Artwork by Mark Young
Johnny Rotten –
The single “Anarchy in the U.K.,” the Sex Pistols established punk as a national style that combined confrontational fashions with sped-up hard rock and allusive, socially aware lyrics that addressed the reduced expectations of 1970s teens. Armed with a critique of the music industry and consumerism—embodied in songs such as the Sex Pistols’ “EMI” and X-Ray Spex’s “Identity”—early British punk spawned a resurgence of interest in rock. Mirroring social upheaval with a series of visionary songs couched in black humour, groups such as the Buzzcocks (“Orgasm Addict”), the Clash (“Complete Control”), and Siouxsie and the Banshees (“Hong Kong Garden”) scored hits in 1977–78. Anarchist, decentralizing, and libertarian, U.K. punk was drawn into the polarized politics of British society and by 1979 had self-destructed as a pop style.
Punk, also called punk rock, aggressive form of rock music that coalesced into an international (though predominantly Anglo-American) movement in 1975–80. Often politicized and full of vital energy beneath a sarcastic, hostile facade, punk spread as an ideology and an aesthetic approach, becoming an archetype of teen rebellion and alienation.