Punk Rock, from proto to pop

The 1980s

Punk Ideology
The Birth of Punk Rock
The 1980s
New wave Punk
Punk today
Other Information

Main bands include the Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, Black Flag and the Descendents

The 1980s was a big time for punk rock and the subculture in general. In the '70s it was more of a musical thing but after the Sex Pistols, the scene now had an attire to uniform themselves against uniformity. This contradiction became evident when people who didn't conform to the "leather jacket, ripped clothes" look of the 70s were singled out as being 'queer'. This includes Robert Smith of post-punk band 'The Cure'.
The labeling of 'queers' and 'faggots' gave birth to the sub genre of punk now referred to as "Nazi Punk" which was punk that was lyricaly based around right wing politics and their attire was the typical punk rock look with Nazi logos on their jackets. They often paraded around and started fights with blacks, homosexuals or anyone who didn't look like a "normal person" under their judgement. This subgenre of punk is still often criticised for not following the left wing origins of the original punk bands (The Clash, Sex Pistols) and also just being racist and biggoted. This is not only hated by Punks, but also by the populas.
The main kind of Punk rock during the 1980s was Hardcore. This was usual punk but with vocals usually being screamed and music usually being thrashy or amatuer. This proved to be even more hated than the original wave of punk rock, yet develop a greater underground following (particuarly in Southern California, America). Perhaps the 2 most noteable of bands to play this style were southern Californians Black Flag and Minor Threat, hailing from Washington. Both bands epitomised the style of the time, with screaming vocals, simplistic music and angry themes.
Both bands practiced the DIY policy of punk rock in the 1970s and indeed 1980s. Black Flag's lyrics are often to do with isolation and paranoia. One only has to read the lyrics for their songs "Damage II" and their cover of classic "Louie Louie" to see what the band was capable of in terms of lyrical ideas. Minor Threat, although simillar in musical style, where more concerned with 'being punk' than isolation. Singer Ian MacKaye gave birth to the semi-common subculture of Straight Edge (sXe) and, as such, his lyrics were often based around this subject. The band was short lived and only produced 45 minutes of music in their 3 year career, ending in 1983. Ian then went on to form influential post-hardcore band Fugazi.
Black Flag continued on until 1989, lasting 13 years, which was signifigantly longer than seemingly every hardcore band to date. Whereas these two bands mentioned left wing politics and anarchism sparingly, Californians the 'Dead Kennedys' were completely concerned with left wing politics and the drastic change of the current capitalist system, Ronald Reagan in particular. This is largely due to the politicaly minded singer 'Jello Biafra' (real name Eric Boucher) who wrote the majority of the bands work. The band used humour, political pranksterism and assumptions of the left and right wing to show their own political views (which they claim to be anarchistic). Also following the DIY ethic which was a staple part of all 'real' punk bands in the 1980s, they formed their own record label "Alternative Tentacles" which Jello Biafra still runs today, releasing underground punk, rock, hardcore and spoken word albums.
The band's views became clear once their lyrics were understood, or often once the title of the song was read (such as 'Nazi Punks fuck off', 'Religious Vomit' and 'MTV get off the air') and as such the band was the first real target of the newly formed PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center). The PMRC actually sued the band, and lost, over the apparent distribution of harmful material to minors. The material in question was HR Grigors "landscape of the penis" which was given away with third album "Frankenchrist" simply to "make people angry, and make us laugh" says Biafra. This 3 year court battle eventually broke the band up, yet they claim to have been considering a break up for months before that incident.
"The Dead Kennedys were not a hardcore band, they were more like the Sex Pistols with a surf influence on acid" says Biafra in 1997. The 1980s was, as mentioned above, a big time for punk rock. The 1990s were nearing and that is when punk hit a big revival stage amongst the youth with bands like Green Day. There had to be a transitional period and a band to lead this period, there was a band and they were the Descendents.
Fronted by vocalist 'Milo' the band sung about no theme in particular to begin with, yet they later had songs which seemed to have the reoccuring theme of girlfriends. The band started off as a semi-hardcore outfit, yet changed to a more listener accesable sound with first album "Milo goes to college". The album is often considered one of the most important in punk as it bridged the gap between hardcore and traditional Ramones style punk. As their lyrics became more and more happy and music more up beat they became what is considered today to be the proto to "pop-punk". They would continue in the 1990s yet be pushed further into the background to make way for more popular bands...