A Brief History of Punk

Bruce Wright - The Refuge

Punk has its roots in three musical strands, from three different countries:

  1. Jamaica with the development of Ska and Reggae, featuring most notably the "rude boy" scene,
  2. The United States with rockabilly and honky-tonk,
  3. England with the music scene starting in the 60's with the "mod scene" with their scooters and bowl-like haircuts, with bands like The Who.

Punk also has its roots in the political/social climate of the 60's and 70's in England, the US and Europe.

Youth disenfranchisement with the failure of 60's hippie Utopia culture and the commercialization of Rock and Roll led to a new form of music characterized by loud chaotic distorted chords played with less technique, more heart, more angst, and more disdain for authority and the establishment. The lyrics tended toward Anarchistic and nihilistic views of power and authority.

Punk grew out of most notably, the working class and poor of England. The attire, combat boots, suspenders, jeans and shaved heads, as with the various skinhead groups, represented the working poor. The leather jackets, piercings, and the mohawk hair of punks also represented a reaction to conventional appearance and a desire for individuality.

In England, the bands of the early Punk era were represented by bands such as The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Stooges and The Dickies. In America, bands such as the Velvet Underground, The MC5, Ramones, The Damned, X and later the Dead Kennedys and Crash, represented this sound.

Inherently, Punk is about Rebellion against controlling authority, independence, changing society, eliminating injustice and inequity and non-conformity. Christianity, in its more pure uncompromised non-institutional form has much in common with this.

As Punk grew, so did many musical and cultural sub-forms, with it. Culturally, a variety of sub-categories of punk grew: Traditional skinheads, Nazi skinheads (racist), SHARPS (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice), rude boy (Ska/Punk mixed), Hardcore, Straightedge Goth-Punk (Bands like Joy division), Gutter punks, Pop Punk, Peace Punks (those for Social Justice- CRASS, Anti-Flag), and Emo (Emotional Personal Lyrics).

In conclusion, this is only a minimal historical introduction; it only begins to cover the vast array of issues and styles involving Punk. As those who claim to follow the Christ of non-conformity and of the oppressed, Punk has much to offer. Issachar, in the Old Testament, told the children of Israel, to know the times in which they lived. We, as the Church, must also knew the times and become all things to all men (I Cor. 9).

Love and Acceptance to this group must come first, before they will accept the Jesus of Scripture. Much of the Church has been misrepresented by those of the narrow ultra-conservative view. We must begin to show them a different Jesus.

The following is a list of recommended reading: (gives more info on Punk Culture).

  • Maximum Rock and Roll (A Zine)
  • Anarchy, A Journal of Desire Armed (A Zine)
  • Anarchy and Christianity (A book)
  • Punk Planet (A Zine)
  • The Philosophy of Punk (A book)

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