PUNK NOVELTY DISCS
Sad but true, but let’s face it, almost as soon as the punk movement became reality, cheeky opportunists and charlatan shitehawks were queuing up for a quick hit, some quick cash, and to make a mockery of your punk rockery. Look away, die hards, as we show integrity the door, and peruse a sordid parade of reprehensible punk novelty discs….
1) THE VIBRATORS AND CHRIS SPEDDING – Pogo Dancing
‘Pogo dancing, it’s the latest thing around, why move from side to side when you can jump up and down’…
Almost unarguably the first punk novelty disc, this collaboration appeared in November 1976, almost before any other UK punk discs existed! The Vibrators were sometimes reviled by purists as hoary pub rockers who cut their hair and took their flares in when they saw which way the cards were falling, but they were hardly alone on that particular count, and proved their worth with subsequent punk-pop classics such as ‘Baby Baby’ and ‘Automatic Lover’. The collaborator in this exercise, Spedding, had a pretty respectable rock’n’roll track record and punk credentials to boot, having produced some early demos for the Pistols. But he was also the kind of journeyman who’d take almost any kind of work. Including putting on a big furry suit to play guitar for the Wombles in 1975.
2) PLASTIC BERTRAND – Ca Plane Pour Moi
Keep an eye on TOTP2 for this glorious piece of eurotrash. A couple of Belgian producers (one of whom was named, amusingly, Lou DePryk) knocked this together for their specially groomed ‘punk’, Plastic Bertrand, resulting in a huge UK hit in the summer of 1978, a kind of bastard synthetic punk descendant of the Singing Nun (another French language ‘novelty’ and a whole other story in its own right). It’s a downright hammy pastiche that splices punk with the Beach Boys, but this was summer after all, and that ‘oooh oooh oooh oooh’ hook proved plain infectious to the British public. Plastic never scored another UK hit after this, although the tune was pinched by Elton Motello for ‘Jet Boy, Jet Girl’, (an ode to oral sex that was covered by Captain Sensible), and was later reprised by Hollywood for ‘National Lampoon’s European Vacation’. Don’t ever tease a French speaking person about this record and don’t ever ask what the lyrics are about. ‘Comme un indian dans son igloo’ for fuck’s sake. Salut Plastic!
The b-side was called ‘pogo pogo’ by the way.
3) JILTED JOHN – Jilted John
‘Gor-don is a Mor-on!’ The first single I ever bought. The burgeoning punk scene in late 1970s Manchester meant that certain oddballs who would normally never be let loose on a stage or studio would get their opportunity, most famously drama student Graham Fellowes, who wrote this song of gawky Photo-Love angst around a 2 chord riff, originally to be released on the local punk label, Rabid records. Ineptitude triumphed as ‘Jilted John’ was picked up by EMI and the tale of John’s rejection by Julie for Gordon the Moron became a top 10 hit, with the result that TOTP audiences were subjected to the choice lyrics ‘She is a slut, he thinks he’s tough, she is a bitch, he is a puff.’ If your name’s Gordon and you had to endure school any time up to 5 years after this record’s release, we’re sorry for you.
The record’s producer, Martin Hannett, went on to become a big noise in the post-punk Manchester scene, while John eventually metamorphosed into his more familiar alter-ego, the comedian John Shuttleworth, via a brief stint in Coronation Street.
There’s more of the same on Jilted John’s LP, which has been reissued on CD if you’re curious!
4) SEX PISTOLS WITH RONALD BIGGS – No One is Innocent
How true. In the immediate aftermath of their burn out on the 1978 US tour, Sex Pistols existed in name only, but MacLaren was determined to use that name for more cash and notoriety. Deprived of Lydon’s lyrical savvy, the remaining ‘Pistols’ opted for pure shock and bad taste. Steve Jones and Paul Cook were jetted to Rio to hook up with ‘Biggsy‘, a failed train robber but very successful and notorious escapee from British justice. Jones cranked out one of his brawny riffs and the lag turned on the cockney charm for their ‘Punk Prayer’, alternately titled ‘the Biggest Blow’. Invoking the names of Martin Bormann, the Moors Murderers and Idi Amin, the record was guaranteed a BBC ban on its release in summer 1978 – but in time-honoured Pistols style, its sales were correspondingly high, probably helped by the fact that the flip was Sid’s well-loved rendition of ‘My Way.’ And true to the spirit of things, Malcolm stiffed Biggs for a portion of the money he’d been promised!
Some years later in his autobiography, Biggs, perhaps fearing the extradition that continued to hang over his head, tried to pass off this record as a heartfelt plea for Christian forgiveness for the likes of Hindley and Brady. Leave it out, Ronnie.
5) THE DICKIES – Banana Splits
Named after the famous work shirts, the Dickies formed initially as a joke in the midst of LA’s late 1970s punk explosion, but paradoxically lasted the decades with their dumbass blend of punk, trash culture and smutty humour. Back in 1979, when a major label took the unlikely step of taking a gamble on these guys, the Dickies knocked out a speed-punk version of theme from the kid’s TV show, pressed ‘em up on banana yellow vinyl (coloured vinyl was THE gimmick back then and a useful tool for chart-jacking), and bingo! (Fleagle! Droopy! And Snork!) a runaway hit. Unlike certain other contenders mentioned here, the Dickies managed a follow up hit when they gave the same treatment to the Moody Blues’ ‘Nights in White Satin’ – but it’s for the inspired stupidity of their yellow vinyl debut that they win their punk novelty laurels.