The music industry is a male-dominated business. And though punk rock disturbs the status-quo, it's no exception to paternal rule.
That being said, it is one of the most open and inviting genres in music. With the right attitude, anyone can be a punk rocker, and plenty of ladies have put their edge on the feminine mystique.
We can't fit all the punkest pussies on this list, but we wanted to give a special shout out to the rawest in the bunch.
See Also: Ten Best Girl Bands Ever
This black-hearted beauty has been in the game for decades. Her career jump-started as the guitarist in girl group The Runaways when she was 17. Their feisty jail-bait attitudes were catchy and in-your-face, and they hit the road opening for Cheap Trick, Ramones, Van Halen, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers before their reign was over. Joan Jett went on to an even more successful solo career, penning classic rock anthems "I Love Rock'n'Roll," "Bad Reputation," and "I Hate Myself For Loving You," among others. To this day, the 55 year old continues to record and rock live audiences, and she even finds time to piss off the normies with her staunch vegetarianism and hyper-environmentalist views.
Blondie's lead singer is the Head Bitch in Charge. No one can deny the eminence of little miss Deborah Harry. The New York bombshell was the darling of artists and designers, the ferocious frontwoman of one of the biggest rock acts of the '70s, and the muse and idol of generations of women looking to break out of the mold. With Blondie, she helped push the boundaries of music, merging punk with hip hop, disco, reggea, and more for a sound that was always fresh and radio ready without having to bend to the will of record execs. Blondie took a break in '82 after almost a decade of hits but got back together in '97 through to now. They recently performed as special guests on the Daily Show, proving Debbie Harry and her fellas can still get the kids excited. We know it can't last forever, and as they say, the tide is high, but we're holding on.
Wendy O. Williams
The Plastmatics are one wild bunch, and frontwoman Wendy O. Williams is unlike any babe you've seen before.She's beautifully shocking and shockingly beautiful. She really doesn't give a crap about her bad reputation, and she paved the way for shock-rocking females throughout the '80s. Her fashion sense is cutting edge punk even by today's standards. She looks like the baddest biker bitch to ever scream out of Hell's drooling mouth, and her voice is unlike anyone else's in the business. She growls and coughs on the microphone in the least lady-like fashion, but that's what makes her so special. Her band meanwhile let's loose some good, old-fashioned, fast-paced punk metal, the kind of thing that'll get the whole crowd pogo-ing from front to back. She's also a fan of props, so you never know what a live performance might turn up. Whatever she chooses to throw in your face, fans can be sure of nothing but the unexpected.
Jim Morrison can eat his damn heart out. The poet laureate of rock'n'roll could never be anyone but this bohemian mess of hair and bones. Patti Smith is a passionate word smith the likes of which is rare to find and exhilarating to behold. Born of Chicago's cold streets, she took the New York scenesters and the the world by storm with her gender-bending persona and relentless delivery on 1975's debut album Horses. It remains a must-listen for any true punk rock fan, though Smith's biggest hit came with the unforgettable "Because the Night," co-written by Bruce Springsteen which landed at no. 13 on the Billboard charts. At the age of 67, she continues to perform and produce. Her memoir Just Kids received the National Book Award in 2010, and she most-recently recorded a track for the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack, "Capitol Letter."
See also: Ten Best Female Rappers Ever
Sonic Youth is probably one of the most important bands of all time. Their noisy, destructive approach to electric guitar took punk rock and music in general to a whole new level. Their sound broke through the glittery '80s dance party like a hangover ruins lives. Standing brilliant and bold at the bass was Kim Gordon, a girl who isn't taking any shit from anybody but keeps a great sense of humor. She co-fronted the band with then-boyfriend and fellow superstar Thurston Moore. The songs in which she takes the lead don't shy away from feminist issues, exploring the social double-standard and its effects on the female psyche over dissonant cords. Gordon went on to produce Hole's classic Pretty on the Inside and co-directed The Breeder's famous "Cannonball" music video with Spike Jonze. She's been an inspiration to many of the younger women on our list, and for that, we thank her.
She's got more haters than anyone else on this list, that's for sure. Say what you will about Kurt Cobain's widow, that bitch is one of the wildest, rawest women to ever walk the planet. She's got a good vocabulary, but she must have crossed out "shame" in her dictionary. Courtney Love takes a lot of flak, but we love her for being so dedicated to honesty and uniqueness. Whether you like it or not, she embodies the spirit of punk rock. She won't change who she is just because society thinks a lady should act nicer, be clean, maybe not show her vagina so much in public. Fuck that noise. She's been through a lot in life, and her music and attitude reflect that personal struggle. Not everything she writes is a gem, but when she opens herself up in the studio like she does in the streets, some really classic shit comes out. Just admit that you loved it when she embarrassed Madonna. Here's to hoping Courtney never changes.
See also: Ten Best Female DJs
Kathleen Hannah is a mother to us all. As a spearhead of the Riot Grrrl movement, the Portland boss helped make the '90s one of the most female-friendly eras in musical history. Her band Bikini Kill made no bones about their girl power message, and their crunchy guitar hooks and straightforward driving drums were as punk rock as Johnny Rotten quitting the Sex Pistols mid performance. But Hannah is no one-hitter quitter. After a decade with Bikini Kill, she formed the critically-acclaimed, highly-influential dance punk trio Le Tigre and kept the party going. She also went solo at The Julie Ruin and found even more success. Basically, the bitch can't miss, and we hope she never stops, because she's got one high-pitched voice the whole world needs to hear.
If Courntey Love is the queen of trash, Peaches is the queen of dirt. She is weird, she is unshowered, she is hairy, she is in your face, and you can't get enough. She'll sing about her crotch, she'll DJ in a suit made of titties, she'll booty dance in front of the cast of The Andy Griffith Show. She has no fucks to give, but she'll teach you how to fuck in all the best positions. Men would tell you a woman's power lies in her sexuality, and Peaches has taken hold of that power and twisted it into something that makes some uncomfortable, because really, our sexuality is not for your pleasure. Her electroclash spin on punk energy helped inspire a dance music revolution. She's so raw, Iggy Pop had to get on the track with her, and he's kind of the maddest in town.
See also: Rock 'n' Roll's Seven Baddest Chicks
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs made frenzied dance records, the perfect whiskey-spilling soundtracks for sloppy bathroom sex. Lead singer Karen O was famous for spitting her beer on herself and everyone in a five row radius of the stage. She dons crazy costumes during performances and is really good at pushing her long limbs out in all directions. Air humping is something like a science, and girlish banshee screams make up a good 60 percent of her vocal range. She's moved from low-brow bar star to high art fashionista, but whatever mask she wears, she wears it kind of off-kilter like an alien dominatrix. She's worked a lot with Spike Jonze and composed the entire soundtrack to the beloved childhood film-adaptation of Where The Wild Things Are. It seems most of her work goes in the soundtrack category these days, and while that's great and all, we'd love to see a return to force from this punk rock superstar in a stage setting.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Goth is an off-shoot of the punk rock scene, and Siouxsie Sioux is the punkest, gothest bad girl possibly ever. Her booming voice haunts the dreamy tracks her band the Banshees pumped out, transporting the listener to other worlds of bonsai trees hanging in eternal twilight. We wish we could curl up and drink red wine in these song-worlds forever. Besides having the edgiest name in history, Siouxsie is also famous for her unparalleled eye decoration skills. She's like some long-buried Egyptian queen who's returned to the world of the living to freak them out and make them dance at the same time. Sid Vicious actually got his start as her bass player, and he's the punk poster boy, so there you have it.
Crossfade's Top Blogs
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.