punk’s passionate heart

Compare, if you will, the following two songs:

The Ramones, “Judy is a Punk” 1974

Talking Heads, “Psycho Killer” 1975

Boy, each band sure does have sonic uniqueness. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t both punk.

Both of those performances were at CBGBs, and the Ramones and the Talking Heads weren’t the only ones playing music there in the mid-1970s. You also had bands like Television, not to mention Blondie and Patti Smith. None of these bands really sound like each other though.

Driven by nostalgia, members of the New York City punk milieu aspired to return rock and roll to its basic elements. These musicians and artists had become nihilistic about 1970s’ America and the overblown excesses of popular contemporary bands, and in reaction reverted to a style of musical performance that stressed passion over talent.

Richard Hell, a member of  Television, believed that a vital element of rock and roll was “the knowledge you invent yourself.”[1]

Thus, the groups playing at CBGBs, fueled by the nostalgia of earlier rock and roll, pushed music into new boudaries through creativity. They just didn’t always sound the same while doing it, and that’s another reason why “punk” is an attitude, not a sound.


[1] Clayton Heylin, Babylon’s Burning: From Punk to Grunge. (London: Penguin Books, 2007), p. 18.

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One Comment on “punk’s passionate heart”

  1. William A. Gilgan Says:

    That sounds like attitude to me.

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