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|Cultural origins||1960s, United States, United Kingdom|
Proto-punk (or protopunk) is a music genre label given retrospectively to a small group of largely uncategorizable bands who began to emerge in the late 1960s, up to the point when punk itself became a phenomenon in the mid 1970s. These artists foreshadowed musical, thematic, stylistic and subcultural attributes of the later punk rock genre.
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 thus classified as proto-punk are rock performers of the 1960s and early-1970s,[improper synthesis?] with garage rock/art rock bands the Velvet Underground, MC5 and the Stooges considered (by Allmusic) to be archetypal proto-punk artists, along with later glam rock band the New York Dolls.
Origins and etymology
One of the earliest written uses of the "punk" term was by critic Dave Marsh who used it in 1970 to describe the group Question Mark & the Mysterians, who had scored a major hit with their song "96 Tears" in 1966. Over the next few years, the term was used retrospectively by certain rock critics to describe a number of US bands,[not in citation given] mostly active in the mid-to-late 1960s, playing music that is today classified as garage rock: a ragged, highly energetic, often amateurish form of rock and roll. While garage rock bands varied in style, the "toughest, angriest garage rockers" are considered (by Allmusic)[not in citation given] pioneers of garage punk and examples of proto-punk. - e.g. The Sonics, who "anticipated the mania of punk", The Monks, who "anticipated the blunt, harsh commentary of the punk era", and Question Mark & the Mysterians, "one of the prime suspects in the evolution of garage rock into early punk". In similar terms[improper synthesis?] Allmusic refers to the Chocolate Watchband as "proto-punk", the Music Machine and others as "garage punk", and the Standells and Paul Revere & the Raiders as "punk".
The raw sound and outsider attitude of "garage psych" bands like The Seeds also 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), likewise began developing a proto-punk sound with songs such as "7 and 7 Is".
In 1969, debut albums by two key proto-punk bands were released; Detroit's MC5 released Kick Out the Jams in January and the Stooges, from Ann Arbor, premiered with their self-titled album in August. The latter album was produced by John Cale, a former member of New York's 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. According to Allmusic, glam rock also "inspired many future punks with its simple, crunchy guitar riffs, its outrageous sense of style, and its artists' willingness to sing with British accents (not to mention the idiosyncratic images of David Bowie and Roxy Music)". With his Ziggy Stardust persona, David Bowie made artifice and exaggeration central elements, that were later picked up by 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, came 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, while in Sydney, Radio Birdman, co-founded by Detroit expatriate Deniz Tek in 1974, began playing gigs to a small but fanatical following.
- Campbell, Neil (2004). American Youth Cultures. Psychology. p. 213. ISBN 0415971977.
Furthermore, the indigenous popular music which functioned this way-and which represented in the same instance a form of localized resistance to the mainstreaming, standardizing drive noted earlier — was the proto-punk more commonly identified as garage rock.
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