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Punk with mohawk and rivets Jacket
Punks in Morecambe, UK (2003)
Punks in Berlin (2010)
Exhibition Punk in Vienna (2010)

Punk is a youth culture that emerged in New York City and London in the mid-1970s . Characteristic for punk are a provocative appearance, a rebellious attitude and non-conformist behavior. The members of this subculture call themselves punks or punkers.

Origin of the term

The main meaning of the word punk [ pʌŋk ] from English denotes rotting wood, i.e. something worthless, which is only good as tinder . The word is first recorded for 1596 and was used a little later by William Shakespeare , e.g. B. in measure for measure , where it denotes a prostitute. Later there was a shift in meaning from “prostitute” to “homosexual”, especially for the receiving partner. From around 1923 it was used to designate an inexperienced person or a newcomer, especially in a criminal environment, with an allusion to the sexual meaning. In relation to a musical style, Lenny Kaye , the guitarist of the Patti Smith Group , used the term " punk rock " for the first time in 1972 in the explanations of an anthology he published, Nuggets, on American garage rock of the 1960s.

In the 1970s, the term entered the social role discussion in the field of US pedagogy with delinquents. Those boys who formed the lowest level of a peer group or gang were scapegoats, queers, rats or punks in the language of the scene .

The term "punk rock" was brought to Great Britain by the music journalist Caroline Coon , the then girlfriend of Paul Simonon, the bassist of The Clash. She used the term to describe the then young English rock bands such as the Sex Pistols , The Clash and The Damned . Before this type of music, the term “working class rock 'n' roll” was used in England.


Origins and Precursors

The CBGB in New York

The musical origin of punk rock was in the garage rock of the 1960s. As Protopunk -Bands in America from 1965 to 1974 are The Sonics , MC5 , The Stooges , the New York Dolls and the Patti Smith Group. Also, The Velvet Underground apply with their nihilistic attitude and provocative performances as a pioneer. The CBGB club in New York is considered the center of original American punk rock . Musically it was a simple and raw form of rock 'n' roll and beat music . It clearly distinguished itself from the hippie movement of the time with its complex artistic means of expression and naive idealism.

In England, too, during the Swinging Sixties, various bands such as The Kinks , The Who and The Troggs added rougher stylistic elements to the common beat, which were later taken up again in punk music. Outstanding examples of such role models with simple song structures, raw playing style and strong programmatic statements were hits like You Really Got Me from the Kinks, (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction from The Rolling Stones and above all My Generation from the Who. In the first half of the 1970s, British glam rock from artists such as Marc Bolan and David Bowie kept these traditions alive, and successful bands such as T. Rex and The Sweet convinced many youngsters that great musical skills were not necessary to make a big hit to write.

Mainstream rock of this time was dominated by bands like Pink Floyd , Genesis , Emerson, Lake and Palmer , Grateful Dead , Iron Butterfly or Led Zeppelin , who were accused of creating a big gap between artists with their “bombast rock” of high artistic standards and consumer and to indulge in technical perfectionism, as that of their relatively elaborate recordings and concerts were perceived. The rest of popular music, on the other hand, was mainly shaped by disco culture in the mid-1970s , which had discarded all more in-depth content or messages from the start and reduced itself entirely to dance and fashion for consumers willing to pay. In contrast, the first punk rock bands were aggressive, unforgiving, non-conformist and without illusions. They played aggressive, fast, short and simple songs instead of epic, complex songs using the classic means of rock 'n' roll (vocals, guitar, bass, drums). The texts mainly consisted of reflections on (own) life and suffering as a teenager, on the kick of self-destruction, from accusations and insults, or from pure Dadaism .

The movement in Great Britain

Even though most of the first punk rock bands came from New York, punk became a real movement in London. What was the artistic program of the New York punk rock bands was combined in Great Britain with the rather diffuse, mostly apolitical resentment that many young people felt towards all institutions, and thus became a broad subcultural movement. One of the reasons for the frustration of English young people with regard to the rules surrounding them was the lack of support from schools and the lack of prospects in professional life due to the economic crisis and the stiff English class system . The youngsters felt left out and cheated out of the things they thought were worth striving for: fashionable clothes, the latest music, and often even the consumption of beverages in restaurants. From this perspective, rock and pop music had also created a new establishment that no longer offered any alternative to the bourgeois majority society and that could, at best, mean standstill. The English punk scene's answer to this was in-house production, "by the scene for the scene". Based on this amateurish approach, punk rock turned out to be the right musical form for the scene.

The dirty and brash elements of punk rock became the program here: the establishment, and with it the status quo of society as a whole, was openly rejected and snubbed. The prevailing values ​​as well as the prevailing aesthetics were negated by a radical nonconformism. The movement did not try to make its concerns understandable through artistic quality, for example, but instead emphasized the imperfect, dirty, radically individual and immediate elements of their own music and way of life. It was not of the opinion that criticism of this society should also have a constructive effect in it. The focus was on one's own subjectivity, one's own suffering from the state of the world, which should be made visible and thus turned against it. For most of them, this included excessive consumption of alcohol and other drugs. Danced from 1976 Pogo , angry with and against each dance audiences became the sworn mob. They found themselves on their own and did not trust anyone: the labor movement and the New Left were rejected, as was the ruling system.

Aesthetically, this attitude meant a conscious celebration of amateurism : One flirted with the fact that one could only master three chords on the guitar - according to a drawing of a three-chord sequence with the text: “this is a chord, this is another, this is a third. Now form a band ”in a 1976 edition of the Sideburn fanzine ; Guitar solos and any form of virtuosity were frowned upon as “star gestures”. The idea was not just to create new stars, but to do the art yourself: do it yourself , produce your own clothes (if necessary from the old clothes container), sell your own and produce the music yourself (if necessary with stolen instruments, as with the Sex Pistols). This created a counterculture with its own forms of expression: ugliness as a program, tattered clothing, safety pins on the face, magazines cheaply produced with photocopiers (fanzines) and spontaneous Dadaist action art .

In addition to this anti-commercial, anti-bourgeois and generally anarchic attitude, punk also included radical self-marketing, image cultivation and staging, especially through the Sex Pistols and their manager Malcolm McLaren . Right from the start, this creation of new idols stood in open opposition to the non-conformism of punk, which even then raised the question of the increasingly successful bands, such as a fundamental anti-attitude towards the music and fashion industry that was taking over them - as well as towards the afterwards fans demanding new stars - because it can be maintained at all. And also what should actually be aimed at with such a nonconformism. The emerging punk culture in England was noticed by the public when the Sex Pistols caused a sensation with their singles Anarchy in the UK (1976) and God Save the Queen (1977). In a short time a myriad of new bands emerged.

The most important British bands of the period include the Sex Pistols , The Clash , The Damned , The Adverts , The Slits , The Stranglers and Stiff Little Fingers .

Crass in 1981

As early as the second half of the 1970s, the punk movement was divided worldwide into its first sub-branches and had a lasting influence on other styles of music (such as Two Tone Ska or New Wave of British Heavy Metal ). Important sub-styles and their outstanding representatives were anarcho-punk (e.g. Crass , Conflict and Flux of Pink Indians ), Oi! or street punk (e.g. Sham 69 , Cockney Rejects , Blitz but also the later open right-wing radical band Skrewdriver ) and horror punk (here especially the Misfits ).

The early 1980s

Chaostage 1984

At the beginning of the 1980s, punk spread all over the world, and various punk scenes were created in almost all countries in Europe, America and East Asia, especially in the socialist states of the Eastern Bloc. At the same time, punk became more serious, more aggressive and, in a certain sense, more political. This development was marked above all by the emergence of hardcore punk , which instead of mere nonconformism formulated radical social and political demands. The orientation was mostly clearly left - against the establishment, which had become more conservative again, against the emerging yuppie culture, against stereotypical clichés of gender roles, against racism and other prejudices perceived as bourgeois. In contrast, anarchist, anti-authoritarian and libertarian ideas, as well as the goals of the squatter movement, were explicitly endorsed by most of the punk movement. Many hardcore punks joined autonomous groups and took a very serious stand for their respective ideals - such as those of the straight edge movement. In the 1980s, punk was the dominant culture in most of the autonomous centers .

Nevertheless, the hardcore movement within punk remained a minority, albeit a strong one. There was also a broad current that understood the Sex Pistols' no-future slogan in a very pessimistic way and, above all, lived out the total rejection of the existing in an excessive manner. The Cold War era , with the persistent threat of nuclear war , promoted fears about the future and even the end of the world . Ronald Reagan , Margaret Thatcher and Helmut Kohl stood for a conservative turnaround that turned away from the ideals of the '68 movement that shaped the 1970s . For many young people like Poppers , making a career was once again a worthwhile goal. The 68ers, on the other hand, now faced the young people as teachers and civil servants and thus also embodied “the system”. In contrast, the habitus of total refusal remained important for a large part of the punk scene. Destructive behavior - both towards oneself and towards one's own environment - was often understood as an appropriate response to the perceived stuck situation and - as with the homeless street punks - was also acted out radically. These were usually not included in the official homelessness statistics of the municipalities, as they had consciously decided on such a driving way of life for at least a certain period of time and also did not seek municipal registration, help or mediation. A life experienced as “self-determined” apart from the perceived as thoroughly rationalized social spaces of a modern industrial society was the program of those who made punk their life in this way. The Chaostage in Hanover from 1982 to 1984 became a regular meeting point for the scene as a reaction to the punk card index introduced by the police .

Other, but not completely opposite accents to the pessimistic scenarios, for example, set the fun punk , which showed the majority society a rather cheerful and disrespectful attitude. Other branches of punk used its aggressiveness to pick up on older music styles such as rockabilly or ska and reinterpret them in a harder form. Still others put the energy of punk entirely at the service of their respective leisure scene, such as the skaters .

Important bands of this time in the USA were hardcore bands like the Dead Kennedys , Agnostic Front , Black Flag and Minor Threat . For Great Britain, The Exploited should be mentioned, for Germany, the band Slime . In the 1980s , other important subspecies and crossover genres besides hardcore punk were added: fun punk, ska punk , skatepunk , psychobilly and folk punk .

New wave / post punk

After the term New Wave was used largely synonymously with Punk Rock in the second half of the 1970s, since the early 1980s New Wave and Post-Punk have denoted different styles of music that had developed out of punk. The German-language version of the New Wave was the Neue Deutsche Welle . A special feature of these directions was the turn to more complex and experimental song structures as well as the increased use of electronic instruments, especially analog synthesizers and drum computers . With the advent of digital technology in the mid-1980s, many devices had become interesting both in terms of sound and price.

The first representatives of this scene came from the punk scene or were at least close to it. In the New Wave, however, the artistic-progressive moments of punk found their continuation, creating a clear contrast to the working class image of early punk, as well as to the political attitude of hardcore punk, which was spreading parallel to the new wave. This was also reflected in the fashion of the New Wave, which took up the radical individualistic elements of the punk style, but now polished them up artistically and technically and thus made them interesting as a fashion quote for the new crowd of the 1980s.

Important bands of this time are:

With the commercial success of the New Wave, punk became socially acceptable and thus part of the establishment. That was a problem for the punk movement, which had always defined itself through separation from the establishment. What was laid out in punk from the start, but never dominated the idea of ​​punk - marketing as a trend that above all has to be new - seemed to fully establish itself here.

The punk becomes a "fashion quote"

Punks in the US in 1984

In the late 1980s, punk was a natural part of the street scene in Europe. While the underground of the scene flourished and acted decidedly subversive in the Eastern European metropolises, for example, the successful bands of the scene joined the general pop scene more and more seamlessly. Bands like Die Toten Hosen , Die Ärzte and The Offspring completely became part of the mainstream in the early 1990s. Social criticism was still formulated by these bands, but in this respect they did not differ fundamentally from other socially committed entertainers like Konstantin Wecker or the Princes . The appearance, music and lyrics of the successful punk bands of the early 1990s were not more aggressive or radical than in other contemporary pop styles, such as German-language hip-hop . Punk was no longer the counter-movement to the majority society, but simply one of the youth fashion among many.

From the perspective of radical social criticism, it was precisely the more successful sections of punk that lost their critical potential and in this way became mere fashion quotes for the traditional stylistic devices of punk of the 1970s and 1980s. The political-social concerns put forward in a brutal style, which were still peculiar to the more radical sections of the (hardcore) punk movement, have in this perspective degenerated into a mere habitus with too many punks. Many punks and ex-punks therefore defined themselves less by their membership of the punk scene at the latest by the beginning of the 1990s, but more by their belonging to groups in which content and social engagement still had a lasting value, such as the antifa , the Autonomous , the squatters and the ecological movement .

At the beginning of the 1990s, punk as a scene no longer had a large common denominator: a critical political stance could be an issue, but it was neither the primary nor the specific characteristic of punk. The cultural quality as a social counter-movement had also been put into perspective. The existence of an underground scene had never been punk's unique selling point; but now their outstanding representatives have mostly been integrated into the mainstream just as quickly as was the case with other art branches. Since the beginning of the 1990s there has been a broad spectrum of musical trends that can be associated with punk due to their spontaneity or in relation to common stylisms: in the 1990s melancholy directions such as grunge (e.g. Nirvana , Pearl Jam ) and the Hamburg School (e.g. Tocotronic , Blumfeld ), the digital hardcore by Atari Teenage Riot , which is strongly influenced by the punk ideology , as well as bands from the fun punk, skater and surfer scene (e.g. Green Day , The Offspring , Red Hot Chili Peppers ). In the 2000s, there was electropunk (e.g. Le Tigre ), the primarily style-oriented retro garage punk and punk 'n' roll (e.g. Turbonegro , The Hives , Backyard Babies ), as well as subgenres such as the post-hardcore (e.g. At the Drive-In ) and the emocore (e.g. Sleepytime Trio ) appear. However, the awareness of a previously widely accepted uniqueness of punk had been lost. And if a scene such as early grunge saw itself as completely different from the usual pop business because it was anti-materialistic, this business was also immediately quoted, staged and successfully marketed. Other bands also expressed themselves politically, but mostly either put their self-doubts in the foreground or just had fun and were out for the big rock 'n' roll party. With video clips on MTV , they quickly became part of the music industry and, for the most part, didn't seem to mind. They lacked a clear, aggressive thrust against the establishment. These bands no longer shared the certainty of early punk that they had to oppose a majority society that was shocked by it with something fundamentally their own, different and better.

The cultural legacy: punk in the present

Punks 2007
Punks 2011

Nevertheless, there is still a very lively underground scene in large and small towns and also in some villages in all industrialized countries, which continues to maintain an anti-stance. This consists of various directions that have developed from traditional punk. The group most clearly oriented towards punk are street punks, who are still part of the usual street scene in almost every major European city and mix with other punks with a permanent place of residence, with whom they “ hang out ” together. A frequent meeting place for homeless and resident punks were and are construction trailer sites , where the original do-it-yourself idea of ​​punk still finds a lively everyday practice.

But punk is still alive outside of this group. However, it no longer represents a uniform subculture today. This fragmentation of youth cultures is, however, a process that has proven to be typical for every Art Nouveau since the 1990s at the latest. This includes the crossover of different styles of music and clothing, as well as the splitting of such a style into different subgenres. Of course, the spread of a style also relativizes the claim to sole representation of every movement that once claimed this style for itself. Above all, however, this mixed process takes place in the normal gathering of young people in the parks and on the squares of small European towns who try to break into the mainstream as hippies, mods , punks, anti-fascists, skaters, skinheads , rastas , rockabillies , goths or metallers Escape Province.

This process also takes place on the artistic level, and here it becomes apparent that the cultural idea of ​​punk repeatedly creates impulses that have a decisive influence on today's music scene. Even today, the term still generally stands for everything unadapted and dirty in music culture, for the courage to dabble , to simple chords, to minimalism and spontaneity, for the refusal of the established, for a post-materialistic attitude towards life and for vulgarity and immediacy the street. So punk still has a creative energy. At the same time, punk has established itself as a mere cultural influence, as a possible stylistic device among many: Formerly classic punk bands incorporate elements from other styles into their music and thus create subdivisions such as metalcore , rapcore or grindcore . Metal, folk or electro projects from the underground, but also pop musicians from the mainstream make use of the “raw” and “spontaneous” energy that they believe to be found in punk rock riffs or in an extravagant nose piercing. For many European and American world music and folk bands, for example, punk is the only means of expression in which traditional musical themes and a modern attitude towards life can be combined (such as The Pogues , The Gun Club , Leningrad or Gogol Bordello ). Mixing and fragmentation of punk should not be misunderstood here as a sign of its disappearance. Punk is integrated into the various forms of crossover, but remains just as vital as an artistic form.

Of course, especially in such processes, there are always attempts by some to stylize themselves as original, old or "real" punk, or the purity and authenticity of their own music, clothing, leisure and lifestyle compared to a perceived " Pop-Punk "or" Commercial Punk "should be emphasized. These demarcation processes in turn represent the beginning of new, shared creative and identity-creating impulses. B. Green Day or blink-182 , in whose style of music and clothing punk elements play an important role, but which did not become known as part of a scene but rather as a product of MTV and the record industry, are particularly suitable for such a distinction In this respect, they offer themselves as an identity-creating, common enemy image for all those trends in punk that consider themselves to be underground scenes or parts of such. Any scene or band that becomes successful and established at some point has a similar potential for hostility. The groups united in the celebration of such a demarcation from the establishment are now creating new subcultural niches for their part . "New" is relative, however, because the retrospective reference to characteristics of "real" punk that are already recognized as authentic in the scene environment is essential for such a scene. For example, punk 'n' roll and retro garage punk of the late 1990s and early 2000s distinguished themselves from the punk currents of the early 1990s by referring to the styles of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s (of so different Bands like The Sonics, the Sex Pistols, The Stooges and the Ramones, but also Guns N 'Roses and AC / DC ), copied and remixed them, but deliberately avoided borrowing from bands like Nirvana or the Red Hot Chili Peppers. In this way, no music was created that would inevitably have been more authentic than the grunge of a band like Nirvana, for example, but by referring back to the styles of the even older bands, one could claim an originality for oneself that is now known from the The fashion and music industries denied totally co-opted grunge.

In this respect, punk today no longer offers itself as a cultural basis for formulating a fundamental alternative to the majority society, but it still helps again and again in the creation of the most varied of scenes, which in the demarcation of each very different but already established Find music and lifestyles together.

Punk in Germany

At the end of the 1980s, punk also increasingly penetrated the mainstream area in Germany. Leading the way were especially Die Toten Hosen (emerged from the Central Committee ) and Die Ärzte . Both bands have been among the most commercially successful bands in Germany since the mid-1990s, are regularly at the top of the music charts and are among the headliners of major outdoor concerts .

Other important German punk bands are Slime and Die Goldenen Zitronen from Hamburg, Toxoplasma from Neuwied, Feeling B and Die Skeptiker from East Berlin, Daily Terror from Braunschweig, WIZO from Sindelfingen and ZSD from Munich.

Typical appearance

Although punk as an idea stands up against norms and for individuality, a typical appearance has developed since the 1980s that prevails within the scene, even if it is by no means mandatory. The clothing of early British punks was an expression of the rejection of mainstream and hippie culture and was characterized by the fact that normal everyday objects were misappropriated and used as clothing and jewelry (e.g. safety pins or dog collars), and thus represented an anti -Fashion. In the early years of 1976/77, punks wore tattered suits with safety pins and badges, plus creepers , eye-catching socks and sunglasses. Swastikas were also often used for provocation, especially by the previous generation. Individual, self-designed T-shirts, often torn, or eye-catching shirts were worn under the jacket. Since around the mid-1980s, punk has had the following characteristics:


Liberty Hawk and Piercings

The early punks of the 1970s mostly wore their hair simply short, often as a short “crop cut” or “buzzcut” similar to skinheads or mods, some punk musicians like Johnny Thunders or Stiv Bators also wore their hair as a shorter “shag” or “rooster” cut ”haircut similar to that worn by rock musicians like Rod Stewart or Keith Richards . Punk icons like Johnny Rotten , Sid Vicious or Richard Hell soon made a short spiky hairstyle, the "Spikes", popular, a hairstyle that may have been inspired by David Bowie . Especially with female punks like the slits , but later also in the hardcore scene, shorter versions of the dreadlocks were often worn. In addition, there were numerous other variants of shaving and some hair was often colored, even if initially available hair colors such as hydrogen blonde, black or red dominated. Food colors were sometimes used for more conspicuous colors such as green or blue. It was only later, with the second and third generation of punk, that hairstyles became more eye-catching and colorful, and increasingly radical variants began to spread. Popular punks like Wattie Buchan ( The Exploited ), Wendy O. Williams ( Plasmatics ), Joe Strummer or Darby Crash ( Germs ) made the mohawk or "Iro" popular, a comb of hair running from the forehead to the neck on an otherwise shaved skull. and later its variations, such as the spiky "Liberty Hawk", the double or triple mohawk ("Bihawk" or "Trihawk"), the wider "Deathhawk" or the "Dreadhawk" braided into dreadlocks. Musicians like Cal Morris ( Discharge ), Collin Abrahall ( GBH ), and Colin Jerwood ( Conflict ) also made a more radical variant of the spiked hairstyle, the "Liberty Spikes", popular. In addition, many punks also wear all kinds of other haircuts, especially in hardcore punk, short crops or "crewcuts" or wet shaves, even without identifying themselves as skinheads. In Punkabilly - and Psychobilly range also are often stollen or Flattops worn, often referred to as mixed forms with Iroquois shaves. For female punks, there are mixed forms between mohawk and feather cut and Betty hairstyles. However, many punks continue to wear their hair long or simply short and less noticeable.

Body jewelry

Piercing was common in the punk scene from the start. As early as the 1970s, punks wore nose rings pierced through the skin and safety pins as jewelry. There was also face paint and dark or colored make-up on the eyes and cheeks - not just for female punks. Tattoos are also quite common.


The provocative and non-conformist attitude of this subculture is already reflected in the external appearance of the punks.

Typical punk clothing features are:

  • Rivets on jackets, belts, bracelets and collars, often pointed
  • Zippers in unusual places, especially on bondage pants
  • Badges ( buttons ), patches and safety pins , metal chains
  • Leather jackets, painted with symbols, pictures, slogans such as band logos and some slogans in runic script ( Siegrune based on the SS )
  • Uniform parts, cartridge belts and militaria
  • in the early punk scene swastikas, later also anti-fascist symbols
  • Checkered trousers, (tight) trousers, jeans, often bleached (Domestoshose)
  • Kilts ( kilts ) and other garments with tartan pattern, mostly bondage pants
  • Fishnet shirts and fishnet stockings
  • Zebra, tiger or leopard print
  • torn, painted, labeled, or otherwise altered clothing
  • Lace-up boots, work or safety shoes (Rangers, Dr. Martens )

However, the increasing differentiation of the punk scene from the 1980s onwards also produced scenes to which the above characteristics do not apply or only to a small extent, such as hardcore punk , Oi! , the punk 'n' roll and many others. In US hardcore in particular, a “clean-cut” look emerged early on, which differed greatly from the appearance of earlier punks and especially the “dirty dunks” and on the outside hardly had any typical features. This intensified with later splinter scenes like the youth crew scene. Since the 1980s, however, the classic punk style has also found its way into the fashion industry - which continues to this day. Above all, the British designer Vivienne Westwood achieved worldwide fame and recognition with her punk fashion.

Punk in theory and as a way of life

Punkers in slam dance (symbolically, frustration is reduced)

The punk is against all conventions, against the consumer society and against the bourgeoisie, as well as against right-wing worldviews . And although most punks see themselves more or less on the left, he is also against the political left with its statism . Behind this is a disrespectful, resigned to aggressive attitude towards society, a kind of rebellious nihilism , and an emphasis on the freedom of the individual and non-conformism .

Punk expresses itself primarily through music, also through clothing, hairstyles and graphics ( collages , xerographs and comic drawings) characterized by the do-it-yourself idea . The punk emphasizes the ugly and wants to provoke; Many fanzine and record covers clearly depict social injustice, economic inequality and suffering, selfishness, apathy, dystopian visions and other images that are intended to provoke the viewer's rejection.

Typically, punk expresses an indifferent attitude towards oneself; this also explains the unhealthy lifestyle of many punks. But there are also other tendencies in the punk scene, right up to the vegan and straight edge movement.

Some of the early punk musicians studied at art schools and knew older radical avant-garde concepts. Others were unemployed people from small backgrounds or those who refused to work, who rejected everything that had previously existed in terms of culture and meaning. With their provocative demeanor, the punks encountered incomprehension, rejection and even hatred in society. On the other hand, punk also became a kind of pop culture . This contradiction has hardly been satisfactorily explained to this day.

Punk and situationism

According to Greil Marcus , punk is inextricably linked with situationism of the 1960s. Even Malcolm McLaren , mentor of the Sex Pistols and one of the protagonists of the early punk, wanted to spend as the starting point of the movement the like. But situationism is colored by the political goals of socialism and anarchism . Punk, on the other hand, has no uniform political or other goals. The fact that there is hardly any connection between situationism and punk is also shown by two works that are considered reliable sources for the early punk movement in London because they come from the personal environment of the protagonists: the book "Sex Pistols - The Inside Story" by Fred and Judy Vermorel and the autobiography No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs by Johnny Rotten , the front man of the Sex Pistols. According to Rotten, one of the main reasons for the punk phenomenon of the 1970s was the protest against the class system and the inequality of opportunity, which motivated the youth of the punk scene to stand up for one another across class boundaries - against the world of adults.

Punk and politics

The punk often propagates anarchy. For example, members of the Sex Pistols such as John Lydon spoke out in favor of a form of anarchism . However, this often does not mean a serious political perspective in the sense of anarchist theorists such as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Michail Bakunin , but only the most radical possible rejection of the prevailing conditions, which is reflected in the common and often identical use of the terms "anarchy" and "chaos" shows, for example with bands like The Exploited . Often there is a closeness to nihilism . GG Allin , who died in 1993, is an extreme example . Often, "anarchy" is also understood as an anomie or as a form of particularly radically lived individualism .

Nevertheless, many punks see themselves as politically left. Jello Biafra , the lead singer of the Dead Kennedys , is an active member of the United States Green Party . Anarchist bands like Crass , Conflict or Zounds and their followers understand punk as a fight against the ruling system, especially against the consumer society, against institutions from politics, business and the church. The members of the band Crass lived in a commune as self-sufficient on a farm. For their phonograms and for admission to their concerts, they only charged the cost. In their endeavor to live independently in every relationship, they rejected the consumption of meat as well as the use of drugs. In one of their songs it says: "They say that we were trash - well, the name is Crass, not Clash", that is: "They say that we are rubbish - well, we are called Crass, not Clash" (based on them, of course political but also commercially successful band The Clash ). Such bands are often elitist and see themselves as the "real" punks.

Others see political and moral preaching as incompatible with the idea of ​​punk; in their eyes, these supposedly “real punks” are actually “hippies in disguise”. Party politics in particular is rejected within the punk scene.

Statements on political events and social problems can still be found in the texts of numerous bands who see themselves as apolitical. Socialist elements can be seen in bands like The Clash and in the “ working class ” consciousness of earlier Oi! -Bands.

“Chaos” and anarcho-punk bands are sometimes critical of each other due to their different understandings of anarchy; so Wattie Buchan of The Exploited said derogatory about the band Conflict.

Although the punk scene is largely apolitical or left-wing political, there has recently been a movement called Conservative Punk , to which only a small part of the scene belongs. Members of this tendency consider themselves punk, but see themselves as right-wing conservative and reject both left ideologies and anarchism. Ex- Misfits singer Michale Graves said he believed the DIY lifestyle was the equivalent of the punk scene to Thatcherism . During the US election campaign in 2004 , members of this spectrum tried to persuade parts of the punk scene to vote for George W. Bush ; conversely, NOFX singer Fat Mike tried to get John Kerry to vote through his page punkvoter.com and his sampler project Rock Against Bush . Both camps met with criticism in the punk scene because they supported party politics.

In addition, there is a neo- Nazi fringe trend known as Nazipunk , which is viewed by the rest of the punk scene as well as the conservative punks as incompatible with the self-image of the punks.

The political practice of active punks includes participating in direct actions such as demonstrations and boycotts. In some cases this includes violence. There have also been attacks on petrol stations and animal testing laboratories. The provision of political slogans on billboards (for example, changed election posters during election campaigns) and squatting are also often carried out by punks. An example in Germany of a political action group that emerged from the punk movement was Freizeit 81 in Munich .

Hacked computers are a newer form of sabotage that is operated. The aim of these actions is to bring about social change when a feeling has arisen that other avenues have proven to be ineffective.

State persecution

In some authoritarian and Muslim states in particular, members of the punk scene have so far been exposed to state persecution. In the GDR , especially until the mid-1980s, punks were systematically persecuted by the K1 department of the German People's Police . They found refuge above all in the churches. In parts of Indonesia , punks are detained for religious reasons and subjected to police re-education .

Punk and religion

The punk rejects organized religion. However, religious splinter groups exist in some of the punk subcultures; there are many Christian bands to be found in the Metalcore area. Hare Krishna became popular within the straight edge movement after Ray Cappo, the singer for Youth of Today , also known as Ray of Today , turned to this religious movement; this is also reflected in Cappo's later band Shelter .

Punk and emancipation

At punk concerts it is mostly men who dominate the audience. Although the punk scene presents itself as progressive and the equality of the sexes therefore has a high priority, also prevails among the assets of the scene an unequal sex ratio: bands and fanzines are operated mainly by men. In order to counteract the machismo , which was particularly strong in the punk / hardcore scene towards the end of the 1980s, the riot grrrl movement was formed, in which women and girls are very active and committed as organizers, creators of labels and authors of fanzines and especially as musicians.

Do it yourself

In order to achieve a higher degree of freedom and extensive independence from external influences, some punks set up their own music labels , usually organize their concerts themselves and publish their own magazines (fanzines). Punks also often design their own clothes. Squatting and the resulting autonomous youth centers can also be seen as DIY. The motto “Don't hate the media, become the media” is associated with the DIY movement.

Many of the early punk bands were signed to major labels with whom they had bad experiences; For example, Teldec tried to give the band Big Balls and the Great White Idiot a Nazi image. To avoid this, a network of independent labels was raised to deal with the music industry. Bands that sign with major labels are accused of betraying their ideals. However, argues z. For example, the band Anti-Flag said that only major labels were able to get their message across to a broader public.

Relationship to other subcultures

The relationships between the punk and other subcultures often depend on the respective splinter group. Overlaps usually result from musical interests or similar ideological views.

Since punk was a counter-movement to the hippies, which were perceived as lying, this subculture is clearly rejected, especially by traditional and Oi! Punks. In this context, cannabis use is also rejected by parts of the scene. Nevertheless, there are also overlaps, especially among younger generations, for whom the rejection of hippies by traditional punks is partly meaningless, more politicized punks and in the squatter scene; Penny Rimbaud rebelled against society as a hippie before turning to punk, and the members of his band Crass lived like hippies in self-government on a farm.

Although right-wing extremist groups in the punk scene are mostly strongly rejected (except by Nazi punks ), opinions are also divided with regard to anti- fascist groups; Antifa is frowned upon especially among Oi! punks, while some more politicized punks tend to do anti-fascist work or support it.

Overlaps to the skinhead scene can mainly be found with Oi! Punks, whereas politically active punks are skeptical of them due to their mostly apolitical attitude.

Furthermore, there is a friendly relationship with parts of the Gothic culture, especially the Batcave scene, which is closest to the punk movement in terms of both music and outfit.


The ideologies of punk have been or are being criticized from outside as well as from the scene itself. Crass, for example, wrote songs like “White Punks on Hope,” in which Joe Strummer of The Clash was accused of selling out and betraying his principles, as well as the song “Punk is Dead,” which attacked the entire scene. The Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra accused the fanzine maximumrocknroll of "punk fundamentalism", as this refused to advertise Biafra label Alternative Tentacles Records, because the authors were of the opinion that there is no punk. Another criticism came from the "Conservative Punks", who are of the opinion that today's punks are only hippies with mohawks . However, due to their right-wing conservative attitudes and their party-political activity, these are usually not recognized as punks (see section “ Punk and Politics ”).

From outside, punk became a.o. criticized by Jim Goad , who wrote in his essay The Underground is A Lie! claimed that many punks are just hypocrites . He writes in it that many behave as if they were poor, while keeping silent about the fact that they came from the middle class. In Farts from Underground he claims that do-it-yourself never produced anything new of its own, and that it allows poor quality to be presented as great. He also claims that because punk has become so political and propagandistic, the punk subculture has become more boring than the mainstream and that punk is now more outdated and retarded than the mainstream it is directed against. Some also criticize DIY as a form that is only possible for those who also have the money for it, since it is not possible for people with little money to set up their own label or to find the time to make their own clothes .

In their book The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can't Be Jammed , Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter claim that the politics of countercultures have failed and that the understanding of punk society is flawed. Alternative and mainstream lifestyles have the same values, the capitalist system does not seek conformity, instead the forces resulting from social differences and the constant competition drive the market.

Further criticism comes from the feminist movement Aristasia . The group claims that punk does nothing but kick the corpse of the establishment, which has not existed since 1965. They refer to it as "The Cardboard Comrades Enemy Doctrine" and claim that the more the punks rebelled against the status quo, the more they become a part of it. In an interview with a fanzine , their media officer Marianne Martindale said that if you describe yourself as non-conforming, you are classifying yourself into a social norm. The Aristasians explain that this theory can also be transferred to other youth cultures, such as hip-hop , gothic or black metal .


  • Eva Bude: Fuck off !: [sex and drugs and hardcore-punk] . Europa Verlag, Hamburg / Leipzig / Vienna 2005. ISBN 3-203-75526-2
  • Martin Büsser : If the kids are united ... - from punk to hardcore and back . 6th edition, Ventil Verlag, Mainz 2003. ISBN 3-930559-48-X
  • Stephen Colegrave, Chris Sullivan: Punk . Collection Rolf Heyne, Munich 2005. ISBN 3-89910-255-X
  • Klaus N. Frick : Thank you very much, Peter Pank . Publishing house Thomas Tilsner, Bad Tölz 1998. ISBN 3-910079-56-3
  • Greil Marcus : Lipstick Traces - from Dada to Punk, a secret cultural history of the 20th century . Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 1996. ISBN 3-499-60102-8
  • Volker Hauptvogel, Dietmar Kirves: The refusers in the political frenzy of Berlin: Politics becomes music; the Mekanik Destruktiw Komandöh; the story of a band . Karin Kramer Verlag, Berlin 1983, ISBN 3-87956-148-6
  • Val Hennessy: In the Gutter . Quartet Books, London 1978, ISBN 0-7043-3230-2
  • Gerrit Hoekman: Pogo, Punk and Politics . Unrast Verlag, Münster 2011, ISBN 978-3-89771-111-2
  • Thomas Lau: The holy fools. Punk 1976-1986 . de Gruyter Verlag, Berlin / New York 1992. ISBN 3-11-013377-6
  • Legs McNeill, Gillian McCain: Please Kill Me! - the uncensored story of punk . Hannibal, Höfen 2004. ISBN 3-85445-237-3
  • Jan Off : Pre-war youth: 200 grams of punk rock . Ventil Verlag, Mainz 2003. ISBN 3-930559-88-9
  • Craig O'Hara: The Philosophy of Punk. The story of a cultural revolt . Ventil Verlag, Mainz 2001. ISBN 3-930559-72-2
  • Paul Ott, Hollow Skai (Ed.): We were heroes for a day. From German-language punk fanzines 1977–1981 . Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 1983. ISBN 3-499-17682-3
  • Jon Savage , Englands Dreaming - Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock and Beyond . Edition Tiamat, Berlin 2001. ISBN 3-89320-045-2
  • Jürgen Teipel : Waste your youth . A documentary novel about German punk and new wave . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2001. ISBN 3-518-39771-0

See also

Portal: Punk  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of punk

Web links

Wikiquote: Punk  Quotes
Commons : Punk  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Punk  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Definition of terms. know.de; Retrieved May 28, 2013
  2. william-shakespeare.info My lord, she may be a punk; for many of them are neither maid, widow, nor wife.
  3. punk. In: Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary. Retrieved March 9, 2010 .
  4. punk (2). In: Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved March 9, 2010 .
  5. ^ Rollingstone.com
  6. Howard W. Polsky : Cottage six . 1977, p. 83 ff
  7. a b c Punk culture from the slums: brutal and ugly . In: Der Spiegel . No. 4 , 1978 ( online - cover story).
  8. "Punk rock was there since rock and roll started. Rebellious rock and roll was punk rock. Gene Vincent, Elvis Presley. That was punk rock. The Beatles in Hamburg, before they put on their suits and were wearing their leather jackets. But by 1974, progressive rock had diluted rock and roll. Everyone had gotten so overindulgent. All of a sudden, we started playing, and other bands saw us play and were inspired. Our main influences would have been the early and mid-'60s British movement, the Beach Boys, and surf music - pure rock and roll. "- Johnny Ramone, read at kauhajokinyt.fi
  9. ^ Bob Harris, John Douglas Peters: Motor City Rock and Roll: The 1960s and 1970s . Arcadia Pub, 2008.
  10. Jeff Breithaupt, Don Breithaupt: Night Moves: Pop Music in the Late '70s . Saint Martin's Press, 2000.
  11. ^ Alwyn Turner: Crisis, What Crisis ?: Britain in the 1970s . Aurum Press, 2008.
  12. John Savage: England's Dreaming, Revised Edition: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond . St. Martin's Griffin Verlag, 1992, pp. 280-281.
  13. Teal Triggs: Scissors and Glue. Punk Fanzines and the Creation of a DIY Aesthetic . In: J Design History , 19/2006, pp. 69-83.
  14. Sean Sheehan, Pat Levy: From Punk Rock to Perestroika: The Mid 1970s to the Mid 1980s . Raintree Publishers, 2008.
  15. Beate Gansauge: The Punk and Hardcore Youth Subcultures in the USA Since the 1980s . GRIN Verlag , 2009
  16. Cf. the WDR program Pop 2000 , part 7 (1980–1984), on the Internet at youtube.com there with further links.
  17. see under Archived Copy ( Memento of the original from April 8, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.chaostage.de
  18. ^ Rolf Lindner: Punk Rock . 1978
  19. Cordula Bachmann: Punk always dies! (PDF) In: Zeitgeschichte-online , No. 4/2006: Pop in Ost und West. Popular culture between aesthetics and politics .
  20. Punk-Rock , in: Stern No. 43/1977.
  21. Cf. the WDR broadcast Pop 2000 , episode 8 (1982–1985), on the Internet at youtube.com and episode 9 (1983–1989) at youtube.com there with further links.
  22. germany.real.com
  23. Archived copy ( memento of the original from November 25, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.musicline.de
  24. musicline.de
  25. ^ Andy Greenwald: Nothing Feels Good. Punk Rock, Teenagers, and Emo . St. Martin's Griffin, 2003.
  26. mookychick.co.uk
  27. Lucja Romanowska: You the clocks - us the time: Street punks 1999–2009 . Ventil Verlag, 2009.
  28. Klaus Farin : Generation kick.de. Youth subcultures today . Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2001, pp. 91-102, 126-131, 205-220.
  29. Cf. for example the song Scheiss Kommerz by The Wohlstandskinder ( archived copy ( memento of the original from July 16, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this note. ) or corresponding discussions in scene forums, such as on lastfm.de or http://www.lastfm.de/group/Punk+Rock/forum/19495/_/546256 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.magistrix.de
  30. Cf. for example the text of the Turbonegro song "Grunge Whore" on archived copy ( memento of the original from May 24, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / lyricskeeper.de
  31. Klaus Farin : Generation kick.de. Youth subcultures today . Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2001, p. 112 f., 172 f.
  32. Music Industry Database - Requires a search query
  33. ^ Re-education for Indonesian punks ( Memento from January 7, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Tagesschau from December 14, 2011
  34. The Underground is A Lie! ( Memento from June 13, 2004 in the web archive archive.today )
  35. Farts from Underground ( Memento from August 26, 2004 in the web archive archive.today )
  36. ^ Joseph Heath, Andrew Potter: The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can't Be Jammed . Harper Perennial, 2005.
  37. Interview with an Outlander. (No longer available online.) In: aristasia.co.uk. Archived from the original on July 24, 2010 ; accessed on February 28, 2015 .