Hello again, Wizbang readers. I’ve returned for another Friday night post, complete with potty mouth and punk rawk.
This week at my site Faster Than The World, my co-writer/better-half (aka The Turtle) and myself had a blast letting our readers vote on the 100 Best Punk Songs. We had been compiling the list for weeks, with the help of our readers, and gave each of the 100 songs on the list a mini-review (as well as including an mp3 of each song).
Please remember this list is really arbitrary. Aside from the reader contributions, this list consists of our idea of the best punk songs. You can see where our tastes lie….early DC stuff, mid 80’s California stuff….it’s what we like. Someone’s always going to disagree, someone’s always gonna blow a gasket that [insert seminal, important, punk band here] didn’t make the list and someone’s always going to wonder how [insert band you never heard of] can make such a list.
These lists were made for arguing. It’s the best part of doing something like this. And I am fully prepared to take the continued beatings over the fact that we failed to put a single Meatmen song on the list, but take heart in the fact that next week we are doing Most Offensive Punk Songs and Meatmen fans will not be disappointed there.
Now I know the readership of this site and I know I’m gonna hear it from the “Early New York Punk Is The Only Punk That Matters” crowd (*cough*babyboomers*cough*). Here’s what I have to say about that:
The idea that punked peaked before 1983 is a misconception shared by a lot of people. Including one Dean Esmay. Mostly, those people define punk as being the early NY and UK scenes.
In reality, punk reached its pinnacle in the 80’s, with the best of the bands coming from California (Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Minutemen) and DC (Bad Brains, Minor Threat). Those who cut their teeth on the Ramones and The Clash tend to be insular about their ideas of punk; they have no idea that whole movements and sub genres of punk existed outside of the more well known bands.
Bands like GBH, Adolescents, Angry Samoans, TSOL, Descendents, Agent Orange, Fang, Youth Brigade (I could go on here, but I won’t) all contributed to keeping the punk scene alive and moving.
Yea, punk was about attitude as well as about the music; but there were as many different “attitudes” to go around as there were styles of punk. I just don’t think punk music can be clearly defined as “that music the Clash played.” Nor do I think (and yea, just my opinion) that the late 70’s were the heyday of punk.
Anyhow, here’s the Top 15 songs as voted on by our readers. Who may or may not have stuffed the ballot box. These are the reviews originally posted in the list. mp3 linked in song title, number of votes in parentheses, and reviewer listed at end. Again, thanks for making this a whole shitload of fun. – M/T
1. Minor Threat – Salad Days (93)
Almost everyone who has added to this list has a favorite Minor Threat song. So I’m gonna get mine up here first. Because I can. The slow start, the build up, the anticipation because you know the song is gonna kick any second and then MacKaye starts in half singing, half talking in that frenzied way – and that’s one of the things I aways dug most about Minor Threat, is the way his vocals make it seem like you’re sitting in a bar with him and he’s just going off about something (and this is also true of why I love Fugazi and, on a different but same tanget, 7 Seconds). And listening to Salad Days you know it’s the last thing they did, so you sing along with the lyrics in a wistful kind of way but you think, what a hell of a way to go out. -M
2. Misfits – Some Kind of Hate (88)
I’m trying to narrow my Misfits songs down and damn, it’s hard. But I think out of all of them, this one best exemplifies Danzig’s penchant for masturbating with his own voice. You won’t get this kind of “I’m a real singer, damn it, listen to me croooooooon” again until much later on (when he was solo) with “You and Me (Less Than Zero).” And I’m not saying that like it’s a bad thing. Danzig was at his best when he was making sweet love to himself. Plus, you gotta dig the whole Phil Spector type music, as if the Ronnettes were gonna suddenly bust out with maggots in the eye of love won’t copulate. -M
3. Social Distortion – Mommy’s Little Monster (56)
Ok. I know Social Distortion is on here a lot. It just was gonna happen. There are people who found them at the beginning and thought they were too punk, and people who found them in the end who thought they were too mellow and sold out. All I remember is seeing them at shows looking like they wanted this to end. This was way back. When you could feel this song. Feel the song and anger and frustration and futileness of being a punk rocker. We were built for this, but it didn’t mean we were gonna win. We were all just fucked up kids trying to get through another day while trying to get laid and get high. Hey, something fun to do in your spare time! If you really want to have fun…..try singing the lyrics! Mike Ness has a voice that you can’t get to. I just sounded lame singing this song on the phone yesterday to Michele. That’s his voice. Gutter and hard. Great song about being beat down before you grew up. -T
4. Bad Brains – House of suffering (47)
Man this band kicked everybody’s ass. When I heard this song eminating from a stereo i knew it was going to be a good party. I mean anyone can sit through the intro and “I Against I,” but when they let it play through to House of Suffering you pretty much knew they were going to play the whole album. – Kali
5. Dead Kennedys – Holiday in Cambodia (39)
One of the first punk songs I ever heard that proved to me that some punk guitarists actually knew how to play. Politics aside, DK has always had a powerful sound and Jello had a vicious wit to match. “Holiday in Cambodia” catures everything good about this band without getting terribly cheesy. – Cullen
6. Husker Du – New Day Rising (34)
This song is like fifty hits of speed shoved into your veins with a needle that’s been dipped in pure adrenaline. It’s fucking primal scream therapy. It’s stomping on the ground and shaking your head and kicking the wall and maybe taking a chunk of plaster out of the spot behind your bedroom door and you really don’t fucking care, you are just ripping shit off your walls and throwing books and empty beer cans around and screaming along with the song – and I mean throat tearing, from the bottom of your stomach sreaming – which you play 43 times in a row until a neighbor bangs on the window and asks if you are ok and you are like. Fuck yea, I’m ok. I’m better than ok. Cathartic. – M
7. Sleater Kinney – Dig Me Out(30)
Who are these guys? What the hell is this? Is this punk? Three ladies from Portland or Seattle or some rainy fucking state. I don’t know. But something was different with this song. Something that made us all look at the CD and wonder what was with it. Oh fuck. There’s only three of them. Well thats ok. What’s different. What’s going on? Fuck. Wait. That’s not a fucking bass. Is that a bass? No. That isn’t. That’s a toned down fucking guitar. That’s weird. But also. That’s really fucking cool. Really cool. This is a great song that opened this band to the entire world. Started an album that didn’t stop. A song about just being bothered by someone. Dig me out dig me in. Love and frustration. And getting ready for a show. I think. Fuck. Idunno. It could be about chili dogs for all I care. All I know is this song rocked. – T
8. Subhumans – Susan (22)
This might not be your favorite Subhumans song. You might not even call it punk rock. But to this day I still know the lyrics. This song always came up in my head when I saw someone who just wanted out. Trust me. A lot of people in my life wanted out and were just forced to keep going. But, they just wanted out. This tells you off a story of one girl who wanted out years before but couldn’t go. A weird, dark song about her just wanting to die but staying alive just for others to smile, but in the end giving up. A really sad song about a girl who was forgotten in the end. -T
9. Sex Pistols – God Save the Queen (21)
The Pistols created quite a stir when they performed this song on a cruise ship on the Thames during the Jubilee Celebration. While the British press was all wrapped up in the fanfare of the Queen’s Jubilee and celebration the nation’s glorious past, the punks, led by the Sex Pistols, were turning their backs to the pomp and declaring independence from the celebrated past. The Sex Pistols commentary was expressed in a phrase that became the rallying cry of punks in ’77: “no future.” –Andrew
10. The Stooges – Search and Destroy (20)
I don’t think there’s much debate that The Stooges are the first real punk band. The created the sound that launched the New York Dolls who in turn launched The Sex Pistols and inspired The Ramones. Search and Destroy shows us the angry, anti-hippy angst that was bleeding out of the Motor City. –Cullen
11.Suicidal Tendencies – Institutionalized (19)
The first time i heard the “what’re you tryin’ to say, i’m crazy?” speech, i knew i was punk rock. iI had found my voice through Mike Muir. And I rode the angst train all the way to the station. – Kali
12. Ramones – Beat on the Brat (18)
“Blitzkrieg Bop” kicked off the revolution with a “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!”, but this one is more typical of what appeals to me with the Ramones. It works on so many levels at once, and it’s the blueprint for most of their future songs. You can use it when you’re angry. You can laugh at it (they don’t really mean it…right?). You can take it as autobiographical (kinda like “sittin’ here in Queens, eatin’ refried beans, gulping down thorazines…”) Plus, it rocks the hell out. –Solonor
13. The Clash – London’s Burning (15)
As unfashionable as it seems to be (maybe it’s just me), the Clash are my second favorite punk band. The opening of this song is classic. Joe Strummer screams, the guitar and drums pound out a fanfare, and we’re off. The lyrics aren’t much for much, compared to other songs, but I just change “London’s burning with boredom now!” to “Bangor’s burning with boredom now!” and go on with my little teenage angsty life. –Solonor
14. MC5 – Kick Out the Jams ( 13)
So I’m in the car with my 13 year old son, listening to the punk rock station on XM radio and this song comes on. Kick out the jams, motherfucker! Kid says, hey this song sounds old. I said yea, 1969, dude. This is like the original punk rock song. The original punk rock band. He says “they said motherfucker in 1969??” That made me laugh. But hey, he rocked out to the song and immediately hit his Fender when we got home to try and work it out. Over 30 years later and some 13 year old kid is laying down your notes on his guitar and thinking it’s one of the coolest things he ever heard? Rock on. -M
15. Angry Samoans – Lights Out (12)
Hey dude. Theres not much to say on this song except to quote them. “We weren’t the best but we rocked the hardest.” Jesus, dude. What the fuck was with these guys? A band from LA in the LA scene who fucking didn’t care about anything but breaking things. While others were singing about love on a couch they were singing about poking your eyes out with a fork. I’m telling you, this song rocks. *Disclaimer* This site has no responsiblity if you poke your eyes out with a fork. -T
Other songs getting votes:
Clash – White Man in Hammersmith Palais (11); Richard Hell and the Voidoids – Blank Generation (10); The Clash – Complete Control (10); Black Flag – Depression (10); Social Distortion – “Ball and Chain” (10); Dead Milkmen – Bitchin’ Camaro (10); Operation Ivy – Sound System (10); The Damned – “New Rose” (10); Bad Brains – Banned in DC (10); Jonathan Richman – “Roadrunner” (8); The Jam – Down in the Tube Station at Midnight (6); Minutemen – Corona (6); Husker Du – Divide and Conquer (6); nomeansno – The River (6); Jim Carroll Band – People Who Died (5); D.I. – “Richard Hung Himself” (5); Germs – Lexicon Devil (5); Misfits – Bullet (5); Fugazi – Promises (4); GBH – Knife Edge (4); Circle Jerks – “Back Against the Wall” (4); SOD – March of the SOD (4); MDC – I Remember (4); Minor Threat – It Follows (4);’ Black Flag – Rats Eyes (3); Social Distortion – Reach for the Sky (3); Buzzcocks – Fast Cars (3); The Business – Harry May (3); Vandals – Change the World With My Hockey Stick (3); Circle Jerks – Live Fast, Die Young (3); The Damned – “Love Song” (3); Spermbirds – My god rides a skateboard (2); TSOL – Code Blue (2); Fear – Gimmie Some Action (2); Dicks – Dicks Hate the Police (2); SNFU – She’s Not On The Menu (1); Hellacopters – Fire Fire Fire (1); Exploited – Sex and Violence (1); Dr. Know -Watch it Burn (1); Radio Birdman – New Race (1); DI – Youth In Asia (1); 7 Seconds – Remains to Be Seen (1); Negative Approach – Evacuate (1); Fang – An Invitation [to a Suicide] (1); Flipper: Life (1); Butt Trumpett – I’m Ugly And I Don’t Know Why (1); Refused – New Noise (1); Rancid – Sidekick (1); Turbonegro – Don’t Say Motherfucker, Motherfucker (1); Steel Pole Bathtub – “Train to Miami” (1); Dwarves – “Let’s Fuck” (1); CIV – “Set Your Goals” (1); Fang – “Money Will Roll Right In” (1); Generation X – Your Generation (1); MDC – My Family’s A Little Weird (1)
Again, remember this is for fun. We kinda put a lot of work into this, so if you want to complain about anything, do so with the caveat that we’re probably not listening. This is about having fun. FUN, damn it! In the immortal words of Murphy’s Law: ’cause you gotta have fun. Fun! Christ, you gotta have fun. Fun! In the sun! Cause you gotta have fun.Fun!
Please feel free to head over to FTTW and check out the whole list of 100 (all of them are linked in the sidebar, as well as the tunes). Turtle and I put a lot of work into compiling those reviews and checking them out might give you some insight into why we think those songs deserved inclusion. Or, you might hate them. But that’s cool. Different strokes, etc.