Ongoing History of New Music

Ongoing History Daily: The history of the word “punk,” part 4

Here is the next instalment of the evolution of the word “punk” from referring to a prostitute back in the 16th century to describing a specific musical aesthetic. In the early 70s, some garage bands were referred to as “punk.”

Shortly thereafter, the experimental New York band Suicide stared advertising their gigs as “punk music shows.” But it really took until two other New York bands popularized the term for a certain type of stripped-down rock.

The first was The Dictators, a group that dressed in leather biker jackets reminiscent of the juvenile delinquents of the 1950s who were called “punks.”

And then there was The Ramones, also in jeans and leather jackets, who started performing songs like “Judy is a Punk.” But there was also the song “53rd and 3rd,” which spoke of a male prostitute—which, if you’ll remember was referred to back in the 17th century as a “punk.”

So we’re starting to come full circle. We’ll finish things up next time.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38296 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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