Hear the 20 Favorite Punk Albums of Black Flag Frontman Henry Rollins

The punk move­ment gave birth to hun­dreds of bands in a small amount of time, like a petri dish that just explodes under the right con­di­tions. Forty years lat­er, we are still liv­ing in the after­math of that explo­sion and sort­ing things out. Lists need to be made. And if you con­sid­er garage rock to be pro­to-punk, the list can be very long.

Four years ago, L.A. Week­ly cre­at­ed a list of the Top 20 punk albums of all time, but purists might despair to see Green Day on there or just any­thing after the ‘90s.

But they also turned to their colum­nist, Black Flag vocal­ist, intense spo­ken word per­former, and radio dee­jay Hen­ry Rollins, and asked him to cre­ate his own list. See them below, and hear them above (via this playlist).

In his brief intro, Rollins mulls over the eter­nal genre question–where does punk stop and post-punk begin?

Could Wire, also be con­sid­ered Post Punk? Where do you put bands like PIL, Joy Divi­sion, Tele­vi­sion, Pat­ti Smith, Sui­cide, and Killing Joke? What about Gang of Four, 999 and the Ban­shees? For me, as a lean def­i­n­i­tion, I go by the clas­sic UK 1977 grad­u­at­ing class, Pis­tols, Clash, etc., and go from there.

The list, he says, is in no par­tic­u­lar order, but it’s not a sur­prise to see the first Clash album at the top, fol­lowed by the debut albums of the Ramones, the Sex Pis­tols, The Damned, X, Wire, The Buz­zcocks, The Saints, The Germs, X‑Ray Spex, The Adverts, and Stiff Lit­tle Fin­gers. Very few on that list went on to top their debut, or even–such as the Pis­tols and The Germs–record a fol­low-up.

Rollins talked about this in an essay (also for the L.A. Week­ly) on why he loves anoth­er band on his list, the U.K. Subs.

How some of those bands were able to fol­low up with anoth­er album is a fas­ci­nat­ing bit of musi­cal his­to­ry, as well as a study of tal­ent, vision and integri­ty. It is where the rub­ber tru­ly meets the road. After the explo­sive excite­ment of the ini­tial batch of songs has set­tled, the band often is left with a suc­cess-derived self-aware­ness that hangs like a cloud over the prac­tice room. The awful­ness of expec­ta­tion enters the equa­tion, and the results are not always good.

Rollins is a fan of the first four U.K. Subs LPs–“they are like desert island LPs. Records you can’t do with­out,” he once said.

Oth­er inter­est­ing choic­es on Rollins’ list: the shame­less Ramones-copy­ists The Lurk­ers, The Minutemen’s first album (instead of the undis­put­ed clas­sic Dou­ble Nick­els on the Dime), the less­er-known Eater, the Ruts, and the Fall’s Hex Enduc­tion Hour, which is punk in aes­thet­ic, but cer­tain­ly not in pro­duc­tion.

For a man who usu­al­ly has some­thing to say, it would have been cool to have some com­men­tary from Rollins on his choic­es. On the oth­er hand, maybe he’d just tell us to shut up. The music speaks for itself.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

Down­load 50+ Issues of Leg­endary West Coast Punk Music Zines from the 1970–80s: Dam­age, Slash & No Mag

Punk & Heavy Met­al Music Makes Lis­ten­ers Hap­py and Calm, Not Aggres­sive, Accord­ing to New Aus­tralian Study

Four Female Punk Bands That Changed Women’s Role in Rock

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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