CJ Baker is a published writer who recently started the podcast Ongoing History of Protest Music.
Watching home video recordings can be a good way to look back on fond memories and feel a strong sense of nostalgia. It can also be a means of charting the development of yourself and your family. You can look back at how much your children have grown. You can also bemoan the fact that you have more wrinkles or less hair.
Right now, we are going to be doing something similar by considering 12 classic punk rock videos. Depending on your musical taste, this could be a nostalgic look back at fond musical memories. The following videos also help chart the development and evolution of punk rock.
Just as a note, many older punk videos tend to be either a live performance video or somewhat lo-fi. That being said, they display the attitude and spirit of punk in spades.
All the videos featured here are from the '70s & '80s. It's not that there hasn't been any notable punk music since then, but the videos and acts featured here were the evolutionary basis for the punk music that was to follow.
12 Classic Punk Rock Music Videos
- The Damned—"New Rose"
- Sex Pistols—"God Save The Queen"
- Sham 69—"If The Kids Are United"
- Ramones—"I Wanna Be Sedated"
- The Clash—"London Calling"
- Dead Kennedys—"Holiday in Cambodia"
- Black Flag—"TV Party"
- Bad Brains—"Banned in DC"
- Suicidal Tendencies—"Institutionalized"
- Minutemen—"This Ain't No Picnic"
- The Pogues—"Streams of Whiskey"
- The Dead Milkmen—"Punk Rock Girl"
The Damned—"New Rose"
The Damned has the distinction of being the first U.K. punk band to release a single ("New Rose") and an album (Damned Damned Damned). They also recorded a promo video for their 1976 single, "New Rose".
The video does a nice job of capturing the essence and energy of The Damned. It also displays the Gothic aspects of the band, which ended up being influential within the goth rock movement as well.
Sex Pistols—"God Save The Queen"
The song "God Save The Queen," off the album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, truly helped define punk rock music. The song definitely had a strong anti-establishment tone, which was a prominent feature of many punk rock bands to follow. The Sex Pistols helped establish punk as a form of protest.
The video for the 1977 single highlights the band's rebellious and antagonistic nature.
Sham 69—"If The Kids Are United"
When compared to their U.K. punk counterparts (such as Sex Pistols and The Clash), Sham 69 was somewhat overlooked. That being said, they are considered to be highly influential within the Oi and street punk movement.
Their 1978 single, "The Kids Are United," was the band's biggest hit (#9 on the U.K. chart) and it prominently featured the football (or what us North Americans know as soccer) chant backup vocals that were a trademark of a number of their songs. The video helps capture the infectious energy of the band and it makes you want to pump your fist and chant along.
Ramones—"I Wanna Be Sedated"
"I Wanna Be Sedated" was from Ramones' fourth album Road to Ruin (1978 ). The song became one of their trademarks and helped highlight what was so infectious and endearing about them. The Ramones were easily one of the most influential punk bands and "I Wanna Be Sedated" is just one small example of why. They helped write the blueprints for punk rock. Many would go on to follow in their footsteps.
The video was filmed in 1988 to help promote their greatest hits compilation Ramones Mania. Watching the band eat cornflakes (while somehow being unfazed by the craziness that ensues around them) helps make this a truly iconic video. As an interesting side note, a young Courtney Love is also featured in the video.
The Clash—"London Calling"
"London Calling" is the self-titled track from The Clash's 1979 landmark album. London Calling was the band's third studio album and it showed that the band was growing musically.
The title song is an indictment of a number of social ills which plagued London. This is one of the songs that helped establish Joe Strummer as the Bob Dylan of punk rock. (Fittingly, Bob Dylan has covered "London Calling" a few times during concerts)
The video features the band playing on a boat on the River Thames while it was pouring rain. The dark dreary nature of the video is stylistically well-suited to the ominous mood and lyrics of the song.
RIP, Joe Strummer
Dead Kennedys—"Holiday in Cambodia"
"Holiday in Cambodia" was from the Dead Kennedys' 1980 debut studio album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. This album and song helped establish the band as a formative act in the development of the hardcore punk scene.
The live performance video truly captures the intensity and aggression of a Dead Kennedys' live performance.
Dead Kennedys' vocalist Jello Biafra and guitarist East Bay Ray also formed their own influential indie label, Alternative Tentacles. This helped contribute to the DIY (Do It Yourself) culture that the hardcore punk scene became known for.
Black Flag—"TV Party"
"TV Party" originally appeared on their 1981 landmark debut studio album Damaged. The song was goofier and catchier than most of the band's material. Because of the goofy sing-along nature of the tune, it is easy to overlook that the lyrics were a biting satirical indictment of how TV was responsible for the dumbing down of society. The visuals add to that message.
Just like with members of the Dead Kennedys, Greg Ginn of Black Flag formed his own influential indie record label SST. They were important contributors to the DIY culture that was closely linked to the hardcore punk scene.
Bad Brains—"Banned in DC"
"Banned in DC" is from the Bad Brains' self-titled 1982 debut full-length album. The album was originally only released on cassette but it has since been released on CD, vinyl and digital download as well. The album is considered to be very important in the development of hardcore punk. Adam Yauch of Beastie Boys has been quoted as saying that the band's self-titled album is "the best punk/hardcore album of all time".
This live performance video was taken from a performance at the legendary venue, CBGB in Manhattan, New York. The video well displays the intensity and ferocity of a Bad Brains live performance. With the video, you can also take note of the fact that the band had a higher level of musicianship than the average hardcore band (they started as a jazz fusion band) and the performance even included guitar soloing, which generally was considered "unpunk."
"Institutionalized" was from Suicidal Tendencies' 1983 debut self-titled album. It is considered to be the first hardcore punk video to receive significant airplay on MTV. The band has also proven to be influential within the skate punk scene and in the formation of the crossover thrash genre (also referred to as punk metal).
The video, just like the lyrics, contains dark humour and is a fitting commentary on their generation and on teenage feelings of alienation.
Minutemen—"This Ain't No Picnic"
"This Ain't No Picnic" is from the Minutemen's ambitious 1984 double album, Double Nickels on the Dime. By this time, the band was starting to deviate from their hardcore punk roots. That being said, the band's anti-commercial stance and their refusal to be confined by musical genre rules were very much the embodiment of the punk spirit.
The black and white video was shot for $600 and features the band performing in a barren field that is about to be bombed by then president Ronald Reagan (featured in old public domain war film footage). The video took an anti-Reagan stance, which was very commonplace within the punk community.
The song was written by the band's lead singer and guitarist D. Boon, who tragically died in a van accident at the age of 27 on December 22, 1985.
The Pogues—"Streams of Whiskey"
"Streams of Whiskey" is from The Pogues 1984 full-length debut album Red Roses For Me. The Celtic punk band combined traditional Irish folk music with a punk influence. They ended up being an influence on other Celtic punk bands to follow, such as The Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly.
The video is a lot of lo-fi fun. It definitely links the song to pub culture, and it definitely makes you want to get up and do a jig.
The Dead Milkmen—"Punk Rock Girl"
"Punk Rock Girl" is from The Dead Milkmen's 1988 album Beelzebubba. The Dead Milkmen were a satirical punk band that did not take themselves too seriously. They also added a refreshing sense of humour to the punk scene.
The video is goofy fun and I still get giddy every time I listen to the song and watch the video.
Classic Punk Rock Video Poll
© 2012 CJ Baker
CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on August 22, 2012:
I am glad that the hub helped you relive fond memories. I appreciate the comment!
Linda Chechar from Arizona on August 22, 2012:
I enjoyed the videos. Brings back lots of fond memories. Oh, to be young again! ;) Thanks for sharing this influential and varied music genre.
CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on August 19, 2012:
Thanks for the comment! Glad you enjoyed
Leah Lefler from Western New York on August 19, 2012:
This is such a cool hub - especially with all the videos to the rock videos! I love this one, Spartucusjones!
CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on August 19, 2012:
FatFreddyCat: Glad you enjoyed! Thanks for the additional tidbits of information.
Mhatter99: Thanks for the comment. I am glad that punk rock has gotten you out of debt.
Martin Kloess from San Francisco on August 18, 2012:
After disco we were so deep in debt, we needed punk rock to get out :))
Great list. thank you
Keith Abt from The Garden State on August 18, 2012:
Cool picks! Love those Ramones, Black Flag, Sex Pistols and Suicidal Tendencies clips...
Useless trivia, actress Mary Woronov of "Death Race 2000" and "Rock N Roll High School" fame plays Mike Muir's "Mom" in the "Institutionalized" video.
CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on August 18, 2012:
Thanks for the input. I know that a band like the Pogues may not be punk in the traditional sense, but they do quite often get labelled as Celtic punk and folk punk. Also with this list I wanted to chart how punk as evolved into different directions, so I just didn't want one sound represented. I also didn't want to use a very rigid definition of what punk is.
John C Thomas from Chicago, Illinois, USA on August 18, 2012:
Good topic for a Hub (at least one of my favorites!!) I'm not sure I would consider The Pogues or some other bands included here "punk" per se, maybe neo-Punk? I voted for London Calling, but my favorite Clash video is probably "This Is Radio Clash." I might have included more traditional punk songs like "Homocide" by 999 or The Stranglers version of "Walk On By." Otherwise great hub, and a fun topic!