Also: Noun - A catamite; a young person; a petty hoodlum; any person considered to be inferior. Adj. - inferior, poor, or bad. Verb - to sodomize through anal sex.

Many define punk in terms of loud, fast, angry music, and leave it at that. But this only works up to a point. Back in the day - I'm talking mid-1970s to early 1980s - the wonderful, exhilarating, scary thing about punk was that you could put on a punk record and have absolutely no idea what you were going to hear.

It could be the standard guitar/drum/bass/vocals combination. It could be bass and synthesizer with a nine-year-old girl singing lead, as in the case of Unit 3 with Venus. It could be saxophone, organ and washboard like in the anti-jock song "Sport", by a band whose name I no longer remember (at least I thought it was a washboard; at other times it sounded like a xylophone, and other times like someone blowing bubbles through a straw in a glass of water). The lead singer might even be backed by a full orchestra. The song could be insanely fast, fifteen seconds of screaming rage like "Ground Zero" by Zero DFX; or it could plod along like a funeral dirge.

And this is because, I think, that in those days punk was defined less by a sound and more by a feeling. It was a feeling that the world was hopelessly corrupt, fucked up beyond hope of repair. That we were living in the decadent last days of Western civilization, surrounded by ignorant masses who were frantically holding on to a past that no longer existed. (The very worst insult a punk could hurl, it seemed then, was "You're living in the past". That was the ultimate sin, that and being a consumer.) The past was dead and so you had to smash all the rules about what "real music" sounded like, and what instruments went with which, and create your own sound.

Because in a few years it would all blow up for good. Our movie cowboy President would press the button and this fucked-up world would be a smoking cinder; all we could do in the meantime was laugh at it or spit on it. (Flipper did in their single "Ha Ha Ha", a deadpan sendup of the American dream as realized via cheap consumer goods and casual sex, sung with a chorus of mirthless laughter that still sends shivers up my spine.)

So that's why a punk tape a friend made for me in Junior High School had not only the usual suspects like the Circle Jerks and Fear on it, but also the bleak cabaret song "Is That All There Is?" and the pop hit "I Don't Like Mondays" by the Boomtown Rats, and it all still sounded like it fit.

As the 1980s wore on and the world edged closer to the brink, many punks ditched their apolitical stance and turned activist - the so-called "peace punk" movement, if movement it was. While this was a good thing (God knows someone had to take a stand against the Beast), it also bled out some of the spontaneity and freedom from punk. Keeping the "scene" aesthetically and ideologically pure and free from poseurs became such a priority that much bickering ensued about who really was or wasn't punk. So punk, already underground, gradually imploded until the 1990s when Nirvana flung it all back up into the light in a very different form...

Self-described punks are people who listen to punk music, and typically have a certain anti-establishment attitude. Popular personal styles include chains, metal studs, extensively worn or ripped clothing (often t-shirts and jeans, but also leather jackets,) and/or patches expressing anarchist or far-left statements. Punks tend to listen to the kind of punk music that is very loud, aggressive, and provocative. Of course, not all people who listen to punk or punky music meet this description of punks. See also mods and skinheads (not under ANY circumstances to be confused with boneheads.)

'What is Punk anyway?'

Punk is inherently a contradiction because people define it as 'not caring about what other people think', but at the same time the punk scene is more rigidly socially defined than most other scenes. Punk isnt just caring about yourself though, because it is full of politics, liberalism, etc - at least within the punk scene, ideally, there is a community created of people who dont want to live the mainstream but can support each other and live their lives how they want, and help others do the same. Sadly the scene gets polluted with poseurs... and gets diluted into something it is not. I would argue that the original punk scene is an attempt to make identity, community, and a sense of place in places like the suburbs where everything is 'whitewashed'into clones of itself and makes no sense to the limited aspect of a human's brain. But in a sense punk also functions as a catch-all for people who won't or can't fit into whatever mainstream sets out for them. As a literary version of my girlfriend once said, "You can't choose to be punk. You just are. It doesnt matter if you want to be or not. Its in everything you do. You can't voluntarily become punk, if you try, you becoming a glaring fraud with a big mohawk and too many piercings. It just happens. But be aware that the weird little kid that you made fun of in high school is probably far punker than you, and someday that will be evident too."

Then again, don't pay attention to what i say. That's not punk either! I guess its something everyone figures out for themselves, or is supposed to. Sadly, most people don't try. I encourage anyone who thinks i'm wrong or has other ideas to /msg or node them.

A punk is a baby elephant, according to a rather antiquated definition (it has largely been replaced by the more generic calf in this context). Given this information, you might consider Baby Elephant Walk by Henry Mancini (the guy who wrote the theme to the Pink Panther) to be the first "punk" song. Several punk bands have picked up on this bit of trivia and done very incongruous covers of Mancini's tune.

Punk: Music, Culture

Punk music is usually loud, fast, angry, and simple. As a music it can be very satisfying, helping vent feelings, inspire, or discuss politics. As a culture, it was generally unsucessful for many reasons I hope to explore.

I was once endlessly attracted to punk culture. I loved the studs, the chains, the rebelliousness, the politics, and the attitude. I got defensive when my friend described punks as "angry hippie dumbasses". Hey, this is who I wanted to be. As I further researched punk culture I came across several condradictions. One: Punks profess to hate elitist jocks/preps, but they are more elitist and punk dress is heavily criticized by other punks more than anyone else (i.e. one time this "real" punk dude scoffed at me for only having two patches on my jacket). Two: Many punks strive to "rise above" greed and the idea of money mentality, while many buy $80 bondage pants, $35 studded belts and other 'more expensive than Gap' items. Three: It's hard to start a movement when everyone spends all their time drunk or on junk. Lastly, most "punks" are suburbanites with Rancid t-shirts (nothing against Rancid, I like Rancid) and mohawks that don't mean a thing. The mohawk was once a symbol of nonconformity and social insurrection, but now is "cool 'cause it's punk", an empty symbol. Punk preaches nonconformism, but forces one to conform to it's standards of dress, attitude, and music.

The above may seem a bit harsh, but don't get me wrong. There are a lot of positive, influential bands and punks out there, but in general, punk is dead and was never sober or accepting enough to matter. Punk had some wonderful ideas, but to "be punk" seems too limiting and conformist to me.


9/17/02

On Saturday, the 14th I went to this open mic at a local music school. Almost all of the bands there were "punk" cover bands. The audience consisted of freshman girls (and a couple guys), all in the heighth of punk fashion. To these rich (or at least upper-middle class) white girls this meant badly dyed hair, ripped fishnet stockings, $100 Doc Martens combat boots, random locks here and there, and enough safety pins to melt down and re-pour as a Geo Metro. They spent the night "skanking" to (new) Green Day radio songs, NOFX, and whatever other crud was played. My point here is that not only was punk destined for failure on its own, but now that it's gotten the pop-culture thumbs up, it's really a joke.

Punk is not listening to Avril Lavigne, Blink 182, or even The Vines.

Punk is not dressing in pants slightly less baggy than the rapper's, but slightly more baggy than the preppie's. Or having one of those shorter, fatter "mohawks" that is somewhat more manageable than its predecessor.

Punk is not even listening to The Clash, Television, The Stranglers, The Ramones, The Dead Kennedys, Operation Ivy, or even the most obscure band from Pittsburgh that no one else in your school has ever heard of.

Punk is not dressing as if you forgot is wasn't London, the year was 1978, and you were a lower middle class hooligan, whose mother worked in a meat-packing plant, and whose father was an alcoholic.

Punk is not a style, a culture, or a scene. Punk is a state of mind. It is something that comes from inside of you, that you own. And it doesn't matter if other people see it when they look at you, because it isn't about what other people think.

Punk is independence. Anger. Passion.

Punk is having balls. It's integrity, and principles. It's not making excuses for who you are, what you do, and what you think.

Punk is not being intimidated by strangers. It's a disdain for social pleasantries, posturing, and small talk. It's bare, unforgiving honesty. It's cynicism and it's enthusiasm.

Punk is not about constantly trying to be cool.

Punk is about not giving a shit if you make a total ass of yourself.

Punk is not being afraid to live.

Punk is Dead

It was supposed to die.

It was a heady cocktail of loud music, alcohol, violence, heroin and speed. And it was not supposed to last.

It was the soundtrack to nihilism; born out of the bitter seeds of betrayal, when the Hippies failed to deliver the new world they had promised. No matter, that later that despair gave way to anger and became anarchism, anti-capitalism, animal rights, veganism and anti-fascism. We weren't punks by that stage. We were anarchos.

On the whole, most of the self respecting punk nihilists managed to live fast and die young. Sid Vicious and his ill-fated girlfriend Nancy Spungen are perfect examples. The rest either started off as radicals, like Chumbawumba, or else they followed Susie Sioux in her transformation of nihilism into decadent melancholy, under the Goth - New Romantic banner

Johnny Rotten, the only other member of The Sex Pistols anyone can remember, failed to die young, couldn't get the hang of anarchism and certainly couldn't manage decadence, so he was left with having to sell out. And he did so in 2002 by offering to rewrite the words to the punk anthem God Save The Queen for Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee. With that, he helped the music industry to repackage punk as a Commodity; where any bunch of white kids with guitars could be marketed as teenage rebels. Malcolm McClaren must be laughing all the way to the bank

Other notably embarrassing ex-punks include:

Punk is also a term originating in the African American community that is used to refer to men who exhibit feminine traits. It is quite derogatory and similar to the word faggot.
 
In the Spike Lee movie School Daze, the fraternity does a number where they shout "punk, punk, fag, fag, punk, punk, fag, fag" repeatedly. This scene has been used in other movies, most notably Marlon Riggs's Tounges Untied, which portrays the general acceptance of homophobia of the African American community.
Punk... it's the only thing that's ever truly made sense to me. Punk is almost like a moving, changing body of life - an everchanging idea. It is a personal concept to all those who find themselves wrapped up in its midst. I've had long conversations staying up all night talking to people about it. One kid told me he thought that all the kids who spend all their time analyzing it instead of just enjoying it were the ones who were never truly in it. Another that it was simply thinking outside the box. He pointed to the TV and said, "your average person will be sucked into the TV, unaware of all going on around it. A punk is focused on the areas around it. Outside the box."

Sure it's a fashion, a music, shock value. Some things just don't shock anymore. Ideals change, I truly believe that the punk kids are some of the smartest kids I've met. We wear a uniform to represent which part of the "scene" we come from and to have some sort of group identity. Identity is something all human beings cling to. We are no different. We stray from the "norm," not conforming to society but conforming to each other.Some do this through crust, 77, anarcho, street or whatever else. We know who we are through each other. We attend to our basic human needs. We hit each other when we're angry, when we see something we don't like we shout at the top of our lungs and if we can't fix it we tell others what's wrong and plummet toward our beliefs of what is right and wrong with fire and passion.

We dance in the street, laughing at each other and ourselves. We take ourselves too seriously sometimes but we still joke about it. We see bands in friends basements and don't treat our favorite bands as rock stars. No one is put on a golden pedestal.

We play in bands even if we suck. We're curious to try new things, always searching for that obscure band that will blow our minds. We give the "new" kids a hard time - some do this more than others. We do it to see if they'll stick with it six months from now.

We stick together. We feel connected with each other, even on some indistinct level. We make our own history which we record in songs we've written.

Punk is shaking things up. It's following your heart even though you know it might be wrong. It's never doubting your instincts. No one looks the same - no one thinks the same. Punk isn't reading something and automatically believing it as fact. It's reading something and taking it as opinion, analayzing it, thinking about it and determining for yourself whether you believe it or not.

Punk (?), n. [Cf. Spunk.]

1.

Wood so decayed as to be dry, crumbly, and useful for tinder; touchwood.

2.

A fungus (Polyporus fomentarius, etc.) sometimes dried for tinder; agaric.

3.

An artificial tinder. See Amadou, and Spunk.

4.

A prostitute; a strumpet.

[Obsoles.]

Shak.

 

© Webster 1913.

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