I’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.
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 Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.