Hiljaiset Levyt: 100 Best Punk singles / EP's

Written by fabulous Mr. Steve Gardner (mr. nice guy of NKVD Records). Thanks Steve!

It seems lately that there's been a growing trend among those who like independent rock and roll to consider the punk and new wave bands of 1976 to 1979 as unhip or irrelevant. At the same time, there's been a new acceptance of a lot of the bands of the early 70s that used to be classified as the corporate dinosaurs of rock and roll. All I can say is that the people who think this way must have not been paying any attention to music at the time to think this way. Those punk bands of the late 70s saved us from the total death of rock and roll, and without them there would be no independents at all today. There would be no choices except what the major labels chose to let you hear, and that's a pretty bleak picture when you consider that what they release now is even more useless than it was in 1976.

The only possible reason I can think of that people dismiss the value of those early punk bands is that they blame them for the fact that the promise of punk was never fulfilled and the anticipated revolution in rock and roll that punk was supposed to lead never materialized on a commercial scale. But at least the punks tried; nobody else even went that far. So if some of the anthemic lyrics sound a little silly now, that's only because of historical perspective. And that still leaves the average punk song with ten times as much to say as your early 70s sludge rock Zep imitators.

The basic unit of punk was the single. The best bands put out plenty of lps as well, but there were a whole lot more little bands that only released singles. A lot of the singles were on major labels, a surprising fact given today's climate where the majors hardly ever release singles by anybody. In the US, though, the best singles were generally on independents; the majors' approach was to release singles to hype lps, and they generally chose the safest, quietest song from a given lp to promote a band. In the UK, the single still held a fair amount of stock and lots of good stuff was out on majors. There were a hell of a lot more British singles than in the US, so a lot of great American bands aren't represented here and there are a lot mroe British bands. But the British bands probably were better at the time, too. They had more going for them; a more cohesive scene, better press, more venues, and more willing audiences. Wonder what happened?

Since a number of people have written me asking that I give some information on early punk bands, I thought it might be fun to list a sort of minimal singles collection or punk bands from 1976 to 1979. This isn't meant to be a "best of" list; otherwise there'd be piles more singles by the top flight bands like the Buzzcocks, Damned, Pistols or Jam. It's deliberately limited to no more than two singles by any one band. The attempt is to give a fairly broad overview of some of the best punk and new wave singles by a broad spectrum of bands. Most of these singles were pretty easy to get when they were released, but no they'd take a fair amount of time and money spent at swap meets to scarf up...I didn't have a lot of them myself and had to rely on friends collections and taped copies for a lot of it.

ADVERTS - Gary Gilmore's Eyes/Bored Teenagers (Anchor)

ADVERTS - No Time To Be 21/New Day Dawning (Bright)

The Adverts were sometimes called an MOR punk band, since they were a little slow and clumpy sounding, but TV Smith could sing a rivetting vocal, and their brand of dole-queue songs were especially compelling. "Gary Gilmore" is an especially cool song about a guy getting eye transplants from death row inmate Gary Gilmore, who was executed in the 70s.

ALLEYCATS - Nothing Means Nothing Anymore/Gimme A Little Pain (Dangerhouse)

These guys did a couple of lps and evolved into the Zarkons, but they never matched the white hot fury of these two tracks. "Nothing" got massively watered down for a subsequent lp take, but both these songs are pure rage on this single.

ANGELIC UPSTARTS - Teenage Warning/The Young Ones (EMI)

These guys were sort of a poor man's Sham 69; rather unoriginal, but these are both strong songs and are part of the beginnings of the splintering of punk into stuff like Oi, so they're worth giving notice to.

THE AVENGERS - We Are The One/I Believe In Me/Car Crash (Dangerhouse)

One of the greatest punk bands ever; this was the only record released by them when they were still playing. Penelope Houston was one of the best female singers of the 70s, and if the Avengers had been British they probably would've been up there with the Clash, Pistols, and the other first division bands. "We Are The One" is probably the best song they ever did.

BLONDIE - X Offender/In The Sun (Private Stock)

BLONDIE - I'm Always Touched By Your Presence Dear/Poets Problem/Detroit 442

(Chrysalis) Sure, Debby Harry is about 90 and Blondie got pretty lame, but those early Blondie records were classic power pop and I can still listen to them over and over. "X Offender" has classic lyrics and a great tune, while "Presence" is just sheer class.

THE BOYS - First Time/Watcha Gonna Do/Turning Grey (NEMS)

THE BOYS - Brickfield Nights/Teacher's Pet (NEMS)

Part of the second wave of punk bands that came on in the wake of the Pistols, Damned and Clash, the Boys never really got their due, although a friend of mine says he first heard them on the TV show "WKRP In Cincinatti" (the mind boggles). Anyway, "First Time" is great poppy punk with lyrics that would've been at home in a Buzzcocks song, while "Brickfield Nights" is a little more sophisticated with piano bits, but still great.

BUZZCOCKS - I Don't Mind/Autonomy (UA)

BUZZCOCKS - Harmony In My Head/Something's Gone Wrong Again (UA)

I give up; no matter what two I choose everybody will argue. Take the whole Singles Going Steady lp and bronze it. I chose both these because although they may not be the best songs, as a pairing of A and B sides, they might stand an argument as the best overall quality. But they're all brilliant.

CHELSEA - Look At The Outside/Don't Get Me Wrong (Step Forward)

Chelsea were far from the most talented or heralded, but their brand of dole-queue punk could at times rise to pretty good heights, especially on singles, where they had five or six good ones. This one has two really good sides with some snarling vocals from Gene October. It's interesting to note that the original Chelsea was October and all of Generation X except Billy Idol! Wierd.

THE CHORDS - Now It's Gone/Don't Go Back (Polydor)

These guys were one of the best neo-mod bands, coming along in 1979 just as punk was really splintering into a dozen different camps. This isn't their best record...that would either be "Maybe Tomorrow" or "Something's Missing", but they came out in the 80s. This one's damn good stuff...Jam fans would love it.

THE CLASH - Clash City Rockers/Jail Guitar Doors (CBS)

THE CLASH - Complete Control/The City Of The Dead (CBS)

There's a big Clash backlash now, since they've all gotten so stupid, but the Clash in their heyday could almost really claim the title of THE ONLY BAND THAT MATTERS. Singles weren't their big thing; their best song, "Safe European Home" isn't even on 7". People will pan me for not picking "White Riot", but I think that has more historical significance than musical quality, while these four tracks are all great tunes that show the best attribute of the Clash; the blend of Mick Jones and Joe Strummer.

ELVIS COSTELLO - Radio Radio/Tiny Steps (Radar)

Hard to believe now, but in the 70s one of the big issues was the way radio didn't play anything interesting. Nowadays nobody even expects them to...anybody who likes good music ignores radio altogether. This song shows Costello with the Attractions when they were fresh and angry...I'll never forget them cutting from "Watching The Detectives" to this song on Saturday Night Live because this one was so much more relevant to the US, and pissing off the SNL producers royally in the process.

THE DAMNED - New Rose/Help! (Stiff)

THE DAMNED - Love Song/Suicide/Noise Noise Noise (Chiswick)

I guess everybody knows about the Damned. "New Rose" was an easy choice; it's pretty close to the best punk song ever made as far as I'm concerned. The crazed version of the Beatles "Help!" doesn't hurt, either. The second single was tougher...could've opted for "Neat Neat Neat" or "Smash It Up", but "Love Song" marked the return of the Damned after a long hiatus with as much power as when they left, and although "Suicide" is a klunker, "Nosie Noise Noise" is a cool one.

DEAD BOYS - Sonic Reducer/Down In Flames (Sire)

These guys didn't have as many singles as they should've, but "Sonic Reducer" is a great piece of metallic punk. This group was America's answer to the Pistols while they lasted.

THE DEAD KENNEDYS - California Uber Alles/Man With The Dogs (Fast)

THE DEAD KENNEDYS - Holiday In Cambodia/Police Truck (Cherry Red)

When I first heard "California Uber Alles" I thought I'd finally found a band to match the fury of the Pistols, since they had already split. Alas, subsequent Kennedy's records leaned more towards the thrashy or experimental and lacked the power of these two. By the way, if you only have these on lp, you really haven't heard them, because both these singles have far superior versions.

THE DICKIES - Give It Back/You Drive Me Ape (A&M)

In my estimation, the Dickies were the first to play hardcore, although they made it more poppy with brighter tunes than most subsequent bands. But they certainly had the pace. These two songs are the Dickies at their best...the only better song they ever did was their cover of "Paranoid".

THE DIODES - Red Rubber Ball/We're Ripped (CBS)

The Diodes were a Canadian group that actually did about 4 lps. Their first one is the only good one, and it included both sides of this single. The A side is a great, hard edged power pop version of the sixties classic. The flip is their own and equally punchy.

THE DRONES - Temptations Of A White Collar Worker ep (OHMs)

The Drones records used to sit in the record shop bins all over and get marked down until they were sold for ridiculous prices like 49 cents. Everybody who even thought of them hated them in the 70s...but they played classic dole-queue punk and now their records are pretty highly sought after. This one has four of their best.

EDDIE AND THE HOT RODS - Do Anything You Wanna Do/Schoolgirl Love (Island)

EDDIE AND THE HOT RODS - Quit This Town/Distortion May Be Expected (Island)

This poor band went from penthouse to outhouse in about 9 months; when they first started pub-rock was the rage and they rocked harder than anybody, but when real punk came along they sounded a little slow. Still, they wrote some great tunes (like the whole Life On The Line lp). "Do Anything" is an all time classic in my book...an essential record.

THE FLESHTONES - American Beat/Critical List (Red Star)

The start of the garage band revolution was actually before 1980 with bands like DMZ, the Lyres, and the Fleshtones. This is the first Fleshtones single, and it's a great one, both sides.

GANG OF FOUR - Damaged Goods/Love Like Anthrax/Armalite Rifles (Fast)

These guys were press darlings for quite a while as the first real post-punk band. Their mix of funk with punk and politics was pretty intriguing for quite a while, and their first ep, along with the later "At Home He's A Tourist" probably contain the best examples of it all on 45.

GENERATION X - Your Generation/Day By Day (Chrysalis)

GENERATION X - Ready Steady Go/No No No (Chrysalis)

Billy Idol may be a laughable fool now, but when he started in Generation X as a teenager he fronted a band that played some of the most tuneful and exciting punk rock anywhere. The first five Generation X singles were all great, and one can only speculate as to what would make them lose it so totally later.

RICHARD HELL AND THE VOIDOIDS - Blank Generation/Love Comes In Spurts (Sire)

Part of the CBGB crowd, Richard Hell played in Television before striking out on his own. This stuff is definitely art-punk, and althoug a lot of Hell's stuff is a bunch of crap, "Blank Generation" was a great song about alienation. Hell often gets credit for being the first to wear ripped shirts with safety pins in them, by the way.

HOLLYWOOD BRATS - Then He Kissed Me/Sick On You (Cherry Red)

These songs were really recorded in 1974 or 75, but this single came out in 1979. It's great New York Dolls sounding guitar rock. The flip is really the ace cut; the Boys redid it on their first lp (Casino Steel was in both bands), but it sounds miles better here.

THE JAM - In The City/Takin' My Love (Polydor)

THE JAM - When You're Young/Smithers Jones (Polydor)

Probably my favorite band ever; the Jam went through about six different sounds in their career and put out a huge pile of great singles. "In The City" was their first...a great Who-like punk song with a killer guitar riff later stolen by the Pistols for "Holidays In The Sun". "When You're Young" is quite a lot later, and is a much more refined sound, still bristling with energy. The flip is different from the lp, too...no strings.

LA PESTE - Better Off Dead/Black (Black)

People who saw these guys in Boston in the 70s tell me that they were just fantastic. For the longest time, this great single of dark sounding punk was all there was to hear of them...now there's a cool lp of a radio show that you can find, too.

THE LAST - She Don't Know Why I'm Here/The Bombing Of London (Bomp)

One of the earliest LA power pop bands...they weren't as good as Paul Collin's Beat, but they did get out this great single...two cool sides.

LONDON - No Time/Siouxie Sue/Summer Of Love/Friday On My Mind (MCA)

London were definitely a minor league band on the UK punk scene, but they were MCAs try to enter the punk marketplace, so they got a good push for a while. "No Time" is really the only good song I've ever heard by them, but it's really good...hot melody, good singing and lots of energy.

THE LURKERS - Shadow/Love Story (Beggars Banquet)

THE LURKERS - Ain't Got A Clue/Ooh, Ooh I Love You (Beggars Banquet)

It took me a long time to get to like the Lurkers, but when they finally hit me, I loved them. Their records are very simple, basic, underproduced stuff that makes the Ramones sound like Queen. But they had a knack for really catchy, singalong choruses and they've got this amateurish charm that you just have to fall for eventually. I now rank these guys as among the greats.

MAGAZINE - Shot By Both Sides/My Mind Ain't So Open (Virgin)

MAGAZINE - Rhythm Of Cruelty/TV Baby (Virgin)

Magazine were Howard Devoto's band after he left the Buzzcocks. They were arty and pretentious as all hell, and there was never a Magazine lp that didn't have at least a few tracks that I hated passionately. But they also did some great ones; "Shot" is the same music as the Buzzcocks' "Lipstick", but played much more like a threat and with much darker lyrics. "Cruelty" is also mean sounding, but has a great guitar line.

MANIACS - Chelsea 77/Ain't No Legend (UA)

Another basic, stupid second tier punk band that never made it, but they did put out this smashingly catchy piece of aggro punk that should make any Sham lover smile.

MEKONS - Where Were You/I'll Have To Dance On My Own (Fast)

I don't understand how this band is still around; when they started they were best mates of Gang Of Four and played similar music, though not as consistently good. This is their second single, and it's probably the best thing they ever did.

THE MEMBERS - Solitary Confinement/Rat Up A Drainpipe (Stiff)

THE MEMBERS - Sound Of The Suburbs/Handling The Big Jets (Virgin)

I loved these guys; I still remember buying "Sound Of The Suburbs" at Tower because I thought the sleeve looked cool (it's a die cut thing shaped like a TV screen with a clear vinyl record to look through at the picture behind). I was especially happy to find that the song was so great...songs of yobbo working class suburban life with great tunes behind. "Solitary Confinement" was their first...it's even better.

THE MONOCHROME SET - Alphaville/He's Frank (Rough Trade)

The Monochrome Set were a wierd mix of arty new wave and comedy with lots of keyboards. It's the sort of thing I normally hate, except these guys wrote such cool tunes. This was one of them.

THE NEIGHBORHOODS - No Place Like Home/Prettiest Girl (Ace Of Hearts)

Another Boston band; these two tracks sound like power pop at first, but they're a little too awkward for that. But they grow steadily on you if you let them, and I still find this a fun one to go back too.

999 - Nasty Nasty/No Pity (UA)

These guys were really no better than punk bands like the Maniacs or UK Subs, but through perserverence they managed to occassionally do something pretty good. "Nasty Nasty" is the best with some fairly ripping guitar parts. Nick Cash's singing may annoy you or make you love 'em, depending on how you like strange voices.

THE ONLY ONES - Lovers Of Today/Peter And The Pets (Vengeance)

THE ONLY ONES - Another Girl Another Planet/Special View (CBS)

Were they really a punk band, or were they a confused early 70s band? They had members with a dinosaur band heritage, but they did some really cool songs. Peter Perrett sang through his nose better than anyone with these really down and out lyrics, and there's great guitar and tunes.

THE PAGANS - Not Now, No Way/I Juvenile (Drome)

If they had been in London instead of Cleveland, the Pagans would've reached much higher heights, because they could sure write an amazing punk tune, as you can see from any of their lp. "Not Now, No Way" is my favorite for its instantly memorable chorus.

PLASTIC BERTRAND - Ca Plane Pour Moi/Pogo Pogo (Sire)

Plastic Bertrand caused a minor sensation in 1978 when his first lp came out accompanied by this single. His nasally French singing over these catchy three chord buzz songs was a total revalation. People forgot him pretty fast, though, but I still love this song, which he later redid with new words as "Jet Boy Jet Girl" (later covered by millions) under the name Elton Motello. But the original is the best.

PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED - Public Image/The Cowboy Song (Virgin)

PIL suck. One of the things punk rock was supposed to be about was destroying this elitist pretentious attitude that so many musicians have. But the press went to Johnny Rotten's head, and PIL has been guilty of some of the worst excesses in music over the years. But "Public Image" as a song about the end of the Pistols is a great epitaph; the one PIL song I even have any desire to hear.

PURPLE HEARTS - Millions Like Us/Beat That (Polydor)

Like the Chords, the Purple Hearts were part of the neo-mod thing. Both these songs were great pieces of moddish power pop that Jam fans should swallow in large unchewed chunks.

RADIATORS FROM SPACE - Enemies/Psychotic Reaction (Chiswick)

First Irish punk band? Why, the Radiators From Space, of course! Way before SLF or the Undertones, these guys did one really great but ignored lp (TV Tube Heart), and then followed record company advice into oblivion trying to change over to power pop. Their best songs are on the lp, but "Enemies" is pretty good.

RADIO BIRDMAN - Burned My Eye/I-94/Snake/Smith And Wesson Blues (Trafalgar)

RADIO BIRDMAN - Aloha Steve And Danno/Anglo Girl Desire (Trafalgar)

Those serving for the Soviet Army in Siberia since 1980 will probably be surprised to find that the Birdmen are now considered one of the most important bands of the late 70s, since everyone ignored them then. But they are, and although they didn't have many singles, they made them count. Here's two great examples of their mesh of Detroit metal, jazz, surf music and punk.

RADIO STARS - Nervous Wreck/Horrible Breath (Chiswick)

More old timers that cashed in on punk by switching styles...but they still did it well and that's really the question, right? A lot of their stuff was kind of limp power pop, but "Nervous Wreck" is great stuff.

RAMONES - Rockaway Beach/Teenage Lobotomy/Beat On The Brat (Sire)

RAMONES - I'm Against It/Needles And Pins (Sire)

The Gods. The band that gave the tablets to Moses. You know 'em. You love 'em. I won't argue anyone's choices with them...just let me say that my fave Ramone's song is "I'm Against It" and I searched a long time before I found the French release with "Needles And Pins" on the flip. The other one is a cheat...it's a British single that combines three of their best tracks onto one record.

THE REAL KIDS - All Kindsa Girls/Taxi Boys (Red Star)

bad timing is all that seperated the Real Kids from greatness. Everybody else was cutting their hair short and they appeared on their lp jacket with hair down their backs. Nobody bought it. But in the grooves is some of the greatest garagey power pop ever made. "All Kindsa Girls" is the best of it all, an absolute classic.

THE RECORDS - Starry Eyes/Paint Her Face (Virgin)

The Records were a Trouser Press fave, but I never got to like them as much because they were wildly inconsistent. They made two fabulous power pop records; this one and "Teenarama", but their lps was pretty spotty. A classic example of why you need to buy singles.

THE REZILLOS - Flying Saucer Attack/Good Sculptures (Sire)

THE REZILLOS - Cold Wars/Flying Saucer Attack/Twist And Shout (Sire)

Best Scottish band ever bar none. The Rezillos brand of science fiction power pop/punk was the pinnacle of the form. The singing duo of Fay Fife and Eugene Reynolds was a pairing made in heaven, and the band behind them was guitar power to the max. These singles prove it.

RICH KIDS - Rich Kids/Empty Words (EMI)

RICH KIDS - Ghosts Of Princes In Towers/Only Arsenic (EMI)

The first punk rock supergroup formed with members of other name bands (Matlock from the Pistols, Midge Ure from Slik). Eventually they collapsed under the weight of unbearable expectations, leaving a spotty track record, but these two singles at least were great pieces of hard edged power pop with some hot guitar and cool songwriting.

TOM ROBINSON BAND - Rising Free ep: Don't Take No For An Answer/Glad To Be Gay/Martin/Right On Sister (EMI)

TOM ROBINSON BAND - Up Against The Wall/I'm Alright Jack (EMI)

Tom Robinson started out in the wimpy Cafe Society, and he's a wimp now, but in between he went through some sort of transitional phase that had him fronting this great political band. Fired by Danny Kustow's hot guitar playing and Tom's Cockney vocals, they were at their best on these two records...after the first lp it was just downhill.

RUDI - Big Time/Number One (Good Vibrations)

More Irish mod stuff. Rudi never got the chance to make an lp, but all their singles were really solid and stand up to lots and lots of playing. This single was a good theme song for them...it basically says the band wants no part of musical success.

RUTS - In A Rut/H-Eyes (People Unite)

RUTS - Babylon's Burning/Society (Virgin)

I still don't understand how the Ruts weren't more highly regarded...they made some of the most ferocious records ever. I wouldn't be without either of these singles, especially the first, which has two top drawer go for the throaters. "Society" isn't near their best stuff, but "Babylon" is absolutely their top track...fantastic.

SAINTS - I'm Stranded/No Time (Power Exchange)

SAINTS - Know Your Product/Run Down (Harvest)

It was hard to leave out "This Perfect Day", but "I'm Stranded" was a no-brainer choice and I decided I had to have "Know Your Product" because of the great shouted bits like "Where's the professor!". Nobody ever made the word "Alright" sound so important in a song as Chris Bailey, either. Massive three chord punk brilliance.

SCIENTISTS - Frantic Romantic/Shake Together

I really wanted the Scientists ep for this, but even though it was recorded at the same time, it didn't come out until 1980. But I'll take "Shake Together" any day, thank you...it's brilliantly poppy punk. "Frantic Romantic" is a little too cute for my tastes.

SEX PISTOLS - Anarchy In The UK/I Wanna Be Me (EMI)

SEX PISTOLS - God Save The Queen/Did You No Wrong (Virgin)

What can I say? The Ramones may have started it all, but the Sex Pistols rubber everybody's face in it. Coming out with "God Save The Queen" on the week of the celebration of the Queen's 25th anniversary on the throne was a masterpiece of timing. The A and B side of both these singles are all great, and the flips are not on Bollocks, although they probably are on any of half a dozen other reissues by now.

SHAM 69 - Angels With Dirty Faces/The Cockney Kids Are Innocent (Polydor)

SHAM 69 - There's Gonna Be A Borstal Breakout/Hey Little Rich Boy (Polydor)

Sham were a band that forged a strong bond with working class fans in their heyday; it gave 'em a lot of problems at gigs, which were likely to turn into full scale riots when fans of several different football teams would show up at the same gig. They had a great aggro style of playing, and Jimmy Pursey's hoarse, shouted vocals made their songs sound like soccer cheers. All four sides of these two singles are excellent stuff; they got lame later in their career, but there was a lot of good stuff for a few years.

SIOUXIE AND THE BANSHEES - Hong Kong Garden/Voices (Polydor)

Siouxie originally was one of the first Sex Pistols fans, but she grabbed onto the anyone-can- do-it ethic and started her own band. Even the early Banshees tended to be too arty for me, and for the past ten years they haven't done anything I'd want to hear, but there were some good singles (check out the Once Upon A Time singles lp). "Hong Kong Garden" is a great pop track and their first single.

SKIDS - Into The Valley/TV Stars (Virgin)

SKIDS - Working For The Yankee Dollar/Vanguard's Crusade (Virgin)

Skids frontman Richard Jobson was an odd sort with a disturbing tendency to talk in positive terms about concepts like master races and things like that. In their songs you could never understand the words through his thick Scotts accent, so it didn't matter so much, but the Skids martial, anthemic songs could be a real kick.

SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS - I'm The One/What's Wrong Boy/Hell In New York (This Record Co.)

These guys have nothing to do with the present day metal band Slaughter, but they did have a fairly glittery sounding approach to their brand of punk rock. They came from Manchester, England, home of the Buzzcocks, and they actually had quite a few good records besides this one. They never achieved much popularity, which is probably mainly because they didn't sing with pronounced English accents as was the hip style then. But this has tons of energy and three really great tunes.

THE SPECIAL AKA - Gangsters/THE SELECTER - The Selecter (Two Tone)

The Specials were, for a fleeting moment, a rare band that created a fairly original sound that worked. Most of the bands that were popular when ska was in weren't really very good, but the Specials really had it on their first lp. This was the single that kicked it off, and though I can't say much for the Selecter track, "Gangsters" was great.

STARJETS - War Stories/Do The Push (Epic)

The Starjets were at least as good a power pop band as the Records, yet they never had anybody champion them, so they were pretty much ignored. Their two singles "War Stories" and "Schooldays" are a match for the two best Records singles, though...soaring tunes that can grab you in one play.

STIFF LITTLE FINGERS - Alternative Ulster/78 Revolutions A Minute (Rough Trade)

STIFF LITTLE FINGERS - Gotta Gettaway/Bloody Sunday (Rough Trade)

It's really hard to leave "Suspect Device" off this list, and taking both sides into consideration it may be a better single than either of these, but these are SLF's two greatest A-sides for sure; great punk tracks with catchy singalong tunes and Jake's ripped up throat singing. The single version of "Gotta Gettaway" is different from the lp take, too. These guys are damn near the top of the stack in my book.

THE STRANGLERS - No More Heroes/In The Shadows (UA)

THE STRANGLERS - Something Better Change/Straighten Out/Grip/Hanging Around (A&M)

I hated the Stranglers when they first appeared because they sounded so much like the Doors, who I also loathed. But more listenings began to reveal the differences, and I came to like their first three lps quite a bit. The four song ep was a US release, and packs together four great tracks on one record, while "No More Heroes" is just their best ever. Vicious vocals and swirling keyboards with loud bass marked their sound.

SWELL MAPS - Read About Seymour/Ripped And Torn/Black Velvet (Rather)

SWELL MAPS - Let's Build A Car/Big Maz In The Country (Rough Trade)

All the rules were thrown out, and in walked Swell Maps as a result. They played windup toys, vacuum cleaners, alarm clocks, washboards and whatever other junk they could find to make a noise, and most of the time it didn't sound forced or pretentious. Some of their songs could turn into a mess of disjoint sound, but others had a brilliant naive charm to them. Nikki Sudden couldn't really sing...he just sort of chanted over the top of everything. Their high points are best documented in the Collision Time lp, which has both of these A sides.

TALKING HEADS - Pulled Up/Don't Worry About The Government (Sire)

Another CBGB band that probably needs no introduction; they were best on their first two lps where the music they played was their own, as opposed to later when they spent all their time searching for new forms and then copying them. This was their first UK single.

JOHNNY THUNDERS & THE HEARTBREAKERS - Chinese Rocks/Born To Lose (Track)

JOHNNY THUNDERS & THE HEARTBREAKERS - One Track Mind/Can't Keep My Eyes On You/Do You Love Me? (Track)

Punk rock's number one junkie managed to come up with a fabulous set list in 1977 and has spent the rest of his career issuing different live versions of the same stuff, it seems. Still, the originals of those songs were totally great with that trademark slashing and sloppy guitar and Johnny's nasal vocals. All five songs on these two records are great, and it's probably only his addiction that kept Thunders from getting to be one of the biggest names in the business. Of course, without dope, what would he sing about? The lyrics to "Chinese Rock" are the best tribute to the love-hate relationship of a heroin addict with himself that you'll ever hear.

TV21 - Playing With Fire/Shattered By It All (Powbeat)

Another fairly minor Scottish band with mod tendencies; these guys made some great songs, especially their first two singles on Powbeat. Both these tracks are emotionally charged with some excellent heartfelt vocals. TV21's strength was in writing songs that built from fairly quiet parts into full on anthemic crescendos, and here's some prime examples.

UK SUBS - Stranglehold/World War/Rockers (RCA)

Persistence is the main attribute of the UK Subs; they just played in San Diego the other night, as a matter of fact. But when punk was happening in the late 70s, there weren't many people who really paid attention to the Subs, and they were somewhat outside of things. Singer Charlie Harper has a good hoarse shout, but they only occassionally did a song that rose up much. "Stranglehold" was one such track.

ULTRAVOX - Young Savage/Slipaway (Island)

They really should have changed the name after Midge Ure replaced John Foxx, because there sure isn't much similarity between the raving "Young Savage" and later wimpy synth sounds that Ultravox became best known for. Early Ultravox records were pretty cool, and this one is the best.

THE UNDERTONES - You Got My Number/Let's Talk About Girls (Sire)

THE UNDERTONES - Jimmy Jimmy/Mars Bars (Sire)

A classic example of a young band with great power pop instincts of their own who listened to their press instead and didn't stick to what they did best. But for two lps they were pretty damn great. "You Got My Number" towers over all their other stuff...it's by far the hardest and nastiest production they ever got, and a killer song. "Jimmy Jimmy" is from their first lp, and though it probably isn't as good a song as "Teenage Kicks" or "Get Over You", the pairing with "Mars Bars" makes it their second best single.

THE VIBRATORS - London Girls/Stiff Little Fingers (Epic)

The Vibrators were one of my faves of all time, but since their label made a habit out of picking their softest stuff for singles, they don't have such a great 7" legacy. These two tracks are cool because they're live takes; I love the intro to the A side "This is a song about girls in London, and it's called...London Girls!" Both takes are rough and sloppy, but they've still got that great chugging drum sound.

THE VICE CREEMS - Won't You Be My Girl?/01-01-212 (Tiger)

Really minor league here...the Vice Creems were fronted by Kris Needs, the guy who single handedly dragged Zig Zag magazine kicking and screaming from progressive rock hype to a full on punk coverage. His band didn't get beyond a couple of singles, but I still love this one; two super pop/punk tracks with catchy singalong choruses.

THE WEIRDOS - We Got The Neutron Bomb/Solitary Confinement (Dangerhouse)

I'd stack this single up against just about anything...the Wierdos were hard edged and deadly when they did this...much different from their later lps where the had mutated into some kind of funny punk joke band. This one has fat, fat, fat powerhouse guitar and tough singing plus two full on tunes to boot. Awesome.

THE WIPERS - Better Off Dead/Up In Flames/Does It Hurt (Trap)

Even at the start the Wipers had that spacey guitar feel to them, but it's a much rougher and more energetic production. Great singing from greg Sage, too...a real dark and moody feel powers "Better Off Dead". The guitar on these songs is way too sophisticated for the average punk songs, but it works fantastically. If they had come from anywhere other than Portland, Oregon, the Wipers would've gotten credit for being one of the greatest US bands ever...they deserve it.

WIRE - Mannequin/Feeling Called Love/12XU (Harvest)

Wire weren't really a singles band, but they were one of the most original and greatest bands of their day. Their first three lps are crucial to any collection; all three are different from each other, and each is inventive and creative throughout. The fact that they later fell into the new wave dance music sewer is irrelevant; lps like Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, or 154 will endure forever. "12XU" is to my mind their greatest moment. Short, to the point, raw and powerful, it's Pink Flag era Wire at their finest. The other two are no slouches, either.

X RAY SPEX - Oh Bondage Up Yours/I'm a Cliche (Virgin)

It's hard to take a full lp of Poly Styrene's screeching, but for a single track here or their it's pretty cool. I'll take either this single or "The Day The World Turned Dayglo" as the best examples of X Ray Spex doing their revolt-in-plastic punk. Wierd arty stuff with saxophone.

XTC - Life Begins At The Hop/Homo Safari (Virgin)

Definitely new wave and not punk, XTC had a rough edge to them that made them a lot of fun when they started. They later got more polished and left me behind, but I really like tracks like "Statue Of Liberty" or this one. I always thought of XTC as being a British version of the Talking Heads...maybe a little goofier and more fun.

YACHTS - Love You Love You/Hazy People (Radar)

An odd band to be ending up one...the Yachts are universally derided where anyone can be found that even knows anything about them, but I really loved their first lp S.O.S. for the way they hammered out these rocking power pop songs surrounded by swirling washes of cheap keyboards. Lots of their songs strung together common threads of boating and strange tales of love, and they had some hysterically funny lyrics, like "I wouldn't climb any mountain for you/Ford any stream that's a daft thing to do/'Cos I'm cynical cynical cynical through and through" from the A side of this one.
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Created by JJu: March 4, 1996        Research and Destroy!

Last Updated: March 4, 1996