The 20 Best Punk Rock Songs of All-Time

CBGB punk rock top 20 best punk songsI’ve been a fan of punk music since my teenage years. I would buy all of Epitaph’s “Punk-O-Rama” mixtapes and would listen to just about anything considered punk. I was more interested in the bands at the time (Rancid, NOFX, Millencolin, etc), but I ventured deeper into the history of punk music.

Punk music has went from counterculture to a genre the recording industry machine uses to sell the ‘punk culture’ to teenagers. Joey Ramone would not have approved of this.

We list the best 20 punk rock songs of all-time by 20 different bands…we also post YouTube videos of every song on the list.

Ramones – “Teenage Lobotomy”
I wanted to make a list of the best 20 punk songs of all-time, but I didn’t want to repeat bands. This list could easily have three or four songs by Ramones (“I Wanna Be Sedated”, “Blitzkreig Bop”, “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker'”, but there’s something great about ‘Teenage Lobotomy’. The Ramones are the reason why I spent a few nights at the now-defunct CBGB’s in early 2000s.

The Clash – “London Calling”
A list of the best punk songs isn’t legit unless it has at least one song by The Clash. They are one of the most influential bands of all time. Thirty years later, their music still holds up.

T.S.O.L. – “Code Blue”
T.S.O.L. is an iconic punk band. The topic of this song is beyond taboo. This song appeared on one of the first ‘Punk-O-Rama’ albums and was my introduction to the band. It definitely left a mark.

Dead Kennedys- “Caifornia Uber Alles”
“Holiday In Cambodia” almost made the list, but “California Uber Alles” more resembles the rest of their catalog. The Dead Kennedys spawned from a counterculture movement in San Francisco. They used punk music as a sociopolitical tool by mixing thoughtful lyrics with satirical humor.

Sex Pistols – “Anarchy In The UK”
This is the most iconic song from the British punk movement. They had the look and sound of ‘punk’. Their album “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols” was #1 in the U.K., but only peaked at #106 in the United States. They didn’t become huge in the U.S. until after the death of Sid Vicious.

Black Flag – “Rise Above”
Those unfamiliar to the punk scene may recognize the lead singer. Henry Rollins was one of the singers in Black Flag. They had a raw West Coast punk sound and preached D.I.Y. They have a cult following that allows the band to play a few reunion shows every decade.

New York Dolls – “Personality Crisis”
The New York Dolls were one of the first bands to establish the New York punk scene. Along with Velvet Underground and The Stooges, they influenced bands like the Ramones and The Smiths.

The Stooges – “Search and Destroy”
Many music journalists argue that The Stooges and Velvet Undergound were the first punk bands. The Stooges launched Iggy Pop into stardom. The original lineup of the band was short-lived (about five years). Pop went on to have a great solo career.

Bad Religion – “American Jesus”
Bad Religion formed in the late 70’s and was from the generation that grew up with an established U.S. punk scene. They are the band that many current punk bands list as an influence. Smart lyrics and strong bass lines are staples in their music. They have released records up until last year.

The Descendents – “Everything Sucks”
The Descendents is another punk band that formed in the late 80’s. They helped move the surf punk scene forward. Many pop punk bands have listed The Descendents has a big influence.

NOFX – “Linoleum”
If you’re in the 28-38 age range, NOFX was most likely your go-to punk band for a period of your teenage years. Their music is fast-paced and quick (many of their songs are around two minutes long). Fat Mike also founded Fat Wreck Chords, a label that signed bands like No Use For A Name, Against Me! and Less Than Jake.

The Vandals – “My Girlfriend’s Dead”
If someone asked me to describe The Vandals, I would say they were the the Ramones of the 90’s & 00’s. They don’t try to impress anyone with chords and the songs are simple. The Vandals are still one of my favorite punk bands to listen to.

Talking Heads – “Psycho Killer”
Yes, Talking Heads started out as a punk band. They played CBGB’s just like The Ramones and Television. This is the best song they’ve ever recorded and much better than anything they released during the MTV-era.

Green Day – “Welcome To Paradise”
I often wonder if teenagers today realize Green Day was once a punk band. They’ve moved on and done other stuff since, but their early stuff is fantastic. The success of “Dookie” blazed the path for other punk bands to get major label deals.

Millencolin – “Bullion”
Millencolin is proof of the reach of American punk rock. They are from Sweden and they learned English from listening to punk music while skateboarding. I saw them at a Warped Tour 2000 and still sits near the top of the best live performances I’ve seen in person.

A.F.I. – “Totalimmortal”
Before A.F.I. graced MTV’s TRL in the early 00’s, they were one of the best indie punk bands. Their early albums were fantastic, but once Davey Havok and Jade Puget found a keyboard, their sound never returned.

The Bouncing Souls – “Hopeless Romantic”
The Bouncing Souls helped take the edge off punk. Their lyrcis are about relationships and everyday problems. They rarely take on sociopolitical issues like many of the punk pioneers. Bouncing Souls epitomizes the New Jersey punk rock scene.

Guttermouth – “Perfect World”
I had the opportunity to interview Mark Adkins, the lead singer of Guttermouth, at a Warped Tour stop in Chicago. I asked him questions as he chugged Boone’s Farm. It was an odd choice of drink, but something about it really fit the band’s brand of punk. Guttermouth was banned from the Warped Tour a few years later for mistreating the other acts.

Pennywise – “Fuck Authority”
Pennywise is an iconic skate punk band. They gained popularity with the boom of skateboarding in the 90’s. They are still together and are known for their non-stop touring schedule.

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sweetbob-author-picAbout the Author…

Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot ClicksGuyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.

18 thoughts on “The 20 Best Punk Rock Songs of All-Time

    1. Bobby Roberts Post author

      I had Offspring’s “Jennifer Lost the War” on a list I had to cut down to 20.



      I hated to do it. I could have made another sweet list of 20 out of the ones I cut down.

      Reply
    2. Bliz

      To not put nofx the deline is a travesty and igorant. Even though u did indeed put linoleum, a fine tune, to not put nofx the decline in there is bizarre. Its easily in top 3 ever, and a masterpiece of a song in general.

      I also think sublime track needs to be there. Either same in the end or date rape. Also mission to burma, wire, the damned (i feel alright, machine gun ettiqutte), misfits (hatebreeders. Nuff said), bad braibs (big takeover), and adverts maybe need a tune in there.

      Furthermore, talking heads psycho killer IS NOT PUNK. Some of their othervtunes during that period were punk but that song isnt. And green day should not be included on this list at all. Nor does offspring with the exception of perhaps bad habit.

      But taste is subjective so its all good lol….

      Reply
  1. JJ McGrubbins

    Your list isn’t bad, per say, but having American Jesus as bad religions most influential song is way off…. Go back a few years to generator…. Hell, listen to their compilation album, All ages, and you’ll find better material. And where is bro hymn? that shoulda been on your list for penny wise, not fuck authority. But over all, decent recap of my teenage years.

    Reply
  2. OledirtyB

    Great list, I mean you can’t fit it all in here, there’s always going to be someone “punker than you”. But Fugazi gets no love. I am a 40yr old black girl from bham Al and the first time I heard patient boy I came.

    Reply
  3. Wayne Chapman

    X’s “We’re Desperate” and Richard Hell & the Voidoids’ “Love Comes in Spurts” would be on my list. Don’t think Talking Heads were ever really punk. I have their first five albums and would classify them as new wave and art rock. The Velvet Underground were also art rock but laid down the groundwork for punk. I have to admit that I’m ignorant when it comes to some of those other bands I should be aware of like Bad Religion and NOFX, but I’ll get there eventually.

    Reply
    1. Bliz

      Nofx the decline. Thats all you need. For just punk music in general. Throw out the rest of every punk song. No decline is every punk song stitched together as epic masterpiece.

      Reply
  4. Carnix

    So, a couple things – first, I (mostly) agree with this list. Someone already asked about Fugazi – would have put them there rather than Talking Heads – if not them (since it’s a little questionable whether Fugazi is punk exactly) then DEFINITELY would have Minor Threat in there instead. When NOFX covers a Minor Threat songs on a studio album (even if it is done in Jazz), there’s really not much question on influence.

    Also – listing a post-ALL Descendents song as it’s entry is questionable. Silly Girl, I’m Not a Loser, Clean Sheets, Suburban Home (just to name a few) would be more representational of what made the Descendents influential than Everything Sucks – a song / album produced well after the band was fully ensconced in the punk rock hall of fame (as it were). Oh, also, a minor factual error: The Descendents formed in the late-70s not the late-80s.

    Thanks for the list!

    Reply
  5. Markiz

    Bro you forgot virtually every misfit song…..20 eyes…..prime example….you cannot have even a top five punk songs list without the misfits thank you..

    Reply
  6. Bliz

    To not put nofx the deline is a travesty and igoeant. Even though u did indeed put linoleum, a fine tune, to not put nofx the decline in there is bizarre. Its easily in top 3 ever, and a masterpiece of a song in general.

    I also think sublime track needs to be there. Either same in the end or date rape. Also mission to burma, wire, the damned (i feel alright, machine gun ettiqutte), misfits (hatebreeders. Nuff said), bad braibs (big takeover), and adverts maybe need a tune in there.

    Furthermore, talking heads psycho killer IS NOT PUNK. Some of their othervtunes during that period were punk but that song isnt. And green day should not be included on this list at all.

    But taste is subjective so its all good lol

    Reply

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