By 1975, punk was being used to describe acts as diverse as the Patti Smith Group, the Bay City Rollers, and Bruce Springsteen. As the scene at New York’s CBGB club attracted notice, a name was sought for the developing sound. Club owner Hilly Kristal called the movement «Street rock»; John Holmstrom credits Aquarian magazine with using punk «to describe what was going on at CBGBs». Holmstrom, Legs McNeil, and Ged Dunn’s magazine Punk, which debuted at the end of 1975, was crucial in codifying the term. «It was pretty obvious that the word was getting very popular», Holmstrom later remarked. «We figured we’d take the name before anyone else claimed it. We wanted to get rid of the bullshit, strip it down to rock ‘n’ roll. We wanted the fun and liveliness back.»
1974–1976: Early history
New York City
The original anthem of the punk scene, performed live by Television in 1974 or 1975, with Richard Hell on lead vocals. The verse, described by Gary Valentine as defying melody, yields to the chorus, «set to a descending pattern reminiscent of Peggy Lee’s «Fever». Tom Verlaine’s virtuosic guitar style would lead the band away from what became the typical punk approach.
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The origins of New York’s punk rock scene can be traced back to such sources as late 1960s trash culture and an early 1970s underground rock movement centered on the Mercer Arts Center in Greenwich Village, where the New York Dolls performed. In early 1974, a new scene began to develop around the CBGB club, also in lower Manhattan. At its core was Television, described by critic John Walker as «the ultimate garage band with pretensions». Their influences ranged from the Velvet Underground to the staccato guitar work of Dr. Feelgood’s Wilko Johnson. The band’s bassist/singer, Richard Hell, created a look with cropped, ragged hair, ripped T-shirts, and black leather jackets credited as the basis for punk rock visual style. In April 1974, Patti Smith, a member of the Mercer Arts Center crowd and a friend of Hell’s, came to CBGB for the first time to see the band perform. A veteran of independent theater and performance poetry, Smith was developing an intellectual, feminist take on rock ‘n’ roll. On June 5, she recorded the single «Hey Joe»/»Piss Factory», featuring Television guitarist Tom Verlaine; released on her own Mer Records label, it heralded the scene’s do it yourself (DIY) ethic and has often been cited as the first punk rock record. By August, Smith and Television were gigging together at another downtown New York club, Max’s Kansas City.
The front of the music club CBGB is shown. An awning has the letters CBGB painted on it. Below the name are the letters «OMFUG».
Facade of legendary music club CBGB, New York
Out in Forest Hills, Queens, several miles from lower Manhattan, the members of a newly formed band adopted a common surname. Drawing on sources ranging from the Stooges to the Beatles and the Beach Boys to Herman’s Hermits and 1960s girl groups, the Ramones condensed rock ‘n’ roll to its primal level: «‘1-2-3-4!’ bass-player Dee Dee Ramone shouted at the start of every song, as if the group could barely master the rudiments of rhythm.» The band played its first show at CBGB on August 16, 1974, on the same bill as another new act, Angel and the Snake, soon to be renamed Blondie. By the end of the year, the Ramones had performed seventy-four shows, each about seventeen minutes long. «When I first saw the Ramones», critic Mary Harron later remembered, «I couldn’t believe people were doing this. The dumb brattiness.» The Dictators, with a similar «playing dumb» concept, were recording their debut album. The Dictators’ Go Girl Crazy! came out in March 1975, mixing absurdist originals such as «Master Race Rock» and loud, straight-faced covers of cheese pop like Sonny & Cher’s «I Got You Babe».