Controversiality lies deep within Punk Rock. Punk started in the mid-seventies and was not mainstream in the slightest. Punk was categorized by the fast, distorted guitar riffs, aggressiveness, and edgy lyrics conveying a need for change in society.
The seventies and eighties were a wild time for punk rock. The Sex Pistols released their debut single Anarchy in the UK in November of 1976. John Joseph Lyden, otherwise known by his stage name, Johnny Rotten opens up by introducing himself as the "Antichrist" and then claims that he wants anarchy in the UK. In the song, he makes a slant rhyme between the word Antichrist and anarchist, which as controversial as this was, it kept crowds interested and even pleased. His goal was to gain the attention and anger of the established hierarchy in the UK. The following year was just as controversial. In the summer of 1977, The Sex Pistols released their second single God Save the Queen. While this song still stands as one of the most iconic punk songs written by one of the most iconic punk bands, it was actually banned in the UK by BBC. People and even the queen herself were outraged by this song and were disgusted that something like this about a political figure could be released. Firstly, God Save the Queen is actually the title of the British Royal National anthem. So, once the Sex Pistols took the title and created a new meaning centered around anarchy, chaos erupted around the country. People thought this song to be a public assault on the queen, as well as the monarchy. The song was about Britain having no future if the poor treatment of its citizens, mostly the middle class, did not cease. Here are some of the lyrics:
God save the queen
She's not a human being
and There's no future
And England's dreaming
Don't be told what you want
Don't be told what you need
There's no future
No future for you
Vocalist, Johnny Rotten, had been attacked on multiple occasions, enduring beatings and bottles to the face all due to this song. But in the name of Punk Rock, the band continued performing the song as a way of starting a conversation. Through the controversiality, this song put Punk on the map, growing it's audience.
Protests like Color Strike 1970 and The Postal Workers Strike of 1971 had been sparked by unfair treatment of the working class. Society was changing by the second, and the Sex Pistols had been born into this societal shift. The band represented England's working class and embraced the chaos that was happening in the world around them. Through controversial acts, lyrics, and their compelling stage performances, the Sex Pistols became an embodiment of Anarchy, taking the cake to go down as one of the best and most controversial punk rock bands in history.
As controversial as the Sex Pistols were, they weren't the only ones. Punk bands like Iggy and The Stooges, The Clash, and The Dead Kennedys had been just as controversial. For example, Iggy Pop (vocalist of The Stooges) and Sid Vicious (Bassist of the Sex Pistols) were both recognized for being completely outrageous and distasteful. Both musicians were known for mutilating and carving words on their stomachs with razors, or other sharp objects, and as disgusting as this act is, people applauded it. Of course not every punk band back then was controversial, nor is every punk band today controversial, but I think the controversy truly conveys the anarchy imbedded throughout punk history. They were making statements–signing statements that others were too afraid to follow because it wasn't society's norm. Through music punk created it's revolution, inciting others to follow, which they did. Punk is one of the most recognizable genres because of these bands. And maybe sometimes the punk lifestyle wasn't the best back then, or the nicest, but it made the noise that would help millions of people feel like they belonged someone–feeling like they were no longer misfits.
Punk Rock has this almost scenic direction it takes to create a metaphorical home for those who listen and for those who engage in the culture. Punk is more than distorted guitar riffs and loud drums, it's about making a change in society, stepping away from normalities, and standing up for yourself, or the group you feel that you belong to. Punk is raw. Punk is angry. But punk was built to be accepting. Through their music, The Sex Pistols confronted the economic issues that they saw prominent in society. Like-minded fans agreed, finding importance in what they had to say. Punk became more than music – it became a lifestyle, and this was why fans far and wide conformed to punk as a way to escape society. These ideologies are still prominent in the music industry today. Punk bands still seek inspiration from earlier punk bands like the Sex Pistols, Misfits, The Ramones, and The Stooges. The music acts as an anthem, but it's the changes that bands make in society that cause the shift. Punk was not meant for mainstream listeners. It was made for people who felt as if they were society's outcasts. The music created the voice while the bands led the scene. Even after the bands broke up, people still kept punk alive To this day punk music is still vital to the industry because it still has that same rebellious voice. There will always be issues embedded in society – issues that people will rebel against will still discuss, and will still create music as an attempt to change. Punk meant to bring any type of identity that was hidden to the front row. The lyrics were raw and edgy, inspiring people and changing their mindsets. This is how people found comfort in punk. Those who found the lyrics relatable essentially found a home.
Most punk shows were hosted at small, rundown venues. The venues became crowded easily. Hardcore dance styles, otherwise known as moshing, became increasingly popular. People were jumping, banging their heads, and shouting the lyrics. Stage diving was also a popular act. All of this commotion made it difficult to find any personal space, but in the heat of the concert, none of that mattered. The audience was able to see their favorite band, meet new people, and sing the lyrics that they related to the most. This subcultured turned into this angry, rebellious family that accepted one another without worrying about someone's background, someone's paycheck, or how they looked. When you attend a show it was a release of negative energy. Fans were able to let loose in a chaotic, yet beautiful atmosphere. Punk's angsty and to people that are struggling, want to rebel, or want to see a change in society it's attractive. You're upset and you want to scream? Punk will help you. You're sad and you need to be understood? Punk is there.