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The first wave of punk rock was not about virtuousity; indeed, its finest practitioners could barely play their instruments. Rather, it reflected, according to The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll (2nd edition), "the utopian dream of everyman an artist."

The origins of garage rock, the forerunner of mid-1960s punk, can be discerned in the instrumental groups based in California and the Pacific Northwest during the early 1960s. Within a few years a number of Mexican-American bands in southern California had begun adding vocals, most notably the Premiers ("Farmer John"; 1964), Cannibal & the Headhunters ("Land of 1,000 Dances"; 1965), and Thee Midniters ("Land of 1,000 Dances, Part 1"; 1965). By the middle of the decade, however, the creative center of the scene had shifted back to the northern Pacific coast, home base for groups such as the Sonics (Seattle), the Kingsmen, and Paul Revere & the Raiders (the latter two hailing from Portland).

The next phase, classic punk, coincided with the rise of psychedelia in 1966. New technical breakthroughs such as fuzztone and the electric twelve-string guitar enabled young musicians possessing limited playing technique to experiment with an augmented sonic vocabulary. The genre also incorporated various fads of the moment including the drug subculture and Eastern music (e.g., ragas, sitars) and philosophy. Punk bands sprang up across the nation; those cited below (categorized by locale) all had at least one moderate hit:


The Standells ("Dirty Water," "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White," "Why Pick on Me"); The Remains; The Barbarians ("Are You a Boy of Are You a Girl," "Moulty")


The Litter; Terry Knight & the Pack ("I, Who Have Nothing"); Cryan' Shames ("Sugar and Spice"); Shadows of Knight ("Gloria"); ? & the Mysterians ("96 Tears," "I Need Somebody")


John Fred & His Playboy Band ("Judy in Disguise"); The Hombres ("Let It Out"); The Gentrys ("Keep on Dancing"); The Swingin' Medallions ("Double Shot of My Baby's Love," "She Drives Me Out of My Mind")

Los Angeles

Count Five ("Psychotic Reaction"); Chocolate Watch Band; Syndicate of Sound ("Little Girl"); The Music Machine ("Talk Talk"); The Leaves ("Hey Joe"); The Seeds ("Pushin' Too Hard," "Can't Seem to Make You Mine")

By 1968 punk had lost its momentum, the more adventuresome bands evolving in the direction of acid rock. The remaining holdouts had no options other than heavy metal. For instance, in the Michigan area, the Amboy Dukes (fronted by gonzo guitarist Ted Nugent) took the former path, whereas Grand Funk Railroad (a spin-off of Terry Knight & the Pack), the MC5, and the Stooges (lead by Iggy Pop) opted for the latter. The rebellious element of punk attitude continued to be sustained in these stylistic offshoots, ultimately to be resurrected in the second punk wave of the mid-1970s.