SPITTING and SCREAMING
The True Story Of British Punk (1971-1979)
Publisher: New Haven
a brave move to bring out a book on the history of British punk, it’s
not as if it's not been done many times before. Neil Saint’s offering
never going to replace England’s Dreaming, but thankfully it’s not
The author has interviewed an impressive list of punk personalities,
both on stage and off, and it’s through their recollections that the
story is told. Key events - gigs, record releases, controversies - are
referenced, and it’s around these that the anecdotes sit.
There is no editorial angle aiming to put a different spin on the past,
we have here is a heap of fresh personal recollections from those
caught up in the emerging scene and the subsequent punk explosion.
Every perspective and memory captured is equally valid. It may sound
depressing, but with the passing of time this is even more crucial,
of us are going to be around forever. The long list of
witnesses makes up for the sparsity of punk A-Listers
(although Hugh Cornwell, J J Burnel, Rick Buckler, John Maher
aren’t exactly low rent). Special mention to Rat Scabies for plenty of
bullshit free observations, such as The Damned playing New York's
CBGB's in 1977; "I was quite outraged as it was supposed to be this
happening punk club. Instead it was an old shit hole..." Yes, decades
later the UK v US debate is still alive and well with Legs McNeil from
NYC's Punk magazine claiming White Riot was a Ramones rip off.
As for the Sex Pistols, they naturally feature throughout, with first
hand accounts via Pistols and Clash roadie ‘Roadent’ and personal
testimony from those who bore witness to the gigs.
In setting the book’s parameters to the entire 1970s we get a reminder
of the importance of glam and pub rock, thanks to Wilko Johnson and
others. You can feel the phenomenon gather pace as the decade reaches
its conclusion, with Nicky Tesco, Charlie Harper, Dave Ruffy, Vic
Godard, Richard Jobson, John Perry, Fay Fife, Kenny Morris, and Gaye
Black (Advert) among those
moving the story along, encompassing the movement's UK wide impact.
Different aspects will strike different chords with readers; I recalled
the terror and fear, not caused by the bands' threatening
establishment, but by the intimidation and ridicule directed towards
young punk rockers. To publicly display your allegiance was a brave
thing to do. Damian O'Neill from The Undertones “..we did get a lot of
abuse, a lot of cat calls, a lot of threats and a lot of kickings…” The
anti-punk violence must never be forgotten.
Spitting and Screaming won’t replace any books already on your shelf,
but it will provide an enthralling and entertaining supplement, one
throughout with nuggets of info you won’t have heard. Sitting nicely
alongside the aforementioned Jon Savage tome and George Gimarc’s Punk
Diary: 1970-1979, it’s well worthy of your attention.
Singleton (March 2021)
Lydon: I Could Be Wrong I Could Be Right Review >
Singleton / www.sex-pistols.net 2021
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reproduced without permission