CJ Baker is a published writer who recently started the podcast "Ongoing History of Protest Music."
10 Albums That Shaped Punk Rock
1977 is generally referred to as the year punk rock broke through into public consciousness. Like any other musical genre, it just did not show up one day fully formed. For example, a definitive punk rock moment was The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" which was recorded in 1963. The garage rock that was to follow in the '60s along with other protopunk artists of the late '60s and early '70s were important precursors in the development of punk rock.
What we are going to do now is consider 10 definitive albums which helped shape punk rock. Along with actual punk rock albums, this list also includes a couple of protopunk albums which were important strains of the DNA of punk rock.
Of course, with 10 albums we are barely scratching the surface. Hopefully, the list provides a jump-off point to relive nostalgic memories or to lead to new musical discoveries.
1. Raw Power by The Stooges
Released on February 7th, 1973, Raw Power was The Stooges third album. Just as with their first two albums (1969s self titled, and 1970s Fun House), it was considered an important album in the development of punk rock. It also helped establish Iggy Pop as the godfather of punk. The album possessed a certain rawness and ferocity which was imitated by numerous punk artists that followed.
Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols claims to have learned guitar by taking speed and by playing along to Raw Power. Henry Rollins of Black Flag fame (also Rollins Bands and his acclaimed spoken word performances) has a Search and Destroy tattoo (one of the songs on the album). Kurt Cobain has also referred to the album numerous times in his journal, referring to it has his favorite album of all time.
The album was also the beginning of Iggy Pop and David Bowie collaborating. David Bowie mixed the album.
2. Horses by Patti Smith
Released on December 13th, 1975, Horses was Patti Smith's debut album. The album was considered important in helping to establish the New York punk scene (she was a regular at Manhattan's legendary punk and new wave venue CBGB). This album helped establish Smith as the "godmother of punk" and the "poetess of punk".
Songs such as her radical reworking of Them's "Gloria" contained clear elements of punk (except for the 6-minute length) while other songs such as "Birdland" contained more of a jazz influence. The eclectic and experimental nature of the album was a huge influence on art punk.
3. Ramones by The Ramones
It was hard deciding which Ramones' album to include, because each of their first four albums released 1976-78 where an essential part of the punk rock DNA. So, I decided what better place to start than the beginning. The Ramones' self titled debut was released in April 23rd, 1976. Of course, there was the protopunk that helped pave the way, but to many this is the album where punk was born. Musically speaking, it was a true game changer.
The album was 50s & 60s style rock & roll, but faster and louder. On the surface it may not sound too revolutionary, but no one else was doing it. It was a stark contrast between the disco and prog rock that existed in the 70s. It was high energy and fun songs which were combined with a dark and somewhat adolescent sense of humor. From here the Ramones would go on to inspire numerous punk and alternative acts.
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4. Damned Damned Damned by The Damned
Released on February 18th, 1977, The Damn's debut album, Damned Damned Damned had the distinction of being the first full length album released by a UK punk group. The Damn is also the first UK punk band to release a single, "New Rose" (which also appeared on the album, and they shot a video for it).
The album possesses loads of energy, a sense of humour and edgy satire. Also, as a nod to protopunk pioneer The Stooges, the album features a cover of The Stooges "I Feel Alright" (credited it on their 1970 album Fun House as "1970").
5. Young Loud & Snotty by Dead Boys
Young Loud and Snotty, the Dead Boys' debut album was released in October 1977. Originally hailing from Cleveland, at the urging of Joey Ramone they moved to New York and they became regulars at the now legendary punk scene that was merging at CBGB.
The album opens with the classic "Sonic Reducer" and it does not let up. At a time that was dominated by disco, and rock was becoming bloated, the Dead Boys straight ahead rock approach was refreshing. Along with other punk bands at the time they helped bring back fun and rebellion to the world of rock.
6. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols by Sex Pistols
Even though Never Mind The Bollocks is the only studio album that the Sex Pistols released, it was enough to establish a lasting legacy. Released on October 27, 1977 it has become not just one of the most influential punk albums, but it has become one of the most influential album in the history of rock.
Even though the Sex Pistols music and image is not particularly shocking by today's standards, it was considered controversial back in 1977. Sex Pistols and the Never Mind The Bollocks brought back a rebellious spirit to rock.
7. Pink Flag by Wire
Pink Flag is Wire's debut album and was released in December 1977. In the case of Wire, you could have made a persuasive argument to include any of their first three albums (the other two 1978's Chairs Missing and 1979's 154). Those two albums are a bit more experimental and where considered influential in the development of art punk. Pink Flag is by far Wire's most straight out punk album.
With 21 songs in just over 35 minutes, Pink Flag is a minimalistic masterpiece. The album is raw and raucous, and it still sounds fresh.
8. (GI) by Germs
Released January 1979, (GI) is the only full-length album released by the Los Angles, California based punk band the Germs. The album is widely considered to be one of the first hardcore punk albums. It was also important in the development of the west coast punk scene (which was chronicled in the 1981 documentary, The Decline of Western Civilization).
The album has a definite rawness and edginess to it. The album also featured production work from Joan Jett. Unfortunately, the band shortly broke up afterward, which was shortly followed by the tragic suicide of front man Darby Crash.
Lead guitarist, Pat Smear went on to greater fame due to his brief stint as second guitarist of Nirvana and as a member of the Foo Fighters.
9. Inflammable Material by Stiff Little Fingers
Released on February 2nd, 1979, Inflammable Material is the debut album of Stiff Little Fingers. Hailing from Belfast, Northern Ireland, it is understandable why much of the album focuses on the troubles that where taking place in Northern Ireland.
In many ways, the Stiff Little Fingers where Ireland's answer to The Clash. Instead of sharing the anarchistic and nihilistic stance of punk acts like the Sex Pistols, their music dealt more with the possibility of positive change. The music on Inflammable Material is aggressive but positive at the same time. It successfully balances righteous indignation with a sense of hope.
10. London Calling by The Clash
Released on December 14th, 1979, London Calling was The Clash's third album. Part of the album's influence had to deal with the fact that the band was ambitiously moving beyond the confines of traditional punk music. It incorporated elements of reggae, ska, funk, soul, jazz & rockabilly. Even though they flirted with these elements on the first two albums (1977's self titled & 1978's Give 'Em Enough Rope), these musical styles where a lot more pronounced. Punk purists may prefer the first two albums, but for things not to become stagnant they need to evolve. London Calling was important not only for the evolution of The Clash, but also the evolution of punk rock & popular music.
As with previous The Clash albums, the music on the album has an elevated level of social consciousness. Very few songwriters had the ability to articulate the plight of the common men the way that Joe Strummer could.
The iconic album cover was honored in the UK when the Royal Mail featured the album cover on a postage stamp.
© 2013 CJ Baker
Luca on June 16, 2018:
CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on August 21, 2013:
Thanks for the comment, Artois. I agree about Stiff Little Fingers. They don't get as much love as they deserved.
Artois52 from England on August 21, 2013:
Nice Hub and great to see Stiff Little Fingers given a mention too. They are all too often overlooked in discussions about Punk.
CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on May 08, 2013:
I agree. Thanks for the read and the comment.
Sean McGavin from Bowling Green, Ohio on May 08, 2013:
I gotta say, for as much of a "goodie goodie" Glenn Matlock's made himself out to be, he certainly seems to be enjoying himself in that video.