Brian Currin, February 2007
Punk Rock, as I know it, started in 1976 with the Sex Pistols and ended a couple of years later when everyone went New Wave. The so-called “Godfathers of Punk” were the late 60’s/early 70’s American bands, The Velvet Underground, the MC5, the New York Dolls (more glam, than punk though) and The Stooges with Iggy Pop. They in turn had been infused by the spirit of the 60’s ‘Garage Rock’ movement which said that anybody could make music, no matter how little talent or skill you had.
However Punk Rock was not just a musical phenomenon, but also a socioeconomic one, as well as being a fashion statement and very British.
The youth in Britain in the mid-70’s were unemployed, on the dole, bored and very angry. Through Punk they found a way to express themselves. Punk was not only a music style, it was a lifestyle, involving outrageous hairstyles and clothing. Wearing safety-pins on your clothes was actually probably necessary to hold them together!
Many state the first song of 70’s Punk Rock was ‘New Rose’ by The Damned, and I don’t dispute this, but the first song I heard was ‘Anarchy In The UK’ by the Sex Pistols.
I had been (and still am) a huge fan of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Pink Floyd, Yes, et al … the dinosaurs that Punk was supposed to make extinct, and I guess it worked for a while. I heard the raw, sneering, British-accented voice of Johnny Rotten spitting out ‘I am an anti-Christ, I am an anarchist’ (which sent the South African government of the time into fits of apoplexy) and knew that something very different was happening here.
Punk crossed back across the Atlantic (like rock ‘n roll had done with The Beatles in 1964) and bands like The Ramones, who had been around for a while already, were now painted with the Punk brush.
In South Africa, the anger from the White Youth was directed more at the government’s policies of control. The Black Youth were totally disenfranchised under Apartheid, but that’s a completely different story. Remember, however, that the 16th June Soweto Riots happened in 1976, and is commemorated each year as Youth Day.
Punk Rock started out as noisy 3-chord rock and roll with huge amounts of anger and energy. Bands like the Clash and the Police (who were never really punk, anyway) started embracing Ska and Reggae sounds.
Punk Rock soon got watered down to go mainstream and become New Wave. By the early 80’s the smartly-dressed New Romantics with their guitar-less Electro-pop were now the vogue.
Side-bar: I was in the army in 1978 and there were basically 2 music factions among my friends of the time, Punk (i.e. Sex Pistols) or Reggae (i.e. Bob Marley). (The Afrikaans guys also liked Country, but I digress). I chose a different route and bought the first Dire Straits album, telling all who would listen that these guys would be big … and I was right.
OLD PUNK FOR NEW EARS
This is a mix I originally created on a CD-R for my 2 teenage sons in 2005 to show them that punk didn’t start with Blink-182! We used to listen to it in the car, along with the companion mix “New Punk For Old Ears“.
Due to the limitations of a single CD, I’ve applied my “one artist, one song” rule which allows me to give exposure to more artists. Otherwise I could just put “Nevermind The Bollocks” up here and leave it at that!
I’ve included the Godfathers of Punk to give some perspective, but the majority of songs come from that “golden age of punk”; 1977-1978 and then a few early 80’s tracks.
Some South African punk bands appear here as well, including The Asylum Kids which featured Robbi Robb, and The News with ‘Tudor Convertible’ which is an early mash-up of ‘Greensleeves’ (apparently written by Henry VIII!) and Herman’s Hermits ‘I’m Henry The VIII, I Am’.
- Run Run Run – The Velvet Underground & Nico
- Search And Destroy – Iggy & The Stooges
- Personality Crisis – The New York Dolls
- Anarchy In The UK – The Sex Pistols
- Gary Gilmore’s Eyes – The Adverts
- Rip Her To Shreds – Blondie
- New Rose – The Damned
- Chinese Rocks – Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers
- Sheena Is A Punk Rocker – The Ramones
- Blank Generation – Richard Hell & The Voidoids
- Peaches – The Stranglers
- Record Companies – Wild Youth
- Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) – The Buzzcocks
- Law & Order – Radio Rats
- Top Of The Pops – The Rezillos
- Hong Kong Garden – Siouxsie & The Banshees
- Teenage Kicks – The Undertones
- Identity – X-Ray Spex
- London Calling – The Clash
- Babylon’s Burning – The Ruts
- Suburbia – The Safari Suits
- Hersham Boys – Sham 69
- Nightmare – Peach
- Schoolboy – The Asylum Kids
- International News – National Wake
- Tudor Convertible – The News
[Artists names in red indicates that they are of South African origin]