Before 1980, punk rock was most associated with three bands of three distinct flavors. There were the Sex Pistols, whose loud, over-the-top shtick revolved around rebellion and vitriol; the Ramones, who trafficked in energetic, lovably dopey pop songs; and the Clash, who carried themselves with the sobriety of community activists, focusing on sociopolitical songwriting and a multi-hued sonic palette.
Feeling invigorated by punk's back-to-basics approach and the sense that he was there for music history, a young Jake Burns helped form Stiff Little Fingers, his own punk band, in 1977. Wanting to pattern SLF after one of that trio, Burns went with the third option, establishing an outfit whose explosiveness and smarts still shine today.
"When I heard the Clash, they were writing about things that actually meant something and doing it with an intelligence," the Chicago-based guitarist/vocalist, 56, says. "Obviously, I know there was an intelligence in what the other bands were doing, it was just they buried it under a cartoon image or some form of provoking hysteria. Seeing and hearing the intelligence of what the Clash did connected to me on a similar level to the Dylans and the Marleys of this world."