-it-yourself ideology in punk, and as the majority of punk bands refused to sign with record labels as they stood against and were a rebellion against commercial music, as a result many punk bands had low quality self produced records with lack of key technological advancements.
New Wave Punk/Punk Revival
Kick Out The Jams
The Clash -
Rocket To Russia
Singles Going Steady
Richard Hell & The Voidoids -
Generation X -
Stiff Little Fingers -
Social and Historical Issues
"Anarchy in the UK"
The Sex Pistols debut single "Anarchy in the UK" addressed the 'economic frustration and social alienation which was being felt by a generation of disenfranchised youth amidst the declining economic situation' (Wenner, S 2011) with a bitter approach through the sense of violent 'anarchy'
In the words of Malcom McLaren, the song was "a call to arms to the kids who believe that rock and roll was taken away from them. It's a statement of self rule, of ultimate independence" (2010)
Somewhat overlooked in comparison to bands such as The Ramones and The Sex Pistols, The Damned were very influential, and was actually the first UK punk band to release an album (Cooper, R 2010), and although their reputation was not as big as other punk bands for their attitude, image and controversial music, The Damned were one of the first real punk bands.
Damned Damned Damned
, released in 1977, described as a 'stone classic of rock & roll fire' (Raggett, N 2014) set them apart from other punk bands with the unique vocal style of Dave Vanain and the good musicianship of the band, and they were a tight, solid unit.
'Pure, unadulterated rage and fury' (Erlewine, S 2014), The Clash's debut self titled album,
was punk at its peak. The energy, anger, rhythm and 3 chord punk numbers made their debut album recognized as one of the most important contributions to punk.
Although it was common for poor musicianship to be an aspect in punk rock bands, The Clash were very talented musicians. They experimented with off beat reggae rhythms, and their later records also show their evolution in sound and skills as musicians, while at the core they still maintained their punk image and sound reminiscent of their first album.
More Important Punk Albums/Albums influential to punk include:
Since the initial punk movement, many bands have emerged that are either seen as punk rock or have been influenced by the music, attitude and culture of punk rock in some way. The definition of punk rock has broadened since the initial movement in the mid 70s, and punk rock is now a more widely used and common term used to describe a larger variety of bands that display elements of early punk rock.
Influence on other genres
Bartlet, M 'No Future: The Conception and Evolution of Punk Music and Culture in the United States and Great Britain from 1965 to the Present',
viewed September 6 2014 <http://academic.mu.edu/meissnerd/punk.html>
Cooper, R (2010) 'Punk's Most Influential Albums: 20 Albums You Should Own',
viewed 4 September 2014, <http://punkmusic.about.com/od/punk101/tp/essentialpunkalbums.htm>
Cooper, R (2010), 'The History of Punk Rock: A Brief History of Punk',
viewed 6 September 2014, <http://punkmusic.about.com/od/punk101/a/punkhistory2.htm>
Covach, J 2005, What’s that sound?, W.W Norton, New York
Eriksen, N 1980, 'Popular Culture and Revolutionary Theory: Understanding Punk Rock',
, viewed 4 September 2014, <https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/periodicals/theoretical-review/19801802.htm>
Erlewine, S 2014, 'The Clash:
The Clash', allmusic.com,
viewed 11 September 2014 <http://www.allmusic.com/album/the-clash-mw0000189492>
Guarisco, D 2014, 'The Clash:
London Calling', allmusic.com
, viewed September 10 2014 ,<http://www.allmusic.com/song/london-calling-mt0008645476>
Heylin, C 2007, Babylon's Burning: From Punk to Grunge, Canongate U.S, Edinburgh
Huey, S 2014, 'Sex Pistols:
Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols
veiwed 10 September 2014 <http://www.allmusic.com/album/never-mind-the-bollocks-heres-the-sex-pistols-mw0000199637>
Ryan, K 2011, 'Dead Kennedys - Holiday in Cambodia',
viewed 10 September 2014 <http://www.last.fm/music/Dead+Kennedys/_/Holiday+in+Cambodia/+wiki>
LA weekly 2013,'Top 20 Punk Albums in History: The Complete List',
viewed 6 September 2014 <http://www.laweekly.com/westcoastsound/2013/07/10/top-20-punk-albums-in-history-the-complete-list?showFullText=true>
One of the most notable influences punk has had on any other genre is Grunge, in terms of sound, image and attitude. Grunge saw music returning to a stripped down simplistic approach and a very anti commercial and anti-establishment attitude, Grunge was essentially punk rock at the core. A notable example of a very punk inspired grunge band is Nirvana, which is evident in many of their songs.
Their most successful song of all time, "Smells like Teen Spirit" takes on a very simplistic approach and the image and attitude of the band are heavily punk inspired.
Social and Historical Issues
"Holiday in Cambodia"
"Holiday In Cambodia" by the Dead Kennedys, is a satirical attack on a stereotypical privileged american upper class student, juxtaposed with a 'brutal depiction of the Pol Pot regime of Cambodia'(Ryan, K 2011), and also takes a stab at the American military intervention.
Stylistically, "Holiday in Cambodia" included elements which were very much a departure from the traditional punk rock sound, being nearly double the length of a customary punk song, and including psychedelic influenced guitars.
Social and Historical Issues
The technological advancements that were made use of in punk rock mainly concerned guitar and bass amplification, and unlike the era of virtuosic guitar players before them, punk music didn't make use of many guitar effects and the limited amount of effects pedals of the time, and heavy distortion through over driving the amplifier was all that was needed to achieve a punk rock sound.
Velvet Underground was one of the first bands that started displaying elements that influenced punk, and were one of the earliest influences in punk rock. They were one of the highly influential bands when regarding the roots of the punk scene, and their simple and repetitive musical ideas were largely significant in punk.
New York Dolls
The New York Dolls was the bridge between glam and punk. Even though punk stood against its predecessors in every way possible, especially glam and the image that came with it, The New York Dolls were very punk in elements of their music, and their attitude and technical inadequacies as musicians gave them a punk rock reputation.
"Raw Power" from their album of the same name, the punk elements can clearly be heard in the vocal style, guitar playing and simplistic approach
"London Calling" - The Clash
"London Calling" by The Clash makes references to a range of different issues at the time, including references to World War II, police brutality in society, concerns of the Thames river flooding ad causing mass death, and even recreational drug taking.
Critics describe "London Calling" as 'witty but powerful manifesto for post-punk rock & roll' and 'Clash's finest hour' (Guarisco, D 2014), also acknowledging the musical development of the band.
Musically, the song was a departure from the traditional in-your-face 4 chord stereotypical punk song, and was in a minor key, the first song released by them to be in a minor key.
Single cover, taken from the '6 October 1976 Massacre in Thailand', which 'depicts a member of the rightist crowd beating the corpse of a student protester with a metal chair' (Ryan, K 2011)
McLaren, M 2010, 'The wisdom of Malcolm McLaren',
, viewed 8 September, <http://www.nme.com/photos/the-wisdom-of-malcolm-mcclaren/170280/1/1#17>
McNeil, L 1996, Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, Grove Press, New York
Paytress, M 2011, The History of Rock: The Definitive Guide to Rock, Punk, Metal and Beyond, Parragon Books, Scotland
Punk: Attitude 2005, Documentary
Punk 2004, 'Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages'
viewed 4 September 2014 <http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Roaring_Twenties.aspx>
Raggett, N 2014 'The Damned: Damned Damned Damned'
viewed 10 September 2014 <http://www.allmusic.com/album/damned-damned-damned-mw0000193727>
Sahagian, J 2014 'The Filth and the Fury: 10 Definitive Punk Rock Songs',
viewed 10 September 2014 <http://wallstcheatsheet.com/entertainment/the-filth-and-the-fury-10-definitive-punk-rock-songs.html/?a=viewall>
Savage, J 2002, England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond, St. Martin's Griffin, New York
Sheppard, O 2012, 'Anti-Capitalism in Punk',
viewed 4 September 2014
Spence, D 2007, 'TOP 25 PUNK ALBUMS',
viewed 8 September 2014, <http://au.ign.com/articles/2007/01/27/top-25-punk-albums>
Wenner, S 2011, 'Today in Music History: The Sex Pistols Record "Anarchy In The U.K." ',
, veiwed 4 September 2014 <http://www.thecurrent.org/feature/2013/10/09/today-in-music-history-the-sex-pistols-record-anarchy-in-the-uk>