I've been over-thinking this of course but, as Punk was such a singles-driven genre, I decided to include singles I actually own(ed) so couldn't include Anarchy In The UK ( 'cos I'm not rich ) or such classics as The Jam's In The City or The Ramones' Blizkrieg Bop as they were never in my collection on 45 rpm.
I do have about 100 Punk singles ( give or take a few, I mean do I count Adam & The Ants as Punk? ) so it's been a painful process, made doubly difficult by trying to remember what I actually liked as a teen as opposed to what I think I liked in hindsight. And to be fair, I did like some crap back then. A lot of the time I listened to the more Street Punk / Oi! / early '80s end of the Punk spectrum which sounded great when I was an angry teen but doesn't really stand up now. I don't really lounge around in my smoking-jacket and reminisce to the soothing sounds of The 4-Skins or The Cockney Rejects nowadays but, when I was about 15 and everybody else hated that stuff, I thought I was a proper rebel. ( Pause here for hysterical laughter. ) Anyway, I've chosen my Top 3 ( for the purposes of this blog anyway ) which comprise two all-time classics and one slightly more obscure offering. Hey ho, let's go...
Number 3: Religious Wars e.p. by The Subhumans
By 1982 Punk was Officially Dead, the movers and shakers and taste-makers had moved on to Joy Division gloom or New Romantic glitz, and teenage rebellion was old hat. Of course, nobody told the diehard Punks that and they kept angry and carried on as their increasingly-fractured "movement" went back underground where it had started. As well as the Punk / skinhead hybrid of Oi! and the proto-Goth which went by the counter-intuitive moniker of Positive Punk, there was a large Anarchist Punk sub-genre. Spearheaded by the Crass collective, a whole bunch of spiky-haired crusties were making very noisy music ( in the loosest sense of the word ) and shouting about violence, vivisection, vegetarianism and other subjects that didn't begin with "v". Bands like Conflict, Poison Girls, Omega Tribe, Dirt and The Subhumans. This last bunch were probably the nearest the sub-genre got to an actual rock band ( they could play their instruments and everything! ) and were pretty successful. I mean, they actually sold a few records: one such being my Number 3, Religious Wars. This kicks off with a mighty guitar riff ( they freely admitted to heretically liking Sabbath and Led Zep ) and then sets out to destroy organised religion from the comfort of their squat. They didn't actually succeed of course but it's a powerful, angry and bitter attack on the kind of indoctrination which leads to wars and genocide - "Religious wars, no reason why / What a glorious way to die" - with a scorchingly propulsive momentum which seemingly pushes you through the 2 1/2 minute song in about 2 1/2 seconds. If that makes any sense. It's an assault on the ears, a nagging question beaten into your brain by a breeze-block, it's not pretty but it's bloody immense.
Number 2: God Save The Queen by The Sex Pistols
I know, I know, this is the most boring, obvious choice BUT it still sounds absolutely fantastic 200 years after it was recorded ( I think that's right ) and has to win out over Anarchy because, well, see above. GTSQ, as we all know, was actually a Number One Hit Single in the Jubilee year of 1977 despite media censorship / chart-rigging ( Rod who? Rod Stewart? Never heard of 'im ) and was probably the high point for Punk in terms of mainstream success and attention. ( I was, of course, blissfully unaware of this at the time. My musical tastes at the age of 10 didn't stretch much further than the Abba and Boney M albums my Mum had or the Glenn Miller tapes my old man would play in the car. ) Although the furore over the anti-Monarchist lyrics seems ludicrous today ( Lydon never calls Her Maj a moron - he calls "you", her subject, a moron ) the song is still good, seething fun and the closing "No Future" refrain still grabs you by the throat and leerily belches in your face. Which is nice. The Pistols themselves may now be a cartoonish "heritage" act, more of a brand than a band, but this slab of paradoxically organised Anarchy stands tall on its own bug-eyed, vein-bursting merits.
Number 1: ( White Man ) In Hammersmith Palais by The Clash
Again, an apparently safe choice: the band who were famously accused of "selling out" because they dared to sign to a record label... or alternatively the "Only Band That Mattered" - the mighty Clash. I suppose I could have gone for The Varukers or GBH for a bit more street cred. But they were shit. The Clash, by the point of this single release, had gone through the "Gob on you!" days and had started to dismiss the received wisdom of the day by learning to play their instruments and write songs with actual tunes. It's not as if they'd turned into Steely Dan or anything ( at least, not yet ) but they were certainly becoming more sophisticated. ( White Man ) In Hammersmith Palais is testament to this: a fusion of Punk and Reggae, far more potent than their earlier efforts to combine the two genres. The song chronicles the time that Clash-man Joe Strummer accompanied the legendary Don Letts ( DJ and future member of BAD ) to a Reggae gig at the equally-legendary Hammersmith Palais. Strummer was expecting some heavy Roots Reggae, cultural tourist that he was, but was disappointed to hear the more pop-slanted sounds of Ken Boothe. The song then moves on to various gripes about the state of the nation, deciding at its climax that the UK was in such a state that "If Adolph Hitler flew in today / They'd send a limousine anyway." The more things change etc. It's all a bit incoherent but that's part of its charm and the supremely confident playing, coupled with Strummer's snarling vocals, make it a top-drawer Punk classic. Even if it doesn't have a chorus to speak of...
Alternative Ulster - Stiff Little Fingers / Ready Steady Go - Generation X / Safety In Numbers - The Adverts / Nazi Punks Fuck Off! - The Dead Kennedys / Warhead - UK Subs / No More Heroes - The Stranglers / California Uber Alles - The Dead Kennedys / The Cost Of Living e.p. - The Clash / Reality Asylum - Crass / Woman In Disguise - The Angelic Upstarts / No Room For You - Demob
And there's more...
And that's more than enough dodgy old Punk singles. Thanks to Tom for suggesting this synchronised blogging bonanza, can't wait to see his choices.
Punk Rock For Life!