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(Credits: Far Out / Nick Fewings)

Music

Five classic punk singles from around the world

@SamWKemp

We often think about punk as a purely Anglo-American phenomenon. Since the angst-driven genre rose to prominence in the late 1970s, discussions surrounding the origins, life and legacy of punk have fixated on groups like The Sex Pistols and The Ramones, The Clash and The Stooges. But these groups don’t make up the full picture.

Like all era-defining movements, punk exploded on a global scale, inspiring disaffected musicians all across the world with its minimal aesthetics and revolutionary zeal.

This shouldn’t be all that surprising. One of the most popular readings of punk is that it rose out of disillusionment on two fronts: one musical, the other political. In the UK, soaring rates of unemployment were as important to the development of punk as the dominance of vacuous musical mainstays. As you will see from this list, pretty much anywhere that there was social unrest and intellectual innovation in the late 1970s, punk soon followed.

Take South Africa, for example, where groups like National Wake, The Genuines and Wild Youth began exploring music as a way of confronting their colonial past and the realities of apartheid. In Italy, punk and post-punk groups flourished during a period of mass youth unemployment and social unrest. In Francoist Spain, the picture was much the same.

So to celebrate the global impact of punk music, we’ve bought you five obscure singles from around the world. Happy listening.

Five punk singles from around the world:

‘I’m Punk’ – The Swankys (Japan)

Formed in Kyushua Island in the late 1970s, The Swankys started out playing Sex Pistols-influences punk before going on to become Japan’s first and foremost hardcore punk outfit. Revered for their songwriting and feared for their aggressive live shows, The Swankys quickly became the stuff of legend, earning a reputation for violence after they were banned from local gig venues.

This single was released following numerous name changes and reimaginings, which eventually resulted in the group returning to the classic punk rock sound that made them a household name in underground music circles throughout Japan.

‘Violentami’ – Jo Squillo (Italy)

Giovanna Maria Coletti (otherwise known as Jo Squillo) rose to prominence as a purveyor of punk rock in the 1970s and ’80s. Much like Blondie’s Debbie Harry, she eventually moved towards dance music, releasing her incredibly successful single ‘Siamo Donne’ (We Are Women) in 1991.

This track from her early days as a no-nonsense punk songstress saw Coletti take all the non-conformist swagger of classic Italian singers like Mina and blend it with the pop-tinged anarchy of groups like The Ramones and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

‘Wot Bout Me?’ – Wild Youth (South Africa)

Named after the Generation X song, Wild Youth were the first punk group to find mainstream success in South Africa in the 1970s. The punk scene in Springs, Durban, was the very epicentre of the South African Punk movement and produced several influential bands, including Radio Rats and Corporal Punishment.

Originally known as Fourth Reich, Wild Youth came together after founding member Michael Flek visited the UK in 1977. During his stay, he had the opportunity to see groups such as The Clash and Sham 69, groups who came to form the bedrock of Wild Youth’s wry and faintly surreal style.

‘Panik’ – Métal Urbain (France)

Considering UK punk philosophy was underpinned by the work of French situationist thinkers like Guy Debord, it’s surprising that the punk scene wasn’t as vigorous in France as it was in the UK and US. Despite this, France produced some pretty astonishing punk acts, including the great Métal Urbain, who earned the praise of both John Peel and Rough Trade, whose first release was a Metal Urbain record.

While short-lived, Métal Urbain became one of the most influential French bands of the 1970s, combining the corrosive guitars of The Clash with more experimental elements like guitar feedback, synthesisers and drum machines. Their single ‘Panik’, with its nihilistic atmospheres and dense textures, seems to foreshadow the work of The Jesus And Mary Chain during the post-punk era.

‘Me Gusta ser una Zorra’ – Vulpas (Spain)

This all-female act from Bilboa was banned from Spanish TV after they rechristened their infamous cover of The Stooges’ song ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, ‘Me Gusta ser una Zorra’, which roughly translates as ‘I like being a slut.’ Just to make sure they were pissing off as many people as possible, Vulpas performed the track on a TV show broadcast during child protection time.

The performance was widely criticised by viewers and led to a media scandal and court case. Capitalising on this free publicity, Vulpas recorded and released the track as a single via Dos Robos Records, which sold more than 12000 copies.