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Otto Masson

What was punk?

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So, what do y'all think it meant? What did the emergence of punk signify at the time - roughly, in the late 1970's? Many people see it as a great beginning, as a breakthrough of originality and daring in popular music, paving the way for later arrivals on the scene. I see it very differently. To me it wasn't about originality, daring, provocation or anything like that, but rather, in musical terms, it meant a turn towards simplification, a watering down of the tremendous surge of creativity that had characterized popular music in the decade before, i.e. from ca. 1966-1976. It also meant the hardening of musical dogmas and the breakthrough of a ridiculously one-dimensional and abstract "attitude" in place of the wide scope of emotion that had been essential to rock music and remains essential to life itself. And in corporate terms it meant the companies again had excellent opportunities to seize control from the artists, and they did. In the earlier period, people like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin had fought hard for their artistic control. After the 1974-1975 recession the companies will have been looking for reasons to try and get some of it back - and voila, there's punk: the perfect opportunity to tell all these difficult musician types that they were passé by now and needed to realize how inventive three chord songs actually were. Pathetic nonsense. Anyway - I am very deliberately phrasing things a bit provocatively here, even overstating the case somewhat, but I would just be interested in seeing some discussion of this... So what do you others think? :unsure:

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What the hell are you talking about in terms of "And in corporate terms it meant the companies again had excellent opportunities to seize control from the artists, and they did.". 99% of punk from the 80s onward was released on independent record labels often founded by the band themselves.

Punk, and particularly hardcore punk IS about rebellion. I don't know what you're talking about. Go listen to Black Flag and Minor Threat and tell me you think they were "corporate" or whatever nonsense.

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Props Otto, this is an awesome topic! thumbsup.gif

Jarlaxe I think that both you and Otto are right. Corporations were able to take advantage of the success of Punk (which is how we ended up with New Wave), but you are right Jarlaxe, most TRUE punk during the 80's onword was released on independant labels. As to what punk is; during the 70's at least, punk was sort of a backlash against how rock in general had gotten extremely technical. Kids wanted to just pick up a guitar/drumsticks/bass/microphone without wanting to have to spend years learning how to play some of the intricate things that musicians of the day (i.e. Led Zeppelin) had recorded.

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So, what do y'all think it meant? What did the emergence of punk signify at the time - roughly, in the late 1970's? Many people see it as a great beginning, as a breakthrough of originality and daring in popular music, paving the way for later arrivals on the scene. I see it very differently. To me it wasn't about originality, daring, provocation or anything like that, but rather, in musical terms, it meant a turn towards simplification, a watering down of the tremendous surge of creativity that had characterized popular music in the decade before, i.e. from ca. 1966-1976. It also meant the hardening of musical dogmas and the breakthrough of a ridiculously one-dimensional and abstract "attitude" in place of the wide scope of emotion that had been essential to rock music and remains essential to life itself. And in corporate terms it meant the companies again had excellent opportunities to seize control from the artists, and they did. In the earlier period, people like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin had fought hard for their artistic control. After the 1974-1975 recession the companies will have been looking for reasons to try and get some of it back - and voila, there's punk: the perfect opportunity to tell all these difficult musician types that they were passé by now and needed to realize how inventive three chord songs actually were. Pathetic nonsense. Anyway - I am very deliberately phrasing things a bit provocatively here, even overstating the case somewhat, but I would just be interested in seeing some discussion of this... So what do you others think? :unsure:

I agree with you 100%.

I know I've heard it said somewhere though, that Led Zeppelin set the bar way too high, and that no one could possibly come close.

So it's natural the music scene went in that direction. Let's face it boys and girls--getting it right (I know I know--whatever that means) and producing quality material is very hard.

We tend to think that Led Zeppelin was the rule and should have been a blueprint for making music.

But really, they were just around for a long time and pumping out so many successful albums that it gave the illusion that what they were doing was the norm. They were just the exception to the rule.

The rule: You don't need to do something that's hard when it is acceptable to do it easier.

I think that's the message of punk.

Mega-bands of the mid/late 60s/70s like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin paved the way for other bands. They set up the social structure of life/career in a rock band, touring, recording, all for better or for worse. Without that structure, punk wouldn't exist.

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To me, Punk was simple and basic, high energy, and it felt refreshing at the time.

You didn't have to "think" about the music, you only had to "react" to it (by dancing, bopping if you will).

From my experience, prior to the advent of punk and disco, you mainly listened to rock music, analyzed it, spaced out to it, and got lost in the music. When I would go to dances in high school, you never danced, you just sat on the floor and listened to the music (this is in the 70's). With punk, new wave, and disco, you were inspired to move to the music. This was refreshing to me as I love to dance. The simplicity of punk made it kind of mindless. You didn't have to think about the music. It was more raw and primal. The downside was that it soon became boring. Maybe that's why some of the bands became more outrageous on stage, a la The Sex Pistols.

I loved that Ramones album. How could you ever forget "Beat On The Brat With A Baseball Bat"?

I didn't like the more hard-core punkers. I think they were more into sensationalism than into music. They just wanted to make a scene with their antics and didn't give a care about their music. They were just posers, in my opinion.

Edited to say that I loved Blondie, The Talking Heads, The Cars, Devo, The Clash. But these bands were legit musicians and had good music. They would probably be classified more as New Wave than as Punk bands.

Edited by BUCK'EYE' DOC

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Punk was the de-evolution of the music of the the mid 60's & early 70's. It was getting back to the spirit of 50's Rock & Roll if not sounding exactly like it. "Blitzkrieg Bop" by The Ramones & "New Rose" by The Damned have much more in common with "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" by Jerry Lee Lewis & "C'Mon Everybody" by Eddie Cochran than anything off of "Revolver" by The Beatles or "Physical Graffiti". It doesn't make it better or worse musically but for a new band starting off you need that spirit.

"True" Punk was also about being an individual & not wearing a uniform figuritively or literally which unfortunately to many "punks" ended up with a "uniform". The Talking Heads, Television, Suicide, & PiL were not what anyone now would call "Punk" today but it was. This was music that was daring, boundry pushing, & inventive. Talking Heads incorporated world music, Television had two phenomenal guitarists in Tom Verlaine & Richard Llyod, Suicide was stripped down industrial, PiL had nothing in common with the Pistols musically except for Rotten & they were following the lead set by Captain Beefheart & Can. The Clash from the beginning broke the Punk mold of their 3 chords pub rock by bringing in reggae which by the time "Sandinista" came out in 1980 was making a hybrid ska/reggae/hip hop influence which no one else had done (sorry Blondie the Clash got there first).

Punk's rebellion was not about mohawks, safety pins, & ranting about the Queen as those all became the model, the "uniform". Punk's rebellion was daring to be an individual inside a group of like minded people whether it was musically, socially, politically, or with fashion. Poseurs took over & Punk unfortunately got stereotyped into the Sid Vicious archtype who was the ultimate poseur.

Edited by kaiser

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Punk was the de-evolution of the music of the the mid 60's & early 70's. It was getting back to the spirit of 50's Rock & Roll if not sounding exactly like it. "Blitzkrieg Bop" by The Ramones & "New Rose" by The Damned have much more in common with "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" by Jerry Lee Lewis & "C'Mon Everybody" by Eddie Cochran than anything off of "Revolver" by The Beatles or "Physical Graffiti". It doesn't make it better or worse musically but for a new band starting off you need that spirit.

"True" Punk was also about being an individual & not wearing a uniform figuritively or literally which unfortunately to many "punks" ended up with a "uniform". The Talking Heads, Television, Suicide, & PiL were not what anyone now would call "Punk" today but it was. This was music that was daring, boundry pushing, & inventive. Talking Heads incorporated world music, Television had two phenomenal guitarists in Tom Verlaine & Richard Llyod, Suicide was stripped down industrial, PiL had nothing in common with the Pistols musically except for Rotten & they were following the lead set by Captain Beefheart & Can. The Clash from the beginning broke the Punk mold of their 3 chords pub rock by bringing in reggae which by the time "Sandinista" came out in 1980 was making a hybrid ska/reggae/hip hop influence which no one else had done (sorry Blondie the Clash got there first).

Punk's rebellion was not about mohawks, safety pins, & ranting about the Queen as those all became the model, the "uniform". Punk's rebellion was daring to be an individual inside a group of like minded people whether it was musically, socially, politically, or with fashion. Poseurs took over & Punk unfortunately got stereotyped into the Sid Vicious archtype who was the ultimate poseur.

I agree.

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That's easy.

537k8g.jpg

Nail on the head!

Since it was all about defiance, I contend The Ramones were the worst of the best bands who couldn't play worth a shit!!

Kind of like driving a rough clutch,

[Grind 'em if you can't Find 'em.

Now, where'd those chords go? The Ramones were the perfect example of the old saying, "Close enough for Rock and Roll". :lol:

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I agree with you 100%.

I know I've heard it said somewhere though, that Led Zeppelin set the bar way too high, and that no one could possibly come close.

So it's natural the music scene went in that direction. Let's face it boys and girls--getting it right (I know I know--whatever that means) and producing quality material is very hard.

We tend to think that Led Zeppelin was the rule and should have been a blueprint for making music.

But really, they were just around for a long time and pumping out so many successful albums that it gave the illusion that what they were doing was the norm. They were just the exception to the rule.

The rule: You don't need to do something that's hard when it is acceptable to do it easier.

I think that's the message of punk.

Mega-bands of the mid/late 60s/70s like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin paved the way for other bands. They set up the social structure of life/career in a rock band, touring, recording, all for better or for worse. Without that structure, punk wouldn't exist.

I don't think Punk happend because bands like Zeppelin set the bar to high, that sounds to much like a spin in Zeppelin's favor. Bands like The Ramones liked Zeppelin but they also liked the early girl groups of the 60's who, believe it or not, had a certain element of danger to them & they also liked the power pop of early Who, Small Faces, & Kinks singles. There is not much blues in Punk, and it doesn't take much skill to play a 12 bar blues thus you have early Stones records AND they couldn't play those songs properly if you really listen to originals & theirs back to back.

The early 70's had some great to good to bad bands who had great virtuoso musicians. As great as Steely Dan was, did they have any element to their music that said Little Richard? Where was the Chuck Berry in Yes or the Gene Vincent in ELP? Those bands flew under the banner of Rock and Roll but their music had very little to do with it's orgins. Steely Dan came from an American Jazz slant where Yes & ELP came from a European Classical slant which both were not very Rock and Roll. Jazz & Classical muso snobs looked down their collective noses at the bastardized musical form that was Rock and Roll in the 50's when it first started, Punk did the reverse in the 70's holding the Jazz & Classical enthusiasts in Rock and Roll to almost 50's Rock and Roll standards. Bands like Zeppelin, The Who, The Stones, etc were not necessarily the enemy except to extreme Punk's who thought that anything older should be extinct. Mind you most Punks weren't even 20 yet at that time so you have the short sightedness of youth involved as well. In 1992 I saw a certain Mr Johnny Rotten fronting his band PiL & they opened their show with "Kashmir". He always loved that song & his guitarist the late John McGeough, late of Magazine & Sioxsie Sioux, was a huge Jimmy Page fan & was referred to as the New Wave version of him. Rotten gave Plant a phone call for the lyrics a few years earlier by the way.

All in all it was healthy for everyone in the long run. It's ridiculous when either "side" from way back when is still fighting that battle when they should sit back & enjoy the great points of both. My generation came after both & we benefited from from the Zeppelins, Steely Dans, Ramones, & Clash.

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I don't think Punk happend because bands like Zeppelin set the bar to high, that sounds to much like a spin in Zeppelin's favor. Bands like The Ramones liked Zeppelin but they also liked the early girl groups of the 60's who, believe it or not, had a certain element of danger to them & they also liked the power pop of early Who, Small Faces, & Kinks singles. There is not much blues in Punk, and it doesn't take much skill to play a 12 bar blues thus you have early Stones records AND they couldn't play those songs properly if you really listen to originals & theirs back to back.

The early 70's had some great to good to bad bands who had great virtuoso musicians. As great as Steely Dan was, did they have any element to their music that said Little Richard? Where was the Chuck Berry in Yes or the Gene Vincent in ELP? Those bands flew under the banner of Rock and Roll but their music had very little to do with it's orgins. Steely Dan came from an American Jazz slant where Yes & ELP came from a European Classical slant which both were not very Rock and Roll. Jazz & Classical muso snobs looked down their collective noses at the bastardized musical form that was Rock and Roll in the 50's when it first started, Punk did the reverse in the 70's holding the Jazz & Classical enthusiasts in Rock and Roll to almost 50's Rock and Roll standards. Bands like Zeppelin, The Who, The Stones, etc were not necessarily the enemy except to extreme Punk's who thought that anything older should be extinct. Mind you most Punks weren't even 20 yet at that time so you have the short sightedness of youth involved as well. In 1992 I saw a certain Mr Johnny Rotten fronting his band PiL & they opened their show with "Kashmir". He always loved that song & his guitarist the late John McGeough, late of Magazine & Sioxsie Sioux, was a huge Jimmy Page fan & was referred to as the New Wave version of him. Rotten gave Plant a phone call for the lyrics a few years earlier by the way.

All in all it was healthy for everyone in the long run. It's ridiculous when either "side" from way back when is still fighting that battle when they should sit back & enjoy the great points of both. My generation came after both & we benefited from from the Zeppelins, Steely Dans, Ramones, & Clash.

the term "punk" may have been tagged in the mid-70's, but the origins date back to the mid-60's, which is when groups like the Kinks and the Who first showed up. It seems every 10 to 15 years rock goes through this sort of cleansing period where bands feel the necessity to get back to the basics. In the early 90's it was "grunge" and then earlier in this decade, bands like the Strokes, Hives, and White Stripes came out with a stripped down sound. Where are we at now? I'm not sure because i don't hear so much ground breaking music going on at the present time.

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Nail on the head!

Since it was all about defiance, I contend The Ramones were the worst of the best bands who couldn't play worth a shit!!

Kind of like driving a rough clutch,

[Grind 'em if you can't Find 'em.

Now, where'd those chords go? The Ramones were the perfect example of the old saying, "Close enough for Rock and Roll". :lol:

Kinda like KISS....

The difference is that the Ramones never took themselves too seriously.

I think they could play great for what the were....keeping it simple.

Either way,they never fail to bring a smile to my face,even now.

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What was Punk?

Too Me?

The Most Boring Decade Musicaly of my Entire Life.

Four Chords, No Solo's and a Coatfull of Gob.

Regards, Danny

Were so pretty, oh so pretty,

(but our music is)

pretty vacant.

Edited by BIGDAN

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Thanks for your responses, everybody. :beer:

Jarlaxle, while there is a good deal of truth in what you've stated here, it doesn't affect my arguments all that much. There can be a lot of debate about what constitutes "true" punk and what doesn't, but any of the politically rebellious bands of the 1980's can hardly be considered more truly punk than the people who actually initiated the whole thing in the 1970's (that would be meaningless as far as I'm concerned), and in fact it was those bands that I was talking about. If I remember all this correctly Sex Pistols were signed onto EMI, The Clash on Columbia, Siouxsie and the Banshees on Polydor, etc. - hardly independent labels.

And there are more things in your posts that can be questioned. When you say that punk just IS rebellion, I find myself unable to take that at face value. The earlier generation had actually rebelled - it wasn't just the hippie scene, but also politicos, the proliferating of political groups and mass movements, and it signified a turn to the left in very real terms. The events in France in May 1968 for example wasn't a revolt in any metaphorical sense: it came quite close to being an actual political revolution. The Anti-War movement became a worldwide phenomenon that the U.S. government was forced to take into consideration. I don't believe there is a direct connection between the music and the politics, but the music of that whole era is still inconceivable without this whole leftist, and often enough indeed revolutionary, political atmosphere. Whereas, if you take the 1980's, you had some political activity and some musical groups that saw themselves as rebels, but it was much more isolated, with no real repercussions, and the overall context was the victory of neoliberalism, a turn to the right in mainstream politics, and the acute crisis of the far left. I should know, because I was a political activist on the far left through most of the 1980's myself.

One of the important things about the late sixties, early seventies is that it was a generational revolt (and by baby boomers at that). The generational gap was just immense - it was a whole different outlook on just about everything to do with everyday life, politics, culture, and so on - a revolt, if you will, on all these fronts, and the older generations were left not understanding a whole lot of it. Of course it wasn't all such a good idea, and there was a lot of bullshit, but you see what I mean: there was like a complete generational rift at the time, which made for a feeling that a very real rebellion was going on. The early punk scene was never able to recreate any mass feeling on a similar kind of scale, but they certainly tried: by revolting against the earlier generation of rebels. Well, it wasn't as effective, to say the least. B)

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What was punk? In a word.

Necessary

Cheers! :beer: That's one way of seeing it, Styrbjörn. The only problem is, what sense of necessity? There is of course a widespread theory that the music was becoming too complicated and inaccessible, and often enough this is explained in terms of "self-indulgence" on the part of the musicians. Well, as I said, this is one way of seeing it, but the reason why I don't believe in it myself is that I find it utterly unconvincing as an account of popular music in, say, 1973-76. It wasn't a dull scene - on the contrary, it was incredibly fertile. Think of all the amazing albums released in 1975, for example.

I think I can remember David Bowie said at some point in the late 1970's that punk was a necessary simplification, which is roughly the same point. We would do well to remember that he himself was releasing Low, Heroes and Lodger in this era, incredible albums, and all of them are nothing if not self-indulgent: It's a musician making exactly the kinds of statements that he wants to, come what may. Sure, they didn't have a lot of long solos, but I see no reason to equate them as such with musical self-indulgence. Some solos are good, others not so good, that's all.

In fact, "self-indulgence" on the part of musicians is great as far as I'm concerned. It only means they want artistic control and just seize it, making exactly the music they are interested in making.

Of course there is another thing that has to taken into consideration, namely the fact that a new generation wanted to claim space for themselves to develop their own thing, and maybe the scene was becoming somewhat closed-off, you know - a field of expertise where it takes ages to become "qualified". Maybe that's what you mean? Well, if so, I agree to some extent, but would still add that the punk rhetoric directed at dinosaurs and what not, was just bullshit. As I stated in the first post, it was rhetoric that suited the record company pricks (to use Frank Zappa's excellent description :D ) perfectly to apply pressure on the earlier generation and try to regain some of the control they had lost to the artists. In fact, it is tempting to see the "self-indulgence" phraseology as deriving from the labels people. Who else had a reason to have a problem with musicians doing their own thing? After all, if you didn't like long solos, nobody was forcing you to listen to Dazed and Confused.

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Good topic Otto !

Maybe it's just me but in terms of creating another template for sales etc, I personally thought punk more a reaction to the disco scene as opposed to the established rock scene.

In North America at least, disco was king at the time and to budding musicians, there didn't seem to be any way end to it. IMHO, punk provided an avenue into the market place

that temporarily beat up on the establishment and the timing couldn't have been more perfect. Today we'd call it great marketing because it certainly wasn't accidental

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John Lydon comments on what Punk is & isn't in The Filth And The Fury:

"The Punks ruined it by doing that. They adopted a uniform image and attitude AND the whole thing was about being yourself. All those garbage trashy bands basically saying 'Yeah we're a Punk band' wrecked it outright. It became acceptable, absorbed back into the system. The shit-stem."

John Lydon comments on what Punk is & isn't in There Will Always Be An England:

"There's an "alleged Punk" or whatever, and when you're supposed to wear an outfit or kit, that you know, declared yourself a "Punk". No, that's not what "Punk" is at all. All right, it's no uniforms or all uniforms but no rules. Accept the whole world. I'm Johnny Rotten and I love the Bee Gees!"

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Joe Strummer, towards the end of his life, said that he came to realize that hippies & punks were pretty much the same. He started out a hippy & then adopted a punk stance and it wasn't until he hit his 40's that he realized that both were about a sense of community while still remaining an individual. To stand up for your beliefs & to tear down the old rules that obviously weren't working but to also build upon those things that were working. It couldn't all be a peace & love or nihilistic vibe, both were viable and both had to give back something positive to everyone.

Strummer definately wore both cultures on his sleeve during his last years & became a less conflicted person and artist for doing so.

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A bunch of guys who had to make a living on their existing talents. :-)

Lol :D . A somewhat cheap shot but I like it. Nicely phrased.

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WHAT?!

One of my favorite guitarists was in The Damned, Brian James, he played loads of solos! :D Chuck Berry on acid!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iE-UbbTjcGY

Yes, most definately. Great guitarist and later Captain Sensible too. Jimmy Page loved that first Damned album with Brian James. "Wearing and Tearing" is the bastard child of "New Rose".

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