Saturday 20 March 2021

The Saturday List #300 - My Top Twenty Punk Playlist & a celebration of lists!

 When I started this list, I never imagined that I'd get to three hundred different lists. I thought I'd make a very special one for the occasion. But first a few words. Back for list #100 I made a complete list of the lists. The series started on the 9th June with a list of things that fail to live up to their promise. I must say that item no 2, every Rolling Stones record since Start me up, is no longer true. I think Ghost Town is an excellent record. Just in case you were wondering, the most read of all is the Top Ten restaurants in Mill Hill, as voted for by Barneteye readers. This received 3989 votes (I daresay that this will top 4,000 after this mention). It is sad to see that the entries 7-10 have disappeared. Another oddity is that I did my favourite Glam Rock tunes twice, once in the previous blog in this series and once in list #216. Interestingly the list is different. Steve Harley replaced Wizzard and David Essex replaced Alice Cooper. I'd forgotten I'd done the previous list. I now do music lists as Spotify Playlists, as they are easier to listen to as a playlist. Generally historical lists and lists about amenities are the most popular. The more personal lists are the least favourite, with list 81 being the least viewed - My impossible bucket list. I've never written blogs to chase views, so I think the balance is about right. 

Anyway, enough of that, on to my special list. As you know, Punk Rock music is the thing that shaped me and gave me a purpose in life as a depressed, shy, nervous teenager with anxiety issues. This list started as a top ten, but I released I couldn't do the genre justice in ten songs (yes I know that is true of the other genre's I've done lists for, but I couldn't in good conscience narrow it down). 

I thought the logical place to start was with New Rose by The Damned. It kicked off the British Punk explosion, being the first punk single. It was released by Dave Robinsons innovative Stiff Records. I love the Damned, not least because they rehearse at our studios. When they first started using us, I was made up to hear this track blasting out of studio 7.  I felt that my life's mission was complete. 

Next up, I chose EMI by the Sex Pistols. The band wrote some great music. The notion that they couldn't play their instruments is a convenient myth. Paul Cook has worked as a session muscian, playing with amazing artists such as Edwin Collins. Glen Matlock is also a talented bass player and song writer. As for Lydon, his lyrics drip with bile and his presentation is unique. Public Image Ltd proved that there was far more to Lydon than an angry yob. This song drips with bile, aimed at their former label EMI, which dropped the Pistols fearing reputational damage. It was released on Branson's Virgin label, as Branson sought to establish himself as a bit of a rebel.

Janie Jones opens the first album by the Clash. A rant at the hypocrisy aimed at Janie Jones, a minor pop star exposed as a prostitute by the tabloids. Initially Janie Jones was horrified to find that a punk band were mocking her. Joe Strummer made contact and explained that it was the opposite, they were supporting her. The two became firm friends. It is a great track, simple and raw. The Clash at their punk best. I would agree that songs like London Calling and Should I stay or Should I go are better songs, but to me they are post punk.

X-Ray Spex were to me what punk was all about. I don't think that with all the rife sexism in the music industry, Poly could have succeeded in any other era. The day the world turned Day-Glo is a fantastic piece of music. The bands songs were always a bit different, a bit prophetic. Poly was obsessed with worries of consumerism and materialism. I love the band and their first album is a classic, must have. 

Chinese Rocks by The Heartbreakers is a monumental track. A cover of a Ramones track, one the Ramones didn't really like as it glorified hard drug use. The Heartbreakers play the song how such a horrible song should be played. I think anyone who thinks that it's depiction of a heroin user is glamourous is off their rocker. It is a monumental piece of rock and roll. I love the way Thunders makes a guitar sound. He plays with such snarl, attitude and attack. It is a shame in many ways that we never really saw the best of Johnny due to his drug addled excesses. When you went to see the band, you never knew what you'd get. Sometimes the ultimate rock guitar icon, other times a mumbling bum, passing out on the stage, picking fights and not being able to play a note. When Thunders died of a drug overdose, no one was surprised. The last of the Heartbreakers, Walter Lure passed away last year. 

And on to the Ramones. The reason I got into punk rock, with their amazing gig on June 6th 1977 at The Roundhouse in Camden Town. Havana Affair is one of my favourite tracks from their second album Leave Home. I agonised long and hard selecting a Ramones song. I chose this because it sums them up. Fast, irreverent, funny and a damn good song.

Peaches by The Stranglers was the summer punk anthem of 1977. A great bassline. This song probably wouldn't get played on the radio these days, but it is a cracking track and it was all over the radio back then. The Stranglers were more musical and better musicians than many in the punk movement. They divided opinions. Many of their fans were not punks and hard core punks viewed them with suspicion at the time. No More Heroes was a monster hit, but this was the song that broke them.

Siouxsie and the Banshees were the centre of a big campaign to get them signed. Whereas the boy punk bands were picked up left right and centre, the Banshees were ignored by the big labels. It was clear to everyone why. Siouxsie was not one to compromise. When I heard she'd done a cover of a Beatles song Helter Skelter on the album, I was disgusted at the betrayal of her punk principles. Then I heard it. The song is awesome, taking it to a new level. When I hear the Beatles version, it sounds so tame and dull. A classic.

Puremania by The Vibrators was the first punk album I bought and Into The Future is the first track. It is a great song. I really felt that punk music was reshaping the world and Into The Future seemed to be a clarion call. The explosion of independent labels, fanzines, etc launched a generation of new artists and writers. Punk gave a lot of people permission to break out of the chains of their boring existence and to kick down doors and smash glass ceilings. It seems a long time ago now, but the ripples are still felt. I would not have built a studio if it wasn't for this music.

I'm Alive by 999 is  a stonking track. I first saw 999 as a 15 year old supporting The Vibrators at The Roundhouse. They were absolutely amazing live. Their first album is a classic, they should have been massive, but somehow never really cracked the charts. Many dismissed I'm Alive as the weakest song on the album, it was a single before the album came out. To me it is the best track. So full of energy.

Penetration were another band that never realised their promise. Pauline Murray was a great singer and Don't Dictate is fantastic tune. The band had the misfortune of appearing at the Roundhouse with Sham69 and a bunch of fascist skinheads ran riot. The band seemed to fall off the radar after that. Pauline is still around and worth checking out.

The Buzzcocks were a hit machine in 1977 and 1978. More poppy than many, Pete Shelley knew how to write a song. Their first two albums were classics. I chose What do I get? which is one of their punkier numbers. Most people know the band name more for the quiz show "Never mind the Buzzcocks" these days which is tragic.  I was very upset when Pete Shelley passed away last year. He recorded an interview at our studios a few years ago and was a very nice chap.

Richard Hell was credited with inventing the punk rock look, as a member of Television and The Heartbreakers. His own band, The Voidoids, released a pretty good album and the title track "Blank Generation" is a minor classic. It was a toss up between this and Betrayal Takes Two for the list, if you get a chance, check that out.

Wire are another of my favourites. Clare can't stand them and always moans when I play their music, which massively irritates me. Too Late is a great piece of '77 punk from one of the more arty and influential bands of the era. 

Mark E.Smith and The Fall were a massive influence on me. Their first album, live at the witch trials is full of funny, oddball observations on life. Psycho mafia was a single. The band were still finding their feet. This was one of the first songs I learned to play on the guitar. I wanted the False Dots to sound like The Fall. Pete Conway wanted us to sound like the Birthday Party. We failed miserably on both counts.

The Saints are an Aussie band, from Brisbane. They were the first punk band I saw, at The Roundhouse, supporting Talking Heads and The Ramones. As my Dad was an Aussie and Queenslander, I felt an affinity with them. Stranded is a superb track. They made a stir on Top of The Pops, when they played Perfect Day, with Chris Bailey, the singer, making a point of not miming properly.

The Boys have the distinction of being the last punk band I saw, last year at the 100 Club punk festival. Brickfield Nights is a great pop song. Very evocative of the era. I was never quite sure why the Boys didn't get more exposure, although with songs like USI I suppose there might be a clue.

Menace were a band that everyone loved. I still do as they rehearse at the studios. GLC was their rant at the Conservative run Greater London Council, which was busy closing down punk venues in 1977. When the single was played at gigs between bands, everyone would join in. I guess that when Maggie Thatcher abolished the GLC, the song became a bit of a curiosity.

Alternative Television were the brainchild of Mark Perry, author and publisher of seminal punk fanzine Sniffin Glue. He formed the band and lost interest in the magazine, but his efforts launched dozens of copycat self published fanzines and many well know writers cut their teeth on them. His influence on our culture cannot be overstated. Action, Time and Vision is their best known track. Quite typical of many c list punk bands output at the time, but quite quirky and catchy. 

I finish with The Dickies. Of all the bands of the era, The Dickies were the least cool and considered by most hardcore punks as a joke. I saw them at The Marquee and had an argument with Steve Ignorant, lead singer of Anarchist punk band Crass, who told me they were a total joke. The truth was that they are probably the best live band I've seen. Their gigs are always a joyous celebration of life. They are fun, they are stupid, but they have no pretentions. Many of the younger punks loved the Dickies, as 'our band'. They weren't scary or political, but they were a damn good rock and roll band. Their second album Dawn of The Dickies is a classic. I want the track "I'm stuck in a pagoda with Trisha Toyota" to be played at my funeral. There is a reason. When I was doing A Level biology at Orange Hill School, we went on a field trip to Millport, a University of London research station in Scotland. I had a walkman and a stack of tapes. As the train journey was five hours, I fell asleep. I dreamed that I was at my own funeral, hovering above. Everyone was weeping and wailing. As the coffin went through the hatch to be cremated, they started playing I'm Stuck in Pagoda with Trisha Toyota and everyone started to laugh. I decided then that if I had any say in the matter, that is exactly what would happen.

Have a great Saturday


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