If you’re familiar with that sort of thing, this annotated list should ring a bell you won’t mind hearing again at all. If you don’t, discovery awaits. It’s a journey back in time to one of the most fertile – and some would proudly say foul – time of rock ‘n’ roll. And how not to disagree?
What is punk? A sound, a DIY attitude, a homecoming attack with a growl? A reaction to the stilted rock sounds of the mid-1970s? A political injection in the midst of a period of great discontent? An attempt to cover subjects hitherto untouched by rock’n’roll?
You may have heard one or two in cbgb, which closed its doors on October 15 and 16, 2006 following a set from Patti Smith.
20) “X Offender” by Blondie
Their label, Private Stock, rejected the original track (“Sex Offender”), which earned them The Rolling Stones / Ed Sullivan Show award “Let’s Spend Time Together”. But with its ringing melody and the deceptively soft voice of Deborah Harry, their first outing in 1976 laid the groundwork for a punk-pop group that then expanded their lineup and made deep inroads into mainstream audiences.
19) “On the Run” by Eddie and the Hot Rods
The last song from their debut LP, “On the Run”, is over six epic minutes long (for punk) and is a heartbreaking and heartbreaking story of being chased (paranoia or reality?), Of being young and misunderstood ( crazy? dangerous?) and finally locked up for it. Sing Barrie Masters: “I should have mercy / But they hired me” as echoes of “I’m not a number!” ricochet on. Note: a lot of people put Eddie and the Hot Rods in the pub rock genre (Dr. Feelgood, Ducks Deluxe) and there’s definitely a connection there, but to me they were part of the Pistols-Damned explosion. -Clash.
Related: The group’s Barrie Masters passed away in 2019
18) “Jocko Homo” by Devo
Sure, kids raised on ’80s MTV saw the yellow suits at the Devo nuclear waste site and thought that was the “new wave” – the madness – but the Devo from before “Whip It” was more punk rock than synth-pop or new wave. (Although “Jocko Homo” is a punk rock song that initially started out in an unorthodox time signature, 7/8.) With its screams and squalls, with the monkey noises and the meows of Mark Mothersbaugh on the de- evolution, it was frantic, twisted rock ‘n’ roll with a spirit that carried the very real message: this evolution is over and we are re-evolving now. In addition, there was the classic song: “Aren’t we men? / We are Devo!” We were all Devo for a while.
17) “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” by X-Ray Spex
One of the best opening lines in teenage punk Poly Styrene – “Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard, but I think… Oh bondage! Build yours! »An S&M fantasy? A feminist rant? The sexual implications of the first verse give way to anti-consumerism in the second; it’s both joyful and restless, a burst of uncontrollable noises, with the meows of Styrene matched to the howl of Lora Logic’s saxophone.
16) “Your generation” by generation X
We’re all fans of The Who, of course, and I took “My Generation” to heart when I first heard it. But frankly, I didn’t hear it when it was released. I was a generation younger than Pete Townshend and heard it after the fact. So when Gen X came along with that kiss to The Who and their brothers with “Your generation means nothing to me!” it (temporarily) made sense for the young punks to come back to life with this face-to-face confrontation. Staking of a claim. It was really good. “I could make some enemy friends / But I have to take this chance,” sang Billy Idol.
15) “Alternative Ulster” by Stiff Little Fingers
Some of the best rock’n’roll have strong local roots… and then that local concern, through the magic of music, becomes something universal. (We have known Liverpool through the Beatles and London through the Kinks.) This is the case with Stiff Little Fingers, often nicknamed “Northern Ireland’s Clash”. The most tonic kick-off of Henry Cluney’s guitar hits, then comes Jake Burn’s barking lead vocals, exposing the dark Belfast landscape and, at the end, hitting the eternal chord to rebel and s’ run away: “They say they have control over you / But it’s not true you know / They say they’re part of you / And it’s a lie you know / They say you’ll never be free… free… free! Of course, “The Troubles” was at the heart of the song; but wherever you are, it has become an anthem against repression and for living the only life you have.
14) “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones
No track better captured the joy of being young and alive during this era than this song by the truly teenage Irish band, the Undertones. I saw them at Paradise in Boston where it was a 21+ show so legally (if not in reality) the only teenagers in the house were on stage. “Teenage Kicks” is the flip side of punk anger or nihilism. There was a moderately fast tempo – pretty punk – but there was also the hope, the hope that a girlfriend would hold out “all night” firmly. And in a larger scheme, cling to adolescent idealism, to seize the moment… and prolong this moment. “I need excitement / Oh I need it / And this is the best I’ve ever had,” sang Feargal Sharkey. (It was one of famous British DJ John Peel’s favorite punk songs, the one he played at his memorial service and engraved on his gravestone.)
13) “So What” by Anti-Nowhere League
I’m bending my own rules here by including this obnoxious and crisp 1984 work by England’s Anti-Nowhere League, examples of a throwback attitude and style to mid-80s punk. This song, later taken over by Metallica (they started the Lollapalooza show that I saw with), is accusatory, vicious, and completely antisocial. Except… well, it’s also so over the top it’s also very funny. The Animal singer also runs the vitriol against the braggarts among us. Animal’s naughty punk yells, “I’ve been here and I’ve been there / And I’ve been everywhere, damn” and that is followed by Animal’s line: you boring little prick! We do not care? Who cares what you do? / And who cares? Who cares what you do? You! You! You! You!”
12) “Earth” by Patti Smith Group
The tour de force in three parts of nine and a half minutes which anchors the first album of the godmother of punk. Always breathtaking in its poetry, its rhythmic pulsation and its ardent desire – the opening of Smith’s composition, “Horses”, which turns into guitarist Lenny Kaye’s garage riff-rock, when they follow on with the hit from the 60s “Land of a Thousand Dances”. Patterns and voices floating in and out and ‘Land’ is a mixture of whispers and screams and uplifting screams. An example of a tense but expansive textbook of tension and release.
11) “New Rose” / “Neat Neat Neat” by The Damned
A punch from the resident punk band of Stiff Records, The Damned, produced by resident jack-of-all-trades Nick Lowe, and the very first punk single released in the UK, The Damned managed to be both fierce and comedic – the first album cover with them all splashing whipped cream on each other suggested they weren’t hairy-faced punks. These two feature lunar drum attacks from Rat Scabies (still punk’s best alias) with a dizzying melodic rise from soon-to-be ex-Damned guitarist-songwriter Brian James.
Related: Which songs are in our Top 10? Click to read part 2!