Tag Archives: punk

Punk / proto punk and New Wave from the ’70s

a tale of two big johns.

Contributor: John Allan, Bridgetown Western Australia,
September 2021)

At the age of 17 in 1975 I had found myself a ‘proper’ job. Junior musical
instrumental salesman in one of Glasgow’s largest and iconic music stores. I soon learned that all sorts of wannabe rock gods would come in just to try out a Fender Strat or Gibson Les Paul guitar with no intention of ever buying one and usually sent these jokers on their bike.


On one particular day a young lad about my age, a little on the chubby side, approached my colleague and timidly asked to try out a guitar on display only to be knocked back. I don’t know why, call it a moment of weakness, but I found myself feeling really sorry for this awkward nerdy kid.

He became a regular customer over the next few months and years ( I never did get to know his name at the time) and eventually did buy a guitar – a reasonable copy of a Fender or Gibson from memory. Every time I saw him (we were on nodding terms now) there was a subtle change to the appearance of this one time dweeb of a kid. A piercing here, a tattoo there, a ripped pair of tight jeans perhaps until the last time I saw him. There he was in all his splendour with tartan bondage type trousers, leather jacket all studs and safety pins and a bright green spiky mohawk haircut. Wow ! I thought. What a transformation. A punk chrysalis no less.The shop closed and I moved on.

About three years later I was watching the TV show Top of the Pops and they introduced a punk band called The Exploited. I thought ‘here we go’ and was about to turn it down when I noticed my man cavorting about with a flying V – the lad from the shop!


Same scenario seven years later. Watching MTV and Goodbye Mr. McKenzie popped up and there he is again !

This very blog jogged this memory and so inspired further in depth research (well, half an hour on Google) to find out more on ‘customer come celeb’.

Our guitar hero is known affectionately as Big John Duncan, and he does age with me.

After The Exploited, he had bands Human Zoo, Crazy Maybe and Blood Uncles before joining the McKenzies.

He then went on to have a life as a guitar technician with Nirvana, Twisted Sister, Foo Fighters and Ministry.

Here he is talking about Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love.

Goodbye Mr McKenzie are making a bit of a comeback apparently so look out for them if you’re in central Scotland.

I wonder at any time over the years if Big John paused and thought “I wonder what ever happened to that spotty faced teenage music shop assistant that let me try out a guitar ? Oh, here’s your Fender Mustang Kurt.”

No. I don’t think so either !



sacripolitical

(Sacripolitical 1983 – Mark, Matt, John & Sam)

Sacripolitical were, and now are now once again, a hardcore punk band from Marin County, California. Formed in 1982, around their time of leaving High School in San Rafael. The band, whose name reflects the members’ irreverent attitude towards politics, played shows around the state right through the decade.

They first took to the stage at the Sleeping Lady Cafe in Fairfax in late 1983, as a three-piece. No amp; upturned plastic pickle barrels substituting for drums, and improvised,, shouted vocals – the stunned audience of hippies and punks didn’t quite know what to make of the young upstarts!

Vocalist, both then and now, John Marmysz, takes up the story:

Back then, there was a very small, but very enthusiastic punk scene here in Marin County, California that has been sorely under-documented and over-shadowed by the San Francisco and East Bay scenes. There was a lot of raw creativity and rebellion, a good deal of trouble, lots of fun, and some sad tragedies.

“We played shows throughout the 1980’s on the bill with bands like Frightwig, Fang, Camper Van Beethoven, and The Pukes. We were interviewed on the Maximum Rock N Roll radio program, and in 1993 we recorded an EP titled ‘Peace: Under Our Supervision’ that was released on cassette.”

During the mid-1980’s, Sacripolitcal became a fixture at Marin County punk shows, frequently playing at the Sleeping Lady Cafe, various underground warehouse shows, and at the Flashback Cafe in Mill Valley, where the founder of “Cutting Edge Productions,” Mike Kavanaugh, dubbed them the house band.

Performances at the Flashback Cafe were frequent and rowdy. It was there that Sacripolitical appeared with bands such as Tales of Terror, Special Forces, Victim’s Family, Defend the Keg, Diet Tribe, The Pukes, and many, many others.

Often, Sacripolitical would hand out special “prizes” and “treats,” sometimes consisting of band pins and stickers, sometimes consisting of spent rifle and pistol casings. The shows went late into the evenings and were regularly interrupted by the police, who sought to silence what must have appeared to them like a riot waiting to happen.

(Live at Flashback Cafe. Mill Valley 1984)
(Live at the Cabbage Patch, San Rafael, 1983)

John continues:
Sacripolitical broke up in 1993 and everyone went their different ways, but by 2019 some of us – now old guys! – resettled in and around Marin and decided to start playing shows again. This, as it turns out, was bad timing as the pandemic hit in 2020 and live music venues went into hibernation.

“The pandemic killed a lot of bands, but we assembled some recording equipment, learned how to use it, and started writing new songs.

“In 2021 we recorded a 4-song, DIY EP and pressed a 7” 45 rpm vinyl record. The EP is titled ‘Pandemic Sessions, ‘ commemorating the conditions under which it was made. We’ve also been contributing songs to a number of punk charity compilations put out by 8 Up Records.”

You can hear, and indeed buy, the result of these sessions , here on Bandcamp. I particularly enjoyed ‘Gogol’s Nose,’ with the discordant saxophone giving a bit of an old school, No Wave kind of feel.

Hopefully, over the coming months, we can all get on top of the pandemic, and gigs will once again become more commonplace. Neighbourhoods need a vibrant local music scene, and while they may now be about thirty years older, I bet Sacripolitical can still do ‘vibrant’ with the best of them!

(Live, January 2020 – pre-pandemic.)

SACRIPOLITICAL
John Marmysz – Vocals
Matt Schmidt – Guitar
Mark Wallace/Mike Hansen – Bass
Gary Benson – Drums
Charles Greer – Saxophone
Juneko Robinson/Sian Killingsworth – Backing Vocals

TITLEFORMATYEARLABELNOTES
Peace: Under Our SupervisionCassette / Single sided EP1993N/A
Shove It Up Your Ass B/W Gogol’s Nose ‎7″ single2021N/A
Pandemic SessionsDigital album2021N/A – via Bandcamp

rumkicks

Choi Se Eun (bass) and Jeong Yea Wong (guitar) are Rumkicks. They are a two piece punk band from Seoul, in the Republic of Korea, although I believe there are plans for them to be joined by a permanent drummer soon.

(Choi Se Eun)
(Jeong Yea Wong)

They formed in September 2018, and after releasing two singles in the following year, they had great plans and hopes for 2020. Didn’t we all?!
The surging pandemic put paid to that and the band were forced to remain at home instead of accepting the invitation to play at the Chonging Punk Festival in China. It had also been hoped to play a few dates around Beijing.

This year though, has seen a gradual relaxation of restrictions with life slowly beginning to return to some sort of normality and Rumkicks have once again been allowed to play gigs in their home country. They have also released two singles this year to date, ‘Don’t Touch My Head’ (above) and this, ‘I Don’t Wanna Die.’ And in true punk spirit, have also contributed songs to various charity compilations in Asia.


They are currently working hard towards embarking upon an Asian / China tour once the pandemic finally releases its grip on inter country travel. Reading between the lines, though, I think their BIG aim for 2022,, is to take that stage in Blackpool, England, at the iconic Rebellion Festival and play alongside many of their musical heroes. (I would hazard a guess that one of the bands they admire, is Cock Sparrer – do I detect a likeness to their ‘trademark’ song, ‘England Belongs To Me,’ in this recording? Don’t get me wrong – it’s no bad thing. I like it!)

**Actually, after posting this, I found a video of the band covering the song in a small venue somewhere back in 2019.**

Although I’ve been into Asian punk for a while, the bands I’ve enjoyed have been mainly from China and Japan: Another Idea and Hang On The Box, (China) and The Erections and Shonen Knife (Japan) are the ones that spring immediately to mind from my collection. Rumkicks are the first from Korea. I’m sure there’s a whole new punk out there for me to discover!

I find the music of Rumkicks a real ‘pick me up.’ It’s old-school, in yer face, punk; it’s fast and furious; it’s angry, but fun. I love the vibrancy of the music and colourful image.

When I go to a gig, I like to have a few beers jump around with a group of like-minded souls. If they do manage to the UK next summer, and they head up to Glasgow, then look out for the old punk with a puny mohawk, giving it laldy down in the mosh pit!

RUMKICKS

Choi Se Eun – Bass / Vocals
Jeong Yea Wong – Guitar / Vocals

TITLEFORMATYEAR LABELNOTES
Youth 18Digital Track2019N/A (Bandcamp)
BrutalityDigital EP2020N/A (Bandcamp)
Don’t Touch My HeadDigital Track2021N/A (Bandcamp)
I Don’t Wanna DieDigital Track2021N/A (Bandcamp)



bad mary

Bad Mary are a four piece punk outfit, playing out of Long Island, New York. They have been together eleven years, recording since 2013, and have gigged at some of the city’s most iconic venues, The Knitting Factory and The Bowery Electric among them. They have also played on the bill at The Warped Tour, and completed a very successful mini-tour of Japan.

Their music is generally fast and bouncy, danceable punk; music to get everyone moving in those intimate, sweaty venues. They sure bring a fun vibe to their music – which for me, is just what music in general is all about.

They have released three EPs and two albums, the latest of which, ‘The Return of Space Girl,‘ debuted in 2019. It’s a punk-rock space-opera about a robot from space who has a few things she needs to teach the world. Yeah. It really is!

The album is a real belter, musically. Thirteen furiously pounding but melodic songs in thirty-three minutes – true old school punk style. Check out ‘I, Robot,’ is my recommendation.

They declare themselves as a punk band, inspired by Seventies punk luminaries such as The Ramones and Blondie, but blending their sound and fun attitude with that of second wave punk bands such as Green Day and Paramore. ( I can actually hear a similarity in Amanda’s vocal delivery to Hayley’s.)

However, I see and hear much more than that.

Bad Mary are prolific in posting videos and from what I’ve seen, they could equally head off down a more gothic route (White Rabbit – which I’m unable to post here) or even artrock avenue, (Theme From Daria.)

(I love this video / track.)

As with bands the world over, these past eighteen months have been a bit of a nightmare with no live shows, but in addition to adding to their You Tube channel, Bad Mary have been streaming short live gigs on a weekly basis during the pandemic.

I’d suggest tuning in and checking them out.

BAD MARY

Amanda Mac – Lead Vocals
David Henderson – Guitar
Mike Staub – Bass / Vocals
Bill Mac – Drums

TITLEFORMATYEARLABELNOTES
Better DaysAlbum2013Unknown
Killing Dinosaurs EP2015Unknown
We Could Have Saved The WorldEP2016Unknown
Glitter BombEP2017Unknown
The Return of Space GirlAlbum2019Unknown




radio stars


1977 saw punk music take a more melodic turn towards what would become popularly known as ‘new wave.’ Exponents would still harbour that old ‘F*** you’ attitude, but would express it with a smile rather a than a snarl.

One such band, and a big favourite of mine to this day, were Radio Stars. They wouldn’t claim to be the biggest of bands, but I’m sure everyone of a certain age will remember, their greatest hit, ‘Nervous Wreck.‘ (It tip-toed into the UK charts for three weeks in February 1978, peaking at number thirty-nine.)

It’s not that they were without pedigree – they had that in spade-loads. They were formed in 1976, when the initially heralded glam supergroup, Jet, split up a couple of years and one album into their existence. Vocalist Andy Ellison, who had previously been one of John’s Children, alongside Marc Bolan, former Sparks bass player, Martin Gordon and guitarist Ian MacLeod dusted themselves off and regrouped as Radio Stars.

(Martin on the left.)

By 1976, Glam had had its day, and the music press, always keen to pigeon-hole bands for convenience and order, decided the ‘new’ band were more New Wave than Glam or out and out Punk.

In April 1977, the band released their debut single ‘Dirty Pictures‘ on Chiswick Records, and a month later recorded their first session for the John Peel radio show.

This is when and how I first became aware of Radio Stars. I remember it so vividly – especially the track ‘No Russians In Russia‘ which later appear on the ‘Stop It’ EP.

Television appearances followed, the first reportedly being on Marc Bolan’s own show. (See – it sure pays to maintain your contacts, kids.)

(Marc and Andy)

The association with Bolan was also apparent on the B-side of ‘Nervous Wreck,’ Radio Stars’ flirtation with the charts in 1977 – ‘Horrible Breath‘ was written by him during his time with John’s Children.

The years of 1977 and 1978 seem to have been relentless. I have counted two hundred and eight gigs (as detailed in Martin Gordon’s brilliantly deadpan and self deprecating website.) There were two albums released, ‘Songs For Swinging Lovers,’ and the ‘Holiday Album,’ as well as five singles / EP.

Unfortunately, sales of the latter album were not on the same level as the debut . We music fans it seems, can be so fickle!

It would also appear from Martin’s website there was a bit of dispute within the band and Radio Stars subsequently faded, and died.

I was lucky enough to see them on 10th October 1978 at Strathclyde University, Glasgow – I got a pal who was studying there to sign me in. I must have seen hundreds of gigs in my time, but I can honestly say that there are very few that I remember as well at that one, almost forty-three years ago!

RADIO STARS
Andy Ellison – Lead Vocals
Martin Gordon – Bass / Vocals
Ian MacLeod – Guitar
Steve Parry – Drums

TITLEFORMATYEARLABELNOTES
Dirty Pictures 7″ single1977Chiswick Records
Nervous Wreck 7″ single1977Chiswick Records
Stop It7″ EP1977Chiswick Records
Radio Stars7″ single1978Chiswick Records
From A Rabbit 
7″ single1978Chiswick Records
The Real Me7″ single1979Chiswick Records
Songs For Swinging LoversLP1977Chiswick Records
Holiday AlbumLP1978Chiswick Records

the radiators from space

Formed in Dublin in 1975, Radiators From Space are credited with being Ireland’s first punk band, initially adopting the name Greta Garbage and The Trash Cans.

Their music is straight up, first wave punk – nothing too fancy, just high energy, angry but melodic, shouted gang vocals, over raucous guitar and drums with a predominant, throbbing baseline. At this early stage, the music still echoed influences of early Sixties rock ‘n’ roll / garage and like all classic punk songs, none overstay their welcome, and are short sharp and straight to the point!

The band were picked up by the excellent Chiswick Records label (more about them in a later post) and their debut single ‘Television Screen‘ was released in 1977.

Later the same year, their first album (and only LP under this particular name) was released, again on Chiswick Records. ‘TV Tube Heart‘ comprises thirteen tracks, over thirty-three fast, furious and fabulous minutes. You could say that the sound is standard ’77 punk noise, with tracks like ‘Ripped and Torn‘ reflected by The Rezillos and ‘Blitzin At The Ritz,‘ a bit Clash-esque in places.

By the time of the album’s recording, original vocalist, Steve Rapid, had left the band, to be replaced by Phil Chevron who would later move on to join The Pogues.

In 1978, the decision was taken to shorten the band name to simply, ‘The Radiators,‘ and their second album, ‘Ghostown‘ was released in 1979.

Over the years, there have been a few re-incarnations of the band and retrospective releases, but these are the only two albums of The Seventies.

(After leaving the band, Steve Rapid – real name Steve Averill – went on to become a successful design artist, famously responsible for producing U2’s album covers. He is also reportedly credited with suggesting the band changed their name from ‘The Hype.’)

(Steve Chevron sadly passed away in 2013)

(Back of the sleeve to debut album, ‘TV Tube Heart.’)

THE RADIATORS FROM SPACE
Phil Chevron – Vocals / Guitar
James Crash – Drums
Peter Holdai – Guitar
Mark Megaray – Bass
Stephen Rapid (Steve Averill) – Vocals

TITLEFORMATLABELYEARNOTES
Television Screen7″ singleChiswick Records1977I’ve only listed 7″ singles and albums released under the name ‘The Radiators From Space.’
Enemies 7″ singleChiswick Records1977
Sunday World ‎7″ singleCBS Records1977
TV Tube Heart LPChiswick Reecords1977