Punk’s various origin stories have been documented ad infinitum, and through them, the movement’s myriad influences have been enshrined in a familiar proto-punk canon. It includes everything from the snotty ’60s garage-rock bands compiled on Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets compilation to the metallic Motor City soul of the MC5 to the sleazy glam of the New York Dolls to the proletariat pub rock of Dr. Feelgood. But while there’s no denying the impact these groups had on punk’s inaugural class-of-’76, to 2018 ears, a lot of them can sound, well, a little tame. Sure, a Nuggets standard like The Standells’ “Dirty Water” oozes bratty attitude, but it’s really no more threatening than the average golden oldie. And while the brash swagger of the New York Dolls still resounds, they essentially sound like a more irreverent Rolling Stones.
But in this playlist, we highlight the pre-punk songs that, to this day, sound every bit as violent and visceral as what followed. Certainly, there’s some expected names: Iggy and the Stooges’ 1972 thrasher “I Got a Right” actually blows past punk completely to invent hardcore a good six years early. And the nastiest of Nuggets, like The Music Machine’s “Talk Talk,” still hit like a leather-gloved fist to the face. But there also are a number of classic-rock icons here who, in their most unhinged and primordial states, rival anything punk coughed up——listen to John Lennon shred his throat into a bloody pulp on “Well Well Well,” or Deep Purple fuse ’50s hot-rod rock and ’70s metal on “Speed King.” Punk may have preached “no future,” but these songs still blaze like there’s no past.