1. YOUTH AND HOW TO LIVE IT 1976 - 1979
Britain in the mid 70’s was a vicious, ugly place to be. The towns were ugly, the streets were ugly, the politics were ugly, the morals were ugly, the music was ugly, the fashions were ugly and the people were ugly. It was all fucking ugly. If you were 13, 14, 15, 16, life was full of dread and boredom, great gaping gulfs of time with absolutely nothing to fill them inducing a sensation of tedium so intense it was almost spiritual. And if you dared go out, you risked a kicking. Violence was always just around the corner, so you learnt quickly.
Music had been a lifeline for as long as I could remember. I spent every penny on a feast of singles and albums: Bowie, The Stones, Roxy, Mott, Alex Harvey, Cockney Rebel, Lou Reed. It was a necessary rite of passage where records were holy relics and dropping the needle in the groove was the holy sacrament. It really was as important as that. It had to be, it was all I had.
My mother had my life mapped out but as soon as I realised that whatever I achieved would never be good enough for her, I jumped off the treadmill. Ashamed, lost in suburbia and haunted by her own lovelessness, she consigned me to a psychiatrist’s couch never wanting to understand. I didn’t understand myself but knew that to become another insignificant cog in the machine wasn’t how it should be. I was possessed by burning youth, enthused by my own sense of alienation, of being different, a little off the straight and narrow with an intense dislike of authority. I left school as soon as I could in January 1976 and signed on for £9 a week. I’d never had it so good.
I spent my time dreaming, listening to records, devouring the weekly music papers cover to cover and seeking excitement. I became intrigued by the Sex Pistols and the whispers of Punk. All the stars aligned on Tuesday, 29th June 1976, when with my parents away, five of us scraped the cash together for a trip to their 100 Club show. In my youthful mind London was still Dickensian and mythical, so that alone was excitement enough, but when the Pistols hit the low stage and launched into ‘Flowers Of Romance’ I was changed forever. What hit me most wasn’t the sound, despite it being an absolute kick in the head, it was Johnny Rotten. Instantly mesmerizing, he taunted us with a non stop stream of squeals, sarcasm and abuse and clearly didn’t give a fuck. It oozed out of him like pus from a boil he couldn’t help but squeeze. He was freedom incarnate, daring to say what we all felt, a skinny, twisted kid from Finsbury Park pissing in the face of society.
I‘d never seen or heard anything like it and from that first second I knew I could be whatever I wanted to be, and do whatever I wanted to do. Spellbound, we returned home early the next morning, cut our hair, ripped our Levis into drainpipes, sprayed our shirts, pierced our ears with needles, snorted our first lines of sulphate and speeded into the future. It really was as simple and quick as that.
Punk meant a thousand different things to a thousand different people but to me, a 16 year old boy kicking against the oppressive, colourless shades of 1976 Britain, it represented absolute freedom. Punk said ‘believe in yourself and if others don’t like it they can fuck off’. In fact, the sound I remember most from Punk is not the everlasting thrash of buzzsaw guitars, but the everlasting fuck off-ness of it all; an explosion of negatives, and the rejection of old values. Punk was the outsider aesthetic writ large; dark, tribal, alien and full of black humour. It attracted all those who felt cast out, who felt useless, unworthy or ashamed, bringing together Bowie victims, teenage misfits, gays, artists, disco slaves, junkies, football hooligans, intellectuals and outcasts from every class. I no longer felt alone, and for the first time had the empowering possibility of action, time and vision.
I lived each day with no thought of tomorrow, my huge leap into the everlasting present of the teenage an incredibly intense rite of passage that became almost messianic. Punk was a secret society with the most glorious soundtrack, the coolest clothes, the fiercest debates, the most idealistic politics. My life was full of incident and adventure, and always, always, lived at a million miles an hour, fuelled by crazy, bug eyed, chemical induced energy, cheap sulphate, crap sex, seven inch singles and riotous live shows. I saw all the main players through 1976 and 1977, again and again, and a hundred others besides, mostly at the 100 Club, The Roxy, The Marquee, The Music Machine or the Nags Head, High Wycombe. But we followed The Clash almost religiously. Their best shows were always in the provinces, places like Bristol, Bournemouth and Hastings. Walking through those towns, all punkabilly quiffs, leather jackets and brothel creepers, was literally walking the line. We got loads of shit every time but The Clash themselves always made it worthwhile, cutting through all that crap, Strummer, all nervous energy, leg pumping, arm thrashing, commanding attention.
But Punk was never about being a passive consumer, a part of the audience. We were all involved, doing it, living it. For my part, I followed the Mark Perry Sniffing Glue maxim of ‘Here’s three chords, now form a band’ so with cheap Woolworths guitars and a borrowed drum kit, the fuzz driven Kaotix were born, destined to tour youth clubs and church halls and feature bottom of the bill at Bones, Reading’s brief punk club under the old Heelas depository in Gun Street. Little kids loved our noisy racket, but we weren’t very good and we knew it. And yet, we still played those three chords for all they were worth, and even though enthusiasm ruled over content, it didn’t matter.
With London just a 30 minute train ride away, Reading itself never had much of a scene. Until the filth and fury of the Pistols truly hit the headlines in December 1976, there were never more than twenty of us, despite some of the hipper Chelsea boot boys latching on to scare the prole’s in punk disguise. It’s impossible to imagine now but the shoppers in Reading town centre used to part like the red sea when we passed through, a look of fear and loathing on their haunted faces. What should be remembered about towns like Reading was not the physical difference from London so much as the mental distance. Punk struggled to breathe in towns like ours because to be a Punk, walk the streets, go to a club and get the bus in a provincial town was to run the eternal gauntlet of pissed up, middle aged bigots who wished death and destruction on those daring to be different.
Of course, like any youth movement, Punk carried with it the seeds of its own destruction. I knew it even then. There was a period just after the moment of high punk in June 1977, when Joe Public, stoked by a seething, outraged, media started to attack and it became incredibly dangerous to go anywhere: I had knives waved in my face; I had hair drop out and my nose squelch as boots kicked my head in; I had hells angels unzip my girls homemade top and head butt me as her tits fell out; I sought refuge under a train station shelter as a thousand bricks and rocks thrown by gangs of local lads rained down, the injured bleeding on the platform while the police sniggered opposite. Punk had descended into a miserable, violent, abyss; a squalid, caricature of its once glorious self, populated by the new glue sniffing Mohican horde’s in their identikit High Street fashion. No one had looked like that in 1976. But, together with the original movers and shakers I had moved on.
Having dropped the limited Kaotix, I formed the noisesome and loathsome Jesus Fucks, just to fuck everyone off. But, with my ever expanding eclectic taste now being informed by mavericks like Eno, Lydon, Karl Blake and Genesis P Orridge, I soon got fucked off myself, ditching all guitars for a cheap catalogue synthesiser and a double cassette recorder, the size of a suitcase. On the outer fringes of the DIY universe I became an active participant in the cassette underground and spent hours recording short soundscapes for avant-garde tape compilations.
Then in the spring of 1979 my world came crashing down when I began to suffer constant, crippling stomach pains. A hardcore lifestyle of self neglect, abuse and a move into the squalor of bedsit land, had inevitably taken its toll. I retreated from real life into my head, where I began to experience the frightening sensation of everything going too fast, the world turning like a speeded up film. I would tell any visitors not to talk or move but to sit silent and still while my mind carried on rushing.
When I eventually crept back into the world, cautious and not a little scared, much had changed. Still only 19, I had believed anything was possible but you could feel the dread and paranoia creeping through the cities once more, and hear the loneliness and despair in records like Joy Divisions Unknown Pleasures and Pil’s Metal Box. The Slits and a resurgent Clash countered with magnificent hope and optimism, but while they helped you forget momentarily, the rise of the Tory Reich and the pervading gloom were overwhelming.
1.1 THE RAMONES / Judy Is A Punk / The Ramones LP / June 1976
It didn’t start with the Ramones, but it did start in June 1976. Amidst the glorious chaos of the 100 Club, I chose to speed into the future and ignore the absurdity and misery of the present. I would never be the same again! And the Ramones? I got their debut on import expecting anarchy only to find a tuneful garage band redefining the idea of cool sixties pop while setting the template for every buzzsaw punk group thereafter.
1.2 U-Roy / Natty Rebel / The Front Line Sampler LP / August 1976
The Front Line was my introduction to proper reggae, a cheap 69p sampler of Virgins new reggae label in a wicked sleeve. A few years before, as an interested musical tourist I had bought Catch A Fire and Burnin’ but by 1976 Marley was not cool. U Roy absolutely was. Tougher than tough, his ‘Natty Rebel’, toasting over The Gladiators roots version, ironically of Marley’s ‘Soul Rebel’, still sounds revolutionary.
1.3 THE MODERN LOVERS / Roadrunner / Modern Lovers LP / October 1976
‘Roadrunner’ was everything rock was not from 1972 to 1976, innocent but anthemic, a song about nothing more than driving around listening to urgent, lovelorn rock’n’roll. Best of all, any fool could learn to play a song that hardly bothered with the third chord. Mid 70’s rocks main message was ‘You’ll never be able to do this.’ ‘Roadrunner’ shouted, ‘Anyone can do this!’ And we did.
1.4 TAPPA ZUKIE / Dub MPLA / In Dub LP / November 1976
Amongst the reggae we listened to, or more to the point smoked to, dub was the big thing, but not much was this spaced out and freaky.
1.5 RICHARD HELL / Blank Generation / Single A Side / November 1976
The story goes that poor old Richard Hell’s ripped T-shirt chic, spiky hair and elegantly wasted look got ripped off wholesale by Malcolm McLaren to invent British punk fashion. Of course, what poor Richard never grasped was that in the end what matter’s most is not who does it first but who does it best. This is his finest moment.
1.6 THE BUZZCOCKS / Breakdown / Spiral Scratch EP / January 1977
The first proper punk record, made by four Pistols inspired, Manchester misfits, who’s four short, sharp, lo-fi fits of hysteria invented the independent record. Packed with the barbed wit of singer Howard Devoto, in true punk fashion he quit on the eve of the records release, bored with the unrelenting nature of punk music, including his own.
1.7 THE DAMNED / Neat Neat Neat / Damned Damned Damned LP / February 1977
Bad speed was the stimulant of choice for suburban youth in 1977, specifically amphetamine sulphate, a white powder that burnt nasal membranes, destroyed brain cells, promoted paranoia and aggression and transformed participants into emaciated bug eyed nut jobs. It accurately mirrored early punks buzzsaw thrash and despite The Damned always being considered something of a joke, Damned Damned Damned, was a speed freaks dream, totally of the moment.
1.8 TELEVISION / Marquee Moon (Edit) / Marquee Moon LP / February 1977
The arty American punk impulse was entirely different to the brutalist British one, just take ‘Marquee Moon’. It starts with one of the most subtle twin guitar hooks in history before Tom Verlaine, 26 and already old, wails: ‘I remember how the darkness doubled/I recall that lightning struck itself/I was listening, listening to the rain/I was hearing, hearing something else’. Imagine that thrown into my world clogged with 1-2-3-4 sloganeering. ‘Marquee Moon’ made me think of music in a different way, made me confront feelings I didn’t know I had, and introduced the possibility of beauty to the nihilism and decay.
1.9 ELVIS COSTELLO / Less Than Zero / Single A Side / March 1977
Judy gave me this single. Judy wasn’t a punk and it was obvious that this gawky, clever clever, four eyed monster wasn’t either. Even though I have no idea what he’s on about, every time I hear it I remember those brief, lovelorn days, from sweet beginning to bitter end.
1.10 CULTURE / Two Sevens Clash / Two Sevens Clash LP / March 1977
The essential punky reggae purchases during the jubilee summer of 77 were Junior Murvin’s Police And Thieves and Cultures prophesy toting Two Sevens Clash, another anthemic album built on a genius title track that made even The Clash seem weedy.
1.11 IGGY POP / Nightclubbing / The Idiot LP / March 1977
Until Bowie came a calling and took him to Berlin, Iggy Pop was a no good, drugged up, loser, carrying the heavy legacy of The Stooges on his skinny shoulders. Still regarded as defiant punk rocker number one, The Idiot became an instant cult classic, partly due to Nightclubbing’, a euro pop anthem reflecting on the decadence of the disco demi-monde.
1.12 KRAFTWERK / Showroom Dummies / Trans Europa Express LP / April 1977
In 1977, Kraftwerk sounded radical. While I remembered ‘Autobahn’, that strange, hypnotic, novelty ode to German motorways, it was only Bowie, Iggy and Eno’s adventures in Berlin and their resulting LP’s that made me buy the robots latest. Some of it is still far too icy and mechanical for me, but I could see immediately how their influence pushed Bowie to reject, not only rock but also the foundations of all Anglo-American music.
1.13 DONNA SUMMER / I Feel Love / Single A Side / July 1977
Sometimes punks ended up at discos too; The Top Rank, The Calcot Hotel, Wednesdays in Bracknell. Surprisingly none of these objected to our lack of flares, moustaches and footballer perms. The punk hangout was Peacocks Cellar Bar in Broad Street, and they had a disco blazing at all times too. ‘I Feel Love’ was played over and over in these places and I was fascinated by its mesmeric sequenced synth undulations, a physical, sexual journey as endless and scenic as Kraftwerk’s autobahns. And all the while the girls swayed beautifully. Not that I ever danced of course.
1.14 AUGUSTUS PABLO / King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown / King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown LP / July 1977
If I had to pick one album to define dub this is it. Don’t try to understand it, don’t attempt to analyse it, just wallow in it.
1.15 IAN DURY / Wake Up And Make Love With Me / New Boots And Panties LP / September 1977
Ian Dury was just what the country needed, a nice little sideshow, much older, therefore perceived as much safer than punks teenage devil children. Coming on like Johnny Rotten’s sinister Uncle, he was a master of glamorising ordinary everyday lives, championing the urchin loser, refuting standard 70’s cock rock and closing the gap between performer and listener while letting you know in no uncertain terms that he was in no way ordinary, but then possibly, neither were you.
1.16 DAVID BOWIE / “Heroes” / Heroes LP / October 1977
Punk was already smashing against its own Berlin wall when Bowie, Iggy and Eno provided the records that would help its best protagonists pole vault right over. Low was the first shot even though I thought it boring. But, Heroes was always different, how could it not be, dominated by the desperate romance and us-against-the-world defiance of its gloriously tuneful title track, made all the stronger by Bowie’s increasingly desperate vocal. It is one of his most genius moments, at once direct, mythic and utterly unforgettable.
1.17 SEX PISTOLS / Holidays In The Sun / Single A Side / October 1977
By the time of ‘Holidays In The Sun’ we all knew the Pistols were a con, far removed from the life changing spark they had once been. Even worse, Never Mind The Bollocks, released a couple of weeks later sounded worryingly like conventional
hard rock. I had the feeling I was being cheated. But the singles, they were glorious, and ‘Anarchy In The UK’, ‘God Save The Queen’ or ‘Pretty Vacant’ could just as easily be here instead of ‘Holidays’ marching feet and Steve Jones impersonation of a tank battalion.
1.18 SUICIDE / Ghostrider / Suicide LP / November 1977
There were a host of revolutionary records in the late 70’s, the sound of which had never been heard before. Most sold next to nothing and yet they have become the building blocks of most things we hear today. Suicide was another one of those records, Alan Vega and Martin Rev’s distilled essence of rock’n’roll and pop, retooled for drum machine, synth and spooky vocals.
1.19 ALTHEA AND DONNA / Uptown Top Ranking / Single A Side / December 1977
This was a great single originally championed by Peel. We used to get a thrill when a record that had once been our best kept secret made it into the charts. Of course then it got played to death and we got mighty sick of it. Still, that’s pop for you.
1.20 BRIAN ENO / King’s Lead Hat / Before And After Science LP / December 1977
Brian Eno looked like a professor and sounded like one too. I remembered him from Roxy Music, in make up and feather boa, posing as Brian Ferry’s sleazy, evil twin, burping and farting on a Heath Newton synth. Then, mysteriously and with remarkable insight, he saw the possibilities of post punk before punk even got going and made ‘Kings Lead Hat’ as a route map for everyone else to follow.
1.21 XTC / New Town Animal In A Furnished Cage / White Music / February 1978
Early 1977, Swindon’s XTC, seemed to be permanently playing The Target pub, Reading, plonked beneath the Butts, a typically shitty, soulless, 70’s shopping centre. XTC were never cool, in fact they were so uncool they were singled out as an example of that sanitised version of punk called new wave. But, I loved them and their jerky, itchy little songs, ‘Newtown Animal In A Furnished Cage’ the first acknowledgement that bored provincial kids were the ones who really needed punk, its thrills, and its reason to believe.
1.22 WIRE / I Am The Fly / Single A Side / February 1978
Trying to work out exactly when punk became post punk is impossible, not least because post punk as a genre never existed and is purely a 21st century invention of journalists too young to have been there. Nonetheless, Wire were the first group most obviously swimming against the tide, even though it was equally obvious they were absolute beginners. Now revered as an influence on everyone from R.E.M. to Elastica to LCD Soundsystem, they immediately appealed to my sensibilities. Incredibly they liked to think of themselves as a pop group, and in an age when anything and everything seemed possible, I agreed.
1.23 THE NORMAL / Warm Leatherette / Single AA Side / February 1978
Daniel Miller’s one and only single sparked the real musical revolution. Unlike the movement itself, punk groups were never very revolutionary, what with all that primal, raw rama-lama, the novelty soon wore off. ‘Heres three chords, now form a band’ was the first commandment but Miller didn’t bother to learn any at all, and by so doing proved that groups with no obvious musical ability but loads of ideas could still make records.
2.1 BUZZCOCKS / Fiction Romance / Another Music In A Different Kitchen LP / March 1978
The Buzzcocks debut LP came wrapped in a silver plastic bag stamped PRODUCT which told me exactly how far they’d moved from punk’s 1-2-3-4! straitjacket. With Howard Devoto long gone, Pete Shelley became the movements self appointed love poet, his songs uniquely honest, witty dissections of need and disappointment. But Another Music In A Different Kitchen drew from a much broader palette as Shelley, in his very English way, questioned the rules of rock’n’roll and the symbols of 70’s consumerism. More new wave than post punk but still absolute class.
2.2 THE SAINTS / Know Your Product / Eternally Yours LP / March 1978
Arriving from Australia, The Saints gate crashed the punk party and were immediately dismissed because they refused to play by the rules; no spiky hair, ripped jeans or punk by numbers for them. The feeling was mutual and they poured their disgust at punk’s conformist nature into Eternally Yours, using brass to push the savage ‘Know Your Product’ onto brilliance.
2.3 THE ONLY ONES / Another Girl, Another Planet / The Only Ones LP / May 1978
Peter Perrett’s songs spoke of drugs, suicide and an altogether darker psyche yet they were still touched by beauty. Loved at the time by the switched on minority, ‘Another Girl’ has since featured on numerous ads and soundtracks which is hopefully keeping the still addicted Perrett in some comfort.
2.4 MAGAZINE / The Light Pours Out Of Me / Real Life LP / June 1978
Howard Devoto abandoned the ship of punk long before it started to sink and formed Magazine, who were always the connoisseur's choice, enigmatic, intelligent and oblique. But I never cared about all that. All I know is that ‘The Light Pours Out Of Me’ is a great, thundering, glitter stomp of a tune that sounds like 1973 and the future.
2.5 STEEL PULSE / Ku Klux Klan / Single A Side / August 1978
‘Ku Klux Klan’ was the first significant British reggae record of the punk era and completely different in message and tone to its Jamaican counterparts, creating an atmosphere of dankness and terror that was almost overwhelming, it’s vision of England drowning in a gradual tide of racist sewage a powerful pointer to the desperate need for positive change.
2.6 PUBLIC IMAGE LTD / Public Image / Single A Side / October 1978
This was an extraordinary record even though John Lydon could have shit in a paper bag and still made the charts. ‘Public Image’ was his first act of revenge, where he exorcised his inner demons of Johnny Rotten, the Pistols, Mclaren, sad Sid and his audience. Of course, it was only the beginning, because a year later, on Metal Box, he would be dismissing rock’n’roll as well, deconstructing it piece by piece to come up with something not rock’n’roll at all. Ultimately that would prove even more influential than ‘77 vintage Pistols.
2.7 GANG OF FOUR / Love Like Anthrax / Damaged Goods EP / October 1978
My first reaction on hearing this was ‘What the fuck was that?’ The Damaged Goods EP and ‘Love Like Anthrax’ in particular, helped rewrite punks sonic architecture, with its harsh opening salvo of feedback, robotic drum beat, looped bassline and stereophonic duet. I already knew that ‘Public Image’ was a brand new beginning, but the Gang Of Four sign posted the new direction.
2.8 SUBWAY SECT / A Different Story / Single B Side / October 1978
I’d seen the Subway Sect a few times supporting The Clash and The Slits. Of all the groups to emerge out of punk, they looked the most ordinary in their old school jumpers and Oxfam clothes, yet strangely out of time, punk but not punk. Their best song was ‘A Different Story’, a blistering, scornful critique of rock’n’roll as the opiate of youth. Ironically, by the time it reached the flipside of ‘Ambition’ their second single, it had become their most rock’n’roll song, a bit of a singalong in fact.
2.9 CAN / Mother Sky / Cannibalism LP / October 1978
So many wise heads were referencing Can I bought Cannibalism, a compilation of their finest moments despite them being pre-punk, German hippies with beards. Surprisingly, deep within their improvised, intellectually driven, avant-garde rock grooves, I found a massive funk pulse, and could immediately hear their influence on the arty, bedroom side of British punk and everything that led to.
2.10 THE CRAMPS / Human Fly / Single A Side / November 1978
The Cramps made me realise how I’d been wrong about Elvis all along and how 50’s rockabilly, 60’s garage bands and 70’s punk were essentially all the same thing. Obsessed with a rock’n’roll subculture of hair grease, girl groups, sci-fi B movies and comic books, their rockabilly monster mash was irresistibly cool, opening up a real connection to the past.
2.11 THE FALL / Rebellious Jukebox / Live At The Witch Trials LP / January 1979
2.12 GLAXO BABIES / Who Killed Bruce Lee? / This Is Your Life EP / March 1979
I listened to John Peel religiously, 10-12 Monday to Thursday through the last year of the 70’s. I would sit with a portable cassette recorder, finger poised over the pause button, anticipating the good stuff. I made all these C90 mix tapes, with photocopied covers, labels, the lot. As Peel favourites The Fall always featured heavily. Try as I might I just couldn’t escape them, as if Mark Smith was hunting me down for being the soft, middle class, southern wanker he undoubtedly would have thought I was. The Glaxo Babies one decent moment also came from those Peel tapes, a cracking record that’s been completely forgotten.
2.13 THE POP GROUP / She Is Beyond Good And Evil / Single A Side / March 1979
This is where post punk got the funk. Like the Glaxo Babies, The Pop Group came from Bristol but Mark Stewart and his cohorts were far more radical, intent on melding punk, funk, free jazz and Marxism. It’s extraordinary now to think that records like this ever existed, never mind became influential and critically acclaimed.
2.14 THE MONOCHROME SET / Eine Symphonie Des Grauens / Single A Side / April 1979
‘Eine Symphonie’ was my idea of new pop in 1979. The Set were a funny band with a funny singer called Bid and a funny guitarist called Lester Square. The music papers loved them but no-one else did.
2.15 THE CURE / Three Imaginary Boys / Three Imaginary Boys LP / May 1979
1979 was not a good year. After three years of thrills I was completely fucked. Trapped in my own head, Three Imaginary Boys kept me company, and in Robert Smith I thought I’d found a like minded, suburban boy struggling to make sense of it all. Odd then that he quickly disowned it, because it’s the only honest record he’s ever made.
2.16 TUBEWAY ARMY / Are ‘Friends’ Electric? / Single A Side / May 1979
‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’ sent the reviled Gary Numan super nova, famously adored by a legion of teens identifying with his images of alienation and despair. In the early 80’s I took up with one of them, a lonely, messed up, looking-for- love-girl who swore her two year old son was his. Laughable I know. But, the weird thing was, as the boy grew older there was a very scary, undeniable resemblance to our favourite cyber-god.
2.17 MACHINE / There But For The Grace Of God Go I / Single A Side / June 1979
While punks, rockers and Iggy Pop thought of disco as superficial, hedonistic crap, in reality it posed as much of a threat as any other ‘revolutionary’ music. Attempting to become the embodiment of the pleasure-is-politics ethos of the emerging Gay movement, it was a celebration in which melodrama, sex and fabulousness were all that mattered. Admittedly a lot of disco’s lyrics were bollocks, but Machines influential if obscure, ‘There But For The Grace Of God’ proved that it was also capable of making political statements even the most die hard modernist could understand.
2.18 TALKING HEADS / Heaven / Fear Of Music LP / August 1979
I never liked Talking Heads that much; too American, too arty and too clever by half. But, Fear Of Music is an LP I know well, and ‘Heaven’ a song I heard a lot, and I like to think that if there really is a ‘Heaven’, it’s something like the one portrayed here, ‘Where nothing ever happens’.
2.19 LINTON KWESI JOHNSON / Sonny’s Lettah / Forces Of Victory LP / August 1979
Linton Kwesi appealed to me more as a poet than a reggae man and it was easy to hear how his words, with their emphasis on rhythm, were ideally suited to the sparse, backing of UK dub. ‘Sonny’s Letter’ is his heartrending story of what happens to a man stopped under Sus, a law resurrected and used by an institutionally racist police force to harass black youths.
2.20 THE SLITS / Love Und Romance / Cut LP / September 1979
The Slits were a feral girl gang, amateur urchin beauties scratching their way through a fucking horrible, squawling racket. I adored them but prayed to god they would never release a record because I knew it would be crap. Then, over two years later came the miraculous transformation of Cut. The Slits point blank refusal to believe in the real world allowed them to make a record that is still the greatest denial of an oppressive and repressive Britain ever, ironically just at the point when the 80’s hammer came crashing down. It lifts my heart every time I hear it. Truly magical.
2.21 JOY DIVISION / Transmission / Single A Side / October 1979
If punk was the ultimate ‘Fuck off’, sooner or later someone was going to say, 'I'm fucked', and that was Joy Division. Being fucked myself I wasn’t interested, but, as the months rolled on, I became quite taken with ‘Transmission’. Joy Division reshaped rock’n’roll more than any other group here, and by only their second single everything was already in place. But, what really caught my attention was mad, junkie producer Martin Hannett’s brittle, spacious sound, sculpted to go hand in glove with Ian Curtis’s ancient, otherworldly voice moving from such a whisper to a scream that it implied dancing to the radio may be the last thing he would ever do.
2.22 THE CLASH / Guns Of Brixton / London Calling LP / December 1979
Back in ‘76, the impact of the Sex Pistols had been a shock, like electric paddles on a dying heart, but they didn’t know, and more to the point didn’t care, about the road to recovery. Luckily, The Clash, with their natural sincerity and desire for truth, threw us a lifeline. They were a rallying point and created a feeling of ‘We can do anything’, a tangible sense of belonging. By the tail end of 1979 that feeling had gone as we all waited for Thatcher’s gleeful destruction of community and consensus. Then, just when we needed it most, London Calling came along to inject some good old fashioned, idealistic, romantic, hope into our lives. Easily escaping punk’s rigid constraints, it introduced a whole new world, where the traumas of the past, present and future were easily dismissed by just rocking out. The righteousness and naivety were ridiculous, but that’s what The Clash were all about, an absolutely unshakeable faith in the redemptive power of rock’n’roll.