Julian Cope’s Album of the Month



AOTM #115, December 2009ce
POSTPUNKSAMPLER was created by Julian Cope for the purposes of this review.

  1. Metal Urbain — Paris Maquis (3.07)
  2. Zounds — Can’t Cheat Karma (2.42)
  3. Subway Sect — Ambition (3.10)
  4. Richard Hell & the Void-Oids — Liars Beware (2.52)
  5. Germs — Forming (3.08)
  6. 39 Clocks — Aspetando Godo (3.53)
  7. Missing Presumed Dead — Family Tree (2.11)
  8. Manicured Noise — Faith (3.30)
  9. Jane Aire & the Belvederes — Yankee Wheels (3.05)
  10. Dance Party — Photograph (3.05)
  11. Dum Dum Dum — Dum Dum Dum (2.57)
  12. Crass — Mother Earth (4.12)
  13. Friction — Crazy Dream (4.23)
  14. Hair & Skin Trading Co. — Monkies (3.24)
  15. Electric Eels — Accident (3.22)
  16. Chaingang — Son of Sam (3.09)
  17. Swell Maps — Read About Seymour (1.27)
  18. The Sods — Transport (2.55)
  19. Reptile Ranch — Saying Goodbye (3.05)
  20. Dalek I Love You — Trapped (3.59)
  21. Colours Out Of Time — As In Another World (3.34)
  22. Wild Swans — Now You’re Perfect (3.15)
  23. Armand Schaubroeuk — Buried Alive (1.43)
  24. Psycho Surgeons — Horizontal Action (1.47)
  25. D.M.Z. — Bad Attitude (2.57)
  26. E.S.G. — UFO (2.33)
  27. Gaz Chambers — Who’s Life Is It Anyway? (11.12)

Note 1: Of the multitude of obscure examples of Post-Punk 45s and cassette demos that I archived from Bill Drummond’s filing cabinets when he moved Zoo Records to London, those tracks selected for this POSTPUNKSAMPLER have been chosen either because they enjoy an important place in my tender old heart, or because there’s a decent story behind ‘em.

Note 2: This review is dedicated to Bernard Sumner, whose eyebrow-raising, chewing, singing and spirited whooping during New Order’s daring live performance of ‘Blue Monday’ on Top of the Pops, back in 1983, confirmed within my then-cabbaged and LSD-drenched (and virtually careerless) soul that renewal through constant psychic Death & Resurrection were my only options. Ho-hum.

From Punk to Post-Punk: Structures Burned & Structures Returned

First there was Punk. It was absurd, ugly, and furiously anti-Royalist, a highly edgy concept during the insane media preparations for the coming of Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee year: 19771. Johnny Rotten’s pseudonym, wall-eyed stare and anti-sex stance entirely defined Punk’s Year Zero. It was new. It was not The Who. Guitarist Steve Jones even admitted that the band was more interested in chaos than music; who cares? Rotten’s Sex Pistols audition had merely involved miming in front of Malcolm MacLaren’s jukebox. Gurning insanely for the tabloids, it was not the Sex Pistols’ music but their chaos, their anti-authority shamelessness, their daring to be perceived more-like-a-circus-act-than-a-proper-band, their sheer WTF quotient; it was J. Rotten’s archly anti-social practises of heaving phlegm on to the stage, bawling out anti-Royalist lyrics in this Year-of-our-beloved-Queen’s-Jubilee and rhyming ‘Anti-Christ’ with ‘anarchist’ on the Pistols’ debut single that ultimately convinced a high percentage of the UK’s smart male youth that dropping their progrock double-LPs down the nearest liftshaft and adopting an ironic self-deprecating moniker was the route to the future: Pig Youth, Johnny Moped, Dee Generate, Steve Ignorant, please stand up. In terms of walking around getting threatened for what you stood for, Punk died when the Jubilee Year finished. Thereafter, up sprung Post-Punk and its somewhat mardy younger brother Punk Rock. But if Tony Wilson had hosted his own Granada TV chat show back in the Jubilee Year, he could – with one future cohort as special guest – have distilled the entire incoherent everyman essence of that original Jubilee Punk with this simple announcement:

“Ladies & Gentlemen, please welcome Barney Rubble of Warsaw.”

Barney only appeared on one Warsaw record under that pseudonym; his real surname was Dickin. But Punk was so blink-and-you-miss-it that when Warsaw’s projected LP for RK Records was held up, the band lost their brief window of opportunity for career consolidation, while everybody else had hurried on. Next up came Post-Punk. It was serious and dark. John Lydon’s name change and choice of non-musician band members entirely defined it. What a gauntlet to throw down! Poor Steve Spunker AKA Steve Havoc had to become Steve Severin. Poor Jimmy Pursey had to become James T. Pursey. Oo-er missus. And if Tony Wilson had hosted his own TV chat show back then, he’d have best defined Post-Punk thus:

“Ladies & Gentlemen, please welcome Bernard Albrecht of Joy Division.”

Yup, Manchester’s Mr. Dickin turns out to be a right useful barometer by which to measure the devious twists & turns of the musical period 1977-81. Back then, the current status of Barney’s surname said more about the state of culture than one of the Queen Mother’s dresses. So whilst the national media’s successful suppression of such Non-PC early 1977 punk accoutrements as Siouxsie’s Nazi armbands, Sidney Vish’s swastika t-shirts and their Bromley-Weimar ilk had goaded the more PC amongst us to support Rock Against Racism, up in Manchester, Messrs. Curtis, Hook, Morris and Barney shamelessly re-named themselves after the Nazis’ slave prostitutes and did very well for themselves. And if Tony Wilson had hosted his own TV chat show soon after the awful suicide of Ian Curtis, he’d really have wound up Rough Trade Lefties thus:

“Ladies & Gentlemen, please welcome Bernard Sumner of New Order.”

Cough, splutter, WTF? They can’t get away with that! The New Order is another Nazi allusion. Look, don’t hassle them; they’ve lost their singer, they’ve been through a lot. Besides, no fucker gave Ron Asheton and Dennis Thompson grief when they formed their own band called The New Order back in 1975. Leave them to their leaderless grief and their Fall-styled female chancer keyboard-player …

From the Punk to Post-Punk

But no, we cannot leave New Order right now. For their extremely brave decision to soldier on singerless – and with a new name – was one of thee great Punk events in Rock History.2 Nothing less than heroic, their decision entirely summed up the nihilistic, groundbreaking DIY attitude that had originally defined Punk. Rip it up and start again. Punk proved to every fucker that lived through it that any fucker could be anything anytime they so chose. This is new. This is not the Who. And, as Barney Rubble Dickin Albrecht Sumner would have probably been among the first to point out, ONLY the arrival of such an absurdly Utopian phenomenon as Punk could have launched as indifferent a lead guitarist as he to the heights of Whopping International Vocalist/Songwriter. Now dontcha thunk? And so, as drab homophobic/homosocial Johnny-Come-Lately wannabee ‘Punks’ bogusly attempted to Stalinize the original classless & highly Anti-Royalist Punk impulse of ’77 into that macho, authoritarian hung-up younger brother forever after called Punk Rock, many of the original ’77 punks jumped ship. I know; I was one of them. As was my highly exotic friend & neighbour Pete Burns, who’s job at Probe Records one year later would put him in the invidious position of having – throughout 1978 – to sell Sham 69, Skids and Members singles to those very same Hurry Up Harry meatheads who daily threatened him as a ‘poseur’ (Gosh!) whenever they were confronted by his otherworldly mincing down Bold Street’s drab thoroughfare. Sick (literally!) of the same expectorating oiks, the Damned’s leader Brian James decided DAMNED DAMNED DAMNED had been enough and formed a new band for ’78, a psychedelic band, the luckless Tanz Der Youth! The Buzzcocks’ Howard Devoto wouldn’t even go out anymore; just stayed indoors plotting… smoking… envisioning…

And so, throughout 1978, exotic Post-Punk groups grew up totally in defiance of that Newly composed revisionist Punk Rock Rule Book (“Thou shalt not wear this… thou shalt not listen to that…” “I fucking will, mate, and with flares on if I wish.”). I ain’t gonna name, blame & shame anybody specific for what happened … oh, all right then, yes I will … it was Uncle Joe Stalin, sorry, Uncle Joe Strummer who caused the schism. Yup, once that posh too-old cunt had made his crass (memories of ‘Power in a Union’?) appeal to ‘Punk Rockers!’ on whichever Clash single it was, up sprang a whole new generation of newly-uniformed Strummer Jugen, all desperate to wear only the gear what Joe wore, to sing only of the subjects what Joe sang.3 Posh to the point of having been a public school educated diplomat’s son, and at least old enough to remember Woody Guthrie, Strummer reached out to the working classes in the manner all British Poshies still think best, i.e.: act macho, slurp your tea & and deny your past. And so, after 1977’s Jubilee chaos, the vivid Punk Vision of the Pistols/Clash/Buzzcocks was thereafter absorbed into so-called Punk Rock, a tweaked Men-Only, Shi-ite version of its original Vision, almost always thereafter to be comprised of obligatory 2-minute-hate songs, pub terrace anthems, 4 leather jackets, 4 pairs of scuffed 501s. And whatever Punk had done randomly during 1977, Punk Rock wished ritualistically to re-enact forever thereafter AND demand parity with the form’s originators.

In stark contrast to all of this rule-making, the Post-Punk Scene turned out to be a right old Trotskyite Experience, a Permanent Revolution so wild and anti-authority, we’d have had the NKVD at our doors had we been a political party. Displaying remarkable Inclusionist attitudes, the Post-Punk Scene actually facilitated, nay, sought out the involvement of Women! Blacks! Gays! Synthesizers! Saxes! Congas! Art installations! The French! Heck, even some Old Timers! Whaddya mean Old Timers? Well, for a start, such English orphan noise ensembles as Cabaret Voltaire (formed 1973) and Throbbing Gristle (formed 1975) at last found a guaranteed and open-minded audience in the Post-Punk scene, where Throbbing Gristle’s Genesis P-Orridge was soon to be seen in spirited collaboration with fanzine inventor extraordinaire, Mark. P of SNIFFIN’ GLUE. Now, for shit-damn-sure, Mark P. AKA Mark Perry was never Punk Rock, that guy was always just Punk, as evidenced by his daring spoken word live epic ‘Alternatives to NATO’, as evidenced by his pre-Fall v-neck jumper, as evidenced by the sly cover of Kim Fowley’s OUTRAGEOUS LP peeking out from the cover of an early ATV 45. Indeed, Mark Perry’s heady combination of obsessive music fanatic and burgeoning artiste proved to be the perfect blueprint with which to enter this next stage of the revolution: Post-Punk.

Like jet set carrion crows, each trafficking an exotic musical morsel from various parts of the world, thrilling Post-Punk groups appeared throughout 1978 that bore almost no musical relation to the simplistic Punk ramalama that had been their band members’ first inspiration. No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones in 1977, maybe. But the King-For-A-Day pagan attitudes of Post-Punk suggested that “No Clash, No Damned nor Sex Pistols in 1978” appeared just as possible to those most Utopian among us. In Manchester, the Buzzcocks’ Howard Devoto finally re-surfaced preening at the prow of Magazine’s polished, neon Mothership, a laconic and chain-smoking raconteur fuelled by Dave Formula’s banks of bracing polyphonic synthesizers, surely the unpunkest of all noises. Also in Manchester, but unable to compete with such superb musicianship, the non-musicians of Blah Blah Blah – nevertheless desperate to contribute to this inventive Post-Punk scene – avoided negative judgements from the press by super-gluing their 7” record within its sleeve! You jest? I don’t! In London, more first generation punks abandoned their roots: first the posh Tunbridge Wells-born Westminster Public School-educated Shane MacGowan dropped entirely his Jubilee Year Union Jack-wearing for a far more archaic Revolutionary image … the drunken Irish Poet! Eh, there’s always room for one more o’them. Viva authenticity! Come on! Even the archetypal Rent-a-Punks of Wire with their stupid loudmouth bassist entirely ditched the 80mph ramalama of their debut LP PINK FLAG, instead delivering for 1978 an album of extremely noise-some and mid-to-slow tempo material entitled CHAIRS MISSING, a record so devoid of the ‘1-2-X-U’ knuckle-head crowd-pleasers of the previous LP that the band’s 1978 shows often enraged the new Punk Rocker hordes greedy for more of the PINK FLAG-stylee; fucking heck, this was not THE RAMONES LEAVE HOME. But then, underneath it all, Wire were precisely the art school types that the revisionists so detested – hell, even back in ’77, their ex-art teacher guitarist Bruce Gilbert had already reached the grand age of thirty-one!4 Even Hugh Cornwell was younger than that! Still, over in Manchester, in April 1978, I saw the still-teenage Pop Group – each baggily be-suited in an ERASERHEAD-stylee – lying the Post-Punk flag with extreme grace and eloquence, inflicting upon us an incredibly taut set throughout which they united the heavy funk of G. Clinton’s Funkadelic with the dub of King Tubby, some demented Righteous Brothers-on-Quaaludes crooning, and the proto-rap of New York’s The Last Poets, all of which presented such an unyieldingly pissed off but politically well-informed worldview that it showed up the newly-released second Clash LP GIVE ‘EM ENOUGH ROPE for precisely what it was: old-fashioned. So fucking old fashioned, it coulda been a biplane … or a Blue Öyster Cult Record, Sheesh; SECRET TREATIES certainly comes to mind. Sure, that sounds classic enough now but we’d all cut our hair and followed Foul-mouthed Johnny to get as far away from that shit as was possible. Old fashioned. Old fashioned fucking rock’n’roll they served us, and were shameless enough to try and pass it off as new… and – far worse still – succeeded in hoodwinking most suckers!!! The look of rebellion, that’s all the majority wanted. The look. I still remember standing in Probe Records the day that sad slab came out and thinking “You fucking sell-outs, with your fucking staccato BÖC drums and late Mott choruses. After the thrill of fucking off every adult in Jubilee land the previous year, who the fuck wanted this bloated & too-long-in-the-recording American FM brain-rot? That the LP’s reception in the USA gained the band Album of the Year awards from such arch-bastions of Kapitalism as ROLLING STONE and TIME magazines is all the evidence you need to see just how far Uncle Joe’s band would stoop to conquer. And after releasing that crock of old shite, ex-rockers everywhere seized their opportunity to come in from the cold, Strummer’s decision to Pearlmanize the Clash inevitably endorsing the return of all those hoary old ‘70s big rock riffs again, this time punked up not in any musical manner but by the simple donning of a motorbike leather. People didn’t even bother cutting their hair anymore. Was it punk, was it Thin Lizzy? Thereafter, SOUNDS magazine even tried to pass off AC/DC as Punk Rockers! Suddenly, it was as though the goodtime ‘70s had never been ousted and those fucking sexist geriatrics the Rolling Stones were making a comeback. As evidenced by the 30,000 sales of Stiff Little Fingers’ debut single ‘Suspect Device’, the Americanisation process was almost complete, for the song (undeniably brilliant as it was) had been built entirely around the main riff from Sammy Hagar’s ‘Space Station #5’, still easily available on Montrose’s debut LP, itself still barely three years old. “I’m so bored with the USA but what can I do?” Er, how about totally capitulate, tailor your songs and entire sound to those corporate Yank bastards, then complain you were misunderstood after you’ve reaped all the commercial benefits. Oh okay, says Uncle Joe, who then disappeared from our lives for about four years playing cattle sheds across America; now how un-Punk is that? So rather than re-educating the UK masses as he’d blathered on about for so long, Strummer’s pro-US obsessions facilitated all those Fifth Columnists who churlishly wished only to prolong the Jubilee year’s Punk festivities, and – worser still – prolong it in a tart, bowdlerized form, all gesture and self-parody. So when Suicide – darlings of the UK Post-Punk scene from Day 1 – supported the Clash on their 1978 British tour, parochial meatheads to a man rained bottles down on them for providing no evidence whatsoever of being Punk Rockers (no geetars, no drums, no motorbike leathers, WTF?). What a tragic episode. A musical Holocaust. At the time, I was depressed as all hell and felt outrageously betrayed. Outrageously. And after all those fucking promises, all we got from the Clash were rock’n’roll bromides and Yank imagery. Remembering those Clash/Suicide shows, even today, surely nothing better illustrates the division between what Punk’s experiment coulda been, and what it was now forced to become: merely fast, angry rock played by J. Stalin’s proles. Mao woulda laughed of course (and guessed in advance), but Trotsky woulda turned in his grave. Oh well, it were nice while it lasted, let’s now listen to some of those avant-guardians of Post-Punk, those defiant suckers who needed more than just Dr. Feelgood, Get Out of Denver and the Small Faces speeded-up to count themselves as Revolutionary.

The songs of the POSTPUNKSAMPLER described

But first, after all that fucking spiel, what’s the status of this compilation I’ve chosen to heave in your direction? Well, it’s controversial for a start, because I’ve even included a coupla real early Punk things in there and claimed them for Post-Punk: the Germs and Chaingang for a start both put out records in ’77 that exhibit such singular performance and compositional trademarks that they could been released pretty much anywhere between the 1977-81 period. The rest are songs I’ve played to death over the years, and the list gradually reveals the manner in which various musical options unfolded within what constituted the Post-Punk Scene. Controversially, perhaps, I’ve gone quite late in order to show evidence of the continuing persistence of the Post-Punk spirit even into the Rave years. Anyway you feel about the list is fine by me: so long as it doesn’t just bore you into an early suicide.

1. METAL URBAIN – ‘Paris Maquis’ (1977 Rough Trade 7”)

Inverting the Eiffel Tower was a stroke of genius by Paris anarchists Metal Urbain

Highly appropriately, POSTPUNKSAMPLER commences with the first ever 7” single release by Rough Trade Records, Metal Urbain’s electro-punk classic ‘Paris Maquis (Paris Resistance)’, whose berserk 6/4 rhythms and ever-repeating circular riffery supports Anarcho-Syndicalist lyrics and persistent yelps of ‘Fasciste!’ throughout. Served up in an anarchist black-and-red bag depicting an inverted Eiffel Tower, this was the second of Metal Urbain’s classic sequence of 45s, and certainly the only one on which they entirely transcended their Velvets/Stooges obsessions to create a purely Gauloise white-light ramalama unjudgable by any but its own. Translating from the French half a decade later, I half-inched ‘Je juge l’etat contre moi (I judge the state against myself)’ for my own song ‘When I Walk Through The Land of Fear’. Oh yeah, and should/could any song conclude more spiritedly than ‘Paris Maquis’s final, unaccompanied, strangulated voice crying in the desert: “Fasciste!!!”

2. ZOUNDS – ‘Can’t Cheat Karma’ (1980 Crass Records 7”)

Hailing from Oxford, Zounds used this seven-inch single as a vehicle with which to nail every Post Punk element perfectly, using rickety sub-funk guitar and a wry Mockney accent to disguise a rather finely written Pop Song (including superb middle-8); WTF? Well, Crass majored in some pretty smart disguises themselves, so we shouldn’t be surprised. Also like their mentors Crass, Zounds were daring enough to exploit the weedy Terry Chimes drums of that 1st Clash LP, totally in defiance of 99% of Punk Rockers obliged to find inspiration from MONEY FOR OLD ROPE, thereby lending this recording a cleanness that renders its outwardly affable mystery not less but even more ungraspable.

3. SUBWAY SECT – ‘Ambition’ (1978 Rough Trade Records 7”)

'Ambition' 7" by Subway Sect

While Vic Godard never even nearly delivered us the music he heard in his head and talked of so magnificently in the press, his too-intermittent releases were clearly sparser than he wished, and only because there was a high enough overall artistic aim involved for us to forgive his sporadic canon. ‘Ambition’ hailed from the second incarnation of Subway Sect, but since nothing exists of the first ensemble that could represent what they presented their Liverpool audience that night supporting the Clash on the White Riot tour, instead I’ll lay on ya one of Vic’s greatest ‘pop’ songs of all.

4. RICHARD HELL & THE VOID-OIDS – ‘Liars Beware’ (1977 Sire Records LP track)

Poor Richard Hell was never a man in control of his own metaphor. First Malcy stole off with it across the pond and applied it with more effect to the far younger J. Rotten, then Richard found himself in possession of a possible Cultural Anthem in the form of his song ‘Blank Generation’, but could he record it successfully? Could he, hell. “I don’t mean Blank Generation as in Stupid Generation”, Richard then tells the fascinated press. “I mean it as ‘fill in the blank’ that fits you best.” Then he forgets all that, and alludes to the stooped version when naming his band… The Void-Oids. Sheesh!

5. GERMS – ‘Forming’ (1977 What Records 7”)

Struggling at all times to keep their eyes on the mish, but nevertheless delivering the dish, LA’s the Germs conjured up a sub-rudimentary unmusical experimental people-carrier over which ‘singer’ Darby Crash anticipated Post-Punk’s wise numbskÙlle sound by at least 18 months. And while NOTHING else during Punk was nearly this deadly monotonous, nor so rigorously underachieving, give it a coupla scene shifts and two years later everybody’d finally caught up.

6. 39 CLOCKS – ‘Aspetando Godo’ (1982 Psychotic Promotion Records 7”)

German duo 39 Clocks: Cologne 1980

I learned of the German duo 39 Clocks in 1979, when their manager interviewed me in Cologne and pressed their LP and 7” single into my hands. Included herein, ‘Aspetando Godo’ is that single and still captures that distant time when a drum machine did one thing only and you just had to play along. Like the Bunnymen pre-Pete D-F, 39 Clocks clearly just jammed and jammed until songs emerged, conjuring up ugly but benign tumours of e. guitar scrawl that trundle along, occasionally allowing eddies & flows of pretty Velvets 1969-isms to creep in, before reverting inevitably to The Ugliness. Add to this a transatlantic singer/dead ringer for THE FAUST TAPES and you gotcha self an underground hit.

7. MISSING PRESUMED DEAD – ‘Family Tree’ (1979 Sequel Records 7” EP)

Next up, ‘Family Tree’ is one motherfucker of a tour de force and nails in two minutes the entire inventory of requirements needed to fulfil the pure Post Punk covenant (angular loud bass, portentous non-US vocalist singing about family issues, slashing weak white funk No Wave guitar). Strange or what, then, that this gem was hidden away on the end of Missing Presumed Dead’s totally forgettable 1979 4-Track 7” SAY IT WITH FLOWERS EP, the song’s northern sound so entirely irreconcilable with the skanky hi-rise white reggae of their other EP songs that my mate Bernie Connors – while working in Liverpool’s Probe Records – declared it to be a parody of the Teardrop Explodes. I disagree. But it’s one hell of an eloquent and succinct statement; a real lost classic methinks.

8. MANICURED NOISE – ‘Faith’ (1980 Pre-Records 7”)

Jumping ship to Manchester from the London scene where he couldn’t get a look in, songwriter/guitarist Steve Walsh – briefly a member of Sid Vicious and Viv Albertine’s Flowers of Romance – hijacked the long-time freeform punk band Manicured Noise, then pruned them, rehearsed them and recorded them into a tight, soulful, sax-led Manny take on early Talking Heads. Signing to progrock label Charisma’s fake indie imprint Pre-, Walsh and Co. threatened for a time to come up with a killer first album chock full o’tunes. At the final hurdle, however, they imploded and left us just two rather classic 7” singles. This one sounded amazing loud in clubs; I remember assuming it would be Top 10, then feeling miffed when it did absolutely fuck all.

9. JANE AIRE & THE BELVEDERES – ‘Yankee Wheels’ (1979 Stiff 7” single)

Jane Aire of Akron, Ohio

Thirty-one years ago, the British music press fell in love with a bunch of bands from Akron, Ohio, and the 15-year-old Jane Aire was the one whose inate punkiness got to all of them. Stiff signed her for this sleazy, wheezing, avant-garage debut 7” single, and its strangely staggering piano-led No Wave/Mike Garson-ness and strangulated lead guitar have haunted me ever since. The mad unsung genius behind this single was one Liam Sternberg, whose piano and songwriting should really have been investigated further from the evidence of this recording.

10. DANCE PARTY – ‘Photograph’ (1980 4-song cassette)

Mike Head fronting the Dance Party with Yorkie on bass, Liverpool 1980

Future Shack/Pale Fountains boss Mike Head sounded like J.Div/Teardrops until I accidentally left my copy of LOVE REVISITED around at Yorkie’s, where we practised. Thereafter, Michael was reborn on the W. Coast and found his true calling was not to be stuck Jaz Coleman-like singing from behind a monophonic synth, but to (far more admirably) start learning the whole of Arthurly’s (then) too unsung FOREVER CHANGES and exquisite lost/last Elektra 45 ‘Your Mind & We Belong Together’. Joined here by Yorkie on bass, and two others, ‘Photograph’ was recorded around early 1980, in the same place we’d done ‘Sleeping Gas’ eighteen months earlier.

11. DUM DUM DUM – ‘Dum Dum Dum’ (1980 Struck Dumb 7”)

When drummerless A Certain Ratio supported us at the Factory, back in May 1979, singer Simon Topping cloaked their entire sound with some strange hand-held noise-making device, which ne’er left his mitts throughout their entire show. Within the year, however, said device was history and the entire band thereafter hung their shabbily-scrawled riffage over the mighty funk rhythms of new black drummer Donald Johnson, the results of which were a magical skronk hybrid that more than did the trick. Sounds to me like Oxford’s Dum Dum Dum opted herein for precisely the same route, surfacing with this obvious-but-compelling post-PIL rhythmical racket all surmounted with glissando guitars and fun-fun-fun-type lyrics delivered in an Iggy Devoto stylee.

12. CRASS – ‘Mother Earth’ (1980 Crass Records LP track)

The proof of original Punk’s Inate Truth was proved in mid-78 by the release of Crass’ FEEDING OF THE FIVE THOUSAND E.P., on which they mesmerised me with their superb distillation of Punk. As a snob who’d started growing his hair long at the end of ‘77, I watched Crass with all their moves – heir hypnotising posing, their scary banners, their reserves of substitute vocalists/poets – promoting that EP at Eric’s and discovered with something akin to a thunderbolt-from-the-blue that it was possible for really smart and organised adult anarchists to combine Bakuninist thoroughness with all that unharnessed Jubilee teen pissed-offness and craft it so tightly, so carefully, so heroically that you could capture generations two tiers below you. Being a daft tripping cunt, I forgot soon after, but return again and again to Crass, just so I can revive my flagging Revolutionary Spirit.

13. FRICTION – ‘Crazy Dream’ (1980 debut album track)

Blasting forth with their bizarre hybrid of ‘Bodies’-period J. Rotten vocals and errant axe riffs straight outta the Mars-meets-Voidoids No New York school, Tokyo’s Friction nailed the entire Western Post-Punk Conceit so succinctly to their whipping post not because the band was composed of intuitive first timers, but because leader Reck had just returned from a brief spell as bass player in a late late incarnation of NY’s notorious Teenage Jesus & the Jerks. Of undefined age and with a hippy past as long as Withnail’s coat-tails, Reck returned to Tokyo having entirely copped Richard Hell’s look and attitude (though mercifully not his bass guitar style) and a full 12 months on which to build his rep before his fellow countrymen realised he was just what he was recycling.

14. HAIR & SKIN TRADING CO. – ‘Monkies’ (1992 album track)

Proof positive of the Post-Punk blueprint’s staying power was this technically way too-late offering from former Loop pair, drummer John Wills and singer/guitarist Neil Mackay. Hair & Skin Trading Company rarely sounded like they do on this remarkably Post-Punk assault; they generally dubbed it up and confused the punters with electronic drone assaults of pure experiment, especially on 1992CE’s JO IN NINE G HELL, whence comes this truly formidable track.

15. ELECTRIC EELS – ‘Accident’ (1975 stereo recording)

Until Rough Trade released the first Electric Eels vinyl in 1979, nobody had heard these mythical beasts outside their home city Cleveland, Ohio. So you can imagine how much minds were blown when their cavernous sub-sub-SPIRAL SCRATCH sound was shown to have been captured on tape four long years earlier, back in barren 1975! Not only is the Electric Eels’ canon chock full of future classics awaiting cover versions, but their songwriting emanated from several highly competitive sources, giving the Eels the compositional edge that will see their standing rise and rise in the coming decades. In 1981, Eels singer David E. interviewed me during a Teardrop show in Cleveland; it was in the middle of ‘that’ tour unfortunately, so I was more than the worse for wear. I do, however, still have the copy of CLE magazine he gave me, with a nice flexi of Pa Ubu doing the Seeds’ ‘Pushin’ Too Hard’. Sorry for the nostalgia fest, kiddies; snivel, drool, sometimes it all just seems so long ago!

16. CHAINGANG – ‘Son of Sam’ (Kapitalist 7” 1977)

'Son of Sam' 7" by Chaingang

Next up, Chaingang’s ‘Son of Sam’ was such a stone killer, such a creepy and dyslexic lurch of a tale that a Liverpool cult developed around it. Sheesh, even the silver Kapitalist record label was a bit off. Myself, Budgie and our skinny mate Hughie Jones formed a band called the Young Winstons just for the purposes of performing this song. That lurching, straining riff, that stentorian snare drum … was there even a full kit?

17. SWELL MAPS – ‘Read About Seymour’ (1977 Rather Records 7” EP)

Meanwhile, over in Middle England, Leamington Spa’s finest Swell Maps descend in ‘Read About Seymour’, a sonic homemade plywood 1:1 De Havilland Mosquito, powered by rubber bands and lots of enthusiasm. This is thee Ur-racket, an incendiary riot of dual/even triple in-joke lead vocals intoned by school friends, each of whom musta contributed a lyric. But who the fuck knows what these gentlemen dudes were on, search me. Their records sounded like Asmus Tietchens producing the Buzzcocks, but their stupid record sleeves pitched them more between the Undertones and a dafter The Fall. This sound, though, is some-fucking-thing-fucking-else … and the ‘drums and tea tray’ credit just about sums these suckers up.

18. THE SODS – ‘Transport’ (1979 Polydor album track)

Denmark’s finest punk band, the Sods generally did ‘Punk’ very well, a smorgasbord of white reggae, Siouxian guitar noise, Wire ramalama, but all performed with enough conviction to achieve a believable hybrid; even the Sods’ name was a clever enough catch-all. Herein, they skank and stutter like De Presse covering the Ruts, a Malcolm Owen-as-Strummer bark doubles as lead vocal whilst proto-J. Div extraneous noise hoses the backing track and urbanizes the proceedings. Later, as Sort Sol, the same quartet successfully converted to genuine serious grey-button-down Post-Punk, but this song nails our present POSTPUNKSAMPLER metaphor nicely enough.

19. REPTILE RANCH – ‘Saying Goodbye’ (1981 Z Block 7” EP)

The old cliché about a drummer being someone who hangs around with musicians could well have originated in the Reptile Ranch rehearsal room, their sticksman obviously having gained his position in the band by telling them it’s not what you play, it’s what you leave out that makes you a good player. Ah, but not having the heart to kick him out, the other three spiritedly make up for his deficiencies with this highly-arranged and intricately composed Post-Punk song, during which both bass player and organist reach their own individual musical epiphanies, and the blagger guitarist struggles not too hard to mask his own ineptitude, knowing the random cymbal crashes are always funnier. In just over 3-minutes, Reptile Ranch sum up the entire Northern Indie Scene of two years previous. Nice.

20. DALEK I LOVE YOU – ‘Trapped’ (1980 Phonogram Records LP-track)

In 1978, a few sofas and a lamp standard on Dalek I Love You’s defiantly Post-Everything stage set was enough to cause a schism in the ranks of myself and my compadrés. You can’t do that: you can, they did it. Still, Dalek bassist Dave Balfe came to the mainland while leader Alan Gill grew pot in his sideboard. Soon after, I was over the water inhaling the sideboard and being introduced to LSD by its owner… hmm, perhaps my memories’ still got mucho rose-tinted spectacles. Herein, Alan’s using Vox Jaguar organ and mucho Dave Wakeling-style tremolo on the old larynx, trying to stop his lady from leaving. He’s caught in a sea of typical Post-Punk soundscapes between Reptile Ranch and the Colours Out Of Time, but he ain’t going down casually.

21. COLOURS OUT OF TIME – ‘As If In Another World’ (1981 John Peel Session)

Remember the Colours Out Of Time? Nere, nobody else does neither. Yet these poor sods from Crewe, in Cheshire, were several times close to getting somewhere had they not, every time, scuppered their own chances by changing their own metaphor and (accidentally) becoming a different band. I booked them to support The Teardrop Explodes at Liverpool’s Club Zoo on the strength of their first 7” single, a gigantic Detroit chasm of a riff-song with no noticeable IQ of its own. Then they turned up for the show and sounded like us, organ’n’all! ‘As In Another World’ sees the Colours Out Of Time in a When I Dream state-of-mind, soon after which they morphed yet again, this time into a transatlantic soundalike of those terrible Paisley Underground spewdo-psyche outfits.

22. WILD SWANS – ‘Now You’re Perfect’ (1980 cassette demo)

Ah, Paul Simpson’s The Wild Swans. If only the Wild Swans had sounded like they did in my erstwhile Teardrop co-founder’s head, hell, we’d all still be defending Guernica from Franco! Unfortunately, the music of the Wild Swans rarely performed its intended task, i.e.: to rouse the Proletariat from their somnambulist slumber, mainly because no amount of fussy arpegiating from shocked-looking guitarist Jerry Kelly could hide the similarities of each song’s structure. Still, ‘Now You’re Perfect’ shows that the Wild Swans, when taken in short doses, displayed a wistful majesty and an urgent, almost caffeinated heart. And all you young 80s heads out there: get that bass player! I’ll wager you rarely encounter that level of over-achieving in the modern popular scene!

23. ARMAND SCHAUBROEUK – ‘Buried Alive’ (1978 Mirror Records album track)

Armand Schaubroeuk’s included here because his 1978 LP RATFUCKER was dedicated to Pere Ubu’s genius guitarist, the late Peter Laughner, and because Armand herein had clearly copped a band sound that actively aped the Bowie/Sales Brothers ensemble that Iggy was touring around LUST FOR LIFE. Better still, on ‘Buried Alive’, Armand says in under two minutes of expletives and gospel preacher invective what Ben Elton takes two hours to say on Queen’s behalf in their rock musical abortion. And what’s that, Mister? Fuck all, kiddies, absolutely fuck all.

24. PSYCHO SURGEONS – ‘Horizontal Action’

While most everyone else charged forwards into further storms of avant-, a few obstreperous souls insisted their Future Vision was … well, Retro. Some were accepted for their sheer persistence and personality; the Jam, for example, were top entertainment everytime I saw them, but they were like Todd Rundgren and Lynyrd Skynyrd whom I also saw during the Jubilee Year. I didn’t count them on my list. Compared to the newness of everything else, those aforementched seemed like dinosaurs, especially the Moddy jumps both from the Jam AND Todd! No fucking shit! ‘Don’t Make Another Bass Guitar, Mr. Rickenbacker’ sang Danny & the Dressmakers, in 1980, which I always took to be anti-Foxton. Anyway, over in Australia, the Psycho Surgeons contributed to Post-Punk’s Great Leap Forward by hitching a life back to 1963 AND 1973 simultaneously, thereby accessing the combined (and frenzied) power of both RAW POWER and frat-rock, that bilious one-take between-beat clatterstompf so beloved of the Monks and Japan’s more adventuresome GS groups.

25. D.M.Z. – ‘Bad Attitude’ (1978 Sire Records LP track)

Up in Boston Mass, DMZ also chose the Retro route, singer Mono Man doing Iggy & the Stooges’ routine at a time when everybody was still stupid enough to dare: Stiv Bators, Lux, even Andy Ellison. Live they did it blazingly well, apparently, but on record it was too patchy a concept to peddle in a world currently obsessed with Right Now, and most of the Flo & Eddie-produced LP was recycled/degraded Troggs with far too clean a production. However, 2000 years after the event, when even Curly, Mo and the other originals have turned power pop or died, this sub-Stooges ramala still exhibits a remarkable ’78 spirit easily worthy of inclusion into these hallowed ranks.

26. E.S.G. – UFO (1978 Ninety-Nine Records 12” EP)

E.S.G. is a classy example of what the open-mindedness of the Post-Punk scene could turn up. Ed Bahlman in New York set up this great new 12”-singles label called 99; I got stuff just because it was on that label, and E.S.G. was a five-piece centred around three teenage sisters from the South Bronx. Their grooves on their first release, their minimal grooves, each conga slap was a lifetime a-coming, and their playground triple-singing was exquisite (‘You’re No Good’ still sends me!). My future wife, Dorian, saw them umpteen times and says they were great live, totally natural. Then, one year later, Factory Records put out this 7” single produced by Martin Hannett, on which they even cross that Can-I Need More/Joy Division-Atmosphere rubicon where Soul Music IS Krautrock.

27. GAZ CHAMBERS – ‘Who’s Life Is It Anyway?’ (1981 Cassette demo)


This 11-minute frenzy of harrowing adolescence opened 17-year-old Gaz Chambers’ MUSIC FROM THE DEATH FACTORY cassette EP, unfortunately trashing all the other in-joke/oddly titled songs on the record (‘Hitler Drove a BRN’!). For sheer persistent discordance and earnest harping, 6’ 4” Gaz and his equally persistent but uncredited second keyboardist – the ultra anonymous T. Ross – are truly hard to beat. And, in answer to all of your inevitable Gaz questions thrown up by the brevity of this review, the answer is ‘No’.

Prologue to ‘In Conclusion’

With 20/20 Hindsight, it could be argued that Punk and Post-Punk happened almost simultaneously, especially if we count Subway Sect’s steadfastly monochrome support set on the Clash’s ultra-colourful White Riot tour in May ’77 as evidence, V. Goddard & Co. most serpently anticipating the entire future Liverpool scene with their unconcerned proto-Will Sargeant shoe-gazing Eeyorean glumness. The sound of 1979 right here in ’77? You’re damned right! But, looking back to Post-Punk now from this great way off, I believe most of us followed Lydon’s lead and, thereafter, abandoned anything that smacked of the Sex Pistols... or the Clash for that matter. Instead, Post-Punk looked back into infinity and forwards into the future simultaneously, co-opting James Brown, the Velvets (again), Miles Davis, the Last Poets, the Doors, almost ANY-FUCKING-THING other than the Sex Pistols, darling! Post-Punk was a haven for orphan poets like Patrik Fitzgerald, Joolz and the Manchester Drinking-poet John the Postman, whose raging & unaccompanied 20-minute performance of the mouth-piece ‘Senegal’ was often preceded by a Mark Smith introduction of molto bigging-up (Mark: “Rich foreign stars die in front of their video: the Postman IS the Music Scene!”)5. But unlike the new Punk Rockers, anything Trad was well fucked off in favour of the Rad. The Post-Punk scene was novelty-obsessed, Feminist and revolutionary. Heck lads, half the groups featured ladies! Kleenex, the Au Pairs, Delta Five. And hard-drinking Feminist ladies, too, so mind your mouth. Post-Punk’s purveyors wanted life change also, demanded it, applied Punk reason/unreason to everything thereafter, scorned Tradition as previous intellectual generations had scorned the Ku Klux Klan. Down in our dungeonous former Liverpool Punk club, Eric’s Post-Punk Revolution started the moment the Spitfire Boys split up: the last day of 1977. From hereon in, the Post-Punk cry was the Desperate Bicycles’ own ‘It was easy, it was cheap, go and do it!’ EMI? DIY! Like the Puritans and the American Transcendentalists, those thrift-of-necessity ancestors who’d first preached self-reliance, the Post-Punk generation practised standing on their own two feet. The thrift-stores of Punk gave way to the thrift of Post-Punk; even cheap new market stall threads cut the Post-Punk mustard if you were a Fall fan. So while Sham 69 and McLaren’s Ronnie Biggs-led Pistols anthems spawned faux-terrace-shite such as the Cockney Rejects, those with their own IQ scouted about for other desperate souls free-thinking enough to consider the Augustus Pablo-endorsed melodica a valid rock instrument, then set about creating their own radical hybrid music for a fraction of the cash wasted on GIVE ‘EM ENOUGH ROPE. Heck, at the tailend of ’78, Scritti Politti even printed the costs of their record’s manufacture on its cover!

In Conclusion

The author on stage at the Plan K, Brussels: April 1979

Here endeth now this POSTPUNKSAMPLER, so finally, to those of you young’uns who consider I’ve been too Taliban about Punk dates, etc., I beseech you to try to understand that – back in ye Punk day – such fundamentalism was essential to fuelling the entire bitchy scene. To have recorded and released a Punk 45 during 1977 validated a musician’s Revolutionary credentials no end, even if it was a right crock o’cack. Outwardly, Ian McCulloch, Pete Wylie and I ridiculed Liverpool’s Spitfire Boys for their painfully weak ‘British Refugee’ 7” single; but shit were we secretly jealous of Paul Rutherford, Budgie and the other two! Then again, I admit to totally lording it over Mac after recording our debut single in 1978, while he had to wait until ’79. Mac in turn absolutely hammered Wylie in public for daring to print the date 1979 on his first 45 ‘Better Scream’, when the fucker never came out until March 1980! See that, thirty years after the event, and I still feel the glee at having one-upped those bastards. Punk made me that way. Happy Xmas; Death to Santa.

  1. Coming from the small Midland town of Tamworth, I first experienced Punk as everyone else in the UK experienced it that hot summer of ‘76, i.e.: through the distorted lens of media. From the beginning, I was won over not by their music but by their attitude and Johnny Rotten’s ‘I hate Pink Floyd’ t-shirt. Brought up a Socialist but still a Royalist, that coupla years’ media build-up to the 1977 Jubilee sickened me so much I woulda followed almost anybody with a Visionary method of opposing its forelock-tugging, its tinsel and its sheer lies, let alone four guys barely older than me screaming it loud, accompanied by the ‘V’s! Bring it on!
  2. In stark contrast to Messrs. Hook, Morris and Barney’s brave decision to start all over, the remaining three members of Ultravox opted for a slightly safer route when their leader/songwriter John Foxx left after releasing three LPs for Island Records. They replaced him with ex-Thin Lizzy, ex-Slik all-purpose-rocker Midge Ure and never looked back.
  3. From the evidence contained within THE FUTURE’S UNWRITTEN, Julien Temple’s excellent Joe Strummer documentary profile, it seems to me that Joe’s abandonment of his role as Generalissimo of Punk in favour of popstardom in the USA was a decision that still baffled even him, poor sod. However, in the cold light of 2009CE, it must be remembered that J. Strummer was still only mid-late 20s when all these decisions had to be made. However decrepit he seemed to me at the time, that’s still young to shoulder such a heavy weight of Cultural Responsibility. That he’d had the sleight of hand and sheer personal Pol Pot-ness to blank all his Commune mates from the 101 house in order better to fit in with the much younger Punk scene suggests to me that Strummer would ultimately have demanded of himself a prime starring role in whatever next-big-thing transpired musically, and most serpently didn’t wanna have to take a worthy secretarial role – even as General Secretary, ha – in the greatest musical revolution since 1967, and who could blame him? Why play the important but temporary Trotsky to J. Rotten’s Lenin, when you could be off on your own with your heroic other being Stalin, re-writing the route as you go along, even assassinating your erstwhile ‘kamarad’ Mickhail Jonesky. Poor Joe S. Perhaps Tymon Dogg came back at the end as a kind of Beria figure. The jury’s still out on this one…
  4. In truth, none of Wire’s members even approached the NME’s then-idealized Punk age of nineteen, drummer Robert Gotobed having been born back in 1951, while even bassist (Graham) Lewis was as old as Joe Strummer.
  5. By Christmas 1977, Ian McCulloch and I had virtually given up on the Liverpool punk scene and had transferred our allegiances to the far more experimental and active music scene in Manchester, whose thriving ‘centre of the city where all roads meet’ sucked in every touring band as inevitably as Liverpool – accessed only via the obscure M57 – was bypassed by Patti, Blondie, by Television, by Pere Ubu, you name it we missed it unless we schlepped our asses over to Manny. By the summer of ’77, certain aspects of the Liverpool punk scene were becoming highly tiresome for that city’s most insatiable music freak, as I became forced to travel to Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham and London to see international bands that really shoulda made the effort to come to me. Hitching across the UK and courting a girl in Leeds, however, it soon became evident to me why Patti, Television, Blondie et al had opted to give us a miss: whereas all those aforementioned cities were at the confluences of two or more great highways (M1, M5, M6, M62), poor Liverpool was accessed only via the highly obscure M57, whose blink-and-you-miss-it junction/exit was a barely acknowledged tributary off the monolithic highway to Glasgow and the Far North. Add to that Liverpool’s docks, its port, its Irish influence and large Catholic population, and outsiders soon understand why Liverpudlians tend to be more singular than your average UK city dweller. As an outsider myself, however, you can probably also understand why its, ahem, close-knit artistic community got so claustrophobic I had to split.