'Punk': Epix's docu-series matches the energy of the music whose history it covers

The four-part series covers some familiar ground and some not while charting the places and personalities that shaped the punk ethos and music over the years.


                            'Punk': Epix's docu-series matches the energy of the music whose history it covers

It's still a matter of debate between fans of punk rock of when it all really began.

One of the reasons for them not being able to pinpoint a date and location is because punk rock has  different meanings for different people and also because it's one of those genres of music... no... cultures of music, that began in several places at the same time.

The four-part Epix docu-series 'Punk' covers some familiar ground and some not while charting the places and personalities that shaped the punk ethos and music over the years.

The term "punk rock" was initially used by critics to decribe music rooted in the 60s garage rock, and which was practiced by small-time musicians in out-of-the-way venues.

These included the early pioneers of the subculture like the Sonics who were playing songs without any training and, more often than not, without any real musical skill.

It's because of this "F*** the world" attitude that they were able to break all of the rules that music had up until that point. During the mid to late part of the 60s, iconic punk trailblazers The Stooges (also known as Iggy Pop and The Stooges) and the MC5 took over Detroit.

These were the bands that dared to defy society and stick their middle fingers in the face of societal norms. The music world started paying notice when it heard the raw and politically charged concerts that often ended in violence.

Iggy Pop and The Stooges on October 25, 1977, at the State Theatre in Minneapolis, MN (Source: Michael Markos/Wikimedia Commons)
Iggy Pop and The Stooges on October 25, 1977, at the State Theatre in Minneapolis, MN (Source: Michael Markos/Wikimedia Commons)

 

This proved to not only the music world but the rest of the world as well that the youth of that time were not happy with the status quo and punk rock was how they were letting everyone else know of their disdain and disenchantment.

The first acknowledged punk rock scene is said to have started in New York in the mid-70s. Bands like The Ramones, Wayne County, Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, Blondie, and the Talking Heads spearheaded the movement that bloomed mainly in New York.

Legendary club CBGB in the Bowery District used to be a regular venue for all these impassioned youth to let out their frustrations.

A community grew around this shared love for a particular genre of music and the DIY ethos, which launched the career of many a punk stars, who were friends with each other and influenced each others music and lifestyle in myriad ways. Eventually all these bands moved away from punk rock, developing their own unique style and sound.

While the scene in New York was branching off from its core punk sound and ethos around the late 70s, a new punk scene was being born across the pond in London.

Iggy Pop, frontman for The Stooges and executive producer for Punk (Source: Hopper Stone/Epix)
Iggy Pop, frontman for The Stooges and executive producer for Punk (Source: Hopper Stone/Epix)

 

The punk rock movement in England had political and economic roots. The UK at that time was suffering economically, with unemployment rates at the time being the highest it ever was. The youth in the country, just like those in the US, were furious, rebellious, and jobless.

This meant that they had powerful opinions of the bourgeoisie and tons of free time to make it clear to the rich that they were not happy.

When it comes to punk, it's more than just the music. Fashion plays an integral role in shaping the identity of punks, whether they are performers or fans. The emergence of punk fashion, at least in England, can be traced to a small shop provocatively called SEX.

The store was owned by British impresario Malcolm McLaren and his then-girlfriend, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, who would soon go on to become the first to bring punk fashion into the mainstream.

Notorious British punk rock band The Sex Pistols at the EMI studios, 2nd December 1976. From left to right, manager Malcolm McLaren, Steve Jones, Johnny Rotten (John Lydon), Glen Matlock and Paul Cook. (Source: R. Jones/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Notorious British punk rock band The Sex Pistols at the EMI studios, 2nd December 1976. From left to right, manager Malcolm McLaren, Steve Jones, Johnny Rotten (John Lydon), Glen Matlock and Paul Cook. (Source: R. Jones/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

 

McLaren had recently returned to London after being in the US for some time, and where he had tried to reinvent the New York Dolls in order to sell his clothing but it didn't work out.

He was, however, anything but the kind of person who gave up easily, so he returned home and looked to the youth at the time who worked at his store. This pet project soon blossomed into the notorious punk rock band, the Sex Pistols.

Watching the Sex Pistols perform was a large group of outrageous young punks called the Bromley Contingent. It was named after their neighborhood and after going to the first few gigs of the band, they decided to form their own punk bands.

In just one year, the youths from Bromley formed the majority of the London Punk scene which included The Clash, The Slits, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Generation X (fronted by a young Billy Idol) and X-Ray Spex.

John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten arrives at the premiere of Epix's 'Punk' at SIR on March 04, 2019, in Los Angeles, California. (Source: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)
John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten arrives at the premiere of Epix's 'Punk' at SIR on March 04, 2019, in Los Angeles, California. (Source: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

 

By the time the late 70s arrived on either side of the Atlantic, punk had gone through its infancy and was a solid musically charged adolescent. The popularity of the culture and the genre, in particular, gave rise to multiple sub-genres.

Many new musicians who entered the arena started a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) movement of playing in venues and creating specific sounds that helped them find their individual place in the larger movement. Members of the hardcore punk rock band of LA, Black Flag, were the ones behind this culture.

The four-part docu-series by Epix takes an overarching view of the genre -- from its roots in Motor City to New York to reaching its epitome across the ocean in the UK.

With original interviews of many visionaries of punk from the US and UK, along with rare and unseen images, archival footage, and the old sound of punk playing from turntables, the series takes a deep dive into the music, fashion, art, and the DIY culture of the self-proclaimed misfits and outcasts of the punk world.



 

The show is executive produced by Iggy Pop and John Varvatos and premieres on March 11 at 10 pm ET/PT on Epix.