Thursday 7 December 2023

The Thursday Album #4 - The Vibrators - Puremania

Up until this point, my musical journey and my rather small record collection had been pretty much defined by my Sister Valerie. At the start of  June 1977, I was fourteen years old, at Finchley Catholic High School, and struggling to cope with puberty and life. I felt very alone and isolated. I didn't realise it at the time, but I was about to blown away to a completely different dimension. On the 6th June, my sister Caroline took me to see The Ramones, The Talking Heads and The Saints at The Roundhouse. I documented what happened for The Roundhouse's 50th Birthday celebrations and one of my biggest kicks in life is to have my name on their wall and my tale on their website. In short, life would never be the same again. We all have moments in our life, when everything changes, For some it is losing their virginity, for others discovering religion, for some its is the first taste of alcohol or heroin. For me, it was seeing the Ramones. Much as I'd loved the albums previously mentioned, they were not made by people I could associate with. The sentiments involved in the songs were largely alien to me and they were musical geniuses, people with talent beyond my comprehension. I saw the Ramones and in front of me was a band that I could 100% associate with. The music was fast and loud. Their dress was not outlandish. The lyrics were furious and funny in equal measure. There was no fat on the Ramones performance. It was just 33 minutes of good bits. By the time they left the stage, my brain had been rewired.

So having been blown away by The Ramones live, the only sensible thing to do was buy the record. Next day I went down to the small record shop in Mill Hill and asked for a copy of The Ramones latest record. Neil, who was the manager replied that they didn't have it. The only punk record they had in stock was Puremania by The Vibrators. I'd never heard of The Vibrators, but I desperately needed some more punk rock. I simply couldn't wait. I loved the cover, I loved the smell of the album. I couldn't wait to get it home. I put it on the turntable, cranked up the volume and......

Side one

"Into the Future..." - The first track on the album, starts with a simple drum beat, then a bit of lead, then the words "I want a new world, I want it with you.. ." Not as fast and furious as The Ramones, a quite sparse sounding, song, but absolutely brilliant. It seemed to me that this was perfect track to start my record buying career as a punk rocker. 

"Yeah Yeah Yeah" - Just a pure, unadulterated slice of raw energy. In the middle, John Ellis shouts "Oi watch that guitar" which sums up the feeling of chaos.

"Sweet Sweet Heart" - Starts withe Melodic guitars riffing, to be overtaken by choppy thrashy chords. Knox on vocals makes the most of the rather sarcastic lyrics.

"Keep It Clean" For this John Ellis takes over on vocals. A bit of an oddity really, rather quirky. To this day I don't know if Ellis was being serious when he impores us to decry drugs and 'bad sex'. Ellis is a great guitarist and a good musician. The song shows that, but still sounds like perhaps the most punky of all on the album. Ellis went to the same school as me, a few years old. He was mates with my geography teacher, who is also an old boy.

"Baby Baby" - This was the slow, commercial one. To this day I don't know why it wasn't a hit as it was a great song. I guess it was just too good a pop song for the height of the summer of hate! In fact I always assumed it charted and was most surprised when I found out it hadn't.

"No Heart" - A rather good up tempo track which I have always thoroughly enjoyed.

"She's Bringing You Down" - Side one finishes with a bang. A very nihilistic pece of raw energy, an observation on a good for nothing girlfriend, who clearly isn't paying Knox the attention he deserves. I think this is another very underrated track, should've been the 2nd single.  I love the last line of the chorus, "Don't you cry when you see her going by, of no no no no no no". Nice guitar work on this.

Side two

"Petrol" - Petrol features bassist Pat Collier on vocals. It is noisy and energetic and I am rather keen on it. A great way to open side two. Collier to mind actually has the best, raspy voice for punk in the band. Sadly he left just after the album was finished.

"London Girls" The second single off the album. At the time I loved it but I'm less keen these days. Not really sure why it was the single. It's OK, but not one of the best tracks.

"You Broke My Heart" - The band clearly wanted a track that sounded a bit different in the middle of the album. Slower paced, a bit too ploddy for me. This is the one I normally make the tea during, not awful but the weakest track on the album. 

"Whips & Furs" - This one is a belter, a dark celebration of S&M. I didn't really get that when I was fourteen, but it is a very good track and I've always loved it. Some nice John Ellis guitar in there.

"Stiff Little Fingers"  - This track is perhaps the most famous of all on Puremania, not because it is a particularly great track, but because it is the track that gave Northern Irish Punks  of the same name their monika. Another one John Ellis wrote and sung

"Wrecked on You" - And now for the fnal three tracks, all belters.  The band really get going towards the end of the album, so much so that I often would just stick the album straight back on when it finshed. Nice punky thrash chords at the beginging. The punkiest song on the album.

"I Need a Slave" - My missus reckons that this is the reason I like the band, although I suspect the lyrics are not really the kind of slave she means. I don't think she's listened too carefully. Another belter

"Bad Time" - And so it finished. The second verse really summed up how I was feeling at the time

Well, I've been having a bad timeSince you found out how to be cruelI never had a chance at allSince I've been hangin' round with you
But now things are differentAin't it funny how it can change?I've been having a good timeSince I've become deranged

Although I've not becomed deranged, for me that was a metaphor for discovering Punk Rock and not being prepared to take any $h1t anymore. It was actually very important for me. Up until this point, I'd been quite a passive person, I changed almost overnight. I became quite confrontational. In an environment such as FCHS at the time, where discipline was enforced with the cane, this meant that I had a difficult year or so, culminating in expulsion. For me though, this was important. This music sustained me and gave me strength. 

I've often wondered if I'd bought Damned Damned Damned instead, whether I'd have subsequently thought Puremania the masterpiece that I see it as, and no one else seems to? I like to think so, but I'll never really know. The Vibrators were quite an unfashionable band in punk circles. Many said they'd jumped on the punk bandwagon. Would I have thought that if things had been different. There are plenty of bands that I took an irrational dislike to. As for the charge of bandwagon jumpers, they are still on it today! In hindsight, I am glad this was the first punk album I bought and it was probably the most important. 

No comments: