Punk rock (from 'punk', meaning rotten, worthless, or snotty; also a prison slang term for a person who is sexually submissive) is the anti-establishment music movement of the period 1976-80, exemplified by the Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Clash, and The Ramones. The term is also used to describe subsequent music scenes that share key characteristics with those first-generation "punks." The term is sometimes also applied to the fashions or the irreverent "do-it-yourself" attitude associated with this musical movement.
In the mid-1970s, three influential punk bands emerged separately and simultaneously in three different corners of the world: The Ramones in New York, The Saints in Australia, and the Sex Pistols in London. In each case, these bands were operating within a small "scene" which included other bands as well as enthusiastic impresarios who operated small nightclubs that provided a showcase and meeting place for the emerging musicians (the 100 Club in London, CBGB's in New York, and The Masque in Hollywood are among the best know early punk clubs). In the UK, punk interacted with the Jamaican reggae & ska subcultures. The reggae influence in evident in the first releases by the Clash, for example, and by the end of the decade punk had spawned the 2 Tone ska revival movement, including bands such as The Specials, Madness and The Selecter.
Punk rock emphasised simple musical structure and short songs, extolling a "DIY" ("do it yourself") ethic that insisted anyone could form a punk rock band (the early UK punk fanzineSniffin' Glue once famously included drawings of three chord shapes, captioned, "this is a chord, this is another, this is a third. Now form a band"). Punk lyrics introduced a confrontational frankness of expression in matters both political and sexual, dealing with urban boredom and rising unemployment in the UK—e.g., the Sex Pistols' "God Save The Queen" and "Pretty Vacant"—or decidedly anti-romantic depictions of sex and love, such as the Dead Kennedys' "Too Drunk to Fuck" or the Sex Pistols' "Submission."
The influence of the cultural critique and the strategies for revolutionary action offered by the European situationist movement of the 1950s and 60s is apparent in the vanguard of the British punk movement, particularly the Sex Pistols. This was a conscious direction taken by Pistols prime movers Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, and is apparent in the artwork of Jamie Reid, who had previously been involved with Suburban Press and King Mob, and designed many of the band's graphics.
The punk phenomenon expressed a whole-hearted rejection of prevailing values that extended beyond the qualities of its music. British punk fashion deliberately outraged propriety with the highly theatrical use of cosmetics and hairstyles--eye makeup might cover half the face, hair might stand in spikes or be cut into a "Mohawk" or other severe shape--while the clothing typically modified existing objects for artistic effect--pants and shirts were cut, torn, or wrapped with tape, safety pins were used as face-piercing jewelry, a garbage bin liner might become a dress.
Punk devotees created a thriving underground press. In the UK Mark Perry produced Sniffin' Glue. In the United States magazines such as Maximum RocknRoll, Profane Existence and Flipside were leading a movement of fanzines. Every local "scene" had at least one primitively published magazine with news, gossip, and interviews with local or touring bands. The magazine Factsheet Five chronicled the thousands of underground publications in the 1980s and 1990s.
A thriving Punk Rock subculture can still be found in many cities. Krakow and Jarocin in Poland are renowned among punks today as having two of the most thriving and colourful street punk cultures. Punk rock underwent a brief commercial renaissance in the late 1990s with bands like Rancid, Green Day, The Offspring.