What is/what is not?

A journey beyond mainstream to rebel music

What is/what is not?

Postby (sowhat) » Wed Dec 19, 2007 4:15 pm

Okay, here we go. There were different opinions in other threads, but i thought it would be nice to collect them in one.
Different people have different views on what is punk and what is not. Some restrict it to hardcore bands only while others include even modern billion-selling "pop-punk" (hmmm, i don't know how to call it, "mainstream punk" would sound like an oxymoron :wink: ) bands.
The question is, how do you define punk music? What are the main features of the style, in your view? And what would you not call punk, even if some others do, and why? Where's that line for you that separates punk from non-punk?
As always, all kinds of opinions welcome.
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Re: What is/what is not?

Postby (captsandwich) » Wed Dec 19, 2007 4:38 pm

It's easy:

Stuff I like is punk, stuff I don't like isn't.

:wink:
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Re: What is/what is not?

Postby (blueflamerick) » Wed Dec 19, 2007 4:47 pm

In the words of the late great D Boon, "punk is whatever we made it to be."
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Re: What is/what is not?

Postby (robbo63) » Wed Dec 19, 2007 9:00 pm

I always considered the DIY aspect a big part of punk, more than a codified style of music.
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Re: What is/what is not?

Postby (expomick) » Fri Dec 21, 2007 3:33 pm

Punk was/is an attitude, an approach, maybe even a loose set of shared values, though more likely a general rejection of the status quo while embracing those parts of the past which continue to ring true.

Such an open-ended interpretation explains why the likes of Neil Young is embraced, while the Rolling Stones aren't.

Punk become codified, as much, if not more so, than most other popular music forms, thus it applied its own straightjacket, its own handcuffs, effectively limiting the form from evolving, which in itself is an inherent contradiction, for punk was a rejection, not a revolution.

Which partially explains why many young music fans continue to pick up the dropped baton, and run with it. Which also explains why the punk generations that came before usually readily dismiss all contemporary punk.

Which means that punk, which in the end is just another sub-genre of rock 'n roll, continues to breath...and will continue to, for some 16-year-old kids who just discovered the latest punk band, and think that Green Day are a bunch of cool old geezers that invented the whole thing.
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Re: What is/what is not?

Postby (winston) » Fri Dec 21, 2007 4:34 pm

So punk is not defined by a bunch of musically challenged individuals who lyrically and physically rail against the establishment and often can only play a handful of chords then (such as - insert appropriate band)?

Going by the definitions that I am reading here, The Who's music with their onstage anti establishment attitude and gear smashing could (especially in their early days) sometimes at least could fit the punk moniker. One major difference that I see right away is that even as young as they were back then they knew how to play their instruments like virtuosos. They were a Mod band not a punk band. I know that for a fact as I was part of that movement.

Question! In light of the above observation, is it not more likely that punk actually describes a much narrower spectrum of the early established rock music genre rather than encompass the broad spectrum that this forum seems to imply?

Btw I am not being urgumentative or looking to stir the pot. I am simply asking a question so I can gain an understanding this music form and its boundaries.
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Re: What is/what is not?

Postby (sowhat) » Fri Dec 21, 2007 5:45 pm

Question! In light of the above observation, is it not more likely that punk actually describes a much narrower spectrum of the early established rock music genre rather than encompass the broad spectrum that this forum seems to imply?
Btw I am not being urgumentative or looking to stir the pot. I am simply asking a question so I can gain an understanding this music form and its boundaries.

Personally, i tend to agree with Greg, but i must add that not necessarily music that i like should be punk. :D
In my view, a good thing about punk is that it has — or initially had — no boundaries. I mean, if one wants to restrict himself to three chords, poor playing and cheap booze, it's up to him. If he doesn't want to do that, it's up to him as well. You can be a "musically challenged" unable to play solos; and you can be a good musician well able to play solos but not playing them because you find them boring. There's always a choice. :D I've even heard a point that Dire Straits (known for long songs and long solos) are a "punk band with a human face" (sounds funny, i know, given that in the very beginning, punk was about short and loud).
The trouble is, when a new genre appears, critics and most active followers try to define the genre by inventing limits. Initially, punk wasn't about limits; it was about guys who wanted to play a kind of music they liked as they were seeing it because they found this form most appropriate for their views and feelings. "You don't have to know how to play a musical instrument to play punk rock" was a statement that broke a certain limit. Unfortunately, for some it lately became another restriction.
Not sure, though, that this long and boring comment of mine was needed cause Mick has already explained it well. :wink:
All imho, of course.
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Re: What is/what is not?

Postby (scotty) » Fri Dec 21, 2007 8:08 pm

This is a tough one cause what defines punk being punk? Same can be said for What makes Skinheads like Ska.I think its down to personal taste and how you like people to see you and perceive you.For me punk is about not having a fear of swimming upstream.(God that sounds like a whole load of tosh but I hope it makes sense!) :roll:
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Re: What is/what is not?

Postby (admin) » Sun Dec 23, 2007 7:46 am

Brian, your post raises important questions regarding the origins and defining features of punk music. I consider that one of the confusing things about this discussion is, as Scotty has commented, the very broad definition of punk. If we consider punk to be an attitude, broadly speaking, then that could include almost any music that is breaking away from the status quo. Of course, I do not think the intent of such a position would be to include Presley's "That's Alright Mama" or Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy" in this genre.

I acknowledge that am the last person that should be asked for a succinct definition of punk. Nonetheless, I do think it would be helpful, as it is in other styles of music, to be somewhat more descriptive of punk music and to make reference to the period in which it developed. I am borrowing from what others have said here to some extent and I am guided by their enthusiasm and knowledge of the area.

To me punk, born in the late 1970s, was a reaction against the rock music and lifestyle of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Using a high energy rock music platform, the performers captured the attention of others by deliberately choosing an offensive style, lyric and manner of appearance that allowed them to express their resentment and, importantly, gain the attention of the status quo.

With this definition in mind, appreciating that it may still fall short of the mark, I would argue that this platform allowed punk to use any variation of music, lyric and appearance required to convey the sentiments of the artist. For some the outcome was brilliance, for others it exceeded the limits of personal tolerance.
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Re: What is/what is not?

Postby (sowhat) » Sun Dec 23, 2007 12:14 pm

Some say punk was born in the 60s, and i tend to agree with that. Many "official" sources, however, refer to late 70s as punk's date of birth.
In the very beginning, it came out as "short, loud and aggressive", and that came out naturally. I mean, for people who started that, it was the only way to express their feelings (and i understand it well :D ). Raw energy and pure emotion were much more important than technical quality of performance. And right, they thought life and music at the time was artificial, invented, thought over, and they were for natural, wild, not dictated by society or rules of music theory. Look at small kids dancing, jumping and singing their own songs, invented here and now and existing here and now, when they're full of energy — they don't need long complicated solos or a deep thought in lyrics.
Side note: when i was a teenager, i was told many times by many different people what a "true" punk rocker should be, do, and look like. "Punk doesn't care about anyone but himself"; "Punk should wear a mohawk (uh-oh, looks like i am not one), dirty clothes (well, this happens to all of us from time to time), as much piercing as possible (uh-oh, definitely i am not the one cause i don't have any holes in my head additional to those that were made by mother nature), drink cheap booze, take drugs (uh-ooh), etc, etc". In the end, i said that i didn't care about all these restrictions — and why should i anyway? End of note.
The way of thinking, the vision dictated the form naturally. However, personally, i do not think that a punk rocker has no right to change his vision or add new elements to his music. Some do. I've even heard some people say that Joey Ramone wasn't a true punk rocker cause he didn't die young and didn't commit suicide. Oh well. They have their right to think what they think, and i have my right to think otherwise.
And i think that Erik and Greg's comments reflect the punk way of thinking. One could also put it the following way, "What is punk? — I don't care". :wink:
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Re: What is/what is not?

Postby (admin) » Sun Dec 23, 2007 12:44 pm

Good points, Sheena. It would certainly seem that punk has a number of variations andf the jury may well still be out when it comes to its origins.

Your comments are helpful in dispelling some myths about the beginnings of punk and the form it takes. I think it important to remember at the same time that all new forms of music, be it jazz, blues, rock and roll, punk, metal or rap, had a rebellious and even "short loud and aggressive" quality compared to its predecessor. Admirers of all forms of music, including children, are swept away by the beat or rhythm that may be independent of the quality or skill of the instruments or as you say the lyrics.

Some music may in and of itself seem to defy definition, but placed within an historical perspective and following comparative anlaysis, punk cannot escape the inevitable which is the opinions of those who embrace it and those who do not.

As we continue our journey of discussing punk, it seems to me that the similarities and differences in our opinions are likely to lead to a greater comprehension of its music and a deeper understanding of what it is all about. I am here to get the education that I may have missed the first time around.
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Re: What is/what is not?

Postby (winston) » Sun Dec 23, 2007 2:13 pm

This probably is not the most definitive source on the internet but it makes for an interesting read.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punk_rock

The problem as I see it is that punk should never have been defined since the movement originally attempted to avoid definition and classification at all cost.
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Re: What is/what is not?

Postby (captsandwich) » Sun Dec 23, 2007 2:35 pm

winston wrote:The problem as I see it is that punk should never have been defined since the movement originally attempted to avoid definition and classification at all cost.

I think you are exactly right.
Johnny Rotten always stated that he did not like the Punk label because it pigeonholed him. Early in his career he was invited to do a radio interview and bring along music that he liked. Since there was very little 'punk' available at that time, nobody knew what to expect, and Johnny showed up with a wide variety of music, from the Stooges and the New York Dolls to Captain Beefheart.
If there was all that confusion back when it was happening, just think what letting it ferment for 30 odd years has done to cloud the issue. :lol:
Last edited by captsandwich on Sun Dec 23, 2007 2:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is/what is not?

Postby (admin) » Sun Dec 23, 2007 2:37 pm

Brian, while a definition of punk may not have been sought by its founders, it seems to me that their behaviour defined it for them by default, if you will.

I am remembered of your earlier point.
I am simply asking a question so I can gain an understanding this music form and its boundaries.


I am not sure that positing that the music cannot be defined advances our knowledge about the music or its boundaries in any meaningful way.
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Re: What is/what is not?

Postby (winston) » Sun Dec 23, 2007 3:42 pm

admin wrote:Brian, while a definition of punk may not have been sought by its founders, it seems to me that their behaviour defined it for them by default, if you will.

I am remembered of your earlier point.
I am simply asking a question so I can gain an understanding this music form and its boundaries.


I am not sure that positing that the music cannot be defined advances our knowledge about the music or its boundaries in any meaningful way.


Agreed Peter,

But that's the whole point of my comment. If the founders did not want their new music form classified in any way then perhaps their first mistake was to accept a label of any sort. Punk is a word that is well defined in the dictionary, the founders accepted that moniker in the context of their music, hence a set of boundaries were established.

I for one cannot see how punk was started in the 60's. It seems very clear to me that it started by way of definition in the 70's. I also cannot accept and resent the "garage band" moniker that people now apply to my 60's band and also bands like The Collectors (now Chilliwack),Tom Northcott, The Northwest Company and The Poppy Family who were our contemporaries in that era. A few of our recordings have shown up on the "Boulders" compilations. Boulders #9 for example has Sha La La La La Lee on it. We had a fair amount of commercial success with the our release on Quality Records of Canada. The original was issued by The Small Faces. I have never heard them being described as a garage band. The fact that the Guess Who (who were also our contemporaries) went on to far greater commercial success seems to have given them the ability to shake that rather dubious classification. My point? Before all the creation of the various more recent modern genres life was oh so much more simple and lines were not blurred. Jazz was jazz, blues was blues, R&B was R&B and Rock'n Roll was Rock'n Roll etc.

Today people are describing Boyz II Men as an R&B Band. How does that work? They do not fit the original definition at all. Wilson Pickett and Boyz II men have nothing in common IMO. But I digress only to emphasize a point.

Again I am not trying to be argumentative but revisionists seem to be busy reclassifying genres to suit their own purposes. Perhaps to legitimize the music form they are participating in as either as performers or listeners? I am not really sure, but I am willing to learn.
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