New York Punk’s Bubblegum Roots

New York Punk’s Bubblegum Roots

Punk’s bad boy image was codified by corporate and indie media outlets soon after the rise of the Sex Pistols. The loud-hard-fast music of the Ramones, for example, further solidified the perception of punk as music made by and for angry young men who rejected “girly” prefab pop. The punk explosion supposedly reset the cultural clock to Year Zero, but far from rejecting the musical past, many early New York punks who hung out at CBGB embraced the guilty pleasures of their youth during the Brill Building era. “Our number one main influence was the sixties,” Paul Zone said. “The Ramones, you listen to their songs and they’re complete bubblegum pop, without a doubt.” Lead singer Joey Ramone readily admitted, “We really liked bubblegum music, and we really liked the Bay City Rollers. Their song ‘Saturday Night’ had a great chant in it, so we wanted a song with a chant in it: ‘Hey! Ho! Let’s go!’ on ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ was our ‘Saturday Night.’ ” The Ramones wore leather biker jackets and ripped jeans and had tough scowls on their faces, but that pose was also underpinned by a Warholian irony and poppy fizz. Craig Leon noted that they embraced bubblegum and 1960s pop as “a return to the rock ’n’ roll roots. Even the manufactured stuff like the Shangri-Las was young people speaking to other young people.”

From Chapter 33 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


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