Punk hit the music world by storm in the late 1970s, sweeping disco and the singer-songwriters who had had a stranglehold on the charts under the rug. Inventive as the likes of Sid Vicious and Joey Ramone may have been, however, they drew their inspiration from many musicians who came before them. The forerunners of punk rock had actually been putting their stamp on the music scene since the early 1960s.
The Forerunners of Punk Music
The forerunners of punk music, also known as protopunk musicians, include metal, experimental and psychedelic acts. Of the list of protopunk musicians, each added a little something different to the genre. Some laid the groundwork for musicians who played rock and metal-oriented punk, some influenced punk musicians who embraced a more experimental sound, and others offered inspiration in terms of aesthetics and ethos.
Some of punk's influences weren't necessarily musical inspirations. Musicians who embodied punk's DIY attitude and outside-of-the-box thinking also helped shape the genre that eventually became known as punk.
Many bands contributed to what would evolve into punk, but here are some of the most popular:
Most people associate The Kinks with concept pop songs about British life, and indeed they were part of the first wave of Britpop acts. However, both metal acts and punk acts point to The Kinks as inspiration. They blended R&B with blues and rock, but eventually focused on guitar-heavy riffs. Because they were one of the first bands to experiment with blending such different genres of music, many fans refer to The Kinks as "the original punks." Punk music itself includes rock, metal, reggae and soul influences, clearly taking a page from The Kinks' book.
Best known for their song Kick Out The Jams, Detroit's MC5 are considered the grandfathers of the hard rock brand of punk. MC5 are also known for their far left politics, which helped form the punk rock ethos. MC5 is one of the most covered protopunk bands ever.
MC5 shows also included aspects that would become commonplace at punk shows, like moshing.
The New York Dolls
The New York Dolls were the prototypical protopunk American band. From their shambolic blend of heavy metal and glam rock to their fashion sense, The New York Dolls created the playbook that would spawn many American punk bands, including The Ramones, Television and Talking Heads. Their mix of glam clothes, big hair, make-up and metal sounds mixed with reggae proved to be a winning combination later.
The Red Krayola
Where The New York Dolls and MC5 inspired the rock end of the punk spectrum, Houston's Red Krayola influenced musicians on the experimental side of things. This avant-garde, psychedelic band of art students brought the low-fi, DIY ethic to punk music. The Red Krayola isn't for everyone - they were once paid $10 to stop playing at a show at UC Berkeley - but even if they are an acquired taste, they were extremely influential on punk music, particularly the no-wave subgenre.
At the start of their career, this German band had very little commercial success. Despite their lack of mainstream appeal, Neu! became a musician's favorite, deeply influencing both the Krautrock scene and the glam rock end of punk music. Musicians like David Bowie, Brian Eno, Gary Numan and Iggy Pop claim Neu! as inspiration. The band is especially popular among punk's industrial subgenre.
More Forerunners of Punk Rock
These musicians also influenced the development of punk rock:
- Question Mark and The Mysterians
- The Kingsmen
- Captain Beefheart
- John Cale
- The Velvet Underground
- 13th Floor Elevators
- The Electric Prunes
- Paul Revere and The Raiders
- The Flamin' Groovies
- Mark Bolan
- The Stooges
- The Pink Fairies
- Radio Birdman
- The Modern Lovers
- Cordell Jackson
- The Troggs
- The Seeds
- Alice Cooper
- Blue Cheer
Explore Punk Music
Find out more about punk rock in LoveToKnow's History of Punk Music.