At first the term ‘Punk Rock’ was used in the mid-sixties to describe American Pop Music bands, like Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, who were the first to commercially challenge the English Invasion of the US Charts. “Wooly Bully,” sold over a million copies was the first American act to displace UK artists from dominating the charts. The single stayed in the Hot 100 for an impressive 18 weeks. In North American vernacular, ‘punk’ is a term of abuse meaning a worthless person. Later ‘punk rock’ as a collective term used to describe new young acts but eventually was widened to include garage musicians, all amateurs starting up and playing with no musical or vocal instruction.
In Detroit, The Stooges and the MC5 started to play raw, crude and often political inspired music. Where ever they appeared at concerts fights among the crowds often ensued. In the Big Apple, Andy Warhol managed the Velvet Underground who played Avant Garde music bordering on noise soon gained the name Proto-Punk.
The influence of Glam Rock from the UK in the 70s with loud trashy rock ‘n roll and clothing to match was eagerly enveloped into Proto-Punk.
Bands like the New York Dolls, The Ramones, Blondie the Talking Heads and many others converged at the legendary club, CBGB in New York. The Cars later emerged from the Rat in Boston.
Malcolm McClaren was a frequent visitor to NY and when he witnessed the success of Proto-Punk he tried to establish a new movement in London to promote his clothing line through his SEX boutique run by himself and Vivienne Westwood at 430 King's Road, London. Among those who frequented the shop were members of a band called the Strand, which McLaren was also managing. The group wanted a new lead singer. and John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten), got the job. Now the Sex Pistols, the group played the first gig as in 1975, at Saint Martin's School of Art.
The Sex Pistols soon attracted the attention of the Bromley Contingent, a bunch of outrageous young kids who were angry, rebellious and out of work. The economy in the United Kingdom was in poor shape, and unemployment rates were at an all-time high. Wherever the Sex Pistols appeared, usually gigs with less than a hundred people, they seemed to inspire others in their wake. New Punk bands sprung up including the Buzzcocks, The Fall, Joy Division and The Smiths from Manchester.
In London, Bernard Rhodes saw the success of McLaren's Sex Pistols and wanted to repeat it with the band he managed called London SS. They split up before they could record and formed two bands, the Damned and The Clash. Both went on to even greater success.
After the Ramones played in London, in the mid 70s, UK punk music speeded up. New punk bands popped up including Ian Dury and the Blockheads and the Stranglers.
Many of the new London based bands featured females including Siouxsie and the Banshees and X-Ray Spex and the all-female the Slits.
Punk bands typically produced short or fast-paced songs, with hard-edged melodies and singing styles, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics. As punk spread, quickly around the world many bands rejected association with the mainstream and started to self-produce recordings and distribute them through informal channels. A punk subculture emerged, characterized by distinctive styles of clothing and adornment (ranging from deliberately offensive T-shirts, leather jackets, spike bands and other studded or spiked jewellery to bondage and S&M clothes) and a variety of anti-authoritarian ideologies.
New punks bands began to make an impact. More and more these groups combined punk with experimental music including Edinburgh's Rezillos, Dunfermline's Skids, and London's Alternative TV, and The Vibrators.
In Ireland, the Undertones, and Stiff Little Fingers emerged as top punk outfits.
The absence of any conventional dance rhythms music meant dance styles were left to "deviant" forms. Pogo dance, became popular after Sid Vicious, was seen jumping up and down on stage. Moshing or slam dancing where members of the audience pushed or slammed into each other, was typically performed to "aggressive" live music.
Punk gigs were frequently interrupted with fights. Punk bands regularly insulted and otherwise goaded the audience into intense reactions. Audience participation was anticipated and usually resulted in them throwing cans, stage invasion, and spitting or "gobbing". Bands were actively followed by devotees who not only mirrored the styles of their favourites but also started Fanzines
By the mid-70s Punk had spread across the world and in Australia the Saints from Brisbane soon built up a massive following. Despite their popularity The Saints failed to attract much commercial success in Australia, When their single "(I'm) Stranded" was released in the UK it established them as a credible punk band. In Melbourne, the Boys Next Door featured singer Nick Cave, who was to become one of the world's best-known post-punk artists.
Punk bands typically produced short or fast-paced songs, with hard-edged melodies and singing styles, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics. The punk movement many bands more and more rejected association with the mainstream and started to self-produce recordings and distribute them through informal channels. A punk subculture emerged, characterized by distinctive styles of clothing and adornment (ranging from deliberately offensive T-shirts, leather jackets, spike bands and other studded or spiked jewellery to bondage and S&M clothes) and a variety of anti-authoritarian ideologies.
Jamie Reid's "anarchy flag" poster and his other design work for the Sex Pistols helped establish a distinctive punk visual aesthetic.
Singers like Toyah married high fashion and colourful makeup to make herself a singing spectacle and in the age of music videos this was a successful combination.
Malcolm McLaren was both manipulative and ambitious and recognised early the commercial potential within the music industry to cash in on the perceived worth of the Sex Pistols. He knew punk genre had only a limited life span and the Sex Pistols were the vanguard, so he decided to use this to negotiate cash release from record companies purely based on potential future record sales. Dubbed the Great Rock’n‘ Roll Swindle, he systematically paraded the Sex Pistols in public and encouraged them to be as outrageous as they liked. On live TV Steve Jones, when goaded into a verbal altercation by the host, Bill Grundy called him a "dirty fucker" on live television, triggering a major media controversy. The value of the band instantly increased. The public outcry which followed in the UK saw many punk gigs cancelled and some stores even refused to stock punk records and radio airplay became hard to come by. Not since the mid 50s and Bill Hayley’s Rock around the clock, had there been such a public response. Despite it all Punk continuned unabated.
As the decade progressed and the peak of punk passed, more punk bands diversified into mainstream. John Lydon quit the Pistols to form PiL (Public Image Limited. Malcolm McLaren continued in management with Bow Wow Wow and an early incarnation of Adam And The Ants. He even tried out recoding and had respectable hits with Buffalo Girls and Double Dutch. John Ritchie aka Sid Vicious continued with a solo career but his debouched life style and narcotic dependency resulted in the tragic murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen and his eventual death from a heroin overdose on Groundhog Day in 1979.
By the late '70s, punk had split into numerous sub-genres with new musicians imprinting their own musical styles. Many became dropped ‘the attitude’ and joined new wave movements to make themselves more palatable to concert bookers and avoid radio censorship. Street punk continued with Sham 69, and the Angelic Upstarts but these only had a limited life span as musical tastes were generally changing.
Post punk the New Wave movement threw up many different musical styles which successfully merged music and fashion into a more pop-orientated genre. These new wave artists became very popular on both sides of the Atlantic, including The Police, The Jam, Elvis Costello, Madness and the Tubeway Army