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Proto-punk (or protopunk) is the rock music from the 1960s and early 1970s that presaged the punk rock movement, although they were not labelled as such until after the fact. The musicians were not originally associated with each other, coming from a variety of backgrounds and styles, but they anticipated many of punk's musical and thematic attributes.[4] Proto-punk acts from the mid-1960s were deemed to be influential on later punk, particularly much garage rock.[5]


Further information: Punk ideologies

According to the Allmusic guide:

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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.[4]

Most musicians classified as proto-punk are rock performers of the 1960s and early-1970s, with garage rock/art rock bands the Velvet Underground, MC5 and the Stooges considered to be archetypal proto-punk artists,[4][6] along with later glam rock band the New York Dolls.[7]


Origins and etymology[]

File:Love's Da Capo lineup.png

Love's Da Capo lineup; September 1966.

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.[8][9] Over the next few years, the term was used retrospectively by certain rock critics to describe a number of US bands,[10][11][12][13] mostly active in the mid-to-late 1960s, playing music that is today classified as garage rock: a ragged, highly energetic, often amateurish style of rock.[14] While garage rock bands varied in style, the "toughest, angriest garage rockers"[15] are considered pioneers of garage punk and examples of proto-punk.[16][17] - e.g. The Sonics, who "anticipated the mania of punk",[18] The Monks, who "anticipated the blunt, harsh commentary of the punk era",[19] and Question Mark & the Mysterians, "one of the prime suspects in the evolution of garage rock into early punk".[20] Allmusic refers to the Chocolate Watchband as "proto-punk",[21] the Music Machine and others as "garage punk",[22][23][24] and the Standells[25] and Paul Revere & the Raiders[26] as "punk".Template:Importance-example

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.[27] 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".[28]

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.[29] The following year saw the first record release by MC5-associated proto-punks The Up,[30] while Detroit was also the birthplace of Death, a pioneering but commercially unsuccessful African-American proto-punk band, first formed in 1973.[31]

International development[]

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.[32] 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)".[4] With his Ziggy Stardust persona, David Bowie made artifice and exaggeration central elements, that were later picked up by punk acts.[33] 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.[3]

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.[34] Simply Saucer formed in Hamilton, Canada in 1973[35] and have been called "Canada's first proto-punk band",[36] blending garage rock, krautrock, psychedelia and other influences to produce a sound that was later described as having a "frequent punk snarl."[37]

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.[38]

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,[39] while in Sydney, Radio Birdman, co-founded by Detroit expatriate Deniz Tek in 1974, began playing gigs to a small but fanatical following.


  1. 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.
  2. Pell, Nicholas (January 26, 2012). "Deathmatch: Which Is Better, Pub Rock or Garage Rock?". LA Weekly. Retrieved August 1, 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Robb 2012, p. 51.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Proto-Punk". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-25.
  5. Bangs, Lester (1981). "Protopunk: The Garage Bands". The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll (Second ed.). Picador Books. pp. 357–361. ISBN 0-679-73728-6. Unknown parameter |editors= ignored (|editor= suggested) (help)
  6. "The Stooges - Biography, Albums, Streaming Links". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-25.
  7. "New York Dolls - Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-25.
  8. Taylor 2003, p. 16.
  9. Woods, Scott. "A Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy Interview with Dave Marsh". Archived from the original on 18 August 2007. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  10. Bangs, Lester. Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung. Anchor Books, a division of Random House. 2003. pp. 8, 56, 57, 61, 64, 101: reprints of articles which appeared in 1971 and 1972, that refer to garage bands such as the Count Five and the Troggs as "punk"; p. 101 associates "Iggy" and "Jonathan of Modern Lovers" with the Troggs and their ilk (as being punk); pp. 112–13 speak of the Guess Who as "punk" – the Guess Who had made recordings (i.e. their hit version of Shakin' All Over," 1965) as a garage rock outfit in the mid-'1960s; p. 8 makes a general statement about "punk rock" (garage) as a genre: "... then punk bands started cropping up..."; p. 225 is a reprint from article which appeared in the late 1970s, that refers back to garage bands as "punk".
  11. Laing, Dave. One Chord Wonders: Power and Meaning in Punk Rock. PM Press. Oakland, CA 2015. pp. 22–23. Laing writes that the term, "punk rock" was used "generically" (i.e. as to designate a genre) in the early 1970s to describe mid-'1960s garage rock bands – he quotes Greg Shaw from the late 1970s referring to how it was used in the early '70s to designate the genre: "Punk rock in those days was a quaint fanzine term for a transient form of mid-'1960s music ..." [1]
  12. Gendron, Bernard (2002). Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club: Popular Music and the Avant-Garde (1st ed.). Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. p. 348. ISBN 0-226-28735-1. p. 348 n. 13
  13. Christgau, Robert (October 14, 1971). "Consumer Guide (20)". Village Voice. Retrieved July 23, 2016.
  14. "Garage Rock Music Genre Overview". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-25.
  15. Hann, Michael (30 July 2014). "10 of the best: garage punk" – via The Guardian.
  16. "The 5: Proto-Punk Bands of the 60's and 70's - The Interrobang". 24 July 2013.
  17. "10 Essential Proto-punk tracks". 2015-11-05. Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  18. "The Sonics - Biography & History -". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-25.
  19. "The Monks - Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-25.
  20. "? & the Mysterians - Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-25.
  21. "The Chocolate Watchband - Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-25.
  22. "The Music Machine - Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-25.
  23. "The Bad Seeds - Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-25.
  24. "The Barbarians - Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-25.
  25. "The Standells - Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-25.
  26. "Paul Revere & the Raiders - Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-25.
  27. Sabin 2002, p. 159.
  28. Schinder & Schwartz 2008, p. 263.
  29. Taylor 2003, p. 49.
  32. Ironside, Gus (21 May 2014). "Louder than War Interview: Luke Haines Says (New York in the 70s)". Louder Than War (website). Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  33. Laing 1985, pp. 24–26.
  34. Neate, Wilson. "NEU!". Trouser Press. Retrieved 2007-01-11.
  35. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-01-19. Retrieved 2011-12-01. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  36. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-15. Retrieved 2011-12-01. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  37. Sendra, Tim. "Cyborgs Revisited Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-11-30.
  38. Anderson 2002, p. 588.
  39. Unterberger 2000, p. 18.


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  • Einarson, John (2010). Forever Changes: Arthur Lee and the Book of Love. Jawbone. ISBN 1-906002-31-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Marcus, Greil, ed. (1979). Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-394-73827-6. Unknown parameter |editorlink= ignored (|editor-link= suggested) (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Schinder, Scott; Schwartz, Andy (2008). Icons of Rock: Elvis Presley; Ray Charles; Chuck Berry; Buddy Holly; The Beach Boys; James Brown; The Beatles; Bob Dylan; The Rolling Stones; The Who; The Byrds; Jimi Hendrix. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 0-313-33846-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Taylor, Steven (2003). False Prophet: Field Notes from the Punk Underground. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0-8195-6668-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

Further reading[]

  • Buckley, Peter, ed. (2003). The Rough Guide to Rock. London: Rough Guides. ISBN 1-85828-201-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Unterberger, Richie (1999). Music USA: The Rough Guide. London: Rough Guides. ISBN 1-85828-421-X.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Unterberger, Richie (2002). "British Punk". In Bogdanov, Vladimmir; Woodstra, Chris; Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (eds.). All Music Guide to Rock: The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop, and Soul (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Backbeat. ISBN 0-87930-653-X. Unknown parameter |editor3link= ignored (|editor-link3= suggested) (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Taylor, Steve (2004). The A to X of Alternative Music. London and New York: Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-8217-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Marcus, Greil (1989). Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-53581-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Bessman, Jim (1993). Ramones: An American Band. New York: St. Martin's. ISBN 0-312-09369-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

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