Recently I made a compilation CD that I want to tell you about.
For this one, I gave myself the brief that I wanted to give the uninitiated (or a little bit less initiated) a musical history lesson. In this case, a potted history of punk music… from whence it came, to when it initially rose to prominence, to when it ended, and then to where it was headed.
Obviously, as punk rock had quite a complicated existence, with many influences and many points of crossover, I had to limit the ‘lesson’ with a certain bias. I chose to stick loosely to English punk, and to limit it to between the years 1969 to 1980, specifically to include the ‘first wave’ of Punk Rock. Of course, many important songs of this era have been omitted. My excuse for this being that, as it is my potted history lesson, I wanted to include songs that I wanted to listen to. Also, I wanted to have some unexpected and unusual songs from unusual and unexpected bands. All the time keeping to the brief that it would, all in it’s own way, draw the influences and connections that gave rise to the punk genre as clearly as possible.
This compilation has subsequently become one of our household’s high rotation favourites.
Here is the list of songs I have on the CD, with some explanations as to why they have been included.
1. Kick Out The Jams (1969) – MC5: Simply because it is commonly considered one of the first (proto)punk songs – at the end of the ’60s, no less! It ticked all the boxes, not the least of which was screaming out the word ‘motherfuckers’ at the opening.
2. 1969 (1969) – The Stooges: You couldn’t have a punk compilation without The Stooges. The grandaddys of punk. I chose ‘1969’ because it is a lesser known track, a bloody good song, and it dates the end of one era to the beginning of another. Here is the ’70s!!!
3. Thunderbuck Ram (1970) – Mott The Hoople: It felt right to follow ‘1969’ with this song. Like ushering in the 1970s, this is ‘garage rock’ (not very 60s) with a taste of Glam and Metal – a flag flying for what was to come over the next decade. This is the rumbling of punk to come.
4. Personality Crisis (1973) – New York Dolls: Whenever proto-punk is discussed, this band always rates a mention. Described alternatively as a poor man’s Rolling Stones (in dresses?), or the filthy end of Glam Rock. They were, and this song is, all that ‘punk attitude’.
5. Do The Strand (1973) – Roxy Music: In the early 70s, when Roxy Music still had cred (and Brian Eno) this band typified what was ‘art rock’ and what was Glam (along with Bowie and Bolan). This song typified Roxy Music circa 1973… and in the same year as ‘Aladdin Sane’ too!
6. Calling All Destroyers (1976) – T-Rex: I picked this because, apart from being a great song, it doesn’t sound like your usual T-Rex song. Not so poppy, with a harder edge. Bolan influenced, and was influenced by, punk music. In 1977 he even toured with The Damned.
7. See No Evil (1977) – Television: 1977 was ‘year zero’ for punk rock. A year in which a bucket load of seminal debut albums were released… not the least of which was Marquee Moon. Though not strictly ‘punk’, it was where punk met ‘New Wave’… and looked into the future.
8. Sheena Is A Punk Rocker (1977) – The Ramones: I was never a huge fan of The Ramones, though they were groundbreaking, and had a couple of brilliant songs. This is one of those songs… and, along with ‘Judy Is A Punk’, it had the name ‘Punk’ in the title.
9. Blank Generation (1977) – Richard Hell and the Voidoids: A founding member of ‘Television’, Richard Hell released one of the great punk anthems. Cited as a CBGB punk fashion icon (the first to use safety pins on torn clothes), he invented punk stage presence.
10. EMI (1977) – Sex Pistols: No matter what you think of them, Sex Pistols were punk rock. Definitive and hugely influential. I picked this because it’s my favourite album track, and a perfectly pissed off song. This is Johnny Rotten spitting on the hand that fed them.
11. White Riot (1977) – The Clash: The first single from arguably the greatest of the ‘first wave’ of punk bands. To my mind, one of the best punk tracks ever released. A perfect punk song, and particularly significant for it’s politcal stance, eschewing the usual punk nihilism.
12. Sat’day Nite In The City Of The Dead (1977) – Ultravox!: I love this song (brilliant bass line!) Many people don’t know that Ultravox was originally a punk band, and this is a great punk song. They became very influental on the ‘New Wave’ scene, right up until John Foxx left.
13. I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction) (1977) – Devo: Yes! Devo was a punk band… though their own distinctive style of punk. A brilliantly repetitive and mechanical version of a Rolling Stones classic. Punk and post-punk all at the same time, Devo paved the way for a ‘New Wave’.
14. Warsaw (1978) – Joy Division: I included this almost as a punk novelty. The title was the original name for the band. Early Joy Division showing them briefly dabbling with punk… before going on to be one of the definitive ‘New Wave’ bands of the late seventies.
15. No, Your Product (1978) – The Saints: One of the most significant punk bands of the ‘first wave’, this is an album track from their second release (Eternally Yours). The Saints at their punkiest. Driving and relentless, it proved that punks could also be fucking good musicians!
16. Non-Alignment Pact (1978) – Pere Ubu: Considered more an ‘art rock’ band, rather than punk. Not hugely popular, but the critics loved them, blah blah blah. They’re not really the easiest listen, but this song is a stand-out. And this song is as punk as it gets.
17. Ever Fallen In Love (1978) – Buzzcocks: The original Manchester punk band. This compilation just had to have a Buzzcocks song. With Pete Shelley helming after Howard Devoto’s departure, this is the song for which they are best known. A punk classic!
18. The Light Pours Out Of Me (1978) – Magazine: Not strickly a punk band, this is what Devoto did after he left the Buzzcocks. I included this song as a point of transition from what was punk, to what became ‘post-punk’. A perfect song from a perfect band… all I can say.
19. In A Rut (1979) – The Ruts: This is a flag bearer for the ‘second wave’ of punk bands to come out of England. Lacking the originality, but none of the ‘attitude’, of the first punk bands, this is a classic punk anthem. The lyrics even preclude what was to become ‘straight-edge’.
20. Holiday In Cambodia (1980) – Dead Kennedys: I finished this compilation on the sign of things to come. One of the greatest punk songs of all time, Dead Kennedys showed to the world that punk wasn’t dead… and that the 80s was the decade of American hard-core punk!