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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Perfect Unpop ****




Peel Show Hits & Long-Lost Lo-Fi Favorites Vol 1 - 1976 to 1980
Various Artists
Cherry Red Records
http://www.cherryred.co.uk/index.php

"I just want to hear something I haven't heard before." - The John Peel Credo

I picked this up at Soundgarden over the weekend on the strength of seeing The Mo-Dettes' "White Mice" on CD. I had heard this rare, oddball single on The Last Stiff Compilation...Until The Next One, a great 1980 Stiff Records compilation that was never released on CD...


The Last Stiff Compilation...Until the Next One

...and recalled it was really good, so when digitally remastered opportunity knocked, I snatched it up and I'm glad I did, though the Mo-dettes pale against the brilliance of some of the other artists represented here, highlighted by Swell Maps ("Real Shocks"), The Boys ("Brickfield Nights"), The Bears ("On Me"), The Wasps ("Teenage Treats"), The Carpettes ("Radio Wunderbar"), and the Monochrome Set, whose "He's Frank" is easily the best thing on this platter.

I love this period (1976-1980) in British indie rock, the punk and early post-punk era of The DIY Single that offered unknown regional bands like The Subway Sect, Vibrators, Au Pairs, Swell Maps, Young Marble Giants, The Monochrome Set - and yes, the Mo-dettes - the chance to get played on John Peel's BBC Radio 1 program and use the exposure to get released on small indie labels like RAK, Dining Out, Waldo's Records, Rabid, Rough Trade, Stiff, Radar, Vindaloo (!) and the like. To paraphrase a David Bowie anthem: Anyone could be heroes, just for a day. But as much as I loved punk (full disclosure: I once played in a musically-challenged band of two-chord wonders fitting the "punk" description), post-punk was even more exciting and full of variety than its predecessor. Or as Television guitarist Tom Verlaine phrased it in "The Fire": "I love disaster, and I love what comes after."

Unfortunately, while punk has been well-covered in numerous tomes and compilations, there's a dearth of information about the post-punk period other than Simon Reynolds' essential bio Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-Punk 1978-1984 and Hyped2Death Records's Messthetics (covering UK DIY bands) and Teenline (covering US DIY bands) CD comps. But now comes this compilation, whose mission statement is simple: "Perfect Unpop is based on a dangerous assumption: that if you were ever touched by British DJ John Peel’s enthusiasm for spiky 70s pop, those fantastic three minutes of energy defined a generation. You know classics like “Teenage Kicks” or “What Do I Get”, but here’s a compilation that draws on some more obscure but equally compelling slices of post-punk goodness. Variety is the spice of life and here’s a collection of John Peel favourites a little less likely to crop up on your iPod but no less likely to win a place in your heart."

Quite.

Track Listing:

1. Tours - "Language School" (Tours, 1979)

"Language School" by Dorset's Tours was John Peel's second favorite single (after The Undertones' "Teenage Kicks" - which he famously requested be played at his funeral) and he played it for 50 consecutive nights when it came out. Amazingly, this marks the first appearance on CD of guitarist Richard Mazda's a-Peeling ditty that anticipated the '80s mod revival. It's hard to decipher the Limey accents, but lines like "French dresses make me feel alright," make me think the song has something to do with randy locals exploring foreign tongues. The flip side continues the obsession with "Foreign Girls". Thanks to the airplay afforded them by Peel and fellow Radio 1 DJ Mike Reid, Tours found themselves in the midst of a bidding war between Virgin, Polydor, Sire and EMI records, eventually signing with Virgin in 1979 - but the association was shortlived as an agument between the band and the label led the other founder/leader Ronnie Mayor to quit.

Mazda goes zoom zoom: Mazda later became an in-house producer for IRS Records (working with the likes of The Fall, The Birthday Party, Wall of Voodoo, The Fleshtones, Tom Robinson, Alternative TV, Yello, Suburban Lawns and Brian James) and, 10 years after handing this single to John Peel, wrote the Billboard No. 1 "How Long" for Ultra Nate. After he went bald, Mazda become a character actor on stage and screen; look for him in Quills, Sleepy Hollow, The World Is Not Enough, Shakespeare in Love, Saving Private Ryan, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. And be sure to check out his website: richardmazda.com.

The Mayor of Mumbleton: Post-Tours, brogue-heavy singer Ronnie Mayor formed The Biz ("On the Beach"), got sacked and then went solo, releasing the single "Can't Wait 'Till The Summer Comes" (not to be confused with The Undertones' "Here Comes the Summer"!) He then disappeared Down Under in Australia, where he immersed himself in "world music".

Tours Personnel:
Richard Mazda: guitar
Ronnie Mayor: vocals
Steve Jeff: bass
Mark Spiers: drums

2. The Vibrators - "Whips & Furs" (RAK, 1976)

He drives a black cadillac/Whips and furs in the back. These Old School pub rockers jumped on the punk rock bandwagon when they renamed the driving "Dance To the Music" as "Whips & Furs" and put it on the flip of their first, Mickey Most-produced single "We Vibrate". It certainly complimented their wink-wink band name and made them seem nasty boys, but don't worry, this is an innocuous Chuck Berry rocker all the way. I think the Vibrators tried to come off as nastier than they were - like The Stranglers - with song titles and subject matter hinting at kink and S&M.

In fact, back in the day, my old punk band Thee Katatonix covered their song "I Need A Slave" because our frontman Adolf Kowalski (pictured left) - who always had impeccable taste when it came to covers - found the title sufficiently provocative to merit addition to a setlist that already boasted songs like "I Don't Wanna Marry a Dyke" and "(I Sure Miss My) Foreskin". But I digress...As Mark Deming (All Music Guide) mused about the Vibrator's pub rock roots, "Were the Vibrators real punks? Maybe not, but then again, were the Stranglers? Or Eddie and the Hot Rods? Even more to the point, was Steve Jones? Plenty of rock careerists jumped onto the punk/new wave bandwagon in the wake of the Sex Pistols' success (and more than a few folks, like Jones, stumbled into the new movement by accident), but unlike most of them, the Vibrators took to the fast/loud/stripped down thing like ducks to water..." So true, and though they later famously backed guitarist Chris Spedding ("Pogo Dancing"), who also plays on this single, the Vibrators were singer-guitarist Ian "Knox" Carnochan's band, and this song dates from his days in an outfit called Despair.

Personnel:
Knox: vocals, guitars
Pat Collier: guitars
John Edwards: bass
Eddie: drums
Chris Spedding: guitars

3. Subway Sect - "Ambition" (Rough Trade, 1978)

I won't be tempted by vile evils, 'cause vile evils are vile evils! - Vic Godard

The greatest Sect since Downliner Sect ("Glendora") wrote this song considered the greatest single by a band never to have an album. I had heard a lot of hype about how great this band was, and also about how little musical ability Vic Godard's charges had, but you could certainly fool me on the latter. I was pleasantly surprised and wanted to hear more. Or as CD compiler Derek Hammond put it: "The Subway Sect weren't 'poor'. They were rich with nothing."

According to Wikipedia, Godard retired from music in the mid-80s to become a postman, with the remnants of his Sect lineup going on to form JoBoxers ("Just Got Lucky"). He got back into music in 1990 after reading New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders' obit, inspiring him to write "Johnny Thunders" and ten other tracks that ended up on The End of the Surrey People LP. The drummer on that album was former Sex Pistol Paul Cook, bringing full circle the Pistols influence - Godard having formed Subway Sect in 1976 at the suggestion of Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, who wanted another band for the line-up of the 100 Club Punk Festival. (McLaren subsequently fobbed off management of the band to Clash puppetmaster Bernie Rhodes.)

Vic Godard/Subway Sect Website

Personnel:
Vic Godard- singing, warbling
Robert Symmons- guitar
Paul Myers- bass
Paul Smith- drums 1976
Mark Laff - drums 1977-1978
Bob Ward - drums 1977-1978

4. Young Marble Giants - "Final Day" (Rough Trade, 1980)

"When the light goes out on the final day, we will all be gone having had our say."

Pleasant croonings from Alison Statton quietly backed by her Welsh bandmates (whose ranks included the brothers Philip and Stuart Moxham), this debut single from the short-lived Cardiff legends (1980-1981) has been described quite rightly as "one of the the biggest tiny songs in musical history". Think Mo Tucker in The Velvet Underground's "After Hours" or "I'm Sticking With You." (Or, subject-wise, think Morrissey's "Every Day Is Like Sunday.") According to Simon Reynolds, Young Marble Giants made "music by introverts, for introverts," seeking a sound, in the words of bassist Philip Moxham, like "a radio that's between stations, listening to it under the bedclothes at four A.M., these fantastic short-wave sounds and snatches of modulated sounds." Guitarist-songwriter Stuart Moxham likened the interplay of his muted strumming technique (in which he rested his strumming hand on the strings to lessen vibration) and his brother's melodic bass playing to "musical knitting".

Inspired by an Ian Fleming short story and the government-sponsored civil defense film Protect and Survive (1975) - and with atmospheric drone courtesy of jamming a matchstick in the keyboard (how very DIY!) - YMG's best-known song is a testament to the virtues of Keeping Things Simple, from its brevity (clocking in at a scant minute and a half) to Statton's subdued, matter-of-fact delivery.

Surprisingly, Statton's contributions were a reluctant after-thought. Stuart Moxham didn't really want her in the band, despite the fact that she was Philip's girlfriend and was voted the eight-best singer of 1980 by NME readers. In Rip It Up and Start Again, Reynolds quotes Stuart declaring "Alison's not a singer! She's someone who sings. Alison sings as if she was at the bus stop or something." Ha, just goes to show how wrong musicians can be, for it's Alison Statton's natural phrasing and calming tone that lures the listener into this fine tune.

Young Marble Giants are on MySpace (isn't everybody?)

Personnel:
Philip Moxham: bass
Stuart Moxham: guitar
Alison Statton: vocals
Peter Joyce: drums

5. Kleenex - "Hedi's Head" (Rough Trade, 1978)

It could be said of Swiss artchick kollective Kleenex (later known as LiliPUT) that, like The Ramones, they only knew how to play one song - but it was a good one, in the same quirky, fun and minimalmalist spirit of the Gabba Gabba Hey boys. That said, this non-sensical experiment in chord progressions is merely a reprise of "Ain't You" from the 4-track EP Switzerland's first all-girl punk group sent John Peel in 1978. Love the bird-squawking vocals ("Eee-Eee!"). Bonus: features the mysterious, elusive "H" chord!

In 1979, Kleenex changed their name to LiliPUT following a legal challenge by Kimberly-Clark, makers of Kleenex and other consumer products. (Interestingly enough, in Switzerland, Kleenex wasn't associated with facial tissues - it was a tampon brand name!)

LiliPUT Wikepedia entry.

Personnel:
Regula Sing: vocals
Marlene Marder: guitar
Klaudia Schifferle: bass
Lislot Hafner: Drums

6. The Bears - "On Me" (Waldo's Records, 1978)

How did I never hear about The Bears, a Watford band formed in 1976 by ex-Wire guitarist George Gill that took its name from Yogi Bear cartoons (original band name: Smarter & The Average Bears)? Besides Gill (who was sacked when Graham Lewis and Robert Grey joined Wire), The Bears also boasted another, later Wire alumnus in saxophonist Kris Kershaw.

According to the Website punk77.co.uk, "Like Wire they went in for minimalist song riffs but unlike Wire clearly had a sense of humour and the absurd" with songs about dropping bags of flour off tower blocks on peoples heads as well as "snipers, getting yourself killed, living in a car and so on."

Their subject matter seemed prophetic, as original singer Mick North and his mate Pete Perspex of The Paper Doilies were killed in a car accident in September 1977. Then, in January 1978, George Gill and his girlfriend were beaten up by a group of punk-taunting hooligans. But the band soldiered on, replacing North with ex-Paper Doilies singer John Entrails (whose nasally vocal style calls to mind early Brian Eno) and recording their debut single "On Me" before calling it a day in November of 1978. As punk77 summed up Watford's third-best maestros (after homeboy Elton John and Wire), "The Bears suffered from infrequent recordings, line up changes and personal disasters which is a shame because they were a bit special and should have had more success. Punk wasn't all about anger and shouting and The Bears showed some real individuality."

Post-Bears, the rhythm section of Ron West and Cally Cameron went on to form The Tea Set, whose "Cups and Saucers" (from the Cups and Saucers EP) turns up on Hyped2death Records's Messthetics CD compilation series.

Personnel:
George Gill: guitar
Kris Kershaw: saxophone
Ron West: bass
Cally Cameron: drums
John Entrails (ex-Paper Doilies): vocals

7. Wreckless Eric - "Whole Wide World" (Stiff, 1978)

Ah, Wreckless Eric (aka Eric Goulden), the pride of Newhaven, East Sussex, England was one of the first artists signed to fledgling Stiff Records and remains best known for this ditty which, more than two decades after its release, was included in Mojo Magazine’s list of "The best punk rock singles of all time" and "Top 40singles of the alternative era 1975 – 2000". That said, I much prefer his "Take the Cash" and if I never hear "Whole Wide World" again in my life, it wouldn't be too soon - it's just turned up on too many Stiff/New Wave/Punk compilations. It was also covered later by Laptop and The Proclaimers.

Historically significant, but the first of two duds (the other being The Perfects' perfectly unlistenable "Going Through the Motions") on this compilation, as far as I'm concerned. Fast forward!

8. Swell Maps - Real Shocks (1979)

Birmingham's lo-fi avant-garde standard-bearers Swell Maps released four singles and two albums during their 1977–1980 heyday, all platters reaching No. 1 on the British Independent charts. The creation of two lads originally from from Solihull, the Brothers Godfrey - drummer Epic Soundtracks (Kevin Godfrey) and singer-songwriter-guitarist Nikki Sudden (Nicolas Godfrey) - Swell Maps were pioneers of the post-punk DIY movement and later influenced '80s "C86" bands (named after a 1986 New Musical Express cassette compilation of indie label bands, C86 became a musical shorthand for bands featuring jangly guitars and fey melodies), not to mention Sonic Youth and Pavement.

OK, swell, but what about the song, the Maps' third single on Rough Trade? With lines like "So you seek to destroy, everything was planned" and "Everything I've seen, it doesn't change a thing," the song might well be talking about the whole Pistols-led punk rock phenomena, but in the CD liner notes, bassist Jowe Head posits the idea that the song's use of such sensitive and "antique charms" as piano and acoustic guitar helped "push the DIY element in the growing independent scene into more diverse territory." It certainly has one of the most brilliant middle eights in recent memory, a contrapuntal mood swing featuring a piano solo over Epic Soundtracks' rock-steady beat.

And the cover of the single (pictured above right)? "We adapted the image of the amplifier on the front from a Josie and the Pussycats sticker I found," says Head. "But don't tell anyone."

Things didn't pan out so swell for Maps post-postpunk: Epic Soundtracks died of unknown causes at the age of 37 in 1997 and Nikki Sudden died - suddenly - of a heart attack in his sleep on March 26, 2006 after a concert in New York City. Jowe Head sang "Real Shocks" at Sudden's memorial service.

Swell Maps are on MySpace.

Personnel:
Nikki Sudden: guitar, vocals
Epic Soundtracks: drums, piano
Jowe Head: bass, vocals
David Barrington: guitar
John Cockrill
Richard Earl

9. The Out - Who Is Innocent? (Rabid Records, 1979)

I had never heard of Manchester's "not-quite-punk powerpop" group The Out or their leader, the Wrexham, Wales-born "Guitar George" Borowski, which is exactly why Derek Hammond's liner notes rightly exclaim, "Life can be so unfair. George Borowski plays like a demon squeezing out inspirational tunes so sweet they can make you feel physically seven stones lighter...and all he gets remembered for is being patronised by a bald bloke with a bandana." That bloke would be Mark Knopfler, whose Dire Straits song "Sultans of Swing" sent a shout out to the Out maestro as follows:

Check out Guitar George, he knows all the chords
Mind, he's strictly rhythm, he doesn't want to make it cry or sing
Yes, and an old guitar is all he can afford
When he gets up under the lights to play his thing


Besides Knopfler, The Doves, Radiohead, Teenage Fanclub (with whom he later played) and The Pixies (whose Frank Black says "I have never seen a rock and roll performer so completely connected with what he was doing on stage") are also fans...but, as Moz would say, the world won't listen. This despite GG being able to trace his lineage to Sergei Rachmanikov, (he's a great-nephew of the legendary Russian composer), touring with Meat Loaf (!), and having a half-brother (Tim Borowski) who plays for German football club Bayern Munich (OK, perhaps only I'm impressed by that last one).

Going by this track, George should be more famous, especially given this single's Jam-like mod energy. But as Q MAGAZINE blurbed it: "Guitar George Borowski, one of the hitherto-unacknowledged people, products and 'things that have helped shape rock'n'roll… and a commemorative verse in Dire Straits' 'Sultans of Swing' - such has been the life of Mr. Unsung Personified."

Speaking of Q, read their "Guitar George" interview with Borowski, in which he explains how he came to impress Mark Knopfler one night in Manchester:

"We had the job of opening for the bands at a place called Rafters...When Dire Straits played, Mark Knopfler came over to me and said, 'That's a great guitar sound you've got. How come you don't play solos?' The thing is, I can't really play solos, I just play chords. He had a go on my guitar; it was a piece of plywood with two pick-ups and a reject neck, but it sounded teriffic. I said 'You can have it if you want, it's only worth eighteen quid.' And he was like , 'Oh no, no, I can't take it.' That was about the long and short of it, really.

Well, "Who Is Innocent" may be the short of it, but the Sgt. Peppery montage picture sleeve provides the hours-long of it. I'm still trying to figure out who's who (as well as who's innocent!); click on the image above to enlarge.

Besides being immortalised in song, touring with Meat Loaf and Teenage Fanclub, and getting steady work as a session guitarist, Borowski was in a ton of bands, including his post-Out group, Captain Swoop & the Fabulous Wonderfuls, whose "Tonight Could Be the Night" single can be found on Hyper2Death Record's Messthetics CD series. He still plays with the lads and has his own Manchester radio show.

George Borowski on Wikipedia.

George Borowski's Website: georgeborowski.co.uk

George Borowski on MySpace.

George Borowski & The Fabulous Wonderfuls on YouTube.

10. Eater - Thinking Of The USA (The Label, 1977)

North London punks Eater took their name from - of all sources - the Tolkienesque hippie gibberish of an early T. Rex song ("Suneye" from 1970's T. Rex: "Tree wizard pure tongue, the digger of holes, the swan king, the elf lord, The eater of souls, Lithon the black, The rider of stars, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the eater of cars”) and their second single "Thinking of the USA" was included in a leading British music magazine’s list of the "best punk-rock singles of all-time" in 2001. Though I can't agree with that hyperbolic statement (I tend to agree with another critic's assessment of them as "run-of-the-mill dole queue punk rock"), it's not a bad song and name-checks such Eater influences as The Velvet Underground and The Heartbreakers alongside notorious Yank celebs Richard "Watergate" Nixon and then-topical spree killer Gary Gilmore (who on January 17, 1977 became the first person executed in the United States after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a new series of death penalty statutes): "Walter Lure comes from the USA, Lou Reed comes from the USA, Richard Nixon comes from the USA, Gary Gilmore comes from the USA". This was probably as close as Eater came to irony. (Gary Gilmore was most famously name-dropped in one-chord wonders The Adverts' UK Top 20 hit "Gary Gilmore Eyes".)

Eater released five singles and the self-descriptive long-player The Album before splitting up in 1979. Andy Blade, who once shared an apartment with The Cult's Billy Duffy, later published a book about his rock and roll career called The Secret Life of a Teenage Punk Rocker (2005). Drummer "Dee Generate" joined the band as a 13-year-old in 1976, introduced to the lads by The Damned's Rat Scabies.

Personnel:
Andy Blade: guitar and vocals
Brian Chevette: guitar
Ian Woodcock: bass
Roger "Dee Generate" Bullen: drums

Eater bio at http://www.punk77.co.uk/groups/eater.htm.

Eater bio at The Pop Mod Punk Archives.

11. The Disco Zombies - "Mary Millington"



OK monotonous meanderings salvaged by the outro psych guitar solo. Shame, because the Disco Zombies' subject is more interesting than the song itself. Mary Millington was a Brit porn actress who took her life in 1979; too bad Nick Lowe didn't show the Zombies how to pull off a "Mary Provost"-style witty-ditty on this single.

According to the Internet Movie DataBase (IMDB):
"Mary Millington [pictured at left] had trained to become a veterinary nurse, but a chance meeting with infamous London photographer John Lindsay changed her life. Under Lindsay's influence, Mary started to pose nude in dozens of photo spreads in British glamor magazines. From this she progressed into illegally made hardcore porn films. In 1974 she met up-and-coming publisher and film producer David Sullivan, and very soon she became the most recognizable nude model in the UK. Sullivan relentlessly promoted her through his magazines and starred her in his 1977 movie Come Play with Me (1977). The film ran for 201 weeks at one London cinema and broke box office records throughout the country. Other movies followed, but Come Play with Me still stands as the longest-running film in British movie history. Unfortunately, as Mary's fame increased so did her reliance on drugs. Persecuted by the police and becoming more and more paranoid about her looks, Mary tragically committed suicide on 19th August 1979."

London's Disco Zombies released two singles and an EP before disbanding in 1980; their best known release was their second single, "Drums Over London"/"Heartbeats Love".

Personnel:
Geoff Dodimeed: bass
Mark Sutherland: lead
Andy Fullerton: drums
Andy Ross: guitarand vocals
David Henderson: vocals

12. Mo-Dettes - "White Mice" (Rough Trade, 1979)

Self-released as their first single in 1979 on Mode records and later picked up by Rough Trade, "White Mice" spent 5 weeks at No. 1 on the Indie charts. Like Kleenex, the Mo-Dettes are Slits devotees featuring an English as a Second Language singer mumbling broken English sentiments like "Don't be stupid, don't be limp" (words to live by, to be sure) over a minimalist backbeat. What weird, speech-impediment vocals - is it possible chanteusse Ramona had two tongues in her mouth? As the CD liner notes put it: "She's singing pidgin-Swiss without taking the gum out of her gob."

Nevertheless, John Peel loved them, describing the Mo-Dettes sound as "the musical equivalent to those children's TV programs where yo make a model of the Battersea power station out of egg boxes". The Mo-dettes got further exposure on BBC Radio 1, DJ John Peel's show on 28 January 1980, broadcasting versions of "Norman (He's No Rebel)", "Dark Park Creeping", "Kray Twins" and "Bitter Truth". Further sessions followed on 26 August 1980 and 11 July 1981.


Girls Night Out: The Mo-Dettes

Besides the mumbly Ramona, the rest of the Mo misses included American guitarist Kate Korus, drummer Kate Miles-Kingston, and teen runaway Jane Crockford on bass - the latter a former squat-mate of Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious. (It's who you know that counts in Show Biz.)

Personnel:
Ramona: vocals
Kate Korus: guitar
Jane Crockford: bass
June Miles-Kingston: drums

13. The Outcasts - "Self Conscious Over You" (Good Vibrations, 1979)

John Peel loved his Irish punk bands, so it's no surprise Belfast's Outcasts - so-named because these bad boys were once banned from five clubs in one week - made his playlist. In fact, The Outcasts were label mates of Peel's beloved Undertones on Good Vibrations Records and, like the the 'Tones, were formed by brothers - Greg, Colin and Martin Cowan. "Self Conscious Over You" was the title track of their album on Captain Oi! Records. Some blogger described the song as "’50s malt shop sentiments over a super scratchy sounding, hip-shakin’ punk swinger" and I suppose that description serves as well as any.

According to the blog In the Crowd!, The Outcasts were far from shrinking violets when it came to self-promotion: "A little self-publicity didn't go amiss as was evident on the night they ran onto the stage at an Elvis Costello gig at the Ulster Hall, grabbed the mic off 'The Specky One' and shouted "We're The Outcasts, buy our single!"

The Outcasts broke up in 1985 after three albums and numerous singles.

The Outcasts on Myspace

The Outcasts - The Punk Singles Collection (In the Crowd!)

The Outcasts - The Punk Singles Collection (Record Collector Magazine)

Personnel:
Greg Cowan: bass, vocals
Colin Cowan: drums
Martin Cowan: guitar
Colin "Getty" Getgood: guitar

14. The Wasps - "Teenage Treats" (4-Play Records, 1977)

Another Saturday back on top, liggin around the Oxfam shops
Grim deacying rows of streets, it's time you gave your nose a treat


The Wasps hailed from the Walthamstow 'hood of Northeast London and obviously had a good, self-deprecating sense of humor, as evidenced by the text on the back of their debut single: "One day...an exciting new wave quartet will explode out of nowhere like Walthamstow with high energy music... but until then you will have to settle for The Wasps."

"Teenage Treats" is a catchy little powerpop confection, but unfortunately singer Jesse Lynn-Dean (like many frontmen at the time) had the then-in-vogue habit of rolling his R's like Johnny Rotten. The Wasps had two of their songs included on the Live At The Vortex compilation in late 1977 and released the album Punkryonics (good luck finding it!) and one more single ("Rubber Cars" on RCA) before disbanding. Despite "Teenage Treats" getting lots of attention via John Peel's show, The Wasps decided to spend the next seven months recording tracks for a tentative album. As Lynn-Dean recalled in an interview with Punk77, "The deliberate layoff to be honest was the brainchild of our manager at the time who wanted to showcase the band to major record companies and secure a deal. The band was never happy with the idea and it stopped our momentum at a time when we were going like an express train. All the members of the band loved playing live and it was a very frustrating period and the beginning of heavy management interference against the bands wishes and this is when all the problems started."

Jesse Lynn-Dean later went solo and released an ill-fated single "Do It" b/w "My Boyfriend's Back In Town" on Creole Records in 1979.

The Wasps - Mod Pop Punk Archives

Personnel:
Johnny Rich: drums
Steve Wollaston: bass
Del May: guitar
Jesse Lynn-Dean: vocals

15. The 45s - "Couldn't Believe A Word" (Stiff, 1980)

That's the 45s U.K., veterans of south London's pubrock circuit who should not to be confused with the all-girl punk trio from Annapolis, Maryland of the same name - the latter outfit so strapped for equipment they actually borrowed the dustbin-worthy gear of my old outfit Thee Katatonix when we played gigs together. In fact, our Annapolis gig with these gals earned us our worst-ever - and hence most beloved - review in the Arundel Living Sun ("New Wave band revels in playing songs wrong," July 24, 1980): "Such a vile feeling we had not experienced since our last anchovy pizza with extra anchovies...there was very little in the way of musical ingenuity. There was a whole lot in the way of perverse anger...we left the bar wondering who would have mercy on us after having been subjected to the band that adds assault to insult." And we were the headliners, folks!

So, in other words, it's highly unlikely that anyone would mistake the 45s from across the pond with the minimalist Annapolitans who the Baltimore City Paper described as "somewhat more artful than the Shaggs and somewhat more artless than the Raincoats"; in fact, these Blighty blokes are pure Powerpop, with melodies akin to Pezband or early Rubinoos. Originally university students from Newcastle upon Tyne, where they initially busked and later performed in pubs under the name The Famous Five, the Geordie lads headed south to London with a demo tape of "Couldn't Believe a Word," catching the eye of Chopper Records. But despite the single becoming "Record of the Week" on John Peel's Radio 1 playlist (as well as influential music papers like Melody Maker), Chopper Records was a small label with limited distribution; it was hard to get hold of it! But thanks to hearing it on Radio 1, Stiff Records contacted the group and subsequently brought the single out under their label. Alas, the 45s' lone single for Stiff remains infamous for being "the lowest selling Stiff single ever"! Bollocks, I say! The single may have stiffed, but this hook-friendly tune is far from lame!

Phil Johnstone went on to co-write and produce three albums for Robert Plant. He is still in the music business and owns a studio in Devon, England.

The 45s are on MySpace.

Mod Punk Pop Archives: 45s Bio

Personnel:
James Wood: bass, vocals
Phil Johnstone: keyboards, guitar, vocals
Paul Metcalfe: drums, vocals
John Warrener: guitar, vocals
Mick Blowfield: saxophone

16. Glaxo Babies - "This Is Your Life" (Heartbeat, 1979)

This is your life/Such a boring story.

Bristol's recalcitrant Glaxo Babies have written the story of my life it seems.

"This is your life, this is your boring life...drink your coffee, read Death of a Salesman...and don't forget the wife!" intones singer Rob Chapman, while a background chorus of "Dream, work, sleep, eat/Dream, work, sleep, eat" is intersperced with tape loops from some TV nature program. Not quite happy-go-lucky and cheerio sentiments, to be sure. This clever aural montage was the title track from their 1979 EP on Heartbeat, a subsidiary of Cherry Red Records.

After two albums, the band were forced by British drug company Glaxo (now GlaxoSmithKline) to change their name to Gl*xo Babies.



You see, at the turn of the century, Glaxo was Joseph Nathan and Co.'s registered trademark for dried milk and in 1908 the company published its famous Glaxo Baby Book, an infant care booklet that begat the familiar "Glaxo Builds Bonnie Babies" advertising slogan. And Bristol's Glaxo Babies weren't exactly, well, bonnie.

Guitarist Dan Catsis went on to play in The Pop Group between 1979 and 1980. Wish I'd seen his legendary 1978 Ashton Court Festival gig with the Babies where he played his guitar with a vibrator!

I'd like to track down some more Glaxo Babies, if only to hear their "Who Killed Bruce Lee?".



Glaxo Babies are on MySpace.

Personnel:
Tom Nichols: bass
Dan Catsis: guitar
Geoff Alsopp: drums
Tony Wrafter: saxophone
Rob Chapman: vocals

17. The Prefects - "Going Through The Motions" (Vindaloo, 1980)

I absolutely abhor this dud. The only motion this sounds-trocity elicits is head over bowl, heaving. Clash manager Bernie Rhodes concurred, calling them "amateur wankers" (inadvertently providing the title of a later retrospective album, 2005's The Prefects Are Amateur Wankers on Acute Records), but John Peel championed Birmingham's minamalist punk provocateurs after discovering them on the Clash's "White Riot" Tour, where they played such reductio ad absurdum numbers as the seven-second, two-chord "I've Got VD" ("Help me please help me I'm so weedy I've got VD please help me I'm so weedy I've got VD!"). This was their lone single before they became The Nightingales; the band acquired legendary status in the UK because no records were released until they had split up.

According to Punk77, they were especially reviled in their hometown, singer Robert Lloyd recalling that "Birmingham hates The Prefects; there's certain pubs we can't go in, otherwise we'll get glasses thrown at us." (Guess that's tit-for-tat for a band that wrote songs like "Birmingham's a Shit Hole"!)

The Prefects (Punk77.co.uk)

The Prefects (Wikipedia)

Personnel:
Robert Lloyd: vocals
Alan Apperley: guitar
Eamon Duffy: bass
Dave Twist: drums

18. The Carpettes - "Radio Wunderbar" (Small Wonder, 1977)

On September 12, 1977, The Carpettes released their debut EP, Radio Wunderbar. Besides the great title track, about John Peel's fellow DJs on Radio One, the four song EP contained "How About Me and You", "Help I'm Trapped" and "Cream of the Youth". (None of these songs appeared on their debut album, but "How About Me and You" was later released as a single.) Though their MySpace page lists them as being based in Glasgow and Sunderland, the Carpettes were originally from the Newcastle side of the Tyne, not Sunderland "Mackems". They disbanded in 1980.

Official Carpettes Website: http://www.thecarpettes.com/

The Carpettes are also on MySpace.

Personnel:
Neil Thompson: guitar and vocals
George Maddison: bass
Tim Wilder (replaced Kevin Heard): drums

19. The Tights - "Bad Hearts" (Cherry Red Records, 1978)

Legalise the treatment/Harmony at home.

Kicking off like a carbon copy of The Damned's "New Rose" ("I'll give ya my heart, I'll give ya my heart"), "Bad Hearts" soon turns into a mid-tempo Buzzcocks rocker, like one of Steve Diggle's songs from A Different Kind of Tension. According to Wikipedia, The Tights hailed from Worcester in England's West Midlands and released a scant two singles in two years on Cherry Red Records - "Bad Hearts"/"It"/"Cracked" (1978) and "Howard Hughes"/"China's Eternal" (1978) - before calling it a day. After John Peel played their debut on BBC Radio 1, "Bad Hearts" placed sixth on the UK punk chart, while their follow-up "Howard Hughes" (featuring a cover sleeve of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts's limo) did ever better, reaching as high as number four on the same chart.

The Tights Official Site.

Of course The Tights are also on MySpace.

Personnel:
Rob Banks: guitar
Barry Island: bass and keyboards
Rick Mayhew: drums
Malcolm Orgee: vocals

20. The Monochrome Set - "He's Frank (Slight Return)" (Rough Trade, 1979)

He's got secular joy, he's a peculiar boy
But now the lustre is gone, the peculiar boy is no more


These peculiar boys may be no more, but their lustre certainly lives on. This is an absolutely cracking tune with brilliant lyrics (I especially love the line "He's got precious youth/But forsaken, forsooth" - I mean, how many songs have the word "forsooth" in it? Love it!) from Stuart Goddard's old backing band (then known as the B-Sides) - before he went off to start Adam and the Ants. According to Wikipedia, the original Monochrome Set line-up consisted of Indian born singer/songwriter Bid (real name Ganesh Seshadri), Canadian guitarist Lester Square (real name Thomas Hardy!), drummer John D. Haney, and bassist Charlie Harper. (The band went through several bassists in the next few years, including Jeremy Harrington, and Andy Warren of Adam's Ants).
Many considered experimental filmmaker Tony Potts to be the band's "fifth member" due to his live collaborations with the band, which included set designs and film projections.

The flipside of "He's Frank" was "Alphaville," an homage to French New Wave darling Godard (Jean-Luc, not Stuart of Adam Ant fame).

Here's a 1990s reunion version of "He's Frank" I found on YouTube.

Official Web Site

Monochrome Set - MySpace.

21. Au Pairs - "It's Obvious" (1980)

Ball-busting feminist aesthetics never sounded so irresistably danceable as it did in the hands of the Au Pairs, Birmingham's preeminent humorless artrockers with the perfectly balanced yin-yang lineup of two lads and two lasses. "It's Obvious" was their second single, taken from their debut album Playing with a Different Sex. As led by uber-serious Lesley Woods, the Au Pairs made Gang of Four sound fun by comparison. But there was no knocking their rock-steady beat and angular guitar riffs - they were exciting and stimulating, even if Woods' shrill anti-sexist intonations could shrink any two-fisted male chauvinist's knob to the size of a cocktail weenie.

Personnel:
Lesley Woods: guitar and vocals
Paul Foad: guitar/vocals
Jane Munro: bass
Pete Hammond: drums

22. Sinatras - "Happy Feeling" (Dining Out Records, 1980)

There's a bunch of bands named after Hoboken homie Francis Albert Sinatra, including some indie rockers from Kalamazoo, Michigan, Scotland's Sorry and the Sinatras and The Trashcan Sinatras. Talk about an extended family! I have no idea which one this is, but I suspect it's John Barrow's mates from Leicester, England, who have the MySpace page listed below.

The Sinatras on Myspace

I'd also like to know who the lass is on the "Happy Feeling" picture sleeve at left (very Smiths-like!).

"Happy Feeling" was the first song ever written by Sinatras frontman Tommy Sinatra (Tom Hamilton). Besides getting their "Happy Feeling" single played on John Peel's radio program (where he quickly became Record of the Week), the Sinatras were invited to Radio 1's studios to record four tracks ("Finding Your Own Level," "That Shape," "New Clothes." and "The Chameleon Complex") on November 28, 1981. It also led to touring gigs with Adam and the Ants, Belle Stars, Altered Images and U2. According to the blog Bimby's Windy Weather (which features an excellent collection of post-punk picture sleeves), The Sinatras released a full-length album Betrayal in 1984 on Strike Back Records.

Journeyman sax player John Barrow (who doesn't appear on this single) also played in The Newmatics and Swinging Laurels and wrote the book How Not To Make It in the Pop World. Visit his MySpace page for more info.

Personnel:
Tom Hamilton ("Tommy Sinatra"): bass, vocals
Neville Hunt: guitar, backing vocals
Rob Grant: lead guitar
Phil Birtles: Drums

23. The Boys - "Brickfield Nights" (NEMS, 1978)

The Boys were one of the first bands on the fledgling London punk scene and had the distinction of being the first-ever UK punk band to sign an album deal - with NEMS in January 1977. They would have been the first UK punk band to release an album, as well, but the record company delayed release of their 16-track debut The Boys until September 1976, giving The Damned that honor with Damned, Damned, Damned (The Damned also released the first punk single, "New Rose"). Formed by musicians that had previously played in such bands as London SS (whose alumini went on to ply their trade with The Clash, The Damned, Chelsea and Generation X) and Hollywood Brats (London's version of The New York Dolls), they ended up recording four studio albums and eight singles in their 1976-1982 heyday, including recording Christmas-themed music under the name The Yobs (get it? - "The Boys" with the “B” and the “Y” rearranged).

Released on February 10, 1978, "Brickfield Nights" (b/w "Teacher's Pet") is considered to be The Boys' finest moment. Their attention to harmony and melody on songs like this led some in the Brit press to christen them "The Beatles of Punk." And, just like the Beatles, they enjoyed early success in Germany, especially thanks to the efforts of the band Die Toten Hosen.


Boys who like girls, who like Boys who like...

According to Wikpedia:
"Although The Boys never achieved massive commercial success, their music legacy has been carried on by influence. German punk band Die Toten Hosen championed their music for more than a decade, covering several songs and introducing new fans to The Boys. They also recorded cover versions of two songs, namely First Time and New Guitar In Town for their album "Auf dem Kreuzzug ins Gl├╝ck - 125 Jahre Die Toten Hosen". In the late 1990s, Japanese band Thee Michelle Gun Elephant had a massive hit with a Boys cover. This prompted the re-release of several Boys albums with encouraging international sales (more than 30,000 albums being sold in Japan alone). A Boys tribute album was also released featuring 13 bands from around the world. The Boys also influenced the cult power pop band The Exploding Hearts, who performed and recorded in the early 2000s."

The Boys Official Website: http://www.theboys.co.uk/

The Boys - MySpace

"Brickfield Nights" - Live 1978 (YouTube)

Personnel:
Matt Dangerfield: guitar, vocals
Duncan 'Kid' Reid: bass, vocals
Casino Steel (Stein Groven): organ, piano, vocals
Honest John Plain: guitar, vocals
Jack Black: drums

24. Blue Orchids - "The Flood" (Rough Trade, 1980)

The debut release of Manchester's Blue Orchids was a double A-side record which also featured the song "Disney Boys." I never heard of these Mancunians, but I guess I should have, since their ranks were derived mainly from The Fall. That would be Martin Bramah, Una Baines and Rick Goldstraw, representing three of the countless ex-Fall members sacked by Mark E. Smith (all having appeared on the Fall's debut Live at the Witch Trials LP). John Peel used to wonder aloud what happened to musicians who "fell" out of favor with The Fall - "I don't know if [Mark E. Smith]'s killing them or what..." - and The Blue Orchids provided a partial answer to that query. According to last.fm.com, "It began when Martin Bramah teamed up with Una Baines to form the group’s creative nucleus. Bramah’s voice whether wailing, shouting, calling or just talking is always looking for a different angle, another way of being. Una’s inspired, strung-out keyboard playing, flowing and soaring, weaving around Martin’s inventive, discordant guitar patterns. The overall effect created a madcap cathedral of sound. Paul Morley, when reviewing their second single “Work” said, “They rave but they are not mad.”

The name of the band came from Manchester's "Punk Poet" John Cooper Clarke, who envisioned a group then calling themselves The Blessed Orchids "as a bunch of haemophiliacs raised by alsaition dogs on a council tip, the weediest gang in Salford! Somehow, the Blessed became the Blue and these rare and fragile blooms were born."

Their revival of the Hammond Organ allegedly influenced other Manchester bands like Inspiral Carpets (the band Oasis' Noel Gallager used to roadie for).

According to Wikipedia, the Blue Orchids later toured with Nico, erstwhile Teutonic chanteusse with The Velvet Underground, serving as both backing group and opening act. When guitarist Rick Goldstraw decided to cast his lot with Nico, new bassist called Mark Hellyer was recruited as a replacement.

Blue Orchids - MySpace

Personnel:
Una Baines: keyboards and vocals
Martin Bramah: guitar and vocals
Rick Goldstraw (aka Eric Random): guitar, bass
Steve Toyne: bass
Joe Kin: drums

Related Links:
Keeping It Peel (BBC Radio 1 - John Peel Links)

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