Tattoos in Rock History

Published on October 27, 2013 by admin

If you ask anyone where the phrase “sex, drugs, rock and roll” came from, the only people who will be able to answer are those who remember the punk revolution of the 1970's and were active die hard participants. Some will tell you it’s a modern variation of the phrase “wine, women and song” that came into use in the 1960s as part of more liberal morals. That may be, but it wasn’t until Ian Dury released a song titled “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” in 1977, a song that became a punk anthem, that the phrase became embedded into pop culture. Because of the rebellious attitude that the term “punk” has always embodied, people do not want to acknowledge the effects it has had on modern culture.

By definition punk was originally another word for prostitute and evolved to mean "a young ruffian; hoodlum" or “something or someone worthless or unimportant”. It has always had a negative connotation. If asked to describe what a punk looks like visions of leather jackets, ripped jeans and t-shirts come to mind. This early image of punk bands was a variation of the bad boy rebels of the 50’s and 60’s. Another symbol of rebellion that came from those early bad boys was the tattoo. Tattoos have always been seen as an outward symbol of rebellion, so it only seems fitting that they were embraced by punk musicians.

Music has always had a trickle down effect. People seek to emulate their musical icons. The Beatles gave us a definitive mod haircut, Elvis made leather jackets and pompadours fashionable, Janis Joplin made it okay for women to get tattoos, and the guitar work of Randy Rhodes magically possessed many teenage boys to pick up a guitar for the first time. Those wanting to emulate the punk rock band members they looked up to would dress like them and tattoo their bodies.

It just wasn’t the punk rockers. Another musical genre that came about in the late 60’s and early 70’s also adopted the rebellious devil may care attitude, only they did it in a somewhat different way. That musical genre was heavy metal and the one constant between the two was the iconoclastic imagery of body art. My case in point: Ozzy Osborne.

Somewhere along the way tattoos became part of music fashion and took on a life of its own. It’s not enough to just sport a band t-shirt these days. Fans now have band logos and icons tattooed on them. This can easily be seen on any fan of Avenged Sevenfold, Three Inches of Blood and Coheed and Cambria. Those at the forefront of indie music (often called hipsters) are getting tattoos everywhere. Many of them are getting classic old school tattoos to echo the rich history of ink, ironically or not! Music means something different to everyone and these permanent symbols of musical devotion are one of the most hardcore ways that people are choosing to express that. Not only that, they look really cool!