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American Punk

The Relations between Punk Rock, Hardcore, and American Culture

Gerfried Ambrosch


Pages 215 - 233



Punk culture has its roots on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite continuous cross-fertilization, the British and the American punk traditions exhibit distinct features. There are notable aesthetic and lyrical differences, for instance. The causes for these dissimilarities stem from the different cultural, social, and economic preconditions that gave rise to punk in these places in the mid-1970s. In the U. K., punk was mainly a movement of frustrated working-class youths who occupied London’s high-rise blocks and whose families’ livelihoods were threatened by a declining economy and rising unemployment. Conversely, in America, punk emerged as a middle-class phenomenon and a reaction to feelings of social and cultural alienation in the context of suburban life. Even city slickers such as the Ramones, New York’s counterpart to London’s Sex Pistols and the United States’ first ‘official’ well-known punk rock group, made reference to the mythology of suburbia (not just as a place but as a state of mind, and an ideal, as well), advancing a subversive critique of American culture as a whole. Engaging critically with mainstream U.S. culture, American punk’s constitutive other, punk developed an alternative sense of Americanness.

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