In the annals of punk history, most cities have a batch of punk bands the define the city's legacy. New York, Austin, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Washington all had bands that put their scenes on the map. In Dallas, you have to dig a little deeper, but there are at least a dozen essential songs in the local punk canon. These 10, however, each coming within the first 20 years of Dallas punk, are absolutely necessary for any true fan.
1. The Nervebreakers — "My Girlfriend is a Rock" (1978)
The Nerverbreakers are Dallas’ very own authentic ’77-era punk band. During their original run, they could be found opening for punk elites like the Sex Pistols (at their one and only Dallas show), Ramones and the Clash. Nervebreakers are largely considered the first punk band in this part of the country. These guys are our Ramones. Our Sex Pistols. Their 1978 single, “My Girlfriend is a Rock,” is about a girlfriend who is, well, a rock or a piece of chalk or alabaster or maybe wood. What the girlfriend is made of is never completely determined, but the band spends a solid three minutes pondering it — and it's catchy.
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2. Dot Vaeth Group — "Shock Treatment" (1978)
Dot Vaeth ripped through the new punk sound in Fort Worth, squeezing out one 7-inch record. They relied heavily on covers of British and New York bands for their live shows. They produced the "White Collar Worker"/"Armed Robbery" 7-inch in 1978. A chance meeting with a lighting company that wanted to produce a promo video has found the band immortalized on YouTube 40 years later with their take on the Ramones' classic, "Shock Treatment."
3. Vomit Pigs — "Useless Eater" (1978)
Fueled by Quaaludes, boredom and a "Watch me defy death" attitude, the Vomit Pigs of Daingerfield kicked off in '74, pre-dating the vast majority of the more well-known punk of the time. Their debut single came out four years later and to this day is one of the most sought-after and expensive rare punk singles on the market. Led by Mike Vomit (apparently the only actual fan of punk music in the band), the Vomit Pigs foreshadowed the punk rock of the late '70s and early '80s on that debut single. The new wave-ish pop of "Slut" and the postpunk rant of "Art of Insane" suggest more wisdom on the punk movement than they probably realized at the time, but "Useless Eater" is a bit of self loathing that has its feet firmly planted in punk of '78.
4. Stickmen With Rayguns — "Grave City" (1987)
Stickmen With Rayguns were in the curious position of becoming local legends despite having almost no official releases until long after they were gone. Austin’s End of an Ear label has helped to rectify that by releasing a compilation of all of the recorded material they could find. The song “Grave City” did appear on the A Texas Trip compilation in edited form, though, a sluggish sonic piece of punk skronk that predates bands like Scratch Acid and the Melvins. They were kindred spirits with Austin’s Butthole Surfers and shared many bills together before the Butthole Surfers became more prominent on the national stage.
5. The Telefones — "She’s in Love (With the Rolling Stones)" (1980)
The Telefones were Dallas' contribution to the symbiotic relationship between punk and new wave, a fine line that was commonly blurry in the early '80s . “She’s in Love (With the Rolling Stones)” was the second release on VVV records, a label responsible for releasing a significant bulk of early '80s new wave and punk from North Texas. This catchy tune documents the constant struggle many left-of-center punks have had with girlfriends obsessed with mainstream music.
6. Bobby Soxx — "Learn to Hate the '80s" (1981)
Although Stickmen With Rayguns never officially released anything during their original run, frontman Bobby Soxx did manage to record this one solo 7-inch single. He got support from the Dirkx brothers from the Telefones, playing under the name Bobby Soxx & the Teenage Queers. A fun punk rock hate anthem with lyrics like, "Everyone's learning to hate in the '80s/Children and men, even the ladies," Soxx invites everyone to the hate with a persistent chant that trails off into a shrieking, whiny yelp. The single was re-issued in 2014 on Cheap Reward Records, but the original will fetch you a pretty penny on the market if you can find one.
7. The Agitators — "I Can’t Wait" (1992)
The Agitators had a short but memorable run from ’90 to ’93 that peaked with a memorable sold-out show with Fugazi in ’91. At the time, Direct Hit Records was the epicenter of the Dallas scene, even running a record label out of their record store. Direct Hit as a label was all over the place, from the psychedelic sounds of Lithium X-mas to the quiet sounds of Bedhead, but the Agitators were responsible for the second release and the first slab of in-your-face, one-two-fuck-you punk rock. At a time when Dallas punk was in a bit of a lull, the Agitators were a bright spot amongst a sea of flannel-drenched grunge knock offs.
8. Brutal Juice — "Cannibal Holocaust" (1992)
The early '90s Denton scene was centered on the fabled Denton house venue Hell’s Lobby. Brutal Juice led the way with their odd blend of apocalyptic metal-meets-Texas-psychedelic-punk-meets-pop-hooks more akin to Flaming Lips. Brutal Juice toured heavily and often, which eventually lead to a 7-inch on Jello Biafra’s legendary punk label Alternative Tentacles and then an album on Interscope. That release saw a lot of the band's songs re-recorded and polished up, but in the beginning they sold a gazillion cassettes of the original versions. Brutal Juice was intimidating live — loud, tight, noisy and pummeling, and accentuated by blinding strobe lights. "Cannibal Holocaust" was always a highlight in a set full of anthems — a happy, hook-heavy tune about cannibals.
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9. Blacktop — "Tornado Love" (1994)
The godfather of modern garage rock, Mick Collins (the Gories, the Dirtbombs) spent quite a bit of time in North Texas, hanging out with Darin Lin Wood and Janet Walker of Fireworks. With the addition of Alex Cuervo, who went on to Gospel Swingers and is currently in Hex Dispensers, Blacktop existed for a brief but prolific stint. They left behind two albums and three singles. "Tornado Love" was the opening track to Blacktop’s debut album on garage rock mega label In the Red, I Got A Baaad Feelin' About This. It's a fine piece of garage rock that more than hints at Collins' better known Dirtbombs material. Fueled by a motoring Motown beat and filtered through heaps of raucous fuzz, "Tornado Love" could exist in an alternate universe as a '60s soul stomper. Jack White, an admitted Collins super fan, likely took more than a few cues from this one.
10. The Mullens — "Black Molly" (1997)
The Mullens bring Dallas punk rock around full circle. Firmly rooted in the proto-punk sounds of the Stooges and MC5, the Mullens take a no-nonsense back-to-basics approach to garage rock that lit the torch for punk rock in the first place 20 years earlier. Over the course of four albums on Get Hip Recordings, they have found consistent acclaim in international garage and punk circles while remaining somewhat of an anomaly in their hometown. "Black Molly" is the opening track on their 1997 debut, a solid piece of fit and fury proto-punk stomp that sounds like it was dropped out of time machine sent from 1976. It's totally authentic garage rock, complete with raging harmonica.