Last week I posted something about going to a Stranglers gig and was enjoying the vitriol about them not being a ”Ëœproper punk band’.
After 25 odd years the argument is still running and it needs sorting out.

Just what is a proper punk band?

We decided to have a poll and some notes her to help you make your decision



Musically they are arguably the most influential band of them all. Invented the barre chord buzzsaw sound template that nearly everyone copied. After they played London in 1976 everyone speeded up and copped their leather trousers and drainpipes look.


The punk police get quite agitated and sneer that they had long hair, some of them were staunch Republicans – too bubblegum.



They combined the counter culture with punk and made a potent brew. Explained just what anarchism really was and set an example of how it could be done


The punk police claim that they were hippies in disguise

The Clash


They had the look, the anthems, the passion, the style


Some say they were the ”Ëœboy band of punk and were too contrived’



Invented the punk rock DIY single, sang clever, subversive love songs


They sang clever subversive love songs when the punk rule book asked for street politics.

UK Subs


Toured for ever, Charlie Harper is man of the people, never lets you down


The punk police always looked down on the so called second wave bands and didn’t like Charlie for being ”Ëœtoo old’.

Sex Pistols


They invented it, they had the sex, style and subversion


Punk police claim they were too contrived and were a fake band.

The Stranglers


Genuinely innovative and aggressive, wrote great songs, were true to themselves, never claimed to be punk anyway


The punk police didn’t like moustaches and keyboards – there were rules at that time! And also hit them with the misogynist stick and are still outraged by their antics- which was sort of the point wasn’t it?

Subway Sect


Awkward misfits who ignored all the rules of punk and made up their own


Awkward misfits who ignored all the rules of punk and made up their own.

Generation X


Wrote great anthems and were genuinely exciting- understood pop art and were in right at the start.


The punk police never liked Billy Idol because their girlfriends wanted to shag him.

X Ray Spex


Poly Styrene was a true original and lyrically brilliant


Were there any?

The Damned


Eccentric vaudeville whose debut album is one of the great rock n roll records wup their with the Stooges and the MC5. Brian James was there right at the start- arguably the first person in the UK who knew high octane rock n roll was to be the order of the day.


The punk police never liked them because they were not part of the ”Ëœinner circle’

Stiff Little Fingers


Genuine anger from Belfast and great songs


The punk police never trusted anyway who was not from London or part of the first wave.

The Slits


The ultimate punky reggae party



Adam And the Ants


Their initial bizarre take on punk rock was almost perfect.


The punk polics don’t like anyone who makes it.

The Fall


So full of punk rock vitriol and awkwardness that they were not punk at all


The Punk police don’t like ”Ëœthis kind of music.’

Siouxsie And The Banshees


Siouxsie is one of the icons of punk and the music was innovative


The punk police always claim they were a ‘goth band’



Proof that the punk spirit can survive in the 21st century. great anthemic, punk rock songs.


The punk police really hate them.

[poll id=”4″]

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Difficult. Depends on which way the wind is blowing and your own personal definition of “Punk”. Initial thought – “only one answer, The Sex Pistols” but it all depends on what “Punk” means to you. If “ultimate” means “first” then MC5, The Stooges, NYD & The Ramones will occupy a lot of peoples first thoughts along with The Damned (New Rose & all that etc). If it means impact on the (UK) populus then my initial thought would suffice. If it means not conforming to anybodys rules then there is no better suggestion than Vic Godard & Subway Sect.

    The genre “Punk” has so many flavours under it’s umbrella which makes a definitive answer impossible. Don’t worry, it’s all music, it’s all good in it’s own way.

    Not conforming to rules & the D.I.Y. ethic dictates that anyone claiming to be the “Ultimate Punk Band” simply isn’t because of this. How “Punk” is that?

  2. The Sex Pistols were the ones to take it out of the underground and let the kids in the provincial towns get in on it all. Probably not what the punk police wanted, but what use is preaching to the converted? For that reason alone i`m voting for them.
    Special mention for Dead Kennedys and Angelic Upstarts though.

  3. Good Lord! Decisions, decisions…

    Andy Kershaw once described The Clash as the ultimate folk band.

    Right, off to think now!

  4. […] I still found the Sex Pistols reunion gigs unwatchable, and I still wonder why the bands that I idealistically watched in 76, 77 […]

  5. […] he screamed and wailed into his microphone. As he has said previously, “My body and mind is the Sex Pistols but my heart and soul is PiL.” you can tell he\’s totally passionate about every word he speaks. […]

  6. […] a modern equivalent of the Sex Pistols (not musically- just a music with that edge) pitched up would anyone notice? Would they be allowed […]

  7. […] after the house where the band all squatted together – 101 Walterton Road, Maida Vale. Before the Sex Pistols shot to fame, Johnny Rotten squatted with Sid Vicious after he got kicked out of his house. […]

  8. […] after the house where the band all squatted together – 101 Walterton Road, Maida Vale. Before the Sex Pistols shot to fame, Johnny Rotten squatted with Sid Vicious after he got kicked out of his house. […]

  9. Stranglers the original protaganists, helped kick start the movement before anyone really knew what Punk was. Damned first single ‘New Rose’ greatest punk song, Stranglers ‘No More Heroes’ Sex Pistols /’Never mind the Bollocks’ greatest Punk Albums.

  10. Don’t forget the punk police’s hatred of SLF for Gordon Ogilvie’s involvement – as if that mattered a damn. I love all of the above bands for all the contrary reasons you have nailed. Aside from the obvious NMTB as the definitive LP, I’d vote for ‘Inflammable Material’ – it’s pop, it’s punk, it’s fast, it’s righteous, it’s anarchist, it’s rough as sandpaper, it’s on an independent, it’s for the kids, by the kids.

    And the mighty Stranglers are my favourite band. So there.

  11. tricky…because they all adopted their own attitudes after the short snipey songs of the ramones, stranglers and pistols…xray spex were out there – Poly styrene was a visionary and took the punk ethos further which is what i thought ideas were about…

  12. Back in the day, there was a fanzine called New Youth, whose tag was “Youth is not an age it’s an attitude”. And that is the key to punk, not the clothes, the music, or even the haircut, it’s the attitude.

    Anyway, not sure about punkiest band, but one of my favourite punkiest gigs was Cornershop, Blood Sausage & Huggy Bear at the Adelphi in Hull. Most of Cornershop didn’t turn up, so members of the BS & HB filled in, with either a roadie or a manager singing the lyrics from a sheet of A4. It was brilliant.

  13. Brilliant. And yes, no cons whatsoever with X-Ray Spex. THE punk band of all time. And yay for the punk police hating Rancid – any band that ‘claims the artistic rights’ to Crass (and yes, they have) deserves to have bottles of piss hurled at them.

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  15. Ramones or stranglers both so good. sex pistols are more punky but I like Ramones or stranglers although buzz and sex pists are good.

  16. Sex Pistols and Ramones are everything punk is about. Sex Pistols have the intelligence, attitude, politics, and a raw sound. Ramones have the speed, short songs, melody, and 1-2-3-4 count rock n roll. Both are DIY, innovative, and play simple, but effective music. I love those bands and they both get my vote.

  17. The clash were sell outs and the Sex Pistols we’re created by a record label, they spoke of anarchy in the wrong way and weren’t about positivity and ending hate which is the true meaning of punk, that’s why I gotta go with crass, they caused and uproar in England and actually made a change, they were just punks either, they were artists and activists, most punk bands just talk about problems but crass gave us solutions, they brought punk and anarchy to a whole other level and they understood the true meaning of anarchy and that’s why I consider them the greatest punk band of all time because they actually did something instead of just talking about problems, they did so much for the punk music and we’re the leaders of the anarcho punk movement, crass is the best :)

    • if having your label deem an album ‘unsellable’ then making it a multidisc (the brilliant sandanista) just to jam it up their tailpipes is ‘selling out’ then gimme more. from the 101ers til his way too early passing joe played the game his way – dub, ska, world music, country, soul….. he was able to bring so many genres together with a passion that is so badly missed. love the hipsters with their fedoras, beards and checkered shirts who “liked the band when they played the small clubs for us and a few friends, but now that they are gaining popularity they have sold out.”


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