Proto-punk (or protopunk) is the rock music played by garage bands[4] from the 1960s and early 1970s that presaged the punk rock movement.[5] The phrase is a retrospective label; the musicians involved were not originally associated with each other, and came from a variety of backgrounds and styles, but together they anticipated many of punk's musical and thematic attributes.[5]

Stylistic origins
Cultural origins1960s, United States, United Kingdom
Derivative forms
Fusion genres
Glam punk
Other topics


According to the Allmusic guide:

Proto-punk was never a cohesive movement, nor was there a readily identifiable proto-punk sound that made its artists seem related at the time. What ties proto-punk together is a certain provocative sensibility that didn't fit the prevailing counterculture of the time ... It was consciously subversive and fully aware of its outsider status ... In terms of its lasting influence, much proto-punk was primitive and stripped-down, even when it wasn't aggressive, and its production was usually just as unpolished. It also frequently dealt with taboo subject matter, depicting society's grimy underbelly in great detail, and venting alienation that was more intense and personal than ever before.[5]

Most musicians classified as proto-punk are rock performers of the 1960s and early-1970s, with garage rock/art rock bands the Velvet Underground, MC5 and the Stooges considered to be archetypal proto-punk artists,[5][6] along with later glam rock band the New York Dolls.[7]

Origins and etymology

One of the earliest written uses of the term "punk rock" was by critic Dave Marsh who used it in 1970 to describe the group Question Mark & the Mysterians, who had scored a major hit with their song "96 Tears" in 1966.[8][9] Many bands were active in the mid-to-late 1960s playing garage rock: a ragged, highly energetic, often amateurish style of rock.[10] While garage bands varied in style, the label of garage punk has been attributed by critic Michael Hann to the "toughest, angriest garage rockers" such as the 13th Floor Elevators and the Sonics.[11] AllMusic states that bands like the Sonics and the Monks "anticipated" punk;[12][13] the latter have likewise been cited as examples of proto-punk[14][15] and the Sonics' 1965 debut album Here Are the Sonics as "an early template for punk rock".[15] The raw sound and outsider attitude of psychedelic garage bands like the Seeds also presaged the style of bands that would become known as the archetypal figures of proto-punk.[16]

Debut albums by two key proto-punk bands were released in 1969; Detroit's MC5 released Kick Out the Jams in January, and the Stooges, from Ann Arbor, premiered with their self-titled album in August. The latter album was produced by John Cale, a former member of New York's the Velvet Underground; having earned a "reputation as the first underground rock band", the Velvet Underground inspired, directly or indirectly, many of those involved in the creation of punk rock.[17] In Detroit, the following year saw the formation of Death, a pioneering but commercially unsuccessful African-American proto-punk band, first formed in 1973.[18]

International developments

In the early 1970s, the UK underground counter-cultural scene centred on Ladbroke Grove in west London spawned a number of bands that have been considered proto-punk, including Hawkwind, the Pink Fairies and Third World War.[19] According to Allmusic, glam rock also "inspired many future punks with its simple, crunchy guitar riffs, its outrageous sense of style, and its artists' willingness to sing with British accents (not to mention the idiosyncratic images of David Bowie and Roxy Music)".[5] With his Ziggy Stardust persona, David Bowie made artifice and exaggeration central elements, that were later picked up by punk acts.[20] The Doctors of Madness built on Bowie's presentation concepts, while moving conceptually in the direction that would become identified with punk.[21] Bands in London's pub rock scene anticipated punk by stripping the music back to its basics, playing hard, R&B-influenced rock 'n' roll.[22] By 1974, the scene's top act, Dr. Feelgood, was paving the way for others such as the Stranglers[23] and Cock Sparrer[24] that would play a role in the punk explosion. Among the pub rock bands that formed that year was the 101ers, whose lead singer would soon adopt the name Joe Strummer.[3]

Bands anticipating the forthcoming movement were appearing as far afield as Düsseldorf, West Germany, where "punk before punk" band NEU! formed in 1971, building on the krautrock tradition of groups such as Can.[25] Simply Saucer formed in Hamilton, Canada in 1973[26] and have been called "Canada's first proto-punk band",[27] blending garage rock, krautrock, psychedelia and other influences to produce a sound that was later described as having a "frequent punk snarl."[28]

In Japan, the anti-establishment Zunō Keisatsu (Brain Police) mixed garage, psych and folk. The band's first two albums were withdrawn from public sale after their lyrics were found to violate industry regulations, and their "spirit.. was taken up again by the punk movement."[29]

A new generation of Australian garage rock bands, inspired mainly by the Stooges and MC5, came even closer to the sound that would soon be called "punk": in Brisbane, the Saints recalled the raw live sound of the British Pretty Things, who had made a notorious tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1965,[30] while in Sydney, Radio Birdman, co-founded by Detroit expatriate Deniz Tek in 1974, began playing gigs to a small but fanatical following.[31] The Saints are regarded as a punk band and as being "to Australia what the Sex Pistols were to Britain and the Ramones to America,"[32][33] while Radio Birdman are regarded as co-founders of punk[34] but have also been designated as proto-punk.[35]

List of artists


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Further reading

  • Buckley, Peter, ed. (2003). The Rough Guide to Rock. London: Rough Guides. ISBN 1-85828-201-2.
  • Unterberger, Richie (1999). Music USA: The Rough Guide. London: Rough Guides. ISBN 1-85828-421-X.
  • Unterberger, Richie (2002). "British Punk". In Bogdanov, Vladimmir; Woodstra, Chris; Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. All Music Guide to Rock: The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop, and Soul (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Backbeat. ISBN 0-87930-653-X.
  • Heylin, Clinton (1993). From the Velvets to the Voidoids: A Pre-Punk History for a Post-Punk World. London: Penguin. ISBN 0-14017-970-4.
  • Taylor, Steve (2004). The A to X of Alternative Music. London and New York: Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-8217-1.
  • Marcus, Greil (1989). Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-53581-2.
  • Marcus, Greil, ed. (1979). Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-394-73827-6.
  • Bessman, Jim (1993). Ramones: An American Band. New York: St. Martin's. ISBN 0-312-09369-1.
Cyrinda Foxe

Cyrinda Foxe (born Kathleen Victoria Hetzekian; February 22, 1952 – September 7, 2002) was an American actress, model and publicist, best known for her role in Andy Warhol's Bad (1977). She was married to both David Johansen of the proto-punk band New York Dolls and Steven Tyler of the hard rock band Aerosmith. She was the mother of Mia Tyler.

David Johansen

David Roger Johansen (sometimes spelled David Jo Hansen; born January 9, 1950) is an American singer, songwriter and actor. He is best known as a member of the seminal proto-punk band the New York Dolls. He is also known for his work under the pseudonym Buster Poindexter.

Dennis Thompson (drummer)

Dennis Thompson (born September 7, 1948) is an American drummer most famous for being a member of the 1960s–70s Detroit proto-punk/hard rock group MC5, which had a #82 US single with "Kick Out the Jams" and a #30 US album with the same name.

Thompson was given the nickname "Machine Gun" because of his "assault" style of fast, hard-hitting drumming that sonically resembles the sound of a Thompson machine gun (commonly referred to as a "Tommy Gun"). His drumming pre-figured and influenced punk, metal, and hardcore punk drumming styles.After MC5 broke up, Thompson was a member of the 1975–1976 Los Angeles-based supergroup The New Order, the 1981 Australia-based supergroup New Race, The Motor City Bad Boys, and The Secrets. In 2001, he guested for Asmodeus X on the song, The Tiger (St. Thomas Records).Thompson was in the band DKT/MC5 with the surviving members of MC5, from 2003-2012.

Garage punk (fusion genre)

Garage punk is a rock music fusion genre combining the influences of garage rock, punk rock, and other forms, that took shape in the indie rock underground between the late 1980s and early 1990s. Bands drew heavily from stripped-down 1970s punk rock and Detroit proto-punk, and incorporated numerous other styles into their approach, such as power pop, 1960s girl groups and garage rock, hardcore punk, early blues and R&B, and surf rock.The term more frequently refers to the 1960s style and is sometimes used interchangeably with "garage rock" or "garage revival". "Garage punk" dates as early as 1972, although "punk" was not solidified as a genre until 1976. After the 1980s, groups who were labelled as "garage punk" stood in contrast to the nascent retro garage revival scene, moving past a strictly mid-1960s influence. Associated bands from that period contributed to the development of stoner rock, a more psychedelic variation of the genre.

Garage rock

Garage rock (sometimes called '60s punk or garage punk) is a raw and energetic style of rock and roll that flourished in the mid-1960s, most notably in the United States and Canada, and has experienced various revivals in the last several decades. The style is characterized by basic chord structures played on electric guitars and other instruments, sometimes distorted through a fuzzbox, as well as often unsophisticated and occasionally aggressive lyrics and delivery. The term "garage rock" derives from the perception that groups were often made up of young amateurs who rehearsed in the family garage, although many were professional.

In the US and Canada, surf rock—and later the Beatles and other beat groups of the British Invasion—motivated thousands of young people to form bands between 1963 and 1968. Hundreds of acts produced regional hits, and some had national hits, usually played on AM radio stations. With the advent of psychedelia, a number of garage bands incorporated exotic elements into the genre's primitive stylistic framework, but after 1968, as more sophisticated forms of rock music came to dominate the marketplace, garage rock records largely disappeared from national and regional charts, and the movement faded. Though generally associated with North America, other countries in the 1960s developed similar grass-roots rock movements that have sometimes been characterized as variants of garage rock.

During the 1960s garage rock was not recognized as a distinct genre and had no specific name, but critical hindsight in the early 1970s—and particularly the release of the 1972 compilation album Nuggets—did much to define and memorialize the style. Between 1971 and 1973 certain rock critics began to retroactively identify the music as a genre and for several years used the term "punk rock" to describe it, making it the first form of music to bear the description, predating the more familiar use of the term appropriated by the later punk rock movement of the mid- to late-1970s that it influenced. The term "garage rock" came into use at the beginning of the 1980s and eventually gained favor amongst devotees. The genre has also been referred to as "'60s punk", "garage punk", or "proto-punk".

In the early to mid-1980s, several revival scenes emerged featuring acts that consciously attempted to replicate the look and sound of 1960s garage bands. Later in the decade, a louder, more contemporary garage subgenre developed that combined garage rock with modern punk rock and other influences, sometimes using the garage punk label originally and otherwise associated with 1960s garage bands. In the 2000s, a wave of garage-influenced acts associated with the post-punk revival emerged, and some achieved commercial success. Garage rock continues to appeal to musicians and audiences who prefer a "back to basics" or "do-it-yourself" musical approach.

Glam punk

Glam punk (sometimes called mock rock) is a term used retrospectively to describe a short lived trend for bands which produced a form of proto-punk that incorporated elements of glam rock, initially in the early to mid-1970s. Acts included New York Dolls and Harlots of 42nd Street.

Jonathan Richman

Jonathan Michael Richman (born May 16, 1951) is an American singer, songwriter and guitarist. In 1970 he founded the Modern Lovers, an influential proto-punk band. Since the mid-1970s, Richman has worked either solo or with low-key, acoustic and electric, backing. Currently, he plays only acoustic to protect his hearing. He is known for his wide-eyed, unaffected and childlike outlook, and music that, while rooted in rock and roll, is influenced by music from around the world.

Latino punk

Latino punk is punk music created by Latino people in Latin America and the United States.

The angst and protest qualities of punk music and style have had a strong appeal to Latino youth in the U.S., and to the people in Latin America. It is impossible to pinpoint the exact location or moment when Latinos began engaging in the punk subculture. However, Latin American rock began showing aspects of punk music during the mid-1960s with the Peruvian band Los Saicos; this band reflected many aspects of other proto-punk bands such as the Yardbirds. The Saicos were predecessors to some of the most influential proto-punk bands in the U.S., such as New York Dolls, MC5, and The Stooges Johnny Thunders (John Anthony Genzale, Jr) of the seminal New York Dolls, who also played with The Heartbreakers and the Waldos, was of Latino descent and very clearly played Latin-influenced scales on some of his tracks (e.g. King of the Gypsies).

Punk music began engaging a wider variety of artists and audience in the late 1970s and 1980s, either in Latin America or in the U.S. By the mid-1970s, the aesthetics promoted by glam rock in the United Kingdom had created a social gap between the audience and the artist. The punk scene that began to sprout during that era shared more commonalities with the youth audience, while still retaining some attributes from glam rock.

Punk music presented itself as the voice for white teenage angst, without the arrogance and verbosity of glam rock. The punk genre rooted itself in a music and style that created by the working class without the intellectual posturing of its previous genres. It was a genre created by and for the white working class in the United Kingdom. During the late 1970s, punk's social basis for creating commonalities with its fans, and its integration of style and instruments from reggae allowed for punk bands of different ethnicities to integrate themselves into the social scene in the United Kingdom.

Pablo Picasso (song)

"Pablo Picasso" is a song written by Jonathan Richman for the proto punk group the Modern Lovers. The song was recorded in 1972 at Whitney Studios in Los Angeles, and produced by John Cale, but was not released until 1976, on the Modern Lovers' self-titled debut album. The recording featured Richman (lead guitar, vocals), Ernie Brooks (second guitar), Jerry Harrison (bass) and David Robinson (drums), with Cale playing the repetitive hammered piano part.The central character of the song is the charismatic 20th century artist Pablo Picasso. With dry wit, the lyrics suggest that women never rejected Picasso's romantic advances, despite his short stature. "Well he was only five foot three but girls could not resist his stare / Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole / Not in New York". In a 1980 interview, Richman stated that the song was inspired by his own adolescent "self-consciousness" with women.

Rebel Rebel

"Rebel Rebel" is a song by David Bowie, released in 1974 as a single from the album Diamond Dogs. Cited as his most-covered track, it has been described as being effectively Bowie's farewell to the glam rock movement that he had helped pioneer, as well as being a proto-punk track.

Richard Dudanski

Richard "Snakehips" Dudanski, also known as Richard Nother, is an English drummer who was a member of a number of seminal British proto-punk, punk and post-punk bands, including The 101ers, The Raincoats, Public Image Ltd., Tymon Dogg and the Fools, and Basement 5. He was invited by fellow 101er Joe Strummer to become a member of an early incarnation of The Clash.

Rob Tyner

Robert W. Derminer (December 12, 1944 – September 18, 1991), known as Rob Tyner, was an American musician best known as lead singer for the Detroit proto-punk band, MC5. His adopted surname was in tribute to the jazz pianist McCoy Tyner. It was Tyner who issued the rallying cry of "kick out the jams, motherfuckers" at the MC5's live concerts. Tyner had originally auditioned as the bass player, but the band felt his talents would be best used as a lead vocalist.

Talk Talk (The Music Machine song)

"Talk Talk" is the debut single of the American garage rock band, The Music Machine. The song was released in November 1966, and produced the band's only Top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. It was then included on their debut album, (Turn On) The Music Machine. The single is an early example of proto-punk.

The Dictator

The Dictator may refer to:

The Dictator (1915 film), a silent film comedy directed by Oscar Eagle

The Dictator (1922 film), a silent film comedy directed by James Cruze

The Dictator (1935 film), a British historical drama film directed by Victor Saville

The Dictator (2012 film), a 2012 comedy film starring Sacha Baron Cohen

Dictator (2016 film), a 2016 Indian Telugu-language action film

The Dictators, an American proto-punk and punk rock band

The Knaves

The Knaves were an American garage rock band formed in Chicago, Illinois, in 1964. The band released two singles during their existence, including the song "Leave Me Alone", which is now considered a classic of the musical genre of garage rock. In addition, the group's sound was particularly unique for combining elements of folk rock and proto-punk, making the Knaves stand out among their contemporaries.

The Missing Frame

"The Missing Frame" is a song by American rock band AFI. It was released as the third single from their seventh studio album Decemberunderground, impacting radio on February 27, 2007. The song peaked at number 17 on the Alternative Songs chart.In an interview with Kerrang! magazine, Davey Havok noted that this was the only song on the album that has 'whoa's on it (seeming to forget the 'whoa's on "Prelude 12/21" and "Miss Murder"), also noting the lack of 'whoa's on their 2003 album, Sing the Sorrow.Havok describes the song as proto-punk as well as saying that the song has "some definite U2 moments to it."

The Modern Lovers

The Modern Lovers was an American rock band led by Jonathan Richman in the 1970s and 1980s. The original band existed from 1970 to 1974 but their recordings were not released until 1976 or later. It featured Richman and bassist Ernie Brooks with drummer David Robinson (later of The Cars) and keyboardist Jerry Harrison (later of Talking Heads). The sound of the band owed a great deal to the influence of the Velvet Underground, and is now sometimes classed as "proto-punk". It pointed the way towards much of the punk rock, new wave, alternative and indie rock music of later decades. Their only album, the eponymous The Modern Lovers, contained idiosyncratic songs about dating awkwardness, growing up in Massachusetts, and love of life and the USA.

Later, between 1976 and 1988, Richman used the name Modern Lovers for a variety of backing bands, always billed as "Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers". These bands were quieter and featured more low-key, often near-childlike songs as Richman drew on folk-rock and other genres. Of Richman's original bandmates, only Robinson was part of any of the other Modern Lovers incarnations.

The Stooges (album)

The Stooges is the debut studio album by American rock band The Stooges. It was released on August 5, 1969, by Elektra Records. Two songs, "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and "1969", were released as singles and the album peaked at number 106 on the Billboard album chart. "1969" was featured on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs at #35. It is considered a landmark proto-punk album.

The Styrenes

The Styrenes are an American proto-punk rock band, formed in Cleveland, Ohio in 1975, by former members of other local underground scene bands, Electric Eels and Mirrors.

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