Punk Era “Sex, drugs, and rock and roll” was the rallying cry for a movement that changed American culture forever. Rock and roll first startled the American scene in the mid-1950s, but no one then could have predicted the remarkable vitality and staying power of this new music. The early tradition of rock has gone through many transitions. Provocative and outlandish stage attire and behavior have been an important resource since the birth of rock and roll. Decades following the birth of rock and roll, many have witnessed a steady ever changing parade of hair styles, costumes, gestures and props.
As the level of tolerance and acceptance grew, rock stars adopted more bizarre and shocking images. It is in this context that “punk” rock, seen by some as a startling new direction in the late 1970s must be considered. Rock music achieved a new respectability and power at the same time (Ward, Stokes, Tucker, Rock of Ages, 547). Punk was rocks most notable attempt in the late 1970s to inject angry, rebellious, risk taking notations into the music. The musical style called punk rock developed in the United States out of raw and energetic music played by the garage bands of the mid-sixties.
These bands were mainly teenagers playing basic guitar chords, and failing away at drums and cymbals in their own garages. This resulted in sounds that were rough, raw, and musically undisciplined, which expressed their interests and brought music to their level (Charlton, Rock Music, 204). Given that the greatest garage bands could barley play, we may assume not only that virtuosity has nothing to do the form, but also that the Utopian dream of every man and artist can come true right here, in our suburban land of opportunity– the ultimate proof that rock and roll is the most democratic and all-American of art forms (Miller, History of Rock & Roll, 261). While teenage garage bands were becoming a hit and making it onto the pop charts, slightly older, artistically trained but jagged musicians were writing poetry and singing about urban decay. This artistic expression was not the first, this sort of idea far artistic expression had been at the root of several literary, artistic, and musical styles in the twentieth century, including the dadaist movement and the Beat movement (Charlton, Rock Music, 204).
The dadaists, a group of artists from Switzerland, expressed their views of madness and chaos exemplified by World War I. The dadaists saw this kind of devastation and destruction of human life that took place during the Was, and expressed their views by fashioning artwork out of trash or other material put together in a chaotic form. The same fear of the potential human animal had for violence, along with the awesome power of modern-day weapons, influenced many later artists to share the concerns and emulate the work of the dadaists (Charlton, Rock Music, 204). The Beat poets and writers of the fifties, directed their feelings of anger towards society in their poetry and writings. The manner in which the Beats openly confronted the problems that most people ignored, as well as the dada, influenced desire to produce an anti-art to express the belief that society had lost all sense of value was at the philosophical root of the punk movement, which eventually spawned a style of music (Charlton, Rock music, 204).
The grandest example of a risky, aggressive, cynical yet ambitious sensibility worming it way into the rock world was the man many called a godfather of punk: Lou Reed (Ward, Stokes, Tucker, Rock of Ages, 547). Lou Reed stands as crucial figure in 1970s rock. Reed wrote poetry about street life, prostitution, and drugs in New York. He was Classically trained to play the piano, but felt he could not express what he had to say about society playing Mozart (Charlton, Rock Music, 204). Reed combined controversial common places with a profound cynicism to yield music. Reed maintained a highly adversarial relationship with his audience.
He would insult them one minute and challenge them the next. Reeds influence on others, good or bad, can be heard in the work of other rockers, such as David Bowie and The New York Dolls. Before there was Lou Reed as a solo artist, there was the Velvet Underground, a band that in the midst of the utopian, freedom-loving, feel-good 1960s, proffered apocalypse, addiction, and feel bad. The Velvet Underground left traditional rock and roll styles aside to experiment with new forms of expression. The Velvet Underground consisted of Lou Reed, Sterling Morrision, John Cale, who was later replaced by Doug Yale, and Maureen Tucker.
Reed recited his poems to simple and repetitions melodies while Cale played a continuos, pulsating drone on his electric viola. True to the Style of the dada artists of the past, Maureen Tucker sometimes added trash-can lids to her drum set (Charlton, Rock Music, 205). The Velvet Underground met op with Andy Warhol who was a pop artist well known for his transformation of soup cans into images of art. Wharhol painted the banana on their first album, the Velvet Underground & Nico, and had them ass Christa Paffagin to sing on some cuts. Reeds sounds concentrated on the harsh themes such as drug addiction and sadomasochism.
The music on the album was repetitions, unemotional, and only vaguely related to most commercial rock. The Velvets second album called White Light/ White Heat, expressed themes such as drugs on the element of street life. the albums title was Reeds anthem to amphetamines. Traditional song and musical forms were ignored and repetitious drones occasionally interrupted by screeching feedback, were established to accompany Reeds monologues (Charlston, Rock Music, 205). This expressed the coldness and gloom Reed saw in the world.
Reeds contributions to the band included the furious “White Light/white Heat” and the ultimate drug-rock songs “Waiting for the man” and “Heroin.” Reed was writing beautifully detailed, emotionally and lyrically complex songs such as “Pale blue Eyes” and “Beginning To See The Light.” The Velvet Undergrounds first efforts influenced the development of punk as a musical style. Their emotionless portrayal of themes centering on alienation from human concerns and their use of repetitious musical ideas became characteristics of both punk and new-wave. This highly emotional expression of anger at the heart of most punk music came from the garage band sound. Musically, this anger was expressed though a constantly pounding eighth note beat and shouted vocals. A traditional rock back beat was played behind the fast throbbing pulse of guitar and bass (Charlton, Rock Music, 205).
Other influences on the development of punk music were the MC5, Iggy Pop and the Stooges. The MC5 developed out a loud and angry style. Their first album, Kick Out the Jams, which expressed obscene lyrics, was criticized and refused airplay. The MC5 combined the power of heavy metal with the raw garage band sound combined with their own belligerent, indigent attitude. Iggy Pop and the stooges played repetitious, angry, and pessimistic music.
Iggy Pop would act out his disgust with society and hit himself the microphone. Iggy pop would also cut himself on stage with pieces of glass and smear the blood. John Cal, formally of the Velvet Underground, produced their first album called the Stooges. It was James Jewel Osterberys, a.k.a. Iggy, self-destructive image the had a great influence on the movement of punk music. The loud, raw, rebellious sound of the MC5 and the Stoogies and the alienated attitude of the Velvet Underground was picked up in the early seventies by The New York Dolls (Charlton, Rock Music, 206). The New York Dolls has a glam-rock style, they added some glitter to punk and then passes it onto other New York groups and to the angry youth of London.
The fine members of The New York Dolls wore lipstick, heavy eye make-up, and stacked heels to perform songs about”bad” girls, drugs, and New York street life. The New York Dolls had a less serious attitude but their themes were similar to the Velvet Underground. From the Stoogies and the MC5, The New York Dolls used heavy distorted guitar lines and a powerful pounding beat which they combined with Rhythm and Blues. On the groups debut album this can be heard in the song “Personality Crisis” (Charlton, Rock Music, 206). The Middle of the decade, brought the first stirrings of a nascent music scene.
In 1975, Hilly Kristal, owner of a nondescript Bowery bar called CBGB and OMFUG (Country, Blue Grass, and Blues and Other Music For Urban Gourmets) allowed a few local musicians to talk him into using the rear of his long, narrow bar as a stage on which to perform for free. Before long, Kristal had a list of regular bands rotating at CBGBs (Ward, Stokes, Tucker, Rock of Ages, 552-553). CBGBs was the starting place for many New York bands, including Television, The Patti Smith Group, and the Ramones. Word was beginning to spread among hip arty types that CBGCs was the place to be; both to hear music that stood in stark contrast to the polished stuff that was coming to overrun the rock industry, and to be seen in the new “in” spot. Television member, Tom Valaine tried to emulate French symbolist poet Paul Verlaine with his use of symbolism, metaphor, and lyricism in the lyrics he wrote for the band.
Televisions first bass player, Richard Hell, spiked his hair and wore torn clothing. Their image would later become a standard for British punks. Televisions music combined a Velvet Underground – influenced punk sensibility with melodic lead guitar lines and psychedelic – style wandering improvisations (Charlston, Rock Music, 207). Poet and protopunk Patti Smith moved in for a seven-week stint in Mid 1975 and established CBGB as a beachhead of the rock and roll avant garde (Ward, Stokes, Tucker, Rock of Ages, 553). patti Smith began reading her poetry, latter singing it to simple guitar accompaniment by Lenny Kaye.
John Cale also produced The Patti Smith Group debut album, Horses, which combined the musical simplicity of the Velvet Undergrounds with Smiths gusty and energetic vocals and a pounding punk beat. The album included a new version of the song “Gloria” in which Smiths singing of male text was intended to shock the average listener in the same was the Beat poetry had also done before (Cha …