For any punk rocker under the age of 35, it's hard to imagine a world where the music and culture were looked down upon by mainstream society. The fact that punks were labeled as outcasts was the driving force behind bands with angst ridden, often politically driven urgency that went into some of the greatest songs ever written. Those bands who were lucky to survive intact with the original line ups through the decades are out there, but so many band members have played musical chairs it can be hard to keep track. Sadly, most of the break ups and disagreements came over ownership of music, merchandising rights and money. But through it all, when it comes to the music, there is something to be said about the magic chemistry a particular line up of a band can have, that can't be replaced. This is our list of 10 classic punk bands we'd love to see reunite.
From St. Paul, Minnesota, Husker Du formed in 1979, and have consistently had the members bassist Greg Norton, guitarist Bob Mould and drummer Grant Hart. Although the band is currently known for its contribution as a post punk band in the footnotes of rock history, the group's early hardcore punk roots should not be overlooked. Early on, Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, as well as Greg Ginn of Black Flag were fans of Husker Du. Equal parts mysterious, intellectual, political and personal the band's sound eventually evolved to create an even broader genre of rock known as alternative. The band's talent was using a faster more aggressive sound early in its career then evolving to use more slower interludes and melodies, to become more of a thinking man's rock group throughout the mid '80s to '90s. The band's influence and legacy on modern rock, punk, experimental and even indie rock cannot be denied.
9. Butt Trumpet
In the early '90s, Butt Trumpet came up as a melodic hardcore punk band in the LA/Hollywood rock music scene of the time, with raunchy, sex saturated lyrics and songs that the resonated with the punk scene. The original lineup of the band featured vocalist/songwriter Thom Bone, along with additional singers/guitarists Sharon Needles and Blair N. Bitch with bassist Bianca Butthole. Butt Trumpet took a new school sound and merged it with the style of the Cramps and Weirdos. Butt Trumpet fans were punks and former flannel wearing grunge followers. With a strong local following in Southern California, the band performed throughout venues in the region and West Coast, and released the classic slab of an album, Primitive Enema in 1994, but by 1996, the band had split up for good. In 1998, Bitch, Needles and Butthole formed Betty Blowtorch, a more hard rock based band that could have blown up, but tragically in late 2001, disbanded, when Bianca was killed in a car crash outside of New Orleans, making a full reunion of the band impossible.
An acronym for Rich Kids on LSD, this Santa Barbara-based punk band rose to fame among the Nardcore movement, of punk bands from Oxnard, California, such as JFA, Aggression, Stalag 13, Ill Repute and many others. RKL first came to being in the early '80s, and has always contained guitarist Chris Rest. Taking in the sounds of skate punk, hardcore, and later thrash and rock elements, RKL gained a following among the LA/OC Nardcore scenes, that it toured successfully throughout the West coast and Europe throughout its three decades of existence. They've had so many band members, listing each would take too much space.
But, over the years musicians in RKL have also played in bands like No Use For A Name, Lagwagon, GWAR, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Mad Caddies and Pulley among many others. The band's use of dark, cynical, drug infused humor mixed with a hyped up punk rock that skaters, stoners and thrashers loved, the band was known for extreme drinking, partying and even more than the occasional beer or joint. Although sadly, an all original line up of the band is impossible, as the original singer Jason Sears, and drummers Derrick Plourde and Richard 'Bomer' Manzullo have passed on.
7. The Bags with Alice Bag
Alice Bag, a Chicana singer from East LA with roots in Mexican Ranchera music, formed the Bags, in late 1977 and led the band to become a staple part of the first generation of classic LA hardcore punk bands, including the Germs, X, Wierdos, Fear, Circle Jerks and so many others. With a very romantic yet self-destructive sound and live performances, the Bags earned a reputation for explosive live performances. Plus, fans loved Alice Bag's often shrieking, volatile voice, and the bands distorted, and angry, in your face sound, which has traces of Goth and even early metal. The bags pulled deep from the punk and rock roots of the time, and added deeper element to the LA hardcore punk scene that was full of rage and passion. The original line up of the Bags included guitarists Craig Lee and Rob Ritter, bassist Patricia Morrison (Pat Bag) and drummer Terry Graham. Alice Bag was featured in the punk film The Decline of Western Civilization, under the group name the Alice Bag Band, but by the time e film was released the band had already broke up. Today Alice bag is a feminist, author and educator.
Necros formed as teenagers in a city called Maumee, Ohio, in 1980. The band's young, energetic sound quickly caught on, and the angst ridden, somewhat political punk band music was building up a fan base through DIY word of mouth, tape trading and shows. The songs were mostly against authority, fighting oppression and police brutality. With such an intense live show, the bands reputation got them lumped in regionally with the Detroit scene, and the band was within a few years of forming, playing with bands like Bad Brains, Black Flag, Minor Threat and the Misfits. After many splits with other metal/punk bands, singles, EPs and other various releases, the band called it quits in after a tour opening for thrash metal group Megadeth in 1987.
This UK band was at the forefront of the anarchist punk movement, essentially creating the subgenre of punk that was relentless in its attack against the status quo, creating songs and music based on topics including the justice system, political corruption, racism, inequality, war, and even environmental destruction and animal rights. Crass were definitely a cult band, but preferred to remain outside of the scope of most normal punk bands. Along with the music, and anarchist political leanings, the band also lived by a very strong DIY ethic and wore hand made militaristic clothing and symbols that rejected authoritarians and fascists alike. Crass formed in the areas outside of London in the late '70s, and by 1984 had called it quits, but still the band's legacy of anarchy punk lives on, leaving its musical lineage in other politically enraged punk, doom, crust and metal bands to follow.
Black Flag, formed in 1976, in Hermosa Beach, California, by guitarist Greg Ginn who loved the sounds of Black Sabbath and merged them with the buzzing melodies of the Ramones to create a sound that so many to this day try to emulate. With an innovative sound at the time that was fast, slow and aggravated, Black Flag merged skate punk, hardcore and a slower sound to essentially begin a movement of sludge or stoner metal. Countless rock, metal, grunge and other punk bands cite Black Flag as direct inspirations. Original singer Keith Morris also formed The Circle Jerks after his exit from the band. Although the band has had dozens of members as musicians, perhaps the best and most well known of the vocalists is Henry Rollins, whose voice appears on the Damaged album. Ginn has been the only remaining member of the band to keep going with the name, though there have been lawsuits over money and rights by former members, and Ginn has tried to reignite the band with a new line up featuring pro skater and stunt man Mike Vallely.
Conformity was never part of the Dead Kennedys' ideology or sound. Formed in 1978 in the SF Bay area, the band merged satire, outlandish humor and political commentary in a brewery of sound known as early punk rock music. The band's music was fast paced, and broke political and confrontational, attacking corrupt politicians, warmongers and hypocritical extremists from both sides of the political spectrum. With a sound that was a vital part of the 1980s hardcore punk sound, the Dead Kennedys with Biafra at the microphone, were ahead of their time as a musical, and political band that forced fans to pay attention to the world around the, the policies that govern us those in power. Greed, racism, and genocides were all sang about and parodied in a way, and the Dead Kennedys produced some iconic songs, and albums, including the classic Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (1980). By the time the album Frankenchrist came out, in 1985, the band was sued by the state for the ostensibly obscene artwork in the album, in an H.R. Geiger piece of art called "Penis Landscape" which depicted rows of sexually explicit penises, anuses and vaginas. The case was eventually dropped and Biafra was championed a hero of freedom of speech.
But inner turmoil, nasty legal disputes over money, and other legal rights to the band's musical catalogue and logo meant the broke up before the release of Bedtime for Democracy (1986). Currently, Biafra fronts a new band, the Guantanamo Bay School of Medicine, while the remaining members; drummer D.H. Peligro, guitarist East Bay Ray and bassist Klaus Fluoride continue on as the Dead Kennedys with new singer Ron Greer. With all the bad blood and resentment over financial problems and lawsuits, a reunion of Biafra and the other Dead Kennedys seems highly unlikely. Yet the band's uncompromising political nature and willingness to go against the powers that be set the stage for bands like Fear Factory, System of a Down and even Rage Against the Machine.
2. Minor Threat
More than just another early hardcore punk band from the East Coast in the early '80s, Minor Threat was at the forefront of a subculture and greater movement. Though the band only lasted three years from 1980 to '83, the impact on the hardcore punk scene helped them to usher in a way of life among punks known as straight edge, where you refrained from alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sex and sometimes red meat. Minor Threat's music was urgent, prolific and piercing with rage and screaming with pure aggression. The band's sound set the tone for future bands to merge the furious buzzing riffs and fast pounding drums to create an early punk speed metal hybrid. Ian MacKaye was Minor threat's vocalist and songwriter and with songs no more than two minutes, the energy level, loudness and quick pace was always at an extremely high level. Minor threat is known and respected for keeping all of its tours, merch and music as DIY and underground as possible, keeping a level of integrity most bands today can only dream of.
It's been almost 40 years since vocalist Glenn Danzig formed a band of teenage musical misfits, known as the Misfits, in New Jersey. The band has had over a dozen members since its inception, but to many 'fiends' the classic line up features Danzig, bassist Jerry Only and his younger brother Doyle on guitars, with a revolving door of drummers to this day. From the onset, the Misfits had a ghoulish obsession with horror movies, monsters and sci-fi, which spilled into the image and music.
Visually, the Misfits appeared as hybrids of zombies and football players, shirtless, muscled, and with corpse paint. The band also sported a spiked downward facing Mohawk hairstyle, known as the Devi lock. Classic studio albums such as Earth A.D./Wolf's Blood, Walk Among Us, as well as previously unreleased albums like Static Age are staples for any fan of hardcore or punk.
But, by 1983, six years after the band was born, inner turmoil and disagreements caused the band to break apart. Danzig had decided to go solo, first with the death rock group known as Samhain and later his self-named metal band, which he still fronts today. After the band broke up, there were many bitter lawsuits through the '90s between Danzig and Only over money owed and rights to the use of the band's name, merchandising rights, and iconic fiend skull logo.
In 1995, Only formed the band again, with Doyle, drummer Dr. Chud and new singer Michael Graves. Since then, Doyle and Graves have exited the band leaving Only as the sole original member. A reunion with Doyle, Only and Danzig would be the ultimate punk band reunion of all time. But unfortunately, due to the lifelong hatred and grudge between Only and Danzig, the chances of the two making up for a Misfits comeback are slim to none.
Alex Distefano is an established freelance writer and music blogger from the Los Angeles area. With over a dozen years under his belt as a published Journalist, he covers the worlds of heavy metal music, punk rock, current events, cannabis culture, comedy, radio, food, tattoos, the paranormal, and ‘conspiracy theories.’ He graduated from California State University Long Beach in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in both Journalism and Ancient History. Aside from his professional writing endeavors, Distefano works as an Educator, and delivery/rideshare driver.