No More Heros

NO MORE HEROES A Complete History Of Punk From 1976-1980 - Alex Ogg

Publication Date: October 2006 (Cherry Red Books)

No More heros

Punk rock: it’s a well-worn subject, but this new book extends the searchlight beyond the King’s Road, Roxy and West London – though that crucial scene is by no means neglected. It also encompasses some of the truly fantastic music (and sometimes truly less than fantastic records) that emerged in the wake of the Sex Pistols. The idea has been to give the progenitors their due, but to listen to the reverberations around the UK, from Exeter to Inverness. Participants (musicians, fanzine writers, observers) recount first-hand stories of flea pit gigs, desperately financed singles and local rivalries – punk as it was understood and lived on the ground. The enduring impact of punk belonged to the shires of Britain as well as the celebrated urban gene pool of the capital, where it played out, with a mixture of indomitable personal courage and amoral teenage mischief-making, amongst the alienated of shitsville UK. In the process punk is revealed as a much broader church than other histories have depicted, an entry point for young men and women (and a significant helping of old codgers) from differing backgrounds, with widely ranging sensibilities and aspirations.

The book assesses each of the major ‘punk artists’, candidly, on their output, following their development to the present day. There’s an effort to redress perceived wisdom about the value of those careers as the 70s turned into the 80s, when many of the original punk bands actually made their best records. While many names will be familiar others will not. Hence time is devoted to punk’s splintered personality post-1977. From those bands that took it as an inviolate template, to those who embraced it as a rebirth for the original spirit of rock ‘n’ roll to those, finally, who judged it the end of rock music and a jumping off point for something completely new. There is no unifying view or theory behind these accounts, instead the book serves as an attempt to capture the beautiful chaos engendered by competing voices as the walls came tumbling down. The idea is to be inclusive and celebratory rather than cynical. Therefore opinions are sought from outside the tight huddle of usual suspects and would-be elitists, drawing on bemused and bewildered non-participants to events, as well as those who served in the trenches. There is no attempt to locate the ‘meaning’ of punk, nor to run a slide rule over qualifications for its status. The author has instead, in the majority of cases, let the protagonists make their own cases. Where possible the bands concerned have exercised the right of reply, leading to a more balanced account of their own history. Some 200 interviews were completed in the course of researching the book, leading to a plethora of first-hand insights and anecdotes.

A secondary aspect of the book is the comprehensive documentation of the releases, both contemporary and retrospective, of the bands of the era. It’s an attempt to address the jungle of retrospective CDs and box sets, the sheer volume of which indicates the continued fascination around this period in British musical history.

Over 300 individual band/artist biographies
Use of several unpublished photos
Forewords by Captain Sensible and David Marx
Complete discographies featuring capsule reviews and source notes

Samples etc at:

“You've also got to make your OWN mind up whether it was a) a glorious moment for working class youth in the UK who were bored to tears with a class ridden country and its dead end jobs who wanted to do something for themselves or b) a vehicle for some Bowie fans from Bromley to get all made up and behave outrageous. The truth is that it’s a bit of both probably.”

(Captain Sensible, from the foreword)

“Who cares what that obese, coke-head chav-lover thought?”

(Severin of the Banshees, on Julie Birchill’s unfavourable review of their first album)

“We took the stage and ripped through the first five numbers at breakneck pace. I noticed one of the mums at the side of the stage trying to get my attention. I tried to crouch down to speak to her, trying to keep my cool. ‘Will you announce after the next song, Happy tenth birthday to Johnny? And now we have the balloon drop?’ Of course, I did this, and the room was covered with hundreds of coloured balloons, with loads of little kids running around bursting them, totally oblivious to the noise we were making on stage. A far cry from our dreams of playing gigs in underground punk rock clubs. Oh yes, and we stopped using any of our mams as an agent!”

(Andy Bevan, Addiction)

“We formed at UEA in late 1977, mainly instigated by me and Paul Whitehouse. We both had punk leanings and I had renamed myself Switch in an effort to shed my middle class past and become truly with it. The music we played was actually just very fast R&B – with titles like ‘Hampstead Girl’, ‘Get Lost’ and ‘Wrist Job’ (ah, those were the days)”

(Charlie Higson of Right Hand Lovers)

“We went to Keithley for a show. This guy asked, you’re punks? He had a beautiful suit, he went and got changed into a tailcoat he’d ripped up the seam and stuck together with safety pins. This was the uniform he thought he should wear. We were in ordinary clothes.”

(Edwin Pouncey, Art Attacks)

“I met Photios in the Windsor Castle, a very good punk venue. Everyone was forming a band. And I met him, this kid who just wanted to be in a band, and I loved his enthusiasm. I said, OK, let’s be in a band. And it was me and him, he was the first one, we were the Atoms. Then I got proper people in. But I couldn’t get rid of Photios, it just seemed too unfair. And he couldn’t play a fucking note. He was the worst guitarist EVER! On the PLANET! He was meant to be a ‘rhythm guitarist’ and one of those words, possibly both, was just not applicable to him! But he was so proud to be in that band, it made his youth.”

(Keith Allen on his guitarist in the Atoms)

“Ghost tours are big business in Edinburgh these days. God knows, the place has the goods. Grizzly murders, body snatchers, spectral manifestations in abundance. I try to avoid the place myself. There are real ghosts down there. Some of them are me and my old mates - our younger, awkward, misfit selves.”

(Robin Saunders of Edinburgh band the Axidents and an intern of famed rehearsal rooms at Blair Street)

“I suppose I should have kept it going. But it was great while it lasted, 100mph, a real good crack and I had a fantastic time. I wouldn’t change it for anything But we were just having fun. Instead of going to see a stadium rock band, suddenly, four blokes off a council estate could play their local pub.”

(John Entrails of the Bears)

“We were supporting a band called Sore Throat at the Camden Palace. We had our own dressing room. Sore Throat's lead singer came in and offered us some drugs. I think it was some kind of cannabis resin. Obviously, we were horrified and turned the offer down. However, Mike our drummer, not wishing to appear aloof, reciprocated by offering a line of Cadbury’s Fruit ‘n’ Nut. I don't think he got a response.”

(Damon Shulman, 11-year-old bass player with Chaos)

“. . . then it was new and exciting and liberating. I don’t think there were necessarily any more creative people around then than there are now. The difference then was everyone was into writing songs and making great records and now they’re into making dreadful TV reality shows! Nothing character building about walking out on stage and being spat at! The reason why most punk bands moved around on stage was to avoid the gob.”

(Riff Regan of London)

“We wanted something like our own version of the Who or T-Rex, and we weren’t impressed by apologists who tried to make rock music respectable and turn it into quasi-classical mush. We wanted people who didn’t look like our dads or the man next door. Music was very dull, fashion was dull. Everyone looked like Kevin Keegan or Karen Carpenter.”

(Faebhean Kwest of Raped)

“I was cracking up. I looked, and the drummer was sliding down the wall, devastated. They couldn’t believe it. I knew at that point that this wasn’t the band for me. They just don’t fucking understand. They want to be this year’s version of Led Zeppelin or whoever their favourite band was.”

(Bruno Wizard of the Rejects and later Homosexuals on his band’s reaction to Tony Parsons drubbing of them in print)

“No, it was very, very, very trained singing. I didn’t do it in the style I was traditionally trained in. Obviously my singing tutor would have liked me to go into opera, but I had different ideas. But I still use his techniques. But yes, the idea behind that style of singing is that you can throw your voice to the back of the room without having to strain it.“

(Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex)

Alex Ogg – tMx 27 – 11/06
Contact: - Writing About Music Is Like Dancing To Architecture