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The History of British Punk Music
by Alex Cosper (12/01/13)

British punk music in many ways was much more influential to the world music scene than American punk music, where garage rock alledgedly originated. If not for Iggy Pop and MC5, the American rock press insists, punk could have never happened, according to rock critics who grew up in the 70s. Then the ones who grew up in the 60s cite bands like the Seeds and Count Five, forgetting that it was British rock that saved rock and roll from the easy listening big biz flashback lounge music of the early 60s. The real story of punk music traces back to the mods and the rockers of the sixties and the attitudes about freedom and disillusionment with politics, government and social inequalities.

By the time the Sex Pistols started becoming well known in 1976, America had drifted back to easy listening music and was starting to boogie to disco music. Only a few credible punk bands from America gained recognition and had influence on what became the core of legendary punk music while the British scene flourished with high energy bands who were either about tearing down social facades fabricated by big business and government or they were about having a good time. It was the British punk scene that had the biggest impact on rock music history.

The Clash had a massive impact on music of the late 70s through the mid 80s, although they eventually fell into the path of top 40 acceptance, mainly from writing songs that outrocked the otherwise light weight pop charts. But even The Clash owed much of their fame to The Sex Pistols for opening the door to a harder edge style of music that shocked the BBC and the rest of the establishment with songs like "God Save the Queen" and "Anarchy in the UK." The nature of the music was about breaking away from the expensive studio slickness that was starting to become souless. While the only point of pop was starting to be "buy my record even though it has no message," the point of punk was to tear down myths of fake happiness and materialism.

Punk brought back the return of the two minute song to contrast long boring album cuts that were really just filler to sell albums. This is not to put down every progressive rock band in history, as Pink Floyd and other intelligent bands had meaningful artistic purposes behind their music. But so much of the rubbish called "progressive rock" was pointless and overly egostical. Punk also was an alternative to arena rock, which had become super-commercialized. In essence, punk was a loud shoutdown against the mainstream music scene that comprised of corporate bands and brainwashed followers who worshipped glam and greed.

Over time the anger in punk subsided and started to become a redundant formula of the same three rock chords sped up. But in punk's seminal period of the late 70s, many influential bands emerged, such as The Buzzcocks, Blitzkrieg Bop, The Boys, The Damned, Disorder, The Homosexuals, Fatal Microbes, The Flys, The Mo-dettes, The Piranhas, Sham 69, The Skids, Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones, The Vibrators and Wire.

These bands paved the way for the new wave scene, which ultimately became engrained in the mainstream, but offered creative new directions for pop instead of the sterile dullness that had developed prior to the punk revolution. Some of the notable post-punk, new wave or more modern pop artists that followed were Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Flux of Pink Indians, The Flying Lizards, Gang of Four, Generation X, The Jam, Joy Division, Killing Joke, Lords of the New Church, New Model Army, The Police, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Stranglers, Subhumans, Teenage Filmstars, Toy Dolls, The Transmitters and The Vapors.

Many punk and new wave bands followed in the eighties. By the nineties the genre of "power pop" was often called "punk" in the mainstream world, mainly because it was as punk as the mainstream could stomach. The term punk was further watered down by the press to push the myth that punk had taken over the commercial rock scene of the 90s, which was dominated by American bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, who were actually closer to traditional rock than underground music. The original spirit of punk still lives on in the new century, not so much on major labels, but on small independent regional labels.

Check out information on the following British music scenes:

Bangor, UK
Belfast, UK
Birmingham, UK
Cambridge, UK
Cardiff, UK
Coventry, UK

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