Punk and New Wave
By the mid-Seventies rock and roll had lost its vitality and strayed far from its roots. The popular styles of the day – such as progressive rock, commercial Top 40 and disco – were viewed by many as pretentious, stagnant and even silly. The music establishment was jolted from its doldrums by punk rock, a movement that returned rock to its rebellious origins.
Punk developed as a dialogue between two cities: London and New York. From London came a torrent of punk rockers enraged by economic conditions and class divisions. In New York, the music community was motivated by a collective desire for freer self-expression than was tolerated by the corporate music industry. This resulted in a varied music scene that ranged from the blunt aggression of punk to the more arty, experimental tangents of New Wave. Los Angeles also developed a punk movement of its own, vulcanizing out of the Sunset Strip glam scene.
The Sex Pistols exploded in 1976, releasing a series of controversial singles that inflamed a generation of bored, restless youth. Behind the group’s nihilistic cry of “no future,” a movement was born.
Jann Wenner Inducts and Accepts for the Sex PistolsJann Wenner Inducts and Accepts for the Sex Pistols at the 2006 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Jann Wenner Inducts and Accepts for the Sex Pistols
Punk stripped rock and roll to its bare essentials: speed, volume and blistering energy.
Punk went beyond music to embrace an anti-style in terms of dress (ripped clothes, safety pins) and dance (pogoing, slam dancing). Independent record labels flourished, as did “fanzines” – small, underground papers written by and for fans.
In New York, the punk scene coalesced at two downtown clubs, CBGB and Max’s Kansas City. The New York Dolls were punk rock’s progenitors, but the speedy, sullen Ramones became its standard bearers. At the same time, bands like Television, Blondie and Talking Heads broke ground in a more commercially accessible style that would come to be termed New Wave.
The Hollywood punk scene, which included bands like X and the Germs, fused around clubs like the Masque and Madame Wong’s. The scene rolled down Sunset Boulevard to the beaches, which spawned their own even harder-edged brand of punk with bands like Black Flag.
Punk and New Wave shattered gender stereotypes, creating new opportunities for women in rock. The seeds sown in London, New York and Los Angeles continue to influence rock, as seen by the rise of bands like Green Day and Nine Inch Nails and adoption of punk’s look and lifestyle by succeeding generations of kids.
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