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10 First-Generation Punk Albums You Gotta Have
Because early punks more often than not had to use cheap gear, punk music is a cavalcade of intriguing tones and textures. As I write this, I’m listening to a shuffle that includes the Buzzcocks, Swell Maps, and the Saints. Each of these bands has a unique sound. And being different is exactly what punk is all about. Here’s a list of 10 first-generation punk albums and must-watch YouTube videos that will flip your wig with cool sounds.
The Ramones, Ramones, 1976.
The blueprint for fast, loud, raw punk. Marshalls and SVTs dimed in the studio. Ramones was so revolutionary at the time that many DJs supposedly smashed it in fear and disgust. YouTube Search Term: The Ramones- Listen To My Heart -Max’s Kansas City 08-10-1976.
Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols, 1977.
A tour de force of guitar sounds reside on the Pistols’ one and only complete collection. Produced by Chris Thomas or Bill Price (look it up), Bollocks offers at least three different guitar tones—from fuzz to overdrive to flanged weirdness—on each track. YouTube Search Term: Sex Pistols - Anarchy In The UK (Broadcast Debut)
The Clash, The Clash, 1977.
The first album from “The Only Band That Matters” has a spare sound that makes you feel like you’re in the room with them. Mick Jones thrashes away on a P-90 equipped Les Paul Jr., emitting boxy rhythm and (dying) woman-tone leads. Joe Strummer is clearly guilty of Telecastercide. YouTube Search Term: The Clash - Clash City Rockers Live
Patti Smith, Horses, 1975.
Smith’s musical cohort, Lenny Kaye, knew exactly what he was doing. As the guy who compiled and documented the epochal garage-band collection Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, Kaye knew punk tone inside and out. Kaye used both Fender and Gibson guitars plugged into Marshall and Fender amps. YouTube Search Term: Patti Smith - Gloria (1979) Germany
Damned, Damned Damned Damned, 1977.
Recognized as the first British punk album, this slab by the Damned was produced by Nick Lowe and featured punk anthems played at breakneck speed. Aggressive, barking guitar tones. Sounds like it was recorded in a shed—and it was. YouTube Search Term: The Damned New Rose
Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers, L.A.M.F., 1977.
Wielding his trusty Les Paul Jr., ex-New York Doll Johnny Thunders leads the Heartbreakers through a wild set of Stones-inspired punk debauchery. YouTube Search Term: Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - Chinese Rocks
Television, Marquee Moon, 1977.
Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd were serious guitar players who weren’t afraid to take chances. Refined Fenderesque tones mixed with experimental songwriting. YouTube Search Term: Television - Marquee Moon (1977)
Various Artists, Burning Ambitions: A History of Punk, 1982.
This hard-to-find-but-oh-so-worth-it compilation of first-generation punks provides a cornucopia of quirky, fascinating guitar tones. Buzzcocks to Blitz, this comp gives some medium-level bands deserved exposure. Highly recommended. YouTube Search Term: Buzzcocks - Ever Fallen In Love?
Various Artists, No Thanks! The ‘70s Punk Rebellion, 2003.
Want it all in one bite? Rhino’s box-set tribute to punk has every punk band you’d want to hear except the Sex Pistols—who refused just because. YouTube Search Term: The Saints - (I’m) Stranded (1977)
Suicide Commandos, Make a Record, 1977.
Hailing from Minneapolis, the Suicide Commandos show that punk did exist outside the major metro areas. Guitarist Chris Osgood wielded a black ’52 Les Paul and grinded out some serious overdriven power. An excellent example of early, no-label, DIY punk. YouTube Search Term: Suicide Commandos - “Burn It Down”