The punk subculture emerged in the United States, United Kingdom , Australia and South Africa in the mid-to-late-1970s, and has since undergone several developments. The punk subculture originated from a number of antecedents and influences. Various philosophical and artistic movements influenced and preceded to the punk movement. In particular, several strains of modern art anticipated and affected punk. Various writers, books, and literary movements were important to the formation of the punk aesthetic. Punk rock has a variety of musical origins in the rock and roll genre. Previous youth subcultures also had major influences on punk.
The earliest form of punk, retroactively named protopunk, arose from garage rock in the northeastern United States in the early-to-mid-1970s. The first ongoing music scene that was assigned the punk label appeared in New York City between 1974 and 1976. Around that same time, a punk scene developed in London. Soon after, Los Angeles became home to the third major punk scene. These three cities formed the backbone of the burgeoning movement, but there were also other scenes in cities such as Brisbane, and Boston.
Starting around 1977, the subculture diversified, with the development of factions such as 2 Tone, Oi!, pop punk, New Wave, and No Wave. Sometime around the early 1980s, punk underwent a renaissance in the form of the hardcore punk subculture. Hardcore proved fertile in much the same way as the original punk subculture, producing several new bands. The underground punk movement in the United States in the 1980s produced scenes that either evolved from punk or claimed to apply its spirit and DIY ethics to a completely different music, securing punk's legacy in the alternative rock and indie scenes. A new movement in America became visible in the early and mid-1990s, claiming to be a revival of punk.
The punk subculture is centered around listening to recordings or live concerts of a loud, aggressive genre of rock music called punk rock, usually shortened to punk. While most punk rock uses the distorted guitars and noisy drumming that is derived from 1960s garage rock and 1970s pub rock, some punk bands incorporate elements from other subgenres, such as metal (e.g., mid-1980s-era Discharge) or folk rock (Billy Bragg). Different punk subcultures often distinguish themselves by having a unique style of punk rock, although not every style of punk rock has its own associated subculture. Most punk rock songs are short, have simple and somewhat basic arrangements using relatively few chords, and they use lyrics that express punk values and ideologies ranging from the nihilism of the Sex Pistols' "No Future" to the positive, anti-drug message of Minor Threat's "Straight Edge". Punk rock is usually played in small bands rather than by solo artists. Punk bands usually consist of a singer, one or two overdriven electric guitars, an electric bass player, and a drummer (the singer may be one of the musicians). In some bands, the band members may do backup vocals, but these typically consist of shouted slogans, choruses, or football(soccer)-style chants, rather than the sweet, arranged harmony vocals of pop bands.
Although Punk-related ideologies are mostly concerned with individual freedom, one needs to understand punk as the working class manifestation of informal anti-establishment sensibility. Common punk views include the DIY ethic, non-conformity, direct action, not selling out, and nihilism. British punks expressed their nihilistic views with the slogan drawn from the title of the Sex Pistols' song "No Future". In the US, punks had a different approach to nihilism based on their "unconcern for the present" and their "disaffection from both middle and working class standards". Punk nihilism was expressed in the use of "harder, more self-destructive, consciousness-obliterating substances like heroin, or...methamphetamine" and by the "mutilation of the body" with razor blades.
Punk politics cover the entire political spectrum, although most punks could be categorized as having left-wing or progressive views. Some punks participate in protests for local, national or global change. Some trends in punk politics include anarchism, socialism, anti-authoritarianism, anti-militarism, anti-capitalism, anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-nationalism, anti-homophobia, environmentalism, vegetarianism, veganism, and animal rights. However, some individuals within the punk subculture hold right-wing views (such as the Conservative Punk website), libertarian values, neo-Nazi views (Nazi punk), or are apolitical. Some offshoots of punk are apolitical, such as psychobilly, deathrock, horror punk, and the goth subculture to name a few.
Some punks style their hair to stand in spikes, cut it into Mohawks or other dramatic shapes, often coloring it with vibrant, unnatural hues. Punks tend to adorn their favorite jacket or vest with pin-back buttons and patches of bands they love and ideas they believe in, telling the world around them a little bit about who they are. They sometimes flaunt taboo symbols such as the Iron Cross. Some early punks occasionally wore clothes displaying a Nazi swastika for shock-value, but most modern punks are staunchly anti-racist and are more likely to wear a crossed-out swastika symbol. In contrast to punks who believe the fashion is a central part of the punk subculture, there are some punks who are decidedly "anti-fashion," arguing that music and/or ideology should define punk, not fashion. This is most common in the post-1980s US hardcore punk scene, where members of the subculture often dressed in t-shirts and jeans, rather than the more elaborate outfits and spiked, dyed hair of their late 1970s UK punk predecessors.
Punk has generated a considerable amount of poetry and prose. Punk has its own underground press in the form of punk zines, which feature news, gossip, cultural criticism, and interviews. Some zines take the form of perzines. Important punk zines include Maximum RocknRoll, Punk Planet, Cometbus, and Search & Destroy . Several novels, biographies, autobiographies, and comic books have been written about punk. Love and Rockets is a notable comic with a plot involving the Los Angeles punk scene.
Examples of punk poets include: Jim Carroll, Patti Smith, John Cooper Clarke, Seething Wells, Raegan Butcher, and Attila the Stockbroker. The Medway Poets performance group included punk musician Billy Childish and had an influence on Tracey Emin. Jim Carroll's autobiographical works are among the first known examples of punk literature. The punk subculture has inspired the cyberpunk and steampunk literature genres.
Original footage of punk bands is also often used in music documentaries. The seminal punk documentary is The Filth and the Fury, detailing the rise of the Sex Pistols. In addition to the members of that band and its affiliates (Malcolm McLaren, Vivienne Westwood, Nancy Spungen, etc.) it also features archival footage of Billy Idol, Sting, Shane McGowan, and a young teenaged girl who would grow up to be Siouxsie Sioux, among others. One of the highlights of the movie is footage of the Sex Pistols playing "God Save the Queen" on a barge in the middle of the Thames during the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II, and their subsequent arrest.
The No Wave Cinema and Remodernist film movements owe much to punk aesthetics. Derek Jarman and Don Letts are notable punk filmmakers. Many other films are associated with punk, such as 24 Hour Party People, which presents the evolution of punk rock into New Wave and Madchester, and Threat, which focuses on militant Straight edge punks in the New York hardcore scene.
Punks often form a local scene, which can have as few as half a dozen members in a small town, or as many as thousands of members in a major city. A local scene usually has a small group of dedicated punks surrounded by a more casual periphery. A typical punk scene is made up of punk and hardcore bands; fans who attend concerts, protests, and other events; zine publishers, band reviewers, and writers; visual artists who create illustrations for zines, posters, and album covers; people who organize concerts, and people who work at music venues or independent record labels. Squatting plays a role in some punk communities, providing shelter and other forms of support. Illegal squats in abandoned or condemned housing and communal "punk houses" sometimes provide bands a place to stay while they are touring. There are some punk communes, such as the Dial House. The Internet has been playing an increasingly larger role in punk, specifically in the form of virtual communities and file sharing programs for trading music files.
While this perceived inauthenticity is viewed with scorn and contempt by members of the subculture, the definition of the term and to whom it should be applied is subjective and the subject of much debate. For example, the Television Personalities' 1978 song “Part-Time Punks,” "...declared that either everyone who wanted to be a punk was one or that everyone was a poseur (or both)" and it argues that "the concept of...punk rock authenticity...was a fiction. Music journalist Dave Rimmer’s book Like Punk Never Happened argues that the "...first punk kids in London envisioned waging a revolution against the corruption that had undeniably crept into a becalmed and boring rock scene." Rimmer notes that the "...terms in which they expressed their disdain for hangers-on and those whose post-hip credentials didn’t quite make it came straight out of the authenticity movements: "Poseurs" was the favorite epithet. Ross Buncle's history of late-1970s punk rock in Perth, Australia claims that eventually the scene "... opened the door to a host of poseurs, who were less interested in the music than in UK-punk fancy dress and being seen to be hip"; he praises the gigs where there "...were no punk-identikit poseurs" in the audience.
The term was used in several punk songs, in addition to the song “Part-Time Punks,” including the X-Ray Spex song "I am a Poseur", the early 1980s hardcore punk band MDC's song "Poseur Punk", and California punk band NOFX's song "Decom-poseur", which "lashes out" at "an entire population of bands...guilty of bastardizing a once socially feared and critically infallible genre" of punkAn article in Drowned in Sound argues that 1980s-era "hardcore is the true spirit of punk", because "... after all the poseurs and fashionistas fucked off to the next trend of skinny pink ties with New Romantic haircuts, singing wimpy lyrics...", the punk scene consisted only of people "...completely dedicated to the DIY ethics"; punk "[l]ifers without the ambition to one day settle into the study-work-family-house-retirement-death scenario.
The punk and heavy metal subcultures have shared similarities since punk's inception. The early 1970s metal scene was instrumental in the development of protopunk. Glam rockers New York Dolls were massively influential on early punk fashion, and also influenced glam punk and glam metal. Alice Cooper was a forerunner of the fashion and music of both the punk and metal subcultures. Motörhead, since their first album release in 1977, have had continued popularity in the punk scene, and singer Lemmy is a fan of punk rock. Punk-related genres such as metalcore, grindcore and crossover thrash were greatly influenced by heavy metal.
The New Wave of British Heavy Metal influenced the UK 82 style of bands like Discharge, and hardcore punk was a primary influence on thrash metal bands such as Metallica and Slayer. By proxy, the NWOBHM was an influence on the development of the "darker" metal subgenres such as death metal and black metal. The early 1990s grunge subculture was a fusion of punk anti-fashion ideals and metal-influenced guitar sound. However, metal's mainstream incarnations have proven anathema to punk. Hardcore and grunge developed in part as reactions against the metal music popular during the 1980s. The industrial and rivethead subculture also has several ties to punk, in terms of music, fashion and attitude. In punk's heyday, punks faced harassment and attacks from the general public and from members of other subcultures. In the 1980s in the UK, punks were involved in brawls with Teddy Boys, greasers and bikers. There was also considerable enmity between positive punks and the glamorously dressed New Romantic fans of bands such as Spandau Ballet.