The Evolution (and Death?) of the Teenage Rebellion Anthem


Rock ‘n’ roll — and, to some extent, popular music as a whole — has always been about youth and subversion of authority. So it’s no surprise that some of the greatest songs of the past 50 years have been anthems of teenage rebellion. But recently, we had kind of a scary thought: Where have they all gone?

Our retrospective starts in 1958 and includes songs about everything from Romeo and Juliet-style love tragedies to revolutions both political and sexual to, well, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” But when we reached the 21st century, we could only come up with indie songs and a few modern-rock hits that we just don’t think pack the same punch as, say, “Kick Out the Jams” or “If the Kids Are United.” Is the teenage rebellion anthem on its way out, or are we simply getting old? Read through our video playlist and let us know what you think.

Eddie Cochran — “Summertime Blues” (1958) “Well, I called my congressman and he said, quote/ ‘I’d like to help you son but you’re too young to vote'”

Sonny Curtis and the Crickets — “I Fought the Law” (1959) “Robbin’ people with a zipgun/ I fought the law, and the law won”

The Shangri-Las — “Leader of the Pack” (1964) “They told me he was bad/ But I knew he was sad”

The Who — “My Generation” (1965) “I hope I die before I get old”

Phil Ochs — “I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore” (1969) “It’s always the old who lead us to the wars/ It’s always the young who fall”

MC5 — “Kick Out the Jams” (1969) “Let me be who I am/ And let me kick out the jams”

David Bowie — “Changes” (1971) “And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds/Are immune to your consultations/ They’re quite aware of what they’re goin’ through”

Mott the Hoople — “All the Young Dudes” (1972) “Television man is crazy, sayin’ we’re juvenile delinquent wrecks/ Oh man, I need TV when I got T. Rex”

Alice Cooper — “School’s Out” (1972) “School’s out for summer/ School’s out forever/ School’s been blown to pieces”

The Sweet — “Teenage Rampage” (1974) “Come join the revolution, now/ And recognize your age/ It’s a teenage rampage”

The Runaways — “Cherry Bomb” (1976) “Hello daddy, hello Mom/ I’m your cherry bomb/ Hello, world, I’m your modern girl”

Richard Hell and the Voidoids — “Blank Generation” (1977) “I belong to the blank generation and/ I can take it or leave it each time.”

Sham ’69 — “If the Kids Are United” (1978) “If the kids are united/ They can never be divided”

Pink Floyd — “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” (1979) “We don’t need no education/ We don’t need no thought control/ No dark sarcasm in the classroom/ Teacher, leave them kids alone”

Kim Wilde — “Kids in America” (1982) “New York to East California/ There’s a new wave coming, I warn you/ We’re the kids in America”

Twisted Sister — “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (1984) “We’ve got the right to choose and there ain’t no way to lose it”

Beastie Boys — “Fight for Your Right” (1986) “You miss two classes and no homework/ Nut your teacher preaches class like you’re some kind of jerk”

Sonic Youth — “Teenage Riot” (1987) “It’s gettin’ kinda quiet in my city head/ It takes a teenage riot to get me out of bed right now”

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Price — “Parents Just Don’t Understand” (1988) “So to you other kids all across the land/ There’s no need to argue/ Parents just don’t understand”

Nirvana — “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991) “Here we are now, entertain us”

Bikini Kill — “Rebel Girl” (1993) “They say she’s a dyke, but I know/ She is my best friend”

The Offspring — “Come Out and Play” “Hey, they don’t pay no mind/ If you’re under 18 you won’t be doing any time/ Hey, come out and play”

Smashing Pumpkins — “1979” (1995) “We don’t even care just where our bones will rest/ To dust, I guess”

The Donnas — “Rock ‘n Roll Machine” (1998) “I’m an American teenage raider/ ‘You better be in by 11 ‘o clock,’ but I never come in till later”

Yeah Yeah Yeahs — “Our Time” (2001) “Come on, kids: It’s our time to be hated.”

Broken Social Scene — “Anthems for a 17-Year-Old Girl” (2002) “Used to be one of the rotten ones, and I liked you for that/ Now you’re all gone, got your makeup on, and you’re not coming back”

My Chemical Romance — “Teenagers” (2006) “Darken your clothes/ Affect a violent pose/ Maybe they’ll leave you alone, but not me”

Green Day — “21 Guns” (2009) “Throw up your arms into the sky, you and I”