Punk, or punk rock, source of international iconography that developed and flourished in the last half of the 1970s, is first and foremost a harsh, driving form of “shock rock.” Punk, its label taken from prison lingo, is also an attitude and a style. The latter may be best known by the brash forms it took on the street: shaved or partially shaved heads, spiked hair, odd-colored hair, pierced body parts and lots of black.

As an attitude, punk signifies teen rebelliousness and alienation, façades for a movement that critiqued consumerism as it celebrated and attempted to reclaim the inner city. The inner city spirit sometimes took the form of “squatting” -- taking up residence in abandoned buildings and the like.

Musical icons included Patti Smith and Television, whose performance base was New York, and the Sex Pistols, who inspired British youth and made Britain one of the movement’s hotbeds. Other well-known punk groups included The Clash, X-Ray Spex, the Damned, the Buzzcocks and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

In the 1980s, some U.S. youth influenced by the punk movement described themselves as “hardcore,” using a façade of alienation as a cover for their disavowal of tobacco, drugs and promiscuous sex. The “grunge” movement, characterized by slovenly dress, was another outgrowth prevalent in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

According to www.britannica.com, the Encyclopedia Britannica’s Web site, punk’s highest point of impact came with Nirvana’s success in 1991, a success that coincided with the rise of Generation X. Members of that generation, born in the 1960s, often identified with punk’s “charged, often contradictory mix of intelligence, simplicity, anger and powerlessness,” according to the Britannica article.

Its underlying philosophy of social transformation rarely developed into organized action, but street demonstrations against the World Trade Organization’s meeting in Seattle earlier this year had at their root some of the punk movement’s concerns.

--NCR Staff