“It lends itself so well to the vinyl seven inch format. So many of its greatest bands are forgotten, just one brilliant single that they couldn’t match in album format. I loved that crackle of the needle hitting the vinyl and all the pent-up anticipation of what the ensuing music would sound like.
My first experiences with vinyl were well before streaming so once you set the needle down, you had no idea what the music would actually sound like. I used to pop caffeine pills, like 4 a day, (with coffee!) and these short bursts of intensity soundtracked me finding myself within punk rock. It was a manic time, but as a budding guitarist and a songwriter I studied these 5 singles and they shaped me.
The UK Subs “Betrayal” / “Nobody Move” – Yes, this isn’t one of the Subs classics, but it was my first exposure to them and it blew me away. The thing about this single is that Discharge’s Terry Bones played guitar on the B-Side, “Nobody Move.”
His rhythm guitar tone (yes, I’m sort of a geek with this shit) just leveled me. It was so powerful and exacting. I got a chance to tour with these guys in 1999 and they destroyed every band on the bill every night. It was so inspiring.
Battalion Of Saints A.D. “Hells Around The Next Corner” / “Thru With You” – This was a great San Diego 1980s hardcore band with slight metal influences. This single was their “comeback” single from the 1990s. Except for the singer, everyone in the original band—and I’m not kidding here—died and in really tragic ways, very punk rock!
I got this because Terry Bones was in the band at that time. It might be my favorite punk rock single. It sounds like Motörhead but way more sinister.
Cheetah Chrome & Mike Hudson “Downtown Beirut” / “Nothin’” – Cheetah was the guitarist in the Dead Boys, and Mike Hudson sang for the awesome Pagans. Looking back a bit wiser, I bet these two guys pocketed what little money they got for this and copped dope. The “production” is a treble-y din with a drum machine—they definitely cut corners to fill their veins. This was the first time I was exposed to the desperation of sleazy, NYC-style punk rock. With Johnny Thunders it’s desperate but vulnerable—sort of endearingly bratty—but with this stuff, it was desperate, and really detached and dark. No hope here, total darkness, and that really appealed to me.
Thankless Dogs “Writing On The Wall” / “Long Road Ahead” – Lookout! Records did this Punk U.S.A. comp and there were a lot of really cool bands on there to discover. The Thankless Dogs were on that with “Stan The Man” and they just seemed like weary badasses amidst the wide-eyed hooky pop punk fare on that CD. I dug their vibe and tracked down this vinyl. This single is amazing, it’s really Johnny Thunders-y but with a slight rockabilly thing in the vocal production. I sensed someone behind it that had a real refined and developed sense of musical self. It impressed me. Plus, the cover was a still from the greatest movie ever, Easy Rider. These guys were so committed to vinyl they never released their full-length on CD!
The Showcase Showdown “Merry Christmas I Fucked Your Snowman” /“Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh!” – This is the best holiday punk single of all time. Just that title alone tells you there is genius at work here. The Showcase Showdown was a 1990s Boston street punk band that, for a few years, was huge in that scene. There always was a sense of mystery about them because they never had band photos on their singles and their lyrics were really witty, but like learned cleverly stupid.
They put a “stop groove” on this seven inch with sleigh bells, so when the tracks ended, unless you picked the needle up, there was a real annoying loop of “festive” bells that grated on you. All their singles were strong, “Fuck You Norway” was also a great one.”