The Playlist Special: Top Artists Pick Their Personal Top 10

Thurston Moore: Punk

Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore has been obsessed with underground punk rock ever since he was a teenager in Connecticut. "I heard about Richard Hell, Patti Smith and Television around the same time," says Moore, 53. "That's really what made me move to New York City." His playlist traces the genre's evolution from those raw beginnings in the Seventies through the revolutionary sounds of the Eighties and Nineties, including hardcore, indie rock and riot grrl. "I really love these songs," he adds. "They're some of the greatest ever written."


Listen: Thurston Moore's Top Punk Songs

  • 1.
    "Vicious" | Lou Reed, 1972

    Lou Reed was a blueprint for me: literate, acerbic, street smart, unafraid amid the apocalypse. The lyrics to this song are like a busted nursery rhyme, and that slashing guitar figure – I knew when I first heard it that I wasn't the only one thinking it was time to destroy rock & roll.

  • 2.
    "Penetration" | Iggy and the Stooges, 1973

    Every Stooges song is worth its weight in gold. This is one of the most devilish songs on Raw Power, a record that's completely possessed by the devil. It's one of the most ultra-dark sexual songs ever committed to wax.

  • 3.
    "Little Johnny Jewel" | Television, 1975

    In the early Seventies, things were either glam or hippie. To call yourself Television had a banality that was so radical. And they had short hair. Nobody had short hair then! When I got this record in the mail, the minimalism of the signature guitar line was unlike anything I had ever heard. It defined a sonic sensibility that I knew I wanted to investigate.

  • 4.
    "You Gotta Lose" | Richard Hell and the Voidoids, 1976

    There was a little magazine ad that said, "Call Hell," with a picture of Richard Hell and his phone number. I sent him $2.50 and got the record. It was completely mind-blowing: He was singing in this yelping dog style, and the lyrics were some new strange kind of New York poetry language.

  • 5.
    "Orphans" | Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, 1978

    Teenage Jesus and the Jerks were the most polarizing band in the New York punk scene at the time. I stayed away from them – I was scared. Then I read an interview with Joey Ramone where he said they were the best band in New York, so I went out and bought the 7-inch, and it had all the energy and experimentalism that I wanted from punk rock. It's still one of the most radical recordings ever made, and I love the fact that it was made by a 19-year-old runaway girl.

  • 6.
    "God Speed" | Patti Smith Group, 1978

    The way Bob Dylan was for people who were brought up in the Sixties, Patti Smith was for me in the Seventies. I remember buying a 7-inch of "Because the Night," and the B-side was this sort of improvisatory song about spiritual and physical matters. It's one of the most jarring and passionate vocal takes I've ever heard her do.

  • 7.
    "My Boyfriend" | Suburban Lawns, 1981

    When Suburban Lawns put out their first 7-inch, “Gidget Goes to Hell,” you had to get it – it was either buy that record or you’re a square. This song was on the other side. It’s about this girl singing about how her boyfriend doesn’t love her. It takes the whole classic girl-group message and brings it screaming into reality.  

  • 8.
    "Shit You Hear At Parties" | Minutemen, 1982

    No one in New York really knew what was going on with L.A. punk rock, but we started hearing about bands like X and Flesh Eaters and Germs and Alley Cats – and then there were the Minutemen. D. Boon's guitar playing was so distinctive and furious, and their lyrics dealt with humor and politics. It was something that no other band was doing.

  • 9.
    "We Don't Need Freedom" | Saccharine Trust, 1981

    Saccharine Trust were part of that same southern L.A. scene. This is one of the best post-hippie songs ever. It's having fun with the idea of utopia: "We don't need freedom/Freedom is what destroyed your brain with creativity, drugs and pain..." Ha!

  • 10.
    "New Radio" | Bikini Kill, 1993

    Bikini Kill were part of the second, third, almost fourth generation of the underground hardcore scene. At first I thought they were a copy-cat band. Then I went to see them and they blew me away. Kathleen Hanna's singing style is this primal screech, and she was an activist, always thinking about the imbalance of power in her own scene. There was a period in the Nineties where she and Bikini Kill were just unbeatable.

  • 11.
    "Anal By Anal" | Boredoms, 1986

    When we first went to Japan, Boredoms opened up for us. They were these young, wild Japanese kids who were really into the Butthole Surfers and American underground music. This is one of the most completely fucked up 7-inches you could ever hear – it's just, like, broken fractured vocals and bleeps and skronks and spurts, as if they got some blind samurais to edit the studio tape. Amazing.

  • 12.
    "I've Got To Run" | Black Flag, 1982

    This is a B-side that exemplifies the period when Black Flag was at their most dangerous. When Henry Rollins joined the band, they became the most powerful American band almost of all time. They offered everything that the hardcore experience was, but they also delved into very experimental and otherworldly territories.

  • 13.
    "Little Fury Things" | Dinosaur Jr., 1987

    When Dinosaur started, something was going on – like, "Oh man, all these hardcore kids are listening to Sabbath and Deep Purple and prog-rock records." We got to be friends with them, and they recorded this album, You're Living All Over Me, which is such a classic record. I don't think J Mascis was ever able to repeat that magic, even though he continues to write great music.