Blaine Cartwright should need absolutely no introduction. Which is just as well, because I’m hungover and this screen is way too bright. Suffice to say, you should know his bands, Nashville Pussy and Nine Pound Hammer, both excellent and loud as hell. But, hey, you knew that already, right?
What you may not have known is that Blaine loves punk rock. So here’s his top favourite punk tunes… Play ’em loud. But not near me…. I’m going back to bed.
1. GOD SAVE THE QUEEN- Sex Pistols.
The perfect punk song and the perfect rock song. The standout cut on an LP that still stands above them all. This song was not a hit at all in the USA, especially my neck of the woods. There were a total of two copies sold of this world changing album when it was first released in my Kentucky town of 50,000 church going mutton heads. Thank God one of those copies was purchased by my Mom in March 1978 for upcoming 14th birthday.
I had given her a long list of albums to choose from. I had heard part of “Pretty Vacant” when it was played as joke on the local radio station. “Well folks, that’s what all the fuss is about over in England,” laughed the local deejay. And they never played it again. But I couldn’t stop thinking about that song. That sound.
When I finally played the album on my 14th birthday in my small bedroom of my hillbilly suburban home, it felt like a bomb went off. My love for The Sex Pistols and punk, separated me from everyone and everything in my little world.
Things would no longer the same.
Thank God for that!
2. ROCKAWAY BEACH (Live Version)- The Ramones
“Hey, we’re the Ramones and this one’s called Rockaway Beach! 1-2-3-4!”
That’s the opening of “It’s Alive”, the best live album ever. And it’s always in my top 5 of best albums ever. “It’s Alive” was the album I’d play for people to convert them to instant loyal Ramones fans. My copy, the town’s only, made the rounds through my Kentucky high school. The Apollo High Varsity Baseball team of 1980, would play a cassette they had made
of it to get excited for the game. And these were some very, very normal fucking people, jocks who worshipped Van Halen. You have no idea, trust me.
The Ramones always had ambitions to compete with the big rock acts of the day. On “It’s Alive” they’re not only competing, they’re fucking winning with very little chance of anyone catching them. Two LPs, 28 songs, unrelenting as hell! Listening to it has the same sensation as lighting a whole pack of firecrackers off at once.
Alas, the record company decided not to release it in the USA. I found my legendary copy, town’s only, in the tiny import section my local store. This was at a time when everyone, fucking everyone-Kiss, J. Geils, Peter Frampton, Foghat, Humble Pie, Thin Lizzy etc. were having breakout careers with LIVE ALBUMS!! And, subsequently, The Ramones were never fully appreciated in their native land. They should have been selling out basketball arenas all across the Midwest. Everyone knows that now. But back then, I knew it, my friends knew it, and a bunch of redneck tobacco chewing jocks knew it, too. Shit, we expected it. Looked forward to it. We were ready for it. Wasn’t our fault. Not sure how it happened but it took all the Ramones to die before they were given their proper due. I guess that’s about as punk as it gets.
3. AIN’T NOTHING TO DO-Dead Boys
Now, this would have been my teenage anthem. Hell yeah! No truer words ever spoken. Summertime, Kentucky 1980, I was an angry 16-year-old that was bored out of his skull.
And this song would have been blasting out of the car windows while my friends and I desperately cruise around town in a futile attempt to find a car full of chicks that might think we’re cool. Would we be successful? Almost always no. But it wouldn’t have mattered. Because the Dead Boys would be blaring out the 8-track. And that’s all that would’ve mattered.
But I didn’t hear this song until I was older. I had a copy of the second record as a kid. It’s pretty cool but pales in comparison. And due to a lack funds (there’s only so many yards you can mow), I never got the amazing first record until I was already in Nine Pound Hammer. We immediately learned “Ain’t Nothing to Do”.
Look it up. We kick it in the ass. You have to with a song like this.
4. BORN TO LOSE-The Heartbreakers
I picked this over the Dolls because it’s just way, way more punk. And way, way better. Possibly it is, depends on my mood.
But I had to put on a Johnny Thunders song on the list. I am the Hillbilly Johnny Thunders after all. I stole everything riff and sound he drunkenly left lying around. And I honestly think The Heartbreakers have aged better than the Dolls. When I play the Dolls for a young musician, they can see why I like it and that you probably had to be there. Probably, lucky for me, I was.
But when I play Johnny Thunders for them, they get it. They really get it. So, do I. Still do. How could you not.
5. BORSTAL BREAKOUT-Sham 69
This super catchy, vaguely rebellious, inescapable masterpiece is absolutely mind blowing.
Is it the perfect punk anthem? It sure seems like it now as I’m writing about it. It’s heads above anything else in their catalog, which has a few okay “youth chants” about things being crappy but keeping your chin up anyway. Or at least that’s my redneck read on it all. Whatever they’re rebelling against, I’m down! At least I am while this song plays.
Nine Pound Hammer opened for these guys in Cincinnati 1989. They were not the same band at all. They had added keyboards and saxophone. Ugh! When they finally played Borstal Breakout the place went nuts. About time! The best “One Anthem Wonder” band in the world.
6. I GOT A RIGHT- Iggy and The Stooges
The Godfather of Punk’s punkiest song ever. Supposedly recorded during Raw Power sessions, Iggy’s punkiest period, and was left off the LP. Why? Too punk? Not sure.
So, a few years later when Iggy was still a broke ass punk and needed drug money, he dug up the raw recording of this powerful song that was too raw to be on Raw Power.
On paper this is the punkiest song ever. And the fact that it’s a blistering sonic bombardment over which Iggy repeatedly screams “I got a right to do anything I want, any old time” and ends with a challenging “Can you feel it? Feel it baby!” makes it extra so.
I saw Iggy do it as an encore in Atlanta 1990, on the Instinct tour with Andy McCoy on guitar! He was not satisfied with the audience response so they kicked into the song. And then dove at the audience swinging his fists. Iggy’s a fucking punk.
7. FASTER AND LOUDER-The Dictators.
Dumb music that’s secretly smart or smart music that’s proudly dumb?
Whatever kind of music the Dictators play, they are great. Good friends too. This song more than delivers on the promise of its title. It’s even got a break with a “1-2, 1-2-3-4!” countdown by Bruce Springsteen in it. That’s an accomplishment in itself.
Here’s a weird story. Somehow in 2004 The Dictators song “Who Will Save Rock n’ Roll” became a number one hit in Owensboro, Kentucky. And only in Owensboro, Kentucky. That year they headlined Owensboro’s annual International Barbecue Festival down on the river. The Dictators followed a day of cover bands doing mainstream country hits.
They then played to a couple hundred people mix of hard-core fans that traveled to see their heroes and local chubby teenagers in Creed shirts who were looking to mosh.
All this took place on a stage in a half empty parking lot in a small stage in a small town in Kentucky in the middle of the June heat. Now that’s punk as shit.
8. RISE ABOVE-Black Flag
Angriest song ever recorded! I’m not much of SoCal punk guy. Or much of a hardcore guy either. But this song is undeniable. The whole Damaged album is one seriously fucked up tour de force.
At the center of it all is an overly ambitious, annoyingly defensive, loudly abrasive, dumbass vocalist who can’t sing for shit. And he’s also such a perfect punk front man, that he became a much-copied hero to pissed off kids everywhere.
For pure ferociousness, this one can’t be topped.
9. TEENAGE DEPRESSION-Eddie and The Hot Rods
“Well, I’m spending all my money and it’s going up my nose.” That’s one of the best first lines in a song ever. I was actually a teenager when this came out. This was a perfect soundtrack to those years.
No one knew it in Kentucky. I picked it up the album in the $1 bin at the record store. The American release had a bunch of live cuts on it. Those were the best! “The Kids Are Alright”, “96 Tears”, and the amazing “Get Out Of Denver”, all done distorted and full throttle.
These guys actually opened for Nashville Pussy in Bordeaux a few years ago. It was a perfect gig, fucking perfect. And I spent the night shooting the shit and trading compliments with vocalist Barrie Masters. Sadly, he died a few months later.
R.I.P. Buddy. You made a fucking perfect rock n’ roll record! How many motherfuckers can say that?
10. KNOW YOUR PRODUCT-The Saints
This is such a great song. I officially hated when punk abandoned the raw rock distorted Chuck Berry approach to a more “mature” approach that included (and almost ruined) such styles as reggae, old soul, jazz horns, funk, etc. blah blah blah.
That approach killed punk and made for some tepid music that only excited aging rock critics, who mostly lived in New York and London. Us pent up Midwesterners would be left out in the cold, rockless, punkless. You know what bands I’m talking about. That’s probably the reason The Clash aren’t on this list. Because they deserve to be. For sure! “Give ’Em Enough Rope” is vastly underrated. But, fuck y’all. It’s my list.
The reason this song is on my list instead is because The Saints actually accomplished more things in one song than the Clash did in a double album! This has killer horns, an r&b phrasing, a “mature” sound that didn’t sacrifice any sonicness or snottiness in its delivery. Great song. And it’s fun and isn’t constantly trying to show you how smart it is.
Perhaps this is where punk should have stopped. It’s where my list stops.
HONORABLE MENTION 1- Anything from The Pirates “Out Of Our Skulls”.
That’s a recent discovery in both the Hammer and Pussy camps. And we’re wearing it out.
HONORABLE MENTION 2- I’m writing this while drinking at a pub in Lexington, Kentucky. That’s the hometown of RICHARD HELL! He was the first to wear a torn t-shirt and safety pin and crap. That’s a fact. So, hey Londoners! One your most legendary fashion trends was invented by a fucking hillbilly!
Suck on that!
Pic by Carey Gough