What does it sound like?:
Two albums from a similar time period given a vinyl re-release – one on heavyweight black vinyl, the other on a rather fetching “bubblegum with a blue splat” coloured vinyl.
(Personal Note: I used to own both these albums – no idea where they went? But now here’s a chance to get them back)
Live At The Roxy was originally released on Prog Rock label Harvest in 1977, and offers 12 tracks drawn from the “legendary” first 100 days of The Roxy in Convent Garden.
The club opened (officially) on 1 January 1977 with a headline performance from The Clash, and in it’s time featured just about every Punk band it could get on stage.
(Trivia note: Iron Maiden were offered a support slot to Siouxsie & The Banshees in March 1977 – they declined the offer despite posters being printed, and the show was cancelled)
This album contains performances from the lesser celebrated end of Punk – Slaughter & The Dogs, Eater, Johnny Moped,– alongside their perhaps better known brethren – The Adverts X-Ray Spex, Buzzcocks and Wire.
The one band not mentioned above – The Unwanted – are described somewhere on the interweb as “wholly unprofessional” and this outing does nothing to dispel that description.
On the whole you get 8 bands who are happy to be on stage – playing to a pretty respectful sounding audience – and putting all their (in many cases limited) abilities into the performance.
Wire’s inclusion on the one hand fits perfectly (the broad church of Punk and all that) on the other feels somewhat incongruous. They’re playing an almost Post-Punk set before they’ve got anything to be “Post” to (I wonder … were they already signed to Harvest when this album came out?)
The album itself is a “recording”, rather than a “production”, with crowd noise joining the tracks to give the feel of being there (in all it’s lo-fi glory). The sound is actually better than I remember it – my old vinyl copy sounded really ropey.
And it’s also not as ramshackle and amateurish as I remember – no, it’s not going to win any “definitive performance” awards, but it is an honest record of what was on that stage in Covent Garden
Before Punk, there was Pub-Rock – basically Rock (or more correctly R&B) played in Pubs.
A network of venues was established primarily around North & West London, and loud, live music accompanied your beer drinking and smoking (this was 1970s – everyone smoked).
The Hope & Anchor was one of the first prime Pub Rock venues (along with The Tally Ho in Kentish Town), but seemingly was always under threat of closure, hence a 3 week festival in November/December 1977 to raise funds for the upkeep of the venue.
Over the course of 3 weeks, many of the bands who’d played that year returned and various live recordings were gathered together for this album.
So what you get is “Pub Rock Royalty” in the shape of The Pirates, Sean Tyla and Wilko Johnson, mixing it up with and early-years Dire Straits (long before they did the walk of life) and The Steve Gibbons Band. Lesser known names (but still making a fine noise) like The Pleasers and Burlesque are also here.
The Pub Rock circuit also gave a ready-made outlet for the Punk bands – represented here by Punk royalty in the shape of The Stranglers, and upstarts like The Saints, 999, Suburban Studs and X-Ray Spex (the only repeat artist from the Roxy album). Post-Punk/New Wave is here in the shape of The Only Ones and XTC (which genre do we actually tag them with?) , and even a bit of reggae thrown in from Steel Pulse.
Across 4 sides, and 25 tracks, there’s plenty here to accompany a couple of pints of Mild – and I may be alone here, but Roogalator are always welcome in these lugholes. As was the discovery of Philip Rambow – a name I only knew as co-writer of There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Swears He’s Elvis).
Much like The Roxy album, this is straight-forward honest playing – no showing off, no histrionics, no one-upmanship, just dead straight no nonsense entertainment.
The production values are markedly higher than The Roxy album, and the eclecticism of the bands and sounds on offer makes this one more of a returner than a simple document of the moment.
What does it all *mean*?
Live music in small venues is always worth seeking out – shame there are fewer small venues about, and more seem to be under threat by the day.
There is something almost smug about being able to say: “Yes, I saw [insert name of big band here] playing at the Turtles Head before they got a deal”
Goes well with…
Beer (Hope & Anchor) and Amphetamines (The Roxy)
Might suit people who like…
Bands with a bit of energy, and venues with a bit of sweat