The Sex Pistols
Let's get one thing straight: the Sex Pistols did not "invent" punk -- in fact, they were modeled after New York rockers the Heartbreakers. Piddling technicality aside, not since Elvis had a single act caused such a ruckus. Though their career was extremely short-lived (lasting from November 1976 to January 1978), their impact on rock 'n' roll -- and popular culture as a whole -- is absolutely immeasurable. By now the story of their birth is legend. Manager Malcolm McLaren owned a small boutique, original bassist Glenn Matlock (later replaced by Sid Vicious) was an employee. Guitarist Steve Jones, drummer Paul Cook and vocalist Johnny Rotten were regulars. Soon the simple coupling of Jones' aggressive guitar work and Rotten's total irreverence for authority had galvanized a growing legion of disgruntled, lower class youth and earned them an official ban across their home country. More than that (and at risk of aligning them with Situationism, Marcus-style), the Pistols were an assault on the norm by its outcasts, a powerful force that made kids around the world (and, paradoxically, the corporate music establishment) feel OK about rebellion. They may not have invented punk rock, nor operated on the principles that would later define it, but there wouldn't have been a punk rock movement without them.