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In 1977 – One of the First Mainstream Press Articles on The Rise Of Punk.

In 1977 – One of the First Mainstream Press Articles on The Rise Of Punk.

Mick Jones and Joe Strummer of The Clash playing live in 1977.

The below article was first published in the UK Guardian newspaper in January 1977 and was one of the first “sensible” mainstream press articles addressing the surging Punk and New Wave band phenomenon as it was happening.

Reading it now, it comes off as half-apologetic, half-patronising, but it’s an still interesting take on what was seen as an Establishment-threatening and music business-destroying assault by Punk and New Wave bands in Britain at that time.

I saw these bands when they played Mountford Hall, Liverpool, on this tour in 1977.

I saw these bands when they played Mountford Hall, Liverpool, on this tour in 1977.

1977 was the year I too got into Punk, as described in my 1970s-1980s Band memoir, Bombed Out! (signed copies of which can be ordered through this website), in which all the bands mentioned below also get mentions.

The article is copyrighted to the Guardian, but I have edited it and added all the Punk photos from 1977 for illustration, as the ones in the original article just didn’t do it justice. I’ve also put a link to the full article below.

The Vibrators playing live in 1977.

The Vibrators playing live in 1977.

“From the archive, 10 January 1977: Something rotten in British music

Robin Denselow charts the new wave of British punk culture, from The Damned at Stiff Records to The Stranglers and The Vibrators

the Stranglers playing live in 1977. A great band and great bass lines.

the Stranglers playing live in 1977. A great band and great bass lines.

The British music business has started the year by trying to come to terms with the growing wave of brash, sometimes exciting and sometimes atrocious, new and very young bands who call themselves “punk” or “new wave.” EMI were first to wade in, and came badly unstuck on finding that the Sex Pistols  were more than they could handle. United Artists (with The Stranglers) and Rak (with The Vibrators) are likely to have more happy relations, while Island, the one-time progressive music leaders, are playing safe with a more mainstream, but excellent, young R & B band, Eddie and the Hot Rods. Other companies, I suspect, are looking at the still-growing number of do-it-yourself new young bands (who now have a new punk club to play in, the Roxy in Covent Garden) with confusion and some horror.

SIngle cover for Eddie and the Hot Rods' Life on the Line, released in 1977.

SIngle cover for Eddie and the Hot Rods’ Life on the Line, released in 1977.

I sympathise, for I admit that I was a slow convert (partly because I was so bored with the first batch of Sex Pistol scandals), and I find a lot of the new bands very bad and very hard going. The fact that they are there, that they are beginning to create their own music on a substantial scale, and are doing so on their own, without (so far) being dictated to or created by the big record companies, is very encouraging news. Whatever you think of the music, the principle behind it is excellent.

The Sex Pistols playing live in 1977.

The Sex Pistols playing live in 1977.

In the past, the different waves of new music in England tended to have a particular record company identified with them. First Island, then Virgin, started almost at street level, before growing. Despite the alleged ideology of one or two of them, many of the punk bands will doubtless aim (like the Sex Pistols) for the big corporations and the big advances. Those who reject all that will gravitate to the new, still tiny companies like Chiswick and Stiff Records who are trying to deal as fast and simply as possible with the new bands, on their own level.

The Stranglers playing live at a gig in 1977

The Stranglers playing live at a gig in 1977

Stiff operate from a shop-front in Bayswater, and at the end of last year had the remarkable distinction of getting into the lower reaches of the charts (and selling 14,000 copies) with a record that was recorded in two hours and mixed in another two, for a cost of around £46. It’s called New Rose, by a band called The Damned, who are teenagers, have a drummer called Rat Scabies, and claim to have had jobs as janitors and gravediggers.

The Damned's Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible onstage in 1977.

The Damned’s Rat Scabies, Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible onstage in 1977.

The sound is atrociously raw, but the song almost falls over itself in the energy and excitement. The flip side, an even greater Max Jaffa. I’m not recommending it to the over-twenties, but it’s a fine example of its genre.

Stiff is run by Dave Robinson, veteran of the pub-rock era, and producer Jake Riviera. They were helped by the band Dr Feelgood and photographer Keith Morris, and started it for £400. Robinson says: “We’re interested in the folk music aspect of it – I’m a bit of an idealist, and I want to document the music that is happening now.” He is not interested in signing bands for long-term recording contracts, but is happy for them just to come in to make one single.

The Clash, photographed in London in 1977.

The Clash, photographed in London in 1977.

He sees the “new wave” as partly resulting from his pub-rock experiments. “That provided venues, and showed that bands could play even without backing from record companies. The new bands took the idea forward, though some of them are too young for pubs.” As for the punk style, he again sees a tie-in with the veterans of the older pub-rock circuit. “Ian Drury of Kilburn and the High Roads started wearing razor-blades and safety-pins, and if bands like Ducks De Luxe were younger they’d have been punks.”

Ian Dury, photographed in London in 1977.

Ian Dury, photographed in London in 1977.

Looking round the London clubs last week, and watching the ‘punk tour” over in Holland it was encouraging to see how different the “new wave” bands already are, though the one thing they have in common is simplicity and energy. The most accessible, for those who are not members of the “oh my God I’m so spotty, I’ve just been chucked out of the comprehensive and now I’m on the dole” generation, are The Stranglers and The Vibrators, both of whom mix a degree of melody with the aggression and calculated outrage.

Pure Mania - The Vibrators first album released in 1977 - I remember being a bit disappointed when I bought and played it.

Pure Mania – The Vibrators first album released in 1977 – I remember being a bit disappointed when I bought and played it, but they were a great live band.

The Stranglers tend to imitate Lou Reed (as do most punks) but also have an organist (a punk rarity) which allows them to sound at times not unlike the late-lamented Doors. Their single will be released in a few weeks, but they have such a variety of songs (by punk standards) that they should be a good album band. A sample of their lyrics: “I guess I shouldn’t have strangled her to death, but she had acne… it’s only the children of the wealthy that are good-looking.”

The Clash, Live in 1977.

The Clash, Live in 1977.

The Vibrators are also from London, and somehow include a 31-year-old guitarist, the son of a university lecturer whose earlier career included Irish Show Bands and “a Nazi transvestite pianist in a Park Lane club.” They were touring with the Sex Pistols last week (“ordinary people, nicer than we are”); but made it clear that their views are very different – “punk has no philosophy, except telling the Press that it has. All punk has given is a style of playing, and contact with the audience. You’re either good at it or you’re not.”

1977 Promo Poster for Eddie and the Hot Rods.

1977 Promo Poster for Eddie and the Hot Rods.

The hard-core punk heroes are the Pistols, Clash and The Damned. I saw the latter in a basement in Islington last week where the sound was horrific and not one word was intelligible. They have style, certainly in an anarchic fashion, but hurl themselves too fast, too madly and too identically into every single song. They are completing the first punk album (on Stiff) which should clarify their potential.

The Sex Pistols sign to Virgin Records in 1977 outside Buckingham Palace.

The Sex Pistols sign to Virgin Records in 1977 outside Buckingham Palace.

Before it even comes out, the way things are going, a new set of bands may have emerged. Most of them may be dreadful, but as with the skiffle movement – in the Fifties – at least the emphasis will shift slightly from watching to participating. Whatever you think of Mr Rotten and the Sex Pistols, they helped start all that.”

Where There's Punks There's Bras - Vivienne Westwood (left) with what look like fashion models in Punk outfits in London in 1977.

Punk gear in London in 1977.

© The Guardian.

And to finish off, how could I NOT include this You Tube link to the Clash’s still fantastic track, 1977:

The Clash – 1977

Original article in the Guardian here: http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jan/10/punk-bands-uk-archive-1977

 

 

 

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 www.bombedoutpunk.com © Peter Alan Lloyd

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5 Comments

  1. Mark

    As a lefty , I love the Damned pic,, printed from a reversed negative

    Reply
    • Peter Alan Lloyd

      Well spotted. I do it to a quite a few photos just to see how it looks from a different perspective, especially if it’s one that has been used a few times elsewhere before.

      Reply
  2. Rob

    More like 1982?

    Reply
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