The history of Punk rock music and what it meant, both musically and socially.Like any musical genre, it's hard to pinpoint that time and place where it actually began. But unlike any other musical genre, Punk rock was started as a deliberate reaction to the mass commercialism of music. In the year 2000, it's common to see someone "being A punk," rather than seeing someone "be punk." In the late 60's and early 70's, the music industry rang eerily familiar in its method of promoting trends over music. The public was being spoon-fed music that corporations simply intended to make a profit from. The backlash to this came to be known internationally as Punk rock.
New York, early 1970's. Young, virtually unknown artists like Patti Smith, the Velvet Underground, and the Dolls of New York(changed later to New York Dolls) brought about a new style of "alternative-bohemian" entertainment, rooted in a "do-it-yourself" attitude. Short, frenetic songs, aggressive, sometimes confrontational stage presence, and angry messages against consumerism hit the stages at venues like New York's CBGB's, starting the movement that would be known as punk rock.
Bands like the Ramones and the Talking Heads would evolve out of the punk rock movement, and become influences for those who shared a similar distaste in what was occurring in the music industry. Some say the underlying roots of punk was the frustration and anger from being treated as sheep, while others say punk stemmed from the "politics of boredom." It was both.
Malcolm McLaren has an indelible role in the history of punk rock, either beloved or hated for his managerial skills. In February of 1975, the New York Dolls, once a forerunner in punk, tried to revive a lagging career by hiring McLaren as their new manager. Understanding the value of shock, McLaren took the band and reintroduced them as born again communists. They draped themselves in communist flags and said catchy phrases like "better red than dead."
Unfortunately for the band, they continued to fail. Fortunately for McLaren, they continued to fail. After his attempt with the New York Dolls, McLaren relocated to England and teamed up with his friend Bernie Rhodes. The two nurtured a band that was arguably their greatest success, the Sex Pistols. McLaren and the Pistols adopted an anarchistic view of the world that made them instaneous celebrities. With spiked hair, tattered clothes, and safety pins as jewelry, they frequented talk shows and publicly badmouthed fellow artists, bands, and musicians. They spoke harshly of the British class system and the subjugation of the working class. They made news for concert violence and fighting with fans. The Sex Pistols were also as notorious for their brashness as they were for their inability to play their instruments. Their shock value not only brought them fame, but made them the single most recognizable punk band. Therefore, many believed that punk rock began with the Pistols, while others believed it made punk into a novelty and signified the beginning of the end.
Despite the internal turmoil in the punk movement, punk rock made several things clear to international audiences. Punk Rock, in its subculture, managed to break down many barriers of expression and language. It made an indentation in the commericial music industry. It provided a fresh alternative to a boring, stagnant music scene.
But most of all, punk's legacy lies in its introduction of self employment and activism. It illustrated that anyone can do it themself, without reliance on the commercial media or the luxury of having financial abundance. Against the backdrop of mass consumer conformity, the punk rock movement made a statement of individuality that was heard worldwide.