Proto-punk refers to a small group of groundbreaking, largely uncategorizable bands who began to emerge in the late '60s, up to the point when punk itself became a phenomenon (around 1975-76). Obviously, none of these artists could be classified as proto-punk until long after the fact; it was never a cohesive movement, nor was there a readily identifiable proto-punk sound that made its artists seem related at the time. What ties proto-punk together is a certain provocative sensibility that didn't fit the prevailing counterculture of the time. Proto-punk challenged not only mainstream rock conventions, but the utopianism and general positivity of the hippie movement. It was consciously subversive and fully aware of its outsider status -- sometimes because the bands had arty ambitions, sometimes for the thrill of thumbing their noses. In terms of its lasting influence, much proto-punk was primitive and stripped-down, even when it wasn't aggressive, and its production was usually just as unpolished. It also frequently dealt with taboo subject matter, depicting society's grimy underbelly in great detail, and venting alienation that was more intense and personal than ever before. The first proto-punk group was the Velvet Underground, for a variety of reasons: their boundary-shattering lyrical content, their use of feedback, distortion, and white noise, their unpredictable (yet song-centered) experimentalism, their amateurish technique. Emerging around 1969, the raucous, almost amelodic rock of the MC5 and the Stooges did more to set the sonic blueprint for punk than any other bands. In the early '70s, the New York Dolls kickstarted what would become the New York punk scene with their raw, Stonesy rock and glammed-up image; around the same time, there were also some small-scale recordings that featured soon-to-be-punk poets Patti Smith, Richard Hell, and Television's Tom Verlaine. Most of the British artists who could be considered proto-punk were also part of the glam rock scene, which inspired many future punks with its simple, crunchy guitar riffs, its outrageous sense of style, and its artists' willingness to sing with British accents (not to mention the idiosyncratic images of David Bowie and Roxy Music).