12 great standalone punk-rock singles, from the Clash to the Libertines

The seven-inch 45 rpm single was the perfect punkrock average, in that anything related to such an unusual musical genre and culture as punk can be designed. This is because he was originally rock n rollis the perfect medium, and the original purpose of punk was to strip down rock to its fundamentals. And if you limit your presentation time to two minutes and 30 seconds, you’ll squeeze all your best ideas into a tight, concise package.

There are also the inherent acoustic advantages of singles, at least in their original form. You have the warmth of vinyl, added to that faster playback speed. 45 RPM already sounds hotter than a shipment of counterfeit Gucci handbags seized by US Customs. But you can master everything harder on one, thanks to the wider grooves. And punk rock is meant to be strong.

Read more: A riot grrrl story, from “Rebel Girl” to “Racist, Sexist Boy”

One of the original rules of punk-rock was value for money – certain songs were reserved for singles and excluded from albums. Some felt that the fact that all the singles appeared on the albums ripped off fans. This explains why, although you can find all the Sex Pistols‘A-sides on their only actual LP release, Never mind the bullshit, here come the Sex Pistols, the B-sides remained strictly on the 45 rpm. This is also why some tracks were exclusive singles, even though they appeared on later compilations or best ofs. This practice declined as vinyl became less popular. Today, a decent number of great standalone punk singles are still being released. Because there’s no thrill as electrifying as the short, high-pitched shock of a great punk-rock single.

Here is alternative press‘ selection of 12 of the best stand-alone punk singles in history, with a personalized playlist to enjoy while you read.

The Clash – “(The White Man) at Hammersmith Palais”

This may confuse some who have only heard the American edition of shockthe first album of. Well, that’s because when Epic Records finally deigned to release Shock domestically after the imports sold impressive numbers, they dropped part of the original tracklist to feature some of the singles released between it and 1978 Give them enough rope. And “(White Man) at Hammersmith Palais” — the ultimate distillation of the Clash’s punk/reggae synthesis, with a beautiful Joe Strummer lyric about rampant fascism and the commercial co-optation of punk – only released on seven inches in their home country. Did he manage to Stringit would have improved this album a thousand times over.

The Weirdos – “We’ve Got The Neutron Bomb”

Like many West Coast punk stars, LA the weird ones assumed that the major record labels would come knocking on their door, as they did for Ramones or many English bands. This is why much of the crucial LA and San Francisco punk documentation comes from independently released 45s. You might get the occasional bright explosion like this, a weapon-grinding screech that killed people while leaving buildings untouched, tuned to huge Gibson chords. Otherwise, several albums of material remained unreleased, possibly recorded over demos later collected from anthologies. “We have the neutron bomb” is as political as early American punk, powerful enough to be included in any essential punk playlist.

The Avengers – “We’re the One”

that of San Francisco avengersled by a charismatic teen singer Penelope Houston, should released an album. It’s criminal that they didn’t get the full treatment until three years after their breakup. Their first single in 1977 “We are the only one” is as definitive a punk statement as was made, filled with the revolutionary fervor of the era, featuring some of the finest guitars ever recorded. Blame it on Houston’s fierce commitment to her delivery – you can hear the veins popping in her neck and forehead, and the sweat pouring down her back. A rebellion sublime enough to dance to.

Buzzcocks – “What Do I Get?”

Nobody wrote better pop songs than Buzzcocks chief Pete Shelley. His airtight melodic confections redefined punk, romance and timeless songwriting. But for all their brilliant singing charms, Shelley’s tunes were hardly carefree — no one got the girl or the guy in their gender-nonspecific compositions. Second United Artists 45 “What do I get?” is a perfect example. The protagonist is hardly a Romeo. He laments the lack of romance in his life because of some of the most perfect high-speed guitar backing vocals and whoa-whoa backing vocals dedicated to tape. Deceptively, dangerously sweet, like a razor blade hidden in an apple.

Germs – “No God”

The ace germsled by a fascinating death cult leader in training Darby Crashwere a glamourrock group has had a nihilistic makeover. They were also the most successful punk graduates of the on-the-job training music school. “No God” was the B-side of their second single, and the best extraction yet of the charming and powerful destroying machine that they were. Played back to back with 1977 “Forming,” it is also an apt demonstration of how far we have come in a year. Guitarist pat smear was unable to pull out of the game Yes quote he now slams face to face in the start of the song, as it collides with a chaotic atheist statement. Yet chaos remains controlsomehow.

Bad Brains – “Pay to Cum”

One of hardcoreonly four former jazz/funk musicians could have performed the blinding 800 km/h thrash of “Pay to cum” and never derail it. Many back in the day would check their decks to make sure they weren’t playing at the wrong speed. But no, it was the right tempo. Really, this is the version punks love to say they prefer. It also got most to watch DC bad brains with reverence and admiration – it was a rare and powerful musical force. Don’t ask what the message of the song was, as a singer HOURThe delivery was so frenetic that he might as well have vibrated his index finger between his lips while humming. The real message was, “It all just happened much faster…

Social Distortion – “1945”

Social distortion were a rare pogo-party explosion from 1977, in an underground climate now awash with hardcore. It didn’t hurt this boss Mike Ness was a songwriting savant with a solid grounding in the basics of old school rock ‘n’ roll. That’s what helped make “1945,” an account of the bombing of Hiroshima told from the perspective of one of the bomber pilots, such an explosion – it had a good rhythm and it was easy to dance. Beginning with samples of an air raid siren and an explosion above a drummer Derek O’BrienNess’ frenzied beat, Ness’ grating bawl and air combat guitars create an ambience of arrogant majesty.

Manic Street Preachers – “Motown Junk”

Glam punk gains political awareness in 90s Welshman’s second single Situationists Manic street preachers. Starting with a public enemy sample and ending with one of skates, “Motown Junk” was probably the first example of a punk band attacking hip-hopstyle production techniques without trying the musical style itself. In between was an accelerated amalgamation of cheap stuff and the Clash decrying a wave of danceable love songs then grabbing the UK pop charts, calling it all “betrayal of the lower class”. Astutely, bassist Nicky Yarn backs up the chorus with a quote from the supremes“You can’t rush love.”

Bikini Kill – “Rebel Girl”

Kill in bikini were the group that officially ignited riot grrrl. So it stands to reason that they would record the movement’s most crucial anthem. Played since 1991, the band cut and released three different versions of “Rebel Girl” in 1993, initially for the Yeah yeah yeah yeah side of their split LP with cuddly bearthen thirdly for their Pussy Whipped album later in the year. But the best version is the supercharged single they cut with Joan Jett. Delivering them with a thick, loud Sex Pistols burst, Jett adds her meaningful rhythm guitar prowess and guttural vocals to this anthem of unapologetic lesbian love and female empowerment.

The White Stripes – “Let’s Shake Hands”

“Let’s Shake Hands” was Earth’s first introduction to the colorful and joyful universe The White Stripes reside. A “hallelujah” inducing a burst of secular gospel from the pen of Jack Whiteit’s an ode to platonic romance carried by the drummer Meg Whitethe frenzied bashing and the guitar so drenched in fuzz it sounds like it was recorded through a broken speaker. A clipped and concise shockwave of 2:04, she has the delirious spirit of Little Richard and was the first step towards the re-popularization of the 21st century punk garage. It also serves as the first glimpse of Jack’s idiosyncratic conceptual brilliance.

The Libertines – “Don’t Look Back at the Sun”

The fourth single from the dilapidated and heartfelt British mechanics on the sleeve the libertines, “Don’t Look Back at the Sun” is also arguably their best song. Produced in a dense, compressed scream by the ex-Sweden guitarist Bernard Butler, the track lifts and breathes anxiety over the fame the quartet had just achieved. Yet he simultaneously celebrates it, feeling like he worked hard for it and deserved it. Yet even if it had been the Pete Doherty and Carl Barat-led only recording of the quartet, it would have ensured their legend. As it is, it’s a major cog in their ongoing romance with mythical Britain.

The Linda Lindas – “Racist, Sexist Boy” (Live At LA Public Library)

With “Racist and sexist boy” recorded live last year at the LA Public Library modern teenage riot grrrls the Lindas Lindas amply demonstrate the continued vitality of raw punk. Written in response to racist comments from one of drummer Mila de la Garza’s classmates before the COVID-19 pandemic, the video of the performance has become a viral sensation. Several have complained online about their lack of experience, but just as many have praised him, including notables ranging from Thurston Moore at Kathleen Hanna to the author Viet Thanh Nguyen, who called it “the song we need right now”. Best of all, the Linda Linda are including a studio version on their upcoming debut album, but this one is just as insane as ever.

Diana J. Carleton