What does it sound like?:
Punk, as a “thing”, gave people the belief that they didn’t have to be Rick Wakeman or Paul McCartney to be in a band.
(Indeed, it was wider than music – “You don’t have to be xxx to succeed as (insert chosen profession here)”)
A modicum of talent was probably needed, but what was missing in terms of ability could either be learned over time, or made up for by sheer exuberance and desire.
Along with the many thousands of bands popping up in every town, the option of releasing a record came into view, either by the self-financing route or in partnership with local record shops and/or small record labels.
The likes of Immediate, Island and A&M (and other established labels) were ostensibly “independent”, but in the late 70s it seemed like new labels were formed every month (or even week). Some survived and effectively became Major labels (eg Rough Trade, Beggars Banquet), others existed for the life of the one single they issued.
Stiff, Chiswick, Rough Trade, Step Forward, Small Wonder, Beggars Banquet, Factory, Good Vibrations – some of their early output is here, as are releases from the lesser known Bent, Raw and Timebomb.
This boxset contains 111 Tracks across 4 CDs covering the known, not so well known, and probably never bought in treble figures debut outings from a host of bands Doing It Themselves (or getting their local independent label to do it for them) with no more intent than (a) having their own record, and (b) getting it played by John Peel.
The big players and not so big, but still widely regarded names are here (The Damned, Stiff Little Fingers, The Ruts, Angelic Upstarts, 999, Skids, Sham 69, UK Subs, Cockney Rejects, The Rezillos, The Adicts, The Boys, The Lurkers, Alternative TV, The Members, Chelsea) – these are joined by early offerings from Joy Division, Tubeway Army, Adam & The Ants.
For those with an interest in history, this set includes the first outings for The Killjoys (featuring Kevin Rowland), Johnny & The Self Abusers (who mutated into Simple Minds), Martin Chambers bashing tubs for The Vacants, The Nipple Erectors featuring Shane MacGowan and Billy Bragg fronting Riff Raff.
Beyond the big hitters (or soon to be big hitters), this is a celebration of the not quite known, or unknown – names like Nicky & The Dots, Suspects, Steroid Kiddies, Pure Hell, The Cravats or Woody & The Splinters may not be so easily recalled, but their presence here confirms their position in history.
The sound ranges from revved up Pub Rock and R&B, Lo-Fi Three Chord Thrash, Early Oi, Shouty Sloganeering, and even a spot of acoustic reflection. In short, it’s Punk, but perhaps covering more of the sheer breadth of Punk than any other compilation I have encountered.
Many of the tracks here were re-recorded when some bands were lucky enough to be snapped up by the majors (in a fit of signing anything that made a noise) and those re-recorded versions lost a lot of the raw, raggedy-arse passion of the original recordings.
Get in the studio, record it, press it and (hopefully) sell it – there is an urgency to the tracks, and absolutely no overdubbing, studio trickery and re-mixing going on.
The accompanying book gives a pretty in depth breakdown/overview of each band and comes with a Foreword by Kris Needs (whose handiwork can be found here in the shape of the Vice Creems, ably supported by Mick Jones, Topper Headon and Tony James)
What does it all *mean*?
The life of Punk as a genre was relatively short, but it provided the impetus for an increase in the number of outlets and distribution for bands wanting to make their own statements.
Not every track here is a gem, but every single one of the bands had the desire and want to go into a studio and record themselves for posterity (even if it was only 500 copies).
This “Time Capsule” shows that those that “made it” were once at the same level as those whose sole offering is amongst the tracks here.
Without wishing to belittle or malign any of the contributions here, the feeling that comes from this 4 Disk Set is:
Never Mind The Quality, Feel The Energy
Goes well with…
As they have done before with previous sets – Scared To Get Happy (Indie Pop), Still In A Dream (Shoegazing), Millions Like Us (Mod Revival) and I’m A Freak Baby (Psychedelia) – Cherry Red have explored the known, partially known and unknown corners of the genre and provided a comprehensive view of what was about at the time.
Might suit people who like…
Punk in all it’s rough, ready and broad glory