The essential gear for playing Punk

By Miguel Ángel Ariza

This time we’re not going to focus on the special style of a guitarist but instead try to shine a little light on the primitive sound of an entire movement; none other than punk music that sprung forth in the late70s.

We will centre our attention on what many call the holy trinity of the movement: the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Ramones; three incredibly different bands to be sure, but with one common denominator on their first records: they wanted to make a lot a noise.

To do this it’s funny to see how two of the first punk guitar heroes try their hand at what once was one of the guitars with the “fattest” sound on the market: the Gibson Les Paul Custom. Both Steve and Mick Jones had defined the emerging sound of punk in the British Isles with this guitar strapped on. In Steve’s case, especially his 1974 Gibson Les Paul Custom we see him playing in images alongside his mate Johnny Rotten at the start of the movement.  In Mick Jones's case, he wound up with that model after having started on a Gibson Les Paul Jr. with ‘P-90s’, a guitar he used because his idol Johnny Thunders was using it (which says a lot about the creation of Punk).

On the other hand, Joe Strummer, leader and guitarist for The Clash almost always opted for his Fender Telecaster from ‘66 , which, rather than modifying it, he added  decorative accessories to it such as the legendary sticker that read, “Ignore Alien Orders” and with this wild ‘relic’ in his mitts it ended up becoming one of the most recognised guitars in rock history.

To finish up with Punk guitarists we cannot forget the other side of the Atlantic and the salty sounds coming out of CBGB in  New York. Johnny Ramone has given us one of the most insistent guitar sounds of the genre which originated a genre in itself. His favourites were the Mosrites, guitars from the 60s, very popular with surfer and pop groups. Danelectro has recently made some reproductions of those guitars that are seen more and more due to aesthetics, 100% ‘vintage’ and ‘60s’ they managed to copy to perfection.   

And when it comes to making noise, there’s nothing else to do but plug into the most brutal amps of the time, almost exclusively property of the Marshall brand. You can hear all that sound on the Marshall 1959 Super Lead of the Ramones and Clash first sessions; although Punk did not just live off the Marshall alone, but the classic Twin Reverb by Fender can also be heard on the first takes by the Sex Pistols and The Clash. 

As you can see, Punk wasn’t exactly revolutionary in the gear they used in those first groups; the revolution came from their songs, lyrics, and the direct connection they had to all their generation. Funny that this slam on the table gets it done with the Fender, Gibson, and Marshall combination...

Find you own way to the punk sound