Posts Tagged ‘ 1979 ’

Primer on Lesser Known 1st Wave Punk

Many a band in recent years has attempted to capture that “trashy” punk rock sound but fail to realize that, more often than not, the classic garage/punk bands either stumbled upon their sound or achieved it through the lack of a proper studio and/or the aid of older, sometimes decrepit equipment (though I’m sure there are some hideous digital plugins that promise to emulate this sound).


PACK “Vinyl” (1978-)

Germany’s PACK didn’t have to work too hard at getting said sound seeing that their sole album was recorded in the depths of a dingy old war bunker. This record is a personal all-time favorite of the lesser-known 1st wave punk albums. While the drums, guitars and incredibly pissed-off vocals are certain to decimate what’s left of your eardrums, you will also be surprised to discover a host of tracks that are downright catchy without straying into the sugary pop that often marred many of their contemporaries’ work.  Already veterans of the German rock-n-roll scene when this came-out, it is rumored that these “old” guys were disliked by the younger German punk bands.

mp3: PACK – Nobody Can Tell Us

:) Original | 1978 | search ebay ]


The Kids s/t (1978-)

This young—the name doesn’t lie—Belgian trio of juvenile delinquents achieved the commendable and uncommon feat of releasing two consecutive punk rock classics. But of course this first self titled beast was their best and nastiest contribution to a genre that was already on the verge of imploding. This is punk rock in its purest sense. The stripped-to-the-marrow sound and barely competent (and yes this actually is a good thing in many cases) playing only bolster the Kids knack for cranking out unforgettable punk rock anthems like “This is Rock-n-Roll” and “I Wanna Get a Job in the City.” My only complaint is that the guitars could have been rawer and way more prominent in the mix. But itmany merits certainly overshadow this otherwise unforgivable flaw.

youtube: The Kids “I Wanna Get a Job in the City” 

:) Original | 1978 | Phillips | search ebay ]


Rokker s/t (1979)

Rokker was an Austin band that released this locally pressed rarity in 1979. Everything about this bandfrom the name and cover art to song titles like “Rock Fever” screams cheeseball loud enough to wake up the entire neighborhood. But don’t be too quick to write it off—its a surprisingly rare example of a great punk album from a non-punk-rock-and-proud band, and they definitely get a kick out of bashing the trendy shopping- mallbound fashion-disease punk would become. It’s like a biker-bar band taking a cue from the Flamin’ Groovies and the Pistols and actually squeezing out something that’s not a pile of dog shit. The lyrics range from full-on stupidity- “You’re mother’s a punk and fathers a wanker” to downright creepy “Daddy, whatcha doing to my sister.” The songs are loaded with hooks and have a strong Teenage-Head-era-Groovies-feel  that are sure to suck you in have you singing along like an idiot to the refreshingly dim-witted lyrics.

mp3: Rokker – Rock Fever

:) Original | 1979 | search ebay ]


The Victims “Real Wild Child” (1979)

Another bonafide classic from a New Jersey band that has yet to receive its rightful due. Making its unwelcome appearance in the midst of punk’s last gasp (1979), this one straddles the garage-ier side of the spectrum but does not shy away from the fuck-you attitude and sleaze that will feel like a invigorating breath of NY sewer air to  fans of  the Dead Boys. The guitars have brighter, trebly sound that helps set them apart from buzz saw driven bands of the time, but fear not –they are turned up far too loud to be lumped in with any of that flaccid power-pop that was stinking up the airwaves. This is a solid ride all the way through.

 mp3: Victims – Too Late

:) Original | 1979 | search ebay ]
;) MP3 album | Victims | buy here ]


Consumers “All My Friends are Dead” (1977)

Believe it or not this actually fully lives up the lost classic cliché. There must be something found only in that dry desert heat that could have produced something as sonically brutal and angry as this Phoenix band’s ten song demo. Recorded in ’77 these brief—yet brilliant—tracks anticipate the coming of Hardcore, which would ultimately abandon the loose rock-n-roll feel that made bands like the Consumers way more soulful and enduring. There are some strong nods to the Pistols here and there, but this band had forged its own breakneck-pace and gritty sound that was worlds ahead of most bands the larger cities were producing.

mp3: The Consumers – Media Ogre

:) Original | 1977 | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2010 | In the Red | buy here ]


Nasal Boys  “Lost and Found”  (Comp, 1977)

“Hot Love” and “Die Wüste Lebt!” constitute what’s considered by many as one of the finest punk singles ever. And anyone with a functioning set of eardrums should have no reason to disagree with this assessment. These songs absolutely epitomize everything that Punk Rock should be. Both songs are intense, unrefined bursts of energy that always seem to be on the brink of collapse. This is noise that will carve a perplexed frown onto the face of most AC-DC-loving “classic” rock fans. The rest of this collection features unreleased tracks that are not quite as impressive, and sometimes move into even more incoherent territory. Regardless they still stand above the heap of all the second rate imitators and punk cash-in bands of the day.

mp3: Nasal Boys – Hot Love

:) Original | 2006 | search ebay ]


Starshooter  s/t (1978-)

Though a bit sub-par in the company of these other releases, one of France’s strongest punk LPs does have a charm of its own. Perhaps more of an acquired taste, the Jacques Dutronc meets Johnny Rotten French vocals may throw some listeners off at first. But multiple spins will unveil a pretty decent record. The guitars are pretty loud and come off a bit mechanical at times—though this somehow works as an asset in the context of the album’s overall atmosphere. At times there are shades of Wire’s early work, heightening the streaks of oddness that hover just at the surface. But it’s still a consistent, good slice of driving and uniquely French rock n roll that deserves a home in any decent record collection.

mp3: Starshooter – A Toute Bombe

:) Original | 1978 | Pathe | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2012 | Elle Aim L’air | buy here ]


Further listening (youtube links):
Hubble Bubble
The Gears
Ivy Green
Suicide Commandos

Link Wray “Bullshot”

Link Wray, who is considered by many to be one of the greatest and most important rock & roll guitarists of all-time, is a pretty familiar name with rock fans all over the world.  The man practically invented distorted, fuzzy, and wild rock guitar sounds.  He was one of the first, if not the first, guitarists to use the almighty power-chord.  Pete Townshend has famously cited Link’s importance, claiming that “he is the king;  if it hadn’t been for Link Wray and ‘Rumble’, I would have never picked up a guitar.”  By the way, “Rumble” has since been added by the Library Of Congress to the National Recording Registry.  Important stuff.  Link recorded tons of material throughout his long career, with most of it being great.  There’s just something about “Bullshot,” this dusty little fiery gem from 1979, that really stands out.

Recorded in NYC with Richard Gottehrer on production (need we say more?), this album is an atomic-bomb of a record, combining Link’s nasty rockabilly/psycho/mean/whatever-you-want-to-call-it guitar licks backed with some of the very best rhythm players I have ever heard.  Anton Fig, drummer extraordinaire, plays with such intensity and power.  The same can be said for Rob Stoner, who has played with countless people.  The bass playing on this album is a real ear-opener and jaw-dropper.  When deciding which categories I was going to put this album under, I had no hesitation to add “punk” to the list.  Sure, this may not be a straight-up punk rock album by definition, but the playing is so dirty and intense that it really does sound like a punk album!

Right from the beginning, you know you’re going to be in for a treat.  “Good Good Lovin'” starts off the album, and kicks everything into gear preparing you for the rockin’ ride the album sends you on.  “Fever” is one of the best versions of the song out there, giving it almost a strut or swagger about it, and a whole new vibe.  “Switchblade” is one hell of an instrumental, combining Link’s wild ehco-laden and distorted-to-the-max guitar and a rhythm backing not too far removed from the tune of “Peter Gunn”.  Side two is where the real magic is; Link’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” kicks off, and is something that needs to be heard to be believed.  Link executed this cover perfectly: adding his own twist to it, yet retaining the credibility and beauty of the original.  It was almost as if Link may have had the power-pop urgency of  “Baby Blue” by Badfinger in mind.  The guitar work in this song is positively amazing; he is just making every string scream and strain with so much power it leaves you speechless.  Link even gave us an extra treat of doing a new punked-up cover of his classic “Rawhide,” which again, is phenomenal and improves upon the original…somehow.  The other bright and shining moment on the record is the very last tune, a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t.”  At your first listen, you may not “get it” right away.  Give it a chance, and you will see the absolute brilliance Link gave this old ’50’ hit.  Pay particular attention to the guitar work at the very end of the song.  It sounds as if the song just decides to break down, explode, and go off to another planet.  Unbelievable.

Buying the album may be a bit tricky, especially if you need to go the digital route.  Your best bet, if at all possible, is to try and hunt down an original vinyl copy on eBay or scour the thrifts.  The album was reissued on CD as an import in the ’90s, but it has become quite pricey.  Trying to track down a copy of this album is worth the effort, though.  This record has become a definite main-stay in my collection, and I often find myself going back to it time and time again.  It is rewarding and a joy to listen to each and every time I put it on my turntable.  I will say, that since owning this album, Link Wray has become one of my favorite guitarists of all-time, and it may just do the same thing for you.

mp3: It’s All Over Now Baby Blue
mp3: Don’t

:) Original | 1979 | Visa/Charisma | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 1995 | Line | buy ]

Emerald Web “Dragon Wings and Wizard Tales”

Emerald Web was the wind playing electronic duo of Kat Epple and Bob Stohl.  Although they’d become better known for their work scoring nature documentaries (including many collaborations with Carl Sagan), Emerald Web’s 1979 debut album was a milestone in electronic psychedelia- rooted in the prog of the mid 70s and foreshadowing much of what would come in the early 80s.

Dragon Wings and Wizard Tales mixes analog synthesizing with the heavy use of wind instruments, augmented occasionally by the angelic vocals of Kat Epple. The sound is incredibly unique. There is a very haunting experimental quality to this music that prevents it from sounding like muzak, although it occasionally veers in that direction.

The Lyricon wind controller makes a very early recorded appearance on this album and is one of the reasons the many sounds heard here are hard to place. The line is constantly blurred between live flutes and the electronic approximations, even occasionally mimicking bird calls. It’s these sound combinations that give the songs an otherworldly quality- like hearing indigenous music from another planet.

Although some pastoral vocal songs show up here and there, eerily dreamy instrumentals make up a little more than half the record. These are certainly among the highlights and show Emerald Web’s talent for crafting soundtrack music that would come to the fore later on. “The Flight of the Raven” is a brief but gorgeous piece, summing up all that is good about this record in under three minutes. Fleeting melodies give way to dramatic clashing synths, fading away at just the right moment. “The Powerstone” recalls early King Crimson, especially the vibe of “Moonchild”. It’s on this track that Emerald Web’s knack for creating natural sounding tones and soundscapes from very electronic instruments is most evident.

This record is highly recommended for fans of golden era progressive and electronic music. Originally released as a private pressing on Stargate, Dragon Wings and Wizard Tales LPs are somewhat rare these days, although they do turn up regularly on eBay.

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“Fight of the Raven”

:) Original Vinyl | 1979 | Stargate | search ebay ]

The Dawn of Punk-Blues

Few periods in pop music have a more distinctive and immediately identifiable sound as the ’80s. And after hearing most of the garbage that choked up the airwaves (and still on those nostalgic 80s shows/stations) it seems that’s about the only thing it had going for it. But well buried in the gut wrenching cesspool of cheesy synthesizers, lifeless drum machines and teased hair an ugly breed of bottom feeders worked in futility to claw their way out of the muck. Among them was one particularly grotesque strain – an ungodly rocknroll hybrid that can be best described as Punk-Blues. Don’t ask if it’s even a real genre (for what it’s worth, All Music is now using it), but there was a rash of like-minded roots-bashing bands in the 80s that would aptly fit that tag. Of course the origins can be traced way back to Howlin Wolf’s earth shattering electrified blues onto the cranked-up snarl of the Pretty Things, CCR and Capt. Beefheart—and so on…

Some essential albums:

Gun Club Fire of Love (1981)

Fire of Love

The first album to successfully wed the harrowing delta howl of Son House with the intensity of punk rock. Basically they did to the blues what Cramps did to rockabilly. Brimming with reckless slide guitar and twisted southern gothic lyrics that’ll have the PC crowd pulling out their hair, this is an original and utterly astounding blast of pure energy.

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Gun Club – For the Love of Ivy

:) Vinyl | 1981 | Ruby | ebay ]

Gun Club Miami (1982)

Extremely dark with a more pronounced country feel than its predecessor, no other rocknroll album has captured the unsettling eeriness of pre-war blues/country. Complaints abound regarding the mix, but it never bothered me in the least. Ranging from haunting, desert-road-weary C/W of “Mother of Earth” to unforgettably fierce covers of “John Hardy” and Jody Reynold’s “Fire of Love.” One of the greatest albums ever. Really.

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Gun Club – Mother Of Earth

:) Vinyl | 1982 | Animal | ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Also recommended: Death Party EP, the Las Vegas Story

Poison 13 s/t (1984)

Poison 13
Led by guitarist Tim Kerr (Big Boys, Jack O Fire etc), Austin’s Poison 13 were like a snottier version of the Gun Club with equally slicing slide guitar wreckage and buzzsaw power chording. “Biggest Mistake” may be the quintessential punk-blues cut. Their reworking of Willie Dixon’s The Seventh son is nothing less than genius. Not a weak cut.

This album, along with their fine 1985 EP First you Live and early demos, was released on the Subpop collection Wine is Red, Poison is Blue.

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“Poison 13 – My Biggest Mistake”

:) Vinyl | 1984 | Wrestler | ebay ]

Alex Chilton Like Flies on Sherbert (1979)

Like Flies On Sherbert

Chilton strung out on smack slobbering over a stack of Chess and Sun 45s. It may be an acquired taste, but this charming disaster of a roots-rock album is loaded with amazing tracks like “Hey, Little Child” and “My Rival.” This album’s endured a far longer residence on my turntable than any Big Star release.

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Alex Chilton – My Rival

:) Vinyl | 1979 | Aura | ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Also recommended: Tav Falco and the Panther Burns Behind the Magnolia Curtain (Chilton on guitar) and Blow Your Top EP

The Scientists Heading for a Trauma (1985)

Heading for a Trauma
Off-kilter, noisy swamp-rock from this crew of Aussie minimalists. Funhouse era Stooges violates CCR while Suicide pukes in their faces. Something like that. Frontman Kim Salmon groans and shrieks over barrages of hypnotizing fuzz guitar. “Murderess in a Purple Dress” is a force to be reckoned with. Also includes a nice rendition of Beefheart’s “Clear Spot.”

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The Scientists – Swampland

The Scientists The Human Juke Box (1987)

The Human Jukebox
Human Jukebox shows the Scientists willfully wiping away any last trace of commercial potential they might have had by unleashing this severely damaged six song album. Making their earlier recordings almost seem polished, this masterwork of trash shifts from the grinding, cheap-piano-driven “Brain Dead” to the delightfully droning blues crawl of “Shine.”

Since their songs appeared on different albums, often overlapping, Sympathy for Record Industry’s CD collections are a perfect source for their best tracks.

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The Scientists – Human Jukebox

:D CD Reissues | Sympathy for the Record Industry | search amazon ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Alan Vega S/T (1980) / Collision Drive (1981)

Alan Vega Collision Drive

Speaking of Suicide (Vega actually described his former band as “New York City Blues”), the headband-clad madman released two great solo albums with (gulp) drum machines. No need to fear, in Vega’s able hands it works brilliantly. It’s more on the rockabilly side (I’ve heard it described as electro-billy), but tracks like “Bye Bye Bayou” show him sloshing around in the same swampland the Scientists inhabited (Scient. even covered Vega’s “Raver”). Raw guitars (albeit rather mechanical – in a good way) managed to sneak on board, but Vega keeps a foot firmly grounded in the bleak territory Suicide roamed.

Some more similar-minded bands: the Birthday Party and Nick Cave’s early work – Pussy Galore – Blood on the Saddle –  the Gibson Bros – Tav Falco and the Panther Burns – Honeymoon Killers – the Fall – Charlie Pickett — and of course the Cramps.

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Alan Vega – Bye Bye Bayou

:) Original Vinyl | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

The 90s was also redeemed by a largely unnoticed (that is until the White Stripes came around) resurgence of the style, with great bands like the Gories, the Oblivians, The Chrome cranks and the Cheater Slicks giving the stale US punk scene a much overdue kick in the ass. Stay tuned for part 2.

The Damned “Machine Gun Etiquette”

The Damned were one of the first British punk bands to release singles and albums. They got a headstart over rivals the Sex Pistols and were a group full of volatile personalities who could explode at any given moment – musically and emotionally! But unlike the much overrated Sex Pistols, The Damned could actually play their instruments and write catchy tunes. They excelled at the art of creating good ole fashion sloppy rock n roll and when they did actually get along with one another, the Damned were capable of making some outstanding music. Captain Sensible, Rat Scabies, and Dave Vanian were all rock n roll wildmen and contributed greatly to the Damned’s unique sound and group concept. Alongside their debut Damned Damned Damned, Machine Gun Etiquette is one of two Damned classics and a must own for fans of popular punk rock.

Machine Gun Etiquette was released by Chiswick in 1979, a year in which many punk artists were simmering down, writing more pop friendly material. The group had briefly broken up only to rejoin again without the help of guitarist Brian James. Saints (another fantastic group) bassist Alby Ward was brought in to fill in the missing gaps and give the group a fuller sound. I think Machine Gun Etiquette is a much stronger effort than 1977’s Music For Pleasure – an album that was produced by Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason. Etiquette seems to pay homage to many of the Damned’s classic rock heroes, most notably the MC5 and the Doors. So in this sense Machine Gun Etiquette has more of a classic rock feel, notable for its strong garage rock and psychedelic influences. They cover the MC5’s Looking At You and while not as good as the original, the Damned’s version still packs a visceral punch to the gut. These Hands has some cool fuzz guitars but also recalls the Doors’ carnival organ sound of Alabama Song – even the vocals sound like a punked up Lizard King. Another track, I Just Can’t Be Happy has that vintage American garage ethic, right down to the cheap organ sound and classic handclaps – great song, should have been a hit. The first two tracks on the album, Love Song (check out that thick, dense bass work) and Machine Gun Etiquette are a bit more original, both being breakneck punkers of the highest order. Vocals and searing guitar solos create a pile-driving intensity, this was some of the most exciting music the Damned had ever laid to wax. Anti-Pope, Melody Lee, the experimental Plan 9 Channel 7, Liar and Noise, Noise, Noise (there’s some nice feedback on this tune) were just as good and furious garage punk-rockers in their own right. The whole album is very consistent and possibly the best disc this group has ever recorded – depending on your point of view. Machine Gun Etiquette has lots of pounding drums, angry vocals, inventive guitar solos and even a few weird experiments. It’s an album that’s bound to please both garage and punk fans.

The 80s were very unkind to the Damned as they suffered a major downward spiral. The group plunged headfirst into the New Wave/Post-Punk scene and while doing so lost all credibility with the underground rock community. Their true forte was rock n roll and during the early to mid 80’s the group released a series of half-baked goth-rock albums. In terms of quality, none of these later albums came close to their 1977 debut or Machine Gun Etiquette. The great thing about Machine Gun Etiquette is that it’s rock n roll pure and simple, hit home straight as an arrow. There are no MTV pop or reggae tracks that plague this album, just straight up rock n roll. Groups like the Clash, the Jam, and PIL were notorious for sticking a few awful reggae or soul experiments on their albums – you could call this branching out but it definitely diluted the impact of a punk record. So it is with these two early albums that the Damned’s reputation rests firmly as one of the most visionary punk rock groups ever. This is a great record similar in style to Wire’s equally good 154 lp – try playing these two scorchers side by side!

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“Machine Gun  Etiquette”

:D CD Reissue | 2007 | Chiswick | Machine Gun Etiquette ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1979 | Chiswick | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]