Top 40 Before 40 Rock Artists - #22 - NOFX
One of the most underrated and undervalued bands in the history of planet Earth, NOFX has been a staple of the SoCal punk rock scene since the late 1980’s, and unlike many other punk pioneers, they NEVER took a large record contract, never relied on radio airplay or even MTV to get famous and sell records.
They basically single handedly help grow the punk scene in the 90’s and through their own record label, Fat Wreck Chords, they brought some of the best punk bands along with them.
There is no story of punk music that doesn’t include NOFX in it, and they are still making new music that has evolved over time, and you can even see our review of their latest album Single Album here.
For those of you who are just joining this list at this point, let me give a quick summary below:
- In my almost 40 years on this planet, I have had the great pleasure of listening to a lot of music that doesn't make it to the airwaves, and a lot of these bands are some of my absolute favorites.
- You WILL see some Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame bands on the list too, but for the most part, you are likely going to disagree with this list almost entirely.
- I am sharing this ranking so that you get some insight into some great bands you may have never heard before AND for a little bit of a personal challenge to myself to rank these bands.
With that said, let's get to #22 on my Top 40 List Before 40:
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I don’t remember the exact moment I was exposed to NOFX, but I feel like I don’t remember a time when they weren’t around in my life (at least from 6th or 7th grade onwards).
Their album Punk In Drublic was a staple of all of my high school days, and when So Long & Thanks For All The Shoes came out in 1997, I remember buying it at a Best Buy in Fargo, ND where I happened to be at the time for some non-memorable reason.
That album quickly ranked as one of my most played albums, and I even spent time learning plenty of songs from the album like the short but sweet, “Murder the Government.”
Heavy Petting Zoo was another great album that I listened to pretty much weekly in high school.
I took a break from them for a while after high school as I kinda went into other genres of rock, but I didn’t lose sight of their music by any means. I just didn’t consistently listen to them as much as before.
It turns out that in some of the time I spent away from the band, things got pretty weird. Not so much from their music per se, but the band went through some incredibly strange times (which I reference in the album review for Single Album as well).
Here are the highlights of those times:
- In 2006, both of lead singer Michael Burkett’s (a.k.a. Fat Mike) parents die. His estranged dad who had dementia, and his mom who had ovarian cancer.
- In 2009, Fat Mike debuts a character known as Cokie the Clown at the SXSW music festival where he shares some incredibly dark secrets about his past including the instance where he was asked by his own mother to euthanize her, and another time where he and guitarist Eric Melvin turned a blind eye on what they believe was a woman being taken to a bedroom to be raped.
- At the beginning of the set, however, he shared a bunch of shots of Patron Anejo (allegedly mixed with his own urine) with the front rows of the audience who had no idea what they were drinking until at the end of the set, he showed them a video that tracked him from offstage where he appeared to urinate in the bottle all the way until he was pouring the drinks. You can read one press member's account of it here.
- In 2010, Fat Mike separated from his wife of 18 years (still running Fat Wreck Chords record label together though)
- Fat Mike becomes a lot more open about his BDSM as he gets older and writes songs over the years about cross-dressing, pegging and being submissive to dominatrices.
- In 2016, NOFX release the album First Ditch Effort where it gets really personal for the first time (instead of just writing one or two personal songs). The same year, they released their autobiography called NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories which detailed some crazy stories that brought out even further personal information that had not been publicly mentioned before.
- In 2018 NOFX issues a formal apology to fans at the Punk Rock Bowling Festival after they joke on stage about singing a song about Muslims and not getting shot, and that you only get shot in Vegas if you’re in a country band and that it was a good thing it was country fans and not punk fans that got shot which deservedly drew extensive boos from the audience.
- In 2019, Fat Mike revives Cokie the Clown with a full-length album entitled You’re Welcome that I can only describe as one of the most heart-breaking albums I have ever heard. The songs are about his mom’s euthanization, his ex-wife’s overdose, his friend at 19 committing suicide by hanging himself in their house, drug abuse, and other incredibly hard-to-hear tragedies. Bringing full-circle his belief that his true identity is Cokie the Clown and that “Fat Mike” is just the disguise he wears to appear normal enough to be accepted by the world.
Now, all that is well and fine, because what happened after and during all this craziness is that the band starting writing more songs about their personal lives and experiences.
In my opinion, the songwriting got better. The overall aesthetic of the band may have changed a lot, but the music remained catchy, tight and, for the most part, very up-tempo.
I would say that NOFX are among punk rock royalty and if they aren’t considered one of the top 3 punk bands of all time, then I would question the list that doesn’t put them there. They may be the #1 punk band of all time for reasons that include them helping to sign and promote tons of other great punk bands, keep their own record label independent and for the fact that when they were on another record label (Epitaph), they sold a hefty amount of albums. They even achieved Gold Record certification for Punk in Drublic.
If you were not aware of NOFX before this article, I would say you are spending too much time listening to the radio, and you need to get your act together!
If you WERE aware of NOFX, and you just don’t like them, well, you should.
Similar Artists That I Recommend That Didn't Make The Top 40: