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Plasmatics
The chainsaw-bearing, television-smashing, sex act-simulating Plasmaticsvia the-plasmatics.tumblr.com

The 1970s punk icons that made the most noise

As Marshall enters an exciting new era of sound, we chart the cult noisemakers that kept the volume turned up to full blast

From the chainsaw theatrics of cult shockers Plasmatics to the politicised screams of Crass, the 1970s were a decade of pure, unbridled noise, representing a breath of fresh, liquor-tinged air set apart from the polite guitar strummers of prior decades. And what iconic little black box was behind them? Quite literally, a Marshall Amp, the piece of gear that allowed its users to turn the volume up to louder than ever before, making music heavier, more distorted and full of dirt. Last week, the music brand revealed plans to release a smartphone with more noise than it's predecessors, with two stereo jacks and enhanced technology so you can crank up the bass. In response to this volume-pushing new era, here are ten badass first wave punk icons that have left our ears ringing well past the decade's end.

X-RAY SPEX

If one line could embody the raw, middle-finger-up essence of punk in the 1970s, it’d be the famous opening cry of X-Ray Spex's "Oh Bondage! Up Yours!" delivered in Poly Styrene’s forever-imitated quavering scream: “Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard, but I think…Oh bondage! Up yours!”  X-Ray Spex weren’t just loud in delivery, they were loud in spirit.

CRASS

With their bile-fuelled rhetoric, seething politicism and buzz saw guitar riffs that seemed to spit out of their amp, Crass were the punk icons that hated punk rock. It’s been over twenty years since they sunk under the glaring weight of Thatcher’s Britain, but their music still screeches volumes.

JAYNE COUNTY

Jayne County is the underground trans icon that ripped New York all up and started again. “I was the first completely full-blown, in-your-face queen to stand up on a rock'n'roll stage and say, 'I am what I am, I don't give a damn” she said. Three decades after rioting at Stonewall and she’s still making noise about being banned and censored. 

THE CRAMPS

With their camp humour, ghoulish horror B-movie iconography and psychobilly-dunked punk, The Cramps were a band that’s reigning cult influence can still be felt today. “Gauguin said there are two types of artists, revolutionaries and plagiarists. We’re revolutionaries” were the winking words of frontman Lux Interior, who passed away in 2009.

THE DEAD BOYS

CBGBs fixtures The Dead Boys spent the best part of the seventies alienating mainstream audiences with their aggressive on-and-off stage antics, brash, blood-filled guitar lines and fuck-you-all attitude. Decades later, and their 1977 debut Young, Loud and Snotty has never sounded so perfect and full of grit.

PLASMATICS

Wendy O. Williams was the chainsaw-bearing, television-smashing, sex act-simulating frontwoman of cult shock rockers Plasmatics, and she made sure they were louder, and more theatrical than their contemporaries. “The essence of what we do is shaking up the middle class,” Wendy told Rolling Stone in 1981. “If you don't do that with your music, you're just adding to the noise pollution."

THE RUNAWAYS

Most teenagers are loud, but cult rebel girl icons The Runaways had the crunching amps and shit-kicking vocals to prove it. “Punk hadn’t even begun when The Runaways started, at least not in the US,” frontwoman Cherie Curry told Dazed. “When we got to England and the punk movement was in full swing, I was shocked. I mean, I was scared. It was really heavy." Well, "Cherry Bomb" (below) sounds pretty heavy to us. 

THE STOOGES

Iggy Pop might be the unlikely face of car insurance these days but once upon a time he was the swaggering peacock of proto-punk pioneers The Stooges. The sparse, circular opening riff to “I Wanna Be Your Dog” (below) is still just as spinetingling as it would have been when 1969 folded into 1970.

GANG OF FOUR

The only gang to join in Leeds in the late seventies were thrashing, post-punk politicals Gang of Four, who’s stabbing, feedback-laced guitar and frenzied drumbeats were, and are, truly ferocious. Their debut album Entertainment! is best enjoyed at skull-rattling volume.

SEX PISTOLS

A rundown of 1970s mayhem-makers would hardly be complete without a nod to Malcolm McLaren’s phlegm-spitting, West London darlings the Sex Pistols, who are often credited with initiating the punk movement on this side of the world. These days, their logo is ironically plastered across a credit card, but they were once a piss stain on the establishment.