punk rock classics
Punk Rock, eh? It's easy for people to sneer at the idea of the Sex Pistols reformation, saying that it was all a waste of space anyway, but sadly so much of it seems to have been confined to the waste bin of history, so all you ever get is the same stuff recycled time and time again. There seems to be a reluctance to look for for flowers in the dustbins. This is in direct contrast to the '60s US punk/garage phenomenon, where for over a quarter of a century people have been examining every permutation of psychotic pop that was ever put to tape. Where are the compilations of lost '70s PunkRock classics? All that ever seems to be rescued from the archives are the more unsavoury later works of people like Blitz, Abrasive Wheels, GBH, the sort of noise that unfortunately influenced the US hardcore generation.

Similarly, I'm fed up with ageing DJs who gleefully tell magazines like Jockey Slut that when they go home of a night they love to relive their Punk Rock roots by playing Clash song, or how during a banging techno set they ripped up the rule book by dropping 'God Save The Queen'. Oh yeah, let's start the revolution now. You can just imagine what said DJs would say if they heard someone play somewhere who said they've always been into soul and then plays the Four Tops Greatest Bits, or some student union guy who swears by hip hop then plays LL Cool J and Public Enemy only. Let's use some imagination around here. There are plenty of great lost punk gems out there. Maybe some of it is dead-end, dumb and daft, but why not? Search through the bargain basements and charity shops. I bet there's still some undiscovered classics worth salvaging. Here's some for starters, and even Alternative TV and Subway Sect are too obvious for here.

  • THE WASPS: Teenage Treats (4-Play 7", 1977)

    A definitive classic of manic melody which sounds as if their life depends upon it. The Wasps epitomise the urgency which ultimately went nowhere fast, but was fun for a few minutes. Nasty little nobodies no doubt, but this is essential. This (one-off?) single was produced by Kim Turner, the master of tinny, canny pocket symphonies. He would later play on 'Action Time Vision', one of the ten best songs ever, and if you see any punk 7" produced by Turner, do not hesitate. The Wasps also have one classic song, 'Can't Wait For '78' on the trashy 'Live At The Vortex' LP.

  • DEPRESSIONS: Living On Dreams (Barn 7", 1977)

    I was convinced The Depressions were real no-hopers until I rediscovered this classic a few years back (10p in Record & Tape Exchange). I think they were from Brighton, and that they were all bleached blonde Billy Idols, albeit one with an eye patch. However, this particular golden nugget is pure blue-eyed soul, so much so that one friend was convinced it originated from the mid '60s, and yeah it's very Small Faces, which proves a point that the Depressions were pub-rock chancers all along, but who cares?

  • THE JOLT: I Can't Wait (Polydor 7", 1978)

    This is a completely over-the-top Coppersmith-Heaven production of clanging, crashing power chords and urgent vocals. The Jolt were initially Scotland's premier punks, but they rapidly became Polydor's reserve The Jam. A three piece mod power outfit, they were just too early to capitalise on the mod resurgence, but anyone who knows and loves the excess of The Chords' 'Maybe Tomorrow' will immediately warm to this blast of bravura.

  • MENACE: Insane Society (Illegal 12", 1977)

    I believe there is a CD out of the complete Menace recordings, which is a lovely idea. Menace were real Division 2 strugglers who battled away, but Insane Society is a veritable cup upset. The underdogs have a perfect day. No surprises, just a lovely Kim Turner produced racket. What is fascinating is the "We don't care if we live or die", subliminal reference to David Peel and the Lower East Side's 'American Revolution' LP from the late '60s. Now, recently Technohead and Cypress Hill have borrowed from Peel, but the man has always hitherto been treated as a bit of a joke. However, I'm convinced that sonically and spiritually the 'American Revolution' LP is much more of a direct link to the early punk roar than the Detroit connection. A song as extreme as 'I Want To Kill You' has to be punk, and more specifically there's the Menace reference and elsewhere the Prefects borrowed the 'Stay Alive' refrain from the 'American Revolution'. Who writes these history books anyway?

  • HAMMERSMITH GORILLAS: Leavin' Ome (Raw 7", 1977)

    This track first surfaced as a b-side back in '74, and must have been spectacularly out of step. It really is a classic of minimalism. Just one chord hammered in a song that's pure Slade/Small Faces, complete with "Come on children" interjections. Strange bunch, the Hammersmith Gorillas. They are rightly remembered for their outrageous sideburns, but much of the r'n'b based music was too orthodox for the hungry young punks. However, 'Leavin' Ome' has to be heard to be believed. Incidentally, I believe their name came from an even stranger early '70s group called Third World War who are great favourites of Steve Albini. They were mad Marxists who played a mix of agit-prop folk and horrible howls of noise which sounded just like Nirvana, funnily enough. Anyway, one of their songs refers to Shepherds Bush cowboys and Hammersmith guerillas. I had their first LP once, but it was deeply unpleasant.

  • RADIATORS FROM SPACE: Enemies (Chiswick 7", 1977)

    Admittedly a quite well known song, given a second lease of life when the June Brides covertly covered it, but it's such a classic, everybody ought to swear by it. Phil Chevron's lyrics show how much there was to the punk underground: "Desolation angels in a junkyard of lies. Secret thinkers spitting in their eyes. Don't wanna change the world, just my own. Sometimes I feel so alone." Supposedly written after an NME (hence the titular pun) article about a festival the Radiators played at in Ireland where a kid was killed, and unkind words were bandied about. Basically, that was the beauty of punk: how intense feelings could be so effectively translated into blasts of manic pop.

  • OUTCASTS: Self Conscious Over You (Good Vibrations 7", 1979)

    The Irish punk/pop explosion is a whole other story. First there was Rudi, then the Undertones, Protex, Outcasts and more. Infectious, lovelorn romps, one after another. You know the score. The Outcasts were the strangest of the lot, real boy wonders who had squaddie crops and three-button hand-me-downs. This single was their moment of glory: a helter skelter tune with yearning, forlorn vocals. They were the strangest because they grew up into a hardcore, spikes and studs outfit who would disown their soppy early days. That's just about the opposite career progression to every other punk group of the time.

  • ACCIDENTS: Blood-spattered With Guitars (Hook Line'n'Sinker 7", 1979)

    This glorious small label classic I remember hearing on Peel one night, but I only picked up a copy for 10p years later. So I was amazed recently to see old school Mod label Detour have put out an Accidents CD, which features this wonderful song. However, I'm not sure I want to hear more. I love the idea of one brilliant blaze of creativity. Everything poured into the one release, and the end of the '70s was littered with such gems. 'Blood-spattered' starts off all broody and moody and then explodes like a veritable fireworks display. I like the idea of the CD being on Detour, because 1979 was a strange time, with blasts of melodic noise tending to be more mod-tinged, and punk post-Discharge became quite grubby and rocky. Let's face it, despite the name, punk was always about pop. Great haircuts, great clothes and songs to die for. That's pop.

    Kevin Pearce, 1996.

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