The Late 1970s and the Arrival of Punk Rock

London-Calling
Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood

The late 1970’s saw the rise of Punk Rock with the vast majority of the bands emerging from the British Isles. The effect that this genre of music had on the rock scene was immense and although Punk never really lasted beyond the early 80’s the effects of this music can still be felt in today’s sounds. Punk Rock emerged from garage rock and is characterized by its fast tempo with anti-establishment rhetoric sprinkled within its lyrics. However, it was more than just one close relationship with one type of music. The star artists in the glam rock and psychedelic rock scenes were also an inspiration to many punk rock performers. David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix and Marc Bolan had already laid the foundations, and the image that these artists had portrayed were ones that future punks would try to aspire to.

The pioneer bands started emerging in the mid 1970’s as the music scene was struggling to find an identity following the passion and the creativity of the late 1960s. One of the first bands to emerge were the New York Dolls and they along with the Velvet Underground and the Stooges set the ball rolling. Punk Rock took hold in the United Kingdom with the formation of the Sex Pistols. Jonny Rotten, Sid Viscous, Steve Jones and Paul Cook only created one album and 4 singles, but their style of music in the British rock scene was one that had never been seen before.  They shocked society and from here the music started to grow.

The Clash’s Paul Simonon certainly looked like a bass player

The pace of the music was loud and fast and dealt with all types of social issues, attacking the monarchy and dealing with matters that the disaffected young were willing to listen to. This was the time of the postal strike, the miners’ strike and high unemployment levels, and this style of music had an eager audience. The band’s manager Malcolm McLaren owned the Kings Road fashion shop “SEX” with Vivienne Westwood, and the pair spotted the financial opportunity in investing in this new movement. Followers of the music wore bright bohemian styled costumes, had wild hair styles, and tattoos and body piercings became a feature of the young followers.

The political voice of the Punk was being carried by The Clash who as well as producing brilliant music voiced very strong social opinions. The band was made up of Joe Strummer, Topper Headon, Paul Simonon and Mick Jones. The most talented musician was Mick Jones on lead guitar, and he actually had to teach Simonon how to play the bass guitar due to Simonon’s lack of experience. The Clash’s music had real political depth and their third album “London Calling” is often voted as one of the greatest rock and roll albums ever. Punk rock was certainly anti-establishment, and the bands would play concerts to disaffected young punks in atmospheres akin to near anarchy and riot.

The followers dressed to impress with their loud outfits and the genres trade mark dance “the pogo” would be performed passionately by the audience on the dance floors. There was even the culture of punks spitting on each other, and as the artists would try anything in an attempt to shock mainstream society. As the punk bands became established some of them looked to develop their music and their original aims of anti-establishment were now no longer their number one priority. The Buzzcocks, The Stranglers, The Clash, The Ramones and The Stiff Little Fingers were all recording albums that were to be the springboard to many of their artist’s careers in rock music. Punk was never going to die completely as it had left such an impression on music that the effects of the movement would still influence records for many future years.