The Slits “In the Beginning There Was Rhythm” 1980. Artletty Records, Finland. Split 12″ single with The Slits on Side A. Side B is Delta 5 “Anticipation” and The Pop Group “Where There’s a Will There’s a Way.” All punk/post-punk with a lot of experimental funky dub rhythm. The Slits originally released “In the Beginning There Was Rhythm” as a 7″ single on Rough Trade/Y Records with just The Pop Group’s track on the flip. The Slits were initially an all-women band, though around 1980 two men joined the kinda-revolving door band lineup: Budgie (soon to be part of Siouxsie and the Banshees) and Bruce Smith of The Pop Group; Smith and Budge are both credited with drums on “In the Beginning There Was Rhythm.” The Pop Group’s “Where There’s a Will There’s a Way” is super-infectious punk-funk. The Delta 5′s “Anticipation,” while not part of the original release, is a good complement to the other tracks: heavy and funky bassline (the Delta 5 had two bass players: Ros Allen and Bethan Peters) but with a post-punk detached delivery (and vocals somewhat reminiscent of Siouxsie Sioux). Their original single of “Anticipation” came out in 1980 on Rough Trade Records with “You” as its b-side.
Chelsea “No Escape” 1980. Released as Alternative Hits in the UK, No Escape is a comp of early punk singles dating from ‘77 through ‘80 (plus the track “Come On”). Chelsea may be best known for initial line-up’s sowing the seeds of Generation X and providing William Broad aka Billy Idol his first band (he played guitar for the first iteration of Chelsea, leaving in ‘76 along with Tony James and John Towe who were also in London SS with The Clash’s Mick Jones). They don’t play on this album – in fact keeping track of the various members in the late 70′s and 80′s is pretty much impossible (even Sting was in Chelsea at one point!); singer/frontman Gene October has been the only member to remain throughout the 40+ years of the band’s career. That said, the songs on No Escape are consistently punked-up pub rock: proudly loud and working class with oi attitude. Tracks like “Urban Kids” and “Right to Work” give a unflinchingly stark view of the struggles of British youth during the age of British conservatism and Margaret Thatcher. It’s not sophisticated or particularly innovative – think more Ramones simplicity than Clash creativity. No Escape is a good snapshot into early populist punk.
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.
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.