Best Punk Songs Of All Time (Punk Rock Hits)

The musical style known as punk rock first appeared in the 1970s, particularly in the US and the UK. It is distinguished by its quick tempo, forceful sound, basic and sometimes unpolished instrumentation, and defiant attitude.

Punk rock songs sometimes contain short, brisk arrangements, catchy melodies, and lyrics that frequently convey annoyance, social commentary, and contempt for established society.

What is Punk rock? – Definition of punk

Punk rock was a revolutionary subgenre that substantially altered the music business. Punk rock provided a new method of producing music that allowed bands to circumvent the conventional music industry and distribute their music directly to their audience, which was one of the primary reasons it altered the world.

Punk rock songs were renowned for their intensely emotional lyrics, which worked in perfect harmony with the punchy guitars to evoke heartache and anxiety in the listeners.

Punk rock was more than simply music; it was a cultural phenomenon that questioned the current quo and exhorted individuals to engage in independent thought and question authority.

Punk rock revolutionized the music industry by bringing a fresh sound, attitude, and way of thinking that are still popular with both listeners and performers today.

At its finest, the boisterous, simplistic rock music style known as punk is composed of “three chords and the truth.”

Punk rock is approachable and immediate, with musicians who may only be familiar with a few chords but are into it for the music rather than the technical aspects.

Any attempt to arrange them in a hierarchy will undoubtedly result in fists being thrown in a punk bar. The top punk songs of all time are listed here.

God Save The Queen – Sex Pistols

This scathing indictment of English authority, which was recorded practically in the middle of Queen Elizabeth II’s 70-year reign, is a classic punk banger.

The passionate lyrics and straightforward message of hatred toward the system and its excesses, embodied by the Queen, combined with Johnny Rotten’s half-sung, half-shouted delivery make this a song that will outlive its intended audience.

Lust For Life – Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop, a former vocalist for the Stooges and a shirt hater, turned this song about drugs and rock & roll into his own personal anthem.

This song is one of the most punk ever created because of the pounding drums, snappy bass line, and almost unintelligible lyrics.

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Anarchy In The UK – Sex Pistols

This 1977 song by Cook, Matlock, Jones, and Rotten is the prototypical punk song and was the archetypal foreign object in the overindulged British music culture of the late 1970s.

This is a famous punk song for a reason, dripping with disdain for the British hierarchical mindset like the rest of Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen

The words “theatrical,” “over the top,” and “glitzy” all apply to Queen. though punk? It might sound like a reach, but The Game’s compact, simple 1980 tune is.

The unique ways in which this song differs from anything else Queen has ever recorded have been highlighted by fans, notably Brian May’s lone recorded use of a Fender Telecaster rather than his own Red Special.

Chinese Rocks – Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers

This three-chord, truth-based punk song was originally intended for the Ramones but was later covered by Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers.

It is unmistakably a Ramone song, and co-writer Dee Dee Ramone subsequently regretted that she was unable to play it with the band.

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Psycho Killer – Talking Heads

This David Byrne classic straddles the new wave and punk divide. The song’s disturbing open chords and the lyrics give it punk legitimacy, something the band’s typically new wave sound lacked.

It sounds as though a crazy man is talking to himself.

I Fought The Law – The Clash

The Clash reversed the gee-whiz tone of the Crickets’ original song by adding anger and wrath to their cover.

They give the lyrics of this song, which were originally played straight and sounded mushy and dejected, a rebellious sneer in their rendition. The Clash continues the trend of giving tired, sentimental melodies a fresh, rebellious spin.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go – The Clash

There isn’t much to say about this song from Combat Rock other than the fact that it is one of The Clash’s most well-known songs and one of the few continuously successful punk tunes.

This contains one of punk’s most-known melodies and is polished, well-written, and expertly executed.

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No More Heroes – The Stranglers

This late 1970s punk tune crosses over into a new wave, and the synth hook is instantly recognizable.

The song is the inspiration for the Suda51 video game No More Heroes, but it has a larger societal impact than it did when the Violent Femmes sang it in the late 1990s.

Basket Case – Green Day

In 1994, Green Day burst onto the national stage with this hymn that expressed the gloom and solitude of modern existence.

The album’s debut hit, “Dookie,” is an example of Billie Joe Armstrong’s ability to blend self-doubt with irresistible choruses to create a radio single that captivated mainstream radio.

Holiday In Cambodia – Dead Kennedys

One of the Dead Kennedys’ songs with the greatest widespread recognition is this scathing critique of the military regime in Cambodia. It was published in May 1980, and it reserves some of its harshest criticisms for slothful American college students.

It is well recognized for its politically charged lyrics, which condemn American college students’ affluent lifestyles and their lack of awareness of the atrocities inflicted by the Khmer Rouge dictatorship in Cambodia.

The song became an immediate hit in the punk rock community thanks to its memorable guitar riffs and Jello Biafra’s distinctive vocal delivery. Over the years, several musicians have covered the song, including the Foo Fighters, NOFX, and D.H. Peligro.

Teen Age Riot – Sonic Youth

This band’s 1988 punk-indie crossover smash, which has a conventional verse-chorus song structure, is an outlier.

The song’s ringing entrance, which was reduced from over four minutes on the album to only one for the single, appears out of place in comparison to the remainder of the song. But this song is a classic regardless of genre crossovers.

Pink Triangle – Weezer

Weezer wrote this song in the middle of the 1990s about the clash between heterosexual expectations and LGBT realities.

The protagonist of “Pink Triangle” regrets his naivete and inability to recognize the warning indications of his crush’s impending death. The song, which was semi-autobiographically written by Rivers Cuomo, is a staple of Weezer’s live performances.

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Rock The Casbah – The Clash

The Clash is by no means the first band to record a song about the rebellion of rock and roll. Rock artists have used it as a standard topic since the 1950s.

The song is completely distinctive to The Clash, adding in some short, well-chosen synth riffs to a typical punk sound despite the song’s well-worn content.

(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) – Beastie Boys

The Beastie Boys blended spoken word with punk vocals to make fun of their own privileged New York upbringing.

They were the first group to purposefully abandon all pretense of singing in favor of fusing rap style with punk rock, which became a pillar of their career. Half-shouted punk vocals were nothing new in 1986.

American Idiot – Green Day

This song, which was written in the wake of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and has become more timely as time has gone on, reassures the audience that it’s acceptable to not be comfortable with how consistently vulgar and dumbfounding America has become.

“American Idiot” serves as a warning to listeners that they are not crazy and the current state of affairs is not acceptable as propagandists devise increasingly more aggressive methods to manipulate people’s minds.

Blitzkrieg Bop – Ramones

One of the very first Ramones songs ever recorded was this song about working-class kids coming to a concert and going crazy.

This song established the Ramones’ sound for the band’s entire 20-year run with its unintelligible, screamed lyrics and a mix that sounds like it was recorded in a single mass at a bar. Throughout the history of the genre, several different punk bands have used it as a signature cover song.

Radio, Radio – Elvis Costello & The Attractions

Elvis Costello was permanently barred from performing on Saturday Night Live after he replaced “Less Than Zero” with this punk rock hit from 1977.

Costello was not allowed to play it on the program by Lorne Michaels, but he did it anyway. It is a biting satire of the commercialism of British radio.

200X – Kitten Forever

Using a microphone installed into an old-fashioned corded phone, this Minneapolis-based band created neo-riot grrrl lyrics and combined them with growling guitars and bass to create their distinctive sound.

From 2016 through 2020, this song about failing and trying again was a mainstay of their live performances. A large number of devastated fans were left behind when the band disbanded in 2022.

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Rebel Girl – Bikini Kill

One of the most well-known riot grrrl songs, “Rebel Girl” captures all the emotions of lesbian adolescence in a succinct two and a half minutes while also being a love song, an expression of anguish, and a sisterhood.

The song’s theme is one that Kathleen Hanna expresses in her lyrics in a variety of ways, and the audience should too.

London Calling – The Clash

The Clash advertised themselves as “The Only Band That Matters,” and for a brief period, they had substance to support that swagger.

The infamous “This is London calling…” prologue of BBC transmissions to occupied Europe during World War II is invoked at the beginning of this criticism of the rising nuclear tensions of the early 1980s.

It was noted that the world was the closest it had ever been to nuclear destruction. The menacing “SOS” played on a guitar pickup in the outro and the gloomy, minor-key song continue to serve as unnerving reminders of peril in the world.

Gloria – Patti Smith

This song, which is referred to as “proto-punk” because it was released before the punk explosion in 1976, begins with a gloomy piano melody before switching to a guitar tune, snarling words, and an agonizing longing for the titular “Gloria.”

It is practically a whole different song thanks to the lyrics’ full revision and stripped-down tune from the original Van Morrison song.

Minority – Green Day

This song from the band’s 2000 album Warning signaled a return to form after their 1997 album Nimrod featured a more commercial vibe.

It declared that Green Day was returning to its punk roots with a parade float and goth baton twirlers and was loud, unadorned, and defiant.

Best-selling punk albums in order

Here’s a table featuring some of the best-selling punk albums along with their respective artists:

Album Title Artist Year Released Certified Sales (Millions)
London Calling The Clash 1979 2.0
Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols Sex Pistols 1977 1.2
Dookie Green Day 1994 10.0
Smash The Offspring 1994 11.0
Enema of the State Blink-182 1999 15.0
Americana The Offspring 1998 10.0
..And Out Come the Wolves Rancid 1995 1.5
Bad Religion Bad Religion 1990 1.0
Punk in Drublic NOFX 1994 1.1
The Sufferer & the Witness Rise Against 2006 1.0

What songs are considered punk rock?

There are numerous iconic punk rock songs, and while this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are some classic tracks that are considered influential and representative of the punk rock genre:

  • “Anarchy in the U.K.” by Sex Pistols
  • “Blitzkrieg Bop” by Ramones
  • “London Calling” by The Clash
  • “God Save the Queen” by Sex Pistols
  • “I Wanna Be Sedated” by Ramones
  • “Holiday in Cambodia” by Dead Kennedys
  • “Pretty Vacant” by Sex Pistols
  • “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones
  • “White Riot” by The Clash
  • “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” by Buzzcocks
  • “Rockaway Beach” by Ramones
  • “Police Truck” by Dead Kennedys
  • “New Rose” by The Damned
  • “Gloria” by Patty Smith

Who is the king of punk?

Some artists often referred to as the “king of punk” due to their immense impact on the genre include:

  • Iggy Pop
  • Johnny Rotten (John Lydon)
  • Joey Ramone (Jeffrey Hyman)
  • Joe Strummer
  • Sid Vicious

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