We were just watching a documentary on punk, which was disappointing because it interviewed bands like Sum 41 who just don’t count in my book. Punk was mostly about the DIY ethic. One of the cheery, polished kids in this doc said that he enjoys corporate sponsorship “so that we don’t have to do things ourselves” and that everybody uses brands anyway so we might as well exploit that. I don’t think you’d ever have seen the UK Subs in a Nike t-shirt, but I digress.
I love the idea of punk but never usually enjoyed the music – it’s one thing to tell people that anyone can do it, but most people can’t do it very well. There are still quite a few punk songs I do like, such as these. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of debate about what “counts”, and it’s difficult to define. Half of them straddled the line with new wave, and I wouldn’t classify Talking Heads as punk at all, so it’s hard to say. Regardless, these are some top tunes.
The Clash – Rock the Casbah
It’s accepted wisdom that The Clash weren’t really punk – those pop hooks, they could actually play and all that – but they’re usually the second punk band anyone can name after the Pistols, so they definitely belong here.
The Buzzcocks – Ever Fallen In Love
I wheel this one any time I’m thinking of the best of the late 70s. It’s pure pop – a decade earlier and the Dave Clark Five would have been singing it.
The Undertones – Jimmy Jimmy
Are The Undertones punk or new wave? I’m sure if we chose not to include it, Feargal Sharkey would understand, having a Good Heart and all that.
The Slits – Typical Girls
Everett True switched me onto this. It’s just absolutely fantastic, bounding off in all directions with more than just raw enthusiasm. It’s just a very interesting song.
Gog Magog – Disorder
This was the one and only single by the band (about whom I know nothing and I don’t think anyone else does either) released on Sean from Organ fanzine’s ORG Records in the mid 1990s.
The Sex Pistols – Pretty Vacant
I’ll give them this one. They might have been Malcolm McLaren’s pet boy band, but you can’t argue with this. This reminds me of the Manics, and for the same reason – behind all the anti-pop posturing, you’ve got radio-friendly hooks and accomplished musicianship – really, the only “punk” part is the vocals.
MC5 – Kick Out The Jams
I’m sorry, but that counts. Listen to it!
The Ramones – Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
I was reluctant to include The Ramones as I view punk as basically being a British thing, but there’d be anarchy (in the USA?) if I excluded them. I remember learning as a kid that punk was basically 50s rock ‘n’ roll speeded up and snarled, and this is a great example of how that works. It’s also very Beach Boys-y.
X-Ray Spex – Oh Bondage! Up Yours!
It’s rough but it’s catchy. You can imagine it as an old Motown hit with more polished production. And maybe different lyrics.
Dead Kennedys – Triumph of the Swill
When I was about 11, my sister had a cassette that was basically the voice-over bit from the beginning of this sampled, chopped up, looped and generally mucked about with. We’d tease each other by playing it to drive each other mad, slipping the headphones of our clunky walkmans over each other’s ears and other such mischief.