A beginner's guide to punk rock music

A beginner's guide to punk rock music

Punk music speaks to the listener’s inner rebel, which made it one of the most popular music genres in the last 50 years

More than just a musical genre, punk music, or punk rock, became an actual movement in Britain and the US when it first emerged in the 1970s. It grew out of a rejection of mainstream culture, with bands writing rebellious and politically-charged protest songs.

The first bands to break out were The Ramones, The Pistols, The Clash, and The Damned, who were praised for the “do-it-yourself” aesthetic of their work. Within a couple of years, these acts had inspired a global sub-culture that included everything from clothing to political beliefs.

Notorious for riot-filled shows and anti-establishment views, punk initially received media backlash, which led to venues cancelling shows and stores refusing to sell records. Despite all this hysteria, The Pistols reached No. 2 on the British charts with their controversial single God Save The Queen. Meanwhile, the release of Blitzkrieg Bop by The Ramones, with its shouted chorus, “Hey! Ho! Let’s go!”, was similarly deemed a watershed moment in punk’s history in the US.

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Although the first wave of punk was relatively short-lived, its influence had already taken hold in many new genres. In the UK, bands like The Buzzcocks and Joy Division were considered pioneers of the post-punk movement, in which bands would sing about more personal and emotional topics. In the US, it had led to new wave, and acts such as Blondie and Talking Heads added an electronic dance element to their music.

New wave became a keystone sound of the 80s, spawning bands such as Human League, The Cure, New Order, and Australia’s Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

The late 80s and early 90s saw the rise of Sonic Youth, Pixies, and Green Day just before the grunge explosion of Nirvana. While these bands are usually associated with alternative rock, punk is still cited as a major influence.

The 2000s saw the birth of pop punk and emo, thanks to radio-friendly acts like Jimmy Eat World, Sum 41 and Blink 182, as well as the ska-punk revival with NoFX and The Offspring. In the years to follow, Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance and Paramore had – and continue to have – huge mainstream impact with their pop punk styles.

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Recommended listening:

Ramones – Blitzkrieg Bop

The Clash – London Calling

Joy Division – Disorder

Madness – Baggy Trousers

Green Day – Basket Case

Blink 182 – All The Small Things

Paramore – Misery Business

Recommended reading:

Anger is an Energy – John Lydon (Autobiography of Pistols frontman Johhny Rotten) 

Get in the VanHenry Rollins (Tour diary of Black Flag frontman)

Just Kids Patti Smith

Recommended viewing:

American Hardcore - Documentary


Punk’s Not Dead - Documentary

Edited by Ben Young

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
What is...punk rock?


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