Punk Rock Music Guide: History and Bands of the Punk Rock

What is Punk Rock?

It is a subgenre within rock and roll that began to emerge in the mid-1970s, when disco, progressive rock, and pop with a heavy dose of strings dominated the music charts. Punk rockers earned a reputation by eschewing the trappings that characterized popular music in the mainstream. They believed in the raw energy, fast beats, short forms of songs, and shouted lyrics. They also embraced the DIY (“do the job yourself”) working ethic, which enabled them to prosper at the margins within the industry.

There were intense punk music scenes from London, New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. Punk rock-influenced many young musicians who would later pursue different music genres. Grunge is a pioneer, and Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain, although not a rocker in the punk genre, often mentioned the punk influence of bands like Killing Joke and the Germs in developing his style of music.

A Short Background of Punk Rock

Punk music has its roots traced to the 1970s in London, although some claim that punk rock began at the same time in New York City.

  • British punk It was the British punk movement was dominated by bands like The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, and The Buzzcocks, which mingled the melodies and harmonies from the folk genre with the brutal edges of garage rock as well as the rapidity of hard rock along with (in cases like The Clash) reggae.
  • NYC scene: British punk quickly created a punk music boom within New York City. The scene was populated by bands such as The Ramones, Blondie, Television, Patti Smith, Richard Hell, and the Voidoids, and The New York Dolls packed crowds into legendary venues for punk music such as CBGB located on Bowery situated in Manhattan.
  • Punk all over all of the US: US punk rock scene was born in Los Angeles (home of X and the Germs Black Flag and Black Flag), the San Francisco Bay area (home of Flipper and the Dead Kennedys and Flipper), Detroit (home of the MC5 and Iggy & The Stooges) and Washington, DC, (home of Bad Brains and Minor Threat).
  • Labels specializing in punk rock Record labels specializing in punk rock popped from various locations such as Long Beach’s SST Records, Washington’s Dischord Records, San the city’s Alternative Tentacles Records, and Long Island’s Homestead Records. Some groups, such as The Ramones or The Sex Pistols, managed to be on major record labels, echoing the spirit of rebel bands such as The Velvet Underground.

Nowadays, the punk genre is well-known, with numerous subgenres and local music scenes contributing to a broad musical landscape. Groups like Green Day achieved mainstream success during the 1990s and continued to grow into the new millennium as independent bands flourished within a plethora of similar independent record labels.

What is Punk Rock Sound Like?

Punk rock mixes a range of popular genres but tends to be faster and more violent than pop. Punk groups may be smaller than traditional rock bands. However, having fewer members does not translate into a more mellow sound.

Many punk rockers were from low-income families and were exposed to mainstream radio growing up. This led them to music styles such as folk rock, British Invasion rock (from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to The Kinks), rockabilly, country music, and the ’60s’ psychedelia. These genres all have their distinct styles in punk music by groups such as the Ramones and The Sex Pistols, and the Dead Kennedys.

The band’s first album was released in London. The Clash bandleader Joe Strummer drew inspiration from reggae music and even covered reggae tunes on the group’s albums. The DC’s Bad Brains also drew inspiration from reggae and other Jamaican styles like the ska genre.