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|Cultural origins||1960s, United States, United Kingdom|
Proto-punk (or protopunk) is the music from the late 1960s to mid 1970s that did not fit into the typical countercultural norms of its era.
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The term "proto-punk" is of uncertain origins, and has proven difficult to define, and many widely different groups have been so dubbed.[original research?] Most had a certain attitude or appearance seen as important, as opposed to any specific musical tendencies. According to the Allmusic guide:
Proto-punk was never a cohesive movement, nor was there a readily identifiable proto-punk sound that made its artists seem related at the time. What ties proto-punk together is a certain provocative sensibility that didn't fit the prevailing counterculture of the time ... It was consciously subversive and fully aware of its outsider status ... In terms of its lasting influence, much proto-punk was primitive and stripped-down, even when it wasn't aggressive, and its production was usually just as unpolished. It also frequently dealt with taboo subject matter, depicting society's grimy underbelly in great detail, and venting alienation that was more intense and personal than ever before.
Most musicians classified as proto-punk are rock and roll performers of the 1960s and early-1970s, with garage rock often cited as an influence. Some proto-punk bands, particularly in the United Kingdom, also fall into the categories of glam, pub, and prog rock. Roxy Music, for example, who straddled the line between glam and prog,[not in citation given] and Peter Hammill, of Van der Graaf Generator, whose solo album Nadir's Big Chance was cited by John Lydon as an influence.
Though of lesser importance, influence has come from outside rock and roll. Genres such as classical music, the avant garde, outsider music, reggae (especially influential on English punk), traditional Irish music (especially rebel songs) and free jazz influenced punk rock and later post-punk bands like Wire, Crass and Public Image Ltd.[original research?] In an interview with Trackmarx, a punk and indie webzine, Penny Rimbaud of the anarcho-punk band Crass said that they were more influenced by classical composers Benjamin Britten, John Cage and the avant garde than rock 'n' roll.[further explanation needed]
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In 1960 comes one of the first proto-punk bands, The Sonics. Following them was The Monks, formed in 1964 and consisting of American GIs stationed in Germany, who released one album, Black Monk Time, in 1966. By 1968 garage rock in the United States began to lose steam, but the raw sound and outsider attitude of "garage psych" bands like The Seeds presaged the style of bands that would become known as the archetypal figures of proto-punk. With garage leanings, Love's first two albums Love (1966) and in particular Da Capo (1967), began developing a proto-punk sound with songs such as "7 and 7 Is"; which happened to be their only hit single. Love's Arthur Lee has been regarded by some[who?] as "the first punk rocker", though Lee wasn't flattered by the phrase because he thought the term punk meant "being somebody's bitch or something like that".
In 1969, debut albums by two Michigan-based bands appeared that are commonly regarded as the central proto-punk records. In January, Detroit's MC5 released Kick Out the Jams. "Musically the group is intentionally crude and aggressively raw", wrote critic Lester Bangs in Rolling Stone.[further explanation needed] That August, The Stooges, from Ann Arbor, premiered with their self-titled album. According to critic Greil Marcus, the band, led by singer Iggy Pop, created "the sound of Chuck Berry's Airmobile—after thieves stripped it for parts". The album was produced by John Cale, a former member of New York's experimental rock group The Velvet Underground. Having earned a "reputation as the first underground rock band", The Velvet Underground inspired, directly or indirectly, many of those involved in the creation of punk rock.
In the early 1970s the UK underground counter-cultural scene centred on Ladbroke Grove in West London spawned a number of bands that have been considered proto-punk, including Hawkwind, the Pink Fairies and Third World War. With his Ziggy Stardust persona, David Bowie made artifice and exaggeration central—elements, again, that were picked up by the Sex Pistols and certain other punk acts. The Doctors of Madness built on Bowie's presentation concepts, while moving musically in the direction that would become identified with punk. Bands in London's pub rock scene stripped the music back to its basics, playing hard, R&B-influenced rock 'n' roll. By 1974, the scene's top act, Dr. Feelgood, was paving the way for others such as The Stranglers and Cock Sparrer that would play a role in the punk explosion. Among the pub rock bands that formed that year was The 101'ers, whose lead singer would soon adopt the name Joe Strummer.
Bands anticipating the forthcoming movement were appearing as far afield as Düsseldorf, West Germany, where "punk before punk" band NEU! formed in 1971, building on the krautrock tradition of groups such as Can. Simply Saucer formed in Hamilton, Canada in 1973 and have been called "Canada's first proto-punk band", blending garage rock, krautrock, psychedelia and other influences to produce a sound that was later described as having a "frequent punk snarl."
In Japan, the anti-establishment Zunō Keisatsu (Brain Police) mixed garage psych and folk. The combo regularly faced censorship challenges, their live act at least once including onstage masturbation. A new generation of Australian garage rock bands, inspired mainly by The Stooges and MC5, was coming even closer to the sound that would soon be called "punk": in Brisbane, The Saints also recalled the raw live sound of the British Pretty Things, who had made a notorious tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1965. Radio Birdman, cofounded by Detroit expatriate Deniz Tek in 1974, was playing gigs to a small but fanatical following in Sydney.
One of the earliest written uses of the term "punk rock" was by critic Dave Marsh who used it in 1970 to describe the group Question Mark & the Mysterians, who scored a major hit with their song "96 Tears". Over the next few years, the term was used occasionally by certain rock critics to describe a number of American bands, mostly active in the mid-to-late 1960s, playing music that today would be classified as garage rock: a ragged, highly energetic, often amateurish form of rock and roll.
- Anon (n.d.). "Proto-Punk". AllMusic.
- Lydon on Tommy Vance Show, Capital Radio, 16 July 1977
- Penny Rimbaud talks about Fluxus and the hippie counterculture.
- See Sabin (1999), p. 159.
- Schinder & Schwartz 2008, p. 263.
- Einarson 2010, p. 241.
- Bangs, Lester (5 April 1969). "[Kick Out the Jams review]". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
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- http://www.sonicunyon.com/records/artists/simply saucer
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