The Ramones (“Judy Is A Punk”)

The Ramones on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert in 1977… I remember watching this when it aired… PUNK DEFINED!! If a picture paints a thousand words, this vid paints an entire musical genre! And video did NOT kill the radio star, it underscored it (them)!!

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The Clash (“Drug Stabbing Time”) [Live]

OK, for me this is not only one The Clash’s greatest songs, it is (IMHO) the defining masterpiece of first-generation punk (along with The Clash’s “Janie Jones”). Mick Jones is superb on this piece with his backup vocals (I especially like his “paying off the big fine,” with “fine” drawn out like that). And you expect the song to just end around 2:15 (in this live version timing), then again at 2:45. But no, it takes off again at 2:45ish with a new twist and invigoration. The studio cut on the album makes it even clearer. But this live version is raw and as real as it gets. Truly dynamic song and band!! Obviously, that’s why they’re known as “the only band that mattered.”

REM (“Radio Free Europe”)

REM’s first release, “Radio Free Europe” (1981), which would later appear on their first LP, Murmur (1983). I remember hearing this on my college radio station that year and falling in love with the song, and also thinking, “what the hell is he even saying?” When their first album came out with the title Murmur, I had to laugh, thinking it a perfect title for this amazing band’s vibe and lyrical unintelligibility. Remember, there was no internet to look up lyrics, you just made do with whatever you could make up and piece together sometimes. I saw them a couple times in San Francisco, including their “Murmur Tour.” They were totally badass in concert back then. I remember that around 2008 or so (??) my babysitter went to see Modest Mouse and had to “sit through all these old farts listening to the opening band, REM, who sucked.” I didn’t even have a response…

The Buggles (“Video Killed the Radio Star”)

A brilliant, (self-)reflective initiation into the age of music videos and what would much later turn into the era of YouTube… I remember with great excitement the highly marketed launch of MTV in 1981, and this song was perfectly chosen, and with great irony, as MTV’s debut. A slew of videos would follow, and this song encapsulates that moment when the imagination of your favorite bands and singers was often thwarted by the grim reality of their appearance in music videos that distracted from the sound and fantasy that we had in the age of pre-internet felicity. The Buggles killed it, as did MTV with this excellent choice for their debut… that was when MTV was really MTV…

The Go-Go’s (“We Got The Beat”)

And who could forget this fab all-girl L.A. band from the early 80s, who wrote and performed their own material? With the magnificent Belinda Carlisle on lead vocals, this group paved the way for the New Wave movement. Their debut album, Beauty and the Beat (1981), hit #1 on the Billboard 200 chart, and their poppy songs were ubiquitous in the early 80s.