Reviews & suggestions for punk rock fans.

Three 1960s Rock Bands You Should Know If You Call Yourself a Punk Rock Fan

The Innovative 1960s Rock Bands That Helped Start the Punk Rock Movement

Punk rock started with an exploration of individuality, creativity, and political expression. It was the 1960s, and the decade heard sounds of bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and more through the airwaves and on TV. Below them, in the underground, was a community of misfits exploring their lives and going against the cultural norms. It was the attitude of these various artists and the characters that surrounded them that laid the foundation for the punk rock renaissance that exploded in the 1970s. The three 1960s rock bands that led the charge would be the Velvet Underground, the MC5, and Iggy & the Stooges.

Before we talk about the bands, I did my best to create a synopsis of the bands and their influence on punk rock. This is by no means an in-depth look. I encourage anyone who enjoys this piece to look at the source materials at the bottom for a deeper dive.

The Velvet Underground

Hailing from New York City, the Velvet Underground was formed in 1964 and comprised of singer/guitarist Lou Reed, multi-instrumentalist John Cale, guitarist Sterling Morrison, and drummer Angus MacLise. At this time, the term punk (as far as a music genre) hasn’t been thought of, but their stage performance and general attitude would become influential in both punk rock and new wave music. By 1965, the band would be introduced by Paul Morrissey to Andy Warhol (yes, the Andy Warhol). To further point out what it is the band is doing at this time and Andy Warhol’s interest, check out this quote by Lou Reed: 

“Andy Warhol told me that what we were doing with the music was the same thing he was doing with painting and movies and writing – ie., not kidding around.”

Lou Reed from Please Kill Me: The Uncensored History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain

Warhol becomes the band’s manager in 1966. This becomes a defining moment for punk rock as the artist’s status helps push the band to new heights within the New York scene and beyond. Without this connection and the welcoming of new, creative music in the New York scene – one could argue the community formed at places like CBGB’s would never have happened.

Also hanging around the Andy Warhol crowd at this time, and said to love the Velvet Underground would be Danny Fields. In case you didn’t know, Fields was a music industry executive from the 1960s to the 1980s and is considered one of the most influential figures in the history of punk rock. He would one day manage the Ramones, but before that, he worked for Elektra Records, and is the reason the record company signed both the Stooges and MC5. All in one deal.

The MC5

The testimonial, hard-hitting MC5 is a band formed during the height of the counter-culture revolution in 1963. Made up of lead vocals Rob Tyner, guitarists Wayne Kramer and Fred “Sonic” Smith, bassist Michael Davis, and drummer Dennis Thompson and hailing from Lincoln Park, Michigan this band had passion, mission, and one hell of a sound. Not only could they “Kick Out the Jams,” but they also wore their political views on their sleeves. The Democratic Convention that resulted in many getting arrested including famous counter-culturist Abbie Hoffman, the MC5 were due to headline. When Danny Fields was sent to hear them out, he loved them. And had this to say during a phone call with Jac Holzman founder, chief executive officer and head of Elektra Records;

“I’m in Ann Arbor looking at that group the MC5 I told you about. Well, they’re really going to big. They sold out four thousand tickets on Saturday night; the crowd went wild, and there were crowds around the street.”

Danny Fields from Please Kill Me: The Uncensored History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain

Funny enough, during this same phone call Danny Fields dropped a line about the Stooges saying:

“And what’s more, they have a baby brother group called Iggy and the Stooges, which is the most incredibly advanced music I’ve ever heard. And the lead singer is a star – he’s really mesmerizing.”

Danny Fields from Please Kill Me: The Uncensored History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain

Jac Holzman’s responded with offering $20,000 for MC5, and $5,000 for the Stooges. They both signed.

Overall, the MC5 didn’t stay together long as they never really gained national recognition. That paired with law troubles and substance abuse caused them to break up. Read more about the end of the MC5.

While the MC5 eventually disbanded, their little brother band, Iggy & the Stooges, would become a staple name anytime the term punk is mentioned. Their fame today is a far cry from when they were first touring.

Before we move forward with Iggy & the Stooges – I can’t recommend The Hard Stuff by Wayne Kramer (guitarist for the MC5) enough. Battling with substance abuse and past struggles, his honest autobiography was relatable and a thrill ride. Check it out.

Iggy & the Stooges

And then there was Iggy. Considered the Godfather of punk, Iggy Pop is a pop-culture icon whose stage performance terrified and excited all types of misfits. In 1967, Iggy, guitarist Ron Asheton, drummer Scott Asheton, and bassist Dave Alexander created their band the Stooges in Ann Arbor, Michigan. What took their career to the next level was Iggy’s crazy, wild antics on stage. He would smear putter butter on himself, throw hamburger meat into the crowd, break glass and then roll in it, bleed, throw up, walk on people. Everything. And he was pretty much the first to ever do it. People didn’t know what to think, almost like a car crash – you couldn’t help but look. I’ll let this quote from Scott Kempner, guitarist with The Dictators sum it up:

“And every time I saw that band it was the same thing – there was never a yesterday, there was never a set they’d played before, there was never a set they were ever gonna play again. Iggy put life and limb into every show. I saw him bloody every single show. Every single show involved actual f**cking blood.”

Scott Kempner from Please Kill Me: The Uncensored History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain

Much like their reaction to his stage presence, people weren’t ready for Iggy & the Stooges’ music. Hands down, their albums Fun House and Raw Power are some of the best rock ‘n’ roll albums ever delivered. Influential to many artists who are famous today, the Stooges’ music didn’t register with people at the time. They didn’t sell records, and the band began to struggle with substance abuse (aka heroin) which would make it damn near impossible to find success in their early beginnings. 

Saying that, they did well in the long run as you can still catch Iggy performing today. The influence Iggy and the Stooges had on punk rock and music continues to grow as people seem to be recognizing their work more and more. Including Carnival Cruise who purchased the song “Lust for Life” for a commercial. Cause nothing says family fun like lust.

Find anything out of line or incorrect, I’ll be happy to make adjustments. Please email me at Rock on.

Related Posts: