Classic punk from Down Under.
New Zealand isn’t really know for its musical output of recent years, other than Crowded House and more recent acts like Die Die Die and Shihad. But back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s it had a thriving punk and new wave scene. Desperate Measures hailed from Christchurch in NZ’s south Island and played a mix of Killing Joke style post-punk and full on three chord thrash. This combines their 1984 EP (the title track could have easily have been an early ‘80s UK band) plus a live in-studio set, where they tackle subjects like bootboys’ mindless violence and police oppression in catchy and feisty fashion. An interesting insight into life Down Under in the early ‘80s and the worldwide spread of punk.
John Damon


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THE DICKIES – Second Coming



(Captain Oi!)
Surprisingly sophisticated for the Dickies.
Despite being one of the earliest Californian punk outfits to make a real splash in the charts, The Dickies struggled a little when A&M dropped them after two albums, but bounced back with a third, ‘Stukas Over Disneyland’, in 1983. To say that the next five years were troublesome for Dickies singer Leonard would be a major understatement, but he persevered, with an ever changing line-up, and it paid off when the band landed the score for the 1988 movie Killer Klowns, released by Enigma as a mini LP. Rejuvenated, they followed it up with ‘Second Coming’, on the same label, and it was a more than worthwhile effort. Still humorous, but with a more serious musical approach, ‘Second Coming’ may have come as a surprise to anyone who only knew the band for their covers of ‘Banana Splits’ or ‘Nights In White Satin’, but I can’t imagine them being disappointed.
Shane Baldwin

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MOTORHEAD – Better Motorhead Than Dead: Live At Hammersmith


Lemmy and company celebrate thirty years of boozing ‘n’ brawling.
Thirty years in the business of rock ‘n’ roll is no mean feat. Hell, Lemmy’s blood type is probably classified as ‘Immortal’ by now. Or at least Jack Daniels. Kicking out the jams before a packed-out crowd at Hammersmith (where the band pretty much made their name with the awesome live album ‘No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith’), Lemmy, Phil and Mikkey tear their way through a twenty three song strong set of classics such as ‘Bomber’, ‘(We Are) The Road Crew’ and ‘Metropolis’ as well as ‘Shoot You In The Back’ and ‘Dancing On Your Grave’. Preaching to the converted (or should that be perverted?), the ‘head round things off in fine style with the double whammy of ‘Ace Of Spades’ and ‘Overkill’. While it’s not quite on par with ‘No Sleep…’, as live albums go ‘Better Motorhead Than Dead’ kicks the leather jacketed arse off 99% of today’s rock pack.
Jim Sharples


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PENETRATION – Moving Targets


(Captain Oi)
Long overdue re-issue of seminal North-East punk.
Way back in the late seventies there was a real holy trinity of female punk singers. The Ice Queen Siouxsie fronting The Banshees, Mrs. Styrene’s Polly screaming her way to success with X-Ray Spex and arguably the best, the breathy all possessing voice of Pauline Murray from Penetration. ‘Moving Targets’, the band’s debut album released in late 1978 saw the new piece line-up augmented by second guitarist Fred Purser who added his fancy fretwork to proceedings adding extra melodic colour to the bands earlier frantic driving sound. Throughout though it’s Murray who gains the plaudits, cooing and caressing one minute then spiralling upwards to the very limit the next. The combined result lifts the album head and shoulders beyond so many of their contemporaries’ period pieces. Add to this the bonus of the first two singles and you’ve an almost flawless collection of first wave punk.
Sean McGhee

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RAPED – The Complete Raped Punk Collection



(Anagram/Cherry Red)
Keep away from the guys with the funny eyes!
Yeah, you read that right, Raped. This dropped through my letterbox and my hangover immediately felt worse. The complete recordings of a pack of schmucks who slithered thru the newly kicked-open doors in 1977 togged up like a pack of rent boys (I’m guessing they may have known the territory), and announced themselves to a disbelieving public with the ‘Pretty Paedophiles’ EP (yeah, you read that right too), all tracks present here. Still, bad taste such as this is one of the reasons punk rock exists; it’s to piss off your parents (mine came round yesterday and I HID this CD!) and to provoke newspaper copy along the lines of: "a disgusted cinema manager stopped the Saturday morning show when notorious punk rock group Raped shocked children by using obscene language". A guilty pleasure indeed, but there’s a perverse kick to be had from this kind of cesspool punk trash; it’s shameless, it’s grubby, it’s very funny, and hell, these songs are pretty good if you can suspend your distaste long enough. If your mum catches you with this, you never heard about it from me.
Hugh Gadjit

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(Yep Roc)
The Rev unleashes his mighty organ.
Most of you discerning fans of all things ‘billy related will be familiar with Jim Heath in his Reverend Horton Heat persona but what you might not be aware of is his fondness for the sound of the Hammond Organ. The good Rev found a suitable jazz organist in Tim Alexander, and drafting in drummer Todd Soesbe they set about recreating those cool keyboard sounds of the 60’s. The overall result is a kind of acid jazz/mod crossover which does admittedly get a tad cheesy in places.  But they really pull it out of the bag with a ‘A Shot In The Dark’ (AKA Inspector Cousteau’s Theme music) and the coolest version of the ‘James Bond’ theme you’re ever hear likely to hear.
Lee Cotterell

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THE RUTS – The Punk Singles Collection


(Captain Oi)
UK reggae punks 45 revolutions.
With the death of lead singer Malcolm Owen in July 1980, the short but meteoric rise of UK punks The Ruts was cut short. This singles ‘best of’ pulls together all their chart 45s like the mighty ‘Babylon’s Burning’ and ‘Something That I Said’ plus debut ‘In A Rut’, ‘Staring At The Rude Boys’, ‘Jah War’ and ‘West One’. Together with B-sides and the Captain’s usual informative sleeve notes, it’s a perfect introduction to one of the UK’s finest and most underrated ’70s punk acts.
El Prez

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(Cherry Bomb)
Soon to be the pride of River City.
The Scourge Of River City have followed up their already big live reputation with a debut album of some quality. They really do have and eclectic mixture of influences that they absorb and regurgitate as an unrecognisable but distinctly familiar though hugely original sound. They utilise a double bass but don’t centre on it and they have a definite aural charisma that defies their understated image because it’s all about the music. Catchy choruses abound in an album full of killer and often poles apart tunes. There are hints of a Hellcat influence in there in places as well as glimpses of psychobilly but the whole album sure rocks and should ensnare and endear themselves at first attempt to an audience that won’t know what’s hit them.
Simon Nott

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Classic Pistols bootleg repackaged.
The bootleg ‘Spunk’ album beat the Sex Pistols’ ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ into the shops in 1977, much to the chagrin of Virgin boss Richard Branson, and just to add insult to injury, was probably a better set. Comprising of demos recorded by Dave Goodman at the band’s Denmark Street rehearsal room, Riverside Studios and Lansdowne Studios in 1976 and Gooseberry Studios and Eden Studios in January 1977, the results were raw, but captured the early Pistols’ fury perfectly. Here you get the album, with the same tracks as last year’s CD and vinyl reissues, but this time they’re all on 7” singles in a box. Unfortunately I can’t tell you much more than that as we just got a CD copy with few details, but it still all sounds great to me.
Shane Baldwin.

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SIOUXSIE – Mantaray

A solo debut that’s worth the wait from the former Banshee.
It feels like she’s been away forever, but ‘Mantaray’, Siouxsie’s first solo effort, sees punk rock’s former ice maiden creatively doing very nicely. Having burned her bridges with the Banshees, her main vehicle for two decades, the kaleidoscopic patterns of Siouxsie’s muse are still shifting, achieving rich fruition with ‘Mantaray’s sonic cross-pollinations. Into A Swan breaks several years of musical silence with naggingly insistent overdrive, coming on like T-Rex filtered through an eastern film score, Siouxsie’s vocals having lost none of their imperious grandeur. ‘Here Comes That Day’ retains the cinematic flavour, all stabbing brass and swooping theramin, while there’s echoes of former glories with the ‘Creatures In Loveless’s marimba motifs. ‘If It Doesn’t Kill You’ is a torchy slow burn, while ‘Sea Of Tranquility’ with its tabla-driven rhythms and swirling sonic plumes is a beguiling pleasure. Signing off with ‘Heaven And Alchemy’, Siouxsie drops her guard for some piano-led after-hours introspection; like a good liqueur, the song puts the close on a sensory sonic banquet, and one that’s done the former Ms Susan Ballion proud.
Hugh Gadjit

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SPEAR OF DESTINY – Grapes of Wrath / One Eyed Jacks

Epic ‘80s post-punk rockers.

Kirk Brandon shot to fame when his goth punk band Theatre Of Hate crashed into the UK charts on the back of the single ‘Do You Believe In The Westworld’. While TOH only lasted one album his next band, Spear of Destiny, fared a lot better and are still playing on and off today. Their debut album, 1983’s ‘Grapes Of Wrath’, was a much more straightforward rock approach, but epic in every way. Containing the chart single ‘The Wheel’, SOD were up and running but it was the follow-up ‘One Eyed Jacks’ that saw them hit their stride. Chart anthems like ‘Liberator’ and the soaring ‘Prisoner Of Love’ smashed into the charts off the back of Brandon’s majestic voice, howling saxophone and super tight five-piece band. Kirk Brandon’s voice survives as strong as ever today and live he’s still a real force to be reckoned with. Highly recommended.
El Prez

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THE UNDERTONES – Dig Yourself Deep

(Cooking Vinyl)
Cracking new album from Irish punk maestros.
When The Undertones returned to the fray without original singer Feargal Sharkey, a good number of eyebrows were raised – not due to anyone doubting the abilities of the other members, but because his shrill vibrato delivery was so distinctive. The unenviable task of filling the Sharkey shoes went to Paul McLoone, but he quickly convinced the doubters, perfectly fitting in with the right pitch and tone, but avoiding what could have been an embarrassing parody of his predecessor. The Undertones’ 2003 album ‘Get What You Need’ was well received, as have been many live shows, and ‘Dig Yourself Deep’ is even better. John O’Neill, always the band’s main songwriter, is at his best here, with many songs that hark back to the band’s early, goofy, love-sick material. Wisely, though, the likes of ‘Him Not Me’ and ‘Everything You Say Is Right’ are tales of more mature relationships and failed marriage, not teen angst. They still have the same affect though: fantastically joyous tunes with a bittersweet edge.
Shane Baldwin

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‘If it ain’t Stiff it ain’t worth a fuck!’ Just one of the enduring slogans from England’s greatest-ever independent record label STIFF, who introduced the UK to more legendary bands and songs than you can count.

Originally set up by Dave Robinson and Jake Riviera on a £400 loan from Dr Feelgood’s Lee Brilleaux in 1976, Stiff went on to sell millions of albums from the likes of The Damned, Elvis Costello, Madness, Ian Dury, Devo, Richard Hell and even Alvin Stardust! Renowned as predominantly a punk label, they released punk, new wave, ska, soul, mod, reggae and even calypso records. The label has recently been revived, without founder Dave Robinson, and has released new records by the likes of the Tranzistors and the no 1 album from The Enemy, so it seems Stiff’s days are not quite up yet. We spoke to Dave Robinson in his old rock ‘n’ roll stomping ground, Camden Town.

VLP: When you started Stiff Records you didn’t seem to have any rules, it seemed to be quite chaotic. Even the name Stiff – where did that come from?
“It came from the record company expression ‘To have a stiff’ which is to have a non-hit. So that’s really where it came from and then it lent itself to a lot of slogans thereafter.”

VLP: And of course the T-shirt still lives on, ‘If it ain’t stiff…’
“Yeah, the T-shirt is good. It’s been put out by a lot people.

VLP: You didn’t seem to have any rules when you started – you were just trying things out.
“Well, we were managers, we had groups, myself and Jake, when we started. We managed several groups and then we decided to make a label because we thought the major labels were crap – their idea of marketing was you would go out and tour forever and then maybe if the public discovered you the record label would get behind you, rather then the other way around, which is what we thought should happen. There was a great environment for promoting new music. Radio 1 at that time was actually prepared to put the oddest music on. 1 could be playing on the daytime playlist in a couple of weeks. There were five newspapers, weeklies, and so if you needed information or anything that was going on there was a great media format for the promotion of good music but the major record companies didn’t seem to have any attitude about it.”

VLP: You did The Stiff Tour, which was quite legendary. Who was on that and how did you do it?
“Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, Nick Lowe and Wreckless Eric, those were the people involved. Dave Edmunds was playing with Nick Lowe and Larry Wallace was playing with the Pink Fairies who played with Nick Lowe as well. It was a very diverse musical evening and the idea essentially was that the package tour was big in England. When you had a hit in the ‘60s you were automatically added to the package to go around the country. You might just have one number, or you might have two numbers, or if you have a couple of hits you might get twelve minutes. It’s a diverse way in taking part in quite a lot of music and the universities in particular loved it. It was a great format. The universities were also excellent because they had funding from the Labour Government, society subsidizing it to a degree, and so they were able to get some very good music. And of course, you could play at a university and your audience was spreading all over the country as soon as they went home. It was a good time. I think that’s really what it was about. The majors weren’t doing it, so we decided we could do it and show people we were up for it. ”

VLP: And how crazy were The Damned for you?
“They were great fun. They were pretty naughty but they were a lot of fun. They were humorous people and I found over the years that we signed a lot of bands that had a sense of humour in their sound. The ones that took themselves super-seriously and thought that everything they did was phenomenal were always very difficult to get along with, kind of the demons of the business. Always been a pain in the arse. We have people who play good music but also didn’t take themselves completely seriously so there was an era of humour and interest around the place. Comedy, which I always thinks makes the difficult work of making a living from music much easier.”

VLP: Besides breaking a lot of the early punk artists you signed Madness, and then you moved on to things like The Pogues.
“It’s quite a cross section of music really. Anyone who was good we signed. That was the essence of it all, the actual style was up to the individual, but as long as they could write good songs and we thought the general public would take to them we put them on.”

VLP: Fantastic. Out of all the records you released is there any you rate as your finest?
“Well I think one of the best records we ever put out was certainly ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ by Ian Dury. When you think of the sax solo on that record and a few other musical elements it is fairly unusual even now to have that.”

VLP: Are you involved with the resurrection of Stiff Records?
“No I have nothing to do with it. I’m promoting this box set (‘The Big Stiff Box Set’).”

VLP: What are you up to at the moment?
“I’m doing some work for a couple labels in the States, quite a bit of Caribbean music of all kinds. This box set, plus I’ve started a new record label myself called Download Records, and I’m starting to look around for things to go on that. So I’m still busy at night, out getting drunk.”

‘The Big Stiff Box Set’ is out now on Salvo.

The best singles from Stiff

THE DAMNED – New Rose (1976)
ELVIS COSTELLO – Watching The Detectives (1977)
WRECKLESS ERIC – Whole Wide World (1977)
LENE LOVICH – Lucky Number (1978)
IAN DURY & THE BLOCKHEADS – Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick (1978)
MADNESS – One Step Beyond (1979)
THE PLASMATICS – Butcher Baby (1980)
TENPOLE TUDOR – Swords Of A Thousand Men (1981)
KING KURT – Destination Zulu Land (1983)
THE POGUES – Dirty Old Town (1985)

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At least on paper this just does not work: An all black, all Rastafarian band playing a mixture of the most furious – and pioneering – hardcore punk blended with righteous dub and soulful reggae? Surely not. Yet almost thirty years ago on the crazy, go-going streets of Washington DC, just such a beast, named BAD BRAINS, first reared its dread upholstered head…

Fronted by HR (Paul Hudson to his mum) with brother Earl pounding skins, Dr. Know (aka Gary Miller) on guitar and a Mr. Darryl Aaron Jenifer on bass duties, the Bad Brains were, in short, awe inspiring. Initially formed – during the early 1970s – as a jazz-fusion outfit called Mind Power, these brothers in innovation were unsurprisingly shocked into action by those nascent punk pioneers on both sides of the Atlantic. Taking their moniker from an early Ramones track and peddling guitar-driven hardcore at previously unheard of velocities, a shocked US East Coast scene soon began to sit up and take notice. Speed wasn’t everything but, back then, it certainly helped and when coupled with the bass heavy trips into dub the quartet’s originality rightfully marked them out as genuine pioneers. Yet all wasn’t sweetness and light in their world. The problem? Only a select few could actually hear the Bad Brains play.

A legendary debut single ‘Pay To Cum’ (featuring what is, surely, the most energising guitar riff ever) was ultra-limited edition and even a self-titled debut album was issued on the cassette-only label Roir. Live excursions were almost exclusively limited to the East Coast of the USA (by now the band had relocated to New York City). Plus, a planned trip to the UK with a support slot to the Damned guaranteed was forcibly canned when the band were refused work permits.

Luckily, a chance to catch Bad Brains during this period – their finest hour, according to some – has recently arisen in the shape of the ‘Live At CBGB’s 1982’ DVD. Raw, fast and intense (and featuring some classic old school crowd slamming alongside nineteen choice musical cuts) it makes for fascinating viewing. Tensions on (and off) stage blatantly run sky-high and, taking this and various other factors into account, common consensus dictates it’s a minor miracle 1983’s second album, the majestic ‘Rock For Light’, ever saw the light of day. Yet despite the hassles, every fan of loud, brash, fast hardcore should be thankful that said collection did emerge. It’s stunning. Produced by Ric Ocasek of new wavers The Cars, it really rips with righteous fury. HR is on particularly spectacular form, his howling vocals almost literally hurled all over the warp speed guitar action. Twenty tracks in around forty minutes and then…whoosh, they’re gone and the listener is left jaw agape.

However, it was around this period that HR (London born, would you believe!) opted for the first of many spells as a solo artist. As a result, it was a four year wait until fans got to hear new, equally vital Bad Brains material. ‘I Against I’ was the album, a blast of scorching metalli-punk, with the by-now expected dub blasts thrown in, that further cemented their reputation. Then, regular as clockwork, off HR trundled once more, brother Earl in tow, for yet more solo work. It was around this era that I was lucky enough to catch the be-dreaded one live, rocking a poky yet atmospheric pub in Leeds. Abiding memories centre around the air carrying a heavy, heavy vibe and an equally heavy, heavy aroma of weed (far rarer than today’s
‘tolerated’ approach!), the man himself rocking like crazy and even encoring with a rather athletic back-flip. Go rastaman, go.

With the Hudsons away, the remaining Brains opted to recruit original Faith No More front man Chuck Moseley to fill HR’s shoes for touring duties until (are you spotting a developing pattern here?) the original line-up reunited for 1989’s ‘The
Quickness’ album. Thankfully, they made it to these shores in support of that particular collection and rocked – amongst other similarly glamorous venues – a sweaty, heaving Huddersfield Polytechnic.

Then HR departed (Trinidadian replacement Israel Joseph I sang on major label debut ‘Rise’), returned for 1995’s ‘God Of Love’ album prior to his most spectacular vanishing act yet, instigated by fist-fights with fellow band members and untimely drugs charges. And that was, apparently, that. Hardcore pioneers, the premier punk/dub crossover outfit and one hugely influential band vanished forever.

Well, until word got out that they were due to play the legendary, CBGB’s in New York. Touring followed and their highly anticipated eighth album ‘Build A Nation’ (produced by Beastie Boy, friend and long-time fan Adam Yauch) hit stores in June ’07 to positive critical and fan acclaim. In January the band announced they are working on a box set of 7” records. It seems you just can’t keep a bad brain down.

‘Build A Nation’ is out now on Megaforce Records.

Steve Lee


Gogol Bordello
The Slackers
Sonic Boom Six

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The return of…

Last year was quite a year for 70’s punk legends SHAM 69 who saw both the departure of frontman Jimmy Pursey (who has since set up Day 21), and the formation of a new line-up which released the return to form new album ‘Western Culture’. Vive Le Punk caught up with guitarist and surviving member Dave Parsons, and said "Tell us the Truth!"

VLP: How was 2007 for both yourself personally and for Sham 69 as a band?

“This has been a year of major change for both myself and Sham 69. At the end of 2006 Sham 69 parted company from Mr Pursey, there were many reasons for this, mainly that Jimmy would never play more than a handful of gigs a year while the rest of the band were desperate to get out and play; Jimmy would accept tours and dates from promoters and take large advance payments which went into his pocket only for him to cancel the tour days before we were due to start, it had also become like working in a dictatorship where no one was allowed to question Jimmies decisions. I’ve spent my life working with Jimmy (and therefore some of the best times were with him) but in the end I had to protect the reputation of Sham 69.”

VLP: What’s been the biggest high?

“The hardest and almost impossible task I had this year was trying to find a replacement for Jimmy, therefore my biggest high was completing the new line up with no compromises. I found Tim V who had been on the Punk seen since the beginning, he knows virtually all the main punk bands and his best man at his wedding was Mark P – the godfather of Punk from ATV and sniffing Glue fame, so he came highly recommended. Tim’s a cockney and has been accepted by the Sham audience worldwide. On bass is Rob Jefferson, a veritable powerhouse who compliments my style of playing perfectly, Ian Whitewood remains on drums, being the longest serving sham drummer at over twenty years of fine service. Just to have found the right people with the right chemistry, and to finally be out there playing again, has without doubt been my biggest high.”

VLP: What’s been the biggest low?

“The death of my father in law whilst I was away on tour, he was a great guy who lived his life the way he wanted right up to the end, not being able to say goodbye to him (I missed seeing my father before he died as I was in hospital myself having an operation) and not being there to give my partner the support she needed, as I missed going to the funeral as well. Also the death of one of my best friends, photographer and record sleeve designer Michael Beal, he worked with many bands including Johnny Thunders / The Only ones / Sham 69 / The Wanderers / John Cale / Pati Paladin and did the iconic cover for Eddie and the Hot Rods "Teenage Depression". A small tribute including some of his work can be seen on my web site”

VLP: What’s been the weirdest thing that has happened to you in 2007?

“I don’t know about the weirdest, but for me as a terrible flyer the most frightening thing was sitting in a plane at Heathrow on the run way for five hours while they sorted out a "technical problem", then when it was fixed, while we were taxiing out ready to take off one of the passengers started wildly shouting – there was fuel leaking out of the wing, you can just imagine my state of mind. Oh and the other thing was narrowly escaping death, just missing an out of control car which subsequently ended up a write off in a ditch, driven by a famous TV gardener who shall remain nameless.”

VLP: What’s the most rock n’ roll thing to happen to you guys in 2007?

“2007 has just been a mad year for us, after spending the last 20 years hardly playing at all, to suddenly find ourselves out on the road again is the most rock’n’roll thing, we’ve just spent the Summer playing major European festivals followed by a five week US tour taking in Canada and then a Japanese tour then back to the States for two shows on long beach then back home – then trying to get over triple jet lag, Sham was always primarily a live band and it was just criminal that we weren’t able to take the songs out to the people who wanted to hear them, I’m 48 now, but feel like 18 again – long live rock.”

VLP: How do you think 2007 has been for music? What are your top three albums of the year and why?

“I think it’s been a very interesting year, I’ve heard loads of great stuff from all different genres, I’ve got a terrible memory so don’t ask me what, I’ve managed to help out some local bands and have tried to give a helping hand to new up and coming bands – check out "Middle finger salute". As we’ve been doing little else this year other than working I don’t think I’ve bought anything new, I think we’re in for an interesting time next year what with bands like radio head etc deciding to give away there music for free, on one hand I’m for it and on others I’m not so keen, I think it’s good for established bands who can make money from touring and merchandising etc, but for newer bands I think it may create difficulties, does it mean the end of a music chart and the final end of the record company? It’s going to be an interesting year. Someone gave me a Miles Davis CD, I’ve never really been into Jazz before but this one just hit the spot.”

After a Christmas spent with his “partner and son in the Welsh mountains, doing a bit of walking and some mountain biking, just taking it easy” and taking a bit of time “to get my head together after a mad year”, 2008 looks like being every bit as mad as last year.

“We’ve just released our new album ‘Western Culture’ (Hollywood Hero, in the States) so we’ll be doing much of the same, Europe / UK, the states and Japan again and hopefully south America and Australia, we’ve got some new songs together, so time permitting we’ll be starting to demo some of those up as well. Incidentally, people are saying the new albums the best since the early days. We’ve got a reputation to repair and I think we’re getting there, people can see that we’re genuine, and if we say we’re going be somewhere then we will – this is what we do and we love it, see you out there somewhere. Check the sham web site out for up coming gig details –” 


VLP: Just how crazy were some of the Sham gigs in the old days?

“It was just a mad roller coaster ride, from the Roxy to places like the Glasgow Apollo and Reading, at the time it seemed to go on for ever but in retrospect it was a relatively short time. The gigs were always great, we had such a great audience, it wasn’t until later that we started having trouble from right wing groups who were only there for their own publicity.”

VLP: It seemed to happen pretty quick for you guys – next minute you were on Top of The Pops and one of the biggest bands in the UK?

“Yeah, it was a trip alright. I know this may sound arrogant, but it was no surprise to us that things happened so quickly, maybe we were naive but we all had total belief and faith in what we were doing, and in some ways this creates a bit of magic, when you have that focus, doors just seem to open. When young bands ask me for advice, the first thing I say to them is "the band has to come first, if there’s anyone in the band who isn’t a 100%, just forget it, keeping your day job just in case isn’t an option".”

VLP: Which album are you most proud of and why?

“That’s always a hard question to answer, I don’t think I have one favourite, there’s different bits of different albums I love and other bits that I know were never quite how I wanted them. At the moment I’d have to say the new album ‘Western Culture’ is my favourite, all the tracks have ended up the way I wanted, there’s also a lot of energy in there, I think it really is the closest to the first albums, and nearly all the songs translate well for live work. In the end I think I have favorite songs rather than favorite albums, songs like ‘If The Kids Are United’, ‘Tell Us The Truth’ and ‘Borstal Breakout’ are all timeless, and songs that I never tire of playing.”

VLP: You briefly played in the Wanderers with Stiv Bators-can you tell me about Stiv and how the band was?

“This was after Jimmy left Sham the second time, he’d already left once and came back – that was when he was going to be the new Johnny Rotten, unfortunately Steve (Jones) and Paul (Cook) couldn’t work with him, they said "he was harder to work with than Rotten". Anyway this time I decided enough was enough and called up Stiv in the States and asked him if he wanted to be the new singer, he said yes but wanted to call the band something different. We’d met Stiv many times before whilst touring the States, and he even got up to sing if the kids are united with us once. I enjoyed the Wanderers and had great fun recording the album "only lovers left alive" and two singles. We played a handful of gigs in the UK and did one US tour from which I returned to England and an isolation ward with Hepatitus. I was in hospital for over a month and sadly that was the end of the band. Stiv and Dave joined forces with Brian James and became Lords of the New Church, Rick joined what was then one of the first tribute bands, the Bootleg Beatles, and I formed Framed with ex-Girlschool bassist and vocalist Enid Williams. A small video (made up of stills) of the Wanderers can be seen on my Myspace site”

Eugene Big Cheese

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THE B-52’S


Those Ohio New Wavers are back, after years in the wilderness. But were the B52’s really any good, or just new wave chancers. Here’s some facts –you decide!

1) They formed in 1976 after a drunken night in a Chinese restaurant, and played their first gig in 1977 at their friends’ Valentines Day party.

2) Some models of the Amiga computer had the name of a B-52’s song written on their motherboard. For example, the Amiga 500 had “B52/ROCK LOBSTER” written on it.

3) They were one of John Lennon’s favourite bands after the release of their self-titled debut album in 1979.

4) There is a ‘Wizard of Oz’ style musical about The B-52’s, entitled ‘Planet Claire’. It is the story of a waitress working at the Love Shack who is transported to Planet Topaz where she meets aliens surprisingly similar to her friends back home.

5) They appeared as guest stars in an episode of ‘The Simpsons’ in season 11. Homer is challenging everyone to a duel with his glove, and so begins a montage to the tune of ‘Glove Slap’ (a parody of ‘Love Shack’).

6) They performed the title song on the 1994 live-action Flintstones movie as the B.C.-52’s.

7) They have been involved in a large number of collaborations, individually and as a band, with artists such as members of Devo, REM, The Ramones, Foo Fighters and Iggy Pop.

8) Vocalist Fred Schneider went on to do solo work, including an album with super-producer Steve Albini (who has worked with The Pixies and Nirvana, among many others).

9) In 1992 they released their most overtly political album, ‘Good Stuff’. Although they agreed they were primarily a band for entertainment, they thought it was good to get people ‘thinking and dancing’ at the same time.

10) In 1985, guitarist Ricky Wilson died. Initially there were mixed reports stating he died of natural causes or cancer, however later it emerged he had succumbed to AIDS. The band then campaigned about this, amongst other causes, in later years.

11) The band’s name comes from a particular beehive hairdo that is wrapped around, instead of teased, with an open “hole” in the top resembling the nose cone of the airplane of the same name. During their early years, wigs of that style were often worn by the band’s female singers Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson.

12) Drag artist RuPaul appeared in the music videos for ‘Love Shack’ and ‘Good Stuff’.

13) The song ‘Love Shack’ was inspired by a cabin around Athens, Georgia, complete with tin roof, where the band conceived ‘Rock Lobster’, a single from their first album. B-52’s singer Kate Pierson lived in the cabin in the 1970s, and the cabin existed until 2004, when it burned down in a fire.

14) Singer Kate Pierson claims that a psychic told her that their ‘Cosmic Thing’ album’s third single, ‘Roam’, would be a hit. It went to number 17 in the UK singles chart in May 1990.

15) The band’s first single ‘Rock Lobster’ is part of the The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list.

16) In the early 1980s, Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson and Debbie Harry collaborated with the Ramones on the song ‘Chop Suey’.

17) After a hiatus between 1994 and 1998, The B-52’s release a new album in April. ‘Funplex’ will be their first record of original material since 1992’s ‘Good Stuff’, and will contain 11 songs recorded in 2006 and 2007.

‘Funplex’ is out April 14th on EMI.


Here’s ten B-52’s songs to listen to in your love shack…

1. Love Shack
2. Rock Lobster
3. Planet Claire
4. (Meet The) Flintstones (as The BC-52’s)
5. Roam
6. Good Stuff
7. Channel Z
8. Give Me Back My Man
9. Channel Z
10. Tell It Like It T-I-Is

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The out of control regional fuzz bomb explosion that lasted months but has been revered for decades.

The actual time that THE SONICS were at the height of their game can be measured in months and on a largely regional basis. How did this quintet from the Pacific Northwest of America become revered for decades, be named as inspirational by a never ending list of rock luminaries ever since, and become one of the most eagerly awaited reunion gigs that London has seen in years? The simple answer is the same as for most other rock legends who exploded onto the music scene and then disappeared as soon as they had arrived but left a few minutes of timeless genius. They were innovative, they came up with something new, something dangerous and something so inspirational though largely overlooked at the time, not only by their contemporaries but the band themselves.

The Sonics story starts in Tacoma, Washington around 1963 named after the sonic booms overheard in that area of aircraft manufacture, by the time they were signed to local indie label Etiquette in 1964 The Sonics were Jerry Roslie on vocals, Larry Parypa on lead guitar, Andy Parypa on bass, Rob Lind on sax and Bob Bennett on drums –described so eloquently as the ‘Skin Driver’ on the original sleeve notes for their debut album ‘Here are the Sonics’. Before embarking on a long player The Sonics came up with one of their defining moments at the very first attempt. ‘The Witch’ backed with a cover of Little Richard’s ‘Keep A Knockin’ was recorded and released as a 45rpm single in November 1964 (Etiquette 11). Despite early resistance from radio stations, some who refused point blank to play the disc and others who only did after a self-imposed curfew, the record became the best selling in the history of North West rock.

The band were quickly in the studio again where they recorded their second slab of genius that was to ensure their immortality in the history of rock – ‘Psycho’ replaced ‘Keep a Knockin’ on the second pressing of ‘The Witch’ and soon became a bit local hit in its own right eventually being released as single as an A side backed with ‘Keep A Knockin’’ All the while The Sonics were touring hard and gaining a huge reputation as a live band. This wide experience as a killer live act but little as recording artists was the main reason behind their distinctive raw distorted sound that made them stand head and shoulders above the rest at that time. Of course their questionable at the time choice of lyrics, chaotic arrangements and Jerry Roslie’s vicious vocal delivery already provided a base for what was to follow. The finishing touch to the legend that is their debut album was the band’s desire to recreate their live sound. The result was the primitive recording equipment used in the studio hired to record in (maybe only two tracks and just one mic to pick up the entire drum sound) was pushed to their limits by already ‘modified’ amps turned up to distortion level. The exasperated studio engineers had little choice but to let the guys lay down what was no doubt viewed by all present at the time, band excluded, as a fuzzed drenched cacophony of noise, but what a noise it was. The resulting album was a mixture of covers and self-penned numbers. While the latter included the manic singles as the now classics ‘Strychnine’ and ‘Boss Hoss’ contained the dark, almost taboo lyrics that made the band so dangerous they managed to bring out the dark side in their choice of covers. Listening to their cover of Rufus Thomas’s ‘Walking The Dog’ it’s hard not to imagine the worse when the heroine ‘broke the needle but she couldn’t sew’ while the sinister and wild theme prevails throughout the resulting ‘Here Are The Sonics’

The album ensured the band were busier than ever in the remainder of 1965 with their live work building up a bigger than ever reputation as well as enabling the guys to live out their dream and reason for forming a band, of ‘drinking lots of beer and scoring plenty of chicks’ and that they did, in style.

In February 1966 The Sonics were back wrecking the studio to record their follow-up album ‘Boom’, this session produced arguably an even wilder, rawer sound than their debut. Partly due to the legendary tearing down of the egg boxes that were doubling up as acoustic tiles (told you the studio was low-tech) to get a liver sound. The material one the album was once again a mixture of covers done in their own inimitable style including a brutal version of ‘Louie Louie’ and dark originals ‘Cinderella’, ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’ and ‘He’s Waiting’ Boom wasn’t a hit in terms of national chart success but did ensure that The Sonics were increasingly busy live and in demand as an opening band for the likes of The Beach Boys, The Kinks and Jan and Dean along with plenty of other luminaries throughout 1966.

1966 was the beginning of the end for the Sonics, they left Etiquette and with it their freedom of studio annihilation and expression, highlighted when they signed to Jerden Records who had been responsible for the Kingsmen’s sanitised hit version of ‘Louie Louie’ back in 1963. The Sonics were packed off into a car and sent to Hollywood’s Gold Star Studio to record their third album, the trouble was that the five guys in that car had grown apart, as Andy Parypa remembered in 1994:

“It was all written in the car on the way down, I mean if you can call it written. I mean that was the end of the Sonics. We were going through emotions at that time and people’s hearts were not in it, people’s minds were not in it. We weren’t thin with each other and I don’t, we really wanted to even to be, I personally didn’t even wanted to be in the same car with the rest of them, you know and I’m sure that the others felt the same and it was reflected in the way that Roslie approached the whole project. It was a complete zero, I’m embarrassed that it’s out on tape or on wax or whatever or I would be embarrassed if it mattered”.

The ironic thing was Jerden entitled the album ‘Introducing The Sonics’ but in reality it was far too late to introduce them, they had been and gone. The Sonics that had recorded ‘The Witch’ no longer existed, at least in mentality and enthusiasm, to a man describing ‘Introducing The Sonics’ as ‘complete garbage’ Unsurprisingly the album met with limited success, the band began to disintegrate before finally folding in 1967.

That would normally have been the end except that the power of those few inspirational shambolic sessions were captured for ever, albeit on a handful of mics and two tracks, on wax and have been revered as classic landmarks in the history of Rock n Roll. Described by some as the first real punk recordings a full decade before the genre is widely regarded as being born. Whatever your opinion, there is no questioning that in those short years The Sonics managed to transfer the full ball-busting excitement of a band who were doing it for kicks, bucking the trends, and letting rip with the full exuberant unhinged abandon that sets the never to be forgotten although short-lived as a unit from the also-rans, three minutes of genius and spontaneity (several times in their case) that will live forever as long as there are people that appreciate Rock N Roll.

Reforming briefly in 1972, The Sonics reunited again for a festival in Brooklyn, New York last year. Now it’s the turn of the UK to experience their poweful songs live for the first time, playing London’s Kentish Town Forum on 21st and 23rd March. Vive Le Punk can’t wait!

Simon Nott

THE SONICS PLAY AT SPEEDFEST 6 IN EINDHOVEN, THE NETHERLANDS ON SAT. 10th DEC. 2012 (alongside the likes of Danko Jones, Peter Pan Speedrock, Dwarves, The Reverend Horton Heat, Discharge and more).


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