Saturday, November 28, 2009

NYC: The Trunk of Punk


Trash culture + underground rock + New York City x n(significant artists) + 1 epic club = the birth of American punk rock.

Let's start with the basics. First, there's CBGB, the famous club that housed anyone who's anyone in music, and was the home base for NYC punk rockers. Located in the artistic haven of Greenwich Village, this outfit drew all the weirdos, crazies and performers.

In walks Richard Hell, bassist of CBGB's favorite band, Television, and later of Richard Hell and the Voidoids. He is credited as the inventor of the look of punk rock: his hair is cut short and spiky, his shirts are torn and
written upon. He uses safety pins to attach his homemade garments. He is also quite easy on the eyes (I think so, anyway). His band, the Voidoids, is also responsible for the quintessential punk rock anthem, "Blank Generation," seen below.

Hell and his comrades, including the eminent Patti Smith, Rhode Island's Talking Heads, Blondie and about 30 other acts performed in CBGB and drew the scene together. Lou Reed and Iggy Pop rounded out what had become the early punk scene.

And then there's the band everyone remembers, The Ramones. They
took all of the angst, the politics, the meaning and condensed it
into fast, sucker punch songs. While Hell and others poeticized,
the Ramones said point-blank and dimly "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend"
and "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement." They are known as the
first punk band, depending on who you ask.

Their album cover is a punk fashion standard, of which a component is... standardization. As a band, the Ramones decided on assuming the same pseudonym, just for the fun of it. They adopted a shared look -- long, black, shaggy hair that fell in front of their faces (some say this worked well because they were ugly), ripped, straight legged jeans, beat-up Converse sneakers, t-shirts and leather jackets, and of course, the bad ass sunglasses.

Their songs were fast and loud, usually starting with a "1 2 3 4 !" shout before they unleashed their music upon their New York audiences. Legs McNeil, who co-founded Punk magazine (which came out of the Greenwich Village scene around the same time) described the impact of the Ramones' first performance at CBGB: "They were all wearing these black leather jackets. And they counted off this song...and it was just this wall of noise.... They looked so striking. These guys were not hippies. This was something completely new."

Their iconic style and music is still significant today, if you
notice how many Ramones t-shirts and Chuck Taylor's
are still crisp and clean on the bodies of middle schoolers
everywhere. Check out one of their later performances at CBGB
of "Blitzkrieg Bop."

1 comment:

  1. When I went to CBGBs many years ago, it was extremely underwhelming. The place is tiny, dirty, and poorly constructed. That in and of itself pretty much sums up the fashionable haven for that era of punk.

    -Steph (Cassie told me I should check this out, in case you're wondering why I'm randomly commenting haha)