In my post about “Favourite Bands Through Time” I mentioned how I’d discovered the Sex Pistols then had lots of fun raking through the punk compilations albums (which are ten-a-penny, of course, but then most punk bands only had one or two good songs, so most of the music lives on through these hodge-podge collections). I thought then I’d give a flavour of these songs. Everyone still remembers the Sex Pistols and The Clash, and to a lesser extent The Damned, The Jam, and The Stranglers, but are Discharge, Sham 69 and The Adicts as much in the public consciousness? I doubt it. Here, then, are twenty punk songs which I think are tremendous.

1. The Damned – “I Feel Alright”

A cover of The Stooge’s “1970”, this version is swampier and has a far, far more intense outro, the only time a UK punk band ever approximated the Velvet Underground. It simply KICKS ASS.

2. The Adicts – “Chinese Takeaway”

For me punk means total unabashed relish, not cynical negativity. The song exemplifies that!

3. Jilted John – “Jilted John”

Similarly, there are lots of humourous punk songs: “Maniac” by Peter and The Testtube Babies, “Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps” by Splodgenessabounds, hell even the Buzzcock’s “Orgasm Addict” is great fun. But this novelty hit is all-out wally-ish pisstaking.

4. Stiff Little Fingers – “Alternative Ulster”

The adrenaline and energy of punk is rarely better captured than on this.

5. Public Image Limited – “Public Image”

Though PIL quickly became a post-punk band (best achieved on their second album Metal Box, which I think one of the best albums of the 1980s), this is a genius blast: Keith Levein’s aluminium guitar (to deeply influence The Edge), Jah Wobble’s ocean-deep bass, and Lydon’s outraged nasal shriek.

6. Discharge – “Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing”


7. The Boys – “First Time”

I keep having to explain to people that pop-punk was NOT invented by Avril Lavigne or Sum 41 or whatever kiddy music they think it was. From the off, punk had some bands with a melodic aspect to them – the Buzzcocks, for example, Talking Heads, and obviously Blondie. This British group are one of the great lost pop-punk bands.

8. Manic Street Preachers – “It’s So Easy”

This version is actually punkier than the Guns N’ Roses original, and all the better for it. (Not saying it’s better, but amplifying the punky aspect gives it its own character).

9. 999 – “Feelin’ Alright With The Crew”

Don’t know much about them. Love the song though. Punk wasn’t all ra-ra-ra Ramones-on-speed riffing, yer know.

10. Bow Wow Wow – “C30, C60 C90, Go!”

Same with this – tribal drums yeah! It was so depressing to see Malcolm McLaren’s funeral hearse surrounded by rent-a-punk twats in mohawks and leathers. The man was far more diverse than that, as seen by this, his (as it were) comeback band.

11. Talking Heads – “Love –> Building On Fire”

This song could hardly be less punk, which somehow makes it all the more punk. With David Byrne’s falsetto, the fey tone and the absence of CHUGGA-CHUGGA riffs, it somehow still encapsulates the otherness of punk.

12. Big Black – “The Model”

Covering Kraftwerk’s wry tale, Big Black turn the treble up to 11 and everything to 0. True dissonant abrasion. You won’t be surprised that Big Black’s main man, Steve Albini, later produced Nirvana’s In Utero.

13. Sham 69 – “If The Kids Are United”

This song just about exemplifies punk – the military beat, the rousing riff, the veneration of “the kids”, the football-crowd chorus, the raw zest.

14. Siouxsie and the Banshees – Hong Kong Garden

Though Siouxsie quickly shifted to a Ballardian examination of the English (sub)urban darkness, this early classic is just all that’s right about punk.

15. Vice Squad – “Stand Strong, Stand Proud”

Dunno much about this band either, but this is a killer song.

16. X-Ray Spex – “Art-I-Ficial”

Dear Poly Styrene! Her take on consumerism and capitalism crucially expanded the vocabulary of punk – there’s still lots of that stuff in the crusty/grebo subgenres. Adding a saxophone is a bloody simply but killer move too.

17. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – “I Love Rock And Roll”

I’m sure some smart-arse will comment how JJ isn’t really punk, etc etc. Meh. Punk certainly did encourage a whole lot of women to get up on stage, which (given the homogeneity and blandness of post-millennial rock) can only have been a good thing.

18. The Saints – “Stranded”

Australia produced some pretty kickin’ punk bands, and this song is one of the best to come from there.

19. The Exploited – “Dead Cities”

I’m not keen on hardcore (for which read: simplify to absurd levels) punk, but this song has got an amazing riff which just never stops driving. Can you believe this was actually on Top Of The Pops? Different days!

20. Undertones – “Teenage Kicks”

OK, everyone knows (or SHOULD know) this one, but it can’t be denied! 2.27 of perfection.

Sunshine Award

I was recently nominated for “The Sunshine Award” by fellow blogger Christopher Ribeiro, whose Wish You Were Here blog is a terrific mix of East Asian photography and fixed gear biking. So to continue the great “circle jerk”, and to make up for the lack of a blog roll, I’d like to nominate my own favourite bloggers. Working in media as I do, it’s part of my job to keep up with what’s happening in China, and with the media here so neutered much of the best writing is done online – but my interests are broader than that.

The rules pertaining to the award are:

  1. Accept the award.
  2. Post the award on your blog together with the name / link to blog of the person who granted the award.
  3. Answer the questions below.
  4. Pass the award to 10 other blogs providing links to their blogs.
  5. Contact your 10 bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

So, without further ado (because too much ado would be just wrong, don’tcha know)…

  1. Favorite color? – deep red
  2. Favorite animal? – cats, golden eagles
  3. Favorite number? – 7
  4. Favorite food? – tough one!  Fresh bread, good cheese, many Italian dishes, fois gras, Twiglets…
  5. Favorite drink? – red wine
  6. Facebook or Twitter? – hard to separate, as they serve different functions: Twitter for news and information, Facebook for friends and family.
  7. What is your passion? – reading
  8. Giving or getting presents? – giving.
  9. Favorite day of the week? – it’s not the day, it’s what you do with it.
  10. Favorite flower? – snowdrops

And now the ten blogs which I like to read. This will include pro journos and amateurs doing it for shits and giggles.

1. China Hearsay

Stan Abrams’ combination of law/finance/IP/business subject matter and snarky sarcasm makes for great reading. Nerdy but fun.

2. Michael Tomasky

Formerly the US politics blogger on the Guardian, Tomasky now writes for Newsweek and the Daily Beast. A proud pinko liberal, he effortlessly demolishes Republican/rightwing/Teaparty arguments and presents well reasoned debating points. His pop culture references are pretty fun, too. He’s like your ideal American dad.

3. Sinocism

Bill Bishop is the news aggregator for China, performing an indispensable service for the news-hungry English-reading population. I interviewed him for Agenda on his use of social media – it would have been better to have been more in depth and broader in scope, of course, but there’s the limits of what we can do.

4. China Accounting Blog

I have a bit of a fascination with the “Big 4” – KPMG, Ernst & Young, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and PwC. Maybe it’s because they all rejected me when I graduated (don’t blame them – I would never have fit in). Here’s the best place to learn what they’re up to in China and how the government is trying to control them, amongst other beancounter topics.

5. Michael White

The Guardian is the only progressive broadsheet newspaper in the UK, if you don’t count the Independent (which I don’t – too wishy-washy), which is a bit ridiculous. Their website, fortunately, is fantastic, updated at lightning speed and with oodles of quality content above and beyond the newspaper itself. Their politics blogger (and assistant editor) has been around the block several times (former Washington correspondent, no less!) and writes hard-bitten, wry, insightful stuff.

6. Round The World Barstool Blues

While the better known Beijing Boyce writes more about the promotions, openings and events in Beijing nightlife, Froog gives a more personal, drinker’s perspective of Beijing’s many hostelries. He is also a devoted music fanatic; his commentary on my own posts is always great value, even if he does think “Black Star” is a good song.

7. China Media Blog

Brilliant dissection and analysis of China’s media, innit. Unsurprisingly based in Hong Kong.

8. Rectified.name

The personal, anecdotal China blog seems to have fallen out of favour – maybe most people are consuming content via Twitter or Google Reader rather than going to websites direct and feeling part of a community. This blog is a commune of writers who are all knowledgeable about China and have fun with writing about it. (Seems to have fallen into abeyance somewhat over the summer, though).

9. Patrick Chovanec

Another Agenda interviewee (it’s great to interview people whose work you admire), this blog focuses on China’s macro economy and is despite that a relatively easy (for a zero-financial training clod like myself) and insightful read.

10. China Daily Show

Sometimes the absurdity of China defies parody or satire, but these guys do a pretty damn good job of it.