The F-word had only been heard on TV three times before but that figure doubled when The Sex Pistols were booked as last minute guests on ITV chat show Today With Bill Grundy. In one exchange guitarist Steve Jones called the host "a dirty f***er" to which Grundy replied "what a clever boy". The front page of the Daily Mirror the next day led with the headline "The Filth And The Fury". If the nation didn't know about punk before, they did now.
"Identity is a crisis can't you see," sang X-Ray Spex singer Poly Styrene and in keeping with the anti-authoritarian lifestyle your mum and dad's surname was a thing of the past. In this year Stuart Goddard became Adam Ant, John "Woody" Mellor requested friends call him Joe Strummer and Johnny Rotten gave his friend Simon Ritchie the name Sid Vicious after his pet hamster bit him.
At the turn of the ‘80s, punk had splintered into a variety of styles, including hardcore (especially popular on the West Coast of the US), new wave, synth-pop and post-punk. Hybrids and offshoots evolved, like two-tone ska, cowpunk, psychobilly, garage-punk and surf-punk. Metal began to reemerge as an influence, and many bands added metallic elements, to varying degrees, to the punk template.
Although small musical fires were being set all over the world simultaneously, one of punk’s ground zeros was the shabby rock club CBGB on New York City’s then-dicey (now mostly gentrified) Bowery. The sartorial outrageousness and garage-y musical grit of The New York Dolls, and later the rough and tumble, untutored appeal of The Ramones, Voidoids, Patti Smith, Blondie and other stars of the CBGB scene turned designer/clothing shop-owner Malcolm McLaren’s head, later to resurface as influences on the band McLaren managed, The Sex Pistols. Indeed the CB’s scene, given wings by the 1976 release of the first Ramones album on Sire Records, made a big impact in the UK amongst unemployed, disaffected teenagers of the underclass, who immediately adopted (and adapted) the do-it-yourself aesthetic to express their own dissatisfaction with their decaying empire, bad economy and hopeless-seeming future.
The alternative to mainstream pop music is largely limited to what is known as the "Pub Rock" circuit. Largely the focus for beer-swilling also-rans, there are a few exceptional talents. As well as the aforementioned Kilburn and the High Roads there are notably Brinsley Schwartz, Ducks Deluxe and Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers. Without question the most inspiring are the apparently psychotic Dr Feelgood.
The punk blueprint of three major chords, bruising distortion, and growling vocals was meant to bring popular music back to the masses. But over time, rules become shackles, and the most ambitious prisoners are likely to break free. The first such punk fugitives were Wire, a London trio whose debut Pink Flag subverted punk orthodoxy in subtle yet dramatic fashion.
Although there is truly no exact date for the birth of the genre, and it has certainly been alive since the sixties, if not earlier; it was in 1974 that punk really began to develop, in New York's famous Bowery district nightclub, CBGB. The New York scene was made up mostly of bored kids with little money, revolutionaries in style and music who were disillusioned with the Top of the Pops and wanted to make an artistic change. It is here that The Ramones, Television, Blondie and a slew of others planted their roots.
Punk is famous for its one chord wonders and its off-key vocalists, but it is the raw simplicity and honesty of the genre that makes it what it is. Inspired by proto-punk bands like The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, The Sonics, and David Bowie; punk was born in New York as a musical experiment, and perfected in London as a way of life.
Promotional fliers for rock shows typically end up in the trash. But David Ensminger collects them. He's stockpiled them for more than 30 years, documenting a Xeroxed history of punk gatherings, an anthropologist of punk rock's printed images and text. The do-it-yourself tradition of punk-rock fliers are just part of his new book, "Visual Vitriol: The Street Art and Subcultures of the Punk and Hardcore Generation", published by the University of Mississippi Press.
Muslim punks prove that punk is a convergence culture shaped by pluralism, not middle-class Anglo aspirations. They really test punk's true dictum—to extend freedom—and push people to recognise punk as a vehicle of power that recognises no border.