John Robb's Punk Playlist


Wednesday 1st May 2013

As a founding member of The Membranes and Goldblade (pictured above), the writer of some of the best books on music and UK counterculture of the last twenty years ("The Charlatans: We Are Rock", "The Stone Roses and the Resurrection of British Pop" and "Punk Rock: An Oral History" - to name just three) and the founder of Louder than War, John Robb needs very little introduction. So, to mark the release of the new Goldblade album ("The Terror Of Modern Life"), it is a great honour to have such a pivotal figure put together this Punk playlist for us, and write some very erudite words about the songs he has chosen:

1. Alternative TV "Action Time Vision"
One of the great punk singles - so good that as as the years roll by you wonder why this was not a big hit. Pulling off the neat trick of being melodic and sneering, the song is like a manifesto for the movement from Mark Perry whose fanzine Sniffing Glue was a crucial document of the times, a time when every band had a purpose and every song was trying to change the world.

2. The Stranglers "Something better Change"
The Stranglers place in both punk and rock history has been endlessly debated - for me they are a key part of both histories. They had a genuine aggression, outsider status and intelligence that was more punk than punk and their inventiveness and musical originality has become part of the DNA for thousands of groups since then - arguably more influential musically than the Clash, it's time for the Stranglers to be recognised for the potent musical force that they were and still are.

3. X-Ray Spex "Oh Bondage Up Yours"
Punk was a time when women re-wrote the rulebook. Instead of being flouncy blondes they came in all shapes and sizes and attitudes and were more beautiful because of this. A top 8 of punk songs sung by women would be as relevant as this list. Poly Styrene is one of the best UK lyricist’s ever - this song is about bondage on lots of different levels - and her voice is still captivating. They only hung around for one album proper but are deeply loved and respected on the scene and her funeral was a sad day for many of her close friends like me.
4. Sex Pistols "Anarchy In the UK"
John Lennon once said before Elvis there was nothing, for my generation it was before the Sex Pistols that there was nothing - here's the record that started it all off and changed our lives for the better - it still sounds as sneeringly brilliant as ever. This messy live version collapses all over the place but makes a nice change from the standard recorded version.

5. The Clash "London Calling"
The Clash were the coolest rock n roll band of all time and working with Mick Jones recently has been an education into how to become an elder statesperson of rock n roll with the dignity and integrity and creative genius still intact. It's hard to know where to start with the Clash but this is one of their great signature songs.

6. Buzzcocks "Boredom"
Buzzcocks were so key in punk - their self released Spiral Scratch EP, that this song comes from, was the first DIY single that showed us how to make out own records and by extension our own culture and when they put the Sex Pistols on twice in Manchester in the summer of 1976 they changed the history of a city, they also made great pithy, funny and camply bitter sweet love songs and this song which remains one of the great sardonic punk anthems.

7. The Dammed "New Rose"
Brian James was one of the visionaries of punk and when he formed The Damned he created a band that was so full of combustible energy that it couldn’t possibly last in its original formation. New Rose literary explodes from the vinyl and remains one of the most thrilling rock n roll records ever made and is also the first punk single.

8. Black Flag "Rise Above"
The Americans had their own version of punk and whilst the Ramones pretty well invented the musical template it took Black Flag, a few years later, to come up with the same kind of intensity as the UK bands. The song is kinda bubblegum but also psychotic and its young singer Henry Rollins has become one of the cultural spokespeople for what's left of the counter culture. Black Flag were funny, dark, sick and genuinely dangerous - what else do you want from a rock n roll band?

For more info on Goldblade including live dates go to


Loading bag contents...