The origins of punk are a hotly debated topic. Some say it really began in the 1960s with bands like The Sonics, the Stooges, MC5, and Velvet Underground. Others argue its true birth was in the 1970s with bands like the Ramones, New York Dolls, and Blondie.
What’s generally agreed is that the punk movement took off in mid-1970s New York, fueled in part by the notorious Manhattan venue CBGB’s. It migrated to England shortly thereafter due to the rapid popularity of the Sex Pistols and their dedicated group of fans, known as the Bromley Contingent. That group would itself spark other British punk bands, including Siouxsie and the Banshees and Generation X.
Punk is still a popular social and cultural movement today, albeit not as strong as two decades previous. Despite the ever-growing iPod and music download trends, new punk bands ...
In the late 1970s, punk was a force to be reckoned with. It had divided into multiple subgenres, many of which still exist today. Some of the most popular punk subgenres are anarcho punk, Oi!, and hardcore.
Politically and socially motivated, anarcho punk focuses on activism and speaking out against issues such as animal abuse, government intervention, and consumerism. Some of the most notable anarcho punk bands included Crass, Flux of Pink Indians, and the Subhumans.
Oi!, which came to prominence in the late 1970s, was punk for the working-class. Common topics of Oi! music included songs about poverty and police brutality. Contrary to popular belief, it was not a skinhead movement. In fact, many Oi! bands—Angelic Upstarts, Cock Sparrer, Cockney Rejects, and Oxymoron among them—vocally spoke out against racism.
Faster and heavier than many other punk styles, hardcore came on the scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s. While some hardcore bands, most notably Minor Threat, preached a Straight Edge lifestyle (no alcohol, no drugs), messages varied from band to band. The scene was more divided than anarcho or Oi!, one of the major distinctions being the differences between East Coast and West Coast styles. Black Flag, Bad Brains, The Germs, and Fugazi were just a few of the most popular hardcore bands.
Despite the disagreements over punk’s origins and the range of preferences among fans for its various styles, the goals, characteristics, and message easily bridge the differences. Punk was all about DIY, from do-it-yourself clothing to self-released records. An anti-consumerist movement, the heart of the punk scene relied on self-expression and individual identity outside of the societal norm. Both the music and the mindset were often aggressive and confrontational, inciting activism and rebellion against an unjust society.
Today, vintage punk record collectors seek out the independent records released by the original punk labels. Dischord Records, founded by Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson of The Teen Idles and Minor Threat, issued albums and 45s by artists such as Lungfish, Youth Brigade, and Fugazi (which was started by MacKaye after Minor Threat disbanded). Among the most collectible records in the label’s catalog is Minor Disturbance by The Teen Idles—the label formed purely to release this album, which debuted after the band broke up.
SST Records, which was founded by Greg Ginn of Black Flag, promoted Black Flag’s work, as well as the output of Husker Du, Sonic Youth, Minutemen, Meat Puppets, and Bad Brains. Considered the first hardcore album, only 500 copies of Black Flag’s 1978 Nervous Breakdown were released, making it one of the holy grails for hardcore record collectors.
Just about all of the releases by Crass Records, created by the band of the same name, are in high demand, as are the punk compilation records released by Killed By Death, known among collectors as KBD.
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