This section covers non - Pistols products & events which may be of interest to Sex Pistols' fans.
Hollie Cook (Mr Bongo Records)
‘Hollie Cook’ rightly should be the sound of our summer, her hauntingly beautiful voice dances over a Prince Fatty rich reggae mix. Her dad - Paul, must be very proud ... as would Ari, who’d delight in this classic collection of 21st Century Lover’s Rock.
When I saw Hollie with the Slits about 18months ago, such was the sweetness of her voice that I thought it would be fabulous if the band could cover some late 70’s Lover Rock classics ... and here Hollie delivers a fresh and affectionate reinterpretation of this genre - with both new and old songs.
Stand out tracks for me are the opening ‘Milk and Honey’ (with a fabulous Horn accompaniment), the self penned ‘Cry’ (from the last Slits cd - with added ‘Police and Thieves’ echoes) and her achingly tender ‘Used to Be’. Great production - once you start listening to the cd, you want to leave it on all day. I must confess that I’d love to hear her cover Janet Kay’s ‘Silly Games’.
Along with Nenah Cherry, another talent emerges from Slits’ tutelage.
Hollie’s Tropical Pop can be sampled from Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/holliecook
Review by Dave Smitham (June 2011)
Slits Live: Clwb Ivor Bach, Cardiff - 9th October 2009
Above: Hollie Cook & Ari Up
Above: Hollie & Ari Up
Right: Hollie Cook
Lock up your husbands and boyfriends - after a thirty year gap, Slits are back
and touring the UK.
There was Tessa holding down some wicked dub bass lines and Ari skanking and bird warbling as only she can. After all these years, I couldn't believe I was up close in the same room as these women I have adored for all these years. Equally impressive were new members Hollie Cook (daughter of Paul) - seriously flirtatious, almost as uninhibited as the youthful Ari with her chanting, shimmying and slap happy keyboard style
and superb consistently tight dub drumming from Anna Schulte.
Surprisingly the set didn't exclusively focus on new songs, but included gems from the entire Slits repertoire: we were treated to New Town, Love and Romance, Shop Lifting, Grapevine and In the Beginning
as well as Trapped Animal, Babylon, Partner from Hell and Cry Baby (thanks for the unexpected dedication Hollie) from the new album.
For all their musical importance Slits exhibit no superstar distance. Last Friday's appearance at Cardiff's Clwb Ivor Bach was huge fun and gloriously intimate: Ari's microphone being enthusiastically shared with young Slits wannabes
and willing fans hauled up for a bit of boogie, bump and grind. Towards the end of the gig, Ari - outrageous as ever in her increasingly wild locks, poured a bottle of water down her tights (to cool her pom pom!).
The only downer was the 10:30pm club curfew (due to Cardiff's insane live music laws) - seriously curtailing the planned set, still we had a rousing finale - with Welsh harmonies, of Typical Girls. Slits continue their mini UK tour with Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and London still on the itinerary - and if you miss them there's always their new cd Trapped Animal. By the way, Cardiff support were Wet Dog - an impressive choppy female quartet from London, highly recommended and definitely worth checking out.
Review and photographs by Dave Smitham (October 2009)
Ten Pole Tudor - Made It This Far (Angel Air SJPCD309)
Released 10th August 2009
The first Ten Pole Tudor album since 1981 brings together the best songs written and recorded by the group during the intervening 28 year gap. It features various line-ups of the band, including Andy Allen, one-time member of The Professionals on Yippie Yi Aay, The Occasion and I Laid Her Down. Of course the star of the show is Ed Tudor Pole who shot to prominence after his unforgettable performance in The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle.
Ed's influences are without doubt, rockabilly and rock and roll, for the most part played fast. Ten Pole Tudor best produce the goods when they crank up the pace, as per the opening Made It This Far. A 'traveling along life's highway' themed song, a subject close to Ed's heart, it's a high energy gem, easily as catchy as the famous Ten Pole songs of old. It's the pick of the bunch.
Yippie Yi Yay is another standout, blessed with some unbelievably fast fiddle. I'd like to see the local young farmers union keep up with this at a barn dance. I Laid Her Down from the same sessions is another straw chewing knees-up. All My Heart combines punk energy with a splash of Mersey Beat. "Oh yeah baby" Ed exclaims, as he proceeds to rip into his guitar and romp through this manic love song. Football Rockabilly and Football Yobbo show where some of Ed's thoughts lie, the latter written as a football rallying cry.
A surprise was the reworking of their first ever single Real Fun. Performed here at a leisurely pace, it is imbued with a mellow feel which takes you back to the countryside. The feeling I get from the album is one of contrast; one minute there's the energy and excitement of the city as displayed on tracks such as Mohican and Pete's Mercedes, the next moment you're drifting along a lazy river to Such Desire.
The album is very up and positive, with only Last Orders providing a serious dose of melancholy. It's actually a sharp and thoughtful track. For me, only a couple of the 16 songs fell short, the cover of St Louis Blues and Shut up Tracey, which tries too hard at satire.
It's been a long, long wait for this, the third Ten Pole Tudor album, but it's re-assuring to find that nothing's changed in the world of Ed and the band. Their unmistakable style is on full display on these tracks. It's just like 1981 all over again. If it's a good time you're after, get your horse out of the barn, ride on down to the ale house for some beers, raise your standard and gallop into battle with the album on your ipod. After all, we've Made It This Far. Why give up the fight now?
Review by Phil Singleton (3rd August 2009)
Stiff Little Fingers - Still Burning DVD
Directed by Don Letts
Fremantle Home Entertainment
Perhaps the greatest band to follow immediately in the wake of the punk explosion, Stiff Little Fingers celebrate their 30th anniversary in 2007. Still Burning commemorates this milestone.
Back in 78 - 80, there was not a single punk music "fan" (not just punk rockers ) who did not own Inflammable Material, Suspect Device, and Alternative Ulster. Angry intelligent punk. A combination that attracted John Peel. A combination that ensures they still pack in the punters. I too found it irresistible - I bought the records and went to the shows (including, thanks to crowd violence, a truly terrifying one in Torquay in the summer of 1980).
So here we are, three decades on and many line-up changes later.
The story is well told. Jake Burns - the one consistent factor throughout the band's history - and newly reinstalled Ali McMordie, are central to the proceedings. Also contributing are original drummer Brian Faloon (filmed against a Belfast backdrop) and ex- Manager and co-lyricist Gordon Ogilvie. Their input is vital in fleshing out the origins of the band in Belfast. Without Gordon there would be no SLF as we know them.
The film is accompanied throughout by live footage recorded in Belfast earlier this year, featuring the current line-up of the band performing all their back catalogue classics. It looks and sounds fantastic. Although I was hoping for old TOTP appearances and other TV footage, it seems budget restraints put paid to this. SLF don't command the finance of the likes of copy cats Green Day and their ilk. The old days are, however, represented by live footage of Gotta Getaway, included as a DVD extra.
While talking about the drawbacks, I would have liked to have seen contributions from Henry Cluney and Jim Reilly, but if they don't want to talk, they don't want to talk. Non-participation from certain individuals is always going to be an obstacle for a band that has been around for 30 years.
Quite rightly, the first two thirds (60 minutes) cover the first era of the group from 77 - 82, and do so in depth. Input from Rough Trade's Geoff Travis is an important inclusion. We forget the impact Inflammable Material had on UK music, not only in terms of content, but in becoming the first truly Independent record to enter the album charts. The chart compilers thought it was a fix and threw it out of the charts, only to see it bounce straight back in again. It still seems a shame SLF left Rough Trade for Chrysalis, but the reasons are understandable and are covered from all sides in the film.
The final 30 minutes, which tell the story of the band from the reformation in the late 80s to the present day, were far more enlightening than I expected. I assumed they just released an album every few years when they felt like it. Apparently not; the struggle continues, although happily the band are in a far more stable position in their 30th year than in previous ones.
The DVD extras are a selling point in their own right. If you're an SLF fan you'll find the full live performance of the Inflammable Material album from the Ulster Hall, Belfast, makes the purchase of this DVD crucial. They remain a phenomenal live act.
There is also lots of extra "talking heads" footage which never made it to the finished film. Of particular note are Stuart Pearce; a very sincere Mike Peters; and The Vibrators' John Ellis, who wrote the track that gave the band its name.
The film - including extras - adds up to a weighty overview of their history. I'll sum up in two sentences. Value for money. Sharp and direct. Isn't that the essence of SLF?
Postscript: My favourite SLF album:Go For It. My favourite SLF show: Manchester Apollo 1981, Go For It Tour.
Review by Phil Singleton (October 2007)
Bernard Sumner: Confusion - Joy Division, Electronic and New Order Versus the World
Independent Music Press £12.99
I've known David since 2001 when he was a TV producer at Granada TV, working on his acclaimed documentary and book, I Swear I Was There. I was impressed by his determination and above all, the integrity he displayed in his quest to delve down to the nitty gritty and tell the truth. No guess work, half-baked theories, or hack writing.
In many ways his latest offering is even more astonishing than I Swear I Was There, simply because so little is known about Bernard Sumner. No one has tackled the subject before, and this becomes apparent as the biography begins with the author contacting the register offices of Salford and Manchester, only to uncover his first revelation: Sumner is listed as an adopted child. This is only the start.... name changes, his mother's disability, even his new wife's name, are all uncovered.
Nolan has interviewed a vast number of Sumner's acquaintances from all periods of his life to build up a comprehensive mosaic of memories, experiences, and opinions. The late Tony Wilson gave what was possibly his last ever interview on the topic; it captures him in a reflective and balanced mood, offering considered insight on all aspects of Joy Division, The Hacienda, and New Order.
The book warrants inclusion on God Save The Sex Pistols by virtue of the pivotal visit to the city by the Sex Pistols in June '76, which pointed Bernard Sumner, like many others, in a direction that would shape his life, and lead him away from a career with world famous film animators, Cosgrove Hall. New information about this gig has been unearthed. Also of great interest are the recollections of Manchester's punk mecca, The Electric Circus, where the Pistols would play twice on The Anarchy Tour. It was at The Electric Circus that Peter Hook would first set eyes on Ian Curtis....
It's a fascinating and engaging book. It's also bang up-to-date, even covering the latest acrimonious New Order "split" earlier this year. You would think that at their age, and after being through so much together, Sumner and Hook could have resolved this latest spat. No matter.
David Nolan realised getting Bernard himself involved would be nigh on impossible, plus he wanted to be free to tell the "truth" through the eyes of those around Bernard. What happened next has added a curious twist to the saga. Bernard agreed to read the finished manuscript. Furthermore, he has added his own comments and thoughts, which appear throughout the book. It all adds up to a unique mix: un-authorised, yet accepted by the subject. It's interesting to note most of his contributions are additions to the narrative, rather than corrections. A further tribute to the author.
Don't be surprised if Bernard Sumner: Confusion - Joy Division, Electronic and New Order Versus the World picks up even more accolades than I Swear I Was There. Rock 'n' roll research at its best.
Review by Phil Singleton (September 2007)
Iggy & The Stooges Live in Detroit DVD
One of the great reunions of recent times began, unusually for a reunion, in the studio recording tracks for Iggy's album Skull Ring - the decision to play live again followed later. It was a good move, as this DVD illustrates. Recorded live in 2003, it was The Stooges homecoming after 29 years. Unable, due to legal wrangling, to perform any Raw Power material, their live shows draw primarily from The Stooges and Funhouse, which considering Ron Asheton played the lead guitars on them both (as opposed to James Williamson on Raw Power), makes perfect sense.
I'd always thought the Funhouse material to be hard going, but watching this DVD has changed my mind completely. Ron Asheton playing Loose, Down On The Street, and Dirt from the album, knocked me out. These songs now sound amazing, and as a direct result I've bought the expanded CD versions of both LP's. I'd never appreciated what a brilliant guitar player he was. It goes without saying that I Wanna Be Your Dog and 1969 are top moments, as is the stage invasion during Real Cool Time, which lasts the duration of No Fun without the band ever missing a note. Scott Asheton is great as well, totally committed. Iggy never fails to excel, and is animated, angry, hilarious, and focused. Mike Watt cannot be faulted either as the "new" bassist; he is a quirky individual with a style all his own.
The main extra worth shouting about is the Stooges' New York in-store gig, performed by Iggy and the Asheton brothers at the time of the reunion. Filmed from the side of the "stage" by a single camera, it has an appealing bootleg feel about it. It's a brilliant occasion and is a wonderful inclusion on the DVD. The visuals may be limited by the one static camera, (which gets repositioned early on to get Scott Asheton in shot), but it's an historic performance. Not only do the trio perform the classics, Iggy also talks about the songs themselves.
I was completely won over by this DVD. What more can I say?
Review by Phil Singleton (June 2007)
Babylon's Burning: The Rough 'n' Ready Rise of PUNK RAWK 1973 - 1978
Who remembers the original pressing of the ground breaking 5 CD box set, "1, 2, 3, 4 Punk and New Wave 1976 - 1979"? The big box with the amazing book packed full of information about all the songs and groups contained therein. "Babylon's Burning", a 91 track, 4 CD box set, is its natural successor. Anyone who's read Clinton Heylin's book of the same name, will be pleased to learn that he has lavished the same attention to the companion box set as he has to the book itself. This compilation sets its stall out from the off. As Clinton states in the 60 page book that comes with the box set, the aim is to "find the rawest representation of each and every combustible combo... performances that are a lot closer to the red-raw inspiration than previous best punk album ever sets." I referred to the 60 page book, and this provides another link to "1, 2, 3, 4 Punk and New Wave". The original 1-2-3-4 book has provided the template for more of the same here. Clinton gives background not only to the artists, but to the versions of the tracks that have been included. There are a few 45s you'll have, but for the large part the songs are drawn from demos, BBC sessions, unreleased cuts, outtakes, and live performances. Artist wise, there are a few omissions, no Clash, Ramones, Banshees, but you'll have all those anyway. Conversely, the Pistols are represented by 5 tracks, all available on Spunk. BUT there is a treasure trove of rare recordings that deserve the attention of all punk aficionados.
Disc One focuses on early US proto punk, and sets the mood with a rare early cut of The Modern Lovers' Roadrunner. The disc takes in the New York Dolls (two demos), Suicide, Patti Smith, The Voidoids (two tracks), The Finns, Pere Ubu, Peter Laughner and Craig Bell, Mirrors, Electric Eels, and three classic songs from The Heartbreakers. Highlights: The Heartbreakers' version of Love Comes In Spurts (a live studio take), and Rocket From The Tombs (pre-Dead Boys versions) of Ain't It Fun and Sonic Reducer.
Disc Two concentrates on the "class of '76", and includes Oz punk heroes The Saints and Radio Birdman, before arriving in the UK for Dr Feelgood (two great demos), Kilburn & The High Roads, and then the aforementioned five Sex Pistols tracks. Buzzcocks' Times Up demos follow, before The Damned weigh in with four cuts (Feel The Pain studio demo and three John Peel session recordings). Wreckless Eric, Slaughter and the Dogs and The Lurkers also feature. Highlights: Two Subway Sect demos from aborted album sessions, 1977.
Disc Three is the 1977 collection, and can be split into two halves. The first, "live at the Roxy" performances, which represent early 1977, and then a mixture of demos, singles, and live tracks from the second half of the year. X-Ray Spex, Wire (seven tracks), Buzzcocks, and The Adverts make up the Roxy material. If like me, you've got this already, you'll find this the weakest point in the 4 CD set. If you're not familiar with it, you'll love it (see earlier review below of The Roxy London WC2 - Box Set). The real gems follow. A live version of The Slits' New Town from September '77, X-Ray Spex demos, ATV's Love Lies Limp, and The Weirdos' (We've got The) Neutron Bomb, are all welcome inclusions. Highlights: The Only Ones' Peter & The Pets (live), Penetration's Don't Dictate ('77 demo - and it's better than the single), Rezillos' Good Sculptures (aborted version), The Avengers' We Are The One, and, at last, a different version of The Only Ones' Another Girl Another Planet. It's a rough cut, but it's a real find.
Disc Four is all about "life after Winterland", in other words '78. Talking of the Pistols post-Winterland, Steve Jones and Paul Cook feature due to the inclusion of Justifiable Homicide, a highpoint of Dave Goodman's career. Again there is a mix of rarities, outtakes, official releases, and demos. Subway Sect's quirky 45, Ambition, starts the disc, followed by the even more quirky Aerosol Burns by Essential Logic. Like Subway Sect and Essential Logic, The Prefects' Going Through the Motions is another of those songs that reflects the diversity arising from the ashes of the first wave of punk - it's not the greatest song you'll ever hear, likewise The Mediators song Monotony, which is perhaps the most obscure offering on the whole collection. The Mediators were, incidentally, from Manchester, as were The Fall (now we are talking class). Repetition and Bingo Master's Break-Out from The Fall's first EP are here, along with an outtake from the EP, Frightened - another gem. Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias are next with three from their famous Snuff Rock EP - surely the ultimate punk parody record? Brighton is the next stop with two tracks from the various artists, Vaultage '78 LP; The Dodgems (with the excellent Lord Lucan Is Missing) and Devils' Dykes are the groups chosen. The concluding half of the disc rounds the proceedings off with a bang. Rudi, The Undertones, Victim, Stiff Little Fingers and The Ruts all hit the mark. Highlights: Three unmissable demos: The Undertones (Get Over You), Stiff Little Fingers (Alternative Ulster), and fittingly for the finale, the Ruts' deliver an exciting take of Babylon's Burning from summer '78.
So there we have it. A punk collection with a difference - put together to take you on a walk on the wild wide of punk, treating you to many obscure delights and rare cuts along the way. Did you really think you had everything?
Review by Phil Singleton (April 2007)
Damned - Damned Damned Damned 30th Anniversay Expanded Edition
Punk rockers are, quite rightly, a fussy breed when it comes to yet another repackage. Sanctuary know this, and have put together a quality, let's call it 'ultimate' version of this classic album. In essence, it's the Damned's first year on 3 CDs. You don't need me to wax lyrical about the Damned's debut platter itself. It's an undisputed prized piece of punk which we've all got in our collection.
This CD set presents the LP as originally intended on disc one... just the album, no extras to distract you. Disc two contains both John Peel sessions from '76/'77, a live BBC In Concert performance from May '77, a couple of B-sides, and the Stretcher Case Baby/Sick Of Being Sick 45. "Play It at Your Sister: The Stiff Years" box set from a couple of years ago did a similar job, and if you forked out for that more expensive offering you may be deterred from this new edition.
However, there is a treat in store on disc three, The Damned's debut gig, which took place 6th July '76 at the100 Club, and is previously unreleased. The recording has been provided by the taper himself, and if you're a Damned fan, it's worth picking up this edition for that alone. Thankfully, the quality is a whole lot better than the Mont-De-Marsan recording that was included as part of "Play It at Your Sister". There is a nice booklet included as well.
So, whether you've got the album already, or you're the one person who doesn't own a copy of the original LP, what are you waiting for? At this price, you cannot refuse.
Review by Phil Singleton (March 2007)
No Focus: Punk on Film NEW
by Chris Barber (Editor), Jack Sargeant (Editor)
Publisher: Headpress £13.99 / $19.95
There's a few things to get out of the way at the start. 1. The word 'punk' is used in its broadest sense, punk film - not just films about punk rock. 2. There are strange omissions - the Ramones seem to suffer in this department (and I'd rather see coverage of the Johnny Thunders biopic Born To Lose, than the likes of A Clockwork Orange). 3. Some careless errors creep in.
Gripes apart, there is a ton of information and insight that'll keep you gripped, and plenty of lesser known films you'll either never have heard about or long forgotten. Putting aside coverage of the Rock 'N' Roll Swindle and The Filth And the Fury, of particular interest to Pistols fans is "The disappearance and re-emergence of Ladies and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains", the cult film featuring Paul Cook, Steve Jones, Paul Simonon and Ray Winston. The Clash's celluloid outings get assessed, as do the stalwart punk movies such as Jubilee, Decline of Western Civilisation (parts 1 - 3), The Punk Rock Movie, and Punk Attitude. Fans of Twenty-Four Hour Party People are also well catered for in a detailed look at "British socal realism" on film.
No Focus' strength, however, lies in the more obscure films covered such as the Crass films put together by Mick Duffield, the rarely seen Blank Generation, San Francisco punk films, and the largely forgotten Made In Britain. But why no Oi for England?
Included are new interviews with Julien Temple, Don Letts, Penelope Spheeris, and Billy Childish. It's not a book you'll sit down and read cover to cover, but with 100s of movies referenced you'll discover a whole host of punk related films you will not be familiar with. This book serves to whet your appetite and acts as a gateway into unfamiliar and intriguing new territory.
Review by Phil Singleton (January 2007)
New York Dolls - Private World. The Complete Early Studio Demos 1972 - 73
2006 has been quite a year for the New York Dolls, with two films/DVDs, a brand new album and a triumphant tour. Here is a timely reminder of the early days; a two disc value collection rounding up the demos that have appeared in various guises over the years, such as the CDs Lipstick Killers, A Hard Day's Night, etc.
If you've not been tempted by Dolls demos before, Private World is perfect. The first two sessions (Blue Rock Studio June 72 & Escape Studios Oct 72) feature original drummer Billy Murcia, the second of these sessions being recorded in the UK the month prior to his death. These 13 songs sound as though the Dolls have set up their equipment in your front room as they crash though their repertoire. Johansen's vocals are more prominent than on the later albums and it's a nice change to hear those lyrics clearly.
The Planet Studios demos from March 73 total 23 cuts, including a false start of It's Too Late which is previously unreleased. They may lack the production polish of the official albums, but they more than make up for this in energy and guile, and ooze a live feel. Basically this is how they sounded.
This session, as well as covering the majority of tracks from both their studio albums, also provides a few songs that never appeared officially, such as Back In The USA, Hoochie Coochie Man, Great Big Kiss, and Seven Day Weekend (the latter two which would become part of Thunders' solo performances). Thunders also covered Endless Party, a lost Johansen/Thunders composition, which features here. Another plus point is the quality of the recordings which catch the Dolls' unrestrained abandon.
Even if you've got these demos scattered on other releases, this serves as an ideal way to bring them all together in one place. An informative booklet rounds it off nicely. At a budget price, this collection of 36 tracks is a 'must have'.
Review by Phil Singleton (November 2006)
New York Doll - The Story Of Arthur 'Killer' Kane (Optimum Home Entertainment OPTD0319)
Greg Whiteley, a fellow Mormon and friend of Arthur Kane, had already considered making a film about his fascinating life story when the Dolls reunion at the Royal Festival Hall in 2004 became a reality. Knowing this had been Arthur's dream for 30 years, Greg decided to film this new chapter in both the Dolls and Arthur's lives. What should have been a new beginning for Arthur was tragically cut short when, 22 days after his return from London following the reunion, he was dead. This was not the ending Arthur or the producer could have envisaged. What should have been a celebration, turned into an epitaph.
This is not a rock-documentary. The history of the Dolls is, by necessity, covered, but is wisely kept brief. Likewise, although there are contributions by others, (including David Johansen, Mick Jones, Arthur's ex-wife Barbara, and of course Morrissey), it's not merely a lineup of talking heads reminiscing about Arthur; Arthur himself is the star. The contrast between his day job at The Family History Centre in LA, run by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, and the New York Dolls could not be more stark, yet he found the love and warmth in the church which he'd only ever experienced during his time in the Dolls.
The reunion, from the rehearsals in New York via the build-up to the show itself, is captured on film, all from Arthur's perspective. It must be said, he does look tired and older than his years, and attention is drawn to his lack of movement on stage. With the benefit of hindsight, his illness will have contributed to this, but no-one, not even Arthur himself, was aware of it. Morrissey remarks on the sadness in his eyes revealing a man who has led a greatly troubled and largely unhappy life. To some, reuniting with Sylvain Sylvain and David Johansen may seem like a fitting end to his life, but in reality it's a tragedy.
New York Doll is the tale of a man who finally achieved a dream he'd yearned of for 30 years, only to have everything then taken away from him immediately afterwards. But what makes it compelling, is that we live it alongside the central character himself. This is so much more than simply a movie for fans of the Dolls. This is a poignant, moving, human story.
Review by Phil Singleton (November 2006)
Bad Brains - Live at CBGB 1982 (Wienerworld WNRD2393) Released 25th September 2006
In the early 80s, with punk largely on the wane back in the UK, over in the US the Hardcore scene was exploding. Filmed at a three-day Hardcore festival held at CBGB's 24-26th December 1982, the DVD brings together footage from the festival. Bad Brains are perhaps unique in hardcore terms as they intersperse full-on thrash, such as Big Take Over and Riot Squad, with great reggae grooves like King Of Glory. What's most striking about the footage, as well as the intensity of the band, is the audience who are so into the band they go crazy, spilling on and off the stage dancing like punks possessed. It's chaos. If you think you know how to mix it up at a punk show, think again. "Someone get this dude, he's bleedin" says vocalist H.R.as a punter sustains an injury. It's captured on film by multiple cameras both off stage and on, often getting caught up in the action. Bad Brains belong in the top echelons of US Hardcore, along with Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys. Fast, accomplished and wild.
Which brings us onto...
Dead Kennedys - In God We Trust Inc. The Lost Tapes (Wienerworld WNRD2207)
Brilliant. In God We Trust Inc. was a landmark EP heralding the arrival of Hardcore. The EP came as a bit of a shock, fans like myself were expecting more tunes in the mould of Holiday In Cambodia and Kill The Poor. This blast of 100 mph punk raised the bar in the speed stakes and had other bands quickly following suit. This DVD brings to life the original unused session which was filmed for prosperity, but was scrapped when the audio tapes deteriorated. A DVD extra explains what happened and how we're now able to hear the original session. The quality of the film is perfect; wherever it has been hiding since 1981, it's been well preserved. The tracks themselves are similar to the released versions which is no surprise since the recordings took place only two months apart. Nazi Punks Fuck Off, Kepone Factory, Moral Majority, they all sound relevant 25 years (yes, 25!) later.
In addition to the studio recordings, the DVD includes live performances of the songs taken from different gigs. It's a nice addition which means we also get to hear Jello rant to the crowd which is always worth watching. Let's face it, he's never short of something to say; his comments during We've A Bigger Problem Now could in fact have been uttered in 2006.
Also available is Dead Kennedys - The Early Years Live (WNRD2109). Originally released by Target Video, it features live performances from 1979 - 81, as well as a TV news item and interview with Jello Biafra conducted when he was running for mayor of San Francisco. Although the DVD is short at 30 minutes there are some great renditions of DK classics to enjoy, especially the tracks from Mabuhay Gardens, San Francisco, and Bleed For Me recorded live in the studio.
Review by Phil Singleton (2nd September 2006)
X-Ray Spex - Let's Submerge The Anthology (Sanctuary CMEDD1378)
The first flush of punk threw up many great bands with individual distinctive styles. X-Ray Spex epitomized this perfectly with their energy, unmistakable vocals, and saxophone. This new 2 disc collection shows this to full. It's a comprehensive look at the band that includes, well, as far as I'm aware, everything.
Disc one has all the band's original official recordings for Virgin and EMI which are joined here by two John Peel Sessions and three superb backing tracks, including Prefabricated Icon, a song we never got to hear in it's completed form.
Disc two kicks off with Mari Elliot's (Poly) pre-Spex single, Silly Billy / What A Way. A harmless reggae affair, but historically worth including. The complete 1977 Roxy Club recording follows, raw but exciting. Next up are 14 demos, some from a pre-signing session and others recorded during their time with EMI, which basically act as an alternative unpolished Germ Free Adolescents album, and there's nothing wrong with that. The collection closes with a couple of alternative mixes of Obsessed With You and The Day The World Turned Day-Glo, and finally with Poly Styrene's solo version of Age from her Translucence LP.
By 1979 X-Ray Spex were grinding to a creative halt, and split leaving their legacy intact. Enjoy this legacy with Let's Submerge The Anthology. A total of 52 tracks nicely packaged with excellent sleeve notes. This is a top collection for a top band.
Review by Phil Singleton (August 2006)
Thunders, Kane, & Nolan (Wienerworld WNRD2344)
Johnny Thunders Live - In Cold Blood (Wienerworld WNRD2151)
I'll put my cards on the table. I'm a huge Thunders fan. I have marvellous memories of seeing the great man in action in the 80s: Nottingham Rock City (The Heatbreakers!), Sheffield City Polytechnic, Manchester Hacienda (with Jerry Nolan on drums), and Manchester International 2. Following his death, I sent an obituary to Spiral Scratch Magazine, which they published. It's fair to say I have an emotional attachment to anything Thunders related.
If you enjoyed the New York Dolls movie All Dolled Up, Wienerworld have two other Johnny Thunders DVDs worthy of your attention. If, like me, you never got over the balls-up Jungle made with their Thunders video Dead Or Alive, you will naturally approach these with caution. The good news is these have not been overdubbed or cobbled together. These are genuine warts and all Johnny Thunders.
Thunders, Kane, & Nolan is billed as an unofficial New York Dolls reunion from January 1987, featuring the three, now deceased, Dolls. Although Thunders and Nolan played together regularly until Thunders' death in '91, this would be the last time Arthur "Killer" Kane would appear on stage with them. Barry Jones provides the rhythm guitar and Mrs."Babsie" Kane adds some backing vocals towards the end of the show.
Having called it a "Dolls reunion", the show, which took place at the Roxy in LA, is really a Thunders gig and the set list reflects this. It's filmed using just one camera, high up to the front left of the stage. The lone cameraman does a pretty decent job, following the action and giving us a few close-ups. The picture quality far exceeded my expectations and the sound is amazing. And boy, these guys can play.
The show opens and closes with Pipeline and many Thunders classics can be found in-between. Catch sensational versions of Born To Lose, Chinese Rocks, Personality Crisis, and Can't Keep My Eyes On You. Johnny throws in some solo acoustic songs in the middle of the set, which was a common occurrence, and allows for great versions of Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory, Lonely Planet Boy and Eve of Destruction. Although Arthur Kane does, like he did at the Dolls shows in 2004, remain largely in the background, it's still a thrill to have him on stage with Johnny and Jerry. Jerry Nolan's drumming was always awesome and is so again during this show. Thunders throws himself about, while effortlessly sounding like...Johnny Thunders. No one can emulate that guitar sound. This is a dynamic performance.
The gig clocks in at a very impressive 1 hour 20 minutes. This DVD is without doubt a must, the closing Pipeline had my heart pounding. If you love Thunders, you need this.
Johnny Thunders Live - In Cold Blood was recorded in NYC in 1982, with two cameras capturing the action. Like Thunders, Kane, & Nolan, the picture quality is excellent and the sound recording superb. This time fellow Heartbreakers guitarist Walter Lure is in the lineup. Thunders himself looks totally wasted, he has trouble keeping his guitar strap on during In Cold Blood, and spends part of Sad Vacation on his back discovering the heel on his shoe is loose, yet he still carries on as only he can. It has to be said, Thunders is mesmerizing throughout and turns in a blinding performance. The recording seems to have been compiled for a half hour TV slot, so all we get is nine songs from what was clearly a full gig. Nevertheless, this is priceless footage and definitely worth seeking out if you are a Thunders fanatic.
Sink a beer, put on either of these DVDs and blast out Pipeline. Even a non-musician like me wants to strap on a guitar and strut around the room knocking out those licks. God bless Mr Johnny Thunders.
Review by Phil Singleton (July 2006)
The Look - Adventures in Rock and Pop Fashion
Having been out of print for some time, The Look - Adventures in Rock and Pop Fashion, has been given a new look of its own and is back on the shelves. The 2006 edition includes a CD featuring music from eleven of the fashion trail blazers referenced in the book such as Elvis Presley, David Bowie, Boy George, and of course Malcolm McLaren. Of particular interest to visitors to God Save The Sex Pistols, the new edition has a striking 3 page spread of Seditionaries clothing with each item accompanied by informative text. Keanan Duffty's work with the Sex Pistols is also discussed.
Beginning with a forward by Malcolm McLaren, The Look takes us on a global journey charting the ever changing and constantly evolving links between pop culture and fashion. Author Paul Gorman has literally traversed the world, assembling a fascinating insight gained by tracking down the very people who helped shape fashion in their respective eras.
The book starts where else, but Memphis in the 1950s where none other than Elvis Presley's clothier Bernard Lansky, now in his seventies, recalls an unknown Elvis pressing his nose against his shop window staring at the clothes within. The story criss-crosses the Atlantic throwing up a few surprises along the way, such as the influence of American jazz musicians on late Fifties UK fashion. Equally fascinating are the memories of The Beatles' tailor Dougie Millings, who was at the centre of the early Sixties look, and included in his list of clientele, Adam Faith, Warren Beattie, Gerry Marsden, Cliff Richard, and The Small Faces. Famous primarily for the round-collared suits, such was his importance to The Beatles, he was often in their company in the recording studio and even ended up appearing in A Hard Day's Night. As the Beatles themselves moved into the more outlandish clothing designed by Tommy Nutter, so Pop found itself in the colourful early Seventies in which the seeds of punk fashion were sown. One fashion pioneer of this period, Tommy Roberts, would later become a victim of the thievery of future Sex Pistol Steve Jones and Wally Nightingale, an act Roberts has never forgiven.
McLaren recalls the influence of King's Road shop Mr Freedom on his growing interest in pop fashion and the King's Road itself. McLaren's talent for courting trouble was evident from the moment he first moved into 430 The King's Road, taking over a part of the store to sell refurbished radios, records and clothes. Having struck the deal in the absence of the shop's owner, he was to find his stock thrown out onto the pavement when the owner returned! Although the history of the McLaren and Westwood legacy has been covered elsewhere, here it's refreshingly stripped of the intrusive 'benefit of hindsight' pseudo political trappings, and concentrates on the evolution of the fashion itself. This allows many nuggets of information to surface such as the failure of the Vive Le Rock T-shirt (made in 1972) to sell, and subsequent conversion of the stock into pairs of knickers. This is made even more amusing by the knowledge that in 2001 a pair of these knickers sold at Sotheby's for £1,175!!!!
In addition to McLaren, the one person who in the best position to provide the inside view on both 430 The King's Road and the birth of the Sex Pistols, is Glen Matlock. Himself a former frequenter of Mr Freedom, Glen recalls the shop's evolution from teddy boy gear outlet into a fetish and bondage store. Matlock himself helped erect the giant Sex sign. The influence of The Faces on the formation of the Pistols is well-documented, but Matlock also reveals the Sensational Alex Harvey Band had served a purpose by not only highlighting McLaren's business paranoia, but forcing him to look beyond the clapped-out New York Dolls for something else...the Sex Pistols.
In many ways the only true competition for Sex was Acme Attractions. With its origins in the early Seventies, it had become a popular underground clothing shop years before the emergence of punk. The rivalry between the two was such that Vivienne Westwood once ejected Sex regular Phil Strongman from her shop on the grounds that he worked at Acme!
In the years following punk, the New Romantic scene emerged, aided and abetted by New style magazines such as The Face and i-D. Changes within pop fashion would take place at an ever increasing rate, taking in such styles as the late Eighties acid house look, and Nineties gangster rap. However, none would ever quite match the excitement, nor remain so fixed in the memory, than what was perhaps the Pop and Rock's defining fashion moment, punk rock. The one time that, as McLaren remarks; 'fashion seemed to be the place where music and art came together.'
Aimed primarily at those with an interest in music fashion and style over the past 50 years, The Look does not rely on a view from afar, but draws from the personalities who really were there. It's a fascinating read, painstakingly assembled, and packed full of ancedotes from all eras of music. For aficionados of Pop & Rock history, The Look will prove to be an essential reference for many years to come.
Review by Phil Singleton (2001, revised/updated June 2006)
New York Dolls - All Dolled Up (Wienerworld WNRD 2356)
Incredible. I wasn't expecting this to be, well
like this. I was anticipating another documentary with lots of talking heads and hindsight-skewered recollections. I was totally wrong. This film consists entirely of Bob Gruen and his wife Nadya Beck's footage of the Dolls, shot on a portable black and white video recorder over a period of three years. They amassed over forty hours of the Dolls on stage and off - with this amount of footage to work with, it's no surprise the resulting movie is by far and away the best ever study of the band.
In an enlightening interview with Bob Gruen conducted for the DVD, Bob explains that when he purchased the video recorder he never envisaged making money or movies, no one even had video cassette players, so he could never sell tapes of his film. It was purely as a hobby which he could share with the band.
Three decades later and this old black and white footage has brought the Dolls back to life. Life, they are full of it, certainly early on, as the fresh-faced band relax on a grassy knoll in LA recalling how they all came together. They also look so healthy, particularly Johnny Thunders, who seems very together as the film starts, but much less so towards the end. The live footage filmed at such famous venues as Max's Kansas City and Kenny Castaways is superb. We even get to see the Dolls flying to LA, then driving down Sunset Strip for the first time looking for the Whisky A Go Go. We also get to witness Peter Jordon deputising for Arthur Kane, but most importantly, we get to witness what a phenomenal live band the New York Dolls were.
The bonus material alone makes the DVD worth getting. Particularly the twelve uncut performances, which feature in part in the film, but here they are
complete. Other music DVD's could learn a lot from this: extras that provide a treat for the fans. In addition to the aforementioned interview with Bob Gruen, there are two separate commentary tracks by David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain (with Bob Gruen). Both are good natured; Sylvain particularly has great recollection and is a mine of information. These act as documentaries in their own right and give an enlightening insight into the events. Most biopics are built around such reminiscing, here they are a DVD extra, such is the quality of this release. Utterly unmissable.
Review by Phil Singleton (June 2006)
Punk Rock: An Oral History
Ebury Press (£14.99)
Now this is a big book! Whereas most books released to coincide with the 30th anniversary of punk are going to focus on '76 - '78, An Oral History takes the story up to 1984, which I remember myself was the year punks seemed to disappear overnight from the streets. The book is not a variation on England's Dreaming, but is a collection of the views of many of the participants. A vast collection. Although some of the anecdotes are familiar, there are plenty that are new. More than enough to make this worth checking out. The story is told in a roughly chronological order, with individual bands and topics pulled together, which means you can dip in and absorb yourself in a particular favourite band, or give yourself a crash course in something not so familiar.
All the major bands and events are covered from both the first and second waves of punk, along with fresh information on post -punk groups as well as intriguing looks at the Manchester and Northern Ireland scenes. By the book's conclusion the punk landscape had become vast, ranging from Crass to Oi! to Goth to Experimental, to Indie.... If nothing else, this book takes you on a journey that started with the amalgamation of vastly differing influences which came together as 'punk', exploded, then fragmented into an equally wide-ranging cultural landscape.
Like I said, this is a big book with a page count of approximately 550. However, it's very readable, and surprisingly waffle free and to the point. The passages chosen all have something to add to the story, and include many gems. One of the many quotes I enjoyed, (and I don't know why because I don't agree with it!) came from J.C Carroll of The Members: "The secret of punk was that everyone had one really good song inside them. That's why punk compilations are so much better than actual album releases by bands at the time."
Ok, so Punk Rock:An Oral History is not ground breaking, but it is a great punk rock tome, one you'll find yourself dipping into again and again. I know I will, I already have.
Review by Phil Singleton (April 2006)
Buzzcocks - Wish I Never Loved You / Don't Matter What You Say / Orion (FRYCD261)
Release date: 20th February.
Wish I Never Loved You is an amalgamation of those trademark components you demand from a Buzzcocks record. Soaring guitars, harmonies, rumbling bass, and a bucket load of energy. The single doesn't let up for a second, and like all great 'cocks songs, has a question relating to affairs of the heart at its core. "Tell me why, tell me why...?"
Tracks two & three are exclusive to the single. Don't Matter What You Say displays different aspects of the Buzzcocks sound as it switches from pounding verse to quicksilver chorus. Orion has a hypnotic grunge feel to it, strangely reminiscent of 1979's Something's Gone Wrong Again.
Buzzcocks - Flat-Pack Philosophy (COOKCD370)
Release date: 6th March.
The first thing to grab you is the packaging and artwork, which is pure 1970s Buzzcocks. Secondly, this is a punk rock album - a Buzzcocks punk rock album. Don't expect shocks, you don't want them. What you want is a true-to-form Buzzcocks album. Flat-Pack Philosophy is their best since Trade Test Transmissions back in '93. The band sound fresh and youthful, but what is most satisfying is the knowledge that they can can put out an LP (it is an LP, 14 tracks in under 37 minutes!) that tells you that the 'cocks are not a nostalgia, museum piece band. They are still a great, current band, with a hell of a lot to offer.
The title track kicks off proceedings at a ferocious pace, with those unmistakable harmonies providing that reassuring Buzzcocks feel. "All of my hopes, dreams and desires, assembly required, that's flat-pack philosophy." I've reviewed the single Wish I Never Loved You above, so will skip to Sell You Everything, a Diggle composition. The strength of Steve's Serious Contender CD had me wondering if he'd saved all his best songs for his own album. He hasn't. Another tune that bashes away at your brain with consumer related lyrics continuing the flat-pack philosophy.
Pete's Reconciliation is a terrific song, that bellows pure Buzzcocks at you and is my favourite cut. I Don't Exist is a heady cocktail of Green Day meets Oasis, and bounces along in wistful fashion, while Soul Survivor follows in butt-kicking punk rock fashion (with a Manic Street Preachers touch at the end). God, What Have I Done has a sinister undercurrent, is Pete singing from the heart on this one? I suspect he is. It delivers a classic Buzzcock moment.
Credit continues more of the flat-pack consumerism theme; is this a concept album?! Big Brother Wheels is a fabulous song; very late 1970s in feel that reminded me of the Motors, combining a top melody with neat lyrics, imbued with robust Diggle guitar.
Dreamin' is undeniably Shelley; a quirky tune with "let's make history together" lyrics to match. Sound Of A Gun is, not surprisingly, a tough song delivered with a distinctive Diggle riff. It's a grower, fast emerging as one of my favourites on the album. Look At You Now is very much a sequel to '93s Innocent, "butter wouldn't melt in your mouth" bemoans Shelley. I've Had Enough is another highlight; Pete & Steve's guitars, Tony Barber's bass and Phil Barker's drums providing the soundtrack for a moment of Buzzcocks pop perfection. Between Heaven & Hell brings the album to a "vocal only" conclusion as the music fades away.
So is it all so wonderful? Well, I would have liked a mellow moment along the lines of Love Bites' Love Is Lies, tucked in the middle, to put a brake on the energy and catch breath. Perhaps I'm just showing my age? Flat-Pack Philosophy shows that the Buzzcocks are not showing theirs. Go out & buy it.
Review by Phil Singleton (February 2006)
'77 The Year of Punk & New Wave
Henrik Bech Poulson
Helter Skelter Publishing Limited Edition Hardback (UK: January £25 / USA: March $30)
This is one mighty piece of research. Sticking to UK & Irish punk or new wave artists, the book covers every release during this pivotal year, an astonishing 200 groups. Why just 1977? The author states his reasons: "1976 was year zero, by 1978 the punk revolution was dead & buried. 1977 belonged to punk". In an excellent overview of the year he looks at the multifaceted beast that was punk. Of course covering more than the one year in such detail would be a unenviable task in itself: the book already runs to close to 400 pages. It's also worth noting that 1976 releases do get incorporated into the narrative. The author also sets out to evoke the mood of the time, when all the groups listed were tagged as part of the new musical explosion, before punk & new wave would become separate terms. His critique is superb, reminding us that despite all the plaudits handed out today, the music press were not as supportive in 1977. When UK music paper Sounds asked its writers to list their top 10 albums of 1977 in December of that year, Never Mind The Bollocks appeared on less than half. England's Dreaming author Jon Savage failed to include it at all!
There is so much information in here that you'll find yourself dipping in again & again, primarily to read about bands you may have heard of but knew little about, or to discover bands you never knew existed. Even with those groups you think you know pretty well, you may find a surprise or two in store as the existence of a rare promo pressing is revealed! The author also injects some of himself into the book with his own assessment of the releases and the bands themselves. Every artist also has a post-1977 section which gives a brief history, featuring key releases and information on the whereabouts of the individuals involved, where known. I found this part as intriguing as the 1977 info!
The band profiles are accompanied by pictures of many of the record sleeves, labels, rare press & gig adverts, and some live shots. There is so much in here that I will not pick out any one band to highlight. On second thoughts, Satan's Rats anyone?
If you love 1977, or want to fall in love with it, this is for you. Buy it discounted from www.helterskelterbooks.com
Review by Phil Singleton (January 2006)
Hateful - Diamond Among The Coal
Rebellion Records 023
This release was brought to my attention due to the Pistols/Professionals influences of the band. Hailing from Glasgow, Hateful are a 3 piece with a leaning towards the meatier side of punk. Ten of the twelve tracks are self-penned, eleven if you include the music they have added to John Cooper Clarke's poem, Twat.
The opening song, Storytellers, is a statement of the group's commitment to the cause taking a swipe at the part-time 'hobby punk' bands. It's a powerful intro, delivered with a vocal growl from Alex, which should come with a 'Don't Mess' warning! They deliver another Glasgow kiss at punk bulls**tters with the even better Punk Fiction. Alex's guitar is unrestrained throughout and shows some great touches such as the riff on Backstabber. The group employ harmonies on many tracks which gives a hint of Buzzcocks, and adds a sing-a-long dimension, working particularly well on Powder. I also detected the influences of fellow Scots band the Skids on Gods Will and Mind Of A Giant, as well as the Rezillos on Reality TV. Mind you, Magazine and the Ruts were also brought to mind, all of which are influences to be commended.
So which are the polished diamonds on offer here? Guitar Zero is a standout which bounces along with gusto - it's funny as well. Twat is a fabulous take on John Cooper Clarke's gem. Backwards is terrific, buoyed by great pounding from drummer Kev and neat bass by Monty. However, the piece de resistance is Guaranteed, which is a fabulous track by anyone's standards. From an acoustic start, it develops into a top punk anthem, building up the sound and sentiment into a rousing song that is guaranteed to make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. The highlight of the CD: 2.57 seconds into Guaranteed - listen to the key change in those harmonies.
When an album comes recommended, it often disappoints and is filed away after one listen. This is an exception. Tough sounding punk with its roots firmly in Punk Rock 76 - 79. A great album. www.hateful.fsnet.co.uk
Review by Phil Singleton (December 2005)
The Roxy London WC2 - Box Set
Sanctuary Records Group CMXBX1066
This is one of the best punk related releases of 2005. No less than 6 discs are included. The history of The Roxy club, the punk venue, contained in one compact, neat package.
The legendary Roxy London WC2 (Jan - Apr 77) LP is of course included, as is the less worthy Farewell To the Roxy LP. The first of these two provides an essential document of punk, a snapshot of the great, (Wire, Buzzcocks, Slaughter and the Dogs, Adverts, X-Ray Spex), the not so great (The Unwanted, Johnny Moped), and...Eater! In addition come complete sets from Buzzcocks, UK Subs, Adverts, and X-Ray Spex. Yes, they've been released before individually, but to have them all together makes for a terrific collection. Raw the performances may be, but they are above all exciting, and each band has something different to offer. The recordings and mastering is excellent, and the accompanying booklet is superb, with an in-depth informative history of The Roxy by Kieron Tyler, plus an introduction by Don Letts. Also included is a mind blowing gigography.
If you've an interest in punk, don't let this release pass you by.
Review by Phil Singleton (November 2005)
Steve Diggle - Serious Contender
EMI 563 7002
Another surprise, but I guess it shouldn't have been. Steve Diggle has been responsible for great tunes over the years, but what would a solo album reveal? This is a very musical album, with some neat tunes, changes of pace, and energy. Very Buzzcocks in places, which is a good thing, as it will be largely Buzzcocks fans who buy it. The Diggle trademark riffing is present in abundance, with tracks such as Lie In Bed, Round & Round, and Across The Sun (with harmonica) chugging along in familiar style. A good set of observational lyrics accompany the music, in fact the CD sits effortlessly alongside any Buzzcocks album in your collection.
Wallpaper World is a prime example, top lyrics with a great tune, a touch of Beatles mixed in with Love Bites 'Cocks. Starbucks Around The World has been pushed as the lead track, and it's good, very good, but not the best on show here. See Through You is even better; punchy, musical, subtle harmonies, it's got everything. Shake The System is another example of Steve Diggle at his best, mixing things up a bit, with the tempo ducking and diving, coupled with some cool guitar work. The closing track, Early Grave, is reflective, with the line "It's a waste of time, in the end." I prefer to gauge this album by the opening salvo, Serious Contender, "But I'm a serious contender, whatever life sends ya, when you touch my soul, it's like rock 'n' roll."
A first rate album.
Review by Phil Singleton (November 2005)
If The Kids Are United - The Punk Box Set
Sanctuary Records Group CMETD1194
First off the blocks in anticipation of the 30th Anniversary of 'punk' is this new 3 disc CD box set, boasting 60 songs in all. The collection draws from Sanctuary's own catalogue, which these days is extensive. We get a mixture of tracks from '76 through to the '90's (Buzzcocks, SLF). Many of the tracks are not the most obvious choices and you would need a vast personal collection to have all of them. The number of punk compilations over the years has made it increasingly difficult to put out anything surprising, so on that score this succeeds in mixing things up a bit.
So, The Damned (New Rose & Smash It Up) rub shoulders with Buzzcocks (Breakdown & Do It), Discharge (Never Again & Decontrol), Slaughter And The Dogs (Cranked Up Really High & The Bitch), and Anti Nowhere League (I Hate People & On The Waterfront). Other bands featured include: X-Ray Spex, Stranglers, Wire, Sham 69, Chelsea, 999, Vibrators, Adverts, Undertones, Revillos, Nosebleeds, The Ruts, along with early 80's punk stalwarts, G.B.H., English Dogs, and The Infas.
If The Kids Are United - The Punk Box Set, is available at around £12, and for 60 tracks, it's a value way of getting in the mood for some punk action.
For further details visit www.sanctuaryrecords.co.uk
Review by Phil Singleton (September 2005)
Green Day: American Idiots And The New Punk Explosion
Independent Music Press £12.99
I feared a quick cash-in with this book, but thankfully was proved wrong. The author tells the full story with passion, and at a cracking pace. I'm no Green Day expert and therefore cannot say with any certainty how accurate the book is, but it seemed convincing to me! I was unfamiliar with the childhood backgrounds of the band, and the how the world around them shaped the group. It's still quite incredible how three seemingly average teens gelled to produce a gripping and thrilling sound that captivated a whole new generation of kids.
Personal encounters with the band seem to stoke the author's fire as he wrestles with the dilemma posed by a band whose very success flies in the face of 'punk'. Ben Myers clearly loves his subject, and this, coupled with the fact that Green Day are still delivering fantastic quality records and performances, is enough to overcome any concerns. "If you hate Green Day for what they have become then it is you that has changed and not the band," he concludes. Analysis of individual tracks is a welcome touch, especially to someone unfamiliar with the stories behind them.
The book left we with an overriding feeling that Green Day's low points were not low in comparison to those experienced by some other bands. However, a band earns its good fortune, and Green Day have worked damned hard to achieve it and remain relevant. And fun. They possess a commitment and work ethic that breads success. Ben Myers conveys this in a compelling style that had me reaching for that forgotten copy of Dookie.
Review by Phil Singleton (August 2005)
Stiff Little Fingers - At The Edge Live And Kickin' (Secret Films SMADVD 221X)
SLF, with the long established line up of Jake Burns, Bruce Foxton, Steve Grantley and Ian McCallum, are filmed for this release at The Ocean, Hackney, London, in October 2004. Fingers are one of the few bands who still sound startlingly fresh and exciting today, just as they did back in the late 70s & early 80s. Although Jake is the only one remaining from my first live experience of Fingers in Torquay back in 1980, I've continued to attend SLF shows and they have never once disappointed. Jake's passion and commitment has never waned, and he has ensured the legacy and integrity remain intact.
This DVD captures the excitement perfectly. A crisp, confident band, this 20 track gig revisits their early classics in rampant form. Of course, Suspect Device, Alternative Ulster, etc. are here and sounding great, but most thrilling of all are dynamic renditions of Bits Of Kids and Back To Front, two less celebrated, but no less worthy nuggets. The most recent album, Guitar & Drum, was their best work in years, and the tracks from the album featured are an asset to their catalogue. The title track and Strummerville are destined to remain fixtures in the group's live show, and rightfully so.
The gig is superbly filmed with excellent digital sound. I was stunned at how well the gig has translated onto DVD. The main extra is an up-to-date band interview. If you like SLF, this is the DVD for you.
UK Subs - 25th Anniversary Marquee concert (Secret Films SMADVD 120X)
23 songs performed by, without doubt, the best Subs line-up: Harper, Garrett, Gibbs and Roberts. The Subs have, like their slogan states, been "on tour forever." They know how to knock out the songs with punk prowess, and as you would expect, that's exactly what they do for this DVD. Endangered Species, Crash Course, and Time And Matter sound particularly fine. However, it was the performance of Squat '96 that had me digging out my copy of the superb album, Quintessentials.
What makes this DVD special is the extras. The band talk through the stories behind all the songs they play during the gig, but best of all is the interview with Charlie, something you don't see very often. Charlie talks with typical honestly about his musical origins, which even crossed paths with Rod Stewart. Charlie deserves your full respect, and this DVD does the man justice.
Peter And The Test Tube Babies - Keep Britain Untidy. On Stage At The Coronet (Secret Films SMADVD 220X)
Shooting to punk infamy with an appearance on Oi! - the Album in 1980, quickly followed by the singles Banned From The Pubs and Up Yer Bum, PATTTB set their stall out as a humorous antidote to the serious and doom laden obsessions of many other punk bands of the early 1980s. It's a formula they've stuck to and that's served them well. The old favourites are all here, and it's a testimony to their popularity that they are still knocking them out, tongue in cheek, to such an appreciative audience. More power to them. An informative 40 minute interview with Peter and Del is a welcome extra. Put this on, sink a few beers, and enjoy.
Charged G.B.H. - City Baby Attacked By Rats (Secret Films SMADVD 219X)
One of the chief exponents of the aural assault, G.B.H. emerged, along with the wonderful Discharge, on Stoke-On-Trent's Clay label. Their influence has proved far more widespread than the band themselves could have imagined, especially on the US thrash metal scene. Captured live in a full-on performance at The Coronet in 2004, the power rips out of the TV at a phenomenal pace, begging the question, how do you play that fast?! City Baby Attacked By Rats is a fine example of their punk peak, with Gunned Down showing a more metal leaning. G.B.H. are the perfect embodiment of 80s second wave Hardcore. Professionally filmed with a crystal clear sound the original records would have killed for.
The Toy Dolls - Our Last DVD? (Secret Films SMADVD 225X)
Playing in front of a packed crowd in Holland in November 2004, The Toy Dolls perform their set of good natured crowd pleasers. What's more, the enthusiastic audience know all the words to all the songs, turning this into a party sing-a-long. Having never seen the band live myself, I was impressed at the entertainment! They intersperse their own songs with well known instrumentals, such as Tocatta, Sabre Dance, Wipe Out, and fittingly, The Entertainer, proving that they can play. Favourite cuts from this show: Fisticuffs
, Yul Brynner
, and I've Got Asthma. And yes, Nellie The Elephant is here. As with all the recent Secret Films releases, the gig is expertly filmed. A 40 minute interview with Olga and lots of rehearsal and tour footage make this a worthy value package.
For further details on Secret Films DVD releases, visit www.secretrecordslimited.com
Reviews by Phil Singleton (July 2005)
X Live In Los Angeles (Shout Factory 30162)
Although often overlooked in the UK in favour of the New York scene, the West Coast spawned a number of outstanding bands during the late '70s. X are one such band. Caught live last November to commemorate their 25th Anniversary, this 21 song DVD is superb.
As you would expect with such a highly acclaimed band, there is not a duff song in sight. Exene Cervenka's haunting vocals remain as distinctive as ever, and blend in slickly with bassist John Doe's complementary singing. A group of their stature knows how to deliver the goods, and do so with timeless enthusiasm. "We're Desperate, get used to it!" they demand as though it was still 1978. While John throws himself around, guitarist Billy Zoom coolly knocks out some of the most exciting licks to emerge from LA. All done with a knowing smile on his face. D.J. Bonebrake is solid on the kit, without being too flashy.
Like all outstanding bands, X have more to offer than punk-by-numbers, with folk and traditional rockabilly seeping into their sound, all wrapped in punk energy. Choice cuts include: Los Angeles, Johny Hit And Run Paulene, Motel Room In My Bed, and Year 1. The DVD extras are two Exene / John acoustic duets illustrating their bohemian roots. Billy Zoom's own photos of the crowd taken at X shows complete the package.
I was amazed at how much I enjoyed this DVD. Tremendous!
Review by Phil Singleton (July 2005)
Punk Rock Baby (Punk Rock Baby Ltd PR001)
This release has been around for a couple of years, but has recently undergone a renaissance, buoyed by plays on BBC radio. 'Soothing sounds for the nursery
a collection of 13 punk rock classics in a lullaby style' boasts the sleeve, and it's spot on. It's hilarious, good fun and strangely
well, relaxing! I first listened to the disc without looking at the track listing, playing 'guess the song'. Whereas Teenage Kicks and Pretty Vacant were instantly recognisable, London Calling proved more of a challenge. The keyboard led Smash It Up makes the switch to lullaby effortlessly, and seems somewhat apt for a nursery. Down In The Tube Station At Midnight is also a highlight as it manages to retain a feeling of menace.
The chaos caused by a baby seems to lend itself perfectly to the idea of the punk lullaby. This collection is not just for getting your annoying brat to shut up and go to sleep, but is also a relaxing way for a weary adult to unwind. Be brave, and relive those days when you really did create anarchy and chaos... in the nursery!
Review by Phil Singleton (July 2004)
On The Road With The Ramones
Monte A Melnick and Frank Meyer
Sanctuary Publishing £14.99
Released January 2004.
2,263 shows in 22 years. So opens On The Road With The Ramones. Following on from Everett True's excellent, if very opinionated, biography Hey Ho Let's Go, comes another superb Ramones' book. Monte Melnick was the Ramones' tour manager throughout the band's 22 years, so it's written by someone who genuinely 'was there'. The book is assembled via interviews with all the key figures (dead or alive) including Monte himself. A varied and impressive list of contributors give a balanced perspective, from other musicians, via fans, promoters, friends, spouses, and media. Little is left untouched.
Rather than being simply a chronology, it's divided loosely into different topics, covering everything from the band on the road, to the changes of drummers. It's a true insider's perspective. Clearly Monte has a love for the band, so he isn't out to savage them (read Dee Dee's or Everett's books for the 'warts and all' versions). He does not, however, shy away form the uncomfortable issues: the erratic behaviour of Dee Dee, Joey's illness, the abortive use of Clem Burke, it's all here. Also appreciated is the coverage given to the contribution made by Richie Ramone, who I always believed to be their best drummer (I recall the band's embarrassing 1985 Whistle Test performance. Richie held it together).
What really makes this book is the unbelievable wealth of unseen visual material. Monte has gathered an incredible array of photographs, posters, passes, call sheets, rooming lists, stage 'set ups', the list goes on. The early snaps are a delight, as the band found themselves in locations as diverse as Disneyland and Stonehenge.
If you're still reeling from the dreadful biography, An American Band, this time you won't be disappointed. On The Road With The Ramones is light years apart. If you are a fan, you need this book.
Review by Phil Singleton (January 2004)
Waking Up In London
Sanctuary £9.99 / $13.95
Just released is this fabulous look at the musical locations of London. Far more than merely a traveller's guide, it's aimed at the music fan looking for some history in amongst the contemporary atmosphere. Of course, any look at London worth its salt is going to include punk & the Pistols. Punk is at the core of Waking Up, taking the funeral of Joe Strummer as the initial point of reference and inspiration.
The clubs which paid a pivotal part in the formative years of punk and which still survive today, are revisited. A chapter, Punk Rockers at the 100 Club, tells the story of the Sex Pistols' association with the venue, drawing on an interview conducted with Glen Matlock earlier this year. Author Robert Ashton uses this technique throughout the book. Speaking to personalities ranging from musicians, club owners, producers, even traders at Camden market, he paints a picture of an evolving scene, which is both reflective and up-to-date. He also makes sure we know what these very same people are up to in modern day London.
All musical genres are covered, taking the reader on a comprehensive tour of the city. Travel information, maps, guides to music venues, restaurants, markets, key tourist highlights and hotels, are included. If you are planning a trip to London, whether to merely sample, or conversely, totally immerse yourself in the music it has to offer, buy this book.
Review by Phil Singleton (November 2003)
Up Yours! A Guide To UK Punk, New-Wave And Early Post-Punk.
Borderline Productions. £29.50
Music fans enjoy nothing more than absorbing themselves in facts, figures, and discographies. Compiling such information is, however, one of the most unenviable and daunting tasks to undertake.
It has of course being done in fine style by the likes of Martin Strong, whose 'Great Alternative And Indie Discography' tome addresses some of the artists that fall within the 'Up Yours!' remit. 'Up Yours!' has a far narrower focus, concentrating on a particular country (UK), a particular period (1976-82), with a strong emphasis on punk rock. Vernon Joynson's intention is to give fans of early UK punk rock, a book packed full of information that is likely to be of specific interest to them. Not since the 'International Discography Of The New Wave' was published in 1982, has there been a book with such an aim (albeit 'Up Yours!' does not have an international brief).
Many artists, especially punk groups that formed in the early Eighties, have discographies in print for the first time. This will be of particular use to collectors of Punk /Oi! from this era. For bands that formed during 76-82 who continued to make records beyond this period, Vernon Joynson follows their progress until the mid-Eighties. If artists have carried on beyond 1985/6, readers will have to go elsewhere for further information.
A particular strength of the book is that it goes to great lengths to list subsequent re-releases of the material. CD reissues, compilations, inclusions on various artists albums and CDs, they're all included, making the task of tracking down a lot of the recordings far easier. The value of this aspect of the book cannot be overstated. Also welcome is the inclusion of important record company release indexes. Again this is not restricted to labels formed during 76-82, but also includes labels currently specialising in the re-release of this material.
The book is illustrated throughout with pictures of record sleeves plus previously unseen pictures by photographer Stephen Richards, taken at venues such as the Roundhouse and Electric Ballroom 78-79.
With sections devoted specifically to both vinyl and CD compilations, as well as biographies of the groups covered, it is a mine of information. It would be easy to nit pick at minor errors that are inevitable in any work of this type, but that would be grossly unfair. This is a huge and unenviable undertaking, which deserves your support. The perfect solution to occupy those long winter nights.
Review by Phil Singleton
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