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100 Best Punk Rock Songs of the '70s, '80s, and '90s

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This article explores the very best that punk rock has to offer. These high-octane songs prove that the genre isn't going anywhere.

This article explores the very best that punk rock has to offer. These high-octane songs prove that the genre isn't going anywhere.

In the '70s, garage rock began to diversify, eventually evolving into the punk movement. Punk went on to become one of the most powerful musical movements in history. Punk was a revolution in the music industry, pushing back against the extravagance of rock music at the time, setting out to prove that great music could be cheap, simple, and aggressive.

The list below showcases the very best punk songs of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. If punk is your flavor, then you'll definitely have something to say. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

Top 10 Best Punk Rock Songs of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s

  1. “Basket Case”—Green Day (1994)
  2. “Anarchy in the U.K.”—Sex Pistols (1977)
  3. “Personality Crisis”—New York Dolls (1973)
  4. “Blitzkrieg Bop”—The Ramones (1976)
  5. “Rise Above”—Black Flag (1981)
  6. “Search and Destroy”—The Stooges (1973)
  7. “Rock the Casbah”—The Clash (1981)
  8. “Heart of the City”—Television (1977)
  9. “Oh Bondage Up Yours!”—X Ray Spex (1978)
  10. “White Riot”—The Clash (1977)
The Ramones are truly legendary in the punk rock canon.

The Ramones are truly legendary in the punk rock canon.

Best Punk Rock Songs of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s #11—20

11. “New Rose”—The Damned (1983)

12. “All the Small Things”—Blink 182 (1999)

13. “Should I Stay or Should I Go”—The Clash (1982)

14. “I Wanna Be Sedated”—The Ramones (1978)

15. “Smash It Up”—The Damned (1979)

16. “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes”—The Adverts (1978)

17. “God Save the Queen”—Sex Pistols (1977)

18. “London Calling”—The Clash (1979)

19. “Holiday in Cambodia”—Dead Kennedys (1978)

20. “Borstal Breakout”—Sham 69 (1978)

What Is Punk Rock?

Evolving out of the garage rock movement, the punk sound is characterized by stripped-down instrumentation in fast-paced songs, hard-edged melodies, and offbeat singing styles. Distorted power chords form the crux of punk rock songs. Punk lyrics are often political and anti-establishment.

Best Punk Rock Songs of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s #21—40

21. “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)”—Buzzcocks (1978)

22. “Whip It”—Devo (1980)

23. “Teenage Kicks”—The Undertones (1978)

24. “What’s My Age Again?”—Blink 182 (1999)

25. “Lust for Life”—Iggy Pop (1977)

26. “Psycho Killer”—Talking Heads (1977)

27. “X Offender”—Blondie (1976)

28. “Video Killed the Radio Star”—The Buggles (1980)

29. “Another Girl Another Planet”—The Only Ones (1978)

30. “Josie”—Blink 182 (1997)

31. “California Uber Alles”—Dead Kennedys (1978)

32. “Suspect Device”—Stiff Little Fingers (1979)

33. “Good Riddance”—Green Day (1997)

34. “One Way or Another”—Blondie (1978)

35. “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker”—The Ramones (1977)

36. “New Noise”—Refused (1998)

37. “Alternative Ulster”—Stiff Little Fingers (1979)

38. “Dancing With Myself”—Billy Idol (1982)

39. “Complete Control”—The Clash (1977)

40. “Hanging on the Telephone”—Blondie (1978)

Punk fashion never went away. Its influence is everywhere.

Punk fashion never went away. Its influence is everywhere.

The Punk Scene and Punk Subculture

In America, bands such as The Ramones, Television, and New York Dolls are recognized as the flag bearers of the punk movement. In London, the punk movement in the ‘70s was started by bands such as Sex Pistols, The Damned, and The Clash. Towards the end of the ‘70s, punk rock spread out globally. The genre became a cultural phenomenon with the U.K. becoming an international hub for the art form.

The local underground punk scenes in America, London, and Australia remained loyal to their roots, refraining from mainstream popularity. In the late '70s and early ‘80s, a punk subculture emerged, emphasizing freedom of expression in the form of rebellious clothing and a plethora of anti-authoritarian ideologies.

T-shirts with offensive messages became exceedingly popular in punk subculture, as did spike bands and leather jackets. In the early '80s, punk flourished, branching off into several subgenres, these included hardcore punk, anarcho punk, and street punk. The ‘80s was a transitional period for the genre. In fact, just as the genre evolved out of garage rock, several new genres evolved out of punk. Some of these genres include new wave, post punk, noise rock, and alternative.

Best Punk Rock Songs of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s #41—60

41. “Your Generation”—Generation X (1978)

42. “Call Me”—Blondie (1980)

43. “My Own Worst Enemy”—Lit (1999)

44. “The True Wheel”—Brian Eno (1974)

45. “Blister in the Sun”—The Violent Femmes (1983)

46. “Rockaway Beach”—The Ramones (1977)

47. “Damaged Goods”—Gang of Four (1979)

48. “Shot by Both Sides”—Magazine (1978)

49. “All My Fault”—Fenix TX (1997)

50. “Don’t Want to Know if You Are Lonely”—Husker Du (1986)

51. “I Fought the Law”—The Clash (1977)

52. “Stand and Deliver”—Adam and the Ants (1981)

53. “Dead Man’s Party”—Oingo Boingo (1985)

54. “Love Comes in Spurts”—Richard Hell and the Voidoids (1977)

55. “No More Heroes”—The Stranglers (1977)

56. “Welcome to Paradise”—Green Day (1991)

57. “Pretty Vacant”—Sex Pistols (1977)

58. “Feeling Called Love”—Wire (1977)

59. “Teen Age Riot”—Sonic Youth (1988)

60. “Dammit”—Blink 182 (1997)

The Arrival of Punk Rock: The Early Years

The term "punk music" was first used by American music critics in the early '70s to describe the growing movement of garage bands and their devoted followers. The early punk movement started taking root in the late '60s, as garage bands began experimenting with excessively short songs. The shortness of these songs was often meant to punctuate the aggressive, anti-conformist message in their lyrics.

Even as punk music became more and more popular, the genre (and its artists) often chose to distance itself from mainstream music. Musicians produced their music independently and started distributing their records through informal channels. The early punk movement in the late '60s and '70s has had a profound effect on punk subculture.

Even as punk became more mainstream, some loyalists stay true to its roots.

Even as punk became more mainstream, some loyalists stay true to its roots.

The Punk Sound in the ‘90s

All the experimentation that occurred in the punk genre throughout the ‘80s helped shape and develop the pop-punk sound that became an integral part of mainstream radio throughout the '90s. Bands such as Green Day and The Offspring took the pop punk genre to a new level, gaining massive fan bases. The ‘90s represented a new era of punk. While loyalists of the classic punk sound are critical of many punk bands of the ‘90s for "selling out" to gain mainstream audiences, the new punk sound did influence many acts to come. While punk enthusiasts argue about what punk is, or should be, one thing's for sure, the genre is only continuing to grow.

Best Punk Rock Songs of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s #61—80

61. “Buddy Holly”—Weezer (1994)

62. “Holidays in the Sun”—Sex Pistols (1977)

63. “Last Caress”—Misfits (1997)

64. “Just Like Honey”—The Jesus and Mary Chain (1985)

65. “Babylon’s Burning”—The Ruts (1979)

66. “A Forest”—The Cure (1980)

67. “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”—Ian Dury (1977)

68. “Here in Your Bedroom”—Goldfinger (1996)

69. “The Modern Lovers”—She Cracked (1976)

70. “Time Bomb”—Rancid (1995)

71. “Cars”—Gary Numan (1979)

72. “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)”—The Offspring (1998)

73. “Human Fly”—The Cramps (1978)

74. “Let Me Dream if I Want To (Amphetamine Blues)”—Mink DeVille (1976)

75. “Mercy Seat”—Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (1988)

76. “Ghost on the Highway”—The Gun Club (1981)

77. “Do Anything You Wanna Do”—Eddie and the Hot Rods (1977)

78. “Teenage Lobotomy”—The Ramones (1977)

79. “Radio, Radio”—Elvis Costello and The Attractions (1978)

80. “Johnny”—Suicide (1977)

Best Punk Rock Songs of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s #81—100

81. “The Kids Aren’t Alright”—The Offspring (1998)

82. “I Am the Fly”—Wire (1978)

83. “Longview”—Green Day (1994)

84. “Psycho Therapy”—The Ramones (1983)

85. “Bro Hymn”—Pennywise (1991)

86. “Typical Girls”—The Slits (1979)

87. “Fiction Romance”—Buzzcocks (1978)

88. “Lake of Fire”—Meat Puppets (1984)

89. “Punk Rock Girl”—The Dead Milkmen (1988)

90. “Hit or Miss”—New Found Glory (1999)

91. “Neat Neat Neat”—The Damned (1995)

92. “Safety in Numbers”—The Adverts (1977)

93. “The Pop Group”—Thief of Fire (1979)

94. “Say It Ain’t So”—Weezer (1994)

95. “Mirror in the Bathroom”—The Beat (1980)

96. “Institutionalized”—Suicidal Tendencies (1983)

97. “Live Fast Die Young”—Circle Jerks (1980)

98. “Flagpole Sitta”—Harvey Danger (1997)

99. “Domino”—The Cramps (1978)

100. “The Passenger”—Iggy Pop (1977)

Other Notable Punk Rock Songs of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s

  • “Can This Be”—Wipers (1981)
  • “Shoulder to the Wheel”—Saves the Day (1999)
  • “Totally Wired”—The Fall (1980)
  • “I Remember”—Suicide (1977)
  • “1 2 X U”—Wire (1977)
  • “Action Time Vision”—Alternative TV (1978)
  • “Ruby Soho”—Rancid (1995)
  • “Do You Remember Rock n’ Roll Radio”—The Ramones (1980)
  • “That’s When I Reach for my Revolver”—Mission to Burma (1985)
  • “Johnny Are You Queer”—Josie Cotton (1982)
  • “Down on the Street”—The Stooges (1970)
  • “Heart of Glass”—Blondie (1978)
  • “Aliens Exist”—Blink 182 (1999)
  • “Rob a Bank”—The Pop Group (1980)
  • “Sonic Reducer”—Dead Boys (1977)
  • “Meet the Creeper”—Destroy All Monsters (1979)
  • “Full Moon in My Pocket”—Swell Maps (1979)
  • “John Wayne Was a Nazi”—MDC (1981)
  • “Happy Birthday”—The Birthday Party (1980)
  • “Razor Burn”—Lagwagon (1995)
  • “Public Image”—Public Image Ltd—(1978)
  • “Come Out and Play”—The Offspring (1994)
  • “Linda Blair”—Redd Cross (1982)
  • “See a Little Light”—Bob Mould (1989)
  • “May 16”—Lagwagon (1998)
  • “American Jesus”—Bad Religion (1993)
  • “White Wedding”—Billy Idol (1982)
  • “Bored”—Destroy All Monsters (1978)
  • “I Don’t Need to Tell Her”—The Lurkers (1978)
  • “Here Comes Your Man”—Pixies (1989)
  • “Slow Death”—Flamin’ Groovies (1972)
  • “Be Stiff”—Devo (1978)
  • “Where Eagles Dare”—Misfits (1998)
  • “Brainwash”—Flipper (1981)
  • “Chinese Rock”—The Ramones (1980)
  • “Bad Habit”—The Offspring (1994)
  • “A Town Called Malice”—The Jam (1982)
  • “My Generation”—Green Day (1991)
  • “California Sun”—The Dictators (1975)
  • “Vienna”—Ultravox (1980)
  • “Born to Lose”—Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers (1977)
  • “Requiem”—Killing Joke (1980)
  • “Once in a Lifetime”—Talking Heads (1980)
  • “Ghost of Princes in Towers”—Rich Kids (1978)
  • “Need You Around”—Smoking Popes (1995)
  • “25 Cent Giraffes”—Lifetime (1997)
  • “Self Esteem”—The Offspring (1994)
  • “Free Money”—Patti Smith (1975)
  • “Monkey Gone to Heaven”—Pixies (1989)
  • “Orgasm Addict”—Buzzcocks (1989)
  • “Berlin”—Crawling Chaos (1980)
  • “Punk Rawk Show”—MxPx (1995)
  • “As My Wife Says”—The Only Ones (1978)
  • “Pink Turns Into Blue”—Husker Du (1984)
  • “Boys Don’t Cry”—The Cure (1980)
  • “Antmusic”—Adam and the Ants (1980)
  • “Jeffrey I Hear You”—The Girls (1979)
  • “New Town”—The Slits (1979)
  • “Man With the Dogs”—Dead Kennedys (1979)
  • “I Have a Date”—The Vandals (1995)
  • “Jet Boy Jet Girl”—Elton Motello (1977)
  • “El Scorcho”—Weezer (1996)
  • “Rock Lobster”—The B-52s (1970)
  • “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais”—The Clash (1977)
  • “Adventures Close to Home”—The Raincoats (1979)
  • “Hong Kong Garden”—Siouxsie and the Banashees (1978)
  • “Top of the Pops”—The Rezillos (1978)
  • “Our Lips Are Sealed”—The Go Go’s (1981)
  • “You’re Driving Me”—The Cravats (1981)
  • “Don’t You”—Simple Minds (1985)
  • “My Little Needle”—Alkaline Trio (1998)
  • “Bullion”—Millencolin (1995)
  • “Why Don’t You Get a Job?”—The Offspring (1998)
  • “I Won’t Spend Another Night Alone”—The Ataris (1999)
  • “Linoleum”—NOFX (1994)
  • “Just Like Heaven”—The Cure (1987)
  • “Kill the Poor”—The Dead Kennedys (1978)
  • “Fairytale in the Supermarket”—The Raincoats (1979)
  • “She’s Like Heroin to Me”—The Gun Club (1981)
  • “That’s Too Bad”—Tubeway Army (1978)
  • “Clavicle”—Alkaline Trio (1988)
  • “(But Then) She Spoke”—The Vandals (1996)
  • “Burning Down the House”—The Talking Heads (1983)
  • “All Night Party”—A Certain Ratio (1979)
  • “San Dimas High School Football Rules!”—The Ataris (1999)
  • “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”—The Ramones (1976)
  • “All Kindsa Girls”—The Real Kids (1977)
  • “This Is Pop?”—XTC (1978)
  • “When I Come Around”—Green Day (1994)
  • “Pay to Cum”—Bad Brains (1982)
  • “If the Kids Are United”—Sham 69 (1987)
  • “C.P.K."—Unwritten Law (1994)
  • “Solitary Confinement”—The Weirdos (1978)
  • “True Confessions”—The Undertones (1979)
  • “Adam’s Song”—Blink-182 (1999)
  • “The KKK Took My Baby Away”—The Ramones (1981)
  • “Atmosphere”—Joy Division (1980)
  • “I’m the One”—Descendents (1996)
  • “My Sharona”—The Knack (1979)
  • “She Found You”—Samiam (1997)

© 2017 Ansel Pereira