When I wrote the preamble, I hadn't yet settled on what I'd post as my first list. With Poly Styrene's passing this week, I decided to look for a list of the best punk songs to see where her band the X-Ray Spex showed up. The common wisdom from the obituaries is that "Oh Bondage, Up Yours" was the X-ray Spex best song, and it shows up at #36 on this list.
The list includes quite a few artists with more than one song (3 Clash songs in the top 20), and I'd argue the X-Ray Spex should have been one of those as well. My choice would have been "Genetic Engineering" from "Germ Free Adolescents", but there's a lot to choose from on that record. "Identity", "I Live Off You", and "Warrior in Woolworths" would all be contenders for me if I made a top 100 punk songs list.
It's interesting on this list to see where being one of the first is or isn't so important. Putting the Ramones and Sex Pistols at #1 and #2 suggests to me more of a ranking of who should get credit for starting punk and less of a proper ranking of which songs are really the greatest. With the Ramones, "Blitzkrieg Bop" is definitely a great song, but it's more like their earliest great song than their greatest song. The MC5 at #4 makes a statement about respecting punk's elders, but there's such a thing as too much respect. They don't belong that high on this list.
At #6, Fugazi shows up way ahead of Minor Threat. I know Fugazi developed a huge following, but as a ranking of punk rock songs, I have a hard time putting Fugazi anywhere close to Minor Threat. The Husker Du choices are a little odd too with "Celebrated Summer" coming in at #15. That's got to be a personal favorite of the listmaker - no way it's even a top 5 best Husker Du song, and the choice of "Pink Turns to Blue" from Husker Du's "Zen Arcade" over songs that are much better punk songs (not necessarily much better songs, but much better punk songs) makes it seem more like a list of best songs by punk bands.
A few other nits to pick (that's the point here, just in case you missed the preamable): Pere Ubu is way to low on the list, particularly for a list that puts so much stock in who came early. "Final Solution" should be part of the top 5 by that criteria. The list is missing The Avengers, The Dils, and Government Issue to name just a few, but it's really a pretty good list. It's interesting that Green Day was thrown in at #71 when the post-Nirvana wave of punk rock was otherwise ignored. I think Operation Ivy at #100 is the closest Ska Revival comes to cracking the list. I get it that including first wave ska revival on a list like this is debatable, but I feel like at least The Specials belong here.
What do you think of the list? What's too high? What's too low? What's screwy about the criteria. Don't make me quibble alone.