40 Greatest Punk Albums of All Time

The riot-starters and two-chord wonders that blew rock wide open

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The Clash, 'The Clash' (1977)
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2. The Clash, 'The Clash' (1977)

On April 3rd, 1976, a London pub-rock combo, the 101ers, played a show with gnarly urchins the Sex Pistols. The future was "right in front of me," recalled 101ers singer-guitarist Joe Strummer. A year later, Strummer was the battle-scarred voice of the Clash and in the U.K. Top 20 with his new band's self-titled flamethrower debut, a brittle-fuzz volley of politicized rage and street-choir vocal hooks that transformed British punk from a brawling adolescent turmoil to a dynamic social weapon in songs like "White Riot," "London's Burning" and "I'm So Bored With the U.S.A." Strummer and his co-writer, guitarist Mick Jones, were not born debaters; manager-svengali Bernie Rhodes pressed them to go topical. But the effect — propelled by bassist Paul Simonon and original drummer Terry Chimes — was pivotal. CBS in America did not issue the album until 1979, adding later singles. The original remains the sound of a riot being born.

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