4 of the Best British Punk Rock Bands From the 1980s

The 1980s were a very important era for punk rock. In a time when mainstream music around the world was as sanitized and commercialized as ever, punk music was a natural response for those who wanted to do things differently. British punk bands, in particular, were huge figures in the scene through the 1980s and beyond. Let’s look at just four (this list isn’t exhaustive!) of the best British punk rock bands from the 1980s.

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1. The Clash

When one thinks of British punk bands from the 1980s, The Clash is one of the first to come to mind. They were part of the first wave of British punk bands in the late 1970s and continued well into the 1980s before disbanding. The band’s sound was a very particular mix of then-typical punk, reggaeton, and ska music. They were eclectic with their music, which set them apart from other punk bands at the time.

2. Sex Pistols

Obviously, Sex Pistols had to make it to this list. They were one of the most well-known British punk bands of the 1970s and early 1980s. Sex Pistols had that punk-rock aggression that some bands wanted but couldn’t quite muster. “Anarchy In The U.K.” is essential listening. Honestly, the whole of Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols is essential listening.

3. The Damned

The Damned formed in 1976 and were one of the OG bands of the British punk scene. They leaned towards the gothic side of rock, but their punk sound was unmistakable. Their sound also evolved quite a bit through the years. The Damned were clearly inspired more by rockabilly and garage rock than by politics and a general distaste for society when compared to their fellow bands. Still, they cultivated quite the fanbase in the 1980s and were one of the first British punk bands to tour the United States.

4. Crass

Crass started out in Essex in 1977, and they continued to put out excellent anarcho-punk tunes until their breakup in 1984. They stood out from other punk bands with their anarchist political ideologies and habit of using guerrilla marketing to promote their music, namely through graffiti and organized squats. “Big A Little A” and “Reality Asylum” are essential listening.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives

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