Since as far as I can remember, there has always been a discussion whether the punk movement has its roots in the UK or in the US. It’s not my aim to provide an answer in here, all I can say is that, although I do like the Ramones, during my school years I was utterly influenced by the British scene. Back then, there was no cooler band than the Clash or Sex Pistols and for me they will always be the reason of my punk rock adventure.
The beginning of punk rock has its source in mid 1970s when all of the great bands were founded, playing their first gigs, often for just a couple of people.
In 1976 the Pistols released their debut single Anarchy In The UK which was a nutshell of the punk nihilistic, anti-establishment ideology. The music was described as chaos and the band was famous of their provocative look and offensive behaviour, however, the real revolution was to come a year later.
The band’s second single, God Save The Queenreleased in 1977, during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee was shocking to everyone. The lyrics of the song pointed that Her Majesty ain’t no human being and described her reign as the fascist regime. I can only imagine the British society’s reaction- to some of them it was absolutely scandalous, like a gang rape on all the values they supported and firmly believed in. Something like telling the Poles that their Pope was gay or forcing the French to use English as their first language. To some of them, this was completely unacceptable. The others, however, finally found something they could relate to, they saw somebody speaking about what they secretly thought and were afraid to say. The line no future became the main slogan of punks all over the world and the other one, we’re the flowers in the dustbin was a perfect quote to identify with for those who kept their eyes open in the manipulated society. That tune was just sooo cool! The most famous anti-government manifest on this planet.
Just to remind you a few tracks:
1) God Save The Queen, Sex Pistols
2) Anarchy In The UK, Sex Pistols
3) London Calling, The Clash
4) Guns Of Brixton, The Clash
5) London’s burning, The Clash
6) Blitzkrieg Bop, Ramones
7) I wanna be sedated, Ramones
For those who want more, I’d strongly recommend watching The Filth And The Fury, a documentary about the Pistols, as well as going through the book Punk Rock- the whole story which I value mainly because of its great collection of photographs.
Since the whole punk movement was built around the DIY-ethic, punk fashion, initially, wasn’t any different. Various pieces of clothing found in charity shops received new life, being reconstructed and held together by safety pins. The main attribute of each punk rocker was their leather jacket, often decorated with tonnes of spikes and heavy chains and covered in random slogans. So were purposely torn band t-shirts and tight battered jeans or check trousers rolled-up just above the ankle, showing off the military boots. Punk hairstyle included many variations, from tall bright Mohawks and colourful spikes through some uncoordinated mess created by solid back-combing.
I’d say it was the most creative, the most individual culture ever. No wonder it got commercialised extremely quickly, adopted by popular culture. Starting with Malcolm McLaren (the Pistols’ manager and owner of the cloth shop Sex) and Vivienne Westwood, whose designs were highly inspired by punk aesthetic, the phenomenon was spread worldwide to reach the fashion shows and exclusive magazines.
Punk has been one of the most influential trends in contemporary fashion history, with both well-established designers and high-street chain shops constantly including some punk pieces in their offers. Which is great- my wardrobe without tartans, animal prints, solid boots and a proper leather jacket just wouldn’t be the same!