Punk Rock Culture Essay

Punk Rock Culture Essay-29
PDF version After years of alternately being declared either dead, irrelevant, or simply too outrageous to be accepted into the fabric of American culture, and almost thirty years after it first reared it's mohawk'd head in public, the musical genre known as "punk rock" has finally been accepted as part of mainstream American culture.This is, unfortunately, not the result of changing musical tastes or a growing acceptance of subversive subcultures on the part of the American audience, but rather, is due to a single factor loathed by most participants in (the wide and diverse variety of) insular punk communities, the increasing ubiquity of the music itself in television commercials.If there was no set dress code, the only way to identify fellow punks (especially in the days when school dress codes were more rigid in most of the country) was by wearing the correct button, scrawling the correct band names on a notebook, or wearing the right band patch provided passwords and codes that only the initiated understood.

PDF version After years of alternately being declared either dead, irrelevant, or simply too outrageous to be accepted into the fabric of American culture, and almost thirty years after it first reared it's mohawk'd head in public, the musical genre known as "punk rock" has finally been accepted as part of mainstream American culture.This is, unfortunately, not the result of changing musical tastes or a growing acceptance of subversive subcultures on the part of the American audience, but rather, is due to a single factor loathed by most participants in (the wide and diverse variety of) insular punk communities, the increasing ubiquity of the music itself in television commercials.If there was no set dress code, the only way to identify fellow punks (especially in the days when school dress codes were more rigid in most of the country) was by wearing the correct button, scrawling the correct band names on a notebook, or wearing the right band patch provided passwords and codes that only the initiated understood.

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As Hebdige notes, British punk in particular adopted symbols and forms of musical expression from other outcast cultures (such as the reggae music of Rastifarians and the suspenders and boots of post-World War II working class culture) and synthesized it into something uniquely their own.

At the same time this process is taking place, the dominant culture tries to make sense of subcultures though various means, including news reports and articles in the mainstream mass media that identify the new subculture within a historical context, and by taking aspects of the culture such as fashion and commodifing them.

(An example of this was the "safety-pin chic" promoted by designers such as Betsy Johnson.) According to Hebdige, commodification is the inevitable end result of this process of negotiation.

Safety pins, leather jackets and ripped jeans are taken out of the context of rebellion and translated into runway fashion, selling for thousands of dollars at ritzy boutiques.

(An example of this, although based on a British book, is the movie where record store employees obsess about music and define a proper customer by their breadth of knowledge and musical taste.) Thus, becoming a punk involved learning a canon of "acceptable" music, and in a very real sense, becoming not just a purist, but also a musical elitist.

American punk rock really was always about taste, about defining oneself as outside the mainstream, not through economic situation or a mythologized class consciousness, but through a secret society of musical taste where ones' identity was validated through what one accepted and rejected as legitimate forms of musical expression.While it certainly is true that the British version of punk rock was intimately based along class lines, this simplistic version fails not only to recognize that punk rock is primarily an American creation, but also is distinctly American in its relationships with both taste and the generation of cultural capital.Even a cursory look at the formations of punk, as demonstrated by recent works such as Legs Mc Neil and Gillian Mc Cain's Please Kill Me, and Clinton Heylin's From the Velvets to the Voidoids, reveals that the origins of punk rock clearly lie not only in the late 1960's aggressive rock of the Stooges and the MC5, but also in the self-consciously artistic Velvet Underground, who's alliance with Andy Warhol and debt to Delmore Schwartz and Lamonte Young reveals punk rock to be a creation of the well-educated and art-school trained upper classes.In a way, punk rock became similar to dance culture and club culture where the music is also seen as having a canon, but capable of (and in need of) constant evolution and adaptation, although it is doubtful that dance culture has become as relentlessly doctrinaire as modern punk culture.Punk bands that have achieved a modicum of mainstream success such as Green Day were seen as derivative of the original canon and also as "selling out" by a community that tries to avoid major record labels and access to widespread audiences as a conscious decision.Stuart Ewen noted in his book All Consuming Images that punk itself became a form of conspicuous consumption, one where those who chose to identify themselves as punk could adapt mainstream commodities to create a sense of identity not based on the British punk "uniform" but by using (at least during the early days) disparate styles to self-identify as punk.The baggy overcoats of Pere Ubu were as punk as the leather jackets of The Ramones, and as punk as the flightsuits and goggles of Devo.Punk Rock and Style In recent years, there has been a renewed academic interest in the cultural implications of punk rock as a social movement.Most authors take Dick Hebdige's seminal work Subculture: The Meaning of Style as their template for examinations of punk rock.Variations in musical style were not overt considerations in whether a band was considered authentic or not, rather a dedication to the ephemeral "principles" of punk rock were the main criteria.Maximum Rock and Roll, a 'zine often considered the "bible" and chief validator of authenticity for punk rock once tried to sum up the punk aesthetic simply as "honest music, not money making." Likewise, the recent plethora of advertisements using punk rock seems on the surface a direct challenge to the closely guarded authenticity of punk rock, and another inevitable step towards the commodification of a subculture. Pei's La Pyramide du Louvre: A Diamond in the Rough or Merely Junkspace? Moyer :: The Culture of the Fence: Artifacts and Meanings By Christina Kotchemidova :: On the Significance of Death in Culture & Communication Research By Charlton Mc Ilwain, Ph. :: Swept Away By An Unusual Destiny In The Blue Sea Of August: Lina Wertmller, 1974 - Guy Ritchie's Swept Away 2001 By Laura Meucci :: What Do I Get?

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