Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
PUNK V PROG 2
The thing was, that you couldn't really blame the punks for hating the dinosaur bands. Over the two years between '74 and '78 the music biz and the big boys really had had it their own way for far too long. I'd compare the situation with the state of Premier League football in 2010. They were getting all that money, keeping the local bands from even getting support slots on provincial tours -- the record company used to sell the tour support slots off to bands they were grooming to be the Next Big Thing -- and on top of that, their playing, though ornamental was rubbish. Unfortunately, bands like us, who'd just been hard-up working lads trying to build a following, were caught in the Style Wars crossfire.
Newell, Peppercorn and Aggie the Dummy
The members of my band weren't by any means anti-punk. I, for instance, went out and bought loads of the singles, if the NME reckoned they were any good. And they usually were. The first Clash album got played to death in my house, despite incredulous reactions from some of my more staid friends. Ian Peppercorn, Gypp's guitarist was a great gig-goer--when he wasn't actually playing gigs-- and he saw loads of the new bands, often bringing back tales of how fresh they were. Gypp had used the 18 months before punk rock began by building a sound, using hard-earned gig money to improve that sound and generally trying to perform a budget version of what the big bands were doing. We thought we were paying our dues. We thought that was how it was done. We were only simple lads. How were we to know that it would all go back to tiny amps and fuzzy p.a. set-ups in grungy little cellars. That's where we'd all come from. We didn't, at that stage, anyway, want to go back there. We wanted to go up --- to college gigs
Newell, hat and Doris the Dummy
There was no rancour on Gypp's side towards the New Wave. There was, it was true a certain amount of it in other quarters. Certain older bands, thought that punk was rubbish, that its exponents couldn't play. It was a standard musical snobbery, that had always come from the old guard towards the young pretenders. Certain people actually wanted to hurt the bands. John Lydon of the Pistols was razored one night. Captain Sensible told me some terrifying stories of gangs of blokes, during the early punk tours, who would wait down the road to ambush the bands with lumps of wood, stones and bottles. Rock gigs, which up until that time, hadn't been rough places, became a little edgier.But in sleepy Suffolk and Norfolk where our own strongholds were, we began to build a big and loyal following. Besides, we had a bit of Germany as well. There was plenty of room for all the different types of music wasn't there?
Not according to the fashionistas in London, there wasn't. And yet, we regularly played London and its fringes in 1977 and 1978. We played the Swan in Hammersmith, once a month. We played the Thomas a Becket and a number of other known pub gigs. We even played the Marquee in October '77, complete with flares, long hair, high-heeled boots and double-neck guitars. I don't even remember seeing any punk rockers for the first year. To read the NME though, you'd think that everyone, barring the PM Jim Callaghan, was wearing safety pins and a dog collar. I have in the three decades since then, met so many " I was an original punk rocker and I saw the Pistols." types, that,you just wouldn't believe it. Oddly enough, many of them are quite well-spoken and middle class. I won't deny that there are plenty of original '77 ers out there, still, but they couldn't all have seen the Pistols, The Pistols just didn't play that many gigs.
For me though, even if I wasn't a punk, the whole thing was pivotal. Punk was great because it reintroduced to pop music the idea of a three-chord song and a three minute single. It was where I'd come from, with the Small Faces and the Move And in its wake, as the doors crashed down, the hordes poured in to blag money off bewildered A&R men, while the going was still good. And in came all manner of unpolished gems. Until the Gypp single faced the casual chibbing it got from Danny Baker, during the whole of that period, I rarely came across any antagonism to my band at all. Sure, every so often ,somebody who wasn't in a band but who'd read too many music papers, would take heated issue with me in a pub. I once nearly whacked some gobshite, who harangued me for twenty minutes about how my type was going to drop and die. In the end I said, "Look, tomorrow night, I'm going to be singing with my band, in the top bar of Essex University. There'll be about 250 people there, I won't have to buy my own beer and the band will be getting paid. What will you be doing, then? "
Newell in full flow at the Kingfisher
But it's only pop music isn't it? Gypp's songs, one or two of them anyway, were eight minutes long, and had extended guitar and synth solos. So what? No children went hungry because of it. No one was made homeless. Some people even enjoyed it. But for me at least, it couldn't last... TBC