Styles & Forms | Punk | Early History (1974) | Key Events
The New York Scene
By the mid-1970s, the New York punk/new wave scene was starting to bubble. Acts like Patti Smith, Television and Talking Heads were emerging from the city’s bohemian underground, alongside newly formed bands like The Ramones, Blondie, Wayne County, Johnny Thunders and Tuff Darts. The scene was centred around two clubs. Max’s Kansas City, which had been one of The Velvet Underground’s haunts, was immortalized in Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ and Debbie Harry was a waitress there. The other was CBGBs, a run-down bar when Television first played there in the spring of 1974. Within a year CBGBs was the acknowledged home of New York punk.
Patti Smith Makes Punk From Poetry
First of the New York crowd to get a record out was Patti Smith, a poet and writer who teamed up with guitarist and writer Lenny Kaye and pianist Richard Sohl to press their own single in the summer of 1974. It featured a taut, edgy version of ‘Hey Joe’ on one side and a poem about Patti’s work experience in New Jersey, called ‘Piss Factory’, on the other. After a trip to California later that year, where the laid-back West Coast crowd was unimpressed by Patti’s punk attitude and atonal rock poetry, they decided to up the ante and expand into a proper rock band – The Patti Smith Group.
The Ramones’ Family-Style Punk
Forming at their Forest Hill High School in 1974, The Ramones quickly became the iconic sight and sound of punk rock. Singer Joey, guitarist Johnny, bassist Dee Dee and drummer Tommy shared the same surname and dress code: torn jeans and leather jackets. They played their first gig at CBGBs in August 1974 and gained an immediate residency, appearing 74 times before the end of the year, establishing their reputation with their 20-minute sets of two-minute songs, each counted in with a rapid ‘one-two-three-four’. The songs – a wall of guitar chords, deadpan cartoon lyrics and no solos – reflected the underbelly of the Bowery where The Ramones hung out.
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