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Top 10 Punk Guitarists

By October 24, 2012

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IGN.com has posted it's list of Punk Rock's 10 Mightiest Guitar Gods. The concept of "top punk guitarists" seems almost antithetical to the idea of punk music... most punk bands reject traditional musical proficiency. Fittingly, this list focuses on guitarists who have attitude and presence, rather than those with technical virtuosity.

Here is a summary of the list (visit IGN.com for the full article, which features profiles of each guitarist, with recommended listening for each).

  • Lou Reed (Velvet Underground)
  • Johnny Thunders (New York Dolls)
  • Lenny Kaye (Patti Smith)
  • Johnny Ramone (The Ramones)
  • Steve Jones (Sex Pistols)
  • Mick Jones (The Clash)
  • Tom Verlaine & Richard Lloyd (Television)
  • Robert Quine (Richard Hell & the Voidoids)
  • Ricky Wilson (B-52's)
  • Billy Zoom (X)
I was surprised not to see Brett Gurewitz from Bad Religion on the list. Any other guitarists they've missed?

Top 100 Guitar Solos


July 31, 2008 at 3:05 pm
(1) Morellofan says:

where is Tom Morello?!?!

July 31, 2008 at 10:47 pm
(2) pantznbeard says:

Umm, because Tom doesn’t play punk-rock, maybe?

August 1, 2008 at 1:56 am
(3) D. Lo says:

Umm …Tom Morello is more of a punk guitarist
then 3/4 of the people on that list Dumbass !!

August 2, 2008 at 1:46 am
(4) Travis says:

And why not Brian Baker and Greg Hetson. How can a punk category even be suggested without including the names of these two individuals. Along with Bad Religion, they’ve been in well over a few significant punk bands (Minor Threat and DagNasty, anybody?).

August 2, 2008 at 11:41 am
(5) guitar teacher says:


Pete Shelley

Nuff Said!

August 2, 2008 at 5:25 pm
(6) Johnny H says:

Dr Know – Bad Brains…East Bay Ray – DKs…Ex Con Ron – MDC…?

August 4, 2008 at 12:21 pm
(7) Steve O says:

What about Mike Palm of Agent Orange…??? A real innovator!

August 4, 2008 at 2:22 pm
(8) Scotty Conant says:

Can we keep this civil or reveal yourselves as being just more mindless troglodytes that have your myopic heads up one’s own backside?

August 4, 2008 at 2:40 pm
(9) Rick says:

How about Bob Mould from Husker Du? D Boon was fairly influential with Minutemen. I find it kind of funny that Lou Reed is considered a “punk” guitar player, so I guess we should include Dean Wareham in there as well….so many options so little room to include our favorites, no?

August 4, 2008 at 3:14 pm
(10) Christopher Dowling says:

Billy Joe Armstrong

August 4, 2008 at 3:16 pm
(11) Christopher Dowling says:

Tim Armstrong

August 4, 2008 at 3:19 pm
(12) Christopher Dowling says:

Black Francis

August 4, 2008 at 9:30 pm
(13) ptvamp says:

The essence of punk is a slam’n rhythm guitar & “feel”. That’s why Thunders will always be an icon. That’s why Gregory Ambrose Pitman from Gregory’s Funhouse is an unacknowledged hero.

August 4, 2008 at 10:18 pm
(14) UFO says:

She’s not gonna be on the list because she’s pretty obscure, but check out Keikos in the now-defunct Japanese punk band Super Junky Monkey. Look up “Buckin’ the Bolts” at YouTube or wherever. Not really my kinda tunes, but she’s got serious, no bull**** chops.

An amazing guitarist, even by conventional rock standards. She did a stint in the GWAR-ish trio eX-Girl for the album “Endangered Species” – on the last cut, “Letter From Mr. Triscuits,” she goes off on an improv jam that sounds like she could be Michael Schenker’s kid sister.

I’d just about give up beer for the chance to catch Keikos live…

August 6, 2008 at 4:05 am
(15) phbs says:

what about East Bay Ray?

August 11, 2008 at 11:18 am
(16) Jim H. says:

The late, great James Honeyman-Scott and Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders.

August 13, 2008 at 6:30 am
(17) Shayna says:

What about Jade Puget of A.F.I. amazing guitarist there

August 20, 2008 at 5:42 pm
(18) ijjy. says:

How about El Hefe??


August 24, 2008 at 6:48 pm
(19) Murph says:

It depends how broadly one wishes to define punk rock. Lou Reed may have been a punk in his day and he played rock music. Was he a punk rocker? Not in my opinion but that’s because I have a narrow definition of punk rock. In my book, Lou Reed, Tom Morello, and James Honeyman-Scott are/were not punk rockers. Talented musicians, yes. Punk rockers, no.

December 13, 2008 at 4:37 pm
(20) Guitar maniac says:

Big ummmmm…. Where is BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG?????????? Have you lost your minds?

June 3, 2009 at 2:19 pm
(21) caitlin says:

i think angus young shud b on here man hes **edit** awesome!!!

September 6, 2009 at 9:00 pm
(22) marco says:

Noodles from The Offspring is amazing

September 8, 2009 at 9:25 pm
(23) JStang says:

Greg Ginn of Black Flag, and Rikk Agnew of Adolescents need to be on there instead of Steve Jones and the B-52s guy. i wouldnt even consider the B-52s a post punk band, and especially not punk.

September 17, 2009 at 7:21 pm
(24) Stagger L says:

Not too far off the mark if one could only pick 10. But a bit overly weighted towards old-school US punk.

Re: JStang. I agree, the B-52s is a strange choice.

Re: Murph. Ummm…Lou Reed was the cover story of punk magazine #1, back when the term “punk” was coined to describe the CBGB era underground music scene. Back when punk was an attitude and stood for stylistic and musical creativity and originality. Not a bunch of formulaic knock offs with uniforms and cookie cutter hair-dos. Yes, Lou Reed pre-dated the Ramones era punk scene, but he shared all of the characteristics the term was coined to describe.

September 28, 2009 at 12:46 pm
(25) CHarlie says:

Bob Stinson, maybe?

December 24, 2009 at 7:35 pm
(26) Bucky says:

I hate to break it to you, but the only person who shouldn’t be on this list is Lou Reed. There is not Punk sound, because it was a movement from ’73 to ’82. Lenny Kaye was the first person to write the word “punk” to describe it. Anyone who is familiar with REAL punk knows that. Check out Nuggets, where Lenny wrote the liner notes.

If I had to replace Lou, I’d put Greg Ginn or one of the Talking Heads. I’d say East Bay Ray, but he’s kind of… a jerk.

February 17, 2010 at 12:49 pm
(27) morepunkthanme says:

Billy Joe Armstrong is a great power chord player and pop punk song writer but but not a great stand alone punk guitarist. The B52s are not punk. I am surprised that Aaron Abeyta is not on this list seeing as how he is one of the most widely versed and technical punk guitarists of the 90s and even still today.

March 1, 2010 at 6:45 pm
(28) Roy Martin says:

I would discard Lou Reed and Ricky Wilson not because of their lack of greatness but because they are not punk(and we all know what real punk is). I would also discard Lenny Kaye placing him a bit further down the list, but still pretty high. You have to add Mike Ness for being one of the first competent lead guitarist in punks first wave. You also have to add Tim Armstrong(no explanation required). And lastly to complete the list you need Greg Ginn for his originality. Now look at the revised list. I think it works because all of the guitarist on the list influenced in one way or another the Punk pop millionaires of today.

March 15, 2010 at 11:12 pm
(29) @alandryiii says:

East Bay Ray/ El Hefe. Both are pioneers in the their particular punk niche. Think outside the realm of classic punk and explore the whole genre, IGN.

May 26, 2010 at 5:01 am
(30) Scott says:

The guys from A Wilhelm Scream and Strung Out deserve to be on here. Sure they get a lot of shtick from “up the punx” idiots because they have a lot of metal influence but they are by far and above the best modern punk guitarists.

November 2, 2010 at 11:02 pm
(31) Ian says:

Tim Armstrong

Chris Hannah from Propagandhi

El Hefe

Richard Lloyd from Television

Robert Quine and Ivan Julian

Mick Jones

January 31, 2011 at 1:52 am
(32) Dave Jenkins says:

You missed the boat without Gregory Pittman from Gregory’s Funhouse…you can still get your hands on his stuff and it’s just as hypnotic and hilarious today. The guy was a f—— genius.

March 17, 2011 at 5:38 pm
(33) SheSellsSanctuary says:

Brian Baker! …get with it people!!!! He should be #1 on that list. The dude has skillz!!!

March 25, 2011 at 12:15 am
(34) bacon50 says:

wheres doyle

April 4, 2011 at 7:18 pm
(35) jessica says:

Stan Lee of The Dickies

July 1, 2011 at 9:33 pm
(36) Big Al says:

The proble with this list is that the author didn’t define what he considered “punk” and what he didn’t. He’s chosen to include lots of folks who pre-date punk (Reed, Quine, Thunders, Verlanie, Kaye, Lloyd) and one guitarist who is clearly post-punk alternative (Ricky Wilson). None of those 7 have any business being on that list – however, much influence they might have had.

Proto Punk does not equal Punk and Punk does not equal Post Punk.

Brian James and Howard Devoto should be on that list.

If you choose to include American Hardcore as part of the punkscene then Greg Ginn, Greg Sage, Bob Mould, Guy Picciotto, and Dr. Know need to be on it.

July 1, 2011 at 9:57 pm
(37) Big Al says:

Correction: My list above should have had Pete Shelley (guitar)- NOT Howard Devoto (bass)

I think “Punk” should be defined from the time that Ramone first began to play clubs (Spring ’74) until the Sex Pistols broke up (January ’78). Lots of music historians would, I think, agree that’s correct and it narrows the field a lot.

I think SEPARATE lists are needed for…

* Proto Punk (covers folks like Reed, Quine, Thunders)
* Punk (defined above)
* British Post-Punk (covers bands like PIL, Sioushie & the Banshees, Bauhaus, The Skids, etc.)
* American Post-Punk (e.g. Sonic Youth, Swans, etc.)
* American Hard Core (e.g. Husker Du, Black Flag, The Wipers, etc.)

May 26, 2012 at 1:57 am

All of the guitarists for the Damned starting with Brian James at number two and CaptainSensible, Mr. Raymond Burns, number one. Let me remind you that the Captain played bass on Damned, Damned, Damned. the first of its kind to be labeled and recorded punk rock. The Late great Johnny Ramone is right there and myself is alo a decent guitar player of just about any style.

August 27, 2012 at 5:27 pm
(39) Dave Brown says:

Thank you Gary ! Brian James with out question the best punk Guitarist

October 16, 2012 at 3:50 pm
(40) john says:

why didn’t anyone mention olga from the toy dolls

October 26, 2012 at 1:28 pm
(41) db says:

Where is Noodles from the Offspring – he is so underrated – tight riffs and chords!

October 29, 2012 at 2:18 pm
(42) Andy says:

No John McGreoch of Siouxie And The Banshees.

October 29, 2012 at 7:32 pm
(43) poetinahat says:

Agree with the other posters and the author — just a bizarre definition of ‘punk’ applied here. And the idea of ‘top punk guitarist’ is silly, like “top 10 obscure bands”. But in a world where billion-selling U2 is classed as “indie rock”, everything’s packaged, I guess.

I really like a lot of the guitarists mentioned, but I’ve never warmed to the idea of rankings like these. Lists are interesting, sure, but why rank?

October 29, 2012 at 8:12 pm
(44) jamesS says:

I saw two I wanted to mention, maybe three, and they were mentioned, but here goes, First, Greg Ginn, Second , James Honeyman Scott, and thirdly but not least, Black Francis.

October 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm
(45) william shannonhouse says:

The usual b.s. And as usual, the conflation of punk and New Wave, which any fan knows are not the same thing. So to include New Wave guitarists like Tom Verlaine & Richard Lloyd of Television, who engaged in tonal experiments and extended improvisations, with white noise thrash flailers like Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols is like mixing in, say, the New York Dolls and Lou Reed, which are not punk OR New Wave. And to call the B-52s “punk” is like calling Jethro Tull “heavy metal.”
So like I said, the usual b.s. Hope somebody made some money off it, the only possible reason for such silly nonsense.

November 1, 2012 at 7:54 am
(46) telecastet says:

Fu@# Morello. Ness and Wickersham, Social D.

November 3, 2012 at 4:59 am
(47) music instrument says:

Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
Look advanced to more added agreeable from you!

By the way, how could we communicate?

December 1, 2012 at 6:51 pm
(48) wenley says:

Don’t forget the proud sons of Detroit!

Wayne Kramer and Fred “Sonic” Smith of The MC5

Ron Asheton and James Williamson of (Iggy and) The Stooges

Without them you wouldn’t have a list.

February 28, 2013 at 8:39 am
(49) Jack Tors says:

This is the most pathetic list I’ve ever seen. The fact that only one person mentioned Greg Ginn in the comments is an embarrassment. Ginn is a punk god and one of the greatest guitarists of all time in ANY genre. Also, where is Vinnie Stigma? Agnostic Front was the cornerstone of the NYC hardcore scene in their heyday. Dr Know from the Bad Brains in a no-brainer (no pun intended). And for nostalgia sake, I’d throw in Lyle Preslar from Minor Threat.

May 27, 2013 at 1:46 pm
(50) Sloop232 says:

No Greg Ginn, Bob Mould, or Dr. Know?????? Considering they are 1,2, and 3 on any self-respecting music fan’s list, this is the stupidist list, ever…

June 13, 2013 at 5:40 am
(51) Gary says:

Steve Stevens?

October 22, 2013 at 8:39 am
(52) Graeme says:

Steve Jones but not Michael Olga Algar, (who would play seven shades of crap out of anyone on here) is this even real?

October 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm
(53) pr0n_j3r3my says:

Colin “Jock” Blyth from G.B.H. – man plays guitar like its a chainsaw, definitely an legend in the scene.

December 12, 2013 at 7:26 pm
(54) bob says:

Unless I missed it, and I mean no disrespect, I think your all incorrect

Chris Hannah – Propagandhi….. Hands down, no question

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