There are several entries on h2g2 about punk rock, most of which I find unsatisfactory. So I have taken it upon myself to write a proficient one, an article that captures the heart and soul of the music, the effect it has had on listeners, and the culture which it has spawned. The best way to get the feeling is to fill your ears with it, so if you really want to know what punk rock is all about, skip over this entry and play some Sex Pistols, Ramones, Operation Ivy, Bad Religion, Rancid, or any other good punk band. This is simply my interpretation, which is more than likely wrong.
Section I: Creation
Music is produced by culture, and culture is a byproduct of music. A never-ending, always changing, cycle is the result. Let us look at the beginnings of punk rock. The debate over its origins non-withstanding, we will look back to the New York scene of the late seventies. The popular music of the time was wallowing in its own excremental excesses, and the kids were losing their minds. They needed something different; they wanted to rebel against the vapid culture of mechanical dance music. Enter the Ramones, with "Hey ho, let's go!"
By stripping down to the basics of rock, the Ramones brought with them intensity and spirit. They were the first to call themselves 'punks,' and their followers 'punk rockers' By their side in NYC, playing the venues of Max's Kansas City and CBGB's, were such bands as Talking Heads, Television, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Blondie, and numerous other underground groups. They satisfied the need to get out of mainstream society, with loud, fast, meaningful music.
Punk rock was growing and pulsing like a dismembered tongue, giving birth to baby tongues, over in England, where the Clash, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks and multitudes of others were emerging. London was Calling for Anarchy in the U.K., and getting an overwhelming response. While the Sex Pistols were a producer group, constructed in the like of modern boy bands, they had the feeling right. Crank it up, play those same few chords over and over as fast as you can, and belt out what you're feeling. Criticise government, complain about close-minded fascism, and get the audience going.
Section II: Appearance
Part of the punk culture is appearance, which has evolved over the years. For the Ramones, it was just torn jeans and leather jackets. Sid Vicious wore a Nazi shirt while adorning himself with fetish accessories, for the sake of looking outrageous and appalling. Punk is not a style, it's a way of life, but style is an integral part of it. Brightly dyed hair, Mohawks, liberty spikes, safety pins, and bedraggled clothes have all become a part of the look. Dressing as such does not make you any more of a punk, but it is a way of showing that you do not care for traditional appearances, or traditions at all, and saying, "F**k the status quo" It is a signal to everyone around, and letting others who feel the same know that you do too. Some have accused it of being a uniform, but its no more so than khakis and Abercrombie, and we dress that way because we like it, not because we are considered cool for doing so. Also, it's fun, and I think it looks neat.
Section III: SUB-culture
Punk was the black sheep that society of the time gave birth to, and it, in turn, bore its own underground society. Punk has generated numerous subcultures and factions. There is the original punk, hardcore, straightedge, emo, etceteras. While these groups have differences, it all stems from the same idea, and divisions are unnecessary. And if the kids are United, they can never be divided. Personally, I think most hardcore sounds awful, but I still respect its producers and consumers. The straightedge, sXe, idea of vehemently reinforcing abstinence from drugs and alcohol because it is trendy to do so, annoys me, yet I approve of the basic idea of avoiding dangerous substances. My philosophy is, do whatever you want to feel good, do not worry about whether your friends will accept it.
Q: How many straightedge kids does it take to drink a 40 oz.?
A: One, he just has to wait until his friends aren't looking.
But those contrasts are minor; in the end we are all one. It just goes to show, the culture involved in punk rock is diverse, and we can be extremely different from another, yet we are bonded by love for the music. However, there are certain cores on which most punks agree. For one, we are usually liberals, often radicals, which should be obvious. It would be hard to be a conservative traditionalist while singing along with a good riot song, calling for our nation to make changes.
I think punk is partially about making a difference, eventually changing all the problems and hypocrisy that exist. My mum says we just bitch about what bothers us and refuse to do anything, and I'm sure she's not the only one that thinks that, but I dispute that idea. While we may seem self-centered, most punks I know contribute to society in their own way, such as by being environmentally conscious. It is easy to get discouraged by the fact that we are in the minority, and it is hard to make much a difference in such a position. Nonetheless, I know some who have voted, for worthy candidates of course, or taken other such actions
Another common trait of punks is acceptance of diversity. Although most of us are middle class caucasians, we welcome all backgrounds. We do not believe in Amerikan superiority, for the most part, thus we have more appreciation for other nationalities and societies. Just a couple weeks ago, I ran into an older black woman who expressed an interest in my Op Ivy patch, and I discovered that she was very knowledgeable about my the music I love, that she has been in on the scene since she was a little kid. It was a cool encounter, and it proves that you can never make assumptions about people. Punk music rants about oppression and whatnot, yet we rarely know people who really have to deal with it. It should not just be the voice of working class white kids, rather the voice of everyone who thirsts for change in society.
Section IV: Poseurs
What is a poseur? Just someone who acts like something they are not? In that case, everyone could be considered a poseur, because we all have airs we put on when we are around other people, it is a part of human nature. But there is a distinction between showing separate sides when in different company, and acting in a totally different way to please others. "You don't decide who's a poseur, you can smell them."
When I visit my grandmother, I dress girly and act properly, because I know it makes her happy. That's not compromising my integrity so much as doing something nice for someone who will never understand my battles. Perhaps this is acting like a poseur, but I think of it more as being realistic: what's the point of explaining the ideals of Anarchy to an old woman set in her ways? My cousin, on the other hand, tries to act like she is rebellious just to impress me, when I know her tastes are decided by what MTV tells her is cool. This strikes me as more of a poseur.
There seems to be a poseur infestation lately, of kids who want to seem cool, and be accepted by those of us who really are. They claim to like a certain type of music, yet they go home and play pop songs, and never go to decent shows. Sometimes they say they're vegan/ vegitarian, then eat pepperoni pizza in seclusion. Usually they 'pose' because they want attention. To be honest, I don't really know why people would act in such a manner. Why change who you are for anyone else's sake? I do not really see why people do not actually believe in socialism, vegitarianism, or whatever, but if they do not, why pretend?
If anyone has seen SLC Punk, they have a good idea of what a poseur is. All throughout the movie, the main character preaches punk rock, and condemns poseurs, then turns around at the end to realise that is what he was all along. If you haven't seen it, sorry to ruin the ending, but it was fairly obvious anyway. The moral of the story is: being a punk is something to do for youthful kicks, but everyone grows out of it in time. Which is why that movie p****s me off. Steve-o became a sellout, and contradicts everything he believed in as an adolescent. That is what everyone tells me, "You'll grow out of it; it's just a phase." Which brings us to our next topic:
Section V: Growing Up (Dammit!)
So what happens to punks when they get older? Obviously they decrease in numbers, because I rarely see middle aged punk rockers roaming the streets, but not all of them "grow up." My pops has a friend who still rocks out to the Sex Pistols, in addition to playing awesome guitar in four bands, and holding down a day job. After seeing SLC Punk recently, I've been a little worried about what will happen to me. So many punks give up on the lifestyle, to get a job, a house, and a more accepted way of life. "Junkies Running Dry," by Operation Ivy, has been on my mind a lot lately, as I see my friends give up their socialist ideals in favor of capitalism, by flipping burgers at Murder King. Money is a vile temptress, to whom I hope I never give in.
I won't deny the merits of money, it's certainly nice to have something with which you can buy things, and a certain amount is necessary for survival. My problem is the obsession with money and material possessions that seems inherent in Amerikan society. There is nothing wrong with making money, so long as you enjoy what you're doing, and are capable of doing so while being true to your beliefs. Selling out is only when you compromise your morals for the sake of money. I myself make a bit of dough on occasion, by doing things that fit with my ethics and taste, such as by doing yard work, or babysitting. It is hard to find parents who will trust their children to a chick with liberty spikes, though.
In answer to the question of what the future hold for punks, it usually changes them. They decide that their youthful ideas were impractical, that they need to grow up and learn how to function in society, etceteras. That is what I have seen, anyway. No Future for me, unless my generation manages to hold on to what all the previous ones have forsaken.