Monday, September 12, 2011

Part 3 - Flowers In The Dustbin

The 27th May 1977 is a date that should be writ large in mine, and many of my friends, memories, but even I had to do a bit of research to find out that that was the date upon which a record was released that can still have a very deep effect upon my mood to this day.

To continue our somewhat disjointed story...I’d progressed through singles and Glam Rock to actually going to gigs and the final piece of my musical education was waiting to be discovered. Where did I find out more about the music I liked, what was being released and when, who was playing gigs and where ? The answers to all my questions were to be found each week inside the approximately 60 pages of newspaper print, that would usually end up all over your hands and clothes. We’re talking the music press, the inkies as they came to be known.

At the time we are talking about, that being late 1976 or early 1977, Sounds, Melody Maker and the New Musical Express, or NME, were the papers that covered all things music, serious music that is, not pop which was taken care of by the likes of Jackie and other teen girl magazines which no self respecting glam rocker would be seen reading. Sounds was very heavy rock oriented and Melody Maker quite studious. NME was a bit out of my league when I was 14, I didn’t understand most of what was written in there, very literary.

I latched onto Sounds, not because I particularly like heavy rock but because it seemed the easiest of the inkies to understand. I started buying Sounds each week, scouring the news items and gig listings for any Slade related info. I don’t recall that I was reading the features, but I was learning about lots of bands and artists from the news items, ad’s and reviews. Inevitably some names began to stick out more than others and I began to read about bands with names like the Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Jam, The Clash, The Adverts and others who seemed to be causing quite a stir, being commented about as much negatively as positively and being described as Punk Rock.

From what I could make out from the items in Sounds, these bands played loud, basic, noisy rock music, maybe were not very proficient musicians but were attracting young audiences who were maybe somewhat disillusioned with the current music available on the airwaves of Britain’s only national music radio station...wunnerful Radio 1.

BBC4 recently began repeating Top Of The Pops from 1976. They still hold full archives of the shows from then forward and are showing them in full every Wednesday evening. It really is astonishing what crap was charting in 1976. If you’re feeling real brave try some of this rubbish:

Paul Nicholas - Reggae Like It Used To Be
Harpo - Movie Star
Rubettes - You’re The Reason Why
Slik - Requiem
Sheer Elegance - Life Is Too Short Girl

Is it any wonder Punk Rock happened ???

I did see a 1976 TOTP recently that opened with the Heavy Metal Kids performing their new single (at the time) “She’s No Angel”. It didn’t chart, I didn’t discover the Heavy Metal Kids until some time in late 1977 thanks to a Radio 1 In Concert broadcast which I only recorded for the performance by the support band, The Vibrators, but how I wish I’d seen that TOTP performance in 1976, it would have been a shining beacon in a sea of 1976’s pop trash.

I remember the summer of 1976, it was a bloody scorcher, day after day of endless sunshine and heat and hour after hour of The Real Things “You To Me Are Everything” and Wings “Silly”bloody”Love Songs” on the radio, and I’m sure me thinking that there must be something better than this to listen to. Unbeknownst to me that “something better” was simmering away in pubs and clubs in London in readiness for revealing itself to me in the spring of 1977.

So back to our narrative; there I was scouring Sounds for any Slade based news I could find and becoming more and more aware of these new bands that were popping up in the news and reviews pages. By May and into June 1977 the occasional mentions had developed into something of a firestorm mainly centred around the group known as the Sex Pistols.

All of 1977 saw the UK “celebrating” Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, 25 years on the throne, and the Jubilee Days of June 6th-9th saw a series of events in and around London with many people holding street parties on 7th June. Also on the 7th June the Sex Pistols held a party, on a boat sailing up and down the Thames, on which they performed, their new single. The boat was hauled over by police and many people on board were arrested. The boat episode was reported in the music press and the national press the next week. Fantastic publicity for their newly released single “God Save The Queen”, which had been unleashed upon the world on 27th May. Publicity enough for me to finally decide “OK let’s go and buy this Punk Rock record and see what all the fuss is about”.

So on my next trip into Birmingham, most likely on a Saturday, most likely to HMV on New Street, or Virgin on Bull Street, or maybe Inferno in Dale End, I don’t remember, but I do know I bought a copy of the Sex Pistols “God Save The Queen” along with The Stranglers “Peaches” b/w “Go Buddy Go” combination. When we got those records home, we played them, obviously, and the first time I played “God Save The Queen”....listen, I’ve written this up on here before, you can find out what happened here and for those of you too lazy to click the link I copy and paste here:

We dropped the needle on the groove felt like I was physically hurled across the room and pinned against the opposite wall for 3 minutes and 20 seconds. When it had finished I think I was in shock. It was like nothing I had ever heard before.

Did I really just hear that ?
People don't make records that sound like that.
Do they ?
They do ?

So I played it again....and again...and get the picture...just to reassure myself that I had heard it right. And I think I knew then that some things were never going to seem quite the same ever again

And astonishingly, that record still gives me a rush when I hear it to this day. Steve Jones opening guitar blast can instantly transport me back to that point in time when I first heard it and felt slightly awed, slightly frightened, slightly exhilarated and realised that things had just changed in a big way.

I never did become much of a fan of The Stranglers but the Sex Pistols 4 singles and 1 album are constant companions even now. I started buying other Punk Rock records by The Jam (who replaced Slade as my musical obsession), The Clash (I was lucky enough to meet Joe Strummer shortly before he passed away. A meeting that left a lasting impression on me), The Adverts (TV Smith’s music has stuck by me all these years and I can now count him amongst my acqauintances), X-Ray Spex, The Damned, The Ruts, Generation X and Siouxsie & The Banshees. I started to play the guitar because Alternative TV’s Mark Perry said you only needed to know 3 chords and you could form a band. Eventually I made a record of my own...but that tale is for another day...

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