The early 1970s saw the beginnings of punk rock. Punk rock is a genre of rock and roll music that rejected the music of the time period with suggestive and provocative topics along with rough edged melodies, musical experimentation and harsh vocal styles. The lyrics, as well as the music, were often directed at the prevailing values and political ideas of the establishment as well as against the grain of the mainstream. The bands involved were seen as a new musical style. The fans of this new genre of rock music often expressed rebellion and even became a subculture of its own with distinctive and sometimes offensive clothing. Some of the early bands and artists associated with the punk music genre were the New York Dolls, the Ramones, the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, Lou Reed and the Sex Pistols. We will investigate some of these artists here.
The New York Dolls
The New York Dolls formed in 1971. They were seen as shocking with their appearances which consisted of cross dressing, high heels, satin and heavy makeup. The cover of their debut album released in July 1973 titled “New York Dolls” was enough to shock even the most liberal members of the establishment. However, that was not enough to stop them from becoming popular at the time with their fans as well as very influential to other upcoming groups. The band is legendary until this very day.
However, they were not well received in the beginning and most record companies were afraid to associate with them. The group, their album and the two singles from their debut album were not much of a commercial success.
‘New York Dolls’ on Wiki
The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground was actually formed in 1964, but their music was considered much too controversial during the 60s for the mainstream so they only achieved minor success. However, they did have a huge cult audience which continued to grow.
By the 1980s, they were seen as one of the most important bands of all time and today are seen as an extremely influential band for many groups that came later. They were in fact much ahead of their time. Lou Reed who achieved some success in the early 1970s was one of the founders of the Velvet Underground; however, he left the group for a solo career in 1970.
One of the bands more popular hits, ‘Sweet Jane’ performed by Lou Reed in Paris 1974
His music was still considered very controversial. On Lou Reed’s second album “Transformer” released in 1972, he used lyrics that were very risqué for the time which included stories containing references to homosexuality, prostitution, transsexuals and the like. The single “Walk on The Wild Side” reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100; however, it was an edited version and was banned by several radio stations due to the lyrics.
More about Lou Reed on Allmusic.com
The Ramones formed in 1974 and are seen by some as defining punk rock sound. Similar to the other early punk bands, they did not have much commercial success but are now seen as one of the most important bands of all time. The group had a couple of singles that reached the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977. The first was “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” which peaked at number 81 and the second “Rockaway Beach” was their highest charting single at number 66.
was a genre of music that was slow to gain acceptance but once again tilted the balance of what the prevailing attitudes of the time period were. One hallmark of rock and roll music is that it somehow always seems to inflict some type of shock to what is considered the norm of the time. Rock and roll music began the same way in the 1950s when people were shocked by its existence.
-Jack B. Stephens