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punk's not dead, it's just sitting in a box set

Imagine my excitement when I heard that Rhino Records released a four-disc punk box (spanning 1973 to 1980) set last week. Hours and hours of punk rock! Glory be!

Then I read the track listing. Eh.

Sure, there's enough Jam and Buzzcocks on there to make me happy. And it's got Richard Hell and The Stranglers and Fear. And they do get bonus points for including 2-4-6-8 Motorway by the Tom Robinson Band. But (and isnt' there always a but with these things?), I will take issue with some of the tracks.

1. I never considered Joy Division to be punk. Yes, they were a great band, but not a great punk band. Of course, that's just my opinion. Your mileage my vary.

2. Including Joe Jackson is great. Including Is She Really Going Out With Him is a mistake. Of all the songs on Look Sharp, that is probably the least punk. Got the Time would have been much more appropriate. Or even On Your Radio from I'm the Man.

3. No Sex Pistols.

4. The Boomtown Rats? What did they ever contribute to punk? Bleh.

5. No Circle Jerks (they did have a release in 1980, thus qualifying them).

6. No Crass.

7. Including Nick Lowe: Yes, he was a great songwriter, but I think he was as punk then as Blink 182 is now.

8. Is the Cure really punk? As much as I love them, I would put them in whatever category you would throw Joy Division in.

So, what do you old school punk rockers think?


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» punk's not dead, it's just sitting in a box set from Blogcritics
Rhino Records releases No Thanks! The ’70s Punk Rebellion box set. Heated discussions ensue. [Read More]

» Punk, New Wave and All that Jazz from Freedom Lives
Michele has some good posts on Punk rock and related stuff. The posts can be found here, here and most recently here. The reason for these posts was the release of a compilation a Punk being released by Rhino. I... [Read More]


I agree about Joy Division, but Joe Jackson is a good choice?

The omission of The Minutemen is a travesty.


Back when Henry Rollins seemed, oh, I dunno, relevant, somehow.


1973 does seem a bit early to begin a punk rock boxed set. Does that mean that there are some Sparks songs on there?

Ultravox? Siouxsie? It sounds really good, tho. I wouldn't call a lot of it punk, but I like it. I'm pleased to see Alternative Ulster on there. I always feel like I'm the only person in the universe who likes that song.

Realistically, even if we look back on it and see different genres, I guess all of it would have been called "punk" in the 70s. I mean, mainstream was disco.

Henry Rollins was so hot when I was a kid. When he was, you know, male. sigh

They must have had some legal issue with getting any Sex Pistols songs. There's no other reasonable excuse.

ugh. I can't begin to understand some of the bands left off this list....

For Joe Jackson, in addition to your suggestions, I would add the song Beat Crazy from the album of the same name.

No Sex Pistols???????

The Plasmatics should be included..just because I had the hots for Wendy.

um, i don't have any punk rock issues with the cure and joy division, but Boys Don't Cry came out way after 1980, didn't it? I mean.. The Walk or Shake Dog Shake were earlier and better...

oh yeah and it's great to see X on there, but i'm with the first commenter... No Minutemen?! WTF? but then their first album wasn't released until '81.

Well, maybe they'll do another one of these 80 to 88. There was still a lot of worthwhile stuff being churned out in '89, but it started sucking.

Lydon et al refused to license any of the Sex Pistols music to the Rhino release. And there's more...

The company wanted to call the box, “Ever Get the Feeling You’ve Been Cheated?” For music trivia buffs, those were the words spoken into the microphone by Johnny Rotten as the Sex Pistols left the stage after their final concert before breaking up in 1978.
       Then Rotten, born John Lydon, found out about Rhino’s plans when he was interviewed this summer by a reporter from The Washington Post.
       “It’s a (expletive) insult to be using my quote to back up product that I have nothing to do with,” he told the Post. “To my mind, that’s fraudulent marketing, plain and simple. I don’t care how much homage they pay to me in the liner notes. They want to use me from a distance and I find that just unacceptable.”


Punk and New Wave have been folded together. It's inevitable; what once were Great Schisms that wrecked friendships become, after a quarter-century, subtle stylistic differences. It's wrong, but history is lazy, and music historians even lazier.

Lileks, there never was a "New Wave"...before punk became a marketing gimmick, before it became a formula...it was an attitude, one that said " we can do what we want, and do it how we want...fuck you!"
In it's earliest days experimenting with form, structure, style and content were par for the course...and there never was any such thing as a "punk" sound.
By the time the eighties had rolled around, an exciting and diverse scene had fractured into a hundred subgenres, and the media had started capitalising on the safer forms, hence New Wave, New Romantics, (early) Goth.
No collection can ever be called complete, especially when there are people left who were there, and can list a hundred bands that have since been forgotten. As far as I'm concerned this collection reflects one aspect of the punk scene fairly well...the one that defined the the formula, but ignores those that stood outside the formula and defined themselves...and as far as the Pistols are concerned? Fuck em...they're overhyped anyway...PIL were always much more interesting.

BTW Lileks, that Great Schism you mentioned....only from the eighties on, before that we were all freaks together...and even in the eighties in small towns we stuck together...didn't really matter if you were a punk, goth, waver or whatever, there were only ever a handful of us against all of them...shit, now you got me remembering all the cool high school parties we had....drinking cheap, lusting after the goth chicks, fightinh over wether Bad Brains gets played next or Bronski Beat...heh

Hmm no Misfits seems odd to me. The first Minutemen EP came out in 1980 so they could have been included I imagine. It's nice that they inlcluded Pere Ubu and the The Dead Boys, but I would have liked to see a couple of more Cleveland punk bands included (Electric Eels, Rocket from the Tombs, Peter Laughner, etc.). It seems a decent collection, but there's no way to do these sorts of things w/out leaving some major figures. I also have to assume that licensing issues also dictated some of the choices made (as with the Sex Pistols/PiL).

Joel, Misfits didn't release their first full-length album (Walk Among Us)until 1982 [They did have EPs before then].

I'd like to know the criteria for inclusion on this set were.

Well if that's what the criteria was that would explain the Misfits absence (along with some of the other bands I mentioned). That seems a pretty odd criteria to me though. Means no Misfts, no Bad Brains (they had a single out in 1980), no D.O.A. either (actually I think they had a full length out by then). It seems the set is more Punk+it's aftermath which is fine but is perhaps a wee bit too broad. And The Boomtown Rats? C'mon, they can do better than that. I think I'm going to go listen to the Germs' G.I. right now...
Oh and this book: American Hardcore: A Tribal History is a pretty swell read if you want to revisit the glory days.

It reminds me a lot of 1982's Burning Ambitions comp.

Black Flag already had a pretty respectable discography before Rollins joined in '81. The singer on "Wasted" is actually Keith Morris, who swiped the song when he quit to form Circle Jerks (tension ensues).

I would say that "Warsaw" by Joy Division is a punk song, and couldn't really be mistaken for anything else. "Love WIll Tear Us Apart" though... Amazing what a difference a couple years makes.

One band that always seems to get overlooked on these things is Motorhead. Many of the later, heavier punk bands owed them a clear debt (Discharge, GBH etc.).

NY Dolls? VU? Talking Heads?? Gary Neuman? I think there is a lot missing, but thanks for the tip - i'm a gittin it!

No real comment about punk, but Michele, YOU are solely responsible for my becoming addicted to the VH1 80s shows.

Joy Division not punk? Come on! Your lead singer hanging himself on the cusp of your greatest success is at least as punk as breaking up at the conclusion of your first U.S. tour for your first album. At least.

And I do think that James overstates the division between punk and new wave as well. New wave was the marketing category that the record labels used to sell punk to mainstream audiences. The Go-Go's, remember, started as a punk band, and are now considered a quaint 80's pop artifact; whereas Blink-182, a power-pop band through and through, are now considered punk. The Ramones considered what they did a put-on in the early days; now they're considered the godfathers of the movement.

Consider: The best-known song by punk's best-known Angry Young Man, Elvis Costello, is "What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding," written by . . . Nick Lowe. (And recorded by his band, Brinsley Schwartz, in a manner that made it clear that its sentiments were being mocked, whereas Costello sold it straight. Or did he?)

There was an article about this in my local newspaper. No Sex Pistols because Sex Pistols wouldn't let them. I agree w/ you on Joe Jackson!!

Joy Division and the Cure are New Wave, not punk.

And it's not a punk album without the Sex Pistols.

Enjoy it anyway.

"2-4-6-8 Motorway" = Best. Song. Ever.

"Boys Don't Cry" (the single) was released in 1979.

If you listen to the first half of Joy Division's Substance compilation, you will hear some definite punk songs. Then Barney discovered the synthesizer, and ... well, you know.

Joe Jackson was attempting to have a Serious Musician career, and ended up in the punk scene almost by accident (see also: Sting).

"The Go-Go's... are now considered a quaint 80's pop artifact"

Not by this long-time Go's fan.
Some folks do seem to have a really hard time differentiating marketing from music. It's always amazed me how so many people glibly dismiss the Go-Go's as a talentless pop band, based solely on their album covers. The reality is they have one of the meanest, best rock & roll rythm sections in existence. They're certainly not hardcore (thank goodness), but anyone who thinks that a band containing Gina Schock and Kathy Valentine is of the ilk of the Spice Girls is - to put it kindly - not paying very close attention.

Have to take issue with Thlayli and the odious Joe Jackson/Sting comparison. Sting by all accounts always fancied himself a Serious Musician and his literary pretensions are the worst thing about the Police.

JJ's (career-killing) Serious Musician phase developed over time. If you listen to the early records, they're filled with short 'n' angry tracks about being the uncool guy who doesn't get the girl.

I'll half agree with the choice of "Is She Really Going Out With Him", which leans towards the pretty even though the lyrics are fairly nasty. ("One More Time" from the same album would've been a better choice).

In general, a lot of Rhino's choices here, especially in the earlier tracks, are fairly pedestrian IMHO.

"The Go-Go's... are now considered a quaint 80's pop artifact"

Not by this long-time Go's fan.

Oh, not by me, either! I meant by the popular culture. Me, I've seen them live twice in the past three years, and saw Jane and Charlotte open for Matthew Sweet. They continue to be one of my all-time favorite bands.

buy the rhino remasters of YES. we know those are great.

The Sex Pistols were manufactured. But they were punk.
Joy Division and Siouxsie were, in the 70s, punk but no one here heard them so they're New Wave (? that's a term I've never ever heard applied to either before). I guess if you missed Einsturzende Neubaten's first couple record's, you might call them classical, or whatever your local Best Buy calls Philip Glass and the Alloy Orchestra these days. And Test Dept. is, um, New Age, if you missed their first 15yrs.
This reminds me of the kids who argue about the difference between House and Hard House and Booty House and Trance and Psychadelic Trance and Eurotrance and Techno and Drum and Bass and Dark House and Acid House and crap here we are back to House but sometimes it's Techno and maybe we should just shut up and dance.