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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.