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Sunday, 1 January 2017

40 Years of Punk & New Wave: 1977 Starts With The Clash

 (The Clash 1976: Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Joe Strummer)

 40 Years of Punk and New Wave - An Introduction

Last year Punk was celebrating its 40 Year Anniversary and various events and exhibitions took place especially in London. Whilst I thought it was a good thing and many reports of the exhibitions from friends who attended were quite positive, one of the big things that maybe wasn't celebrated as much was the music because most of the music that was fuel of the whole Punk scene didn't actually get released in 1976 at all but rather the following year in 1977.

So, in order to give some sense of celebration of 1977 I'm going to be posting throughout the year under the banner of 40 Years of Punk and New Wave, where we can indulge ourselves afresh with a lot of the music that was released in that year which was a big part of my own Soundtrack as a teenager (one of which I had become in 1976).

Hopefully there will be spotlights upon some of the bands, the singles and albums they made and any memories of live shows that I can find among the clutter of my own memories and those of others. I'll try and see as well if I can maybe get a few interviews with some folk who were in bands at the time and were just beginning to make their mark on the scene.

There's so much that can be posted and hopefully will be of interest to others who maybe didn't have anything to do with Punks or maybe are even new to a lot of Punk and New Wave music (I'm always fascinated having the chance to chat with younger folk who have a connection with some of the bands I was listening to back then and being stunned that the music still has something to say to a new generation of fans).

Because Punk Rock is quite an international thing I'll also try to turn the spotlight on bands outside of the UK and see what goodies we can find to share with you.
We begin though on 1st January 1977 at a seedy club in Neal Street, London WC2 called The Roxy. There are loads of links below so feel to click on them to listen to music from the early days of Punk and from The Roxy club itself.

The Roxy was not the only venue in London that the early Punk bands played at but it was probably one of the only clubs that was exclusively dedicated to showcasing the bands of the growing scene that came from near and far.

The first shows at The Roxy were in December 1976 but the "Official" opening wasn't until 1st January 1977. Generation X played the first night on 14th December, it was only their second ever live performance! They probably got the nod to play as their manager Andrew Czezowski was also one of the founders of the club. The band had not actually been together very long as the previous month three members (Billy Idol, Tony James and John Towe) had all been members of the band Chelsea fronted by Gene October

It probably would have been Chelsea as the band opening the club because they were also managed by Czezowski and Gene October had a hand in actually finding the venue which had been a gay club called Chaguaramas in which he hoped his band could use to rehearse and also play some shows. But October soon felt that Idol and James were becoming too dominant creatively and the three left to form their own band. As we shall see later throughout the year Generation X were dealt a better hand and had some success whilst Gene October had to put a new Chelsea band together and mainly dwelt on small labels for pretty much most of their career.

On 15th December it was The Heartbreakers (featuring former New York Dolls Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan), they had been part of the Sex Pistols Anarchy In The UK Tour but hadn't had much of an opportunity to actually play due to boycotts and bans (though you can listen to a performance of Chinese Rocks live at The Electric Circus, Manchester on 9th December when they did get to play a show with the Sex Pistols and The Clash) which were a direct result of the Pistols infamous TV appearance on the Today Show

A week later on 21st December, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Generation X played. Siouxsie and The Banshees had not really been together very long at all having made their debut on 20th September 1976 as part of the 100 Club Punk Rock Festival. They weren't really a band as such then and for their twenty minute performance of The Lord's Prayer Siouxsie Sioux and Steve Severin were joined by Marco Pirroni on guitar (he would become a member of The Beastly Cads who morphed into The Models and later would become right hand man to Adam Ant) and John Simon Ritchie (aka Sid Vicious) on the drums (I don't need to tell you what he ended up doing, do I?). They had intended to break up after the show but were encouraged to play again and thus came the formation of a proper band and the writing of their own songs.

Mick Jones and Paul Simonon had formed The Clash after seeing the Sex Pistols in February 1976 (though they weren't actually called The Clash at first) and Keith Levene was added on guitar and various folk on drums. They were still searching for a frontman.

Chiswick Records
Released 27th June 1976

Bernie Rhodes (the manager) had his eye set upon the frontman of The 101ers (Joe Strummer) who after a meeting with Rhodes and Levene was given 24 hours to decide if he wanted to be in the band. Pablo LaBritain sat in on drums for a few rehearsals but left and went on to form 999, Terry Chimes took over and although not "officially" the drummer of the band he was there for the debut show after less than a month of band practice.

The debut live show was on the 4th July 1976 supporting the Sex Pistols at the Black Swan in Sheffield. On the same day in London a certain band from New York City called the Ramones were making their UK debut supporting The Flamin' Groovies.

It would be another five weeks before The Clash played their second show. Bernie had told them that they would not play again until they had tightened up a bit. To give you a bit of a feel for what the band were sounding like in those days CLICK HERE for one of the earliest performances around recorded at Screen On The Green on 29th August. This was their second gig! The setlist already contained some songs that would eventually appear on record once they got a deal in 1977 (songs highlighted in Red are the particular ones I mean. I'm So Bored With You would eventually become I'm So Bored With The USA):

Deny / I Know What To Think Of You / I Never Did It / How Can I Understand the Flies / Janie Jones / Protex Blue / Mark Me Absent / Deadly Serious (Dig a Hole) / What's My Name / Sitting At My Party / 48 Hours / I'm So Bored With You / London's Burning / 1977.

Keith Levene played his final show with the band in September 1976 and he was not replaced. The first show the band would play as a four piece would be the 100 Club Punk Special 21st September 1976, sharing the bill with Subway Sect, Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Sex Pistols.

Chimes left the band in November and Rob Harper replaced him for the Anarchy In The UK Tour. Just a note regarding Harper, he would go on to play guitar for The Marauders with Charlie Harper (no relation) before they became U.K. Subs and he left to form power pop band The Dazzlers. When he was at college he had also been offered the chance to be in the band that eventually became Dire Straits (he had played in a band with Mark Knopfler) but turned it down as he was focusing on his studies at Sussex University.

Chimes returned to the band in time for the recording of the debut album (where he is credited as Tory Crimes). The Clash had signed with CBS on January 25th and that brought forth the famous quote of  Mark Perry, founder of the leading London punk fanzine, Sniffin' Glue: "Punk died the day the Clash signed to CBS." But we are jumping ahead a bit here and I'll write more about that later this month.

For the moment enjoy the documentary below that spotlights New Year's Day at The Roxy with The Clash as the headliners.

New Year's Day With The Clash
BBC Documentary
Filmed by Julian Temple
First Broadcast 1st January 2015

The sordid history of The Roxy can be found in Paul Marko's superb book, which I believe is out of print at the moment (Amazon have it on Kindle as part of their Kindle Unlimited Scheme and hard copies of the book itself on Amazon are of a very high price!). Here's a good review of the book on the website

Here's who was playing The Roxy in January 1977:

Jan 1st: The Clash, Chelsea and Sounds
Jan 8th: The Jam & Wire
Jan 11th: The Heartbreakers
Jan 12th: The Vibrators
Jan 13th: Eater
Jan 15th: Generation X & The Adverts
Jan 17th: The Damned, Eater & The Boys
Jan 18th: Subway Sect
Jan 19th: Slaughter and The Dogs & The Adverts
Jan 20th: Squeeze and The Zips (Pre Warsaw Pakt)
Jan 22nd: The Stranglers & The Cortinas
Jan 24th: Buzzcocks & Chelsea
Jan 25th: Buzzcocks
Jan 27th: The Vibrators, The Drones & Outsiders
Jan 29th: Generation X & Penetration
Jan 30th: The Damned
Jan 31st: The Damned & The Rejects
One thing was quite clear looking at that list is that the bands came from near and far to play. It wasn't just London based groups but bands from as far as County Durham (Penetration) and Manchester (Buzzcocks, Slaughter and The Dogs,  and The Drones).

It's also incredible to think that a number of those bands are still on the go today in one guise or another!

Two albums were recorded at The Roxy: The Roxy London WC2 (released in July 1977 on Harvest) that featured Slaughter and The Dogs, The Unwanted, Wire, The Adverts, Johnny Moped, Eater, X-Ray Spex and Buzzcocks. The album reached #24 in the UK album charts.

The second album was Farewell To The Roxy that was released in 1978 on Lightning Records. This one was not as good as the first one as it featured many bands who went absolutely nowhere, though the presence of U.K. Subs was probably the main reason to buy it. Infact, I think it is pretty safe to say that apart from the U.K. Subs everything else on it is totally terrible!

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