Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
PUNK V PROG
Gypp, Just As The Tide Changed...Photos by Nik Kershaw.
You know, I've always thought it was strange that an entire nation's music industry can be controlled at any given time, by about 50 probably, to at most, 100 key people in London. Nonetheless, in most cases, this is what happens. I don't believe it's a plot or anything like that but it doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, how hard you work, sooner or later you will have to deal with London.
In the mid 1970s, after Glam rock had died its death, there was a period where, for we who'd been fed on non stop musical excitement and innovation for the best part of twenty years, music had become very dull indeed. The big bands, the Stones and the Who had pretty much decamped to international stadium land. Zeppelin and Bowie weren't spending an awful of time at home, either. Both of these acts had been replaced at home, by ASDA-lite versions of themselves, Led Zep had been replaced by Queen and Bowie by Steve Harley. At grass roots level, there was pub-rock. Out of pub rock emerged people like Ian Dury, Nick Lowe and Dr Feelgood, all of whom filled a yawning gap in the rock market. Dury and Lowe managed to hitch a lift on the coat tails of punk rock. Dr Feelgood, though, who'd done so much to kick start proceedings, unfortunately, were a little late for the new party.
When punk rock arrived in late 1976 , there was a triumvirate of bands to kick start it: The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned. Of these three, the Damned were the first on nearly every count. They were the first to get a single out, the first to get an album out and the first to tour America. Over recent years, certain middle class revisionists have tended to write them out of history. I'm not exactly sure why this is, but I suspect that it's because the members of the Damned really were, initially at least the real thing--genuine yobs who weren't averse to smashing things up, setting fire to people (and each other) and behaving very badly indeed. They were also, every one of them, pretty good musicians, right from the start. Their status as originators should not have been taken away from them, by people who weren't even there at the time. And yet, in many ways, it has been.
The bands themselves however, weren't such slaves to the fashion they'd helped create -- at least not as much as the media tarts who merely wrote about them were. Most of them were just young would-be pop stars who were in the right place at the right time. They happened to fall on their feet. A big new wave came along. They got on the board and they stayed on it -- until some of them fell off. It's what any of us would do. And by spring of 1977, according to the NME at least, a cultural revolution had taken place. Anyone found not saluting the new punk flag, musically or sartorially, was now the enemy. Unfortunately, many people, a majority in fact, didn't recognise this fact. For the next year or so, if you believed the music papers, punk was the only game in the compendium.. If you glanced at the album charts however, it was an entirely different story. The people doing the business were bands such as Supertramp, Genesis, Queen and ELO. In America it was Kansas, Journey, The Eagles, Jackson Brown etc etc. Were the NME lying? Not intentionally. If you only read the music papers and were daft enough to believe them ( as they believed themselves), the whole world was now back in skinny jeans and ripped shirts, pogoing in the clubs to the Pistols and the Buzzcocks. Study news footage of the time and old TV programmes, however, and what you actually see are loads of young people in long hair and flares,who think of punk rock as a sort of joke. This continued, in the provinces and in other countries, well into the early 80s.
But punk rock was important. For it was pop music refreshing itself. Never mind that the vocals often sounded as if they were sung by punch-drunk boxers, the songs, underneath the sawmill churn of their guitars were exciting, young and vital. Some were beautiful and moving. It was the voice of talented young people whom the music labels and Radio 1 had not hitherto allowed us hear. For two years, prior to punk rock, the public had been given about three choices; bin-end glam-rock as written by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman ( or their many imitators) King Arthur in Topographic Ice, as touted by the more excessive prog bands, or the most ghastly check-shirted, bearded country rock music, that 70's California could guff out of its pre-patched designer dungarees.
Pirate radio had long gone, and Wonderful Radio 1 was presided over by a bunch of patronising pretend gentleman-farmers.For the most part these people were fucking idiots, who were largely in thrall to the machinations of the major record companies and many other music biz panhandlers. We, the public only got what they wanted us to hear. Radio 1, apart from a few greats such as John Peel, and Johnny Walker, was shit -- pure and simple. The time was right for a revolution. When the tide swept in, however, it swept in on a lot of perfectly innocent hard-working bands, who just happened to be in the way. These were people who didn't have the right haircut, the right trousers or the right sound. And when that tide came in, I was in exactly such a band.