Punk rock (also known as simply punk) is a music genre that emerged in the mid-1970s. Rooted in 1950s rock and roll[2][3][4] and 1960s garage rock, punk bands rejected the corporate nature of mainstream 1970s rock music. They typically produced short, fast-paced songs with hard-edged melodies and singing styles with stripped-down instrumentation. Lyricism in punk typically revolves around anti-establishment and anti-authoritarian themes. Punk embraces a DIY ethic; many bands self-produce recordings and distribute them through independent labels.

The term "punk rock" was previously used by American rock critics in the early 1970s to describe the mid-1960s garage bands. Certain late 1960s and early 1970s Detroit acts, such as MC5 and Iggy and the Stooges, and other bands from elsewhere created out-of-the-mainstream music that became highly influential on what was to come. Glam rock in the UK and the New York Dolls from New York have also been cited as key influences. Between 1974 and 1976, when the genre that became known as punk was developing, prominent acts included Television, Patti Smith, and the Ramones in New York City; the Saints in Brisbane; the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Damned in London, and the Buzzcocks in Manchester. By late 1976, punk had become a major cultural phenomenon in the UK. It gave rise to a punk subculture that expressed youthful rebellion through distinctive styles of clothing, such as T-shirts with deliberately offensive graphics, leather jackets, studded or spiked bands and jewelry, safety pins, and bondage and S&M clothes.

In 1977, the influence of the music and subculture spread worldwide. It took root in a wide range of local scenes that often rejected affiliation with the mainstream. In the late 1970s, punk experienced a second wave, when new acts that had not been active during its formative years adopted the style. By the early 1980s, faster and more aggressive subgenres, such as hardcore punk (e.g., Minor Threat), Oi! (e.g., Sham 69), street punk (e.g., the Exploited), and anarcho-punk (e.g., Crass), became some of the predominant modes of punk rock, while bands more similar in form to the first wave (e.g., X, the Adicts) also flourished. Many musicians who identified with punk or were inspired by it went on to pursue other musical directions, giving rise to movements such as post-punk, new wave, thrash metal, and alternative rock. Following alternative rock's mainstream breakthrough in the 1990s with Nirvana, punk rock saw renewed major-label interest and mainstream appeal exemplified by the rise of the California bands Green Day, Social Distortion, Rancid, the Offspring, Bad Religion, and NOFX.


See also: Punk subculture


The first wave of punk rock was "aggressively modern" and differed from what came before.[5] According to Ramones drummer Tommy Ramone, "In its initial form, a lot of 1960s stuff was innovative and exciting. Unfortunately, what happens is that people who could not hold a candle to the likes of Hendrix started noodling away. Soon you had endless solos that went nowhere. By 1973, I knew that what was needed was some pure, stripped down, no bullshit rock 'n' roll."[6] John Holmstrom, founding editor of Punk magazine, recalls feeling "punk rock had to come along because the rock scene had become so tame that [acts] like Billy Joel and Simon and Garfunkel were being called rock and roll, when to me and other fans, rock and roll meant this wild and rebellious music."[7] According to Robert Christgau, punk "scornfully rejected the political idealism and Californian flower-power silliness of hippie myth."[8]

Hippies were rainbow extremists; punks are romantics of black-and-white. Hippies forced warmth; punks cultivate cool. Hippies kidded themselves about free love; punks pretend that s&m is our condition. As symbols of protest, swastikas are no less fatuous than flowers.

Robert Christgau in Christgau's Record Guide (1981)[9]

Technical accessibility and a do it yourself (DIY) spirit are prized in punk rock. UK pub rock from 1972 to 1975 contributed to the emergence of punk rock by developing a network of small venues, such as pubs, where non-mainstream bands could play.[10] Pub rock also introduced the idea of independent record labels, such as Stiff Records, which put out basic, low-cost records.[10] Pub rock bands organized their own small venue tours and put out small pressings of their records. In the early days of punk rock, this DIY ethic stood in marked contrast to what those in the scene regarded as the ostentatious musical effects and technological demands of many mainstream rock bands.[11] Musical virtuosity was often looked on with suspicion. According to Holmstrom, punk rock was "rock and roll by people who didn't have very many skills as musicians but still felt the need to express themselves through music".[7] In December 1976, the English fanzine Sideburns published a now-famous illustration of three chords, captioned "This is a chord, this is another, this is a third. Now form a band".[12]

British punk rejected contemporary mainstream rock, the broader culture it represented, and their musical predecessors: "No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones in 1977", declared the Clash song "1977".[13] 1976, when the punk revolution began in Britain, became a musical and a cultural "Year Zero".[14] As nostalgia was discarded, many in the scene adopted a nihilistic attitude summed up by the Sex Pistols' slogan "No Future";[5] in the later words of one observer, amid the unemployment and social unrest in 1977, "punk's nihilistic swagger was the most thrilling thing in England."[15] While "self-imposed alienation" was common among "drunk punks" and "gutter punks", there was always a tension between their nihilistic outlook and the "radical leftist utopianism"[16] of bands such as Crass, who found positive, liberating meaning in the movement. As a Clash associate describes singer Joe Strummer's outlook, "Punk rock is meant to be our freedom. We're meant to be able to do what we want to do."[17]

Authenticity has always been important in the punk subculture—the pejorative term "poseur" is applied to those who adopt its stylistic attributes but do not actually share or understand its underlying values and philosophy. Scholar Daniel S. Traber argues that "attaining authenticity in the punk identity can be difficult"; as the punk scene matured, he observes, eventually "everyone got called a poseur".[18]

Musical and lyrical elements

The early punk bands emulated the minimal musical arrangements of 1960s garage rock.[19] Typical punk rock instrumentation is stripped down to one or two guitars, bass, drums and vocals. Songs tend to be shorter than those of other rock genres and played at fast tempos.[20] Most early punk rock songs retained a traditional rock 'n' roll verse-chorus form and 4/4 time signature. However, later bands often broke from this format.[21]

The vocals are sometimes nasal,[22] and the lyrics often shouted in an "arrogant snarl", rather than conventionally sung.[23][24] Complicated guitar solos were considered self-indulgent, although basic guitar breaks were common.[25] Guitar parts tend to include highly distorted power chords or barre chords, creating a characteristic sound described by Christgau as a "buzzsaw drone".[26] Some punk rock bands take a surf rock approach with a lighter, twangier guitar tone. Others, such as Robert Quine, lead guitarist of the Voidoids, have employed a wild, "gonzo" attack, a style that stretches back through the Velvet Underground to the 1950s recordings of Ike Turner.[27] Bass guitar lines are often uncomplicated; the quintessential approach is a relentless, repetitive "forced rhythm",[28] although some punk rock bass players—such as Mike Watt of the Minutemen and Firehose—emphasize more technical bass lines. Bassists often use a pick due to the rapid succession of notes, making fingerpicking impractical. Drums typically sound heavy and dry, and often have a minimal set-up. Compared to other forms of rock, syncopation is much less the rule.[29] Hardcore drumming tends to be especially fast.[23] Production tends to be minimalistic, with tracks sometimes laid down on home tape recorders[30] or four-track portastudios.[31]

Punk rock lyrics are typically blunt and confrontational; compared to the lyrics of other popular music genres, they often focus on social and political issues.[32] Trend-setting songs such as the Clash's "Career Opportunities" and Chelsea's "Right to Work" deal with unemployment and the grim realities of urban life.[33] Especially in early British punk, a central goal was to outrage and shock the mainstream.[34] The Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K." and "God Save the Queen" openly disparaged the British political system and social mores. Anti-sentimental depictions of relationships and sex are common, as in "Love Comes in Spurts", recorded by the Voidoids. Anomie, variously expressed in the poetic terms of Richard Hell's "Blank Generation" and the bluntness of the Ramones' "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue", is a common theme.[35] The controversial content of punk lyrics has frequently led to certain punk records being banned by radio stations and refused shelf space in major chain stores.[36] Christgau said that "Punk is so tied up with the disillusions of growing up that punks do often age poorly."[37]

Visual and other elements

Further information: Punk fashion

1980s punks with leather jackets and dyed mohawk hairstyles

The classic punk rock look among male American musicians harkens back to the T-shirt, motorcycle jacket, and jeans ensemble favored by American greasers of the 1950s associated with the rockabilly scene and by British rockers of the 1960s. In addition to the T-shirt, and leather jackets they wore ripped jeans and boots, typically Doc Martens. The punk look was inspired to shock people. Richard Hell's more androgynous, ragamuffin look—and reputed invention of the safety-pin aesthetic—was a major influence on Sex Pistols impresario Malcolm McLaren and, in turn, British punk style.[38][39] (John D Morton of Cleveland's Electric Eels may have been the first rock musician to wear a safety-pin-covered jacket.)[40] McLaren's partner, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, credits Johnny Rotten as the first British punk musician to rip his shirt, and Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious as the first to use safety pins,[41] although few of those following punk could afford to buy McLaren and Westwood's designs so famously worn by the Pistols, so they made their own, diversifying the 'look' with various different styles based on these designs.

Young women in punk demolished the typical female types in rock of either "coy sex kittens or wronged blues belters" in their fashion.[42] Early female punk musicians displayed styles ranging from Siouxsie Sioux's bondage gear to Patti Smith's "straight-from-the-gutter androgyny".[43] The former proved much more influential on female fan styles.[44] Over time, tattoos, piercings, and metal-studded and -spiked accessories became increasingly common elements of punk fashion among both musicians and fans, a "style of adornment calculated to disturb and outrage".[45] Among the other facets of the punk rock scene, a punk's hair is an important way of showing their freedom of expression.[46] The typical male punk haircut was originally short and choppy; the mohawk later emerged as a characteristic style.[47] Along with the mohawk, long spikes have been associated with the punk rock genre.[46]

1960s–1973: Precursors

Garage rock and beat

See also: garage rock, mod (subculture), and beat music

The early to mid-1960s garage rock bands in the United States and elsewhere are often recognized as punk rock's progenitors. the Kingsmen's "Louie, Louie" is often cited as punk rock's defining "ur-text".[48][nb 1] After the success of the British Invasion, the garage phenomenon gathered momentum around the US.[51] By 1965, the harder-edged sound of British acts, such as the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, and the Who, became increasingly influential with American garage bands.[52] The raw sound of U.S. groups such as the Sonics and the Seeds predicted the style of later acts.[52] In the early 1970s some rock critics used the term "punk rock" to refer to the mid-1960s garage genre,[24] as well as for subsequent acts perceived to be in that stylistic tradition, such as the Stooges.[53]

In Britain, largely under the influence of the mod movement and beat groups, the Kinks' 1964 hit singles "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night", were both influenced by "Louie, Louie".[54][nb 2] In 1965, the Who released the mod anthem "My Generation", which according to John Reed, anticipated the kind of "cerebral mix of musical ferocity and rebellious posture" that would characterize much of the later British punk rock of the 1970s.[56][nb 3] The garage/beat phenomenon extended beyond North America and Britain.[58] In America, the psychedelic rock movement birthed an array of garage bands that would later become influences on punk, the Austin Chronicle described the 13th Floor Elevators as a band who can lay claim to influencing the movement, "the seeds of punk remain blatant in the howling ultimatum Erickson transferred from his previous teen combo to the Elevators"[59] as well as describing other bands in the Houston, Texas psychedelic rock scene as "a prime example of the opaque proto-punk undertow at the heart of the best psychedelia". Hippie proto-punk David Peel of New York City's Lower East Side was the first person to use the word "motherfucker" in a song title and also directly influenced the Clash.[60]


Main article: proto-punk

In August 1969, the Stooges, from Ann Arbor, premiered with a self-titled album. According to critic Greil Marcus, the band, led by singer Iggy Pop, created "the sound of Chuck Berry's Airmobile—after thieves stripped it for parts".[61] The album was produced by John Cale, a former member of New York's experimental rock group the Velvet Underground, who inspired many of those involved in the creation of punk rock.[62] The New York Dolls updated 1950s' rock 'n' roll in a fashion that later became known as glam punk.[63] The New York duo Suicide played spare, experimental music with a confrontational stage act inspired by that of the Stooges.[64] In Boston, the Modern Lovers, led by Jonathan Richman, gained attention for their minimalistic style. In 1974, as well, the Detroit band Death—made up of three African-American brothers—recorded "scorching blasts of feral ur-punk", but could not arrange a release deal.[65] In Ohio, a small but influential underground rock scene emerged, led by Devo in Akron[66] and Kent and by Cleveland's Electric Eels, Mirrors and Rocket from the Tombs.

Bands anticipating the forthcoming movement were appearing as far afield as Düsseldorf, West Germany, where "punk before punk" band Neu! formed in 1971, building on the Krautrock tradition of groups such as Can.[67] In Japan, the anti-establishment Zunō Keisatsu (Brain Police) mixed garage-psych and folk. The combo regularly faced censorship challenges, their live act at least once including onstage masturbation.[68] A new generation of Australian garage rock bands, inspired mainly by the Stooges and MC5, was coming closer to the sound that would soon be called "punk": In Brisbane, the Saints evoked the live sound of the British Pretty Things, who had toured Australia and New Zealand in 1975.[69]


Between the late 16th and the 18th centuries, punk was a common, coarse synonym for prostitute; William Shakespeare used it with that meaning in The Merry Wives of Windsor (1602) and Measure for Measure (1603–4).[70] The term eventually came to describe "a young male hustler, a gangster, a hoodlum, or a ruffian".[71]

The first known use of the phrase "punk rock" appeared in the Chicago Tribune on March 22, 1970, when Ed Sanders, co-founder of New York's anarcho-prankster band the Fugs described his first solo album as "punk rock – redneck sentimentality".[72][73] In 1969 Sanders recorded a song for an album called "Street Punk" but it was only released in 2008.[72] In the December 1970 issue of Creem, Lester Bangs, mocking more mainstream rock musicians, ironically referred to Iggy Pop as "that Stooge punk".[74] Suicide's Alan Vega credits this usage with inspiring his duo to bill its gigs as "punk music" or a "punk mass" for the next couple of years.[75]

In the March 1971 issue of Creem, critic Greg Shaw wrote about the Shadows of Knight's "hard-edge punk sound". In an April 1971 issue of Rolling Stone, he referred to a track by the Guess Who as "good, not too imaginative, punk rock and roll". The same month John Medelsohn described Alice Cooper's album Love It to Death as "nicely wrought mainstream punk raunch".[76] Dave Marsh used the term in the May 1971 issue of Creem, where he described ? and the Mysterians as giving a "landmark exposition of punk rock".[77] Later in 1971, in his fanzine Who Put the Bomp, Greg Shaw wrote about "what I have chosen to call "punkrock" bands—white teenage hard rock of '64–66 (Standells, Kingsmen, Shadows of Knight, etc.)".[78][nb 4] Lester Bangs used the term "punk rock" in several articles written in the early 1970s to refer to mid-1960s garage acts.[80]

In the liner notes of the 1972 anthology LP, Nuggets, musician and rock journalist Lenny Kaye, later a member of the Patti Smith Group, used the term "punk rock" to describe the genre of 1960s garage bands and "garage-punk", to describe a song recorded in 1966 by the Shadows of Knight.[81] Nick Kent referred to Iggy Pop as the "Punk Messiah of the Teenage Wasteland" in his review of the Stooges July, 1972 performance at King's Cross Cinema in London for a British magazine called Cream (no relation to the more famous US publication).[82] In the January 1973 Rolling Stone review of Nuggets, Greg Shaw commented "Punk rock is a fascinating genre... Punk rock at its best is the closest we came in the '60s to the original rockabilly spirit of Rock 'n Roll."[83] In February 1973, Terry Atkinson of the Los Angeles Times, reviewing the debut album by a hard rock band, Aerosmith, declared that it "achieves all that punk-rock bands strive for but most miss."[84] A March 1973 review of an Iggy and the Stooges show in the Detroit Free Press dismissively referred to Pop as "the apotheosis of Detroit punk music".[85] In May 1973, Billy Altman launched the short-lived punk magazine in Buffalo, NY which was largely devoted to discussion of 1960s garage and psychedelic acts. [86][87]

A rock band is onstage. A drumkit is on the left. A singer, Iggy Pop, sings into a microphone. He is wearing jeans and has no shirt on.
Iggy Pop, the "godfather of punk"[88]

In May 1974, Los Angeles Times critic Robert Hilburn reviewed the second New York Dolls album, Too Much Too Soon. "I told ya the New York Dolls were the real thing," he wrote, describing the album as "perhaps the best example of raw, thumb-your-nose-at-the-world, punk rock since the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street."[89] In a 1974 interview for his fanzine Heavy Metal Digest, Danny Sugerman told Iggy Pop "You went on record as saying you never were a punk" and Iggy replied "...well I ain't. I never was a punk."[90]

By 1975, punk was being used to describe acts as diverse as the Patti Smith Group, the Bay City Rollers, and Bruce Springsteen.[91] As the scene at New York's CBGB club attracted notice, a name was sought for the developing sound. Club owner Hilly Kristal called the movement "Street rock"; John Holmstrom credits Aquarian magazine with using punk "to describe what was going on at CBGBs".[92] Holmstrom, Legs McNeil, and Ged Dunn's magazine Punk, which debuted at the end of 1975, was crucial in codifying the term.[93] "It was pretty obvious that the word was getting very popular", Holmstrom later remarked. "We figured we'd take the name before anyone else claimed it. We wanted to get rid of the bullshit, strip it down to rock 'n' roll. We wanted the fun and liveliness back."[91]

1974–1976: First wave

North America

New York City

The front of the music club CBGB is shown. An awning has the letters CBGB painted on it. Below the name are the letters "OMFUG".
Facade of legendary music club CBGB, New York

The origins of New York's punk rock scene can be traced back to such sources as the late 1960s trash culture and an early 1970s underground rock movement centered on the Mercer Arts Center in Greenwich Village, where the New York Dolls performed.[94] In early 1974, a new scene began to develop around the CBGB club, also in Lower Manhattan. At its core was Television, described by critic John Walker as "the ultimate garage band with pretensions".[95] Their influences ranged from The Velvet Underground to the staccato guitar work of Dr. Feelgood's Wilko Johnson.[96] The band's bassist/singer, Richard Hell, created a look with cropped, ragged hair, ripped T-shirts, and black leather jackets credited as the basis for punk rock visual style.[97] In April 1974, Patti Smith came to CBGB for the first time to see the band perform.[98] A veteran of independent theater and performance poetry, Smith was developing an intellectual, feminist take on rock 'n' roll. On June 5, she recorded the single "Hey Joe"/"Piss Factory", featuring Television guitarist Tom Verlaine; released on her own Mer Records label, it heralded the scene's DIY ethic and has often been cited as the first punk rock record.[99] By August, Smith and Television were gigging together at Max's Kansas City.[97]

The Ramones performing in Toronto in 1976. The Ramones are often described as the first true punk band, popularizing the punk movement in the United States. They are regarded as highly influential in today's punk culture.

In Forest Hills, Queens, the Ramones drew on sources ranging from the Stooges to the Beatles and the Beach Boys to Herman's Hermits and 1960s girl groups, and condensed rock 'n' roll to its primal level: "'1–2–3–4!' bass-player Dee Dee Ramone shouted at the start of every song as if the group could barely master the rudiments of rhythm."[100] The band played its first show at CBGB in August 1974.[101] By the end of the year, the Ramones had performed seventy-four shows, each about seventeen minutes long.[102] "When I first saw the Ramones", critic Mary Harron later remembered, "I couldn't believe people were doing this. The dumb brattiness."[103]

That spring, Smith and Television shared a two-month-long weekend residency at CBGB that significantly raised the club's profile.[106] The Television sets included Richard Hell's "Blank Generation", which became the scene's emblematic anthem.[107] Soon after, Hell left Television and founded a band featuring a more stripped-down sound, the Heartbreakers, with former New York Dolls Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan.[38] In August, Television recorded a single, "Little Johnny Jewel". In the words of John Walker, the record was "a turning point for the whole New York scene" if not quite for the punk rock sound itself — Hell's departure had left the band "significantly reduced in fringe aggression".[95]

Early in 1976, Hell left the Heartbreakers to form the Voidoids, described as "one of the most harshly uncompromising [punk] bands".[108] That April, the Ramones' debut album was released by Sire Records; the first single was "Blitzkrieg Bop", opening with the rallying cry "Hey! Ho! Let's go!" According to a later description, "Like all cultural watersheds, Ramones was embraced by a discerning few and slagged off as a bad joke by the uncomprehending majority."[109] The Cramps, whose core members were from Sacramento, California and Akron, Ohio, had debuted at CBGB in November 1976, opening for the Dead Boys. They were soon playing regularly at Max's Kansas City and CBGB.[110]

At this early stage, the term punk applied to the scene in general, not necessarily a particular stylistic approach as it would later—the early New York punk bands represented a broad variety of influences. Among them, the Ramones, the Heartbreakers, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and the Dead Boys were establishing a distinct musical style. Even where they diverged most clearly, in lyrical approach — the Ramones' apparent guilelessness at one extreme, Hell's conscious craft at the other — there was an abrasive attitude in common. Their shared attributes of minimalism and speed, however, had not yet come to define punk rock.[111]

United Kingdom

After a brief period unofficially managing the New York Dolls, Briton Malcolm McLaren returned to London in May 1975, inspired by the new scene he had witnessed at CBGB. The King's Road clothing store he co-owned, recently renamed Sex, was building a reputation with its outrageous "anti-fashion".[115] Among those who frequented the shop were members of a band called the Strand, which McLaren had also been managing. In August, the group was seeking a new lead singer. Another Sex habitué, Johnny Rotten, auditioned for and won the job. Adopting a new name, the group played its first gig as the Sex Pistols on 6 November 1975, at Saint Martin's School of Art, and soon attracted a small but dedicated following.[116] In February 1976, the band received its first significant press coverage; guitarist Steve Jones declared that the Sex Pistols were not so much into music as they were "chaos".[117] The band often provoked its crowds into near-riots. Rotten announced to one audience, "Bet you don't hate us as much as we hate you!"[118] McLaren envisioned the Sex Pistols as central players in a new youth movement, "hard and tough".[119] As described by critic Jon Savage, the band members "embodied an attitude into which McLaren fed a new set of references: late-sixties radical politics, sexual fetish material, pop history, [...] youth sociology".[120]

Members of rock band the Sex Pistols onstage in a concert.
Vocalist Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols flanked by guitarists Glen Matlock and Steve Jones, in front of drummer Paul Cook
The rock band the Clash performing onstage. Three members are shown. All three have short hair. Two of the members are playing electric guitars.
The Clash performing in 1980

Bernard Rhodes, an associate of McLaren, similarly aimed to make stars of the band London SS, who became the Clash, which was joined by Joe Strummer.[121] On 4 June 1976, the Sex Pistols played Manchester's Lesser Free Trade Hall in what became one of the most influential rock shows ever. Among the approximately forty audience members were the two locals who organised the gig—they had formed Buzzcocks after seeing the Sex Pistols in February. Others in the small crowd went on to form Joy Division, the Fall, and — in the 1980s — the Smiths.[122] In July, the Ramones played two London shows that helped spark the nascent UK punk scene.[123] Over the next several months, many new punk rock bands formed, often directly inspired by the Sex Pistols.[124] In London, women were near the center of the scene—among the initial wave of bands were the female-fronted Siouxsie and the Banshees, X-Ray Spex, and the all-female the Slits. There were female bassists Gaye Advert in the Adverts and Shanne Bradley in the Nipple Erectors, while Sex store frontwoman Jordan not only managed Adam and the Ants but also performed screaming vocals on their song "Lou". Other groups included Subway Sect, Alternative TV, Wire, the Stranglers, Eater and Generation X. Farther afield, Sham 69 began practicing in the southeastern town of Hersham. In Durham, there was Penetration, with lead singer Pauline Murray. On September 20–21, the 100 Club Punk Festival in London featured the Sex Pistols, Clash, Damned, and Buzzcocks, as well as Paris's female-lead Stinky Toys. Siouxsie and the Banshees and Subway Sect debuted on the festival's first night. On the festival's second night, audience member Sid Vicious was arrested for having thrown a glass at the Damned that shattered and destroyed a girl's eye. Press coverage of the incident reinforced punk's reputation as a social menace.[125]

Some new bands, such as London's Ultravox!, Edinburgh's Rezillos, Manchester's the Fall, and Leamington's the Shapes, identified with the scene even as they pursued more experimental music. Others of a comparatively traditional rock 'n' roll bent were also swept up by the movement: the Vibrators, formed as a pub rock–style act in February 1976, soon adopted a punk look and sound.[126] A few even longer-active bands including Surrey neo-mods the Jam and pub rockers Eddie and the Hot Rods, the Stranglers, and Cock Sparrer also became associated with the punk rock scene. Alongside the musical roots shared with their American counterparts and the calculated confrontationalism of the early Who, the British punks also reflected the influence of glam rock and related artists and bands such as David Bowie, Slade, T.Rex, and Roxy Music.[127] However, Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten (real name John Lydon) insisted that the influences of the UK punk scene were not from the US and NY. "I’ve heard an awful lot of American journalists pretending that the whole punk influence came out of New York." He argued: "T. Rex, David Bowie, Slade, Mott The Hoople, the Alex Harvey Band — their influence was enormous. And they try to write that all off and wrap it around Patti Smith. It’s so wrong!".[128]

In October 1976, the Damned released the first UK punk rock band single, "New Rose".[129] The Vibrators followed the next month with "We Vibrate". On 26 November 1976, the Sex Pistols' released their debut single "Anarchy in the U.K.", which succeeded in its goal of becoming a "national scandal".[130] Jamie Reid's "anarchy flag" poster and his other design work for the Sex Pistols helped establish a distinctive punk visual aesthetic.[131]

On 1 December 1976, an incident took place that sealed punk rock's notorious reputation, when the Sex Pistols and several members of the Bromley Contingent, including Siouxsie Sioux and Steven Severin, filled a vacancy for Queen on the early evening Thames Television London television show Today to be interviewed by host Bill Grundy. When Grundy asked Siouxsie how she was doing, she made fun of him saying, "I've always wanted to meet you, Bill". Grundy who was drunk, told her on the air; "we shall meet afterwards then". This instantly generated a reaction from Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones who pronounced a series of terms inappropriate for prime-time television.[132] Jones proceeded to call Grundy a "dirty bastard", a "dirty fucker", and a "fucking rotter", triggering a media controversy.[133] The episode had a major impact on the history of the scene and the punk term became a household name in 24 hours thanks to the press coverage, and several front covers of newspapers.[132]

Two days later, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Damned, and the Heartbreakers set out on the Anarchy Tour, a series of gigs throughout the UK. Many of the shows were cancelled by venue owners in response to the media outrage following the Grundy interview.[134]


A punk subculture began in Australia around the same time, centered around Radio Birdman and the Oxford Tavern in Sydney's Darlinghurst suburb. By 1976, the Saints were hiring Brisbane local halls to use as venues, or playing in "Club 76", their shared house in the inner suburb of Petrie Terrace. The band soon discovered that musicians were exploring similar paths in other parts of the world. Ed Kuepper, co-founder of the Saints, later recalled:

One thing I remember having had a really depressing effect on me was the first Ramones album. When I heard it [in 1976], I mean it was a great record [...] but I hated it because I knew we'd been doing this sort of stuff for years. There was even a chord progression on that album that we used [...] and I thought, "Fuck. We're going to be labeled as influenced by the Ramones", when nothing could have been further from the truth.[135]

In Perth, the Cheap Nasties formed in August.[136] In September 1976, the Saints became the first punk rock band outside the U.S. to release a recording, the single "(I'm) Stranded". The band self-financed, packaged, and distributed the single.[137] "(I'm) Stranded" had limited impact at home, but the British music press recognized it as groundbreaking.[138]

1977–1978: Second wave

A second wave of punk rock emerged in 1977. These bands often sounded very different from each other.[139] While punk remained largely an underground phenomenon in the US, in the UK it had become a major sensation.[140][141] During this period punk music also spread beyond the English speaking world, inspiring local scenes in other countries.

North America

The California punk scene was fully developed by early 1977. In Los Angeles, there were: the Weirdos, the Zeros, the Bags, Black Randy and the Metrosquad, the Germs, Fear, The Go-Go's, X, the Dickies, and the relocated Tupperwares, now dubbed the Screamers.[142] Black Flag formed in Hermosa Beach in 1976 under the name Panic. They developed a hardcore punk sound and played their debut public performance in a garage in Redondo Beach in December 1977.[143] San Francisco's second wave included the Avengers, The Nuns, Negative Trend, the Mutants, and the Sleepers.[144] By mid-1977 in downtown New York, bands such as Teenage Jesus and the Jerks led what became known as no wave.[145] The Misfits formed in nearby New Jersey. Still developing what would become their signature B movie–inspired style, later dubbed horror punk, they made their first appearance at CBGB in April 1977.[146]

The rock band The Misfits performing onstage. The band's name in large lettering is printed on a fabric panel behind the performers along with a skull image. From left to right are the electric bassist, drummer, and electric guitarist.
The Misfits developed a "horror punk" style in New Jersey.

The Dead Boys' debut LP, Young, Loud and Snotty, was released at the end of August.[147] October saw two more debut albums from the scene: Richard Hell and the Voidoids' first full-length, Blank Generation, and the Heartbreakers' L.A.M.F.[148] One track on the latter exemplified both the scene's close-knit character and the popularity of heroin within it: "Chinese Rocks" — the title refers to a strong form of the drug — was written by Dee Dee Ramone and Hell, both users, as were the Heartbreakers' Thunders and Nolan.[149] (During the Heartbreakers' 1976 and 1977 tours of Britain, Thunders played a central role in popularizing heroin among the punk crowd there, as well.)[150] The Ramones' third album, Rocket to Russia, appeared in November 1977.[151]

United Kingdom

The Sex Pistols' live TV skirmish with Bill Grundy on December 1, 1976, was the signal moment in British punk's transformation into a major media phenomenon, even as some stores refused to stock the records and radio airplay was hard to come by.[152] Press coverage of punk misbehavior grew intense: On January 4, 1977, The Evening News of London ran a front-page story on how the Sex Pistols "vomited and spat their way to an Amsterdam flight".[153] In February 1977, the first album by a British punk band appeared: Damned Damned Damned (by the Damned) reached number thirty-six on the UK chart. The EP Spiral Scratch, self-released by Manchester's Buzzcocks, was a benchmark for both the DIY ethic and regionalism in the country's punk movement.[154] The Clash's self-titled debut album came out two months later and rose to number twelve; the single "White Riot" entered the top forty. In May, the Sex Pistols achieved new heights of controversy (and number two on the singles chart) with "God Save the Queen". The band had recently acquired a new bassist, Sid Vicious, who was seen as exemplifying the punk persona.[155] The swearing during the Grundy interview and the controversy over "God Save the Queen" led to a moral panic.[156]

Scores of new punk groups formed around the United Kingdom, as far from London as Belfast's Stiff Little Fingers and Dunfermline, Scotland's the Skids.[157] Though most survived only briefly, perhaps recording a small-label single or two, others set off new trends. Crass, from Essex, merged a vehement, straight-ahead punk rock style with a committed anarchist mission, and played a major role in the emerging anarcho-punk movement.[158] Sham 69, London's Menace, and the Angelic Upstarts from South Shields in the Northeast combined a similarly stripped-down sound with populist lyrics, a style that became known as street punk. These expressly working-class bands contrasted with others in the second wave that presaged the post-punk phenomenon. Liverpool's first punk group, Big in Japan, moved in a glam, theatrical direction.[159] The band did not survive long, but it spun off several well-known post-punk acts.[160] The songs of London's Wire were characterized by sophisticated lyrics, minimalist arrangements, and extreme brevity.[161]

Alongside thirteen original songs that would define classic punk rock, the Clash's debut had included a cover of the recent Jamaican reggae hit "Police and Thieves".[162] Other first wave bands such as the Slits and new entrants to the scene like the Ruts and the Police interacted with the reggae and ska subcultures, incorporating their rhythms and production styles. The punk rock phenomenon helped spark a full-fledged ska revival movement known as 2 Tone, centered on bands such as the Specials, the Beat, Madness, and the Selecter.[163] In July, the Sex Pistols' third single, "Pretty Vacant", reached number six and Australia's the Saints had a top-forty hit with "This Perfect Day".[164]

In September, Generation X and the Clash reached the top forty with, respectively, "Your Generation" and "Complete Control". X-Ray Spex's "Oh Bondage Up Yours!" did not chart, but it became a requisite item for punk fans.[165] The BBC banned "Oh Bondage Up Yours!" due to its controversial lyrics.[166] In October, the Sex Pistols hit number eight with "Holidays in the Sun", followed by the release of their first and only "official" album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. Inspiring yet another round of controversy, it topped the British charts. In December, one of the first books about punk rock was published: The Boy Looked at Johnny, by Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons.[nb 5]


In February 1977, EMI released the Saints' debut album, (I'm) Stranded, which the band recorded in two days.[167] The Saints had relocated to Sydney; in April, they and Radio Birdman united for a major gig at Paddington Town Hall.[168] Last Words had also formed in the city. The following month, the Saints relocated again, to Great Britain. In June, Radio Birdman released the album Radios Appear on its own Trafalgar label.[169]

1979–1984: Schism and diversification

The band Flipper is performing at a club. From left to right are the singer, drummer, and electric guitarist. The singer is seated on a stool, and he is holding a pair of crutches.
Flipper, performing in 1984

By 1979, the hardcore punk movement was emerging in Southern California. A rivalry developed between adherents of the new sound and the older punk rock crowd. Hardcore, appealing to a younger, more suburban audience, was perceived by some as anti-intellectual, overly violent, and musically limited. In Los Angeles, the opposing factions were often described as "Hollywood punks" and "beach punks", referring to Hollywood's central position in the original L.A. punk rock scene and to hardcore's popularity in the shoreline communities of South Bay and Orange County.[170]

In contrast to North America, more of the bands from the original British punk movement remained active, sustaining extended careers even as their styles evolved and diverged. Meanwhile, the Oi! and anarcho-punk movements were emerging. Musically in the same aggressive vein as American hardcore, they addressed different constituencies with overlapping but distinct anti-establishment messages. As described by Dave Laing, "The model for self-proclaimed punk after 1978 derived from the Ramones via the eight-to-the-bar rhythms most characteristic of the Vibrators and Clash [...] It became essential to sound one particular way to be recognized as a 'punk band' now."[171] In February 1979, former Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious died of a heroin overdose in New York. If the Sex Pistols' breakup the previous year had marked the end of the original UK punk scene and its promise of cultural transformation, for many the death of Vicious signified that it had been doomed from the start.[172]

By the turn of the decade, the punk rock movement had split deeply along cultural and musical lines. The "Great Schism" of punk occurred right as the 1980s were approaching, when melodic new wave artists began to separate themselves from hardcore punk. This left a variety of derivative scenes and forms. On one side were new wave and post-punk artists; some adopted more accessible musical styles and gained broad popularity, while some turned in more experimental, less commercial directions. On the other side, hardcore punk, Oi!, and anarcho-punk bands became closely linked with underground cultures and spun off an array of subgenres.[173] Somewhere in between, pop-punk groups created blends like that of the ideal record, as defined by Mekons cofounder Kevin Lycett: "a cross between Abba and the Sex Pistols".[174] A range of other styles emerged, many of them fusions with long-established genres. The Clash album London Calling, released in December 1979, exemplified the breadth of classic punk's legacy. Combining punk rock with reggae, ska, R&B, and rockabilly, it went on to be acclaimed as one of the best rock records ever.[175] At the same time, as observed by Flipper singer Bruce Loose, the relatively restrictive hardcore scenes diminished the variety of music that could once be heard at many punk gigs.[139] If early punk, like most rock scenes, was ultimately male-oriented, the hardcore and Oi! scenes were significantly more so, marked in part by the slam dancing and moshing with which they became identified.[176]

New wave

Main article: New wave music

Singer Debbie Harry is shown onstage at a concert. She is wearing jeans and a T-shirt.
Debbie Harry performing in Toronto in 1977

In 1976—first in London, then in the United States—"New Wave" was introduced as a complementary label for the formative scenes and groups also known as "punk"; the two terms were essentially interchangeable.[177] NME journalist Roy Carr is credited with proposing the term's use (adopted from the cinematic French New Wave of the 1960s) in this context.[178] Over time, "new wave" acquired a distinct meaning: bands such as Blondie and Talking Heads from the CBGB scene; the Cars, who emerged from the Rat in Boston; the Go-Go's in Los Angeles; and the Police in London that were broadening their instrumental palette, incorporating dance-oriented rhythms, and working with more polished production were specifically designated "new wave" and no longer called "punk". Dave Laing suggests that some punk-identified British acts pursued the new wave label in order to avoid radio censorship and make themselves more palatable to concert bookers.[179]

Bringing elements of punk rock music and fashion into more pop-oriented, less "dangerous" styles, new wave artists became very popular on both sides of the Atlantic.[180] New wave became a catch-all term,[181] encompassing disparate styles such as 2 Tone ska, the mod revival inspired by the Jam, the sophisticated pop-rock of Elvis Costello and XTC, the New Romantic phenomenon typified by Ultravox, synthpop groups like Tubeway Army (which had started out as a straight-ahead punk band) and Human League, and the sui generis subversions of Devo, who had gone "beyond punk before punk even properly existed".[182] New wave crossed into the mainstream with the debut of the cable television network MTV in 1981, which put many new wave videos into regular rotation.[183] According to Stuart Borthwick and Ron Moy, authors of Popular Music Genres: an Introduction, the "height of popularity for new wave" coincided with the election of Margaret Thatcher in spring 1979.[184]


Main article: Post-punk

During 1976–1977, in the midst of the original UK punk movement, bands emerged such as Manchester's Joy Division, the Fall, and Magazine, Leeds' Gang of Four, and London's the Raincoats that became central post-punk figures. Some bands classified as post-punk, such as Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, had been active well before the punk scene coalesced;[185] others, such as Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Slits, transitioned from punk rock into post-punk. A few months after the Sex Pistols' breakup, John Lydon (no longer "Rotten") cofounded Public Image Ltd. Lora Logic, formerly of X-Ray Spex, founded Essential Logic. Killing Joke formed in 1979. These bands were often musically experimental; the term "post-punk" is used to describe sounds that were more dark and abrasive—sometimes verging on the atonal, as with Subway Sect and Wire. The bands incorporated a range of influences ranging from Syd Barrett, Captain Beefheart, David Bowie to Roxy Music to Krautrock.

Post-punk brought together a new fraternity of musicians, journalists, managers, and entrepreneurs; the latter, notably Geoff Travis of Rough Trade and Tony Wilson of Factory, helped to develop the production and distribution infrastructure of the indie music scene that blossomed in the mid-1980s.[186] Smoothing the edges of their style in the direction of new wave, several post-punk bands such as New Order and the Cure crossed over to a mainstream U.S. audience. Others, like Gang of Four, the Raincoats, and Throbbing Gristle, who had little more than cult followings at the time, are seen in retrospect as significant influences on modern popular culture.[187]

Television's debut album Marquee Moon, released in 1977, is frequently cited as a seminal album in the field.[188] The no wave movement that developed in New York in the late 1970s, with artists such as Lydia Lunch and James Chance, is often treated as the phenomenon's U.S. parallel.[189] The later work of Ohio protopunk pioneers Pere Ubu is also commonly described as post-punk.[190] One of the most influential American post-punk bands was Boston's Mission of Burma, who brought abrupt rhythmic shifts derived from hardcore into a highly experimental musical context.[191] In 1980, Australia's Boys Next Door moved to London and changed their name to the Birthday Party, which evolved into Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Led by the Primitive Calculators, Melbourne's Little Band scene further explored the possibilities of post-punk.[192] The original post-punk bands were highly influential on 1990s and 2000s alternative rock musicians.[193]


Main article: Hardcore punk

Bad Brains at 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C., 1983

A distinctive style of punk, characterized by superfast, aggressive beats, screaming vocals, and often politically aware lyrics, began to emerge in 1978 among bands scattered around the United States and Canada. The first major scene of what came to be known as hardcore punk developed in Southern California in 1978–79, initially around such punk bands as the Germs and Fear.[194] The movement soon spread around North America and internationally.[195][196] According to author Steven Blush, "Hardcore comes from the bleak suburbs of America. Parents moved their kids out of the cities to these horrible suburbs to save them from the 'reality' of the cities and what they ended up with was this new breed of monster".[21] In 1981, hardcore punk was exposed to mainstream television audiences following a live performance from Fear on Saturday Night Live, which prompted a live-broadcast riot and mosh pit, which included members of the emerging hardcore scene such as Ian MacKaye, Harley Flanagan, Tesco Vee, and John Brannon.[197][198]

Among the earliest hardcore bands, regarded as having made the first recordings in the style, were Southern California's Middle Class and Black Flag.[196] Bad Brains — all of whom were black, a rarity in punk of any era — launched the D.C. scene with their rapid-paced single "Pay to Cum" in 1980.[195] Austin, Texas's Big Boys, San Francisco's Dead Kennedys, and Vancouver's D.O.A. were among the other initial hardcore groups.[citation needed] They were soon joined by bands such as the Minutemen, Descendents, and Circle Jerks in Southern California; D.C.'s Minor Threat and State of Alert; and Austin's MDC. By 1981, hardcore was the dominant punk rock style not only in California but much of the rest of North America as well.[199] A New York hardcore scene grew, including the relocated Bad Brains, New Jersey's Misfits and Adrenalin O.D., and local acts such as the Mob, Reagan Youth, and Agnostic Front. Beastie Boys, who would become famous as a hip-hop group, debuted that year as a hardcore band. They were followed by the Cro-Mags, Murphy's Law, and Leeway.[200] By 1983, St. Paul's Hüsker Dü, Willful Neglect, Chicago's Naked Raygun, Indianapolis's Zero Boys, and D.C.'s the Faith were taking the hardcore sound in experimental and ultimately more melodic directions.[201] Hardcore would constitute the American punk rock standard throughout the decade.[202] The lyrical content of hardcore songs is often critical of commercial culture and middle-class values, as in Dead Kennedys' celebrated "Holiday in Cambodia" (1980).[203]

Straight edge bands like Minor Threat, Boston's SS Decontrol, and Reno, Nevada's 7 Seconds rejected the self-destructive lifestyles of their peers, and built a movement based on positivity and abstinence from cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and casual sex.[204]

Skate punk innovators pointed in other directions: including Venice, California's Suicidal Tendencies who had a formative effect on the heavy metal–influenced crossover thrash style. Toward the middle of the decade, D.R.I spawned the superfast thrashcore genre.[205]

1985–present: Legacy and revival

Alternative rock

Main article: Alternative rock

A drummer, Dave Grohl, is playing drumkit. He is not wearing a shirt and his long hair is wet.
Dave Grohl, later of Nirvana, in 1989

The underground punk rock movement inspired countless bands that either evolved from a punk rock sound or brought its outsider spirit to very different kinds of music. The original punk explosion also had a long-term effect on the music industry, spurring the growth of the independent sector.[206] During the early 1980s, British bands like New Order and the Cure that straddled the lines of post-punk and new wave developed both new musical styles and a distinctive industrial niche. Though commercially successful over an extended period, they maintained an underground-style, subcultural identity.[207] In the United States, bands such as Hüsker Dü and their Minneapolis protégés the Replacements bridged the gap between punk rock genres like hardcore and the more melodic, explorative realm of what was then called "college rock".[208]

In 1985, Rolling Stone declared that "Primal punk is passé. The best of the American punk rockers have moved on. They have learned how to play their instruments. They have discovered melody, guitar solos and lyrics that are more than shouted political slogans. Some of them have even discovered the Grateful Dead."[209] By the mid-to-late 1980s, these bands, who had largely eclipsed their punk rock and post-punk forebears in popularity, were classified broadly as alternative rock. Alternative rock encompasses a diverse set of styles—including indie rock, gothic rock, dream pop, shoegaze, and grunge, among others—unified by their debt to punk rock and their origins outside of the musical mainstream.[210]

As American alternative bands like Sonic Youth, which had grown out of the "no-wave" scene, and Boston's Pixies started to gain larger audiences, major labels sought to capitalize on the underground market.[211] In 1991, Nirvana emerged from Washington State's underground, DIY grunge scene; after recording their first album, Bleach in 1989 for about $600, the band achieved huge (and unexpected) commercial success with its second album, Nevermind. The band's members cited punk rock as a key influence on their style.[212] "Punk is musical freedom", wrote frontman Kurt Cobain. "It's saying, doing, and playing what you want."[213] Nirvana's success opened the door to mainstream popularity for a wide range of other "left-of-the-dial" acts, such as Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers, and fueled the alternative rock boom of the early and mid-1990s.[210][214]

Metal-rap-punk fusion

See also: Rage Against the Machine

During the early 1990s, new alternative forms of punk rock began to fuse with heavy metal and hip hop music. Rage Against the Machine released their eponymous debut studio album Rage Against the Machine in November 1992, to commercial and critical acclaim. The band presented itself with politically themed, revolutionary lyrical content, accompanied by the aggressive vocal delivery of lead singer Zack de la Rocha. Rage Against the Machine would go on to achieve back-to-back number 1 debuts on the Billboard 200, with their second studio album, Evil Empire (1996), and their third studio album, The Battle of Los Angeles (1999).

In a 2016 interview with Audio Ink Radio, Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Commerford was asked about the band's status as a punk band:[215]

Rage is a punk band. We were a punk band and our ethics were punk. We didn't do anything that anyone wanted us to do. We only did what we wanted to do and that is the essence of punk rock.

— Tim Commerford


Queercore band Pansy Division performing in 2016

Further information: Queercore

In the 1990s, the queercore movement developed around a number of punk bands with gay, lesbian, bisexual, or genderqueer members such as God Is My Co-Pilot, Pansy Division, Team Dresch, and Sister George. Inspired by openly gay punk musicians of an earlier generation such as Jayne County, Phranc, and Randy Turner, and bands like Nervous Gender, the Screamers, and Coil, queercore embraces a variety of punk and other alternative music styles. Queercore lyrics often treat the themes of prejudice, sexual identity, gender identity, and individual rights. The movement has continued into the 21st century, supported by festivals such as Queeruption.[216]

Riot grrrl

Further information: Riot grrrl

Riot grrrl band Bratmobile in 1994

The riot grrrl movement, a significant aspect in the formation of the Third Wave feminist movement, was organized by taking the values and rhetoric of punk and using it to convey feminist messages.[217][218]

In 1991, a concert of female-led bands at the International Pop Underground Convention in Olympia, Washington, heralded the emerging riot grrrl phenomenon. Billed as "Love Rock Revolution Girl Style Now", the concert's lineup included Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, L7, and Mecca Normal.[219] The riot grrrl movement foregrounded feminist concerns and progressive politics in general; the DIY ethic and fanzines were also central elements of the scene.[220] This movement relied on media and technology to spread their ideas and messages, creating a cultural-technological space for feminism to voice their concerns.[217] They embodied the punk perspective, taking the anger and emotions and creating a separate culture from it. With riot grrrl, they were grounded in girl punk past but also rooted in modern feminism.[218] Tammy Rae Carbund, from Mr. Lady Records, explains that without riot grrrl bands, "[women] would have all starved to death culturally."[221]

Singer-guitarists Corin Tucker of Heavens to Betsy and Carrie Brownstein of Excuse 17, bands active in both the queercore and riot grrrl scenes, cofounded the indie/punk band Sleater-Kinney in 1994. Bikini Kill's lead singer, Kathleen Hanna, the iconic figure of riot grrrl, moved on to form the art punk group Le Tigre in 1998.[222]

Punk revival and mainstream success

Two members of rock band Green Day shown onstage at a concert. From left to right, singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong and bass guitarist Mike Dirnt. Behind them are a row of large guitar speaker cabinets. Billie Joe gestures with both hands to the audience.
Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, with bassist Mike Dirnt to the right. Green Day is credited with reviving mainstream interest in punk rock in the United States.
NOFX in 2007

Late 1970s punk music was anti-conformity and anti-mainstream and achieved limited commercial success. By the 1990s, punk rock was sufficiently ingrained in Western culture that punk trappings were often used to market highly commercial bands as "rebels". Marketers capitalized on the style and hipness of punk rock to such an extent that a 1993 ad campaign for an automobile, the Subaru Impreza, claimed that the car was "like punk rock".[223]

In 1993, California's Green Day and Bad Religion were both signed to major labels. The next year, Green Day put out Dookie, which sold nine million albums in the United States in just over two years.[224] Bad Religion's Stranger Than Fiction was certified gold.[225] Other California punk bands on the independent label Epitaph, run by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz, also began achieving mainstream popularity. In 1994, Epitaph released Let's Go by Rancid, Punk in Drublic by NOFX, and Smash by the Offspring, each eventually certified gold or better. That June, Green Day's "Longview" reached number one on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart and became a top forty airplay hit, arguably the first ever American punk song to do so; just one month later, the Offspring's "Come Out and Play" followed suit. MTV and radio stations such as Los Angeles' KROQ-FM played a major role in these bands' crossover success, though NOFX refused to let MTV air its videos.[226]

Following the lead Boston's Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Anaheim's No Doubt, ska punk and ska-core became widely popular in the mid-1990s.[227] ...And Out Come the Wolves, the 1995 album by Rancid became the first record in the ska revival to be certified gold;[nb 6] Sublime's self-titled 1996 album was certified platinum early in 1997.[224] In Australia, two popular groups, skatecore band Frenzal Rhomb and pop-punk act Bodyjar, also established followings in Japan.[228]

Green Day and Dookie's enormous sales paved the way for a host of bankable North American pop-punk bands in the following decade.[229] With punk rock's renewed visibility came concerns among some in the punk community that the music was being co-opted by the mainstream.[226] They argued that by signing to major labels and appearing on MTV, punk bands like Green Day were buying into a system that punk was created to challenge.[230] Such controversies have been part of the punk culture since 1977 when the Clash were widely accused of "selling out" for signing with CBS Records.[231] The Vans Warped Tour and the mall chain store Hot Topic brought punk even further into the U.S. mainstream.[232]

The Offspring's 1998 album Americana, released by the major Columbia label, debuted at number two on the album chart. A bootleg MP3 of Americana's first single, "Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)", made it onto the Internet and was downloaded a record 22 million times—illegally.[233] The following year, Enema of the State, the first fully major-label release by pop-punk band Blink-182, reached the top ten and sold four million copies in under twelve months.[224] On February 19, 2000, the album's second single, "All the Small Things", peaked at number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. While they were viewed as Green Day "acolytes",[234] critics also found teen pop acts such as Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, and 'N Sync suitable points of comparison for Blink-182's sound and market niche.[235] The band's Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001) and Untitled (2003) respectively rose to numbers one and three on the album chart. In November 2003, The New Yorker described how the "giddily puerile" act had "become massively popular with the mainstream audience, a demographic formerly considered untouchable by punk-rock purists."[236]

Other new North American pop-punk bands, though often critically dismissed, also achieved major sales in the first decade of the 2000s. Ontario's Sum 41 reached the Canadian top ten with its 2001 debut album, All Killer No Filler, which eventually went platinum in the United States. The record included the number one U.S. Alternative hit "Fat Lip", which incorporated verses of what one critic called "brat rap".[237] Elsewhere around the world, "punkabilly" band the Living End became major stars in Australia with their self-titled 1998 debut.[238]

The effect of commercialization on the music became an increasingly contentious issue. As observed by scholar Ross Haenfler, many punk fans "despise corporate punk rock", typified by bands Sum 41 and Blink-182.[239]

Other influential subgenres


Main article: Oi!

Following the lead of first-wave British punk bands Cock Sparrer and Sham 69, in the late 1970s second-wave groups like Cockney Rejects, Angelic Upstarts, the Exploited, and the 4-Skins sought to realign punk rock with a working class, street-level following.[242][243] They believed the music needed to stay "accessible and unpretentious", in the words of music historian Simon Reynolds.[244] Their style was originally called "real punk" or street punk; Sounds journalist Garry Bushell is credited with labelling the genre Oi! in 1980. The name is partly derived from the Cockney Rejects' habit of shouting "Oi! Oi! Oi!" before each song, instead of the time-honored "1,2,3,4!"[245]

The Oi! movement was fueled by a sense that many participants in the early punk rock scene were, in the words of the Business guitarist Steve Kent, "trendy university people using long words, trying to be artistic ... and losing touch".[246] According to Bushell, "Punk was meant to be of the voice of the dole queue, and in reality, most of them were not. But Oi was the reality of the punk mythology. In the places where [these bands] came from, it was harder and more aggressive and it produced just as much quality music."[247] Lester Bangs described Oi! as "politicized football chants for unemployed louts".[248] One song in particular, the Exploited's "Punks Not Dead", spoke to an international constituency. It was adopted as an anthem by the groups of disaffected Mexican urban youth known in the 1980s as bandas; one banda named itself PND, after the song's initials.[249]

Although most Oi! bands in the initial wave were apolitical or left wing, many of them began to attract a white power skinhead following. Racist skinheads sometimes disrupted Oi! concerts by shouting fascist slogans and starting fights, but some Oi! bands were reluctant to endorse criticism of their fans from what they perceived as the "middle-class establishment".[250] In the popular imagination, the movement thus became linked to the far right.[251] Strength Thru Oi!, an album compiled by Bushell and released in May 1981, stirred controversy, especially when it was revealed that the belligerent figure on the cover was a neo-Nazi jailed for racist violence (Bushell claimed ignorance).[252] On July 3, a concert at Hamborough Tavern in Southall featuring the Business, the 4-Skins, and the Last Resort was firebombed by local Asian youths who believed that the event was a neo-Nazi gathering.[253] Following the Southall riot, press coverage increasingly associated Oi! with the extreme right, and the movement soon began to lose momentum.[254]


Main article: Anarcho-punk

Two members of the rock band Crass are shown at a performance. From left to right are an electric guitarist and a singer. Both are dressed in all-black clothing. The singer is making a hand gesture.
Crass were the originators of anarcho-punk.[255] Spurning the "cult of rock star personality", their plain, all-black dress became a staple of the genre.[256]

Anarcho-punk developed alongside the Oi! and American hardcore movements. Inspired by Crass, its Dial House commune, and its independent Crass Records label, a scene developed around British bands such as Subhumans, Flux of Pink Indians, Conflict, Poison Girls, and the Apostles that was as concerned with anarchist and DIY principles as it was with music. Several Crass members were of an older generation of artist and cultural provocateur and thus linked their version of punk directly back to the 1960s counterculture and early 1970s avant-gardism.[257] The acts featured ranting vocals, discordant instrumental sounds, seemingly primitive production values, and lyrics filled with political and social content, often addressing issues such as class inequalities and military violence.[258] Anarcho-punk disdained the older punk scene from which theirs had evolved. In historian Tim Gosling's description, they saw "safety pins and Mohicans as little more than ineffectual fashion posturing stimulated by the mainstream media and industry. [...] Whereas the Sex Pistols would proudly display bad manners and opportunism in their dealings with 'the establishment,' the anarcho-punks kept clear of 'the establishment' altogether".[259]

The movement spun off several subgenres of a similar political bent. Discharge, founded back in 1977, established D-beat in the early 1980s. Other groups in the movement, led by Amebix and Antisect, developed the extreme style known as crust punk. Several of these bands rooted in anarcho-punk such as the Varukers, Discharge, and Amebix, along with former Oi! groups such as the Exploited and bands from farther afield like Birmingham's Charged GBH, became the leading figures in the UK 82 hardcore movement. The anarcho-punk scene also spawned bands such as Napalm Death, Carcass, and Extreme Noise Terror that in the mid-1980s defined grindcore, incorporating extremely fast tempos and death metal–style guitarwork.[260] Led by Dead Kennedys, a U.S. anarcho-punk scene developed around such bands as Austin's MDC and Southern California's Another Destructive System.[261]


Main article: Pop-punk

Ben Weasel of pop-punk band Screeching Weasel

With their love of the Beach Boys and late 1960s bubblegum pop, the Ramones paved the way to what became known as pop-punk.[262] In the late 1970s, UK bands such as Buzzcocks and the Undertones combined pop-style tunes and lyrical themes with punk's speed and chaotic edge.[263] In the early 1980s, some of the leading bands in Southern California's hardcore punk rock scene emphasized a more melodic approach than was typical of their peers. According to music journalist Ben Myers, Bad Religion "layered their pissed off, politicized sound with the smoothest of harmonies"; Descendents "wrote almost surfy, Beach Boys-inspired songs about girls and food and being young(ish)".[264] Epitaph Records, founded by Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion, was the base for many future pop-punk bands. The mainstream pop-punk of latter-day bands such as Blink-182 or Green Day are criticized by many punk rock fans; in critic Christine Di Bella's words, "It's punk taken to its most accessible point, a point where it barely reflects its lineage at all, except in the three-chord song structures."[265]

Fusions and directions

See also: Punk rock subgenres

From 1977 on, punk rock crossed lines with many other popular music genres. Los Angeles punk rock bands laid the groundwork for a wide variety of styles: the Flesh Eaters with deathrock; the Plugz with Chicano punk; and Gun Club with punk blues. The Meteors, from South London, and the Cramps were innovators in the psychobilly fusion style.[266] Milwaukee's Violent Femmes jumpstarted the American folk punk scene, while the Pogues did the same on the other side of the Atlantic.[267] Other artists to fuse elements of folk music into punk included R.E.M. and the Proclaimers.[268]

See also

Suggested viewing


  1. ^ In the Kingsmen's version, the song's "El Loco Cha-Cha" riffs were pared down to a more simple and primitive rock arrangement providing a stylistic model for countless garage rock bands.[49][50]
  2. ^ The Ramones' 1978 'I Don't Want You,' was largely Kinks-influenced.[55]
  3. ^ Reed describes the Clash's emergence as a "tight ball of energy with both an image and rhetoric reminiscent of a young Pete Townshend—speed obsession, pop-art clothing, art school ambition."[56] The Who and the Small Faces were among the few rock elders acknowledged by the Sex Pistols.[57]
  4. ^ Robert Christgau writing for the Village Voice in October 1971 refers to "mid-60s punk" as a historical period of rock-and-roll.[79]
  5. ^ The title echoes a lyric from the title track of Patti Smith's 1975 album Horses.
  6. ^ ... And Out Come the Wolves was certified gold in January 1996. Let's Go, Rancid's previous album, received gold certification in July 2000.


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