Alternative / Punk Featured Articles

The 60 Best Classic Punk Bands From The U.K.

Some of the greatest punk bands of all time have come from The United Kingdom. While you would practically have to be living under a rock to not be aware of bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash, there are many, many other great punk bands from England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland that you might have missed or possibly haven't been made aware of. The bands are listed in alphabetical order and they are not ranked according to best to worst or in order of importance. Do yourself a favor and check out any of these bands that you aren't currently familiar with, as they rank among the best that the U.K. has to offer.

Some of the greatest punk bands of all time have come from The United Kingdom. While you would practically have to be living under a rock to not be aware of bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash, there are many, many other great punk bands from England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland that you might have missed or possibly haven’t been made aware of. The bands are listed in alphabetical order and they are not ranked according to best to worst or in order of importance. Do yourself a favor and check out any of these bands that you aren’t currently familiar with, as they rank among the best that the U.K. has to offer.

 

The AdictsThe Adicts

The Adicts are probably most known for their image which is similar to that of the main characters in the cult classic movie “A Clockwork Orange. They wear bowler hats and all-white clothing. The band made the independent charts on many occasions during the 1980s. Check out their classic songs like “Chinese Takeaway”, “Viva La Revolution” and “Joker In The Pack” just to name a few.

 

 

 


The Adverts

The Adverts are most famous for their hit single “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” which hit #18 in the U.K. The band was relatively short-lived starting in 1976 and ending in 1979. They were highly successful as a live act and opened for Generation X, The Jams, and Iggy Pop just to name a few.

 

 

 

 


Angelic Upstarts

The band started in 1977 and has been associated with the oi punk movement along with anti-fascist messages in their lyrics, they are also one of the bands that represented the working class in England and have been part of the skinhead punk movement. Their first album landed at #29 on the U.K. charts.

 

 

 

 


Anti-Nowhere League

Anti-Nowhere League started in 1980 and is probably most well-known for their song “So What” which was featured by Metallica on their Garage Inc. album. While their first single “Streets of London” made it to #48 on the British charts, it was the B side of “So What” that made them famous. Since then the band has built a cult following from everyone from punks, skinheads, and metal fans.

 

 

 


Ant-Pasti

Anti-Pasti were part of the second wave of punk in the 80s and their debut album spent 7 straight weeks on the UK charts climbing all the way to #34. They played with bands like the Clash and the UK Subs which helped them build a solid following. 

 

 

 

 


Blitz

Blitz originally only lasted 3 years from 1980 to 1983 but made its mark on the scene during that time. Often referred to as an Oi band, they would change their sound drastically on their second album to feature a new wave sound in their music and it didn’t please their established base of punk fans.

 

 

 

 


Broken Bones

When guitarist Anthony “Bones” Roberts and his brother Terence “Tezz” Roberts left the band Discharged, they formed Broken Bones. The band fused punk and metal into a hardcore crossover band. While Terence would leave the band to join the UK Subs, Broken Bones debut album went all the way to #5 on the indie charts in the UK.

 

 

 


The Business

The Business was formed in 1979 and lasted for forty years before the death of singer Micky Fitz in 2016. The band had several singles and EPs chart with their Smash The Discos EP reaching the # spot.

 

 

 

 


Buzzcocks

Started in 1976 by Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto. The band charted with singles like “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” and “What Do I Get”, but are also famous for songs like “Orgasm Addict” which radio refused to play. Devoto left the band and went on to form the band Magazine. Shelley died in 2018.

 

 

 

 


Chaos UK

Considered one of the revolutionary bands of the hardcore punk scene, Chaos UK is considered one of the innovators of the scene along with Discharge. Chaos UK charted with several singles despite not being particularly radio-friendly at the time.

 

 

 

 


Chelsea

Chelsea once featured Billy Idol as their guitarist and Tony James on bass, who would both go on to play in Generation X. Their first single “Right to Work” was a success and was also featured in the film and soundtrack “Jubilee”. While the band would never reach the success level of some of its individual members, Chelsea remains a solid influence on the punk scene in England.

 

 

 


Chron Gen

Chron Gen, short for Chronic Generation started in 1978 and lasted until 1984. The band reformed on occasion to perform together after that and the surviving members even returned to release a new album in 2016 called “This Is The Age”.

 

 

 

 


The Clash

One of the biggest and most well-known punk bands from England, The Clash helped define what punk music could be as they changed their sound and evolved throughout their time as a band. The Clash had a big impact on popular culture through the punk movement while expressing political and social issues through their songs.

 

 

 

 


Cock Sparrer

Cock Sparrer was considered part of the Oi punk movement and unfortunately never quite reached the levels of fame that some of their counterparts of that timeframe reached. The band was extremely influential on the entire punk movement and actually started all the way back in 1972.

 

 

 


Cockney Rejects

The Cockney Rejects seem to have created the term Oi punk with their song “Oi, Oi, Oi”. They were hardcore football supporters and violence would often break out at their concerts from fans of opposing football teams. Their songs were mostly about street fighting and life in poor and blue-collar neighborhoods. They were never quite as successful commercially as many of their peers but made a big impact on the punk scene nonetheless.

 

 

 


Combat 84

Formed in 1981, the band became known for their appearance in the Documentary film about skinheads “Arena” that was featured on the BBC.  Combat 84 often referenced the military and was somewhat different from many of the punk bands of the era by decidedly leaning more to the “right” on the political spectrum with their lyrical content.  They were quite controversial after their documentary appearance for comments they made about racial equality.

 

 

 


Condemned 84

Originally known as Criminal Tendencies, then Condemned, and finally Condemned 84, was an English Oi punk band. During one of the festivals that they performed a riot broke out in the crowd that ended with many injuries among the fans, security, and support staff.

 

 

 

 


Conflict

Conflict was an outspoken Anarcho-punk who championed animal rights, human rights, and a large number of social issues including the anti-war movement. Conflict would go on to create the Mortarhate record label and distribute other punk artists’ music as well.

 

 

 

 


Crass

Dressing in military-type attire, Crass was outspoken on many issues including feminism, animal rights, and organized religion.  The band considered Anarchism as a political ideal and their lyrics were often quite blunt about many subjects including their disdain for other punk groups and parts of the punk culture itself.

 

 

 


The Damned

The Damned had 9 singles reach the charts in the UK as they blurred the lines between punk and gothic rock. Formed in London in 1976 by vocalist Dave Vanian, guitarist Brian James, bassist/guitarist Captain Sensible, and drummer Rat Scabies, The Damned made a big impact on the English punk and gothic rock scene. The band still continues to this day. Their single “New Rose” was one of the punk cover songs chosen by Guns N’ Roses for their Spaghetti Incident E.P.

 

 

 

Discharge

Formed in 1977, Discharge started in Stroke-On-Kent, England.  Their hardcore punk attitude was a big influence on not only other punk bands to follow but many heavy metal bands as well. Their music has been called heavy and harsh with lyrics that often appeal to political activists. The band continues to this day.

 

 

 

 


Disorder

Disorder began in Bristol in 1980 and was primarily known for its political messages. While not commercially successful, their version of street punk caught on and the band continues in recent years with different lineups.

 

 

 

 


The Exploited

Formed in 1979 and hailing from Scotland, The Exploited’s style has been called everything from street punk to crossover thrash. Their lyrics are often based on an anti-authoritarian message, anarchy, and general political statements. Singer Wattie Buchanan has been with the band since its first album replacing his brother Terry Buchanan who started the band. Their 1981 single “Dogs Of War” landed at #2 on the UK charts. The band still performs live but hasn’t released an album of new material since 2003.

 

 

 


The Fall

While considered Post-Punk these days, The Fall started out as a punk band but changed their style over the years to evolve into a completely different animal. The band’s output was quite substantial with 32 studio albums being released between 1979-2017. Vocalist Mark E. Smith died in 2018 from cancer which resulted in The Fall’s end.

 

 

 

 


GBH

Originally known as Charged GBH, the band started in 1978 in England and featured a raw, street punk sound that was popular with both punks and metalheads. While not necessarily acknowledged by the band, the name GBH was known to stand for Grievous Bodily Harm which bass player Sean McCarthy had been charged with. GBH still tours and performs live releasing their latest album in 2017.

 

 

 


Generation X

Generation X is most well known for being the first band to feature Billy Idol. The band had 6 singles and 2 albums on the charts in the UK. The band also featured Tony James who has played in the band Chelsea with Billy Idol and would later go on to be in the bands’ Sisters Of Mercy and Sigue Sigue Sputnik. The song “Dancing with Myself” would later be re-released as a hit solo song by Billy Idol. The band’s appearance on the BBC’s Top Of The Pops show brought them to the mainstream music audience but also was criticized by many punk fans for being more of a sell-out pop-type band afterward.

 

 

 


Icons Of Filth

Icons of Filth often used money raised from their live shows to support organizations that shared their ideas about human rights, animal rights, feminism, anti-racism, veganism, and more. Singer Stig died on stage of a heart attack in 2004. The band reformed in 2021 to release a new EP.

 

 

 


The Jam

Originally led by Paul Weller, The Jam was an interesting mix of punk, pop, R & B, and straight-ahead rock. In their early days we dressed in suits similar to bands like the Beatles and The Kinks but with a more punk attitude and rebellious attitude. The Jam had four number-one singles before they broke up in1982.

 

 

 


The Looters

The Looters are famous for being the short-lived project of Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook. Their output consisted of 4 songs, Join The Professionals, Conned Again, La La La, and Don’t Blow It All Away. The songs were re-released on the 3 album compilation: The Complete Professionals which also featured Jones and Cook.

 

 

 


Lost Cherrees

Formed in 1979 in South London, Lost Cherees at one time featured three female singers at the same time. They were outspoken on topics like sexism, war, and human rights. They reunited with a different lineup in 2003 and continue to release new material currently.

 

 

 


The Lurkers

The Lurkers from West London were the first act signed to the record label Beggar’s Banquet. The label would later feature such artists as Tubeway Army and Gary Numan, The Cult, and Gene Loves Jezebel. The Lurkers blurred the lines with their sound which was raw, loud, and abrasive, sounding like heavy metal at one moment and garage punk at the other. Their first album landed at #57 on the U.K. charts.

 

 

 


Magazine

After leaving the Buzzcocks, singer Howard DeVoto started Magazine which would lean a little more towards a traditional rock sound but incorporated lyrical themes and sounds that were more alternative for the timeframe. Magazine has been labeled both as a punk and a post-punk band.

 

 

 


Major Accident

Major Accident was another punk band like The Adicts, who fashioned much of their look based on the movie A Clockwork Orange. The band released four albums throughout their career and bounced back and forth between the band names Accident and Major Accident. While they weren’t really considered a commercial success, they were influential to the scene.

 

 

 

 

999

999 had a Top 40 hit with their single “Homicide” from their second album “Separates”, but also charted in the Top 100 on many of their early singles. The band took their name from the U.K..’s emergency telephone number “999”.

 

 

 

 


Newtown Neurotics

Known for their political lyrics and commentary, the Newtown Neurotics started in Essex England in 1979. The band would later rebrand themselves as The Neurotics. 

 

 

 

 


New Model Army

New Model Army slides in as a punk band, although their sound has always been difficult to place in one genre. Formed in 1980, the band has fifteen studio albums that have been released to date. They released their debut album “Vengeance” in 1984 and it reached #1 in the U.K.’s independent chart, resulting in the band being signed by EMI.

 

 

 


One Way System

Formed in 1979, this band from Lancashire released their debut album “All Systems Go” which went to #11 on the charts. Their second album, “The Writings On The Wall” ranked even higher at #6. The band would disband after their second album but would reform again in the 90s. The band has had numerous lineup changes over the years and no longer features any of the original band members. However, their legacy to the second wave of the British punk scene is undeniable.

 

 

 


The Partisans

The Partisans formed in 1978 in South Wales and were influenced by The Clash, Sex Pistols, and The Ramones among others. In the beginning, the band performed cover songs from their favorite bands.  The band would split up after two albums in 1984 and bassist Dave Parsons would later go on to play in the bands Transvision Vamp and Bush in the 90s. A new lineup would reform for one more album “Idiot Nation” in 2004.  

 

 

 


Penetration

Penetration had more of a punk attitude than a musical sound. It’s often argued that they were simply a rock band or a new wave band that got lumped into the punk movement, but their songs were quite diverse. There are seemingly best described as a punk/new wave band that sounds reminiscent of American rocker Pat Benatar. The band has released a total of 4 studio albums with one of them being an official bootleg and the other released with a different lineup in 2015. The first two albums charted in the UK but the band didn’t last long enough to build a huge following.

 

 

 


Peter And The Test Tube Babies

Peter And The Test Tube Babies used their twisted sense of humor to create a unique subgenre in punk music. The band officially started in 1978 but didn’t release their first studio album until 1982. Their debut album was called “Pissed And Proud” and featured song titles like “Up Yer Bum”!, “Shit Stirrer”, and “Keep Britain Untidy”.

 

 

 

 


The Professionals

The Professionals are famous for being the band that featured ex-Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook along with ex-Subway Sect bassist Paul Myers, with Ray McVeigh. When Johnny Rotten left the Sex Pistols to form Public Image Limited, Jones and Cook Started Theor original output was two studio albums “The Professionals” (1980) which remained unreleased until 1990 because of a legal dispute with original bassist Andy Allan) and 1981’s “I Didn’t See It Coming”. The band reformed with a different lineup to record two more albums in 2017 and 2021.

 

 

 


The Ruts

The Ruts scored a top ten single with “Babylon’s Burning in the U.K. in 1979. The Ruts often infused Reggae into their sound, but their success would end quickly with lead singer Malcolm Owen dying from a heroin overdose in 1980. The band would ultimately regroup as The Ruts DC and are still active today.

 

 

 

 


Sex Pistols

As short-lived as they were, with only one true studio album. No one impacted the punk culture in the UK more than the Sex Pistols, albeit The Clash comes in at a very close second place. “Never Mind The Bollocks…It’s The Sex Pistols” is now a legendary punk album and helped bring punk music to the forefront in England and abroad. Their song “God Save The Queen” became the most heavily censored record in U.K. history.

 

 

 


Sham 69

Formed in 1975, Sham 69 was one of the most successful punk bands in the United Kingdom with five singles hitting the top 20 charts. “If the Kids Are United” made it all the way to #9 in 1978. The original band broke up in 1980 but would reform several times with vocalist Jimmy Pursey being the main member. Sham 69’s latest album was released in 2021 and they are still active in the scene.

 

 

 


Sid Vicious

Sid became one of the most recognizable and one of the most popular members of the Sex Pistols despite his inability to actually play the bass. After the Sex Pistols, Sid recorded three songs, “C’Mon Everybody”, “Something Else” and “My Way” while filming The Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle” documentary. A live album was released after his death called “Sid Sings” along with a multitude of albums of varying quality. Sid Vicious is most famous for being “Sid Vicious” and his antics than for true talent, but it has made him a punk icon even today.

 

 

 


Siouxsie and the Banshees

While they’re most famous as gothic rock icons, Siouxsie and The Banshees originally started out as a punk band before evolving into the experimental goth-rock pop band that they would later become. They were fans of the then-unknown band The Sex Pistols and actually had (soon-to-be Sex Pistol) Sid Vicious as their drummer, who went by his real name of John Simon Ritchie at one time in an early line-up.

 

 

 


The Skids

The Skids were from Scotland and the band formed in 1977. They were reasonably successful with several hits in the Top 20 in the UK charts. Their first three albums,  “Scared to Dance”, “Days in Europa”, and “The Absolute Game” all sold. The band began to lose members and by 1981, Richard Jobson and Russell Webb were the only two members to complete the album “Joy”. Mike Ballie went on to the band Big Country. The band would reform in 2018 and release the albums “Burning Cities” and “Songs From A Haunted Ballroom” in 2021.

 

 

 


Slaughter And The Dogs

Formed in 1975 The original lineup for Slaughter And The Dogs was singer Wayne Barrett McGrath, guitarist Mick Rossi, drummer Brian “Mad Muffet” Grantham, guitarist Mike Day and bassist Howard “Zip” Bates. The band is known most for their first two albums “Do It Dog Style” (1978) and “Bite Back” (1980) but have released the following albums as well: “Shocking” (1991), “Beware Of…” (2001), and “Vicious” (2016). The band opened for The Sex Pistols at their Manchester show in 1976, which helped launched the punk scene there.

 

 

 


The Slits

The Slits opened for The Clash in 1977 and again in 1978, which helped them reach larger audiences. The band is most known for their debut album Cut (1979) and the follow-up Return of the Giant Slits (1981). The album cover for “Cut’ was considered controversial because it featured the female band members nude with only primitive jungle attire covering their waist. The album would reach #30 in the UK. The Slits incorporated a Reggae sound with Budgie (Siouxsie And The Banshees, The Creatures) on drums. 

 

 

 


Stiff Little Fingers

From Belfast, Ireland, The Stiff Little Fingers were the first punk band to have an independent album enter the Top 20 of the UK charts. They took their name from the song by The Vibrators on the album Pure Mania.  The band took heat for singing about real-life issues like The Northern Ireland Conflict from any other of the punk bands, but the band also had a loyal following for not ignoring those issues and bringing them to the forefront in songs. Stiff Little Fingers charted with their albums throughout the 80s like Inflammable Material (1979), Nobody’s Heroes (1980), Go for It (1981), and Now Then… (1982).

 

 

 


The Stranglers

With 23 songs landing on the UK Top 40 charts, The Stranglers are one of the most successful punk bands to come out of the UK. Their first album was released in 1977 and the band released their latest album called Dark Matters in 2021. The band is often not considered a punk band by purists, but certainly incorporated a punk feel and style early on. The band would experiment with their sound over the years to include sounds of new wave and brit-pop.

 

 

 


Subhumans

The Subhumans were formed in Wiltshire in 1980. After Impressing the band Flux Of Pink Indians, they were signed to release their first release. The hardcore punk sound resonated with the release of their first E.P.s and the band has since released the following full albums: The Day the Country Died (1983), From the Cradle to the Grave (1983), Worlds Apart (1985), 29:29 Split Vision (1986), Internal Riot (2007) and Crisis Point (2019). The band originally broke up in 1985 but returned to reunite in 1991 and again in 1998. They would go on to issue new albums after their reformation. The band still has a strong following to this day.

 

 


The Toy Dolls

Formed in 1979 The Toy Dolls dished out punk music with a twist of humor. They are known for wearing rectangular sunglasses. The band actually landed the #1 spot on the Uk indie chart for their cover of the song “Nellie The Elephant”, which was originally a children’s song and was released by the band at Christmas time in 1982. Lead vocalist Michael “Olga” Algar is the only remaining original member with the band having many lineup changes over the years. The band members all have unique nicknames. Their latest album to be released was EPISODE XIII in 2019.

 

 

 


UK Subs

Led by singer Charlie Harper, The UK Subs have been an integral part of the punk scene since 1976.  Of interesting note, the bands’ first 26 album titles each start with the next letter of the alphabet. Their first three studio albums charted in the Top 25 in the UK.  Known for singles like  “Stranglehold”, “Teenage”, “Warhead”, “Down On The Farm” and “Tomorrow’s Girls” the band has cemented its reputation as a classic UK punk band that continues to this day, albeit with Harper as the only original member.

 

 

 


The Undertones

The Undertones came out of Ireland and featured Feargal Sharkey on vocals. The original lineup broke up in 1983 after releasing four studio albums: The Undertones (1979), Hypnotised (1980), Positive Touch (1981), and The Sin of Pride (1983). The Undertones are still the most successful band to emerge from Derry Ireland. Former vocalist Feargal Sharkey had a semi-successful solo career that lasted into the 90s.

 

 

 


The Vibrators

The Vibrators started in 1976 and have had a prolific career over the years releasing 24 studio albums to date. The first two albums charted well in the UK but failed to chart after that. The band “Stiff Little Fingers” took their name from the song by The Vibrators. The band is still currently active and released a new single in 2022.

 

 

 

 


Vice Squad

Formed in Bristol in 1979, Vice Squad, fronted by singer Beki Bondage, who remains the only original member, charted in the UK Top 40 with their debut album “No Cause For Concern”. Their follow-up album “Stand Strong, Stand Proud” also charted well. The band would release one more album during the 1980s before disbanding and returning with a new lineup in 1999.  Vice Squad is currently active with Bondage as the vocalist. 

 

 

 


Warsaw

Named after David Bowie’s song “Warszawa”, Warsaw was the beginning of what would become the legendary band “Joy Division” and later would become “New Order” after the death of vocalist Ian Curtis. The band reportedly started after Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner were both inspired after seeing The Sex Pistol play live. The band changed its name to Joy Division in 1978. The Warsaw songs have circulated as a bootleg album for years as the RCA Sessions.

 

 

 


Wire

Wire started in 1976 as a punk band which would later evolve into a more of a new wave, alternative rock band. Their debut album “Pink Flag” is probably their most critically acclaimed album. It was definitely the most straight-ahead punk album, which saw the band experiment a lot with their sound on each album after it.

 

 

 

 


X-Ray Spex

X-Ray Spex started out in London in 1976. Throughout their career, the band only released two albums and five singles. With singer Poly Styrene at the helm, the band is most famous for the single “Oh, Bondage. Up Yours!” Their debut album “Germ Free Adolescents” was released in 1978 and made the top 40 charts in the UK. However, the band would not release another studio album until 1995.

Tags

About the author

Bobby Caughron

Bobby Caughron is a music journalist and Editor-In-Chief for XS ROCK. He began a life-long fan of hard rock and metal music after hearing KISS as a kid. He is still an avid fan of the 80s metal scene and continues to discover and write about new music in all rock genres today.

XS ROCK Back Issues

Listen To The XS ROCK Podcast On Amazon

Hard Rock & Metal

80s Rock & Pop

Industrial & Electronic Rock

Alternative Rock & Punk

Check Out Bang Your Head Apparel!

Get All The Latest News From XS ROCK In Your Email

Subscribe to our mailing list and get pdates to your email inbox.

Buy Hair Metal!