Mini-Post – Roots of Punk

I’ve always been fascinated by trying to figure out where musical artists got their inspirations. In college when I found out that Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin (as well as many others) credited as inspiration artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and BB King from the 1950’s, who in turn credited Son House, Robert Johnson and Charley Patton from 1920’s – 1930’s, I ended up wanting to get down to the roots of every genre I came across. It was fun to dig through the history of music and really gave me an appreciation for genres which I previously didn’t have much of an ear for.

A (very) quick and simple look at the roots of early punk through three of its biggest influences

Last week I happened across 3 tracks while I was working which I believe do a great job laying out the roots of the first wave Punk rock movement of the late 70’s. This is absolutely nowhere close to all encompassing, but it’s a quick look into the way I like to investigate and appreciate different genres through discovering ‘new’ old music. If you want a full look back at the roots of punk, collections like “The roots of punk rock music: 1926-1962” would do it better than I could, or googling “early punk” or “proto-punk” bands of the 60’s would turn up a lot of examples that would fall on a timeline between what I’m showing here.

I’d like to point out that I’m in no way “discovering” these links between genres, they’re basically public knowledge. This is more of a simplistic illustration.

Jerry Lee Lewis- Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On
Rockabilly– 1955 – Jerry Lee Lewis was wild, man. He’d start off a concert as a button downed, hair slicked back nice guy- it looked like he was going to play Ode to Joy at your mom’s church. By the end of the concert his hair had shaken out to look like a rag, he was up on the piano, not playing anymore, just kind of yelling and shaking his body. This is early, undistilled punk rock energy. If you watch the video below, make sure you keep at it or fast forward to the end for Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On, where the crowd is right around his piano and Lewis is playing off the crowd. (Concert is from the 60’s).

Link Wray- Vernon’s Diamond
Surf/Garage Rock– 1958- You can’t talk about Punk without Link Wray because he apparently invented the Power Chord. Many notable guitarists claim they wouldn’t have started if they didn’t hear Wray. He died a few years back and videos of his most famous song, Rumble, made the internet rounds, but Vernon’s Diamond shows the best look backwards and forwards. The beach rock drums are in the background while Wray lays out his trademark distorted slow chords, but then at about the 50 second mark he explodes into the quick punching power chords that would dominate punk rock.

Raw Power- The Stooges
Early Punk– 1973- I love when artists are very clearly ahead of their time. The title track of this album in particular is the bridge between early garage rock, rockabilly and and early punk. The Link Wray power chords and the lyrics look forward, while in the background of Iggy Pop’s cracking scream you can hear the piano keys being slammed down like Jerry Lee Lewis. After this album, punk was well on its way. In my opinion there isn’t a first or second wave punk band (1975ish through 1980ish) that doesn’t owe everything to the Stooges.

A (very) quick and simple look at the roots of early punk through three of its biggest influences

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