Graham Edmonson '24

Though it was never the most popular genre at any given time, punk music has had an indisputably important impact on the musical development of almost any genre tied to rock-and-roll. Defining punk music can be quite an elusive task. First, there is the punk attitude, characterized by a dissatisfaction with popular culture, general disregard for authority, and not caring what others think. Combine this attitude with distorted guitars, simplistic songs, and unorthodox vocals, and you have “punk-rock.” One central aspect of this genre is the idea that anyone can make music. Many important frontmen leading up to and during punk’s defining period were not the most technically proficient singers. One of the reasons that so many people connect with punk music is that anyone can participate.

So punk was influential, but where exactly did it come from? Aspects of the punk style began with the growing presence of distorted guitars in rock-and-roll during the late 50’s and 60’s. Key songs that influenced punk’s growth include “Rumble,” “Link Wray;” “The Girl Can’t Dance,” “Bunker Hill;” and a number of other songs. These songs, at their most basic, are rock-and-roll played fast and loosely. “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen is often considered a landmark tune as the beginning of proto-punk. Proto-punk took it up a level, so to say, with tracks like “Psycho,” by The Sonics, and “I Hate You,” by The Monks, introducing even more speed, distortion, and unorthodox (at the time) lyrics. In Britain, similar movements were taking place with bands like The Kinks and The Who. One important band in proto-punk was The Velvet Underground. The Underground’s sophomore album White Light/White Heat flirted with noise rock and experimental music, influencing the formation of many other bands. Another key figure in the formation of punk was Iggy Pop, often called the “Godfather of Punk.” The Stooges (Iggy’s band) released their debut self-titled album in 1969. The album featured primal, sludge-like guitars, simplistic songs, and Iggy’s off-key vocals. Adding to this effect was Iggy’s stage behavior, which consisted of vomiting and a disregard for his own safety. 

Of course, this is a shortened version of the story. There were countless other bands and songs that influenced the formation of punk. But in short, all these and many more influences came together, and in 1975 Patti Smith released her album Horses, which is widely considered the first undeniably “punk” album. The next year, 1976, was probably the most important year in all punk music. Not only did the Ramones release their self-titled debut album, The Damned also released the first punk single in Britain titled “New Rose,” and The Sex Pistols released their single “Anarchy In The U.K..” By that point punk was undeniably present and its principles were clear. Notable punk and punk-related acts to check out include Iggy Pop, The Stooges, The New York Dolls, The Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Ramones, The Buzzcocks, The Slits, Patti Smith, The Clash, The Velvet Underground, X Ray Spex, and Television. 


Punk- 101 Playlist: