For many, first-wave punk was the sound of liberation. Chainsaw guitars, locomotive drums and screaming singers delivered brutal street poetry about the times. It saved us from a lifetime of dull progressive rock, snooze-worthy singer-songwriters and six-string heavy metal. For certain die-hards, ’70s punk is the only punk.
For them, both the music and the scene died the first time a Huntington Beach skinhead skanked his way across a tiny L.A. club stage or when the Exploited‘s Wattie Buchan shaved the sides of his head into sailfish-esque mohawk. For others, the Ramones or Sex Pistols are boring—they want to know about what got released five minutes ago. Yet, that five-minute-old hero would never have arrived had Johnny Rotten not snarled in 1976 nor had Johnny Ramone not downstroked a power chord in 1975.
Everyone’s a contrarian. You see plenty of armchair punk historians deny everything daily on social media. But a large chunk of what you read about in Alternative Press is impossible without punk’s mid-’70s pioneers.
How deep is your ’70s punk history knowledge? Crack open a beer, throw on your battered “Pretty Vacant” seven-inch and see if these questions stimulate your memory bank.
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Essentially in 1975, pockets of disaffected Stooges and New York Dolls fans in urban centers worldwide—New York, London, Paris, Brisbane, Sydney, Los Angeles, Boston and, yes, Cleveland—nearly simultaneously formed bands out of boredom. They hated the dominant culture. They wanted rock ‘n’ roll that was as exciting, trashy, relevant and fun as that of the ’50s. It spread like a yawn or a virus across 1976 into 1977. Someone borrowed Dave Marsh‘s descriptor of ’60s garage kings Question Mark And The Mysterians, “punk rock,” from a 1969 Creem article, and applied it to these new bands. It stuck.