Punk In Depth. Part 4: The Culture Behind The Music

The unsuspected fourth installment of the Punk In-Depth series. This article takes a look at the culture that surrounds the world of punk.

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As punk has progressed throughout the years it has been called several things: a movement, a rebellion, a revolution. Many still proclaim that punk is nothing but mere music. However, anyone taking a closer look at this thing that popped up in the 70's can see that even with all its separation into subgenres and styles and different sounds can see that punk is not merely some small movement, or even a revolution.

Such words suggest that punk is just a short, linear progression, just some little fad with a beginning and an end. Those who would throw this label on punk have failed to realize an important factor, that punk is more than just a finite progression of sound. It has become a culture.

Now, once one throws around the world culture, they must take into consideration what exactly that means. Here's what dictionary.com had to say about culture:

These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population.

Alright, so we have a definition, but what does it mean?

These patterns, traits, and products

Patterns, traits and products. Punk, in it's approximately 30 year history, has shown a pattern reminiscent of the hippies of the 1960's, an up-and-out rejection of the restrictions placed by typical conformist cultural norms. This pattern has manifested itself in the trait of individuality, which in some cases in extreme (and is therefore referred to as shock culture). And as for products, the music of punks everywhere is an undying product of the punk culture, it is the heart of all that is punk. The drums are the heartbeat of our culture, and the sound of the guitars is the endless flowing of our bloodstream.

Considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population.

If punks over the years have done anything, they've been expressing themselves. But in what of the above ways? Is it really a particular period? Punk has survived thirty years and several situations, but has continuously based itself on the same basic concepts, with the same basic principles, so we can see it's not just an era in time.

But this brings us to a larger question, or at least one that is often confused in the punk community (especially here at UG), and that is the question of class. Stereotypically, punks have been seen as relatively poor social outcasts. But must you be a poor derelict to be punk? Such is not the case at all.

I bring to light the famous example of one Joe Strummer, the lead singer and guitarist for the celebrated punk band, the Clash. Strummer was born into a rich family (his father was a royal British diplomat), and was raised in a mansion as a child. Nevertheless, Strummer grew up to become an icon of 70's punk, and has influenced countless groups. Many even argue that without him, punk rock as we know it would not be the same. Regardless of personal opinions about the quality of his music, Strummer was indeed important to the early development of the punk culture and musical genre, regardless of his wealthy upbringing.

But is Strummer a special case? I must argue the contrary. Many punks of today, though probably not as wealthy as Strummer's family, are fairly well-to-do people in the upper middle class socioeconomic bracket. This does not automatically bar them from the punk culture. This does not even have any relevance to their understanding of the punk culture or even their ability to grasp the conflict shown in much politically-oriented punk, such as the plight of the poor as they suffer under the rich.

And as politically-oriented punk, referred to here after as poli-punk, comes into the story, one must stop and recognize the general political ideology presented in the punk culture. A majority of punks carry strong/extreme leftist views on social and economic issues, thus placing them on the libertarian-liberal end of the political compass. However, though many punks hold these beliefs, they are not necessarily punk beliefs.

This idea of punk beliefs is indeed the entire inspiration for this article. Many a time it has been asked what punk beliefs are, and the fact is; they don't exist at all. There is no such thing as a punk belief structure. One of the greatest, most enduring principles of punk culture is an openness to all ideologies and beliefs. People of all colors, creeds, political philosophies, and religions can come together to the sound of guitars and a drum. All conflict in Washington or London or wherever it is punks live is tossed aside and replaced with the lifeblood that ties us all together, music.

This brings us to a sort of vague definition of the punk experience. Punk is a culture formed and based around music. If we study the diversity of the punk culture, we also find that diversity mirrored in the styles and subgenres of punk music. Punk has found a way to assimilate styles from all other genres of music: techno, rap, pop, folk, metal, and anything else you can think of. Punk sounds range from the softness of acoustic emo, to the kick-in-your-ass mosh tunes of hardcore. Punks range from drunk drug addicts to straight-edgers. Punk is everywhere, and it's here to stay. No matter how far underground the rest of the world tries to push it, and no matter how hard Madison avenue capitalizes upon it, punk won't die. As long as just one punk is alive, the music will live on forever.

Luck and Love, Mr. Lucky

62 comments sorted by best / new / date

    dylan_f1989
    That was the first good article on this topic so far. Everytime I hear my friends say: Stop listening to bands like Nirvana, Offspring, Pennywise etc. I feel like I'm about to burst. Who cares if they have "sold out"? They make (made) great music and they are still different to what is mainstream. 5 stars!
    Pennywise havn't sold out. They have stayed to the same record label for 13 years, havn't changed there sound and never sold any there interviews to Rolling Stone etc.
    phsya me too..LOVE the ramones..what the hel is "new" punk anyway?..uberfull article by the by..***..
    Ramones were Pop-Punk.
    Unseen_hero
    once again great article from our punk/ska column representative. might a suggest to all of you still drowning in stereotypical punk rock bias to read the other 3 articles about the history and find some bands to check out.
    proguit933
    great article, now that it has been written and people have read it do we all still have to define it and put our little spin on it? i mean now we have 4 articles on it so peole can stop saying punk isnt about this or that its about blah blah blah. thanks for making it clear for everybody, cuz i was sick of everybody saying shit like that.
    Tom
    this is dumb. Pampi is not having punk. Punk is about girls not calling you back
    fAeRiE~qUeEn
    phsya me too..LOVE the ramones..what the hel is "new" punk anyway?..uberfull article by the by..***..
    rockstar1939
    I really enjoyed your article. yeah that is true too dude but thats not the only thing behind punk Tom: this is dumb. Pampi is not having punk. Punk is about girls not calling you back
    afirocker00
    the whole concept of punk is possibly THE smartest thing to ever be brought about. What the hell makes one person better than the other and why in the hell should we have to follow their ideas and look up to them while they look down on us.We shouldn't and thats what punk rock is all about.
    Canadiens1160
    just some little fad with a beginning and an end
    Hate to say it, but punk was over in the early 80s for the most part. Bands with a punk label today are far from what the original movement was in terms of ideals and raw energy.
    kooldonuts
    thsi due knows what ehs talking about, good research, well thought, just fcken awesome, 5 stars!
    Jason144
    About time someone set the record straight. Great article. And the tie-in to Joe Strummer was icing on the cake. 5 stars.
    Define_"punk"
    what sinced when did nirvana sold out scionist? and yeh love those punk articles mr lucky77713 oh n rodney mullen does rock \m/
    thumbwar123
    punk is decent... but its not my favorite. im into the classical stuff. good article tho.
    metOLIca
    ok question what is punk??? cos there are so many bands who call them selfs punk, or have been labeled punk, e.g. what the *** kinda genre is blink 182.... lets just make things easy and get rid of everyhting except metal \m/
    Warm-And-Fuzzy
    I think people should stop labeling themselves and others, if you like the music you like the music, but you dont have to label yourself
    emokid182
    Pretty good article. I really like how u mentioned emo and some hardcore as part of punk. Most people forget that.
    vizo
    "Many a time it has been asked what punk beliefs are, and the fact is; they don?t exist at all." -- so why create a column labeled 'the culture behind the music'? beliefs, afterall, are part of how a culture is held together. quit contradicting yourself on the lowest level before you post such a lengthy article. think.
    blitzkriegbop01
    Best thing I've read in a LOONG time. Great article. I'm just starting to get into punk music but it's already the best thing that has happened to me since I can remember. Punk culture is filled with people that give a shit which I think is ***ing great.
    MrLucky77713
    Vizo, beliefs aren't ALL of culture, and a really diverse culture may not agree on any but a few beliefs. You said yourself that beliefs are a PART of culture. They are not the by all, end all of it. I'm not contradicting in writing this article and stating that punk belief structures are fictitious. You're simply striking at a small part of culture that is almost totally nonexistent in punk, and using it to somehow attack the notion of a culture at all.
    jimichild1
    Dudes I think we need to realize what music has turned into.Where's the soul?the ryhthm and the beat? I understand that music changes but punk is so far from awsome.Think about it who wants to be a punk...punks are the little fat kids who get beat up at the playground. Bring back the soul people! peace
    whyvern
    Music serves to elevate lift our souls fill our lives with joy and hope.
    dkmfan4189
    ***in awesome article, was a good read. it shut my firend brian up (he keeps giving punk a certain label and it kinda bugs me)
    rhcpcure2826
    one of the few aritcles about punk to not say, "PUNKS DIDNT SELL OUT THEY PLAY THE MUSIC THEY LOVE BECAUSE ITS AN EXPRESSION OF HOW BAD OFF THE US AND THE UK WERE" when that just gets boring and tired...
    washbrnxb105
    punk is doing what you wanna do no matter what anyone tells you even if it is what they tell you. You do what YOU wanna do
    brendan666
    good job. but dont you just hate it when they label certain mainstream bands as punk? like blink 182, good charolotte, simple plan, yellow card etc... like none of those bands that I listed shouldn't be called punk or even pop punk ( which is the dumbest thing thats every existed in music history ).. anyways back on topic, good job. sounds like you spent alot of time on it, and came up with great information.
    scionist
    That was the first good article on this topic so far. Everytime I hear my friends say: Stop listening to bands like Nirvana, Offspring, Pennywise etc. I feel like I'm about to burst. Who cares if they have "sold out"? They make (made) great music and they are still different to what is mainstream. 5 stars!
    MrLucky77713
    washbrnx: No it isn't. brendan: No, I don't hate it when pop-punk bands are referred to as punk. In the most basic way, they are. However, when someone starts comparing them to a straight punk/ "true" punk/ whatever you feel like calling it, I note the difference in genre. Pop-punk isn't stupid. It's a great genre. numbfinger: I don't give half a damn what you think about punk. But it isn't repeptive. You're stereotyping the genre by what little you've probably heard. "All generalizations are false" Thanks for the input everyone.
    bassist90
    Great article Lucky. Well worth the time and energy, on your part and ours. This article has been long overdue, and I'm glad you took the initiative to do it. Finally, when someone asks "What is punk?", I'll have somewhere to point 'em to. Five stars.