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Punk had a variety of antecedents wherever rock seemed rough-edged, amateurish, and energetic to the point of mania. Sixties garage rock. Sam the Sham. ? and the Mysterians. Probably one could even throw in the early Rolling Stones here.
The Ramones and other early punk regarded urgency, simplicity, and lack of polish as essential to the idea of rock. Punk was a neo-classical movement. In order to understand why it emerged at the moment it did, you've got to understand that pop music at the time was dominated by the impossible pseudo-sophistication of "art rock" (Yes, ELP), "arena rock" (including former classicists like Led Zepplin, with stirrings from Journey or REO Speedwagon), and disco (Chic, Donna Summer).
All of this music, while some of it had something to recommend it, was overly processed: it was formulaic and gutless, even if well-made.
Then again, it was a good time to be a nihilist. There was no inspirational youth movement a la 1968: just sex, drugs, and the ever-present allure of immigration to NYC and personal degradation. The reasons for the nihilism of the seventies were the very same reasons that the dominant pop styles sounded like they did.
The Ramones or Dead Boys captured all these anti-impulses simultaneously and channeled them into really good, really basic rock 'n roll. After the Ramones toured England, the Sex Pistols and Clash and many others followed. The Clash is of particular note, because they added two smart elements; leftist politics (the New Yorkers had no interest whatsoever) and the influence of Jamaican music.
The transition to hardcore was in a way a steady progression toward the absolute essence of punk: furious noise. But it did appear to spring full-blown in 1979 and 80
simultaneously in LA (Germs, Fear, Black Flag) and DC (Minor Threat, Bad Brains). It was immediately obvious that the Ramones were
actually tuneful, gentle rock archivists after you heard the total screaming tuneless fury.
The first wave of punk had invented the pogo, which often involved physical contact. Hardcore invented the mosh pit, stage-diving, and the 1-minute song as an athletic event and a potentially life-threatening situation.
The Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain book below is a pretty definitive history of NYC scene, and a kind of clasic of rock journalism that has set the style for many books.