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Top 10 Punk Bands

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Developed in the mid-1970s, punk rock is a genre of music rooted in garage rock that also rejected the mainstream 1970s rock sound. The music was fast, hard and stripped down while the songs' themes were usually political in nature. The punk attitude was also about a do-it-yourself ethic that went on to influence many bands thereafter. Join as we count down our picks for the top 10 most influential punk bands.

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Their music was fast, hard and stripped down. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 most influential punk bands.

#10 – Misfits

The Misfits weren’t the first band to produce fast and aggressive tracks with appealing vocal melodies. But, they did originate a unique brand of punk that featured dark and shocking imagery inspired by horror and sci-fi flicks. As their music has gotten faster and closer to hardcore punk, the band has reached cult hero status. Dozens have covered their songs, and they’ve kept their popularity alive today with later lineups.

#9 – Social Distortion

Despite lineup changes and substance abuse problems, Social Distortion has endured thanks to Mike Ness’ dedication and determination. Beginning with a faster and heavier sound, the band helped put the So-Cal punk rock scene on the map thanks to energetic performances and relatable lyrics. Though Social D has since embraced a more country and blues-infused cowpunk style, they haven’t lost any of their musical strength or appeal.

#8 – Bad Religion

Bad Religion combined their love of the Ramones, the Sex Pistols and The Clash with their interest in Black Flag and Minor Threat to create their own brand of punk rock and melodic hardcore. They added angry, politicized lyrics and distinguished themselves with vocal harmonies. After years of being underground stars, Bad Religion reached the masses with 1994’s Stranger than Fiction and have been going strong ever since.

#7 – Bad Brains

They may not like the hardcore punk label, but there’s no denying that Bad Brains left an indelible mark on the genre. While playing in a vigorous punk style, they differentiated themselves with their guitar use and by incorporating reggae into their sound. Seen as hardcore leaders, Bad Brains later inspired many of their devoted fans to start punk bands of their own.

#6 – Dead Kennedys

With their diverse fusion of rock genres and satire-heavy, left-leaning lyrics, these American punk rockers were one of the first groups to break into the UK hardcore scene. Their commitment to their political views and boundary-pushing ways even led to an obscenity trial over an album sleeve. Regardless, the Dead Kennedys left a deep impact on punk music and even scored a gold record.

#5 – Black Flag

During the first wave of American West Coast punk rock, determination and relentless touring made Black Flag synonymous with punk’s do-it-yourself ethic. Their songs were intense, super-fast and packed with socio-political themes. As one of the first bands to blend heavy metal, jazz and other styles, the members of Black Flag are also considered pioneers who set the standard for hardcore punk alongside Minor Threat and D.O.A.

#4 – Iggy and the Stooges

When it comes to sex, drugs and dirty, raucous rock ‘n’ roll, The Stooges were all that and then some. Their barebones sound, Iggy Pop’s wild antics and the “raw power” with which they performed laid the blueprint for punk and its aesthetic. Despite limited initial commercial success, The Stooges are now considered one of the most significant protopunk acts while Iggy has been dubbed the godfather of punk.

#3 – The Clash

As part of the original wave of British punk, The Clash was known for an angsty, dirty sound and socio-politically charged lyrics. After spreading their musical message on tour, the idealistic punk rockers struck a chord with Americans by experimenting with genres on London Calling and Combat Rock. Their strong songwriting, musical passion and fearlessness helped make The Clash “the only band that mattered.”

#2 – The Sex Pistols

In less than three years, these UK rebels kick-started the punk movement in their homeland. Their aggressive musical approach and violent, confrontational behavior brought the punk attitude mainstream and got them banned from multiple radio stations in the process. With their dangerous reputation, anti-establishment politics and ideas about anarchy, the Sex Pistols spoke to a generation of angry youth and inspired later musicians to be defiant and independent.

#1 – Ramones

Thanks to their loud and fast music, original artistic vision and minimalist fashion sense, the Ramones were the founding fathers of American punk rock. By focusing on substance, they crafted short, simple, catchy songs unlike anything pop music had ever seen. Their explosive rock ‘n’ roll shows inspired countless punk and hardcore bands, including many entries on this list, and cemented the Ramones’ place as one of the twentieth century’s most influential groups.

Which is your favorite punk band? Be sure to check out for more entertaining top 10s.

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