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PCR #288  (Vol. 6, No. 39) This edition is for the week of September 26--October 2, 2005.

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Punk's Roots
 by Terence Nuzum
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The Audio Philes by Terence Nuzum

Punk's Roots

"God save the queen! A facist regime.... and England's dreaming!"

    - God Save The Queen, The Sex Pistols

Those are usually the lyrics and the band most commonly thought of when punk rock is mentioned, but most forget that "punk", the term, the lifestyle, and the music came from America. Starting in Detroit with the protopunk of the MC5 and The Stooges (arguably it can be traced as far back as some rockabilly acts like the Collins Kids and Gene Vincent) and fullfilling its prophecy with The Ramones and the CBGBs crowd. While our UK cousins may be more associated with the movement, it was in the States (whose first colonists were the original anti-establishment punks) that the form began. And here are the essentials................

"I give you a testimonial...I give you the MC5".

  • Kick Out The Jams: In the beginning, there was the MC5. A full-on steamroller of punk energy and stoned revolution. On their debut, their raw garage-guitars tuned to sloppy metal, and invented punk rawk with songs like the title track and "Ramblin Rose". The title track starts with the first recorded moment of punk attitude, "kick out the jams, motherfuckers!!"
  • Back in the USA: On their 2nd album the Motor City 5 play polished rockabilly that would inspire the Stray Cats and other punkabilly to come.
  • MC5--High Time: Not often flirted with in punk is jazz fusion. But the funky jazz rhythms mixed with screeching avante-garde punk actually forsaw the more stylized funk-punk of The Minute Men.

    The Stooges
    More than any other, Iggy and his Stooges' brand of Motor City rock inspired what was to come. Basically the first punk band totally un-hippie and totally scary. They belted out primitive rock not heard since the Sun Records days. Although they broke up after only three albums, Iggy himself went on to continually reinvent the genre he helped create.

  • The Stooges: They seemed like the band most likely to beat up your son and sleep with your daughter and that was only the album cover. Inside was the sound of adolescent cavemen playing logs for drums and fucked up guitars, all the while Capt. Caveman himself howled that revolution of a voice. "I Wanna Be Your Dog" a gothic garage jangle and "1969", a garage rocker sounded like doom and delinquents in all caps. That was only the beginning.
  • Funhouse: Often called the greatest rock n' roll record ever, it holds up to this day. A mix of jazz fusion, punk metal, and primal rage, it's damn scary. And that it also contains the wretched glorious "TV Eye" helps makes matters worse. The kids aren't allright.
  • Raw Power: Being everything it claims to be and more, Iggy's swan song with the Stooges rips it, rocks it, and informs "your pretty face is going to hell". On "Search and Destroy" Iggy belts out the prophecy of a delinquent with access to technology and weapons who fulfills the song title. An atom bomb of a record.

    The New York Dolls

  • New York Dolls: the Dolls added the burlesque crossdressing aspect to punk all the while sounding as dirty as The Rolling Stones should've sounded in the '70s. Guitarist Johnny Thunders guitars blaze over Johanson's slut Jagger vocals who sings about rock n' roll nurses who give "Pills" and then tells us how to spell "L-U-V!"

    The Dictators

  • Go Girl Crazy!: Fronted by a wrestler, "Handsome" Dick Manitoba, these protopunks inspired countless future punkers who took their dumb-as-rocks persona in songs like "Teengenerate" as religion. Their cover of "California Sun" was obviously an inspiration to those four New York pinheads, The Ramones, as was the Dictators punchy surf-metal.

    Patti Smith
    Self-proclaimed poet punk who may have been the first feminist of rock, got her start writing lyrics for Blue Oyster Cult before she unleashed her Jim Morrison-gone-garage-rock band and eventually topping the top 40 with "Until the Night".

  • Horses: Smith's debut explodes with famous Van Morrison/Them cover "Gloria", a mix of dark poetry and blazing punk choruses, and continues to weave a web of mysterious beauty. The title track alone is worth the price of admission and perfectly captures that fleeting moment before three-chord punk took over when CBGBs became its own version of the '60s Greenwich Village folk scene.

    Smith wasn't the only cerebral punk band to emerge from CBGBs. Tom Verlaine and company's brand of classic guitar solos mixed with Bohemian punk lyrics and prog production was like Blue Oyster Cult if they were born 5 years later.

  • Marquee Moon: Television's only real punk document was an exercise in guitar showmanship. From the slur-vocaled classic "Venus Demilo" to the ten minute title track that forsaw Bauhaus all the while sounding like "Dont Fear The Reaper", evoked a band that already sounded like it wanted out of its own label and devices.

    Richard Hell & the Voidoids

  • Blank Generation: Emerging from a brief tenure in the then unknown Television, Hell became the archetypal look for punk in the UK. His torn shirts, safety pins, and spiky hair was taken by Malcom Lauren and used to design Johnny Rotten's look. Though the Voidoids sound more like the Stooges, it's arguable that the song "Blank Generation" was aesthetically ripped off for "Anarchy in the UK".

    To be continued...

    "The Audio Philes" is ©2005 by Terence Nuzum.   All graphics (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.