What is proto-punk? A guide to the genre in five records

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What is proto-punk? A guide to the genre in five records

What is proto punk?

We count down the five most seminal proto-punk records of all time to explain exactly what the genre is.

The Sonics – Here Are the Sonics (1965)

Bridging the link between the early rock‘n’roll of Chuck Berry and Little Richard to the rapidly expanding garage rock sound at the time, The Sonics’ debut full-length exploded with an unstoppable fiery energy and chaotic rhythm. Overtly raw and stripped back to the primal aggression and energy of early rock‘n’roll, Here Are the Sonics eventually became critically lauded as a template for dirty garage punk.

MC5 – Kick Out the Jams (1969)

Recorded live in late 1968, this record made it clear that The Summer of Love would not be making an impression on the scene in Detroit. The raw and politically charged message of the band’s music was a world apart from the peace-loving hippy music of the time. The energetic raw sound was already there, but MC5 were one of the first to connect with a radical political message.

The Stooges – S/T (1969)

The perfect accompaniment to the MC5 debut, the influence that The Stooges continue to have on punk rock is immeasurable. Fronted by pioneering iconic vocalist Iggy Pop, the band was one of the most aggressive and unpredictable acts of the time. Their 1969 debut is a groundbreaking fuzzed-out punk record, a lifetime ahead of the prevailing everyday rock sound of the time.

The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground and Nico(1967)

Looking back on the evolution of alternative and underground music, almost all sounds and styles can be traced back to the early work of The Velvet Underground. Considered by many to be one of the first “underground” or “cult” bands, their creative freedom and attitude against conservative musical standards and lyrical content broke down countless barriers around what could be done on a rock record.

Death – Politicians in My Eyes/Keep on Knockin’(1976)

The debut single and only release during their short time as a band, Detroit’s Death received minimal response at the time and a total lack of record companies willing to release their music. Bridging a gap between earlier bands like The Stooges and MC5 with the more frenetic punk rock of bands to come like Bad Brains and Dead Kennedys, the band eventually broke up after releasing this lone single with little recognition. Eventually, the rest of the band’s recorded output was compiled on the excellent 2009 record For the Whole World to See.