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
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.
Here, for your interest, is an 'opportunity' sent to me by an arts organisation. Below their correspondence is my reply. It's an absolutely typical example of how hidebound by political correctness and handcuffed to what I call 'office bollocks' the whole business has become during the past decade or so. It's also one of the reasons why the new government will probably slash the arts budget to ribbons. Thanks guys.
Sent: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 4:06 PM
Subject: Norfolk & Norwich Festival Opportunities
Dear Creative Practitioner (whaaaaa??)
Here at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival we are compiling a new database of Creative Practitioners. You are currently registered on our previous contact list.
If you would like to be included on the new database and therefore updated on future opportunities:
a) as part of Creative Partnerships programme
b) as part of the wider Norfolk & Norwich Festival Creative Learning schools’ offer
Then please complete the registration form which can be found at www.nnfestival.org.uk under current opportunities.
Please note: You will not be added to the new database until a registration form is submitted.
(ooooh I'm really scared!)
inal Message -----
From: Martin Newell
To: Gaelin Little
Sent: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 4:19 PM
Subject: Re: Norfolk & Norwich Festival Opportunities
Dear Arts Co-ordinator,
Whoever cooked up the phrase 'Creative Practitioner'? I mean, think about it; it really is rubbish, isn't it? Brian Sewell's right. They should disband the whole Arts Council and give the money to the homeless --especially if they're using stuff like that in their mail-outs. Really! And please take me off your database. This really is too embarrassing. I think I'd almost rather go back to working as a kitchen porter.
yours most sincerely