“77 The Year Of Punk & New Wave”
Contrary to Sonic Youth’s beliefs, 1977 was in fact the year that Punk Rock broke - & you know what they say? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Henrik Bech Poulsen knows this full well – that’s why he’s written a book about it:
“77 The Year Of Punk & New Wave” is a concise & definitive account of the pivotal year for British Punk Rock & New Wave. The scene was set: Bill Grundy was unemployed, the mass destruction of TV sets had led to a subsequent boom down at Radio Rentals, everyone wanted to be a Sex Pistol – Punk Rock had arrived.
“77 The Year Of Punk Rock & New Wave” delivers an encyclopedic history of the year the two sevens clashed - including an introduction & prologue, detailed biographies (A-Z) of EVERY Punk or New Wave group to issue a 45 in 1977, images of EVERY 45 issued, a quotes section featuring ‘77 Punks on ‘77 Punk, an epilogue that examines Punk’s lasting influence & continued relevance today - & a lavish 16-page colour section of memorabilia. This really is the bollocks - the uber-reference book the genre has been waiting patiently for for over 30 years. Indispensable.
Jean Encoule was so impressed he paid for his own cyber flight (no emissions guilt for this soldier) down to huggable old Texas to interrogate the books esteemed author, Henrik Bech Poulsen:
trakMARX - How & when did Punk Rock first hit Copenhagen?
Henrik – “1977. The Sods was the first Danish punk band and, yes, they were from Copenhagen. In reality back then punk was very much an underground phenomena, something that was taking place in London/England. We would hear about it on the news whenever the Sex Pistols did something outrageous. Punk records could be tracked down in a few obscure record shops in Copenhagen.”
trakMARX - If Punk was the new broom in your life back then, what did it sweep away?
Henrik – “Glam Rock. The Sweet was it for me back then. My first ever concert was The Sweet in Copenhagen 1976. A fantastic gig by the way.”
trakMARX - Leaving The Damned aside for a moment, which of the other first wave groups carved a special niche in your life & why?
Henrik – “Buzzcocks, 999, The Only Ones, Chelsea, Slaughter & The Dogs, X-Ray Spex, The Carpettes...
At the time I was not very political and I couldn't understand much English anyway, so to me it was all about the music, not so much the lyrics or the political stance. Buzzcocks and 999 had some great singles, great hooks, very colourful. Slaughter & The Dogs' first single completely blew me away, sheer perfection. It still brings back that old joyous feeling when I play singles by these bands.
I think one of the main strengths of '77 punk was its shear diversity. It was as if no 2 bands sounded the same, unlike the early '80's punk, which boasted a generic sound as well as a generic dress code.”
trakMARX - Your love of The Damned eventually inspired you to start your own Damned fanzine, "Neat Damned Noise". Tell us a little about the life of your zine.
Henrik – “Well, The Damned were and are a very special band to me. They were perfect to me in the sense that they had the music & the attitude. Around 1993, The Damned had been dead for a while and I simply decided to start Neat Damned Noise zine to keep the flame burning. Within a year they were of course back together again and all of a sudden there were a lot of new stories to write about. Eventually it turned out to be more than 1,000 pages in total before the internet took off and I did not feel there was the same need for it. Most importantly this zine experience gave me a lot of great friends from around the world.”
trakMARX - This in turn led to NDN Records - what's the ethos behind the label & how's it been working out for you?
Henrik – “Yes, NDN Records was the next logical step. Basically, I release anything that I like, be it punk, rock, pop, folk, experimental, etc. I don't care about what it
is as long as it sounds good to me. Maybe that is why financially it has been a nightmare, ha ha, but so be it. As we all know, the music business has gotta be the most screwed up
business on the face of the earth. By the way, there are free full MP3's from all NDN releases on the web-site referenced at the foot of this page.
trakMARX - "77" is your first book - it's taken several years from conception to completion - that's what I call dedication. Was there ever a time you though will this ever see the light of day before I go insane?
Henrik – “Well, I started writing it as I believe 1977 was such a crucial year that it deserved its own book. Many books have been published on punk, most of them focusing on a span of years and the top bands. What I wanted to do was to write a book just on 1977 and include EVERY band from the UK and Ireland. I soon found out that that would simply not be possible, so I limited it to all of the bands (a bit more than 200) that released a record or appeared on a compilation in 1977. The book really is a tribute to all of those artists that in 1977 put their fingerprints on history. So it sounded like a nice little project, ha ha. I soon discovered what kind of mess I'd gotten myself into, but for better or worse I stuck with it. It took me about 5 years and it was finished in 2002 with me naively thinking that I could get it out that year to tie in with the 25 year anniversary of 1977. When I could not get it published, I figured I would have to put it out myself on NDN, but luckily the good folks at Helter Skelter stepped in and it is now thus finally out - with my sanity intact, I hope!”
trakMARX - You cite 1977 as the most important year EVER in the development of popular music - does that mean today's kids should just give up now & go get a decent job instead?
Henrik – “Well, absolutely not. In terms of shocking the system and creating a rock and roll revolution, though, today's kids are facing an uphill battle, but it doesn't mean that they should just throw in the towel. On the contrary, but what you have to remember is 1977 went all the way! Before that rock and roll had developed in a chain of ever more shocking links. To me, the last link in this shocking and upsetting the system chain was 1977 when all the rules were thrown out and everything was pushed to the limits. So, in this respect, you just CAN NOT out-rock and roll 1977.”
trakMARX - What were your main research documents during the writing of "1977" & who do you see (if any) as the definitive biographer of Punk Rock thus far?
Henrik – “Research included the old music weeklies from 1977 - of which I had access to less than half of what was put out that year. I wish I’d had access to complete sets of Sounds, NME and MM to work with, but I went with what I had. It also included listening to the records and finding the ones I was missing. The internet really helped in tracking down both artists and releases. I don't think there is a definitive punk rock biographer thus far. I am hopeful that one will emerge at some time.”
trakMARX - We all make mistakes - any howlers you want to fess up to since the book went to press?
Henrik – “No, but I am sure some will come. When you write a book like this, you know that it is going to be near impossible to get it 100% perfect. That is why my next book is going to be all fiction, ha ha. All you can do is give it your best. I encourage anybody to send me info on anything that I have left out. Maybe one day, there will be a second edition.”
trakMARX - At the end of the day, "77 The Year Of Punk And New Wave" is a very neat neat neat looking artyfact indeed - I for one would be extremely proud of it - now the journey has come to an end, are you 100% satisfied with the finished product?
Henrik – “Good question (and thanks for the nice words!). I am not 100% satisfied. I had naively hoped that it would come out in full colour. I did almost all of the scans myself in high-resolution full colour, working full nights for months. So to see it all in black and white is a bit of a let down. However, if it had been in full colour throughout, the book would have been prohibitively expensive. Helter Skelter, the publisher, did the next best thing by including a 16-page colour montage in the middle. They have really understood the project and have given a lot of attention to the quality of it.”
trakMARX - The hardback is limited edition - how many copies are available (for the benefit of all the train-spotters out there)?
Henrik – “I was told about 2,200 copies so train-spotters beware!”
trakMARX - Where next for Henrik Bech Poulsen?
Henrik – “A deep breath before any new giant project that is for sure. Some people have already asked me to do "1978"! - but I don’t believe that I am THAT masochistic. Right now I am working on promoting the latest 2 releases on NDN Records: The Barracudas and The Carpettes. Then I am in the design phase of Sonny Vincent's new album, P.I.N.S, which will be a limited double CD with a 40-page booklet, all in 3D with 3D glasses. Mind-blowing pieces of plastic for discerning music lovers, indeed.”