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Definition: Punk rock from Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable

A form of pop music of a coarse and cacophonous nature, as typified by the Sex Pistols. The heyday of British punk was the late 1970s, and when this group disbanded in 1978, the punk revolution was to all intents and purposes over. Punk rock itself was then succeeded by a rather more melodious 'postpunk' idiom, notably New wave. See also Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols; Rock group names.

Summary Article: What was punk rock?
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide


Pop music has often been regarded as ‘noisy’, ‘rude’, or ‘outrageous’. During the latter half of the 20th century, pop music became an important part of youth culture, defining clothing fashions and attitude. Most pop music remained fairly tame in nature, but a new kind of music emerged in the 1970s that rather lived up to rock's bad reputation: punk rock.

Full answer

Change During the 1960s, pop music in the USA and Europe had been centred around such groups as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Their song lyrics were mostly not particularly controversial and dealt with matters such as partying and love. However, some musicians were determined to use music as a vehicle to speak about more emotive issues, such as politics, unemployment, and, in the UK, anti-royalism.

Punk bands Punk bands were formed both in the UK and USA. Perhaps the most famous band was the British group the Sex Pistols. The Sex Pistols were formed in the early 1970s and made records that shocked the nation. The band members changed their names to fit in with their image, for example Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious.

Punk music Punk music is usually played on electric guitars, with accompanying drums. The music is simple in form, with lyrics sung loudly over the top. The lyrics are the key to the style of music, often deliberately shocking with anarchic themes, speaking out against the government and the royal family, sometimes using bad language at a time when this was unheard of in public entertainment. Many radio stations and television channels banned the broadcast of some punk records, and the Sex Pistols were sacked by their record company after giving what was regarded as a particularly offensive television interview.

Influence Punk music seemed shocking and new during the 1970s. It was able to give confidence and independence to bands that wanted to develop their own individual style, rather than following the formats used in the past. Many of the ‘independent’, or indie, bands of today have been inspired by the no-limits lyrics and exciting musical style of punk rock.

In short

  • Punk rock emerged in the UK and the USA in the 1970s

  • The music was played mainly on the guitar, to accompany loud, often provocative lyrics dealing with emotive and political issues

  • Punk rock was seen as both shocking and inspiring, influencing much subsequent pop music.



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