What Are The Best Punk & New Wave Live Albums?

I’ve put together a poll for you to vote in to find out what are the best punk and new wave live albums.

I’ve got a quite a narrow definition of punk and new wave.

For me, punk and new wave started around 1976 and went through to 1981 or 82. After that the acts became something else – think Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Ramones, Talking Heads and many more acts that don’t deserve to disappear into obscurity.

Later acts will be classified as alternative or indie rock.

Futher down the page is the poll for you to vote for your favourites and see a summary of the votes cast so far.

First I think I should tell you…

My Favourite Punk & New Wave Live Albums

This is a category of music that’s very personal to me. I remember bunking down under the bed clothes and listening to the John Peel Show in 1976-78 as the punk revolution was born and gained popularity.

It was always both a British and an American movement (especially CBGBs in New York) and I’m attracted to both sides, even though they are quite different.

In some ways, listening as I did, punk and new wave was a story about great singles as they appeared months before any albums. Sometimes the singles weren’t even on teh albums.

There are some great studio albums – Marquee Moon by Television, London Calling by The Clash, the first three Elvis Costello albums, the first four Talking Heads albums..

This gives you some idea of where I stand on the debate of the Sex Pistols versus The Clash versus The Damned. In fact I’ve never bought anything by the Pistols or the Damned.

My first choice is From Here To Eternity by The Clash. This is a compilation of the band over the peak years and as such it’s frustrating. I’d love the band to release some archive live recordings of individual concerts.

Second is The Name Of The Band Is Talking Heads, named because David Byrne was tired of the band being introduced as The Talking Heads. Another compilation but with good chunks of material from the tours to promote the first four studio albums. Stop Making Sense is a great live album but by that time, Talking Heads had become a funk band.

To me, Graham Parker and Elvis Costello are very similar but Parker tends to be seen as one of the last pub rock bands, Costello as part of the new wave of music in the UK. I’ve followed this convention and my choice is Live At The Hollywood High by Elvis Costello.

These are the three easy choices, but it then gets more difficult.

I’ve create a ska/2-Tone category so I don’t need to think about The Specials or The Beat here. I was never a big fan of The Ramones, The Stranglers or The Police.

The Jam are a clear choice as a band but which album? The two live compilations, Dig The New Breed and Live Jam don’t do it for me. Fortunately there are two sets which bring together different concerts by The Jam from across their short career, The Jam At The BBC and Fire And Skill. It feels like cheating to select one of these although I’ve done something similar with Talking Heads. Narrowing it down to one concert, I’m opting for the 1980 gig at the Newcastle City Hall on Fire and Skill. I should have been there as I was at university in the city. Shortage of money meant I couldn’t afford to keep an eye on the main gigs in the city.

My final choice was much harder. I thought about Live At The Old Waldorf by Television but my starting place is always the brilliant Marquee Moon studio album. sadly the live albums don’t have enough songs from that first album. Hanx by Stiff Little Fingers is an adrenalin rush. The Ruts and the Buzzcocks deserve consideration.

I’ve opted for the Live In Concert recording of XTC made by the BBC in 1980. The band retired from touring because Andy Partridge was very nervous performing live in front of an audience. That’s a shame because XTC are an interesting and underrated band and the energy sizzles on this album.

To summarise:

  1. From Here To Eternity by The Clash
  2. The Name of the Band is Talking Heads
  3. Live At The Hollywood High by Elvis Costello
  4. Fire And Skill by The Jam (1980 concert if forced to pick)
  5. Live In Concert by XTC

I’m sure you don’t agree with me so it’s time to cast your votes. I’d love to read a comment about why you love your choices.

The Best Punk & New Wave Live Albums Poll

You can vote for up to 5 live punk albums

What Are The FIVE Best Punk & New Wave Live Albums? (Click on the links to go to the reviews)

View Results

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My Thoughts On The Results So Far – October 2014

The top five are:

  1. It’s Alive by The Ramones
  2. The Name Of The Band Is Talking Heads
  3. Live At Shea Stadium by The Clash
  4. Stop Making Sense by Talking Heads
  5. Live At The El Mocambo by Elvis Costello

The Ramones It's Alive album cover

The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads

The Clash Live At Shea Stadium

Talking Heads Stop Making Sense

Elvis Costello Live At The El Mocambo

Other albums to look out for are:

  • From Here To Eternity by The Clash, in my opinion better than Shea Stadium
  • Live At Hollywood High by Elvis Costello, in my opinion better than El Mocambo
  • Hanx by Stiff Little Fingers
  • Albums by The Jam and The Buzzcocks.

Of these, I particularly recommend the Name Of The Band Is Talking Heads. It’s terrific and as far as I’m concerned significantly better than Stop Making Sense because of the superior set lists.

What Great Punk & New Wave Live Albums Have I Missed?

I’m sure that I have missed an obvious live album from someone from the mid to late seventies and early eighties that is obviously punk and new wave but who?

Leave me a comment and put me out of my misery.

I’d love to hear about how you voted and why as well.

3 thoughts on “What Are The Best Punk & New Wave Live Albums?”

  1. There are two albums that should also make this list:
    1. Time by Richard Hell and the Voidoids (most of the tracks were also released on the album R.I.P.)
    2. The Peel Sessions by Gang of Four

    I’ve only just got Time, so I don’t have an opinion on it yet, but Richard Hell and the Voidoids need an entry on this list.

    Gang of Four’s Peel Sessions is arguably their best recording. The band recording top notch versions of the songs from Entertainment! and Solid Gold. Definitely worth a listen.

    Another random thing to add is that I prefer Stop Making Sense to the Name of the Band is, but with the caveat that you must watch the concert film. They are absolutely exhilarating to watch.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions. I like it when readers tell me about albums I’ve missed as well as voting in the poll.

      I knew about Richard Hell & The Voidoids ‎Funhunt Live At CBGB’s And Max’s but I’d overlooked Time. When there are complaints about sound quality, I like to see mp3 samples so that people can judge for themselves.

      I’d thought about including The Peel Sessions by the Gang Of Four but I’d prefer an in concert performance. There’s a vinyl album called At The Palace but I haven’t heard it.

      I enjoyed the Stop Making Sense film but I prefer The Name Of The Band as a listening experience. Mind you I’m biased because I’ve bought their first four studio albums on vinyl at the time and as CDs since.

      Does anyone else thing these Richard Hell and Gang Of Four albums should be included in the poll?

  2. There was an anti war live album with various artists. Early 80s there was on song I loved in there with a female singer doing a duet with I think the bass player. Help anyone remember the record?

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