Every year, countless single people protest what a cheesy, corporate holiday Valentine’s Day has become. Many people are tired of the corny decorations, the overpriced chocolates and, worst of all, the sappy love songs.
But it’s not all bad. Personally, I’ve always loved Feb. 14, because at the heart of Valentine’s Day are truly beautiful sentiments like love, friendship, and family. However, I believe that these sweet sentiments are not quite as pure and simple as they appear to be in these silly, sappy love songs that we’ve all grown so tired of.
Therefore, as my Valentine’s Day gift to The Spectator’s readers, I would like to share with you 14 love songs with a little more bite. The following is a list of punk, ska, and rockabilly love songs that showcase a little more character and a much more honest outlook on love and loss.
1. “If the Government Could Read My Mind” by The Vandals
This is perhaps the only song to ever combine New World Order conspiracy theories with notions of love and devotion. Who cares if the government is spying on all of us? “If the government could read my mind, they’d know I’m thinking of you.”
2. “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by Down by Law (Originally written by The Proclaimers)
Down by Law’s cover of this song is easily the most adorable and sincere punk love song I have ever heard. The group may have sped up the tempo and added more passionate vocals, but the heartfelt lyrics remain the same: “I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more, to be the man who walked 1,000 miles to fall down at your door.”
3. “1-2 Crush on You” by The Clash
Because honestly, no punk song collection is complete without something from The Clash. Granted this may be more of a lust song than a true love song, but that does not make it any less catchy and cute.
4. “Red Sweater” by The Aquabats
In true ska style, this silly love song captures the sincerity and sweetness of finding love on the playground as a child. There is nothing more honest and adorable than falling in love with a girl wearing “a red sweater with an alligator.”
5. “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Stray Cats (Originally recorded by The Supremes)
The Stray Cats version is my all-time favorite cover of this famous song. Even a love song as cheesy as this one sounds so much more sincere when it’s sung in Brian Setzer’s voice. Then again, I mostly like anything sung in Brian Setzer’s voice. Plus the slap-style upright bass makes this song absolutely perfect.
6. “If Only for Memories” by Streetlight Manifesto
This is not a love song in the traditional sense but rather, it’s about familial love. It begins with a baby’s birth, when a father and mother hold their child for the first time: “No one will ever know a love as pure as the one that you felt right then.” It goes on to outline the way you grow and change over the course of your life, finding new relationships and distancing yourself from old ones. If Streetlight Manifesto’s sound is a little too chaotic for your taste, try listening to Toh Kay’s solo version of this song. It has a softer, more acoustic sound.
7. “Modern Swinger” by Pink Spiders
In this catchy pop-punk tune, Matt Friction sings about falling in love with a bad girl whose “social deviance is teasing me.” He brags that his baby is “smooth as sandpaper, warm just like the winter.”
8. “Heartilation” by Andrew Jackson Jihad
This folk-punk tune is about heartbreak. It begins with a whimsical image of all of the concrete ways that Sean Bonnette wants to destroy his heart so he won’t have to feel anymore. The opening lines are “I wanna tear my apart my heart, glue the pieces to my car, crash it into a wall.” Despite the intentionally melodramatic introduction, though, this song goes on to sincerely address real issues of loneliness and loss.
9. “Thelma and Louise” by the Horrorpops
This is another nontraditional love song, but this one is about friendship. Patricia Day sings about going on a road trip with her best friend and having crazy adventures, “just like Thelma and Louise.”
10. “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” by The Ramones
Because sometimes the words and the emotions are just as straightforward as the guitar licks.
11. “Be Bop a Lula” by Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps
Gene Vincent was one of the original rockabilly musicians, and he helped introduce the new genre through this song. It’s just an all-around simple, sweet song about being in a relationship with a really cool girl.
12. “Tropical London” by Rancid
This song is about love and loss, but with a slightly more positive spin. Instead of feeling sad about losing his girlfriend, Tim Armstrong reminds her that it is she who has lost him: “If you lose me, girl, you lose a good thing. That’s one thing I know for sure.”
13. “Gloria” by Patti Smith
This is another shameless lust song, but Patti Smith is a genius and I felt she had to be represented on this list. I don’t know of any other musicians who can sing about lust in a way that is this poetic and lyrically expressive.
14. “My Wife’s a Psychopath” by The Toy Dolls
The title pretty much says it all with this one.
I hope these 14 love songs can help make your Valentine’s Day a little bit more punk rock!