Did you know that the first commercially successful punk band
was the Sex Pistols? Then came groups like Black Flag, Husker Du,
and Bad Brains. Punk was invented in Britain in the mid Seventies.
The first American punk started in a New York club called CBGB’s.
CBGB’s would attract a crowd of about 500 with its Sunday-afternoon
hard-core matinees. The concerts would be over by a reasonable
time so kids could get home to eat dinner with their parents. In
this paper we will take a look at some history and aspects of punk
rock over the years.
Slam dancing has been popular through the history of punk.
You may have heard of called “mashing” or “stage diving.” Mashing
is just a big game of bumper cars like you played when you were a
kid. I think Natalie Jacobson who is dating the lead singer of
“Murphy’s Law” describes stage diving best when says, “It’s like
diving into a human carpet. Something like the old kids’ trust
game. Just my way of getting into it. Gospel people got their
thing, I got mine.”1
Some punks consider themselves Nazis’, or are concerned with
issues like peace, racism, and nuclear war. Most punk is against
parental, musical, and political authorities. On the other hand
some isn’t. Bob Mould of Husker Du talks about politics quite
frequently in his songs.
I don’t write about politics because I’m not an expert.
Some bands find it very necessary to claim they’re
politically relevant when in actuality they don’t know
shit about politics. Not informing people is much better
than misinforming people. We’re sort of like reporters
in a way. Reporters of our own mental state. Reporters
of the state of the air. Consciousness. Of the day. We
make personal statements.2
Most punks that live in small towns have trouble making
friends. They find it hard to relate to most people. Sixteen-
year-old Becca Levine finds it hard to make friends in her small
town. She comes from a family of divorced parents that never have
understood her. Her mother thinks it’s just a phase she’s going
through. As Becca Quotes, “Parents around here treat me like I’m
kind of weird.”3 She has met someone from New York City that
understands her. She meets with him at concerts at clubs like the
Ritz or CBGB’s. She met someone else also. Someone about 20
minutes away from her hometown who wrote an ad in a national
magazine looking for someone to associate with that would
understand him. He got a lot of responses, but when he saw the
letter from Becca he called her right up. They met for the first
time at a Hard-Core show in New York City. But still no one in her
hometown understands her. Fitting in with the New York hard-core
scene is one of her goals.
Punk has its very own unique style. Although punk sports hard
edges, bright colors, shaved heads, leather jackets, Mohawks, and
army boots. You can’t really tell if a person is a punk by the way
they dress or do their hair. Wanda Draper, professor of psychiatry
and behavioral sciences at the University of Oklahoma says, “We
need to look at their reactions and responses to what goes on
around them in everyday life. When we know that this is a fad-that
it is an effort to be a part of the ‘group’-we can usually relax.”4
Development of Punk
Through the years some punk has had influences from country to
the Grateful Dead. Some of this may not even be punk at all. Take
Rancid’s song “Time Bomb” off their latest album, “…And Out Come
the Wolves”5 for instance. It is their rendition of Reggae.
Most punk groups don’t make much money at all. Once in a
while a punk group will hit it big time but that is very rare.
Paul Westerbert, lead singer of the Replacements quotes,
“We are the hungriest band I’ve ever seen. We get in the
van and drive to a town, play, stay at a friend’s house.
Wake up when they throw us out. Drive the rest of the
day. Play the next night. We get fifteen dollars a day.
And when we’re home, we don’t get nothing. We’re way in
debt. We own a van, it breaks down, and you know when
you play that the gig money goes to pay for the broken-
down van. We’re used to it.6
Punk is also related to Hard-Core and Ska. Hard-Core is
usually heavier and more upbeat the regular punk. Ska is punk with
some trumpets or saxophones playing along.
Punk Is Still Going Strong
Drugs, rock star ego’s, and in some cases death ruined the
development of punk bands back around 1980 like the Sex Pistols,
Black Flag, and The Germs. It made a recent comeback in the early
nineties. Julia Sazbo quotes, “Music lovers will argue that it all
started in early 1993 when Rhino Records came out with D.I.Y. (Do
It Yourself), a nine-volume aural history of punk. They came tours
by the Ramones, the Stranglers, and Television.”7 Believe it or
not. Punk has been and still is surviving mostly on minor labels.
1 Blauner, Peter. “Hard-Core Kids.” New York. 26 May 1986:
2 Goldberg, Micheal. “Punk Lives.” Rolling Stone. 18 July-1
August 1985: 30.
3 Blauner, Peter. “Hard-Core Kids.” New York. 26 May 1986:
4 “Draper, Wanda. “Punk Look–Fad or Defiance?” USA Today.
April 1990: 14.
5 Song. “Time Bomb.” …And Out Come the Wolves. Performed
by Rancid. Epitaph, 86434-2, 1995.
6 Goldberg, Micheal. “Punk Lives.” Rolling Stone. 18 July-1
August 1985: 30.
7 Szabo, Julia. “Think Punk.” Harper’s Bazaar. November
1993: 53. Bibliography
Blauner, Peter. “Hard-Core Kids.” New York. 26 May 1986: 41.
Goldberg, Micheal. “Punk Lives.” Rolling Stone. 18 July-1
August 1985: 30.
“Draper, Wanda. “Punk Look–Fad or Defiance?” USA Today. April
Song. “Time Bomb.” …And Out Come the Wolves. Performed by
Rancid. Epitaph, 86434-2, 1995.
Szabo, Julia. “Think Punk.” Harper’s Bazaar. November 1993: