The Lurkers “Fulham Fallout” 1978. Beggars Banquet Records. Fulham Fallout is classic 70′s punk, the debut album from English rockers The Lurkers (who have been dubbed, mostly accurately, “The British Ramones”) and it hit #57 on the UK album charts. It’s such great British punk! Snotty, upbeat, punchy, catchy, full of 3-chord hooks, and, like The Ramones, simple, straightforward rock-n-roll: no pretension, no politics. Also like The Ramones, the songs do start to kind of sound alike after awhile, though The Lurkers mix things up occasionally with the inclusion of the harmonica and glockenspiel (not instruments known for their prevalence in the punk canon) and a cover of Phil Spector’s and The Crystals’ 1963 “Then He Kissed Me,” though The Lurkers cheekily rename it “Then I Kicked Her” and speed it up, a lot. My favorite tracks on Fulham Fallout are “I Don’t Need to Tell Her,” “Shadow” (that single released in 1977 was Beggars Banquet first ever release and influential John Peel named it his #11 song of ‘77) the hyper-beat and aptly titled “Go, Go, Go,” “Self Destruct” (“self-destruct! gonna get fucked!”) and the album closer “Be My Prisoner” that’s intro’d with a great drum solo. They only slow down a little, once, on “Gerald” (this one has the aforementioned harmonica) and it’s probably the most complex songs on the album but also my least favorite.
Dead Boys “Night of the Living Dead Boys” 1981, recorded in 1979 at CBGB. Bomp! Records. Today, February 18th, is Dead Boys guitarist Cheetah Chrome’s birthday (b. Eugene Richard O’Connor, 1955). Classic, early American punk, this LP features live renditions of Dead Boys songs from their classic debut album Young Loud and Snotty like “All This and More,” “Caught with the Meat in Your Mouth,” “What Love Is,” “Ain’t Nothin’ to Do,” “I Need Lunch” and the punk classic “Sonic Reducer.” From their second – and final – studio album We Have Come for Your Children included on Night of the Living Dead Boys are “3rd Generation Nation,” the cover of Rolling Stones’ “Tell Me,” “Catholic Boy,” “I Won’t Look Back,” “Ain’t it Fun” and “Son of Sam.” Also appearing is one song that does not appear on either of their albums, the lead track “Detention Home.” I don’t generally have high expectations of most live albums, especially ones from the 70′s at crappy punk bars. Night of the Living Dead Boys is surprisingly high quality for its time and venue with Stiv Bators’ dark slinky style easily shimmering through, Cheetah Chrome’s and Jimmy Zero’s guitars appropriately either murky or cutting depending on the song but always loud and the rhythm section of Johnny Blitz on drums and Jeff Magnum on bass driving (also loud!).
Also: anytime I ever write about Dead Boys, I have to post about the time that Cheetah and Johnny went on the Young Loud and Snotty 40th anniversary tour and we got to meet them (and get our album signed) at our favorite local record shop before the concert. Here’s me and the guys in 2017.
Richard Hell + The Voidoids (Part III) “Don’t Die” and “Time” b/w The Neon Boys “That’s All I Know (Right Now)” and “Love Comes in Spurts.” 1980. Shake Records. “Time” appears on Hell’s 1982 LP Destiny Street and has a great guitar solo by Robert Quine, though the version on this 7″ is much less produced than the one on the LP with a more jangly-guitar sound. “Don’t Die” is messy and feels unresolved, like it’s missing something. The track does not appear on any albums except for a 2002 retrospective comp.
The Neon Boys tracks are from much earlier, back when Tom Verlaine and Hell were still together (along with drummer Billy Ficca) but before Television formed (adding Richard Lloyd on guitar into the mix). The classic early punk track “Love Comes in Spurts” was recorded by the Neon Boys in ‘73 (probably “That’s All I Know (Right Now)” was as well). The tracks are raucous and raw, more garage rock than punk but with a definite snotty attitude. It’s especially interesting to hear the earliest version of “Love Hurts” – the guitar and brightness have a more 60′s psychedelic flavor than the more well-known later version of the song that appears on Blank Generation.
Buzzcocks “Love Bites” 1978. As the punk/power pop world knows, Buzzcocks’ vocalist and lead guitarist Pete Shelley died last week on December 6th. Love Bites was Buzzcocks’ second studio LP and the first to feature Shelley as lead vocalist after co-founder Howard Devoto’s departure from the band. The album, which reached #13 on the UK charts, also has several of my favorite Buzzcocks tracks, including “Ever Fallen in Love” (#12 on the UK singles chart and ranked the #1 single in ‘78 by NME), the propulsive “Operators Manual,” the punky “Just Lust,” “Sixteen Again,” the soaring, anthemic “Walking Distance,” the lovelorn (yet still upbeat!) “Nothing Left,” and the epic instrumental “Late for the Train.” Shelley wrote all of those, with the exception of “Walking Distance” which was written by bassist Steve Garvey; also “Late for the Train” is credited to all the members of Buzzcocks).
Allmusic says about Love Bites, “More musically accomplished, more obsessively self-questioning, and with equally energetic yet sometimes gloomy performances, Love Bites finds the Buzzcocks coming into their own. With Devoto and his influence now fully worked out of the band’s system, Shelley is the clearly predominant voice, with the exception of Diggle’s first lead vocal on an album track, the semi-acoustic, perversely sprightly “Love is Lies.” Though the song received even further acclaim on Singles Going Steady, “Ever Fallen in Love,” for many the band’s signature song, appears here. With its note-perfect blend of romance gone wrong, a weirdly catchy, treated lead guitar line, and Shelley’s wounded singing deserves its instant classic status, but it’s only one of many highlights. The opening “Real World” is one of the band’s strongest: a chunky, forceful yet crisp band performance leads into a strong Shelley lyric about unrequited love and life. “Nostalgia”’s strikingly mature, inventive lyrics about where one’s life can lead, and the sometimes charging, sometimes quietly tense, heartbroken “Nothing Left” are two other standouts. The group’s well-seasoned abilities, the members’ increasing reach and Martin Rushent’s excellent production make Love Bites shine. The Garvey/Maher rhythm section is especially fine; Maher’s fills and similar small but significant touches take the music to an even higher level. His undisputed highlight is the terribly underrated concluding instrumental “Late for the Train.” Originally done for a John Peel radio session and rerecorded with even more a dramatic sweep here, it gives the group’s motorik/Krautrock new power. Not far behind it is “E.S.P.,” a strong rock burn that only fades out at the end very slowly and subtly.”
We had the opportunity to see Buzzcocks play live almost 20 years ago when I was writing concert reviews for Milwaukee’s local paper Shepherd Express. They were touring for the album Modern and we caught them at The Rave in November ‘99. I remember them rocking hard and Shelley’s distinctively snotty vocals still having their cutting, wry humorous edge. He will truly be missed by the music world.
Dead Boys “We Have Come For Your Children” 1978. Today, October 22nd, would have been Dead Boys singer Stiv Bator’s 69th birthday (b. Steven John Bator 1949, d. 1990 after being hit by a car in Paris, his ashes purportedly scattered on Jim Morrison’s grave). We Have Come For Your Children was Dead Boys’ second and final studio album; they broke up in ‘79 (though briefly reunited in ‘86 and then again a few times after Bators’ death). It’s great punk rock, super-dark courtesy of Bators’ unparalleled sneer. I love “3rd Generation Nation,” the melodically upbeat “I Won’t Look Back,” the epic – at least by punk standards – “Son of Sam,” their cover of Rolling Stones’ “Tell Me” (which was the Stones first Top 40 hit in the US), “Big City” (written by Kim Fowley, infamous manager of The Runaways), and the masterpiece “Ain’t It Fun” which Cheetah Chrome’s Rocket From the Tombs also recorded (as did Guns N’Roses). But especially fun is the Ramones-esque titled “(I Don’t Wanna Be No) Catholic Boy” which is made even better with the “Ramone Catholic Choir” singing backup vocals; that would be Joey and Dee Dee Ramone. Perfection.
Ramones “Ramones” 1976. Today, October 8th, would have been Johnny Ramone’s 70th birthday (b. John William Cummings, 1948, d. 2004). Today is also C.J. Ramone’s birthday (b. Christopher Ward, 1965) who replaced Dee Dee on bass in 1989. Ramones was the band’s debut album and is considered one of the great punk rock – all rock – classics, introducing the super up-tempo punk rhythm, short and snappy songs based on 50′s/60′s pop melodies delivered with a snotty adolescent attitude, basic simplistic chord structures…even the album cover – all have been imitated by countless punks, metalheads, alt-rockers, post-punks and pop rockers for 40+ years since its release. It barely made a commercial dent at the time of its release, not even cracking the top 100 on the album charts in the US (this was during the height of bloated, self-absorbed arena and prog rock which the Ramones heartily rebelled against) but posthumously can be credited for just about all of the “alternative” music that followed it.
Approximately a million people have written/said about a million things about Ramones and it’s been included on almost as many best-of lists, but of note is The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame around the time of the Ramones’ induction in 2002: “The Ramones got back to basics: simple, speedy, stripped-down rock and roll songs. Voice, guitar, bass, drums. No makeup, no egos, no light shows, no nonsense. And though the subject matter was sometimes dark, emanating from a sullen adolescent basement of the mind, the group also brought cartoonish fun and high-energy excitement back to rock and roll.” Allmusic states in its 5 star review, “Ramones is all about speed, hooks, stupidity, and simplicity. The songs are imaginative reductions of early rock & roll, girl group pop, and surf rock. Not only is the music boiled down to its essentials, but the Ramones offer a twisted, comical take on pop culture with their lyrics…”
The Jam “In the City” 1977. Today, May 25th, is Paul “The Modfather” (and two-time winner of Best British Male award) Weller’s 60th birthday (b. 1958). Now that the cat has finally vacated his perch on top of the turntable, I’m able to spin In the City, The Jam’s debut album.
The Jam released one single from their debut album, the title track “In the City” which hit #40 on the UK charts. The song (and the entire record) celebrates a resurgence of 60′s-inspired mod and youth culture (the song was influenced by The Who, even borrowing the title from their “In the City”) while blending in 70′s punchy punk attitude and politics (“In the city there’s a thousand men in uniform and I hear they now have the right to kill a man”). The early Who/mod sound appears on most of the album like “Art School” and “Sounds From the Street” There are also two cover songs on In the City that are less mod: “Slow Down,” a rockin’ rhythm-and-blues track originally by Larry Wiliams from 1958 (also covered by the Beatles) (that early rock-n-roll sound reappears on the b-side to the “In the City” single: “Takin’ My Love”) and a punked up “Batman Theme,” which is hilarious.
“Punk On the Road (16 All Time Punk Classics Caught Live)” 1990. Skunx Recordings. Grey and green marbled vinyl. I’m spinning this comp today mainly as an excuse to write about The Exploited who appear performing “Dead Cities” (and we don’t really have The Exploited on anything but comps). I volunteer at a local cat shelter a couple of hours each week and last week was chatting music stuff with another volunteer and she shared the best punk rock story I’ve heard in a long time. Sometime in the mid-1980′s (she figured she was around 11 or 12 years old at the time) The Exploited played Milwaukee, possibly Cabaret Voltaire, and she somehow managed to go to the show. The next day she bused over to Southridge Mall (as one did in the 80′s) to hang out and who did she see? Wattie Buchan, full hawk and all! She told him how great the show was and he offered to show her the professional photos he just had gotten taken. They ended up wandering around the mall for an hour or two, you know, just a mid-20’s Scottish punk chilling with a pre-teen in a Midwestern mall (smelling horrible: my friend said his leather pants were the same ones he had worn for the show).
The rest of the comp is really decent – fairly high-quality live recordings (vocals mostly understandable!) of some of the quintessential punk songs from the early years. Best are 999 “Homicide,” The Ruts “Babylon’s Burning,” Stiff Little Fingers “Alternative Ulster” (which I got the chance to see myself live last year), Sham 69 performing “Hurry Up Harry” and Vice Squad’s “Last Rockers.” Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant” is haphazard: the drums and lead guitar mostly solid, the bass is a bit all over the place (Sid?) and the backing vocals are hit or miss for timing and tune. Johnny Rotten always sounds pissed so his singing is pretty standard.