Tag Archives: punk rock

“Cutting ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’ out of the market just as it was reaching its audience, EMI, the Sex Pistols’ first label, dropped them after the televised ‘fuck’ that made Declan McManus’ day, recalled the records, and melted them down. … The press contrived a moral panic to sell papers, but the panic seemed real soon enough: the Sex Pistols were denounced in Parliament as a threat to the British way of life, by socialists as fascist, by fascists as communist. … The group itself had become contraband. In late 1975, when the Sex Pistols first appeared, crashing another band’s concert and impersonating the opening act, the plug was pulled after ten minutes; now to play in public they were forced to turn up in secret, under a false name. The very emptiness of the terrain they had cleared — the multiplication of new voices from below, the intensification of abuse from above, both sides fighting for possession of that suddenly cleared ground — had pushed them toward self-destruction, into the silence of all nihilist noise.”

Greil Marcus, discussing the Sex Pistols in his 1989 book, “Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century”

Greil Marcus – Sex Pistols

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The Saints, “Wild About You”

It’s a long way from “(I’m) Stranded” to “Just Like Fire Would.”

For starters, the first one’s punk; the latter’s maybe cowpunk. “Stranded,” The Saints’ first single in September 1976, will be forever known to have dropped before The Sex Pistols had any product to show for its trouble — as well as the fact The Saints had been playing out in unskilled, fast and loud fashion since 1973.

This is because The Saints hail from Australia, which translates to “penal colony” in British. It just doesn’t do to have an island seeded by convicts beat you at what you think is your own game. In America, these sorts of things are not a concern: A) because The Ramones won the race to acetate by a long shot, and B) many of our most revered musicians are or have been in jail. It’s called street cred.

The latter song, “Just Like Fire Would,” was off 1987’s “All Fools Day,” Saints’ attempt to cross into the mainstream by dabbling in what is now referred to as “jangle pop.” To say it sounds like an R.E.M. rip-off is too harsh, because singer/songwriter Chris Bailey, snarl dialed down, exhibited a soulful voice that carried the album. It really deserves to have done better in the States — at least better than the BoDeans.

It’s not surprising that The Saints’ sound was so much changed nine years after “Stranded” (“Fools” was recorded in 1985). Its roster of former members could fill a Greyhound — which is still nothing compared to Aztec Camera. According to Wikipedia, everybody but your mom did time in that band.

When they write the obit on The Saints, it will be remembered as The Punk Band That Beat The Sex Pistols Into The Studio. Which is fine, but does it really matter anymore? When I hear a song like The Stooges’ “T.V. Eye” off 1970’s “Fun House,” I see no real difference between that and anything in the traditional punk realm until you get to something that’s almost thrash, like Black Flag or Youth of Today.

In any case, back in 1976 The Saints were just dipping their toes in the punk stream. Within two years, it was playing blues, and had shed much of its audience. The band was probably sick of all that gobbing anyway. After guitarist Ed Kuepper left in 1979, the band moved into folk and jazz territory.

But about that original crew — the three lads who started out as Kid Galahad and the Eternals in 1973, later joined by Kym Bradshaw on bass — and the best song they ever created (and the point to all this pontification), “Wild About You.” The song, off its 1977 debut album, is a cover of a song by The Missing Links, an Australian R&B band from the mid-1960s.

Bailey’s sneer is in evidence, but the star is Kuepper on guitar, particularly the breakdown in the last minute (basically, half the song) that I would argue was more fierce than anything else on record up to that time. And it matters, because it still sounds dangerous — just like young Iggy.

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The kids back then were following fashion and not the music. … I mean, “Anarchy In The U.K.,” it was the biggest pisstaking record ever made and people took it serious. Anarchy is impossible; you need some kind of law and order to keep us from eating each other. “God Save the Queen”? Fucking great record, but the biggest pisstaker. People took it seriously. It’s not meant to be taken seriously.”

Pete “Dee” Davidson, guitarist for The Adicts, in a July 2012 interview with AMP Magazine

Pete “Dee” Davidson – The Adicts

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Crushed Butler, “It’s My Life”

The first song Crushed Butler ever recorded begins with a complaint. Talk about foreshadowing.

In October 1969, the London band broke its cherry in the studio with “It’s My Life,” a meaty bit of hard blues rock that packed about as much pre-punk wallop as The Stooges and MC5 were bringing to the table on their side of the pond.

But neither that nor any of the band’s other five demos would ever be released during Crushed Butler’s two-year existence — closer to three if you count a spell in 1971 during which the band went by the name of Tiger, apparently as a desperate bid to fool the labels into a record deal. Reported to have been popular among the common people, CB failed miserably with bald-headed men in skyscrapers. As stated in the band’s biography on Allmusic.com, “The band arrived for its demo session in a Rolls Royce, but came home on the subway.” That’s CB’s career in a nutshell.

At a time when many British bands (in the wake of The Beatles’ game-changing 1967 “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”) were thinking in terms of albums instead of singles, Butler just wanted to grind out some rock and get it over with. Even peer Black Sabbath would be guilty of superfluity on its 1970 self-titled debut.

CB had just three recording sessions before it disbanded in 1971 (its six songs were finally released as “Uncrushed” in 1998). In 1970, during the aforementioned Rolls Royce/subway session, the band recorded “Factory Grime” in just one take — one blistering take, and just the one. CB was likely escorted out of the building immediately afterward, as the bigwigs were apparently miffed over the song’s unshaven appearance and ring around the collar. The sad thing is that, according to drummer Darryl Read, none of the songs were ever mixed properly. “Factory Grime” could have been a monster if it had been properly dressed.

The good news is that two of the members, guitarist Jesse Hector and bass player Alan Butler, went on to better success in The (Hammersmith) Gorillas, buoyed by a burgeoning punk rock movement: They toured as opening act for The Damned in 1976.

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Crime, “Hot Wire My Heart/Baby You’re So Repulsive”

In what is credited as the West Coast’s first punk rock record, San Francisco band Crime released its debut, the self-financed double single, “Hot Wire My Heart/Baby You’re So Repulsive,” at the end of 1976.

To give you an idea of how far-out Crime must have been at the time (or it’s just damn good luck), it held its first live gig at a gay fundraiser in hometown San Francisco — and bombed. According to allmusic.com, during the band’s fifth song, the plug was pulled as most people were walking out. Nowadays, San Franciscans (without even needing to craigslist a transsexual dominatrix amputee in the Tenderloin) get a daily dose of human depravity in homeless people pooping and/or possibly lying dead right in front of them as they stroll to and fro — and they don’t even bat an eye!

You’ll most likely recognize “Hot Wire” if you’re familiar with Sonic Youth, as it was covered by the band on its 1987 release, “Sister.” The sense of abandon is a little more wild on SY’s version, but its links to Velvet Underground are more pronounced on Crime’s take. “Baby You’re So Repulsive” is a looser, rawer affair, the bandmates uncoiling into a Stooges-like groove and singer Johnny Strike howling a bit like Nick Cave later would during vocal tirades as Birthday Party frontman.

Co-founders and self-taught guitarists Strike and Frankie Fix, when they got together in 1975, originally settled on the name Space Invaders (which would have caused some interesting legal issues with the popular game that would be released three years later). They’d intended to be a glam band until glam fell out of fashion just as they were hitting the studio. Regardless, their sound is more New York Dolls than, say, the Ramones. Coincidentally, Fix is reported to have told an exec at Sire Records that the label should fire the Ramones, calling them “hippies who should get haircuts.”

Crime, as the above example illustrates, never quite hit it off with corporate types, which in the days before the interwebs or even successful small DIY labels, pretty much doomed you to obscurity. It also didn’t hit it off with SF’s ruling class. During 1977, the band members started wear regulation police uniforms during live gigs and sometimes just strolling the streets in the daytime, and Crime had open disdain for clubs bookers, radio jockeys, journalists and record store owners it considered “left over from the hippie days.”

But, hell, that’s punk rock!

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