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From: [personal profile] koganbot
Which doesn't mean it would've been wrong to call "96 Tears" punk in 1971, when Dave Marsh coined the phrase "punk rock" in a short piece in Creem mag about a ? And The Mysterians reunion gig. My intuitive take when I began reading the term wasn't to think of "punk" as a simple synonym for "bully." The usage was obviously more affectionate than that, and even regular usage not related to music wasn't strictly derogatory: young kids hanging out, looking to look tough and looking to look cool being part of it, and the weakness of being kids part of it — but w/out the compensating for the weakness being the main part, necessarily. Which doesn't mean that there wasn't the sense that, if you're a real tough guy, a genuine hoodlum, or a real strong man — a detective, a sheriff — you could take them.

And "Little Girl" and "Pushin' Too Hard" are not "just weak boys acting tough," not remotely, even if I just said they were. Not just. For one thing, I don't define music primarily by its lyrics. And calling, say, the Electric Prunes and the Outsiders and the Music Explosion and the Shadows Of Knight punks isn't primarily about whatever it is their lyrics were saying — but that they're kids reaching out for the coolest sounds around, which for suburban white boys in 1965 through 1967 meant the Stones and the Yardbirds, primarily, but also soul and r&b and early psychedelia (the Grateful Dead, for instance; hear the intro to "I See The Light," a Music Explosion B-side from 1967*), but all veering hard.

But also, even down to lyrics, a kid acting tough isn't just a kid acting tough, there's a whole life implied around it, wind gusts, the life of the world and the life of the kid.

So "Pushin' Too Hard" is punk not primarily because two of its three verses are a warning and a put-down of a girl (though that's part of it, for sure) but because of its sound and ethos, which is of pushing and pushing back even if it had had different lyrics and a different title.

Btw, the etymology of "punk" as a musical term: Dave Marsh used "punk rock" in Creem in the May 1971 issue, but Lester Bangs had already written of the Shadows Of Knight's "punk vocals" a couple of months earlier in Fusion, and the summer before that Nick Tosches had published "The Punk Muse" in Fusion. Of the three pieces, the Tosches is by far the most interesting, though more distant from "punk rock" in what became more standard usage,** or even how I used it in the post above. I think for Tosches the word "punk" is there not for any relation to bullying but because these are kids, reaching for something and crudely claiming something, but kids nonetheless, kids with something coiled within them. But also for Tosches I think the word "Muse" is way more crucial than the word "Punk." These are kids with visions and with a sense of potential mystery out there beyond vision, beyond everything, even if it's just a kid's wonder of what's in Betty's pants. Tosches' prototypical punks are the Heartbeats and Bob Dylan, which is a wingspan that's pretty damn interesting, more interesting than most people will give to punk.

*The A side is the hit "A Little Bit O' Soul," both A and B sides being early productions by Kasenetz & Katz; about a year or so later that duo starts to clean up as impresarios of bubblegum. —But note that "I See The Light" really is a dead-on version of punk circa 1967, the voice sounding both like complaint and cruelty, thin and wavering but with a razor blade in it. And the lyrics telling a girl off. Punks.

**Not that usage of that term wasn't and isn't always flying and flinging itself all over the place.
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