'Punk' has several meanings in the English language, but most likely the definition that is used, "petty gangster, hoodlum, ruffian" (Merriam-Webster), was first used in relation to rock music by some American critics in the early 1970s to describe these new rebellious garage bands and their devotees, 'Punk Rockers'. By late 1976, bands such as the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned and The Ramones were recognized as the symbols of this new musical movement. Within a year, the style was spreading around the world and became a major cultural phenomenon in the United Kingdom.
Because punk rock, for the most part, tended to reject association with the mainstream (certainly on local scenes and less so commercially) a punk subculture emerged, expressing this youth based rebellion by also featuring distinctive styles of clothing and adornment: T-shirts, motorcycle jackets, and jeans in the style of 1950s era American rockabilly greasers, and British 1960s rockers. Bondage sex based clothing later followed when tattoos and spiked clothing then entered the scene. Originally punk rockers sported short and choppy haircuts, the Mohawk later emerged as a characteristic style. The rebellion did not end at music or clothing for a variety of anti-authoritarian ideologies were also explored.
Punk rock bands often emulate the bare musical structures and arrangements of late 1960s garage rock. Instrumentation includes: one or two electric guitars, drum, bass guitars, along with vocals. Songs tend to be shorter than those of other genres. Where-as early punk songs maintained a traditional rock 'n' roll verse-chorus form with 4/4 time signature, later bands (such as those in the 'Hardcore' form of the music) have broken from that style. punk Rock music tends to be primitive and simple often using (or over-utilizing) two-chord structures, creating a sort of "droning" sound. Furthermore, shifts in pitch and volume in the music are infrequent. Since complicated guitar solos are considered self-indulgent, they are not used, although basic guitar breaks are allowed. Some more recent punk rock bands have taken a surfer/skateboarder rock approach with a lighter, twangier guitar tone. Bass guitar lines are uncomplicated and repetitive. Drums typically sound fast, heavy and dry. Production quality is usually minimal, often using home tape recording equipment in an attempt to simulate the "authenticity" of a live show.
Punk rock vocals and lyrics are frank and confrontational often featuring social and political issues sung in a nasal or shouted voice, particularly in the 'Hardcore' style. In early British punk, the main goal was to outrage and shock the mainstream with such lyrics as in The Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K." and "God Save the Queen". Anti-sentimental ideas about relationships and sex are also common.
By the beginning of the 1980s, faster, more aggressive styles such as 'Hardcore' and 'Oi!' had become the predominant styles of punk rock. Musicians identifying with or inspired by punk also pursued a broad range of other variations, most notably 'New Wave Pop', giving rise to the 'post-punk' and the 'alternative rock' movement. This merging lead to cross-pollination of genres: the NWOBHM (New Wave of British heavy metal) contains many punk influences and styling that brought punk into heavy metal, further crossings were seen in the heavy metal genre with the arrival of 'Grunge' in the 1990s that adopted the lyrical structure and song timing of punk with the over amplification and speed of heavy metal, not to mention 'so-called 'Metalcore' and 'Nu-Metal'. Traditionally punk and metal fans did not congregate together but with so much cross-referencing afoot over the past 20 years, this is no longer the rule.
By the late 1990s, punk rock had adopted a more Pop music style, specifically targeting that of the skateboarders, as bands such as Green Day, The Offspring and Blink-182 brought the genre into mainstream popularity.
Until recently, punk rock was considered a dead genre, but recent research has proven it is still alive; it just evolved.
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