Punk rock (or “punk“) is a rock music genre that developed in the early to mid-1970s in the United States, United Kingdom. Rooted in 1960s garage rock and other forms of what is now known as “proto-punk” music, punk rock bands rejected perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. Punk bands typically produced short or fast-paced songs, with hard-edged melodies and singing styles, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics. Punk embraces a DIY ethic; many bands self-produce recordings and distribute them through informal channels. The term “punk” was first used in relation to rock music by some American critics in the early 1970s, to describe garage bands and their devotees. By late 1976, bands such as the New York Dolls, Television, and the Ramones in New York City, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Damned in London, and The Saints in Brisbane were recognized as the vanguard of a new musical movement. The following year saw punk rock spreading around the world, and it became a major cultural phenomenon in the United Kingdom. For the most part, punk took root in local scenes that tended to reject association with the mainstream. An associated punk subculture emerged, expressing youthful rebellion and characterized by distinctive styles of clothing and adornment (ranging from deliberately offensive T-shirts, leather jackets, spike bands and other studded or spiked jewelry to bondage and S&M clothes) and a variety of anti-authoritarian ideologies.
** This list is my personal one of albums bought at the time (Vinyl/Cassette & still owned) & I have seen ALL but one band on the below list play live during this period.. Some of it can be described as ‘Goth’ ‘Glam’ ‘Rock’ even ‘Electronic’ But these albums were at the forefront of a musical revolution that was just as important as the 1st two waves of the late 50’s & the swinging sixties.. ‘Punk’ is a feeling, like Rock ‘n’ Roll… Music is subjective!
25) Iggy and The Stooges: ‘Raw Power’ (1973)
A band that was playing on the same scene at the same time as the MC5, the Stooges were at first more well-known for their onstage energy and antics (specifically those of frontman Iggy Pop) than for their music. It wasn’t until their third and last (at the time) album, 1973’s Raw Power, that the band really solidified the raw garage sound that would become a foundation for punk rock, especially in the States. Produced by David Bowie, Raw Power (as well as the band’s prior two albums) met with little reaction when it came out, and the band broke up shortly after. It would be a few years before the album would really be discovered, when American punk bands would begin to emulate it.
24) Ultravox! (1977)
Taking the energy and aggression of punk and giving it an art school sensibility, Ultravox! put together one of the era’s greatest albums. Their self-titled debut still stands tall as a unique statement amongst the pure adrenaline rush of so many others. Singer John Foxx led the band through three groundbreaking albums that added elements of Roxy Music and David Bowie in with vibrant 1977 energy. Tracks like ‘Sat’day Nite In The City Of The Dead,’ ‘Wide Boys‘ and the epic, ‘The Wild, The Beautiful and the Damned,’ sounded like no one else on the scene. Foxx split from the group in 1980 and the band then became more keyboard-centric. Throughout time, though, they always maintained their unique vision, making this ’77 album an essential from the era.
23) Joy Division: ‘Unknown Pleasures’ (1979)
No punk band ever displayed its alienation as grippingly as Joy Division. Ian Curtis’ foghorn baritone and the music’s ice-floe torpor inspired a goth-punk nation. Yet there was beauty in his keening voice and the band’s silvery clang. Curtis hung himself less than a year after the LP’s release.
22) The Damned: ‘Damned Damned Damned’ (1977)
Often overshadowed by the Pistols and the Clash, the Damned (whose first performance saw them open for the Sex Pistols) were actually the first UK punk band to release an album. The band’s 1977 Damned Damned Damned is exemplary, not only for its place in history, but also for the way the music holds up today. Take a listen to “Neat Neat Neat” and you’ll not only hear an honest sonic portrait of punk’s earliest UK moments, but also a great tune that holds up today.
21) The Buzzcocks ‘Singles Going Steady’ (1979)
The Buzzcocks were one of the greatest singles bands of all time and this compilation proves why. With machine gun fire, the hits just keep coming. Definitely an example of all killer, no filler, ‘Singles Going Steady’ is not only the perfect introduction to the Buzzcocks, but one of the best introductions to what made the era so special. These guys wrote ultra catchy songs rooted in the spirit of ’60s pop a la the Who and the Kinks, but within that framework, they added other distinct elements, the main one being their own unique personality. Pete Shelly was certainly one of the best tune-smiths around and this LP shows that off in spades. If you’re looking into the U.K. punk era, ‘Singles Going Steady’ is no doubt an essential.
20) Eddie and the Hot Rods ‘Life On the Line’ (1977)
Eddie and the Hot Rods were born out of the pub rock scene as it slowly mutated into the punk era. Raised on classic mid ’60s rock and roll, the Hot Rods took that classic template and updated it for the new era. While their debut, ‘Teenage Depression,‘ showed signs of greatness, it was their sophomore effort, ‘Life On The Line,’ that sealed the deal. ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’ is one of the most glorious noises ever released. Triumphant, sparkling and melodic, it sets the stage for the album. More akin to power pop than punk, it rings loud and clear in ways that are confusing as to why it wasn’t a massive worldwide hit. ‘Quit This Town,’ ‘Life On the Line,’ ‘Ignore Them ‘... one after another, the songs were (and still are) classic rock and roll. The album closer, ‘Beginning of the End,’ is a monster and, perhaps, the closest the U.K. punks ever got to the spirit of the MC5.
19) X, ‘Los Angeles’ (1980)
While New York City was spitting out one kind of punk rock, the other side of the country was working with something different. The Los Angeles scene was, for the most part, bluesier and rootsier … at least until hardcore took over. X were the leading band of this early style, and their debut spins punk nihilism into a history lesson of desolation and waste.
18) Talking Heads: ‘Talking Heads: 77’ (1977)
Talking Heads were a whole bunch of things — New Wave, artsy, funky — but during their first few years they were definitely a punk band. They approached the music, and the lyrics, a different way than most of their peers, but they shared a fundamental aesthetic with most of the New York City bands they came of age with.
17) The Jam: ‘All Mod Cons’ (1978)
Dubbing himself “the Cappuccino kid,” the Jam’s Paul Weller channeled punk fervor into a Mod revival, inspired by the Kinks and the Who. Their third album is a snapshot of London life, from “‘A’ Bomb in Wardour Street” to “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight,” a salvo against rightwing punkers.
16) The Undertones: ‘The Undertones’ (1979)
These Irishmen made their name in 1978 with their excellent first single, “Teenage Kicks.” Their self-titled debut album from the following year is more of the same pop-splattered punk guided by Feargal Sharkey’s twitchy, distinct vocals.
15) Richard Hell & the Voidoids: ‘Blank Generation’ (1977)
Richard Hell was a member of Television and the Heartbreakers (Johnny Thunders’ band, not Tom Petty’s) before forming the Voidoids. They made only two albums; their first is the keeper, all punk indifference sung by one of the genre’s snottiest voices.
14) The Runaways (1976)
Chugga-chugga-paced hard rock sufficiently rudimentary to pass for punk, the debut by Kim Fowley’s teen-girl rock group is the missing link between the glitter-fetishism of Rodney’s English Disco and the day-glo punk of Los Angeles’ Masque club. Constructed around lingerie-clad singer Cherie Currie and moody guitarist Joan Jett, The Runaways cut up rough on “You Drive Me Wild”, with attitude aplenty on “Cherry Bomb”, but Jett felt there was revolutionary intent, too. “Girls playing rock’n’roll means that they’re being blatantly sexual,” she said. “And in America, girls and women aren’t allowed to be.”
13) The Dead Boys: ‘Young, Loud and Snotty’ (1977)
Formed from the remains of another legendary group, Rocket From The Tombs, Cleveland’s The Dead Boys, were influenced by Iggy Pop’s legendary live performances and sought to outdo them. A typical performance by the band included lewdness intended to provoke the audience and self-mutilation by band members (frontman Stiv Bators was known for slashing his stomach on the mic stand). As such, the band paved the way for performers that were more about violent shocking performances than about the music. Even so, a listen to 1977’s Young, Loud and Snotty quickly points out that they were musically talented and influential as well. Just one listen to the album’s opener, “Sonic Reducer,” justifies this album being on this list.
12) The Boomtown Rats: A Tonic for the Troops (1978),
Featured three hit singles, “Like Clockwork”, “She’s So Modern” and “Rat Trap”. The US version of the album (with a slightly different selection of tracks) came out the next year on Columbia Records. “Rat Trap”, which became the first rock song by an Irish band to reach No. 1 in the UK, and the first of any description by an Irish band to top the official chart used by the BBC. (The Bachelors had topped the Record Retailer chart in 1964 with “Diane”, but only reached No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart). In addition, “Rat Trap” was also the first new wave song to claim the number one spot.
11) The Skids: Scared to Dance (1979)
It was recorded at The Townhouse Studios in London, England with production and keyboards by David Batchelor. Guitarist (and future Big Country frontman) Stuart Adamson walked out towards the end of the sessions before all the guitar overdubs were completed. Session guitarist Chris Jenkins was chief maintenance engineer at Townhouse studios and completed the album using Adamson’s studio set up, adding additional guitar to four tracks – “Into the Valley”, “Integral Plot”, “Calling the Tune” and “Scared to Dance”. In the meantime, Adamson returned to Scotland when the recording was finished. He rejoined the band for the live concert tour promotion of the album. The record included “The Saints Are Coming”
10) Blondie: Parallel Lines (1978)
Ultra-slick and disco-literate, Blondie’s third album propelled US punk into another stratosphere. Regarded as lightweights by snarkier New York contemporaries, Blondie embraced their pop instincts by hiring Mike Chapman to oversee Parallel Lines, with the Sweet and Suzi Quatro producer corralling an odd ragbag of material – there are writing credits for five of the band’s six members, plus three cover versions – into a cogent whole. “Heart Of Glass” gave them a No 1 on both sides of the Atlantic, but the more nuanced “11:59” and “Fade Away And Radiate” hold their own amid a glut of hits.
9) Stiff Little Fingers: ‘Inflammable Material’ (1979)
Stiff Little Fingers don’t get as much attention as their early punk contemporaries, but their debut holds up with the best of them. Unlike many of their overseas contemporaries, Stiff Little Fingers were from Ireland, which gave their political (and personal) songs a somewhat different perspective. Plus, they sounded like they actually wanted to be played on the radio.
8) Suicide: ‘Suicide’ (1977)
Suicide were more than pioneering punks — they’re also instrumental in electronic, industrial and synth-rock (even Bruce Springsteen covered them). The duo paired minimalist electronic music (including early drum machines) to Alan Vega’s echo-heavy voice, which usually recited strung-together words that didn’t often fall together cohesively. Their recording career was scattered; their 1977 self-titled debut remains their most essential work.
7) Ian Dury: ‘New Boots and Panties!!’ (1977)
Like many artists from punk’s earliest days, Ian Dury wasn’t solely tied to the genre. His debut album also includes disco, New Wave and, most of all, pub rock. But Dury’s attitude was pure punk, and ‘New Boots and Panties!!’ was one of the first on the burgeoning scene.
6) Generation X: ‘Generation X’ (1978)
Though he made his biggest commercial mark in the Eighties, some of Billy Idol’s finest work can be found on the self-titled 1978 debut of London punks Generation X. Packed with zippy chord progressions, instantly catchy choruses and gobs of streetwise attitude – the patented Idol sneer was already in full effect – songs like “Ready Steady Go,” “Youth Youth Youth,” “One Hundred Punks” and the dramatic “Kiss Me Deadly” were generally considered too poppy and shallow to be taken seriously at the time, but they’ve aged remarkably well. “We were trying to communicate our experiences in a romantic but still realistic way, instead of just shouting grievances, as was the fashion at the time,” Idol wrote in his 2015 autobiography, Dancing With Myself. “This new direction pulled us away from the old punk, allowing us to maintain its aggression and attitude while advancing musically by exploring other, more complicated emotions and feelings.” The approach also left its mark on numerous pop-punk practitioners to come; as Billie Joe Armstrong put it back in 1994, when Rolling Stone asked him about being an icon for twentysomethings, “The only thing I know about Generation X is that I really liked their first record a lot.”
5) New York Dolls (1973)
Known more for being a glam outfit, the Dolls avoided the punk moniker simply because they were a few years too early. But they shared all of the same influences and in-your-face live aggression as the first punk bands. The band was even briefly one of Malcolm McLaren’s “projects.” Using the same sort of stunts he later used for the Sex Pistols, McLaren dressed the band in red leather and Communist imagery. It flopped. Their self-titled debut offers up a glimpse of what punk was about to be. With one foot in the past and one in the future, tunes like “Trash” and “Personality Crisis” are innovative for their time, making this an album that is historically important, as well as one one that warrants heavy rotation on your stereo now.
4) Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers: LAMF (1977)
It’s probably fitting that LAMF should be known for its murky mix. Featuring Dolls refugees (Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan) and compositions by Richard Hell and Dee Dee Ramone, a certain lack of clarity went with the territory. In love with extremity, but also nostalgic for the formulations of ’50s and ’60s pop, LAMF is junk rock in extremis, with a foot in more innocent times. The past had Chuck Berry and Keith Richards. In the future was Julian Casablancas. In the fleeting present, an all-too brief candle, were the Heartbreakers.
3) Ramones: ‘Ramones’ (1976)
You can argue that punk rock started in the late ’60s and early ’70s with bands like MC5 and the Stooges. You can even go back earlier to the Velvet Underground and the garage-rock scene of the mid-’60s. But punk rock as we know it today started right here with the Ramones’ first album, which set the basic template: two minutes, three chords and a sense that the future is bleak as hell.
2) Sex Pistols: ‘Never Mind the Bollocks – Here’s the Sex Pistols’ (1977)
The Ramones got there first, but if it wasn’t for the Sex Pistols’ debut (and only) album, punk may never have grown and thrived over the decades. ‘Never Mind the Bollocks … ‘ is angry, hateful and brimming with middle-finger-flashing spite. Everything that followed has been influenced by it one way or another. Decades after its debut, it still sounds relevant.
1) The Clash: ‘The Clash’ (1977)
The Clash made better albums (see 1979’s ‘London Calling’) and more ambitious ones (1980’s ‘Sandinista!’) but they never made a more pure punk record than their self-titled debut. The U.S. got a different version two years later. It’s great, but stick to the U.K. original.