Women In Punk Music

Early Punk band members were predominantly male. The garage bands of the 1960's led to the emergence of early punk bands such as MC5 and The Velvet Underground in the United States, and Malcolm McClaren's Sex Pistols in the UK. Glam Rock bands Queen, the New York Dolls, and Van Halen, with their outrageous dress, influenced the movement, as well. It wasn't long before women joined in.

Patti Smith, whose free-form-poetry lyrics were foundational in the underground music movement of the 1970's, is known as the god-mother of punk. She performed at New York City's famous alternative music club CBGB in the early 1970's and influenced the trend of blunt lyrics depicting real-life topics.

One of the most well-known women in punk emerged in 1974. Deborah Harry, with guitarist Chris Stein, formed Blondie and toured the New York clubs CBGB, Max's Kansas City and Mother's, gathering a large following before recording their first album in 1976.

On June 8, 1975, the Talking Heads opened for the famous punk band the Ramones at CBGB. Tina Weymouth, girlfriend of founder Chris Frantz, became the bass guitarist shortly after the bands formation. She is quoted as saying, "I play bass. I don't have to go out there and screech," referring to the fact that, in punk music, the lyrics are more often screamed than sung.

British-born Siouxsie Sioux (Susan Janet Ballion) formed Siouxsie and the Banshees with bass guitarist Steven Severin in 1976. Their first single, Hong Kong Garden, hit the UK top-10 almost instantly. Speaking about her music, Siouxsie stated "It was trying to break down the stereotypes and it was the kind of thing where, for the first time, women were on a par and not seen as just objects. Though girls were objectified still."

Legend has it that, in 1976, a young man named Erick Purkhiser picked up a hitchhiker named Kristy Wallace somewhere in Ohio. They discovered their mutual love of rock music and sci-fi movies and created the band The Cramps, taking the names Lux Interior and Poison Ivy. They are widely known as the innovators of psychobilly, the blending of punk rock and rockabilly.

Rod Swenson, a Yale graduate, believed the true measure of art lay in how confrontational it was. As he experimented with counter-culture art projects, he met Wendy O. Williams, who became known as the Queen of Punk. They formed the Plasmatics in 1977 and quickly began performing at sold-out shows in New York several nights a week. Williams near-nudity and controversial behavior was legendary.

The music:

Blondie: Listen to songs free, including the well-known Heart of Glass and One Way or Another.

Siouxsie and the Banshees: Hear songs free, including their first single Hong Kong Garden.

Talking Heads: Listen to top tracks, including Psycho Killer and Burning Down the House.

The Cramps: Hear the psychobilly sounds, including I Was a Teenage Werewolf and Sunglasses After Dark.

Besides the controversial lyrics that reflected disillusionment, anti-government sentiments, and rebellion, one of the things that set punk music apart was its fashion.

Ripped clothing, safety-pins, studs and chains, bondage-style dress, body piercing, tattoos, and brightly-dyed hair became the uniform of punk. Partially shaved heads and Mohawks were worn by men and women alike. Dark eyeliner and other dramatic makeup were favored.

Complete Discographies:

Blondie: Rolling Stones' complete list of Blondie albums, reviews, and biography.

Siouxsie Sioux: Comprehensive track listings, descriptions, biographical information and links.

Talking Heads: Dated track release data with additional recording information.

The Cramps: Chronological album release information with extensive background on each album.

Plasmatics: Listings with photos of all known North American and European releases.

From the heyday of punk music in the 1970's and '80's, pop-punk bands emerged that continue to have a large following today. Green Day founders Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dint were ten-year-olds in 1982 and released their debut album in 1990. Blink-182 formed in 1992, and their first album, Buddha, was released in 1993.