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The cultural phenomenon of british punk media essay

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JT HerwaldMs. HoltzmanPre-AP English 10Period 5The Cultural Phenomenon of British PunkThe United Kingdom, over the years, has been home to many musical movements that went on to define a Generation. British punk rock was one of the most iconic musical genres to emerge in British history. The British punk movement, fueled by a rebellious youth, made a major change in the British music scene. To the British people, punk rock was more than just a musical genre; it was a symbolic underground revolution. To understand its full meaning and its roots, one must look back at its early predecessors and the time in which this musical style and culture emerged. The United Kingdom (UK), during the early days of what became known as ” The British Invasion,” was a veritable factory having produced many influential rock bands, such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds. As reported by Miles Barry in The British Invasion: The music, The Times, The Era, The Beatles exiting their aircraft in other countries had a huge impact on how the world viewed British music. Time Magazine used British bands as their cover photo which symbolized British musical power. As time progressed, the popularity of these bands was eclipsed by what became known as ” pre-punk” bands. As the 60s turned into the 70s, pre-punk (or ” proto-punk”) bands such as The Kinks, David Bowie and T. Rex gained attention from mainstream music fans. The most notable British proto-punk band was The Who. They introduced a new style of rock featuring faster beats and more rebellious lyrics as well as adding guitar distortion. One of the most notable examples of this can be found in the song ” My Generation” from their 1965 My Generation album. Some of the more memorable lyrics in this song are ” People try to put us d-down (Talkin’ ’bout my generation) Just because we get around (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)” (Who, 1965). These new bands were more ambitious, not just in their music; but, also in the way they dressed. The popular American music style, during the British invasion era, conformed to the easy-going, hippie and ” flower power” genre. Long skirts, long hair and tie-dyed T-shirts ruled the day. Some of the more famous rock bands could be seen wearing colorful Nehru jackets. With the advent of punk rock, Nehru collars were replaced with spiked dog collars, which became an icon of the British punk movement. This dark, almost violent, fashion statement came from the anger among the British people, which stemmed from deep financial problems and job cuts in the UK. The late 1960s and mid to early 1970s were a dark period in British economic history. The British economy suffered many financial blows. As a result, many companies had to fire workers and cut budgets. Punk rock lyrics were dark and provided an accurate portrayal of the lean and desperate times faced by Britain’s youth. Many punk bands were very politically active and they created music that reflected their political views. ” England’s punk scene had both political and economic routes. The economy in the United Kingdom was in poor shape and unemployment rates were at an all-time high” (Cooper 11). The days of girls crying at Beatles shows were over. They were replaced with head-banging teenagers wearing ripped skinny jeans and spiked hair. The punk movement showed that an underground movement could have enormous impact and become something much greater than just a small phenomenon among a small group. According to Ryan Cooper in The History of Punk, British punk takes root in the rebellious youth of England who were angry about England’s poor economy. Due to a lack of jobs, they also had a lot of free time on their hands. This anger was channeled into the fast, energetic and rebellious style of British punk rock. British punk, unlike the ” glam metal” so prominent in England at the time, had a meaning behind its music. Its message was not directed toward the glamour and fame that came with being a rock star. In fact, it embraced glamour’s opposite: angst (and eventually, grunge). It was the anger and angst that gave punk rock its furious sound. When Punk rock is discussed as a genre, it also had to be viewed as having own separate subculture and fashion movement. ” When attempting to discuss ” Punk” rock as a subculture, as a movements in musical or fashion styles or as simply as the next phase in popular music production, critics have looked at the most notable ” punk” bands to draw their examples from their conclusions”(85). As stated by many observers, punk bands gave birth to their own fashion subculture, which eventually became a movement in its own right. This was the beginning of a new and ferocious musical era in British history. Some of the British punk bands that gained mainstream success included The Police, the Sex Pistols and most notably, The Clash. These were some of the first bands to showcase ” the punk look.” In sharp contrast to the rainbow and tie-dyed T-shirts that defined the flower-power and Beatlemania era of the 1960s, punk rockers and their fans wore studded leather jackets, ripped jeans and spiked and dyed hair. The punk rock band stage presence showed something that had not been seen in previous forms of music. Punk’s energy and fury kept people going back to shows over and over again because they radiated something so fresh and real. According to John Leland in his work ” Still Rotten After all These Years”, The Sex Pistols followed a code set in by other bands. This Code is what defined British Anarchy or British punk in General. This code had to do with how punks were supposed to act and preform on stage. It was all about the comradery between bands and between fans. A connection was created between the audience and the band. No longer were teenage girls crying over emotional Beatles love songs. Instead, chairs were being thrown, heads were banging and the volume was cranked up to the max. Many feel that British punk has very close ties to heavy metal. However, heavy metal and punk rock at the time were very different from one another. The bands that dominated the heavy metal music scene in England were glam-metal bands, such as Whitesnake and Def Leppard. Heavy metal rockers were more concerned about the look and the luxury that came along with being a rock star. Unlike the Metal at the time, Punk had meaning behind its music. Punks were willing to stand up for their beliefs and for a cause. Bands like the Clash were well known for standing up to their ” Punk Values”. As stated by Mikal Gilmore in ” The Fury and The Power of The Clash”, The Clash were some of the only performers who were willing to stand up for their punk values. They would rather take on a crowd than a barbed wire fence. Punk rock contrasted the ideas of the ” Hair-metal” bands by directing its message to connect with the average person on the street, who was unemployed or under-employed and not happy about it. Prior to punk, the British music scene had no definitive look to it. One could not distinguish between the look of British metal and the look of British progressive bands. But when the punk scene emerged, British punks identified themselves with different clothing, accessories and symbols, such as the anarchy symbol and spiked hair. The punk scene gained a definitive identity which made it what it is. According to David Andrae in ” What is British Design Exactly?”, The Punk moment in the United Kingdom brought a recognizable fashion statement that had not been made by previous British music. This statement was made by the famous ” Punk Mohawk,” which became an icon of punk rock music around the world. But what made British punk unique was that it was so easily picked up. British punk became more than an underground music phenomenon. It became a cultural icon in British musical history. The look was defined not only by the hair style but also the clothing. The signature punk shirt was a leather jacket. The studs and ripped jeans also eventually appeared in the punk scene and even today are a staple of any Punk band. When the topic of British punk rock is raised, The Clash always enters into the conversation. The Clash has become one of the most influential punk bands in the history of British music. Many punk bands who aren’t from England, such as Green Day, Anti-Flag and Sonic Youth, list The Clash as one of their largest inspirations. As stated in Dave Thompson’s article ” The Clash”, The Clash was given credit for sparking the punk movement. The Clash’s frontman, Joe Strummer, had a unique stage presence that was unmatched by any band at the time. Edna Gunderson in ” Punk Lives, Breathes into Rock” states that The Clash, under the lead of Joe Strummer became one of the most active and thoughtful bands in the United Kingdom. Some of their most famous songs included Rock the Kasbah, London Calling, Should I Stay or Should I Go and Police on My Back. They provided the largest contribution to British punk and punk itself. The Clash had a sound which almost immediately gained popularity from a mainstream audience. Their style of music was the most successful form of punk yet. Today they have gone down in history as one of the most influential, iconic and successful bands in the history of British punk rock. British punk, not only as a music genre, but as a cultural phenomenon has had a great influence on British music. What started as an underground movement led by rebellious teens in the slums of British cities grew into a musical movement that gained worldwide popularity from a variety of audiences. For the first time in history, a grungy underground punk band, befriended by its downtrodden fan base, could gain as much worldwide fame as more traditional bands that had to keep their fans at an arm’s length. Punk introduced a simple, fast and energetic vibe to the music of the United Kingdom. Musical artists created a rebellion without the use of guns or violence. Although punk rockers might have looked violent, they were not violent. Instead, their rage could be felt through fast, hard-hitting music and hardcore lyrics. As a whole, the British punk movement of the 1970s is one of the most important cultural phenomena in the history of British music. Its impact is still being felt today.

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