The History of Punk Rock in 200 Tracks: An 11-Hour Playlist Takes You From 1965 to 2016

It may be that familiarity breeds contempt, and if that’s so, we should all be very glad of the wealth of excellent documentaries correcting the monolithic commercial story of punk, which goes something like this: The Sex Pistols and The Clash explode into the world in 1977 purveying anarchy and revolution and designer BDSM gear, and the status quo freaks out, then discovers many savvy marketing opportunities and here we are at our local punk boutique before the punk arena show at Corporation Stadium.

That's a boring story, mostly because all the most interesting parts, and weirdest, most violent, gross-out, angry, experimental, queer, black, radical, feminist, etc. parts get left out, along with nearly all the best bands. Even if we date punk from the early seventies in New York with Patti Smith and the Ramones, we’re missing key progenitors from the 60s, from Detroit, Germany, Tacoma, Washington... The brackets we snap around decades as though each one popped into existence independently may blind us to how much history folds back in on itself, as do musical eras and genres.


Even before Crass arrived in ‘77 as “the missing link between counterculture hippies and punk’s angry rhetoric,” the MC5 ruled Detroit stages and bloody political conventions in 1968 Chicago. Though they’re credited—along with fellow motor city natives Iggy and The Stooges—with the invention of punk, they played hippy music: loose, bluesy, soulful, filled with long jams and solos. But they played it harder and with more speed, raw metal edge, and intensity than anyone, while adopting the politics of the Black Panthers. It's refreshing to see both the MC5 and The Stooges represented in the Spotify playlist below, “The Evolution of Punk in Chronological Order.” (If you need Spotify's software, download it here.)

What may sound didactic is in fact pleasantly surprising, and maybe essential as far as these things go. No, of course, “not EVERY punk band will be listed here,” the playlist’s creator concedes on Reddit. Not only is this impossible, but, as he or she goes on, “I am constructing this list by my own personal beliefs of what makes a band punk.” (Sorry, Blink 182 fans.) I’d be intrigued to know what those beliefs are. They are discriminating, yet ecumenical. Not only does the MC5 get much-deserved inclusion, but so do seminal 60s garage rock bands like The Monks, an American band from Germany, and The Sonics from Tacoma.

We begin with a little-known, quaintly-named act called Ronnie Cook & The Gaylads, who in 1965 recorded “Goo Goo Muck,” a novelty track that delivered for The Cramps sixteen years later. Early 60s rockabilly, surf-rock, and bubblegum (all products of the previous decade), are of course essential to so much punk, but the novelty act is also a punk staple. I’m pleased to see here serious experimentalists like Suicide and NEU!, two bands without whom so much of the 2000s could not have happened. I’m also pleased to see eighties pranksters The Dead Milkman, who wrote deeply offensive novelty songs like “Takin’ Retards to the Zoo” and sounded like a comic book.

Do we not hear of the Dead Milkmen, and bands like Choking Victim, Cock Sparrer, or the Crucifucks, because of political correctness run amok? That seems like an anachronistic way to look at things. I can assure you they pissed people off just as much at the time, and everyone argued endlessly about free speech. It's true, the most offensive punk figure on the list, G.G Allin, became a minor celebrity on the daytime circuit after his extreme indulgences in masochism and coprophilia onstage. But most punk bands played for limited audiences, released on tiny labels, and attached themselves to particular regions. Playing punk rock was not always a very popular thing to do.

There are too many fragments, too many offshoots, tribes, divisions and affiliations for a monoculture summary. But if you were to write an account of punk using only the tracks on this playlist, it would be a comprehensive overview most people do not know, and a fascinating one at that. Maybe punk died–in '77 when it signed to CBS, or in 1979 at the dawn of the eighties, or last year, who knows. But this list insists on covering over fifty years–from “Goo Goo Muck” to SKAAL’s 2016 “Not a Fan,” an almost classical slab of hardcore, with a chorus that provides the ideal coda: “Your rules / I’m not a fan.” Is punk dead? You tell me.

Related Content:

Rare Live Footage Documents The Clash From Their Raw Debut to the Career-Defining London Calling (1977-1980)

33 Songs That Document the History of Feminist Punk (1975-2015): A Playlist Curated by Pitchfork

The MC5 Performs at the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention, Right Before All Hell Breaks Loose

Watch the Proto-Punk Band The Monks Sow Chaos on German TV, 1966: A Great Concert Moment on YouTube

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

 


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  • SteveinATX says:

    Nailed it! Absolutely the best playlist on Spotify!

  • Ignas Bednarczyk says:

    America invented Punk. The only ones who think that are the American media/ music writers. How un- Punk is that ? Predictability, academic fact- making, 7 lies are what Punk was against.

  • Waggy says:

    They may have been from Brisbane and slightly off the radar until 1976, the Saints were playing punk rock in the same vein as the Pistols or the Ramones – which means they were way ahead of the curve. Anything from the Saints’ first two albums not being on your list borders on the criminal.

    They pretty much invented ‘modern’ punk rock. Add to the list: “I’m Stranded” by the Saints.

  • Waggy says:

    Urrgh… (edit) “They may have been from Brisbane and slightly of off the radar until 76, but the Saints were playing punk rock in the same vein as the Pistols or the Ramones AS EARLY AS 1972 – which means they were WAY ahead of the curve.

  • Roddy says:

    The Saints – (I’m) Stranded is a notable miss.
    But good stuff.

  • NoUseForaName says:

    “But the Velvet Underground does not appear.” Um, yeah, they do, at No. 8.

  • Simon Biddell says:

    No Slits, Fear or Gun Club!? And as for not including The Saints!

  • Erik Friedman says:

    This is amazing. Very well researched, especially in timeline. Well done.

  • Erik Friedman says:

    I agree that no Fear or Gun Club is slightly egregious. Would have maybe replaced Dead Milkmen with either one of them….

  • Josh Jones says:

    Fear’s in there. #97

  • fay fife says:

    Glad to see the Rezillos, but why use a song from 2011? Any song from their only album, 1978’s “Can’t stand the Rezillos” would’ve sufficed…

  • Paul Adams says:

    Nope, plenty of us Brits recognise the simple fact that America invented punk too. What happened in the UK was an offshoot of punk, one largely based on fashion. Which is amusing in itself as punk was initially against ideas like following the crowd. Much of UK punk was cynical exploitation a la Malcolm McLaren and followed something of a rigid template. US punk was far more wide-ranging in terms of music, appearance, politics, etc.

  • Paul Adams says:

    Pretty damn good list, but I’d have included something by Death too. Maybe this fella… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6qrzCbNsi4

  • Greg McGill says:

    Ebba Gron!!! The Saints is a miss, as is the Birthday Party. But this is a cool list. Can’t please everyone but you did good work.

  • Scott Harding says:

    Hey there! I am the person that actually created this list. I want to personally thank you for writing this article! And thanks for everyone giving me suggestions! I will be updating the list very soon! Up the Punx!

  • Joel Wasson says:

    New York City -The Demics
    Screamimg fist – Viletones
    Top Down- Teenage head

    Diodes

    Canadian punk rock

  • Harold Miller says:

    No Replacements? Seems to be lacking a bit. Very good overall.

  • Ingrid McLeod says:

    OMG, that’s my husband’s playlist!!!

  • Scott Harding says:

    Thank you very much! Since this article came out I have been getting mass followers on Spotify! I’ll be updating the list this weekend to stay tuned for more bands!

  • Brian Hickam says:

    A rather good list. The early choices are especially good. Did I miss a listing of The CRO-MAGS? Hard to believe “The Age of Quarrel” didn’t earn them a spot on such a list.

  • Greg Gutbezahl says:

    Great list. Given that one cannot fit everything in, and we’ll all have additions (and deletions)… the comments are as good a place as any to offer up some heads …. hardly definitive, just adding some names to the list.

    All over the place … but “Punk” in spirit, “punk” in attitude” … which is what “punk” was really all about anyway…

    Robert Johnson
    Slim Gaillard
    Bo Diddley
    Chuck Berry
    Pharoah Sanders
    Gene Vincent
    Link Wray
    The Phantom
    The Pretty Things
    The Missing Links
    Legendary Stardust Cowboy
    Nobody’s Children
    The Sparkles
    The Litter
    Love
    Music Machine
    The Lyrics
    Fugs
    Roxy Music (Remake/Remodel = Pere Ubu)
    Dr Feelgood (ground zero for the 70s sound)
    The Wipers
    Replacements
    Chrome
    Swans
    Gun Club
    Fugazi
    Sick Fucks
    Lime Spiders
    The Devil Dogs
    Death of Samantha
    Jay Reatard
    The Mummies
    Thee Oh Sees
    The Gories
    New Bomb Turks

    hundreds more …………..

    Thank you for your ace playlist!

  • Walter Verbick says:

    Death – Politicians in My Eyes

  • Woovee says:

    Do you know that Siouxsie And The Banshees did a punk song which is Love In A Void. It is a a killer track. They appeared at the punk festival at the “100 club” organized by Malcom McLaren. Not incuding it is kind of criminal

  • Woovee says:

    Do you know that Siouxsie And The Banshees did a punk song which is Love In A Void. It is a a killer track. They appeared at the punk festival at the “100 club” organized by Malcom McLaren.

  • Danzig says:

    Did you jerks make this whole list just to leave me off of it?
    – Glenn :(

  • Ugh, not another punk history... says:

    These kinds of articles, along with the lists they celebrate, are about as “punk” as a Gilbert Stuart exhibit at the city Met.

    It seems to me like millennials trying to “me too” their way into doing yet another forensic autopsy of the old corpse of some pop culture thing that came and went, and which they regret went before they were born and could corksniff it’s way, so they reinvent the whole thing by commenting on “correcting the monolithic commercial story.” No, you don’t get to rewrite history. Go do your own fucking thing and get people to care, to hate it, or to steal it and try to call it their own. That’s punk.

    Seriously, nobody gives a shit that you people have “discovered” 60s garage rock. Move on, and find your own niche. Be influenced by it, sure! By all means. But stop trying to redefine things, according to your own tastes, and pretend you are doing so in the name of ethics and cultural diversity. You sound like the worst kind of pretentious college kids, and again, there is nothing remotely “punk” about it…

  • Bigcatmpls says:

    The list is missing DEATH out of Detroit. They where playing punk music before the Ramones and pretty much everyone else in America.

  • Iprenmannen says:

    Why using a cover by a viking rock band instead of the original Ebba Grön song?

  • Spoutnik says:

    Thank.you.for.the.list.
    So many discoveries. Lists can never be complete, but I agree that Gun club and early Roxy Music (Editions of you) belong here.

  • Yeah I'm that guy says:

    Sorry to be that guy but Iggy and the Stooges are not “motor city natives.” They’re from Ann Arbor, through and through, which is 40-some miles and a world away from Detroit.

  • CrackSmokeShotgunnedAnally says:

    No punk rock list is complete without Debris’. Look up their album Static Disposal, recorded in 1975.
    Also no mention of Death is surprising as well.
    Debris’ and Death were very much ahead of their time.

  • Eno says:

    One of the only true to life punk rock bands left on the planet are Wicked Shimmies from Oklahoma. Absolute Garage Damage!
    The two surviving members of Debris’ are in Wicked Shimmies!

  • Scott Harding says:

    As the person that created this list. I personally want to say, if you don’t like these kind of articles, then simply move on without insulting the people that create them. This list took me hours and hours to create, and you saying this is a complete insult to me and the person that wrote the article. Maybe if you spent your time doing something more creative than bashing thoes that create, you would understand.

  • Scott Harding says:

    As the person that created this list. I personally want to say, if you don’t like these kind of articles, then simply move on without insulting the people that create them. This list took me hours and hours to create, and you saying this is a complete insult to me and the person that wrote the article. Maybe if you spent your time doing something more creative than bashing thoes that create, you would understand.

  • Scott Harding says:

    Sorry this message was directed to this rude person:
    Ugh, not another punk history…
    June 2, 2017 at 7:35 pm
    These kinds of articles, along with the lists they celebrate, are about as “punk” as a Gilbert Stuart exhibit at the city Met.

    It seems to me like millennials trying to “me too” their way into doing yet another forensic autopsy of the old corpse of some pop culture thing that came and went, and which they regret went before they were born and could corksniff it’s way, so they reinvent the whole thing by commenting on “correcting the monolithic commercial story.” No, you don’t get to rewrite history. Go do your own fucking thing and get people to care, to hate it, or to steal it and try to call it their own. That’s punk.

    Seriously, nobody gives a shit that you people have “discovered” 60s garage rock. Move on, and find your own niche. Be influenced by it, sure! By all means. But stop trying to redefine things, according to your own tastes, and pretend you are doing so in the name of ethics and cultural diversity. You sound like the worst kind of pretentious college kids, and again, there is nothing remotely “punk” about it…

  • Tom P says:

    The Lewd
    The Wipers
    Gun Club

  • Yeah I'm that guy says:

    Scott, I don’t think your comment was directed at me but after reading it I feel bad that in trying to correct a history that’s often gotten wrong (I’m from Ann Arbor so I’m sensitive about it) I offered only negativity. I’ve just started to listen to the playlist and look forward to listening to more and appreciate the time and thoughtfulness you put into this! Thank you for this great work!

  • Scott says:

    Actually the Dictators were before the Saints

  • Carla Lother says:

    Plasmatics?

  • Weird says:

    Kinda weird to

    a) put in a random Swedish punk song (Ebba Grön were big over here, but what about Swedish classics like The Leather Nun – No Rule, Anti Cimex – Victims of a Bomb Raid or Shit Lickers – Spräckta Snutskallar?)

    b) include a cover version by a bunch of nazis instead of the original

  • Rebecca says:

    It’s a good list but incomplete without Ill Repute.

  • Avi says:

    Why is an Adicts song positioned in a time prior to even being recorded?

  • Alan says:

    Great list, it will get plenty of play over the summer. I’m looking forward to what you add. Maybe I missed it but I didn’t see anything by Dead Kennedys. Also, I’d suggest:

    Nomeansno
    Melvins
    Steel Pole Bathtub
    TAD
    Sleater Kinney
    Pissed Jeans
    Fucked Up
    Laughing Hyenas
    Big Black
    Jesus Lizard
    Sonic Youth

    Thanks for making the list!

  • MC5 had no heart. says:

    The Stooges were real powerful musicians; each and every one of them was advanced and Iggy remains to this day. The MC5 were a bunch of half-assed jerks noodling on stage.

  • Tenpole says:

    Talking Heads were never punk. Try The Stranglers and
    Psychadelic Furs.

  • filmsnob says:

    as much as I love Melody Lee, it’s off of The Damned’s 3rd album. Instead, you should have included New Rose, widely recognized as the very first UK punk single, off The Damned’s first album.

  • Tana Nichols says:

    What happened to ? And the Mysterians?

  • Good start.... says:

    Thanks for the playlist Scott….
    It is a really good start to something that could be really great. Ive been listening to it and it seems to be a more family friendly list.

    Here is a list that I have compiled of nearly 1000 songs from lots of different bands…Not so “family friendly”. It is definitely lacking in some areas and more on the hardcore side but I feel like some of these would be good additions to your list. I definitely noticed a bunch missing, mostly from the late 70’s early 80’s Southern California scene.

    https://open.spotify.com/user/124671473/playlist/52OtKYsXWzeuX8bQ6qLusl

  • rudeboycanfail says:

    pretty good play list for a drive. it still nowhere near catches the history of punk which it could have done if they were paying attention. it feels more like here the basic ABCs for those folks looking into the basics of the first few years..
    heres a tip it could have gone further in depth with a song or two from each evolution. i would have started with Alden halloway’s “blast off” then chuck berry

  • Sam says:

    Nonsense. Dressing in that way was an invitation to have your head kicked in. I speak from personal experience.

  • dan ohara says:

    punk is the only ‘philosophy’ that hasnt lied to me in the last 40 years, or however long. fun, funny, rocks, and calls out the hypocrites.

  • Michael Crewdson says:

    Ain’t no list without the Saints.
    Right there with the Ramones…they have to be on the list…an example of convergent evolution in punk.

  • Tom says:

    I don’t trust any list that is a perfectly round number.

  • Chris Webb says:

    This is a fantastic playlist. So glad it exists. A big thank you to whoever made it. I have a lot of early, punk influencers and proto-punk bands to learn about from this playlist….I’m was an 80’s teen so late 70s and 80s punk rock is my familiar territory. Maybe I missed it but looks like no Youth Brigade but I think I’ll live.

  • Mark Shell says:

    Interesting list, but the absence of 1965 Who and Kinks is most problematic.

  • Ken says:

    As good an overview of punk rock as any. Nice that it’s a personal list (Siouxsie’s “Jigsaw Feeling” rather than “Love in a Void or something more obvious). I agree with a lot of the missing bands listed above (Sleater-Kinney, The Saints, Death, Slits, Gun Club) but it is 11 hours already. If more tracks are added, I’d suggest filling out the no wave section—Teenage Jesus, James Chance, Sonic Youth, Swans, Pussy Galore, etc—and maybe some more non UK/USA acts like The Birthday Party, Neubauten, Kleenex/Lilliput, Las VulpeSS….

    Thanks, Scott Harding, it’s a great playlist!

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