500 Words The Guitarists of Punk
Punk was one part musical rebellion and one part cultural phenomena. I say “was” because as a creative force punk has been dead for decades. Yeah… there’s some new punk bands I guess but it’s so self referential now I don’t even pay attention to it.
I’m actually far more interested in the very first wave of punk more specifically the time period between 1974 to 1977 because that is the most interesting period.
Let’s take a look.
Richard Lloyd: Lloyd played guitar in what some people consider the first punk band, Television. Together Lloyd and Hell recorded one of the earliest punk songs “Blank Generation”. His clean, percussive sound could be heard echoed in other players like Gang of Four’s Andy Gill to Keith Levene of PiL. Lloyd still with CBGB alum Cheetah Chrome in the band Rocket from the Tombs.
Ivan Kral and Lenny Kaye, Patti Smith group. I remember seeing Patti Smith Group on SNL in 1976 and being both floored and a little confused by their performance. The Patti Smith Group played rock ’n’ roll but it was also stripped down and unpolished. Even though PSG only lasted from ’74-’79 both Kral and Kaye would keep busy in music. It should be noted, however, it was Television’s other guitarist Tom Verlaine, that played guitar on Patti Smith’s first single “Piss Factory”.
Ross “The Boss” Friedman: Ross the Boss has the distinction of forming both the Dictators and Manowar. Who says he doesn’t have a sense of humor?
Wilko Johnson. Contrary to popular belief England was not the birthplace of punk. England did, however, produce skiffle and the pub rock scene. Like punk the pub rock bands had a very back to basics approach to playing and produced many notable bands including The Stranglers, Eddie and the Hot Rods, Dr. Feelgood and Joe Strummer’s first band the 101ers.
Johnson’s manic stage persona and thrashing sound was highly influential with the first generation of British punks.
Crime: Johnny Strike.
The Nuns: Mike Varney. Yes, that Mike Varney.
The Weirdos: Dix Denny.
The Germs: Pat Smear.
There were many things that contributed to the demise of the first generation of punks but chief amongst which was the rise of hardcore. Punk was never meant to last but hardcore’s fundamentalist approach was a buzzkill and largely killed a once vibrant scene.