Back in 2002 while working as a manager at a Sam Goody store, I discovered a lonely CD in the “Various Artists” section entitled PUNK GOES POP. From the tag on the album I could see that it had been sitting on the rack for a few months, likely arriving as a one-off in our usual assortment of “catalog“ titles. Intrigued by the likes of THE STARTING LINE and YELLOWCARD covering material by JENNIFER LOPEZ and MICHELLE BRANCH, I purchased the disc and gave it a spin. By the end of the night, the entire staff was hooked and customers began asking for it, requests fueled by constant rotation on the in-house sound system.
PUNK GOES… again: 10 Years of FEARLESS RECORDS’ “PUNK GOES” SeriesWritten by James Zahn
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I’m a sucker for a good cover tune. I’m also a sucker for a good novelty record. Together, the PUNK GOES… series tends to satisfy… MOST of the time.
We started taking “Special Orders” for the album, and I quickly called up FEARLESS RECORDS to get a store play copy of ‘POP along with it’s predecessor, 2000’s PUNK GOES METAL - an album we’d not previously carried, but soon would sell by the dozen.
The formula for both albums was simple: A bunch of up-and-coming or somewhat-established bands in the punk/emo genres would tackle a classic song to put their own spin on it.
Sure the concept had been done before, but usually by individual artists, and not so concisely packaged.
Over the years, the PUNK GOES… series continued, with each release seeming to come out of nowhere to make a splash and then be forgotten by the mainstream.
It was on a whim recently that I stopped by the FEARLESS website to see if anything new was brewing in the series, and much to my surprise - PUNK GOES CLASSIC ROCK has been announced for April 27, 2010. Realizing that it was the 9th release in the series, I decided it was time to spin ‘em all again. Can you believe it’s been over a decade since the first?
PUNK GOES METAL (2000, reissued in 2003)
Arguably the most “punk” of the entire series both in terms of performance and production, METAL contains a “Who’s Who” of early 2000’s indie rockers from GUTTERMOUTH to the AUQUABATS taking a stab at everything from SLAYER to TESLA. With intriguing quirks like the addition of a horn section to MEGADETH and METALLICA tunes, to the appropriate pairing of DYNAMITE BOY with AC/DC's "TNT", PUNK GOES METAL is worthy of the horns thrown up on it's cover.
STANDOUT TRACKS: AFI - “My Michelle”, LINK 80 - “Harvester of Sorrow”, DYNAMITE BOY - “TNT”, RX BANDITS - “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due”
- "Breakin the Law" - Dvit (Judas Priest)
- "Talk Dirty to Me" - Jughead's Revenge (Poison)
- "My Michelle" - AFI (Guns N' Roses)
- "War Ensemble" - Bigwig (Slayer)
- "Heaven" - New Found Glory (Warrant)
- "Bark at the Moon" - Strung Out (Ozzy Osbourne)
- "I Remember You" - The Ataris (Skid Row)
- "Harvester of Sorrow" - Link 80 (Metallica)
- "Sexual Abuse" - Guttermouth (St. Madness)
- "T.N.T." - Dynamite Boy (AC/DC)
- "Little Fighter" - Death By Stereo (White Lion)
- "Youth Gone Wild" - Swindle (Skid Row)
- "I Don't Know" - Turnedown (Ozzy Osbourne)
- "Looks That Kill" - Diesel Boy (Mötley Crüe)
- "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due" - Rx Bandits (Megadeth)
- "Love Song" - Ten Foot Pole (Tesla)
- "Why Rock?" - The Aquabats (Leather Pyrate)
PUNK GOES POP (2002)
The second installment of the PUNK GOES… series tapped into the “pop” resurgence of the early 2000’s with a new crop of bands taking on tracks from ‘N SYNC, BRITNEY SPEARS, BACKSTREET BOYS, etc.
The 17-song set is largely based on more modern fare, with only a pair of MADONNA covers, one BELINDA CARLISE tune, and REAL LIFE’s “Send Me an Angel” mining the 80’s for inspiration.
As far as actual punk goes, SLICK SHOES’ rendition of MANDY Moore’s “Candy” retains a clear-cut punk rock edge, while STRETCH ARMSTRONG’s riff on PINK’s “Get This Party Started” is heavy yet amusing. The emo tag drops in on THE STARTING LINE’s “I’m Real”, taking the JENNIFER LOPEZ/JA RULE track into an oddly serious direction.
STANDOUT TRACKS: FURTHER SEEMS FOREVER - “Bye Bye Bye”, THE STARTING LINE - “I’m Real”, THRICE - “Send Me An Angel”
- "I Want It That Way" - Dynamite Boy (Backstreet Boys)
- "Candy" - Slick Shoes (Mandy Moore)
- "Everywhere" - Yellowcard (Michelle Branch)
- "Get the Party Started" - Stretch Arm Strong (Pink)
- "Like a Prayer" - Rufio (Madonna)
- "Bye Bye Bye" - Further Seems Forever ('N Sync)
- "Crush" - Noise Ratchet (Mandy Moore)
- "I'm like a Bird" - Element 101 (Nelly Furtado)
- "Survivor" - Knockout (Destiny's Child)
- "I'm Real" - The Starting Line (Jennifer Lopez)
- "The Way You Love Me" Keepsake (Faith Hill)
- "Sometimes" - Reach the Sky (Britney Spears)
- "All or Nothing" - Fake ID (O-Town)
- "Borderline" - Showoff (Madonna)
- "Send Me an Angel" - Thrice (Real Life)
- "...Baby One More Time" - Nicotine (Britney Spears)
- "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" - Student Rick (Belinda Carlisle)
PUNK GOES ACOUSTIC (2003)
While the first two installments went for the novelty of the covers, ‘ACOUSTIC was the first hint of disappointment from the series - not because the album was bad, but because it didn’t follow the series’ lead. Much like the way a lot of people hate HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (which I happen to love) for not following the Michael Myers tale established by John Carpenter’s original HALLOWEEN (1978), ‘ACOUSTIC just rubbed me the wrong way.
No novelty or fun to be had, with a crop of bands on the rise doing the “unplugged” thing with an assortment of to-be-expected songs. Great album for fans of the bands, not necessarily for fans of the series.
STANDOUT TRACKS: TAKING BACK SUNDAY - “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team)”, YELLOWCARD - “Firewater”
- "Time to Talk" - Open Hand
- "Trust" - Thrice
- "Firewater" - Yellowcard
- "Memory" - Sugarcult
- "Letters to You" - Finch
- "A Hole in the World" - Thursday
- "Playing Favorites" - The Starting Line
- "Velvet Alley" - Strung Out
- "Eight of Nine" - The Ataris
- "Cute Without the 'E' (Cut from the Team)" - Taking Back Sunday
- "Chloroform Perfume" - From Autumn to Ashes
- "Swing Life Away" - Rise Against
- "The King" - Piebald
- "Over It" - Rufio
- "Chalk Line" - Strike Anywhere
- "Away to the Heart" - Noise Ratchet
- "Blue Collar Lullaby" - Coalesce
- "Gathering Darkness" - Grade
- "Alone in the World" - Glasseater
- "Knew It All Along" - Midtown
PUNK GOES ‘80’s (2005)
In 2005, Fearless Records jumped in the DeLorean and went back in time to the colorful decade of Reganomics, the real MTV, and a time when Top 40 Radio was just as likely to spin a synth-pop track alongside the latest glam to emerge from the Sunset Strip.
With a song selection along the lines of 2001's NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE soundtrack, PUNK GOES '80's could easily populate the inevitable wave of John Hughes remakes yet to arrive.
STANDOUT TRACKS: RUFIO - "Don't You (Forget About Me)", MIDTOWN - "Your Love", GATSBY'S AMERICAN DREAM - "Just Like Heaven"
- "Manic Monday" - Relient K (The Bangles)
- "I Ran (So Far Away)" - Hidden In Plain View (A Flock of Seagulls)
- "I Melt with You" - Sugarcult (Modern English)
- "Your Love" - Midtown (The Outfield)
- "Don't You (Forget About Me)" - Rufio (Simple Minds)
- "Pop Song 89" - Motion City Soundtrack (R.E.M.)
- "Holding Out for a Hero" - Emery (Bonnie Tyler)
- "Just Like Heaven" - Gatsbys American Dream (The Cure)
- "The Power of Love" - The Early November (Huey Lewis and the News)
- "Straight Up" - Halifax (Paula Abdul)
- "Dead Man's Party" - A Thorn for Every Heart (Oingo Boingo)
- "Wrapped Around Your Finger" - Brazil (The Police)
- "Forever Young" - So They Say (Rod Stewart)
- "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" - JamisonParker (Tears for Fears)
- "Video Killed the Radio Star" - Amber Pacific (The Buggles)
PUNK GOES 90’s (2006)
For the first time we're treated to a set inspired by the music that most of the performing bands grew up on. Their passion for the material is most evident with GYM CLASS HEROES' reworked vision of the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS "Under the Bridge", THE KILLING MOON's male-dominated spin on ALANIS MORISETTE's "You Oughta Know", and ANBERLIN's excellent version of DEPECHE MODE's "Enjoy the Silence."
Despite the highlights, PUNK GOES '90's does have a few low points with the most notable offenders being SO THEY SAY's butchering of NIRVANA's "In Bloom" and COPELAND's uninspired rendition of SOUNDGARDEN's "Black Hole Sun."
STANDOUT TRACKS: GYM CLASS HEROES - "Under the Bridge", THE KILLING MOON - "You Oughta Know", ANBERLIN - "Enjoy the Silence", EIGHTEEN VISIONS - "The Beautiful People"
- "March of the Pigs" - Mae (Nine Inch Nails)
- "Song 2" - Plain White T's (Blur)
- "Under the Bridge" - Gym Class Heroes (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
- "Black Hole Sun" - Copeland (Soundgarden)
- "Hey Jealousy" - Hit the Lights (Gin Blossoms)
- "All I Want" - Emery (Toad the Wet Sprocket)
- "Losing My Religion" - Scary Kids Scaring Kids (R.E.M.)
- "Wonderwall" - Cartel (Oasis)
- "You Oughta Know" - The Killing Moon (Alanis Morissette)
- "Stars" - Bleeding Through (Hum)
- "Enjoy the Silence" - Anberlin (Depeche Mode)
- "The Beautiful People" - Eighteen Visions (Marilyn Manson)
- "Big Time Sensuality" - The Starting Line (Björk)
- "In Bloom" - So They Say (Nirvana)
- "Jumper" - BEDlight for BlueEYES featuring Sebastian Davin of Dropping Daylight (Third Eye Blind)
PUNK GOES ACOUSTIC 2 (2007)
The first PUNK GOES… album that I did not buy. A sequel to the 2003 ‘ACOUSTIC set, a second helping was just setting me up for another disappointment. I was hoping for a 70’s installment, or at least something with a little ROCK.
Once again, not a bad album - but it sticks out like a sore thumb alongside it’s brethren.
STANDOUT TRACKS: JACK’S MANNEQUIN - "Bruised", SAY ANYTHING - "Woe"
- "Bruised" - Jack's Mannequin
- "Don't Be So Hard" - The Audition
- "Baby Come On" - +44
- "Sun" - Daphne Loves Derby
- "Woe" - Say Anything
- "Apology" - Alesana
- "Jasey Rae" - All Time Low
- "Red Light Pledge" - Silverstein
- "Night Drive" - The All-American Rejects
- "Three Cheers for Five Years" - Mayday Parade
- "Staplegunned" - The Spill Canvas
- "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been" - Relient K
- "Welcome to 1984" - Anti-Flag
- "The Only Song" - Sherwood
- "Echoes" - Set Your Goals
PUNK GOES CRUNK (2008)
Critically derided (usually for not sticking to the “Crunk” in the album’s title), this rap-fused set is hit-and-miss, but in no way the piece of shit most indie rock snobs would have you believe. In reality, it's a solidly entertaining party record.
Classic hip-hop is well covered here along with renditions of recent fare that actually manage to turn a few throwaway pop-rap tracks into listenable, danceable tunes.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL TIME LOW - "Umbrella", SAY ANYTHING "Got Your Money", THE SECRET HANDSHAKE - "I Wish"
- "Put Yo Hood Up" - Set Your Goals (Lil Jon)
- "Got Your Money" - Say Anything (Ol' Dirty Bastard)
- "I Wish" - The Secret Handshake (Skee-Lo)
- "Men in Black" - Forever the Sickest Kids (Will Smith)
- "California Love" - My American Heart (2Pac)
- "I Wanna Love You" - The Maine (Akon)
- "Kryptonite (I'm on It)" - E-manuel (Purple Ribbon All-Stars)
- "The Seed" - Person L (The Roots)
- "Still Fly" - The Devil Wears Prada (Big Tymers)
- "Umbrella" - All Time Low (Rihanna)
- "Notorious Thugs" - Scary Kids Scaring Kids (Notorious B.I.G)
- "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang" - The Escape Frame (Dr.Dre)
- "Gin and Juice" - Hot Rod Circuit (Snoop Dogg)
- "Hey Ya!" - Lorene Drive (OutKast)
- "Tennessee" - New Found Glory (Arrested Development)
PUNK GOES POP: VOLUME 2 (2009)
In 2009, Fearless went back to the "Pop" realm for a sequel to their 2002 PUNK GOES POP release. Sadly, this one lacks the replay value of it's predecessor not because of the performances, but because of the source material.
While most of the songs covered on the first installment are still fairly notable, many of the original versions of songs played here are likely to be forgotten down the line - or have already been covered better already such as BRITNEY SPEARS' "Toxic", which was given tremendous treatment by LOCAL H prior to being done by A STATIC LULLABY here. Curiously, CHIODOS does HARVEY DANGER's "Flagpole Sitta" which would've fit better on PUNK GOES 90's.
STANDOUT TRACK: SILVERSTEIN - "Apologize",
- "What Goes Around.../...Comes Around" - Alesana (Justin Timberlake)
- "Apologize"- Silverstein (OneRepublic)
- "...Baby One More Time" - August Burns Red (Britney Spears)
- "When I Grow Up" - Mayday Parade (Pussycat Dolls)
- "Over My Head (Cable Car)" - A Day to Remember (The Fray)
- "Smooth" - Escape the Fate (Santana featuring Rob Thomas)
- "Ice Box" - There for Tomorrow (Omarion featuring Timbaland)
- "Flagpole Sitta" - Chiodos (Harvey Danger)
- "Beautiful Girls" - Bayside (Sean Kingston)
- "See You Again" - Breathe Carolina (Miley Cyrus)
- "Disturbia" - The Cab (Rihanna)
- "Toxic" - A Static Lullaby (Britney Spears)
- "Love Song" - Four Year Strong (Sara Bareilles)
- "I Kissed a Girl" - Attack Attack! (Katy Perry)
PUNK GOES CLASSIC ROCK (2010)
Slated for release on April 27, 2010 - the PUNK GOES... series goes back in time once more to tackle a mostly-70's and '80's-inspired set that runs the gamut from KISS to QUEEN. Curiously, I SEE STARS performs THE OUTFIELD's "Your Love" - hardly what I'd call "classic rock", and already covered by MIDTOWN on PUNK GOES 80's.
As of this writing, a handful of tracks have made their way onto MySpace, while a pair have leaked to YouTube. Particularly entertaining thus far is THE MAINE's take on DEF LEPPARD's "Pour Some Sugar On Me" - one of the "leaked" tracks.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Too early to tell...
- "More than a Feeling" - Hit the Lights (Boston)
- "Paint It Black" - VersaEmerge (The Rolling Stones)
- "Free Fallin'" - The Almost (Tom Petty)
- "We Are the Champions" - Mayday Parade (Queen)
- "Rock and Roll All Nite" - The Summer Set (Kiss)
- "Caught Up in You" - We the Kings (38 Special)
- "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" - A Skylit Drive (Journey)
- "Your Love" - I See Stars (The Outfield)
- "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" - Pierce the Veil (Blue Öyster Cult)
- "Crazy Train" - Forever the Sickest Kids (Ozzy Osbourne)
- "Pour Some Sugar on Me" - The Maine (Def Leppard)
- "All Along the Watchtower" - Envy on the Coast (Bob Dylan)
- "Take Me Home Tonight" - Every Avenue (Eddie Money)
- "Bohemian Rhapsody" - Never Shout Never (Queen)
- "Dream On" - Blessthefall (Aerosmith)
James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.
He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers.
Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.
Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team, Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.
Learn more here.