Punk Rock



US flag

Malcolm McLaren (1946-2010)
Manager of the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols
about Punk Rock:

"It’s a call to arms to the kids who believe that rock and roll was taken away from them.
It’s a statement of self rule, of ultimate independence."

Suburban kid, ya got no name
Two ton(e) baby and ya got no brain
I bet you're only happy in suburbian dreams
But I'm only laughing cause you ain't in my scheme

Hey baby
I love you
I love you
I love you

I only ever listen when you're on the phone
From your safety where you sit at home
When I got nothin' better to do
Then there is always you
Cause you're good for my shoe

Hey baby
I love you
I love you
I love you

I'm in love
Yeah in love
Oh, can't you feel it?
No I don't like where you come from

It's just a satellite of London
And when you look me in the eye
Just remember that…


NOTE: hover over words in blue for additional information



Punk Rock was a reaction both to the commercialization of Rock and Roll and to the social climate in late 1970s Britain.

By the mid-1970s, the live performances of many successful Rock and Roll bands had moved to larger and larger venues. “Stadium Rock” invited tens of thousands of fans to sit and watch bands perform, often from a great distance, and often accompanied by elaborate staging, massive banks of equipment, sometimes extravagant costumes, and virtuosic solos. Bands such as Led Zeppelin, Journey, Queen, Yes, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer led the field, commanding increasingly hefty ticket prices along the way.

Led Zeppelin concert 1977

Thousands of people attending a Led Zeppelin concert in 1977, image from

The reaction against this trend began in Britain with the Pub Rock movement, which summoned a return to the raw sound of Rock and Roll and a move away from a growing commercialism. Musicians such as Graham Parker, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and Joe Strummer (later of the Clash) played in bands that appeared in small pubs where they could easily interact with their audiences — much as the Beatles had done in their early days in Liverpool and Hamburg.

The Pub Rock movement helped pave the wayfor the emergence of Punk, which put audience participation back at the center of the whole enterprise. Like Pub Rock, Punk provided an aggressive retort to Stadium Rock and the commercial elements of 1970s Rock and Roll. Bands such as the Sex Pistols and the Clash performed at small, dingy clubs in which the divide between artist and spectator disappeared. The audience was no longer made of spectators worshipping their idols from afar, but active participants whose collaboration was essential to the whole project.


Hover over image to see slam-dancing, animated image from

So-called “slam-dancing” even found the boundary between stage and dance floor shattered as fans moved amongst the bands.



1. Who was Malcolm McLaren?

2. When was Punk Rock born?

3. What did it react against?

4. Is it true that Rock and Roll concerts became cheaper because of larger audiences?

5. Write the names of three famous Rock and Roll bands from this period.

6. What did Punk Rock bands want to go back to?

7. Write the names three famous Punk Rock musicians.

8. Why are The Beatles an example for these musicians?

9. How did Pub Rock help Punk Rock?

10. What are the main differences between Pub Rock and Punk Rock?

Joe Strummer

Joe Strummer

Breakin' rocks in the hot sun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I needed money 'cause I had none
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won

I left my baby and it feels so bad
Guess my race is run
She's the best girl that I ever had
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the...

Robbin' people with a six-gun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I lost my girl and I lost my fun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won

I left my baby and it feels so bad
Guess my race is run
She's the best girl that I ever had
I fought the law and the law…



Audience members, often dressed as “punks”, were indistinguishable from the performers themselves. In the early punk scene, deliberately offensive T-shirts were popular, featuring controversial images, slogans (such as "Only Anarchists are pretty"), badges and patches.

Only anarchists are pretty t-shirt Destroy t-shirt Fuck t-shirt

Punk t-shirts, images from

These T-shirts, like other punk clothing items, were often torn on purpose. Other items in early British punk fashion included: leather jackets, customised blazers or safety pins.

Punk Fashion

Punk fashion, image from


11. How were band members distinguished from the audience?

12. What are the typical garments punks wore?

13. What is so special about punk t-shirts?



At the same time, Punk was rooted in the bleak economic and social mood of Britain in the mid-1970s. Anger at government policies boiled over into the streets as inflation and unemployment were high, and a seemingly endless series of strikes led to a “winter of discontent” in 1978. This quote from Shakespeare’s Richard III refers to the winter of 1978–79 in the United Kingdom, during which there were widespread strikes by public sector trade unions demanding larger pay rises, following the ongoing pay caps of the Labour Party government led by James Callaghan.

Winter of discontent

UK's 1979 "Winter of Discontent" strike wave. Image from

The weather turned very cold in the early months of 1979 with blizzards and deep snow, the coldest since 1962–63, rendering some jobs impossible, reducing retail spending and worsening the economy. The era was marked by shortages in oil and electricity and union strikes led to garbage festering in the streets, unburied dead, and caused food and power shortages.

The message of Punk was thus anti-mainstream, anti-establishment, anti-commercial, and very angry. As did early Hip Hop in the United States, Punk Rock embodied a “Do-It-Yourself” or “DIY” attitude. Many bands were self-produced and self-recorded. The message was simple: anyone could go out and form a band and make music. Punk put Rock and Roll back in the hands of a young, working-class population, and it did this at a moment when they had something to say.

Adapted from and


14. What was the social mood like in the UK in the 1970s?

15. The "winter of discontent" refers to...

16. Who was the Prime Minister and what party did he belong to?

17. People on strike demanded...

18. Garbage-festering means...

19. Name one similarity between Punk Rock and early Hip Hop.

20. What kind of people was Punk Rock addressed to?


1. The manager of the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols.
2. In the 1970s.
3. The commercialization of Rock and Roll and the political and social mood of the period.
4. No, they became more expensive.
5. Led Zeppelin, Queen, Yes.
6. The raw sound of Rock and Roll and move away from commercialism.
7. Because they started playing in pubs.

8. Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Joe Strummer.
9. It was an introductory step to Punk Rock.
10. Raw sound, smaller venues, cheaper tickets, audience among the bands, anger.
11. They were not because they wore the same clothes.
12. T-shirts torn on purpose, leather jackets, customised blazers, safety pins, badges and patches.
13. They showed controversial images and slogans.

14. People were very angry.
15. The cold winter of 1979, when people did not have money for food or heating.
16. James Callaghan, from the Labour Party.
17. Higher salaries and jobs in general.
18. Having to find food in trash cans.
19. Anybody could play Punk Rock and Hip Hop.
20. the working-class population


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