THE RATS (Formerly-Boomtown) played this years Rebellion festival.

Here’s 15 Things You Should (or maybe shouldn’t) Know About…THE BOOMTOWN RATS

1) The Boomtown Rats were a legendary Irish New Wave group with Live Aid mastermind Bob Geldof on vocals.
2) The band, featuring original guitarist Garry Roberts and original drummer Simon Crowe, will be reuniting and are confirmed to play this year’s Rebellion Festival in Blackpool on August 8th followed by more tour dates. Geldof will not be participating…
3) The band originally started out as a rhythm n’ blues pub rock band before switching to New Wave years later
4) Their single ‘Rat Trap’, released in 1978, is widely considered to be the first New Wave hit to reach number one on the charts

5) ‘Rat Trap’ was also the first rock song by an Irish band to hit number one in the UK
6) The name ‘Boomtown Rats’ comes from a gang featured in legendary singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie’s autobiography, Bound for Glory
7) One of the band’s most famous songs, ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’, was written in response to a school shooting in California carried out by Brenda Ann Spencer in 1979. When asked why she shot up her school, Spencer replied: ‘I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.’

8) ‘Banana Republic’ was released in 1980 and became the band’s last top 10 hit. It was written in response to the band not being allowed to play in their home country of Ireland due to fear of riots breaking out in the crowd

9) On the band’s 1981 album, ‘Mondo Bongo’ – which featured the hit ‘Banana Republic’ – the band began to experiment with more drum and keyboard based music, marking a distinct departure from their early guitar-driven sound
10) In 1985 the band released their final album, ‘In the Long Grass’ and the band performed at Geldof’s Live Aid – a mammoth global music festival that raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia
11) The band made their final performance in 1986 at Self Aid, a concert to benefit poverty-stricken people of Ireland. Geldof also assumed lead vocal duties with a reformed Thin Lizzy at the festival, which was held 4 months after lead singer Phil Lynott passed away
12) Before recently reuniting with Garry Roberts, drummer Simon Crowe was playing in the Celtic instrumental band Jiggerypipery
13) Roger Waters was sceptical in casting Bob Geldof as Pink in the 1982 movie Pink Floyd: The Wall. Apparently, he was unsure if Geldof could sing the vocals
14) In 2005 the band’s albums were all remastered, and two DVDs of past live performances were released along with a ‘Best-Of’ CD compilation

15) The newest incarnation of the band will feature Roberts, Crowe, Peter Barton of The Animals on bass and Darren Beale of The Electric Shepherds on lead guitar

‘The Best of The Boomtown Rats’ is out now on Mercury/Universal.
The Rats play The Rebellion Festival.

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Exploding out of East London and influencing the evolution of street punk to date, COCK SPARRER are back with their first album in ten years, produced by Lars from Rancid, to show the young pups just how it’s done.

Cock Sparrer were formed way back in 1972, four East London school friends who had known each other since the age of about 11, with a penchant for West Ham United and the street-wise boogie of the Small Faces. Colin McFaull (vocals), Mick Beaufoy (guitar), Steve Burgess (bass) and Steve Bruce (drums), were eventually joined by Burgess’s cousin Garrie Lammin on rhythm guitar.
Gigs at the fabled Bridgehouse in Canning Town (owned by Terry Murphy, father of Gary Murphy, star of TV show ‘London’s Burning’) gave the fledgling band some experience of live shows, albeit often to one man and his proverbial dog, and thanks to another useful contact, a chap called Archie who was a doorman at the even more fabled Marquee, even graced the West End playing numerous support slots.

By now Cock Sparrer were supplementing their Faces covers with self-penned material, gritty-but-tuneful tales of life on the streets and football terraces, and building a following of like-minded hooligans. Famously, none other a personage than Malcolm McLaren got wind of this, and characteristically tried to get in on the act. He went along to the rehearsal room above The Roding pub in East Ham to check the band out, offered them a management deal and the chance to support his protégés the Sex Pistols at a strip club in Soho (presumably El Paradiso) but committed the ultimate faux pas by failing to get the beers in. Naturally, the boys turned him down, and who can blame them, the bounder.

However, when the punk explosion came, Sparrer, despite never really dressing the part, were ideal for the new movement: genuine street kids with attitude and great songs. A punk feeding-frenzy began among the record labels, either truly enthused by it, or, more often, just scared of missing out on the next big thing, and one of the latter was Decca. Despite adding the likes of Slaughter And The Dogs and Adam And The Ants to its roster, frankly, Decca never had a clue about punk, but that realization would only come later.
At first it all went swimmingly. At the label’s studio in West Hampstead the band were given Thin Lizzy producer Nick Tauber to work with, and, dream come true, a support slot on a Small Faces tour. Decca released two Sparrer singles, the all-time street-punk classic ‘Runnin’ Riot’ in July 1977, and a cover of the Rolling Stones’ ‘We Love You’ in November of the same year, but sadly both failed to chart. The band had also recorded an album, and to make matters worse, for some reason Decca elected to only release it in Spain the following year. After Lammin left they sold their PA (which wasn’t actually theirs anyway) and tried their luck in the US, after which little was heard from the band for a while.

Sparrer’s resurrection came when Sounds journalist Garry Bushell included their track ‘Sunday Stripper’ on his compilation ‘Oi! – The Album’ in November 1980, alongside the likes of Slaughter And The Dogs, Angelic Upstarts, Cockney Rejects, 4-Skins, Peter And The Test Tube Babies and The Exploited. This endearing mixture of the old school and ‘New Breed’ brought Sparrer to the attention of a new audience, even if ‘Sunday Stripper’ was in fact a curiously low-key chugger, albeit with saucy lyrics.

A new single, ‘England Belongs To Me’ (originally ‘London Belongs To Me’) was released by Carrere in 1982, as was, at last, the first official Cock Sparrer album ‘Shock Troops’, recorded at White House studios in Chelsea, and what a belter it was. The band continued for a couple of years, with varying line-ups, and released the ‘Runnin’ Riot In ‘84’ album on Syndicate, but then went back into hibernation for a while.

By 1992 Steve Bruce was running the Stick Of Rock pub, putting on regular gigs, including several by an outfit called The Elite, whose guitarist was one Daryl Smith, son of the man who signed Sparrer to Decca all those years ago! Surprisingly, perhaps, rather than take a terrible revenge on the boy, as the original members of the band were planning to reform the band for a show at the Astoria, they instead recruited him as second guitarist. It was a huge success, with street punk enthusiasts travelling from all over the globe to attend.
Enthused, the band signed to German label Bitzcore, releasing the ‘Guilty As Charged’ album in 1994, accompanied by a full European tour, and another album, entitled ‘Two Monkeys’, followed in 1997.

Over the years, Cock Sparrer’s reputation and fan base has grown in a way that must be mystifying to anyone only aware of their early Decca years, and now they headline festivals over contemporaries who actually managed to trouble the charts. Why? Well, my guess is that it’s all down to the songs. Never the most frenetic of acts, Sparrer always delivered a tune you could shuffle the boots to, and a chorus you could bellow drunkenly to. In short, they’re a lot of fun and completely genuine.

The band released their new studio album mixed by Lars Frederiksen, ‘Here We Stand’, out on Captain Oi! now. The boys seem to be pretty pleased with it. “We are all thrilled with the result,” says Steve Bruce: “It’s our first studio album for ten years and the best thing we have done since ‘Shock Troops’. Writing, rehearsing and recording it was just like the old days, there were strops, sulks, arguments, walk outs, laughs, and a fair amount of drinking. All that was missing was a good old punch up! But I guess we’re getting too old for that.”

And Daryl Smith concurs: “I’ve always thought that on the recent albums the songs were great but the production let the side down. My goal was to get the band in a good studio and record in a way that could get the best out of the songs. I’m really happy that we’ve achieved that and got the album that we’ve always wanted. Lars told me that he can’t stop playing it and in his opinion it’s better than ‘Shock Troops’, which although a bit controversial, is a great compliment.”

‘Here We Stand’ is out now on Captain Oi!

Shane Baldwin


‘Shock Troops’ 1982

‘Running Riot In ‘84’ 1984

‘True Grit’ 1987

‘Guilty As Charged’ 1994

‘Two Monkeys’ 1997

‘Here We Stand’ 2007


Download the following…

‘England Belongs To Me’ (‘Shock Troops’)
‘Argy Bargy’ (‘Shock Troops’)
‘Watch Your Back’ (‘Shock Troops’)
‘Running Riot’ (‘True Grit’)
‘Chip On My Shoulder’ (‘True Grit’)
‘Spirit Of ‘76’ (‘Here We Stand’)

Dropkick Murphys
The Business

The London quintet’s sixth album ‘Here We Stand’ shows that they’ve still got balls, they’ve still got tunes and they’re sounding better than ever! We caught up with the geezers to talk about how they’ve already laid waste to Vienna this year and now they’ve set their sights on Blackpool again…

So how was the Vienna Rebellion festival for Cock Sparrer?

“It was a cracking weekend. Met up with a load of mates, old and new and generally had a great time. We hadn’t played outdoors before so were a bit unsure as to what to expect, wondering if we could generate the same atmosphere, but the crowd really went for it. There was no need to worry that there was no roof – the crowd were singing their hearts out and were as loud as ever. Great bands, great atmosphere and a superb venue – the new banner looked really great (the bloke who nicked our last one at Blackpool 2006 did us a favour).”

You guys are pretty much the biggest old school punk act in the world right now. How did that happen?

“Ain’t got a clue. Think we’ve just kept on doing what we’ve always done. We consciously try to make sure everyone has a good time at the gigs and we worked hard on “Here We Stand” to produce an album that we would be proud of and one that everyone could associate with Cock Sparrer. We think we achieved that. Having the largest number of backing vocalists of any band on the circuit must help – only limited by the number of punters that turn up.”

Is there any difference playing in Europe as opposed to the US?

“Don’t think so, same crazy bastards worldwide.”

You seem to be incredibly popular at Blackpool’s Rebellion festival. Is it a pretty special show for you?
“The last one we did in 2006 was sold out and had a great atmosphere. Blackpool is special but so was Vienna recently and Wolverhampton for the album launch. It’s the crowd that makes any particular gig a special show not the gig itself. There are loads of good punk gigs up and down the country – from other festivals to DIY gigs in backrooms of pubs (which some of us still manage to get to!) but Rebellion is definitely the social event of the year, having a few beers with old mates (checking who’s still alive), hearing some old favourites and there’s always loads of new talent coming through.”

Any surprises planned for Rebellion 2008?

“Playing sober (won’t happen), different running order (won’t happen), loads of new songs (won’t happen), getting to bed before 06.00 (definitely won’t happen).”

What is your favourite Cocksparrer song to play?

COLIN: “‘England Belongs To Me’.”

MICKEY: “The first notes of ‘Riot Squad’ are my favourite – that initial animal roar tells me it’s going to be another great night and makes what little hair I have stand on end.”

STEVE BRUCE: “‘Because You’re Young’ – great song, everyone sings it, it’s a doddle for me to play and won’t induce a heart attack.”

DARYL: “‘England Belongs to Me’ for the crowd response and ‘Because You’re Young’ for the song.”

And finally, what three things should fans bring to a Sparrer show?
“A sense of humour, strong lungs and the capacity to consume a vast amount of alcohol.”

Cock Sparrer headline the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool August 7th – 10th.

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Becoming an icon for his early melding of blues and rock ‘n’ roll, the late legend BO DIDDLEY rocked the world with his driving hits and trademark rectangular guitar. Vive Le Punk salutes ‘The Originator’.

Born in McComb, Mississippi in 1928, Ellas McDaniel moved to Chicago with his foster parents he was seven. Having taken violin lessons as a child, it wasn’t until he saw John Lee Hooker play that he picked up the guitar. When not working as a carpenter or mechanic (and later in the ‘70s as a New Mexico Deputy Sheriff!), he played on street corners with friends as a band called the Hipsters (and later called the Langley Avenue Jive Cats). In 1951 he got a regular slot on the bill at Chicago’s 708 Club, alongside artists such as John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. In late ’54, he got together a harmonica player, bassist and drummer and recorded demos of the true classics ‘I’m A Man’ and ‘Bo Diddley’. Re-recording the songs at Chess Studios, ‘Bo Diddley’ was released in March 1955 and became an R&B hit single.

McDaniel decided to use the stage name ‘Bo Diddley’ and stories of where the name came from have passed into legend. Some people claim it was his nickname as a teenage Golden Gloves boxer, others say it comes from the name of a one-string instrument called a diddley bow. Bo Diddley claims that the name originally belonged to a singer friend of his adoptive mother.

Known as a true guitar hero, he penned driving rhythms and created what was known as the ‘Bo Diddley beat’, a rumba-like beat. His guitar was the rectangular-bodied Gretsch, nicknamed ‘The Twang Machine’, which he fashioned himself around ’58 and became his most iconic guitar. It is said that he created a guitar of this shape so it was small and wouldn’t get in the way while he was jumping around onstage during his energetic live shows.

Bo Diddley was banned from ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1955 when instead of playing an agreed cover on the show, he played ‘Bo Diddley’ instead. This infuriated Sullivan who banned him from appearing again and said Diddley “wouldn’t last six months”. He couldn’t have been more wrong, Diddley had hits through the late ‘50s and ‘60s, including ‘Pretty Thing’ (1956), ‘Say Man’ (1959) and ‘You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover’. With hit albums, including ‘Bo Diddley’ (1958), ‘Have Guitar, Will Travel’ (1960) and ‘Bo Diddley is a Gunslinger’ (1960) and added to his growing legend.

There is no disputing that Bo Diddley was one of the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll. In 1972 he played with The Grateful Dead in New York and in 1979 he performed as a special guest for both The Clash and The Rolling Stones. Bo Diddley’s songs have been covered by everyone from The Clash (‘Mona’ during their ‘London Calling’ sessions) to Aerosmith (‘Road Runner’ on their ‘Honkin’ on Bobo’ covers album), The Jesus and Mary Chain (‘Who Do You Love’) and Eric Clapton (‘Before You Accuse Me’) to New York Dolls and The Lurkers (who both covered ‘Pills’). The song ‘Bad to the Bone’ is a re-working of Diddley’s ‘I’m A Man’ and Muddy Waters’ ‘Mannish Boy’ was a direct response to the song ‘I’m A Man’ by his younger rival. In 1964, Diddley and Chuck Berry recorded a 4-track release called ‘Two Great Guitars’, which contained instrumental, spontaneous jams.

Having been acknowledged with numerous accolades, Bo Diddley’s huge effect on music is clear. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987), as well as many more over the years, such as the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame and the Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame. He received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation (1996) and the Grammys (1998) and the track ‘Bo Diddley’ was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as “a recording of lasting qualitative or historical significance” in 1997. In 2003, US Representative John Conyers paid tribute to Diddley in the United States House of Representatives, saying he was “one of the true pioneers of rock and roll, who has influenced generations.”

Performing at various charity events and fundraisers well into his later years and still touring, Bo Diddley suffered a stroke and a heart attack last year. While recovering from these, he attended an unveiling of a plaque devoted to him on the National Blues Trail at his birthplace of McComb last November, which would be the last time he performed publicly. Bo Diddley died from heart failure on June 2nd, aged 79. His funeral was typically energetic, featuring a gospel band playing his music and a floral tribute in the shape of his trademark guitar. Tom Petty, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard all sent flowers.

Sending shockwaves through the music world in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Bo Diddley and ‘The Twang Machine’ changed blues and rock ‘n’ roll forever. To many he’ll always be the man. RIP Bo Diddley.

Ian Chaddock


This beat that Bo Diddley created has seeped through rock ‘n’ roll history. Here’s a list of just some of the songs that use the distinctive beat.

BUDDY HOLLY ‘Not Fade Away’
ELVIS PRESLEY ‘His Latest Flame’
U2 ‘Desire’
THE SMITHS ‘How Soon is Now?’
ACE FREHLEY ‘New York Groove’
DAVID BOWIE ‘Panic in Detroit’
THE POLICE ‘Deathwish’
THE SUPREMES ‘When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes’
GUNS ‘N’ ROSES ‘Mr. Brownstone’

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Big Cheese looks at THE CLASH‘s singles collection and peels back some of the layers surrounding punk rock’s most vital band….

The Clash’s singles signposted a generation. They may never have been proper big hits, the band’s refusal to play the ‘Top Of The Pops’ game prevented most of them from even being in the top 20 but each one was a gem. They carried the consciousness of punk rock in each brilliant salvo, each one a missive from the rock ‘n’ roll frontline telling the band’s adventurous journey from punk rock machine gun guitars to New York rap-influenced salvos and all with a staccato heartfelt beat.

Bursting onto the scene in mid ’76 they were the sound of punk positive- if the Pistols did the necessary and brutal nihilistic thing scouring the bland pop world of the mid seventies the Clash set about with the rebuilding.

Each single was an education in itself: searing heartfelt lyrics from Joe Strummer coupled with Mick Jones’s genius guitar and arrangement skills. The rhythm section of Paul Simonon’s dub-influenced grooves and mostly Topper Headon’s killer drums were crucial as well.

The early singles that punctuated punk’s heyday sound deceptively simple, but are complex little beasts rushing round with an amphetamine-fed fury and sharp intelligence that has set the template for just what a punk rock song. Even 30 years later you can hear their influence all over bands from Rancid to Green Day to the Libertines and many more- a pretty bizarre catchall of guitar gunslingers who owe something to The Clash who are still perhaps the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band that ever stalked the earth. The recently released ‘Singles Box Set’ has all the singles, b-sides and remixes, a potted history of a band who never once rested on their laurels, who mixed and matched every rebel music there was into a huge sprawling collection of music that still make you want to get up off your arse and create. How perfect is that?

As opening salvos go this is pretty much perfect. ‘White Riot’ is the Clash at their most 1-2-3-4. This song sums up 1977-staccato guitars played fast, sped up by the momentous Ramones gig at the Roundhouse in 1976 that made all the nascent British punk bands get up to speed. The Clash’s original garage band sound of souped-up sixties hipster rock ‘n’ roll went through a metamorphosis after Da Brudders’ sonic salvo. Much misunderstood, the song details the Notting Hill Riots that were chanced upon by Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon during the long hot summer of 1976 and asks why couldn’t the white man fight back as well.

1977 was in full revolutionary swing and the Clash are the heroes of the counterculture, so what does the record label do? It puts out a single without telling the band. The Clash are furious- suddenly they realise that signing to CBS is not going to be the way they envisaged it. ‘Remote Control’ is a fine song but hardly the incendiary broadside required for the summer of hate. While The Pistols were releasing ‘God Save The Queen’ the Clash were being made fools of by the limp-wristed meddlers of the record label. It was going to be worth it though…

The band’s reaction to the ‘Remote Control’ debacle was fantastic, for many this is the finest punk single, a song about being trapped by your record label, a song of defiance and one of the first Clash songs that detailed their own battles. ‘Complete Control’ has it all: it’s anthemic, it’s heartfelt, it’s got a fantastic guitar solo and an amazing outro where Joe Strummer’s ad-libs sound like a man who has completely lost it as he rants and raves like a madman. It was sort of produced by the inventor of dub Lee Scratch Perry but you can’t really tell-it’s a nice link though between the vanguard of punk and the mastermind behind the genius Jamaican music.

In which the Clash go overboard on their own mythology and somehow it works. Great rock ‘n’ roll songs should celebrate the band as a gang and few bands have looked a much like a gang of street smarts as The Clash. Now widely recognised as the number one punk band after the Pistols’ messy auto destruction, The Clash swagger like all great rock ‘n’ roll bands should with a zigzag riff half-inched from The Who’s ‘I Can’t Explain’. It’s another song of defiance from The Clash- a subject matter instantly understood by the put-upon punk rock generation.


Perhaps the closest The Clash came to a signature tune and the song that always had the whole crowd singing along at Joe Strummer’s gigs right up to his heartbreaking death, ‘White Man…’ distilled everything that was perfect in the Clash vision. Many talked about reggae but The Clash were the first punk rock band to cross its intoxicating rhythms with their own spiel. On their debut album they covered Junior Marvin’s ‘Police And Thieves’, stripping the song down for a six-minute workout that was perfect in its simplicity. With ‘(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais’ they went one further and wrote their own roots rock radical punky reggae party. Strummer writes about the alienation he felt at a reggae gig at the Hammersmith Palais that he went to with Clash mate and key player Don Letts in 1977 and also how he felt let down by the lack of revolutionary fervour coming from the stage. The song then addresses the punk generation and warns the revolutionaries that ‘the British army is waiting out there’. It’s a brilliant contradictory lyric that captures the confused and dangerous politics of the time, a time when revolution was in the air and a generation believed that if they listened to the records hard enough then the massed ranks of Doc Marten-ed youth could take the world. The Clash made music that made you feel like that.

You had to be there to believe how militant we all felt. Walking down the streets dressed as punks was like asking for a civil war of your own, there was plenty of kick offs – Britain in the late seventies was a violent place – a place of lairy drunks battling punks, the inherent violence was driven right through the state. The song addressed the military, the British violence and the counterculture clashes. Based on an older Irish folk song, from around 1802, called ‘Johnny We Hardly Knew You’, which was almost forgotten until the American Civil War of the mid 1800’s when it was resurrected (and still sung in America) as ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again’. The Clash took the old folk song and turned it into a punk anthem, subtly making the point that punk was also the only genuine English folk music that could be heard.

The first sign of the new Clash was this cover of Sonny Curtis of the Crickets garage band staple that was a hit for Bobby Fuller in 1966, hitting the top of the charts the week that Fuller himself was found murdered. The song is a wry take on hassle with the cops – The Clash had run-ins with the law but it was mainly for minor on-the-road stuff like nicking pillows from hotel rooms and minor drug busts. But out there on the British streets the thuggish old guard of cops were making their presence felt and many a young punk could identify with this song’s brilliant chorus.

The initial punk scene had burned out in spiral of bad drugs and nihilism. 1979 was a scary year – apocalypse and right wing governments were the order of the day. The Clash returned to the scene looking for an escape route from punk’s studded straightjacket. Suited and quaffed-up looking like punk rock Mafiosi, it was the coolest look they ever came up with and one that the surviving band members return to this day. Apocalyptic fervour ruled the day, there was a darkness on the edge of town and people genuinely felt that there was going to be a nuclear war. The Clash caught all that paranoia in this, the title track of their upcoming double album. Hinting at the darker territories of the newly-emerged Joy Division, the song is a rumble of dark thunder, a brilliant evocation of cold war paranoia over a slashing guitar motif. An absolute classic.

Now really daring to break the mould, The Clash made this extraordinary record, a huge billowing cloud of dope-fuelled melodrama that unrolled a romantic spliff-driven drama about a bankrobber. The Clash never sounded so romantic as the song sprawls out and tells its atmospheric Bonnie and Clyde on the streets of Brixton tale. Recorded in Manchester surrounded by a bunch of 13 year old kids who would grow up to be the Stone Roses, ‘Bankrobber’ was a surprisingly huge hit and underlined The Clash’s potential escape route from the punk style that they had patented.


Further adventures in dub from the first single to be released from the band’s wholly ambitious triple album set, ‘Sandinista!’ The song may have been a laidback groove, another big sprawling epic like ‘Bankrobber’ but its succinct lyrics looked at the call up, warning of taking heed of the world situation and how it may come home to roost, the band’s anti-war left wing politics were still firmly in place as the cold war started to heat up.

Another release from ‘Sandinista!’, an odd choice as well, for the first time since ‘Remote Control’ the Clash had a single that sounded better as a key album track, a song that celebrated the plethora of small labels that had sprung up in the white heat environment of DIY punk, ‘Hitsville UK’ was one of the least known Clash singles.


If punk tore up the rulebook for rock ‘n’ roll, rap was doing the same kind of thing on the streets of the USA. Always hip to the ghetto soundtrack, The Clash were instantly attracted to the new rebel sound literally pouring off the streets of New York City. ‘The Magnificent Seven’ is perhaps the first attempt by a white rock band to harness the new rhythms, the new attack, coming off the streets and although they never get the credit for it, The Clash were first and foremost in introducing this new culture to many millions of ears.


At one time the Clash planned to have their own radio station. The radio then as now was at war with the white heat creatives, and typically boring. Punk rock was not getting a look in and with wild-eyed abandon Joe promised us a Clash funded radio station that would try and redress the balance. Of course it never came to fruition, but that was the beauty of the Clash- they dared to dream. This song is all that’s left from the grand idea. It’s another brilliant document of the band going native in New York City in the early eighties – another rap/punk crossover way before anyone else ever did it.

Joe’s new mohawk meant business: The Clash had been out of the picture for some time. Music had slumped into a morass of New Romantic tomfoolery, you either went with the flow or fought back. And the Clash only knew one way. The Clash’s new look was combat fatigues and big fuck-off boots, this was The Clash at war with everything, with everybody. The Clash were back snarling and angrier than ever and this song, one of the great Clash songs, was the manifesto. The Clash had been wandering: ‘Sandinista!’ was a sprawling fog of different sounds and styles, sounds and styles they brilliantly executed but many yearned for a return to the short sharp shock of the classic Clash. I can still pinpoint the minute when I first heard ‘Know Your Rights’, this was the Clash stripped down and back in action, a call to arms, it was the closest they every got to releasing their political manifesto but "with guitars" as Strummer sang. From Mick’s clanking guitar chords in the intro to the spaghetti western guitar break- this is one of the great Clash singles, the electric buzz of excitement was everywhere and after the triple album set of ‘Sandinista!’ the news that The Clash were doing a stripped down single album, ‘Combat Rock’ made many feel that the band were going back to their roots.

Topper Headon was the best drummer of his generation. He made the complicated sound simple- just listen to those records again, those drum rolls are blissful – Topper also wrote the odd song, including this, the Clash’s biggest ever hit. He played all the instruments as well. Joe dashed off a lyric about the religious and cultural tension in the Middle East and the Clash had their only top ten hit in America ready to roll.

Mick’s rock ‘n’ roll anthem sounded more like the Rolling Stones than The Clash, but then what’s the point of the Clash if they can’t play classic rock ‘n’ roll as well as hip hop and punk rock. The riff was actually pinched from one of Mick’s pre-Clash favourites, the Sharks, the swaggering stub toed riff that the song rides in on. This was the Clash at their most stadium friendly, a jukebox classic with accompanying video footage from the Shea Stadium support with the Who that shows the Westway wonders taking their rock ‘n’ roll to the masses in USA. The song is still a staple on American classic radio and still cuts through after all these years. Proof that the Clash were more than able to cut a populist rabble-rousing anthem if they felt like it.

The Clash’s epitaph. After the worldwide success of the ‘Combat Rock’ album Mick had been thrown out and the Clash had toured as an expanded five piece. The last album was a shoddy affair, mainly because of the bizarre production – an attempt to coerce Joe’s rudimentary punk anthems into some sort of Malcolm Maclaren style hip ‘Duck Rock’ hip hop extravaganza by people who didn’t know what they were doing. Joe is barely there and Paul is not there at all. It’s a shame as live bootlegs point to the songs’ capacity for great rowdiness and there are some brilliant lyrical twists and turns. They may lack Mick’s smart touch but there was still a good band lurking in the last line-up of the Clash. But despite all this, one song managed to survive the studio mauling. The Clash’s last single is Joe’s heartfelt paean to England, a sentimental and sad song of a country sold to the dogs – an anthem for the dispossessed and the broken that came out in the middle of the miners’ strike as the last great bastion of working class pride in the UK was crushed by Thatcher’s droogs. ‘This Is England’ is a lament to a tough time, a bruised yet patriotic song. It works perfectly and is an oddly suitable sign-off for the band as they staggered to a halt in 1985.

‘The Clash: Singles Box Set’ is out now on Sony/BMG

John Robb

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Vive Le Punk takes a quick butchers at the craziest sideburns in rock ‘n’ roll history! If you have any more to add to this glorious gallery email us with a pic and info at

ALVIN STARDUST – With sidies like this no wonder he found God!

CRAZY CAVAN – The hairy king of the Teddy Boys.

ELVIS PRESLEY – The sidies go hand in hand with the hit songs and the burgers.

BRIAN SETZER – The rockabilly legend’s face creepers are as wild as Stray Cats.

LINK WRAY – The rock ‘n’ heroes’ sidies rumbled down his face all his life.

NODDY HOLDER – With these beasts the glamtastic grandad has always Slade his sidie rivals.

JESSE HECTOR – The former Hammersmith Gorilla was indeed pretty hairy! Almighty face fuzz.


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So its true, Poly Styrene is putting on her X-RAY SPEX again. Here we have a quick look at their history.



X-Ray Spex formed in London in 1976 with the original line up of Poly Styrene on vocals, Jak Airport on guitars, Paul Dean on bass, Paul B.P. on drums and Lora Logic on saxophone.

Poly Styrene found members by placing adverts in musical papers NME and Melody Maker.

The band existed between 1976 and 1979, releasing five singles (‘Oh Bondage, Up Yours’, ‘Identity’, ‘The Day The World Turned Day-Glo’, ‘Germ Free Adolescents’ and ‘Highly Inflammable’) and one album ‘Germ Free Adolescents’.

Their music, although punk-based, was less centred on nihilism and anger and more around colourful wit and mockery.

The first gig they played was at The Roxy in Covent Garden after just six rehearsals. It was energetic and messy – as can be heard on the ‘Live At The Roxy’ album.

Single ‘Oh Bondage, Up Yours’, which was released by Virgin Records in 1977, has often been recognised as their best known song despite not hitting the charts.

Their lyrics often discussed rampant commercialism in an increasingly sterile and artificial world.

Poly Styrene refused to be seen as a sex symbol, stating that “If anyone tried to make me one I’d shave my head tomorrow”

Poly Styrene left the band in 1979 to release a solo album ‘Translucence’ before joining the Hare Krishna movement alongside Lora Logic who left the band in 1977 aged just 16.

The band reformed twice, once in 1991 sans-Poly playing a sell-out gig at the Brixton Academy and again in 1995 with Poly back in the frame.

Reforming without Poly was seen as a mistake by Lora Logic, who said “You can’t really have it without Poly”.

The second reformation led to the release of their second and last album, ‘Conscious Consumer’

The album was a commercial failure, mostly down to the lack of tour and promotion due to Poly being run over by a fire engine and breaking her pelvis.

Jak Airport died through cancer in 2004 after working for the BBC’s Corporate and Public Relations department.

The band is set to reform once again in September at the Roundhouse in Camden. The reunion will include original members Poly Styrene and bassist Paul Dean.

Lora’s mother was born in Finland, where Lora is now known as "The Godmother of Punk".

Touring and promotional work for ‘Conscious Consumer’ was cut short when Poly was run over by a fire engine in central London, luckily escaping with only a fractured pelvis.


X-RAY SPEX play Londons Roundhouse on Sept 6th. Look out for a full interview with Polystyrene on Vivelepunk soon.



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THE SAINTS, are of course, one of the greatest bands in the history of punk. Late last year the original line up reformed in Australia, but meanwhile singer Chris Bailey is happily living in Amsterdam and touring with the new Saints line up. He released the last Saints album Imperious Delirium on Cadiz in 2006. Hugh Gulland got ‘stranded’ with the man!

"We must have been like hillbillies," recounts Saints frontman Chris Bailey of the Oz-rock legends’ first encounter with a record label "We didn’t even know what a record company was!"

Oblivious to the outside punk scene, these four teenage malcontents in the backwater of mid-70s Brisbane channelled their urban ennui into a ferocious set of amped-up R&B. Punk in all but name, the Saints had the sneer and the songs to match, although their refusal to conform to the scene ensured it would be some years before the rest of the world would catch up with them.

Chris Bailey remains an uncompromising artist to this day. Speaking from his current base in Amsterdam, he outlines the Saints’ transition from Brisbane no-marks to major players on the punk rock stage.

"When we were young, there was a record shop in town, that had lots of American blues music and rock ‘n’ roll stuff, and we were exposed to a lot of music that wasn’t mainstream. Because Oz music in the seventies was pretty fucking dull! And there was no music scene to speak of, so we grew up in some kind of Oz isolation. And lots of people say, ‘punk rock’ and all that, but we had no clue! No idea! We discovered blues music pretty early on, and R&B – that kind of merged into what we were writing, we’d kind of edit things down and learn as we went, but the whole ethos of the band was very much R&B, which I think is maybe a little bit different to what actually became punky rock, which was kind of a fashion statement for them, and music second, and for us the other way around."

Having established a local fanbase, The Saints came to EMI’s attention through pressing up their own single. Was there any precedent for a band doing that?

"I don’t know if it was a notion in rock ‘n’ roll, maybe in the fifties… I think it was probably – and this is a great thing – naivety. We didn’t know what we were doing, so we did the right thing purely accidentally. The only reason EMI picked us up, that coincidence, 1976 was happening in London, and a couple of reviewers gave us really over-the-top reviews! UK rags were hammering the single and then someone in Manchester Square said to someone in EMI Sydney ‘Get these boys!’ and they sent a couple of very shiny guys and they took us into the studio and bought us drinks, and it’s not quite the Beverley Hillbillies, but it was close!"

The resultant album, ‘I’m Stranded’, was a storming tour-de-force; overlooked by many at the time, ‘Stranded’ has since become widely recognised as one of punk rock’s landmarks. Bailey regards the long delay in public recognition with detached amusement. "We went into the Hall of Fame a couple of years ago in Oz, and Ivor, the drummer from the old days, made a brilliant speech, along the lines of ‘Look, it’s really nice you’re all hanging around giving us these presents; but, perhaps if some of you had’ve been here 25 years ago, it might have all been different!’ Which is very cheeky, but to the point!"

Essential listening: I’m Stranded LP (EMI). Also highly recommended is the recent Saints box set, All Times Through Paradise, also through EMI.

Hugh Gulland


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He was the original guitarist for Sting’s punk rock constabulary the Police and went on to play with trani rocker Jayne County. As he prepares to return to the UK to support the Police at Hyde Park with his band The Flying Padovanis, HENRY PADOVANI looks back over his rather interesting career.

Why did you decide to leave the Police just as they were breaking it?
"Well, the fact is that we were not breaking it and I didn’t leave just like that. When you have a guy like Sting in the band, even then, you want to have something new and exciting everyday to present him with. And in ’77, the police were not cutting it. We were not getting any gigs, mainly due to the fact that the punks didn’t look at us as one of their bands and would not really come to our shows. They were not interested."

Padovani (far right) in The Police

"Sting couldn’t place any of his songs in the repertoire as Stewart was driving the band and didn’t think people would be interested, fair enough and so after about 6 months together the morale was not the best. When andy came, it didn’t help for the gigs and for the audience, and it also changed the balance in the band, andy pushing Sting to write and bring more material while Stewart and I were trying to keep the band in the punk scene. That is it, really."

"Naturally, we started to argue more and more and the band was on the verge of splitting up. We tried being a four piece, but it didn’t work. The best was for them to continue as a trio, ok, not a trio that would try to break the ‘ punk scene’ but a trio that had a future doing a music that would draw from the punk scene but make it commercial. Thanks to Andy helping Sting bringing his songs to Stewart, that is what happened. But it didn’t happen in England at first, but in America. America was curious about the English punk scene, especially when rumor had it that punk bands couldn’t play. The Police had the idea to go to the US and present themselves as a punk band. A bright idea, especially with their brand new blond hairstyles but also with their great playing abilities. America loved them. Suddenly Americans thought themselves as hip and punks. But that was about a year after I had left the band…"

Their first single ‘Fallout’ was quite abit more punk rock than their later stuff, did you write it? How did it come about?

"When I met stewart, he wanted to form a punk band, having left curved air. We started to look for a bass player. He had about a dozen songs that he had already written and that we used to practise with his brother ian on bass and his girfriend Sonja Kristina on vocals, until sting arrived of course. Fallout was one of them."

And then you joined up with Jane County?

"The first time I had seen wayne county and the electric chairs, it was at Dingwalls and I had loved them. we went on tour together and I immediately got on well with the guitar player, greg van cook, an incredible player, à la jeff beck, yardbirds era. After I had left the police, I went back to Corsica for a short holiday. When I came back, I called greg as a friend to go out to clubs. He told me they were looking for a guitar player. I went to meet the band, we played one afternoon and they asked me to join right there and then."

Padovani in The Electric Chairs

What were the shows at the Roxy like?

"Incredible place where we saw the best punk bands in town, night after night. Packed everytime. People were cool and we knew that place was ours. One has to remember that those punks were building something bigger than them. All for one and one for all."

"Those punks were more like hippies really, and everyone was welcome. I remember the first day I went there, I had just arrived from France in England and sported a beard and long hair. The damned were on, that night. Nobody bothered me. at the contrary. I embraced that scene on the night and the next day, I went to cut my hair and beard. I wanted to be one of them."

Henry with Jayne County and the Electric Chairs

Why reform the Flying Padovanis now?

"Why not? We are the best at what we do. We were great then and I think we are better now. Apart from chris, the drummer, who has kept playing in the meantime, with thunders and joe strummer and glen matlock, paul slack and I have stopped playing for 25 years. But, somehow, we are even better now that we were then. Don’t ask me why or how, it is like that. we have it in our blood. Nobody does the music we do and I think that until we see a band that does it, we shall have to be on stage because the music we play and the way we play is absolutely essential to rock and roll. That is the way it is.we are a real band. much better than the sum of each of us."

Padovani in the reformed Flying Padovanis

You have quite a pedigree in the band-can you tell us about the band members?

"Chris Musto, as I said, played with Johnny Thunders, Joe Strummer and Glen Matlock. Paul Sack was with the UK Subs. But having said all this, their best band is the flying padovanis. They know that! And so do I."

Your sound has been liked to Link Ray and Dick Dale? Would that be right?

"Link Wray I would agree. We love link wray and we do some of his numbers on stage, things like jack the ripper, or ace of spades.. link wray has to be essential to rock music. All the guitar players I have met, have once in their life played rumble.. I believe Bob Dylan used to open his shows with rumble.. link wray is definitely an inspiration. Just cool."

"The other influence would be the ventures. It is Wayne County that gave me a record by the ventures, who got me instantly hooked to instrumental guitar music."

"Dick Dale is now well known because of the Tarantino movies. Thank you Quentin. But, I believe we never were into Dick Dale at all. It was the ventures and Link Wray."

"As of today, we have decided to drop any of the melodic numbers we used to do. It is more basic and hypnotic rock and roll. No effects. Just a guitar plugged into an amp, a bass and a drum kit. That is all."

Henry Padovani today

You are playing with the Police at Hyde Park -its a massive show. Are you looking forward to it?

"Absolutely. We are as a band and I am personally. Sting wanted us on that show and that is great of him. When I joined them at the Stade de France, in front of 160,000 people, I told them: I am going to play as a Flying Padovani. They all laughed. After the show, sting told he totally loved the way I approached the song. That is, I told him, the flying padovani way!"

"I know all the real police fans will be at the front of the stage and I know, because I receive a lot of mails, that they want to see my band. it will also be the very last police show in England. We will be doing our very best that night. We will be very hard to follow…"

How do you get on with Sting and Stuart Copeland these days?

"I get on very well. In fact, after I quit playing in bands, I used to see sting a lot, doing normal things like going to watch football, or tennis, or going to clubs, just hanging out as friends, in paris, in italy or wherever we might be. we probably exchange a mail everyweek."

"When I made a record 2 years ago, and we needed a sort of reggae rock drums for a song, I asked stewart if he wanted to play on it. He said yes and wondered whether I had asked sting, which I hadn’t.. I called sting and he asked me whether I had asked stewart.. i realised they would hardly talk to each other. I told them, hey guys why don’t we settle all this in a studio and I, yes I, henry will be the boss. We did and we recorded a song called welcome home, about environment. God knows if it helped but, 6 months later, the police reformed…"

"When they were to rehearse the show in italy, sting asked me to come down there and stay with them. I did and we had a great time. I knew that they would be doing great. They sounded amazing."

Thanks a lot for your time Henry.

Eugene Big Cheese magazine/


Fri 6th – 100 Club, supporting Pretty Things
Weds 25th – Eel Pie Club, Cabbage Patch, Twickenham
Thurs 26th – The Amersham, New Cross
Sat 28th – Ace Cafe
Sun 29th – Hyde Park (w/ The Police)

25th – 27th Fuji Festival, Japan

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The Briefs men get retro with a colourful collision of new wave, ‘70s punk, mod-revival and power pop that is THE CUTE LEPERS.

When punk rockers The Briefs decided to go on hiatus last year, vocalist/guitarist Steve E. Nix didn’t let it slow him down. Instead he formed The Cute Lepers with fellow Briefs man Stevie Kicks (bass), Zache Out (guitar), Josh Blisters (drums), Bent Rewd III, Analisa Leper and Miss Meredith (all backing vocals, tambourine and handclaps) to take the Briefs template and inject it with a more power pop sound.

Filled with female backing vocals and percussion, their pop sensibilities shine through in their unashamedly retro tunes. The Seattle posse are influenced by bands such as new wave pioneers The Cars, ‘70s London mod revival band The Chords, ‘70s American rockers The Jags and rock ‘n’ roll guitar hero Johnny Thunders. Adding all these sounds to the humorous Briefs classic punk-loving attitude has resulted in hugely fun, short, sugary blasts such as ‘Nervous Habits’, ‘Terminal Boredom’ and ‘It’s Summertime, Baby’.

With their debut full-length hitting shops back in April, its title reflects their love of all things retro punk rock – ‘Can’t Stand Modern Music’. If you feel the same then put on your dancing shoes and join the Lepers. Vive Le Punk caught up with singer/guitarist Steve E. Nix…

Hi Steve E, Eugene here from Vive Le Punk.

“Hi Eugene, nice to hear from you!”

So what has happened to the Briefs Steve E?

“Well, the Briefs have simply reached a point where there are no plans. I’m more interested in spending my time writing Cute Lepers songs and playing with this band, so that’s pretty much where things are at. Y’know… you’ve gotta spend your time doing what’s fulfilling and all that.”

And the Cute Lepers are part Australian/part American?

“No, we’re part Canadian though! I think that question refers to some untrue internet information. But hey, one of us is part Latino and one is part Asian and I’m adopted, so we’re kind of exotic… sadly no Australians though. Maybe once we get some horn players.”

You seem to be going for that classic power pop sound?

“Yeah, among other things. First wave punk, power pop, mod revival, the Rolling Stones. Hooks with a bite.”

You guys seem to love all the UK ‘70s type stuff. Got any faves?

“The Carpettes, The Boys, The Chords, The Lambrettas, The Starjets, Fast Cars, 999, Buzzcocks, Nipple Erectors, Damned, Elvis Costello… there’s tons.”

Your playing with Johnny Moped at the 100 club – are you a fan?

“Yep! The Nipple Erectors have recently confirmed that they’ll be performing as well. It’ll be Shane MacGowan and Shanne Bradly from the original line-up. We’re thrilled!”

And what can fans expect from the 100 club show from you and the Cute Lepers?

“It’s our first time overseas, so I think we’ll really be making an effort to put on an energetic show and play our songs well. We usually have a blast playing and we’re looking forward to playing the legendary 100 Club of course! You can expect abrasive guitars, three back-up singers smashing tambourines together and singing harmonies, a few excellent covers we’ve pulled from the UK mod/power pop closet, and you can expect a star struck group of Lepers… we’re playing with the fucking Nipple Erectors!”

The Cute Lepers play Londons 100 Club next Tuesday May 6th with Johnny Moped band and the Nipple Erectors.

‘Can’t Stand Modern Music’ is out now on Damaged Goods.

Eugene Big Cheese



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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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With extensive reissues of KILLING JOKE’s mid-eighties catalogue all lined up, unforeseen developments suddenly cast a shadow. A reflective Jaz Coleman talks to Vive Le Punk and looks back on the Joke’s Raven years.

“It’s hit us all hard. It hit me harder than my father dying.”

A painful subject hangs in the air, and it would be futile to try to avoid it with Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman at this particular point in time. In town to publicize the reissue of the band’s mid-eighties catalogue, Jaz maintains a philosophical front, and yet is clearly still reeling at recent events; a fortnight before our scheduled meeting, Joke bassist Paul Raven – whose original spell with the band these albums represent – died in his sleep of a heart attack. While the Joke have always managed to soldier on through adversity, it’s been a devastating two weeks in the band’s circle…

“He was the youngest out of us lot”, Jaz contemplates. “And, you know… too many years together. It’s been a hard two weeks, I’ll give you that.”

VLP: Had there been any sign his health was bad?

"I knew he’d had heart flutters for a few years, he used to tell me about them, he couldn’t lay flat on a bed because he’d get heart palpitations, so he used to sleep sitting up. You know, musicians don’t live as long as other people. Not always.”

VLP: The earliest of the reissues, ‘Fire Dances’ (1983), was the first of Raven’s albums with the band you’d kind of split up at a point the previous year, with you going to Iceland.

“Yeah, it was a very upbeat album compared to the spaces that we’d been in before, it lifted people a bit more. It was good to do that after the Iceland thing was a very misunderstood event, I just wanted a lifestyle change from all the rocking and rolling, I wanted to study more than anything else. Study classical music, study sacred geometry, and antiquities – just break out of the corny, clichéd rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. And then of course, we got back together, and so we do another album. At this stage in our career we were surrounded by a very famous East London gang! And they were just wonderful to us! We had our own Rolls Royce, free houses everywhere, we got meet Princess Diana and all these wonderful people, I met Jimmy Page and it’s the year it was all kicking off, we were doing vast quantities of cocaine! And generally enjoying life and having great gigs, it was a good time, a fresh start, we’d all moved to Geneva and it’s kind of ironic he died in Geneva because that was one of the happiest times of our life.”

VLP: That was around the time of this album then?

“Yeah, sure, we were doing ‘Fire Dances’, we all moved to Geneva, and that’s why it’s so funny he passed away in Geneva, and comforting in another way as well. I traced down everything he did in the last two days and last few hours of his life, to every detail, he’d gone back to all our old haunts Paul had, yeah, it was curious, but it was ‘good death’, if there can be such a thing. Whereas, everyone was grieving at his funeral, I want to turn it to celebrating a life, Paul accomplished a lot and kept going. But yeah, it hit us hard, and seeing all these old photographs and everything, you know.”

VLP: Did you already know Raven before he joined?

“Sure, he was good friends with Youth, they were seeing the same girl together! We’ve got this photograph of Youth and Paul with their arms around the same girl. And they were born on the same day which is the uncanny thing! And so it was a very easy transition. Youth always had much more of a recognizable sound than Paul, but Paul live would be great, he would give so much energy! They were different bass players and both with their virtues. So ‘83, yeah, we had a Rolls Royce Carmargue spray painted with Killing Joke, we were doing cocaine in the toilets of airports and generally having a loutish time, surrounded by, like, thugs! (laughs).”

VLP: ‘Fire Dances’ sounds far more celebratory than the previous albums.

“Yeah, we wanted to have something that lifted up our spirits, it was a very tribal album and some of ‘Dances’ is really about ancestor worship and well Paul died, his funeral was on All Souls Day or Halloween, it’s traditionally a day when you say prayers for the dear deceased, or when the souls of the dead come back to the world of the living to advise them on how to survive the cold winter months that lie ahead. And it was a good day, Paul, I could feel his conscious presence with us, it was almost tangible. So these are the things that have obviously been dominating my thoughts the last couple of weeks.”

VLP: ‘Harlequin’ is an interesting song. You’ve always tended to use this jester figure as a graphic device from the start.

“Always, absolutely, we use the triple snake symbol, which is actually like the headdress of the joker, it represents the Hebrew letter shin, and there’s another meaning to this, we use this triple serpent because in Killing Joke it takes three of us to make a decision for the band. We’ve always kept that tradition, it’s always me and Geordie, but we’ve always needed just one another person and that’s a band, otherwise it’s a fucking duo! So that’s the kind of symbolism. And the whole idea of the jester is very dear to my heart. In the beginning it was the futility of everything. The Killing Joke was the idea, the realisation, that you’re in the trenches, they’re going to blow the whistle, and you’re going to get your head shot off, and you’re being manipulated. This kind of feeling, and then it transformed to the kind of laughter that overcomes all fear, and it became a much more positive entity in my head. And the jester is a figure that I find myself fascinated with. You know, the hero dies, but the fool survives. And I’ve always liked this fool, he’s the only person who could legitimately hit the king. And I’ve always identified with this figure, because I find I can walk into places full of bankers or very wealthy people, or I can go to the poorest places in the world and be completely at home. So, I feel free. And I think freedom is it. I like to feel free, if I were in the mood to tonight, I could be on a plane tomorrow anywhere I want in the world. I’ve never gone for the big house thing, but I have gone for freedom. If I want to fly somewhere tomorrow, I’ll just go and do it, and I can do it."

"I’ve always gone for this, rather than a mortgage and a big car and all this shit, I don’t buy it! I’ve done all the tests, I’ve walked through London with 50 grand in my pocket, ‘you can have anything you want Jaz, what do you want mate?’, you know, I end up buying a book, maybe a cigar, take myself to dinner, I don’t know what to do after that. I think people will be shocked at how simple I live. I live real simple, I insist my partner, who’s my ex-wife, I live with my ex-wife now. Do you get your money back, no! But we live, just use a mattress, we own very little, I don’t like owning a lot of stuff, I don’t have a great number of possessions, I’m not this way inclined. (Only) books, I’ve got like 15,000 books in lockups around the world.”

VLP: So where are you now, mostly Prague?

“Mostly Prague at the moment, but there’s no normal years when you can say you’ll be here there or anywhere, I did twelve years in New Zealand but I’ve always come back for European summers, so I’ve got 2 summers a year. I’ve had no winters for 12 years, and that lifts your spirits! I’m gonna go and stay in Costa Rica for a couple of months, the good thing about writing for an orchestra is that you can do it anywhere. And so I just take all my bits and pieces, fuck off to a hotel and get it done. Like I say, I feel freer than most people. I do not like the direction the world’s going in and I can see myself as time passes on isolating myself, which was always my intention.”

VLP: Because you’re on an Island part of the time?

“That’s right, it’s 100km off the coast of New Zealand and it’s stunningly beautiful. 400 people and one policeman. But you know, I’m a driven person, I can’t be stuck out there all the time. I like travelling less and less, but it’s a fact of my life that I’m always travelling, I can’t foresee a day when I stop doing concerts or making music, I intend to go non-stop until death!”

VLP: The following record ‘Night Time brought chart hits, and your profile went way up – was there pressure with that?

“There was, it was probably the worst thing that happened to us at that time. ‘Give us another ‘Love Like Blood,’ you can do what you like for the rest of the album’, there was a massive pressure on us and of course we didn’t. I don’t think them putting pressure on us helped our creativity flourish, it was a pretty horrible time, I don’t remember that as some of our best, we had great times, but… it was a horrible market, ghastly market forces."

VLP: And of course you had your Eighties theme, while it’s a decade that’s culturally remembered as very trivial…

"Yeah, it was amazing we survived through the eighties, but we got through it! I prefer life now in a funny way. I mean, my life’s better now than it was then, especially in ‘85. There were loads of concerts, we’d been touring for so long but yeah, it did change, there was pressure to write something that was going to work on the radio, and this didn’t have a good effect on us.”

VLP: There’s a militaristic sort of feel to this album…

"It was a funny album because Walker and myself were the only people there to write it, the other two weren’t around us, so we basically got everything together ourselves and then showed the other two what we were doing in the studio and it was… my God, that session we were at Hansa Ton studios, Geordie caused over a million pounds worth of damage in one minute! He got this fire extinguisher, blasted me playing the grand piano with it, then went running down the corridors to the control room, blasted all the equipment in the control room with this fire extinguisher. And it had aluminium in the powder, this destroyed absolutely everything, over a million pounds worth of damage in one minute! He was just pissed up. Next morning I heard this noise and stuck my head out the door, Raven and Big Paul were there and Geordie was being carted off by the police! (laughs)”

VLP: Hansa’s in Berlin?

“Berlin, yeah. Bowie was in that very studio. Geordie got out of it, the insurance and bla bla. Amazing really. He’d go disappearing for fucking five days at a time on that session,
Geordie, and turn up again. It was an insane session, yeah.”

VLP: So pressure and chart success was getting to you?

“Oh everything, yeah. I remember, we were living over Hansa Ton studios, there was all sorts of people were there at the time, I’ll tell you who was there at the same time, Depeche Mode, and it was hysterical watching them, it was kind of like a school class the way they were putting down their music, had all these kind of mentors and people looking over them, they had to put down their synthesizers, I’ve never seen anything like it. Who else was there at the time, Neubauten, quite a few people. It was a great studio."

VLP: And it still would have been East/West Germany at that time…

“We would take the metro into Friedrichstrasse and pick up caviar and cheap vodka, and come back into the west and do it all, and I remember on that session, my girlfriend suddenly turned up, and I’m sitting with one of our roadies and my girlfriend in my room, and a couple of cleaning ladies are cleaning my room, suddenly there’s this fucking rattling sound, one of the cleaning ladies comes marching up with this fucking earring, and gives it to me, ‘Oh Patsy, here’s your earring’ ‘It’s not mine, Jaz!’ and there’s this deathly silence. And the roadie goes, ‘listen love, you’d have something to worry about if a load of golf clubs fell out’, and we started laughing and then I managed to get a good excuse in and wheedle my way out of it. ‘She was a friend of mine, she was gay, she split up with her girlfriend she just crashed the night, don’t give me any shit!’ Lie, lie, then deny! (laughs)”

“Yeah, there was a lot of violence. Me and Geordie had a really big fight there, full fists, then Big Paul bashed my girlfriend, split her nose apart. She was fucking drinking too much, and he was, you know, just stupid shit, it all got out of hand. Yeah, that’s when we started to drink! (laughs)”

VLP: I remember this weird story at the time, that Raven had this doppelganger?

“You know what? Absolutely true! This guy was claiming to be Paul Raven! Going all over Europe, getting into clubs in London, all sorts of things. And Raven was going mad by it. He had a nasty bike accident, the guy! Absolutely true, I remember this! We’ve had so fucking many homing loonies, I can’t tell you mate! I’ve had them come to my island from all over the world. Like real psycho homing loonies. That’s why I never communicate with anyone by letter or any other way. I do when I’m doing a gig, we’re really open people in Killing Joke, but generally there’s people, you don’t know what they’re really like.”

“Let me give you one example. I can give you ten! Straight off! Right, a woman that followed me for fourteen years and put her kid into the same school as my daughter and gave my kid loads of presents, real fucking psychos I’ve had! One wasn’t so long ago, this guy, was a Killing Joke fan, comes backstage at one of the Italian gigs, seems nice enough, but Geordie goes: ‘You, I don’t like you. Don’t know what it is about you, I don’t like you!’ Very astute and very intuitive, Geordie. And this guy turns up in New Zealand, ‘I’ve got relatives over here’, all this, seems nice enough, comes to see my concerts with the orchestra and he’s a music student himself. So I’m going out to my island, and I said to him, look you can look after my flat in Auckland and feed my cats for me. And we had a bit of a get together for some friends before I left for the island, and this guy comes, all my friends are there, and suddenly goes, ‘You’re trying to take over my mind!’ ‘Beg your pardon?’ ‘You want to sacrifice me in a black magic ritual!’ (laughs) I went, ‘Would you like to step outside?’ Man, you’ve got no idea! I took him to a priest, this guy, and said ‘You need help’, the priest said ‘Don’t send me one like that again!’”

VLP: You’re known for having occult interests, maybe that attracts them?

“Well I do but I don’t suppose it’s the way people think. Occult just means hidden, and I just don’t take an orthodox view of Christianity or the religions, I look at the science of religion or the common denominators, I’ve never been a devil worshipper or anything like this! Yes, I have done ceremonies, and rituals, but it’s more romantic-based, but people get ideas, the press or whatever! I consider myself a deeply religious man!

VLP: Yeah, because you said you were a lay preacher?

“That’s right. Do you know what, I have another career most people don’t know about. I’m with people when they’re dying, I bury people, I even marry people occasionally. I do all those things when I go back to the island, into my parish. I only did it for a practical joke, I studied theology, but became a priest really for a laugh, because I don’t really believe in priests!”

“There’s much to be said for Islam that says ‘It’s just between you and your god’. I take a magical view on the universe. Baudelaire talks about the forest of symbols, people can be symbols, but I view the universe in a magical context. For example, women and men, male and female, they can’t be described as like a plug socket on the wall! You don’t say about your wife that you fertilized her and now she’s going to reproduce! I’m just demonstrating that there’s a need for the poetic or the magical within our soul and I always try to enhance this. All a ritual is to me is enhancing the experience of this existence, and become more aware of it. When I do a great gig, to have the ability to say to yourself, ‘this is a great moment in my life’. Very few people have that ability, it’s an ecstatic experience, and it’s always in retrospect isn’t it with most people, but there’s always been death around me, people dying and I don’t take life for granted, you know, I try to love every day of my life and I’ll always keep the Joke marching on! We play so much better than we ever used to! It just gets better now! Much better, and I still enjoy it!”

VLP: You’ve said before a good performance is one you can hardly remember?

“Yeah, I remember going on stage and I remember coming off but in between it’s just like an oil painting. I don’t really remember any one moment, you get fleeting impressions, there’s so much exertion. I seek a trance-like state and I get that most of the time. I don’t remember a fucking thing! It comes through you, the whole thing comes through you, you become one with the soul of the crowd and the people. I love it!”

VLP: So that’s like a religious experience for you?

“It is, and I’ll tell you another strange thing about Killing Joke gigs, after I gig I feel the deepest sense of peace! Most people wouldn’t understand, but it really cleans your soul. There was a time when I was questioning what Killing Joke was doing because of my religious convictions, but then you look at the new testament, it says ‘a good fruit can not come from a bad tree, and a bad tree cannot bear a good fruit’, and I felt this about Killing Joke, it’s not like a lot of other bands. I find a lot of other bands morally bankrupt, there’s no concept of beauty, it’s all designed, the American punk scene or alternative scene, to shock. ‘I can say nastier things than you, I can show people jumping out of buildings’ I just didn’t get it, it wasn’t innate, it wasn’t coming from anywhere, it wasn’t a genuine frustration, it was just shock value. I hated that!”

VLP: On to 1986’s ‘Brighter Than A Thousand Suns’, it’s a comparatively polished recording.

“Yes, it was, almost too polished. The vocals are up too high in the mix and the guitars aren’t loud enough, and that’s the way I feel about it, although I deeply love the music on that album, ‘Twilight of the Mortals’ I think is a wonderful track, and ‘Rubicon’, ‘Chessboards’, great tracks. I love that album lyrically as well, it’s just got a mix on it that’s kind of representative of the times that we were surrounded by, ‘We need to put the vocals up more’, that’s what I mean about record company pressure and stuff like that. I still love that record, but I wouldn’t do it that way now. In fact, we might remix it, later on.”

VLP: Was it around this time you first went to New Zealand?

“That’s right, I started going to New Zealand from 1985 onwards.”

VLP: You expressed a lot of interest at the time in self-sustaining communities and so on.

“I’ve done that, we’ve got to develop it. I’d just got married in 1985, to a New Zealander, Mr and Mrs Passport! I had two children with her as well! I remember the year 1986, I couldn’t find any music I liked, and my favourite work of art, I walked around this place called the White Pearl Water Gardens, which was set up by a couple in a peninsular in New Zealand, and they’d changed this 90 acres so it was the most fertile place in the whole of new Zealand, and it was a complete experience walking through this place by these two horticulturalists. This profoundly moved me, and then I read The Magus by John Fowles, and I became incredibly, well, entertained the idea of becoming territorial, and having my own domain became suddenly important on that year, that was the sum total of my inspiration that year. I’m glad we’re not there now!”

VLP: The final album of these reissues, 1988’s ‘Outside The Gate’, is possibly your most controversial record.

“It’s not a Killing Joke album, it was a side project. It was never Killing Joke, it was never intended to be, it was an experiment on something else and it can’t really be categorised as Killing Joke as such.”

VLP: The Pauls weren’t involved?

“No, but I kind of used it as a way to get rid of one of the Pauls! I used the situation, I wasn’t getting on with Ferguson. Though we’re on great terms now, times change.”

VLP: I heard he worked as an antique restorer now?

“He works on, not just antiques, great works of art, restoration. But, yeah, I saw him last week, first time in 22 years. It was good actually, good to see him! We’ve all changed, to a degree. Now in a fight I could beat any one of them up! (laughs)

VLP: Hope it doesn’t come to that!

“No, I don’t think so!”

VLP: Outside The Gate’ is quite an eastern-influenced album.

“Yeah, you can trace my musical identity crisis way back to ‘The Pandies Are Coming’ on the third album. I knew there was a part of me that just didn’t belong in the United Kingdom or Europe for that matter, and it was the eastern part of my genes. I had a choice to either go to New Delhi to study oriental music, or Cairo. And I chose Cairo to embrace and study Arabic music, and that was really the best decision I made. It was just before I did the thing with Anne Dudley (‘Songs From The Victorious City’, 1990), went to Cairo and had good contacts there etc, it became a big part of my life. Arabic music, I love it. Thing about it, there’s 12 notes in an octive, 13 if you consider the full octave, but then with Arabic quarter tones, that gives you 26 notes. But then a great master says, ‘do you want me to flatten that quarter tone or sharpen that quarter tone?’, that gives you 52 notes to a scale, with the Arabic system, compared to our 13… It’s fascinating! It’s like they’ve let in a little bit of the darker forces, for a split second, there’s that kind of effect. I couldn’t work out, how the fuck are they getting that? So, my book, that’s coming out in 2009, will have every Arabic scale and mode, Persian, I’ve collected everything, because nobody’s ever done a complete work, this is just one of the things. I’m on my third piece of architecture! And architecture that I’ve designed so it’s all completely self-sufficient, everything’s recycled from it, and it’s relatively cheap to put up! So yeah, it’s a colourful life, there’s so much to do isn’t there?”

VLP: Yeah, I wonder when you sleep!

“You know, you’ve hit the nail on the head, I have massive sleeping problems. I can’t sleep, I can go ten days probably without sleep, I’m two hours, three hours a night!"

VLP: That’s worse than Margaret Thatcher was!

"Yeah, same sort of mental energy. In those two hours you can’t wake me, I’m a real deep sleeper, but then I’m up, and I can’t go back to sleep at all, so I have to occasionally sedate myself. That’s why, a lot of the alcohol in the last few years is, just trying to relax, I was getting panic attacks – the stress of this business is immense, there’s no way around it, you’ve got to somehow not let things get to you. And realise, it’s only a bit of fun!”

VLP: So what will Killing Joke’s next move be?

“Well, definitely two new recordings for us to do, and concerts. There’s a big demand for the original line-up, but that wouldn’t really play the later records so I’m gonna end up with two Killing Jokes! Benny, Geordie and me for one, and Youth and Big Paul and Geordie for another.

VLP: So Youth and Big Paul are definitely up for it then?

"Yeah, they want to do it. I’m aiming for the film, the book, and intense touring for our 30th anniversary, to raise money for Paul’s children."

The Killing Joke original line-up has reunited for the first time in almost twenty years for a world tour and will hit the UK in October 2nd and 3rd for two shows at London’s Kentish Town Forum. On the first night they will play their first two albums (1980’s self-titled album and 1981’s ‘What’s This… For!’) and on the second night they will play 1994’s ‘Pandemonium’ album and the Island Records singles from 1979-80.

Expanded editions of ‘Fire Dances’, ‘Night Time’, ‘Brighter Than A Thousand Suns’ and ‘Outside The Gate’ are available now from EMI.

RIP Paul Raven, 1961-2007.

(photo by Steffan Chirazi)

Hugh Gadjit

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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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