Readers Poll: The Best Punk Rock Bands of All Time - Rolling Stone
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Readers Poll: The Best Punk Rock Bands of All Time

You chose the Ramones, the Clash, the Dead Kennedys and more

Michael Caulfield/AMA2009/Getty Images for DCP

Two weeks ago, we asked our readers to select their favorite prog rock bands. We figured it was only logical to flip it around this week and ask about their favorite punk rock bands. What we didn't count on were fan site Green Day Authority and the band's official site at GreenDay.com both posting the link and asking fans to vote for Green Day – which gave the group a significant boost in the final tally. Click through to see all the results and watch videos from the winners. 

By Andy Greene

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5. The Dead Kennedys

The Dead Kennedys really pissed a lot of people off during their initial eight-year run. With songs like "Too Drunk To Fuck," "Holiday In Cambodia" and "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" (not to mention their name was the Dead Kennedys), lots of members of the square community assumed they were a bunch of violent, anarchist freaks. Anybody who actually took the time to listen to their lyrics, learned that the songs were sarcastic, ironic and often rather brilliant. That didn't stop the Parents Music Resource Music Center from coming after them, and it certainly don't prevent them from facing obscenity charges at the height of the Reagan era. They broke up in 1986, and frontman Jello Biafra went on to become a very vocal member of the Green Party and a spoken word artist. The rest of the band reformed without him in 2001. 

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4. The Sex Pistols

The Sex Pistols generated so much attention for their obscenity-laden TV appearances, clothing, arrests, hairstyles, constant infighting and drug habits that people often overlooked their music. They just made one proper LP during their brief career – 1977's Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols – but it had an incredible impact. Nearly every song is a classic. When they reunited in 1996 it gave them enough material for an entire setlist without any clunkers. Replacement bassist Sid Vicious died in 1979, but they brought back original bassist Glen Matlock when they reformed and they still tour every few years. Check out this clip of "Bodies" from a few years ago to get a sense of how powerful they remain as a live act. 

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3. The Ramones

In many ways, the Ramones seem like a cursed band. During their 20-year run they never had a single go higher on the charts than Number 66. They rarely played venues larger than clubs, and they mostly traveled around by van. Lead singer Joey Ramone battled Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder all of his life, while bassist Dee Dee Ramone was a hopeless heroin addict. When they broke up in 1996 few people seemed to care –though within a few years their legend had begun to grow. Their music finally started to appear in movies and TV shows, and they got into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and were awarded Lifetime Achievement Awards at the Grammys. Sadly, Joey, Dee Dee and Johnny all died between 2001 and 2004. 

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2. The Clash

The Clash only lasted seven years, but during that time they produced one of the strongest catalogs in rock history. The Beatles are the only other band with such a claim. The Clash began as a traditional punk band with their debut single "White Riot," but they soon embraced everything from rockabilly to reggae to hip-hop. Their 1980 LP London Calling is often called one of the greatest LPs of all-time, but all five of their albums are near-perfect. (I'm not counting 1985's Cut The Crap as a Clash album.) The band never reunited, but they were in heavy discussion about reuniting at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony when Joe Strummer suddenly died. 

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1. Green Day

Even the members of Green Day would probably object to being ranked higher than the Ramones and the Clash on this list, but the Internet has spoken and we have to honor that. It's easy to forget now, but by the early 2000's, Green Day seemed washed up. They were reduced to opening for Blink-182 in the summer of 2002, and it was hard to imagine them making a comeback – let alone becoming one of the biggest bands on the planet. Then again, nobody saw American Idiot coming. The brilliant 2004 rock opera forever changed their career, and suddenly they were playing stadiums and scoring more radio hits than any band on the planet. 2009's 21st Century Breakdown didn't quite live up to American Idiot, but it hardly mattered. 

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