BY: KEALIE MARDELL
Punk Isn’t DeadThe evolution of ‘70s punk music
From the 1970’s and through recent decades, punk has been a staple of the music scene across the globe. Whether it’s in local divisions or influencing the mainstream, there is no denying that the essence of punk is still thriving today.
In the mid ‘70s, the punk rock scene came to life in New York, with bands such as The Ramones, Blondie and The Talking Heads appearing at infamous venues like CBGB. Across the pond, a similar scene was emerging in London out of a time of political and economic hardship. The British punk scene was formed with bands like the Sex Pistols, The Clash and Siouxsie & The Banshees. Unemployed and rebellious youths with opinions to be heard took to the streets and found their voices in punk.
The energy of these early punk bands has influenced the live performances of many artists, including Alejandro Valles, guitarist of FMLY, who draws on their inspiration when taking to the stage.
“The rawness and vulgarity of some of those songs…that was originally the appeal, that shock value,” said Valles. “I started looking at the live shows on YouTube and all the energy was almost unparalleled. You still feel those waves that they made even in the ‘70s.”
By channelling their anger and frustration into their music, sounds of rejecting the mainstream were coming screaming out of garages and emerging from underground. By the late ‘70s, punk had established itself as a musical force to be reckoned with, rising from the local scene and taking politics and society head on.
Tommy Danger, who recently performed in Long Beach at a show hosted by CSULB Underground Music Society, plays the banjo in DIY punk-folk band Moon Bandits.
Danger found his way into punk after discovering the Crass album The Feeding of the 5000. This English punk band, formed in 1977, was a critical part of the anarcho-punk culture and music scene.
“I think that Crass is still my biggest influence,” he said. “If anything that’s what I would like to sound like.”
Growing in popularity, punk split into new sub-genres and individual scenes, allowing for bands to take the essence of punk and experiment with their own sound and direction. From post-punk, hardcore, grunge, new-wave and more, punk found its way out from the basements of society and into the mainstream. The list continues to evolve as more music derives its influences form the early days of punk.
Through their songs and performances, Moon Bandits spread the message of this evolving punk scene. Danger criticised how punk used to be very misogynistic:
“Women felt really insecure and they didn’t talk about it too much,” Danger said. “But we’re getting to a point where it’s talking about so much that people are getting aware of it.”
In other areas, he feels there is still room to make more progress. “I want there to be a dialogue in the punk scene about things that are affecting our communities,” said Danger.
CSULB’s Underground Music Society (UMS) Vice President Daniel Speer, promotes the music scene on campus and in the local area, also performing in the punk band Struckout.
“Apart from the music, I’ve gotten more interested in the sort of social justice causes that surround the punk scene,” said Speer. “People in the punk community helped me understanding that misogyny and racism aren’t relics of the past, that they are in fact very prevalent and much more nuanced than most media would have you believe.”
Although some of the original political and social roots can appear lost, an evolution has taken place with new subgenres and the DIY culture keeping the punk scene alive with a large underground following.
“It seems very much like they’re in solidarity and moving towards one common goal,” said Valles. “It seems like they’re unified and there’s a strong community.”
While any community can have its flaws, the punk scene can be full of wonderful, incredibly passionate and talented people, said Speer. From those who set up shows, take pictures, make art, make zines, or start bands, there is a wealth of people who play an important role within the community.
The formation of art, fashion and culture, which emerged from the music scene, withholds its place as an essential part of the punk community. Valles attributes this sense of community as a key factor in keeping the punk scene alive through the decades.
“I think that’s why it’s been lasting,” he said. “You remember punk and certain ideals. Whether that’s against ‘the man’ or against the government, for the people, whatever it ends up being it’s something that’s still relatable.
You get invested into it. It’s easy and it’s charming in a way, that there’s a group you can be a part of and be accepted into.”
Formed as an escape from the oppressive and corrupt times of the ‘70s, the force of music was never more evident. Punk created cracks in the cultures, which it struck out from. It is a phenomenon which is still fighting strong and remaining relevant in today’s society.