Editor’s Note: this originally appeared in the Summer 2016 print edition issue of Hexagon. -Matt
The exact date of birth for the punk movement can be debated, but amongst those in the know, there is no doubt about the year punk was officially unleashed on the planet: it was 1977.
There is also no doubt about the location of punk’s birthplace: New York City.
New York City in 1977.
The collective psyche of the United States of America was in tatters at the time in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.
The United States – and much of the world – was left reeling after two decades of mass graves, napalmed children, and American flag-draped serviceman caskets floating in nightmare images across their television screens.
The war waged by the United States against the Vietnamese officially ended in 1975 after two full decades of warfare. Somewhere between 800,000 and three million Vietnamese had been slaughtered, along with hundreds of thousands of Cambodians and Laotians and more than 58,000 U.S. soldiers.
The average age of a U.S. soldier killed in Vietnam was 23 years old.
By 1977, the peace-and-love hippie movement had reached a peak and was dissipating.
The anti-war activists and counter-culturalists were exhausted, strung out.
Disco was on the airwaves, attempting to block disturbing reality with catchy beats, funky dance moves, and shiny costumes.
The time was ripe for a big social reaction.
And we got that big social reaction with the giant middle finger that was raised to the whole kit and caboodle by the burgeoning New York punk scene.
The first major punk band to hit (or create) the scene was the New York Dolls. Other early mainstays were the Velvet Underground and lead singer Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Richard Hell, the MC5, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the Ramones, and the Sex Pistols, among others. These bands shaped the scene, influencing later punk bands like the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Bad Religion, Green Day, and the Offspring.
In 1977, transiting Saturn (establishment, structure, rules) was in Leo (art, music, celebrity), rubbing up against a square to Uranus (radical, rebellious, revolutionary) in Scorpio (death, destruction, power).
Saturn square Uranus is a frictional aspect indicating clashes between the establishment (Saturn) and the change agents (Uranus). Under a square of this sort, the way things are being done (Saturn) is coming into contact with the overwhelming need to make a break from the standard ways (Uranus).
With the punk movement, we saw a group of people that held no respect or reverence for the establishment whatsoever. In fact, it wanted to tear the establishment apart at the seams. It wanted to scream in the face of the state, which justified mass murder, torture, injury, poisonings, and any number of deadly and inhumane acts against the people, animals, and plants of this planet.
The punks knew that the mainstream way of doing things and the placid acceptance by the general public were very, very messed up. They just couldn’t hide that fact, the way most did.
Punk music was certainly not your father’s (Saturn) music (Leo). It was Uranian, unlike anything that had come before. It was a Scorpionic catharsis, bringing forth a sound, an ethic, and a style that expressed the suppressed emotion and rage of the lied to, manipulated, and traumatized collective.
The punk scene began with a group of about 100 people playing and seeing shows in New York City in the late 1970s. Punk showed us that the counter-culture does not need to be big in numbers in order to be blazingly powerful and influential for decades to come.
One of the primary characteristics of the punk movement, born under the Saturn in Leo-Uranus in Scorpio square, was the radical break it took from establishment ways, including the music establishment.
Punk channeled the radical independence and self-sovereignty associated with Uranus, and, in Scorpio, it took those things to extremes.
Punk made up its own rules after coming into contact with the failings and creatively-stultifying nature of the rules as they were.
Do-it-yourself (DIY) is a foundation stone of the punk ethic. You didn’t need years of expensive music lessons or university training to play punk music. You didn’t need the most expensive instruments or equipment.
You just needed the rage. You needed the “eff you” attitude. You needed to see beneath the glossy portrayed images of mainstream life, choosing to express suppressed emotion, rage, and disgust as a reaction to the whole thing.
To be a punk rocker, you just needed the drive to get up there and do it, to get up there and say it, to get up there and snarl it into a microphone.
True punk ethic broke down the elitism of the music industry (Saturn in Leo square Uranus in Scorpio). It hit the fast-forward button, propelling singers and musicians onto the stage often before they even really knew how to play their instruments.
Punk music was raw. It was fast. It was socio-political, angry, rough around the edges. It was aggressive and in-your-face, spitting in the face of a hypocritical establishment.
Punk was a Uranus in Scorpio “fuck you” to a music establishment (Saturn in Leo) that churned out socially-acceptable hits and industry-molded artists, never getting too close to reality for the music-consuming public that just wanted things to be happy and “back to normal.”
The punks knew there was no “back to normal.” There was never a normal to begin with. Normal was a government that napalmed babies and sacrificed its own teenage boys, calling its actions righteous and for the greater good.
In 1977, as the punk movement was firing on all cylinders, the North Node of the Moon was in justice-seeking Libra. As the North Node formed a conjunction to Pluto in Libra (October 31, 1977), the limitations and failings of the 1960s peace movement became evident.
Peace and love were not all that were necessary to battle the establishment’s deadly and violent stranglehold on power.
Righteous rage and hate – toward the state’s actions, deceit, and hypocrisy – were also needed in that mix.
And punk was a vehicle for those balancing, battling elements to come more fully into play.
As stated, transformational Pluto was in style and beauty-related Libra at the time that punk was born.
Pluto transited Libra, in part, to transform beauty standards and standards of style.
The punks did that by completely annihilating (Pluto) the usual standards for style and beauty (Libra).
Punk wasn’t about being pretty or cute or freshly scrubbed.
It was about expressing the rebellion on one’s body and face. It was about declaring one’s disgust for hypocritical social mores and standards with a socially-shocking appearance, going very obviously against the grain. It was about declaring the radical break from the socially acceptable in a very visual way, in an immediate way, in a way that startled the senses.
The punk movement channeled the transiting Aries South Node, producing a very recognizable and immediately identifiable look.
The most visible element of the punk scene is the style. Almost anyone, whether able to name a punk band or not, can pick out punk style: the heavy black eyeliner (on males and females), the all-black clothing (often ripped), the colorful mohawk hairdos, the chains, the boots, the safety pin earrings, the piercings.
Just as punk rejected establishment values, rules, and social standards that it saw as dishonest, hypocritical, and stultifying, it rejected social mores around style and physical appearance, too.
The punk identity was aggressive and in-your-face (Aries), channeled through the artistic avenues of the Libra North Node, which softened everything a little by turning it into art.
The early New York City punk music scene was truly Uranian – it was quick and dirty, erratic, a blazing flash of brilliance that lit up the collective scene for a short time only. Its powerful and visceral reaction to a hypocritical establishment set the stage for a punk and anarchist movement that is sustained to this day. Its do-it-yourself, take-matters-into-your-own-hands ethic has inspired many to get out there and just do it, whether it’s making music, making waves with socio-political activism, or making a better world in whatever simple ways we can.
Reference material: Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
About the Author: Willow is a self-taught astrologer of the DIY, spiritual anarchist tradition and a strong critic of New Age. Her whole life is a protest; her whole life is a prayer. She can be reached via her blog.