Punk & Riot Grrl
Punk Rock History
Punk rock is a rock music genre that developed between 1974 and
1976 in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
Punk bands created fast, hard-edged music, typically with short songs,
stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment
Punk embraces a DIY ethic; many bands self-produced recordings
and distributed them through informal channels.
For the most part, punk took root in local scenes that tended to reject
association with the mainstream. An associated punk subculture
emerged, expressing youthful rebellion and characterized by
distinctive styles of clothing and adornment and a variety of anti-
By the turn of the century, pop punk had been adopted by the
mainstream, as bands such as Green Day and The Offspring brought
the genre widespread popularity.
The first waves of punk rock aimed to be aggressively modern, distancing
itself from the bombast and sentimentality of early 1970s rock.
According to Ramones drummer Tommy Ramone
"In its initial form, a lot of [1960s] stuff was innovative and exciting.
Unfortunately, what happens is that people who could not hold a candle to
the likes of Hendrix started noodling away. Soon you had endless solos that
went nowhere. By 1973, I knew that what was needed was some pure, stripped
down, no bullshit rock 'n' roll.”
John Holmstrom, founding editor of Punk magazine, recalls feeling "punk
rock had to come along because the rock scene had become so tame
that [acts] like Billy Joel and Simon and Garfunkel were being called rock
and roll, when to me and other fans, rock and roll meant this wild and
Musical virtuosity was often looked on with suspicion. According to
Holmstrom, punk rock was "rock and roll by people who didn't have very
much skills as musicians but still felt the need to express themselves through
Origins of the word Punk
From the late 16th through the 18th century, punk
was a common, coarse synonym for prostitute;
William Shakespeare used it with that meaning in
The Merry Wives of Windsor (1602) and Measure
for Measure (1623).
The term eventually came to describe "a young
male hustler, a gangster, a hoodlum, or a
Musical & Lyrical Elements
Punk rock bands often emulate the bare musical structures and
arrangements of 1960s garage rock
Typical punk rock instrumentation includes one or two electric guitars,
an electric bass, and a drum kit, along with vocals.
Punk rock songs tend to be shorter than those of other popular genres
Punk rock vocals sometimes sound nasal and lyrics are often shouted
instead of sung in a conventional sense, particularly in hardcore styles.
Guitar parts tend to include highly distorted power chords or barre
chords creating a characteristic sound described as a"buzzsaw
Punk rock lyrics are typically frank and confrontational; compared to
the lyrics of other popular music genres, they frequently comment on
social and political issues..
Pre History: Garage Rock
In the early and mid-1960s, garage rock bands that
came to be recognized as punk rock's progenitors
began springing up in many different locations
around North America.
The minimalist sound of many garage rock bands
was influenced by the harder-edged wing of the
British Invasion. The Kinks' hit singles of 1964, "You
Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night,
have been described as "predecessors of the whole
In 1965, The Who quickly progressed from their
debut single, "I Can't Explain", a virtual Kinks clone,
to "My Generation".
Visual Elements of Punk
The classic punk rock look among male U.S. musicians harkens
back to the T-shirt, motorcycle jacket, and jeans ensemble
favored by American greasers of the 1950s associated with
the rockabilly scene and by British rockers of the 1960s.
The cover of the Ramones' 1976 debut album, featuring a
shot of the band by Punk photographer Roberta Bayley, set
forth the basic elements of a style that was soon widely
emulated by rock musicians both punk and nonpunk.
Richard Hell's more androgynous, ragamuffin look—and
reputed invention of the safety-pin aesthetic—was a major
influence on Sex Pistols and British punk style.
The characteristic stage performance style of male punk
musicians does not deviate significantly from the macho
postures classically associated with rock music.
CBGB’s New York
CBGB (Country, BlueGrass, and Blues) was a music
club at 315 Bowery at Bleecker Street in the
borough of Manhattan in New York City.
Founded by Hilly Kristal in 1973, it was originally
intended to feature its namesake musical styles, but
became a forum for American punk and New
Wave bands like Ramones, Misfits, Television, the
Patti Smith Group, Mink DeVille, The Dead Boys, The
Dictators, The Fleshtones, The Voidoids, The Cramps,
Blondie, The Shirts, and Talking Heads
The club closed in October 2006. The final concert
was performed by Patti Smith
Punk music in Australia
A similar punk music-based subculture was beginning to take shape in
various parts of Australia. A scene was developing around Radio
Birdman and its main performance venue, the Oxford Tavern (later the
Oxford Funhouse), located in Sydney's Darlinghurst suburb.
By 1976, The Saints were hiring Brisbane local halls to use as venues, or
playing in "Club 76", their shared house in the inner suburb of Petrie
Terrace. The band soon discovered that musicians were exploring
similar paths in other parts of the world. Ed Kuepper, coleader of The
Saints, later recalled:
“One thing I remember having had a really depressing effect on me was
the first Ramones album. When I heard it [in 1976], I mean it was a great
record ... but I hated it because I knew we’d been doing this sort of stuff
for years. There was even a chord progression on that album that we
used ... and I thought, "Fuck. We’re going to be labeled as influenced by
the Ramones", when nothing could have been further from the truth”
During 1976–77, in the midst of the original UK punk movement, bands
emerged such as Manchester's Joy Division, The Fall and Magazine,
Leeds' Gang of Four, and London's The Raincoats that became
central post-punk figures.
These bands were often musically experimental, like certain New
Wave acts; defining them as "post-punk" was a sound that tended to
be less pop and more dark and abrasive—sometimes verging on the
atonal, as with Subway Sect and Wire—and an anti-establishment
posture directly related to punk's.
Post-punk brought together a new fraternity of musicians, journalists,
managers, and entrepreneurs; the latter, notably Geoff Travis of Rough
Trade and Tony Wilson of Factory, helped to develop the production
and distribution infrastructure of the indie music scene that blossomed
in the mid-1980s. Smoothing the edges of their style in the direction of
New Wave, several post-punk bands such as New Order (descended
from Joy Division), The Cure, and U2 crossed over to a mainstream U.S.
A distinctive style of punk, characterized by
superfast, aggressive beats, screaming vocals,
and often politically aware lyrics, began to
emerge in 1978 among bands scattered around
the United States and Canada.
Among the earliest hardcore bands, regarded as
having made the first recordings in the style, were
Southern California's Middle Class and Black Flag.
The lyrical content of hardcore songs is often
critical of commercial culture and middle-class
With their love of the Beach Boys and late 1960s
bubblegum pop, the Ramones paved the way to what
became known as pop punk.
In the late 1970s, UK bands such as Buzzcocks and The
Undertones combined pop-style tunes and lyrical themes
with punk's speed and chaotic edge.
Bad Religion "layered their pissed off, politicized sound
with the smoothest of harmonies"; Descendents "wrote
almost surfy, Beach Boys–inspired songs about girls and
food and being young(ish)‖.
Bands that fused punk with light-hearted pop melodies,
such as The Queers and Screeching Weasel, began
appearing around the country, in turn influencing bands
like Green Day and The Offspring, who brought pop punk
wide popularity and major record sales.
In its original, mid-1980s incarnation, emo was a less musically restrictive
style of punk developed by participants in the Washington, D.C. area
It was originally referred to as "emocore", an abbreviation of "emotive
Notable early emo bands included Rites of Spring, Embrace, The
Hated, and One Last Wish. The term derived from the tendency of
some of these bands' members to become strongly emotional during
Fugazi, formed out of the dissolution of Embrace, inspired a second,
much broader based wave of emo bands beginning in the mid-1990s.
Bands such as Seattle's Sunny Day Real Estate and Jimmy Eat World
broke out of the underground, attracting national attention.
Queercore and Riot Grrl
In the 1990s, the queercore movement developed around a number
of punk bands with gay, lesbian, or bisexual members such as God Is
My Co-Pilot, Pansy Division, Team Dresch, and Sister George.
Queercore lyrics often treat the themes of prejudice, sexual identity,
gender identity, and individual rights. The movement has continued
into the 21st century, supported by festivals such as Queeruption.
The riot grrrl movement foregrounded feminist concerns and
progressive politics in general; the DIY ethic and fanzines were also
central elements of the scene.
Singer-guitarists Corin Tucker of Heavens to Betsy and Carrie
Brownstein of Excuse 17, bands active in both the queercore and riot
grrrl scenes, cofounded the celebrated indie/punk band Sleater-
Kinney in 1994.
Bikini Kill's lead singer, Kathleen Hanna the iconic figure of riot grrrl,
moved on to form the art punk group Le Tigre in 1998.
Artist Spotlight: The Kinks
The Kinks were an English rock band formed in
Muswell Hill, North London, by brothers Ray and
Dave Davies in 1964.
Categorised in the United States as a British
Invasion band, The Kinks are recognised as one
of the most important and influential rock acts of
―You Really Got Me‖:
Artist Spotlight: The Saints
The Saints are an Australian rock band, which
formed in Brisbane in 1974 as punk rockers.
In 1975, contemporaneous with United States'
Ramones, The Saints were employing the fast
tempos, raucous vocals and "buzz saw" guitar that
characterised early punk rock.
With their debut single, "(I'm) Stranded", in
September 1976, they became the first punk band
outside the US to release a record, ahead of better-
known acts including the Sex Pistols and The Clash.
The Sex Pistols
The Sex Pistols were an English punk rock band that
formed in London in 1975.
They were responsible for initiating the punk
movement in the United Kingdom and inspiring
many later punk and alternative rock musicians.
Although their initial career lasted just two-and-a-
half years and produced only four singles and one
studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the
Sex Pistols, they are regarded as one of the most
influential acts in the history of popular music.
―Anarchy in the UK‖:
Artist Spotlight: The
The Ramones were an American rock band that
formed in the New York City neighborhood of
Forest Hills, Queens, in 1974.
They are often cited as the first punk rock group.
Despite achieving only limited commercial
success, the band was a major influence on the
punk rock movement both in the United States
and the United Kingdom.
Artist Spotlight: The Clash
The Clash were an English punk rock band that
formed in 1976 as part of the original wave of
Along with punk, their music incorporated
elements of reggae, ska, dub, funk, rap, dance,
Artist Spotlight: The Jam
The Jam were an English punk rock/New
Wave/mod revival band active during the late
1970s and early 1980s.
They were formed in Woking, Surrey. While they
shared the "angry young men" outlook and fast
tempos of their punk rock contemporaries, The Jam
wore smartly tailored suits rather than ripped
clothes, and they incorporated a number of
mainstream 1960s rock influences rather than
rejecting them, placing The Jam at the forefront of
the mod revival movement.
―Down in the Tube station at Midnight‖:
Buzzcocks are an English punk rock band formed
in Bolton in 1976
They are regarded as an important influence on
the Manchester music scene, the independent
record label movement, punk rock, power pop,
pop punk and indie rock.
―Ever Fallen In Love‖:
Artist Spotlight: Joy Division
Joy Division were an English rock band formed in
1976 in Manchester.
Joy Division rapidly evolved from their initial punk
rock influences to develop a sound and style that
pioneered the post-punk movement of the late
―Love will tear us apart‖:
Artist Spotlight: The Stooges
The Stooges (also known as Iggy and The
Stooges) are an American rock band from Ann
Arbor, Michigan first active from 1967 to 1974,
and later reformed in 2003.
Although they sold few records in their original
incarnation and often performed for indifferent
or hostile audiences, the Stooges are widely
regarded as instrumental in the rise of punk rock,
as well as influential to alternative rock, heavy
metal and rock music at large.
―I Wanna Be Your Dog‖:
Artist Spotlight: The Offspring
The Offspring is an American punk rock band
from Huntington Beach, California, formed in
1984. They are widely credited, alongside fellow
California pop punk bands Sublime, Green Day,
Bad Religion, and Rancid, with popularizing and
reviving mainstream interest in punk rock in the
United States in the 1990s.
Artist Spotlight: Green Day
Green Day is an American punk rock band
formed in 1987.
Green Day was originally part of the punk scene
at 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley, California.
Artist Spotlight: Blink 182
Blink-182 is an American rock band consisting of
vocalist and bass guitarist Mark Hoppus, vocalist
and guitarist Tom DeLonge, and drummer Travis
Barker. They have sold over 28 million albums
worldwide since forming in Poway, California in
Sleater-Kinney is an alternative rock band that
formed in 1994 in Olympia, Washington.
They were a noted part of the "riot grrrl" and indie
rock scenes in the Pacific Northwest. The band
was known for its feminist and left-leaning politics.
―You’re no rock and roll fun‖:
Artist Spotlight: Le Tigre
Le Tigre is an American electroclash band,
formed by Kathleen Hanna (formerly of Bikini Kill)
and Johanna Fateman in 1998 in New York City.
Le Tigre is known for its left-wing sociopolitical
lyrics, dealing with issues of feminism and the
Radio Birdman was one of the first punk bands in
Australia along with The Saints. Deniz Tek and Rob
Younger formed the group in Sydney, Australia in
1974. The group influenced the work of many
successful, mainstream bands, and is now
considered to be one of the most crucial bands
to Australia's musical growth, but their main
legacy was their towering influence over
Australian indie rock in the 1980s.
Frenzal Rhomb are an Australian punk rock band
which formed in 1992 with mainstay Jason
Whalley on lead vocals and rhythm guitar.
The group have supported tours by The Offspring,
Bad Religion, and Blink-182 within Australia.
Frenzal Rhomb have toured to the United States,
United Kingdom, Japan, South Africa, Israel and
“Russel Crowe’s Band”:
Parkway Drive is an Australian hardcore band
from Byron Bay, New South Wales, formed in