For this week’s Throwback Thursday, we’re looking at punks. Punk was a subculture that was largely characterised by anti-establishment views as well as, of course, punk rock music. It emerged in the UK, Australia and the United States in the mid-1970s and continued into the 1980s and it is said that the first bands to embrace the punk movement were the New York Dolls and Television, who both emerged from a small New York scene.
Punk remained a fairly underground scene until 1976 when bands The Ramones and The Sex Pistols barrelled into the mainstream. Most punk music is defined by its use of distorted guitars, noisy drumming, short songs and use of few chords. The influence of The Sex Pistols and The Ramones was so huge it is alleged that after seeing the Sex Pistols support one of his old bands, Joe Strummer was motivated to form The Clash. Bands like The Clash, The Buzzcocks, Joy Division and The Stranglers continued to be influenced by the punk scene.
Whilst their music may have been loud, their fashion sense was much louder as punks are just as known for their eclectic style. Punks adapted everyday objects for aesthetic effect. For example, ripped clothing was held together by safety pins or wrapped with tape, ordinary clothing was customised with marker pen or paint and safety pins and razor blades were used as jewellery. Designer Vivienne Westwood was closely associated with UK punk fashion as she made clothes for Malcom McLaren’s boutique, which then became famous as ‘SEX’. Other common fashion items were “drainpipe” jeans, tartan trousers or skirts, leather jackets decorated with painted band logos or metal studs, footwear such as Converse, brothel creepers or Dr. Marten boots. Their hair was equally as loud, with mohawks become popular, particularly in really bright colours.
Punks were well-known for their anti-establishment views and were quite often categorised as having left-wing or progressive views. Other views include their anti-authoritarianism, non-conformity and most importantly, not selling out. Punks were completely against capitalism, racism, sexism and were more about socialism, vegetarianism and animal rights. However, not all punks were as progressive as others, there were some punks that held particularly right-wing or neo-Nazi views. It is thought that the UK punks were much more into anarchism than the US punks, highlighted by The Sex Pistols song ‘God Save the Queen’, of which the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority refused to play, despite it reaching number one in the NME charts and number two on the official UK Singles Chart.
The punk subculture revived the skinhead subculture in the UK in the late 1970s, and punks and skinheads had both antagonistic and friendly relationships, depending on the social circumstances, the time period and the geographical location of course. Punk also created an incredible band of poets, so called ‘punk poets’ including Patti Smith, Jim Carroll and John Cooper Clarke as well as influencing visual artists such as The Dead Kennedys, Jamie Reid and punk cartoonist John Holmstrom. There are still elements of punk resonating in the music industry today, with the likes of The Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs who developed their sound using elements of the original New York punk scene.