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HITSVILLE UK: PUNK IN THE FARAWAY TOWNS Pg1 Roger Sabin During the punk years, I was lucky enough Catholic Girls. (In due course, the Small
to live near one of the premier independent Wonder shop in London became a record label,
Russell Bestley Pg2 Hitsville UK: Punk in faraway towns record shops, Small Wonder in Walthamstow, and signed up some of the top regional acts;
London. Every time I visited, there would Bauhaus, from Northampton, the Cockney
Pg4 From the First Wave to the New Wave be a new exhibition of art by which, I Rejects from East London and The Cure, from
mean the owner festooned the walls with the Crawley being the best-known. They declined,
Pg5 Coloured Music latest seven-inch record sleeves. Hed also however, to sign my band the rotters.)
play the new sounds very loud, which meant
Pg6 The Prole Art Threat his gallery had a soundtrack. It was all There is a graphic design dimension to
very mesmerising, and on a Saturday the shop the show (Bestley teaches the subject at
Pg7 Key Categories in UK Punk would be packed with adolescents like me, university). But these sleeves were often
not buying very much, but standing there not designed in any conventional sense.
Pg8 The Punk Community half-deaf and gawping like zombies. They were about mates deciding upon the most
punkish/outrageous/amusing/dumb image, and
Pg9 Proto Punk and Pub Rock Russ Bestleys Hitsville UK: Punk in the then adding some typography often filched
Faraway Towns revives that sense of (small) from elsewhere or inexpertly lettrasetted
Pg10 New Wave and Novelty Punk wonder, but isnt just an exercise in on. The sleeves, and the records they
nostalgia. It makes a case for seven inch housed, were not meant to last, and were
Pg12 DIY, Post Punk and the Avant-Garde sleeves as a signifier of a point in history not intended to make their creators famous.
when DIY took over a significant sector of The ethic seemed to be, in the words of one
Pg14 Oi and Street Punk popular culture, and when art was up for fanzine from the time, Aint Bin to No Art
grabs. 1976-84 was a period when a School though, as Bestley shows, some of
Pg16 Real Punk, New Punk and Hardcore scissors-and-glue mentality empowered youths these lo-fi designers certainly had been to
up and down the country to produce sleeves art school, and were more knowing than they
Pg17 Anarcho Punk of often stunning originality. The mix of let on.
bizarre colours, playful typography, and
Pg19 Sound & Vision stitched-together images captured the spirit Does this amateur status make the sleeves
of the equally DIY records perfectly. any less valid than a product that might
have come out of a major label and had
There was also a political element. thousands of pounds spent on it? Does
The phenomenon straddled the end of the their throwaway-ness make them not worth
Callaghan Labour government and the remembering? Does the regional aspect
beginnings of Thatcherism, and had varied detract from their appeal or authenticity?
agit-prop manifestations (Bestley is not Id argue the very opposite but, please,
afraid to highlight the far-right elements take a look and decide for yourself.
of punk as well as the better-known
left-wing and anarcho-punk scenes). Localised Roger Sabin
production circumvented the corporations,
and as each of the Faraway Towns gave rise Roger Sabin is the Editor of Punk Rock:
to its own version of the Small Wonder shop, So What? (Routledge)
so punk became as much about local issues,
local politics, even the local pub, as
about anything happening down the Kings
Road (Sten Guns in Sunderland was one of
the more amusing song titles).

Hitsville UK is thus a riposte to the


received wisdom of so many top-down BBC
documentaries about punk. Its not about
pogo-ing with Malcolm at some legendary
Pistols concert in London. Its about how
the movement was lived by tens of thousands
of teenagers all over the country, and about
the bands they loved: the likes of Discharge
from Stoke; the Cult Maniax from Exeter; the
Prefects from Birmingham; Rudi from Belfast;
Johnny and the Self-Abusers from Edinburgh,
and the bands that never made it beyond
their immediate surroundings such as the
Small Mercies from Tunbridge Wells (with one
R.Bestley on bass). Southampton itself could
boast a clutch of such bands, including
Strate Jacket, Catch 22, and the mighty
www.company-london.com
HITSVILLE UK: PUNK IN THE FARAWAY TOWNS
Vinyl records seem to hold a deep-seated quickly, with subsequent stock often being market, its origins, and its references:
emotional value for many of us we can housed in a plain sleeve or of the (boring!) where The Clash had defined the sound of
remember where we were, who we were with, black vinyl variety (I had my suspicions the Westway and had sung about sten guns
and that gut feeling dragging us back in that the trendy bloke behind the counter in Knightsbridge, now groups were rallying
time whenever we hear a particular record, in Boots was grabbing all the best stuff against their local council, or the village
or come across a certain record sleeve. for himself anyway). However, if you were pub landlord who banned punk drinkers, or
I can remember hearing snippets of the prepared to put in the effort, you could the lack of prospects or excitement in their
new, outrageous phenomenon of punk rock be rewarded with the first edition record own home town.
through items on the television news, and that showed how dedicated you really were
seeing the shocked reports in the newspapers to the new movement. I can remember walking This exhibition is both a celebration of the
(all that spitting, vomiting, swearing and miles to out-of-town newsagents on hearing wide range of graphic approaches adopted by
rebellion certainly sounded appealing to a reports that they had singles by the likes punk sleeve designers, and an attempt
fourteen year old potential punk rocker), of X Ray Spex, The Lurkers, UK Subs or to redress the balance of recent punk
though it wasnt until the beginning of Generation X on pink, red, blue, orange or histories which focus purely on a
1977 that I really heard anything of the green vinyl. For that extra special rarity short-lived series of events based around
actual music. I was skateboarding with my well outside of the charts even more effort the Kings Road and Oxford Street. It is
brother and some friends, and I remember was required such as bunking the train to based on the mapping and grouping of a wide
overhearing the radio in my mates back London to seek out the Dangerous Girls or range of punk-related seven inch single
garden the song was Grip, the debut single Mekons single that John Peel had been raving sleeves across the period 1976 to 1984, and
by The Stranglers, and I could genuinely about the week before. It got easier once seeks to tell a wider, more inclusive story
describe it as a life-changing moment. I punk became a national movement and record of the punk years.
was so impressed, I began to seek out other shops began to advertise in the back of the
examples of this new wave of music. I music press you could buy obscure singles
ordered the debut album by The Stranglers by the likes of Crass, The Tights, Spizzoil,
from my mums Freemans catalogue (those Menace or the Television Personalities by
were the days), and I started listening to mail order from Rough Trade or Small Wonder.
John Peel on Radio One and Stuart Henry at Of course, everyone has their own particular
Radio Luxembourg, discovering new groups tale to tell of the punk years. Mine include
and trying to find out more in the music my mum destroying my ticket for a Siouxsie
press. Punk grew exponentially during 1977 & The Banshees gig at Lewisham Odeon (shed
in some ways, unknown to me at the time, read reports of race riots and punk Nazis in
because so many groups and labels saw the the News Of The World), burning my bondage
golden opportunity of a bandwagon to jump trousers in the dustbin (luckily, I managed
on and I began to seek out the music in to rescue the singed garments in order to
earnest. wear them again result! Even more punk!),
and destroying my copy of the Cult Maniax
If youre going to Black Horse e.p. which would now, rather
reminisce,then you amusingly, be worth a large amount of money.
need to do it properly
Punk hit the regions in a different way to
The Mekons, 1st Guitarist (CNT Records)1982 its impact in the cities. Its interesting to
see how the waves of punk activity shifted
The first port of call for a budding punk their geographical centres over time, moving
rocker, beyond some very limited radio gradually away from London, Manchester or
play and the music press, was the records Liverpool and out into the smaller towns
themselves. Gigs were often centred around and cities of the UK. This includes the
London and the major metropolitan centres locations of bands themselves, as well as
early punk tours seldom rolled into town their fan-bases: local groups could play to
if you lived out in the sticks. Specialist local fans anyone could do it and
record shops were actually something of a the subculture became so widely popular
rarity on the high street in the mid 1970s that many could afford to invest in their
you were more likely to buy the latest own slice of vinyl history, with at least
releases from Boots, Woolworths, the a 50/50 chance of getting their money back
Co-Op, or a small electrical retailer like through record sales. As punk disappeared
Rediffusion the same people that your back underground in the late 1970s, local
parents rented the television from. Local DIY scenes were cropping up all over the
newsagents also stocked singles especially country, and young punk fans, annoyed at
those in the charts and I soon learnt a being told that theyd missed the boat and
few techniques for seeking out that prized that punk was dead, decided to take control
limited edition punk record on coloured of its legacy themselves, thus ensuring an
vinyl or in a picture sleeve. The bigger even bigger, harder, faster, louder New
chart stores would sell out of their Punk movement would emerge. This time,
initial batch of punk new releases very though, punk was genuinely regional in its

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FROM THE FIRST WAVE TO THE NEW WAVE COLOURED MUSIC
In many of the recent published histories Once punk and the New Wave had become back to basics approach. Crass had already
of punk, punk begins and ends in the broadly accepted and could be marketed by ...adopted black clothing as a protest
metropolis, lasting perhaps two or three the major labels, chart entries became far against the narcissistic peacockery of the
years (the lifetime of the Sex Pistols as more familiar between 1978 and 1979. The fashion punks early in their career, and
a band, together with the opening up of major labels were also quick to recognise the reflection of this approach within their
the movement to record company marketing the potential for a punk collectors market, sleeve graphics was almost inevitable as
strategies and the realisation by major following the success of independents was the adoption of similar graphic styles
labels that punk had strong business such as Stiff who had started to produce by a subsequent range of Anarcho Punk groups
potential), then disappears. Although some alternative versions and formats of their heavily influenced by Crass themselves.
credit is generally given to secondary new releases. Stiff saw the potential for
groups and locations following in the wake limited edition coloured vinyl releases,
of the London scene, in particular the picture sleeves and alternative formats such
Buzzcocks and later Factory Records in as 10 inch albums and oddly shaped discs
Manchester and a number of groups around reflected in good sales in the first few
Liverpool, Sheffield or Leeds, these are weeks following a release date and were
seldom credited with any local agenda or soon followed by other independents such as
individual style reflecting alternative Small Wonder, Chiswick and Beggars Banquet.
approaches to the punk ethos of the capital. Virgin records also offered limited edition
Much of the significance attributed to certain coloured vinyl versions of singles by the
locations and individuals also appears to likes of X Ray Spex, The Members and The
have been given retrospectively: Factory Skids, while US based major label A&M tapped
Records, for instance, were not to achieve into the trend for releases by The Dickies
commercial significance until the 1980s and and The Police. The natural conclusion of
1990s with the success of New Order and the this marketing style saw The Lurkers debut
Happy Mondays, together with the Hacienda Free Admission Single (Beggars Banquet
nightclub, which opened in May 1982. There 1977) issued in 1978 in red, white and blue
are in fact a great many links and crossovers vinyl versions, while their fourth single,
between the First and Second Waves of UK punk I Dont Need To Tell Her (1978), came in
from the developing London punk scene and four different sleeves, each depicting a
gigs further afield by early progenitors such member of the group a similar technique
as the Clash and the Sex Pistols to the punk was later used by Chiswick Records to market
diaspora, as Jon Savage has described it. The Damneds Love Song single in April
Some provincial bands were able to get a 1979. Generation X released their fourth
foothold in the new movement through support single, King Rocker (Chrysalis 1979) at
slots with touring groups and exchanging around the same time, with initial pressings
or sharing gigs notable among these were in four different sleeves each featuring
the Buzzcocks (who organised two gigs for an individual member of the band, and four
the Sex Pistols in Manchester, playing as corresponding coloured vinyls.
support act at the second), Neon Hearts (who
set up their own club in the back room of Although the marketing strategies based on
a pub in Wolverhampton and promoted punk limited editions and coloured vinyl proved
gigs), Suburban Studs (who supported the Sex initially very successful, the inherent
Pistols in their home town of Birmingham conflict with what could be seen as the punk
and again in London) and The Prefects (who ideology did lead to criticism from both
supported The Clash in Wolverhampton and punk bands and audiences, and was savagely
a number of other dates on the White Riot parodied in both song lyrics and interviews:
tour in the Spring of 1977). In this way, the Television Personalities Part Time Punks
gigs were an important feature in both (Kings Road 1978) included the line Theyd
establishing the movement with a wider like to buy the O-Level single, or Read
audience and in gaining recognition for About Seymour, but theyre not pressed in
local bands. Later developments in the DIY red, so they buy The Lurkers instead. The
field in particular, when many groups found shift in the late 1970s and early 1980s to
a growing market for self-produced records a more ideological, austere and politicised
and took up the challenge to start their punk, especially within the Anarcho Punk
own labels, saw a growing confidence in sub-genre, saw a decline in the market for
the expression of regional, or provincial, alternative formats and coloured vinyl
concerns. While many of the early punk bands releases and a return to basic black vinyl
had sung about life in the city, urbanity, often housed within a simple black and white
boredom and apathy, later bands found a folded sleeve. This can be seen as not only
strong enough demand for their work to reflecting low cost production techniques
produce records about particular regions, on the part of independent labels, but the
local scenes, even individuals and rival employment of deliberate visual codes with
towns or groups. which to deliberately denote austerity and a

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THE PROLE ART THREAT KEY CATEGORIES IN UK PUNK
The independent sector grew strongly between and use of imagery and in typographic style. UK punk was a broad umbrella description,
1978 and 1984, in particular benefiting from Techniques for reproduction of a range of which incorporated a wide range of styles
the widening market for punk and avant-garde punk graphic material also underwent change, and approaches from the outset, finding
records in the late 1970s. They later partly because independent producers some coherence as a distinct punk market
successfully captured the early 1980s punk of fanzines and sleeves could build upon developed during the Second Wave before
market whilst the major labels turned to innovations and good practice developed by fragmenting once again into a number of
the promotion of new styles and a broader others. The growth of the independent DIY opposing and/or inter-related tribal groups
audience. A combination of low overheads and scene in the late 1970s also resulted in during the Third Wave. Although a quite
the ability to produce short runs of records graphic design for record sleeves, posters, disparate range of potential new sub-genres
which were both cost effective and flyers and fanzines which could be targeted emerged in the Second and Third Waves of
audience-specific allowed the smaller to specific, often small-scale, markets. Many punk, often originated and defined by music
independent labels to operate in this record sleeves could be regarded as critics and record companies, many failed to
specialist market much more easily than the strongly non-commercial in terms of the become widely recognised. However, a number
majors, who relied on mass production and mainstream record market, either in their of broad themes and groupings did become
distribution, and a high turnover of their uncompromising use of text and imagery, or in accepted by punk bands, music critics and
product. Early 1980s punk-specific labels the hand-made, labour intensive nature of the fans, and these categories could be broadly
could then tap into a well-established packaging itself which would be extremely defined as follows:-
market notably punks who continued to expensive to reproduce on a large scale.
define themselves as part of the movement The design of record sleeves often involved Proto Punk and Pub Rock
rather than adopt a new trend, and those strategies that, although based on limited New Wave and Novelty Punk
who were interested but had been too young budgets, were inventive and sophisticated DIY, Post Punk and the Avant-Garde
to respond to the First (or even Second) incorporating alternative production Oi and Street Punk
Waves. Riot City, an independent punk label processes, the adaptation of available, Real Punk, New Punk and Hardcore
set up by Bristol group Vice Squad and lo-tech materials, and simple printing Anarcho Punk
Simon Edwards of local independent Heartbeat techniques. Certain design strategies later
Records to release their first record, is a became established more widely within It should be noted that certain of these
good example: after initially pressing 1,500 the field of music packaging and proved categories may bear a relationship to UK
copies of the Last Rockers e.p. in December influential within the wider practice of punk but are not in fact sub-genres of
1980, they found that sales far exceeded graphic design, while many others were ad it: groups in the Proto Punk and Pub Rock
expectations, eventually selling in excess hoc adaptations of more traditional design category might be defined as precursors to
of 22,000 copies. The label went on to sign skills relating to the branding, marketing punk, which in some cases continued to
other bands and to gain a strong foothold and promotion of popular cultural artefacts. operate alongside the developing new genre,
in the independent market Riot City It should not be overlooked that the growth benefiting from the association in the
eventually released some 29 singles, and 12 in small-scale DIY punk outlets, labels and process. It certainly did no harm for groups
albums by a number of different Third Wave distributors also helped to establish an such as Dr Feelgood and the Count Bishops
punk bands between 1980 and 1984, when they effective alternative marketplace, which when their labels adopted some of the visual
were forced to close following the collapse continues to thrive to this day. styles of the new wave in the packaging and
of their distributor Pinnacle Records. Other marketing of their records.
labels thrived during this period with the
establishment of a firm Third Wave punk
fanbase and market for their releases. Both
Secret Records (based in London) and No
Future (based in Malvern, Worcestershire)
had a string of minor chart successes
between September 1981 and the end of 1982,
releasing singles by Oi-related groups
such as Blitz, The Partisans, Red Alert,
The Violators and Peter & The Test Tube
Babies. The short-lived glossy magazine Punk
Lives calculated Oi-related record sales in
excess of two million across the sub-genres
first four years, demonstrating a level of
commercial success on a par with many First
Wave record releases which has subsequently
been played down within historical accounts
of the movement.

It should also be noted that the visual


styles of fanzines and graphic ephemera
surrounding punk did not stand still during
this period there is no one standard punk
visual language but did in fact undergo
an evolution in terms of both the creation

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THE PUNK COMMUNITY PROTO PUNK AND PUB ROCK
From the beginning, UK punk was a fragmented ideological and even regional factors led The roots of UK punk are many and varied, and Island R&B group Dr Feelgood, who had formed
and disparate grouping of distinct musical to some entrenched positions on the part of discourse surrounding the true origins of in 1971 and had a number one album in the UK
and visual styles. Many groups were credited bands and labels, and occasionally to direct the movement has thrown up many conflicting charts, Stupidity, in September 1976, were
with an association to the emerging genre confrontation between fans of opposing arguments. While the influence of musicians very influential to the development of the
as a way of garnering public and press groups. in New York in the early 1970s, including Pub Rock scene in London, and the developing
interest, and the perceived need to build the New York Dolls, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, punk scene it was a 400 loan from
a groundswell of new groups under the Patti Smith, Television and The Ramones is vocalist Lee Brilleaux that allowed Jake
punk banner meant that some groups bore often cited, other artists from the UK, Riviera and Dave Robinson to start up Stiff
associations in quite indirect ways. This is such as David Bowie and Roxy Music, are also Records in the Summer of 1976. Similarly,
particularly true of those groups who were claimed as the natural lineage into the The Count Bishops featured heavily in the
already partly established on the Pub Rock punk scene of 1976. John Robbs Punk Rock: pages of Sniffin Glue sharing the same
scene, and who were associated with early An Oral History gives a range of opinions label as The Gorillas, and offering a
independent labels linked to punk, such from a wide range of individuals involved high-energy, guitar-led live show, the group
as Stiff and Chiswick Records. Therefore, in the early punk movement, and includes fitted well with the Proto Punk scene. The
although this study is concerned with the all the above, together with Glam Rock, the Count Bishops Speedball e.p. was the first
definitions of, and distinctions between, a late hippie underground, and the London Pub release on the Chiswick label in November
number of emerging sub-genres of UK punk, Rock scene. It is certainly arguable that 1975, and featured a picture sleeve an
other related sub-genres, such as Proto Punk individual punk pioneers were influenced by unusual device at the time.
(i.e. the Pub Rock and R&B groups operating the music and fashions that had gone before,
around the start of UK punk in late 1976 and and the well-documented attitudes of those Several active groups and individuals on
early 1977) and New Wave (e.g. artists such First Wave artists who gained widespread the late hippie underground scene also
as Ian Dury, Wreckless Eric, Nick Lowe and critical attention have helped to cement a played a key part in the crossover between
Elvis Costello at Stiff Records) are also fairly rigid collection of pre-punk artists Proto Punk and the First Wave of UK punk.
identified. as inspiration for UK punks First Wave. A The Pink Fairies originally formed in 1969
more recent trend in punk history has given as a three-piece group featuring vocalist
One other point, which does require greater credit to groups such as Mott The Twink with Steve Peregrin Took (formerly
reiteration, is that many UK punk groups Hoople, Dr Feelgood, Eddie & The Hot Rods of T Rex) and Mick Farren. Twink left the
were classified within more than one and the Pink Fairies as inspirations for group in 1971 to pursue a solo career, and
sub-genre, especially during different punk music and songwriting (including the was replaced by Larry Wallis co-founder
periods of their careers. When a group first perceived move away from an Americanised of Heavy Metal group Motrhead with former
appeared on the scene, many journalists form of Rock & Roll to a more localised Hawkwind bassist Lemmy who would go on to
would try to find a place for them alongside English equivalent). It should be noted, become part of the Stiff Records regular
those sub-genres already recognised, but however, that the latter development is in team as a producer. The Pink Fairies also
once the group became more widely known they part due to the rise in importance of groups played at the Mont De Marsan Punk Rock
might be placed alongside a different set of such as The Clash and The Damned within punk Festival in August 1976, alongside The
peers. Also, groups tended to become more histories whereas earlier histories were Damned and various UK Proto Punk groups.
proficient, and potentially more commercially centred around the Sex Pistols and their Wallis released one solo single on Stiff,
viable, over time so the shift from Punk immediate entourage, more recent accounts Police Car, in November 1977, while Farren
to New Wave, or from DIY to Post Punk have highlighted the part that individuals released the four track Screwed Up e.p.
was perhaps more the result of a groups such as Mick Jones and Joe Strummer of The with The Deviants on the same label. Also
natural development rather than Clash and Rat Scabies and Brian James of in 1977, Twink teamed up with Alan Lee Shaw
self-conscious industry marketing and The Damned played in the development of the and Rod Latter of The Maniacs to form The
promotions. early punk scene. Rings, who released one single, I Wanna Be
Free, on the Chiswick label in May 1977, and
First Wave UK punk can be seen to have For the purposes of this exhibition, also performed at the 2nd Mont De Marsan
been fairly diverse, both musically and however, Proto Punk examples have been Punk Rock Festival. This crossover between
sartorially: in terms of this project, limited to those groups which were cited punk and the late hippie underground was
sub-genres are limited at this stage to in early punk reviews in the music press to have a direct influence on the formation
Proto Punk, Punk Rock, Novelty Punk and New and in fanzines such as Sniffin Glue and of Anarcho Punk scene-leaders Crass, and
Wave. The Second Wave, between 1978 and those record labels which were to become the regular Stonehenge Free Festival saw
1980, saw the emergence of DIY and the Post central to the development of the First Wave a number of close collaborations between
Punk Avant-Garde, as well as the beginnings of UK punk, such as Stiff and Chiswick. the punk and hippie scenes in subsequent
of a Street Punk style, while the early Certain Pub Rock and R&B groups, such as years. Free festivals involving groups
1980s Third Wave led to the division of the The Gorillas and Eddie & The Hot Rods, from both scenes were a regular occurrence
movement into fairly clearly defined featured in early punk reviews, and to a in the South and West of England in the
sub-genres such as Anarcho Punk, Oi, New certain extent were categorised within the early 1980s, often leading to open conflict
Punk and Hardcore, as well as the crossover punk milieu both groups played at the Mont with the police, and can be seen in part
with US Hardcore and the early emergence De Marsan Punk Rock Festival in Bordeaux, as precursors to the rave culture of the
of Neo-Fascist Punk. These emerging on 28th August 1976, and were regularly following decade.
sub-genres of UK punk were defined in large featured in Sniffin Glue. The Hot Rods even
part by the music press and by specific released what was to become a punk classic
audience groups. Tribal differences became single, Do Anything You Wanna Do, at the
more clearly marked, and strong political, height of punk in July 1977. Fellow Canvey

8 9
new wave and novelty punk
Like Proto Punk, many of the artists within Ian Dury & The Blockheads could be said to One punk parody even managed to precede
this category bear a somewhat tangential bridge both camps. the furore surrounding the Sex Pistols
position relative to UK punk. While New Wave television appearance in December 1976 had
was a generic term largely applied to the The term Novelty Punk covers the range of it appeared a few weeks later, it could have
punk movement in its early incarnation, it punk-related records which were produced, achieved national exposure. Gimme That Punk
later became associated with chart-friendly, particularly during the First Wave, in Junk by the Water Pistols was released in
punk-influenced music which was seen to be order to offer an often humorous view of November 1976, just a couple of weeks before
distinct from the punk movement itself. the new genre. The tradition of generic the Sex Pistols debut single. A comic blend
However, a number of key figures associated novelty records which reflect and comment on of clichd tabloid punk descriptions (the
with the New Wave need to be considered in developing trends in popular music is almost singer boasts of wearing chains, swearing
this context. Nick Lowe, formerly a member as old as recorded music itself. Music Hall and petty violence) and generic rock pop,
of successful Pub Rock group Brinsley comedians such as Stanley Lupino based some its play on words is very humorous and
Schwarz, recorded the first single to be of their sketches around reflections on the pre-figures a number of key later developments
released on Stiff Records, So It Goes, in popularity of Ragtime in the decade after in punk history. The chorus repeats the
August 1976 as a solo artist, and went on to 1910, producing comic records such as Have lyrical refrain; Anarchist... Anarchist...
become the labels in-house producer. The You Got Any Rag? (1916), while the ensuing An I kissed a couple of local girls,
B-side of the single, Heart Of The City, decades saw popular generic Jazz and Swing playing directly with Johnny Rottens vocal
was described as ...the FIRST new wave songs during the 1930s and 1940s by the inflection in the opening lines of Anarchy In
punk sound on vinyl by Melody Maker the likes of Count Basie, Duke Ellington and The UK, while the subject of the last verse
following year. Lowe also played the Mont De Glen Miller, and celebrations of new could easily be taken as future Sex Pistols
Marsan Punk Rock Festival, and on the 1977 post-war youth styles such as Chuck Berrys bassist Sid Vicious, real name John Simon
Live Stiffs Tour alongside Ian Dury & The Rock n Roll Music (1957) and Heinz Just Richie:
Blockheads, Elvis Costello and Wreckless Like Eddie (1963). With the advent of punk,
Eric. As producer, Lowe is credited with The the tradition was embraced by both those I am a rebel and Simons my name
Damneds debut single, New Rose (October operating within the movement and those Mum thinks Im crazy I drive her insane
1976) and album Damned Damned Damned outside wishing to comment on it. The second I know two chords and I sing out of tune
(February 1977) which are widely noted as single by London pub rock band turned punks If punk rock lasts I will make a fortune
the first UK punk single and album release The Vibrators, Pogo Dancing (RAK 1976), fits
respectively and his raw production style neatly into this model, as do such one-off While this notion of punk parody and
became hugely influential to subsequent punk novelty singles as Norman And The Hooligans humorous critique can be seen to originate
recordings by other artists. Other Stiff Im A Punk (President 1977) and The Punkettes from both inside and outside the genre, a
Records artists, including Ian Dury, Elvis Goin Out Wiv A Punk (Response 1977). Pop distinction should be made between meta-punk,
Costello, Wreckless Eric, Rachel Sweet and producer Jonathan King also got in on the as a punk discourse from within, and the
The Yachts were associated with the early UK act, recording a single under the pseudonym adoption of punk styles for either comedic
punk scene before moving on to commercial Elizabeth, entitled God Save The Sex Pistols value or commercial viability by artists
success under the New Wave heading like (Creole, August 1977), a royalist answer outside of the punk movement.
Nick Lowe, however, they were never really record to the Sex Pistols God Save The
defined as punk in the first place, and the Queen released in May the same year. Some of
term New Wave seems far more appropriate to the most successful punk parodies even made
apply to all their output. Jake Riviera left inroads in the national charts Jilted John
Stiff to co-found Radar Records with former by Jilted John (Rabid/EMI 1978) remained
United Artists A&R man Andrew Lauder in late in the chart for twelve weeks, peaking at
1977, taking Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello and number four in August 1978, while Heads
The Yachts with him, and that label also Down No Nonsense Mindless Boogie by fellow
became a significant player in the New Wave Mancunians Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias
scene. (Logo 1978) charted the following month, and
The Monks Nice Legs Shame About Her Face
Many successful early UK punk groups became (Carrere 1979) took punks by-now generic
closely associated with the New Wave once cockney accent and simple guitar riffs to
they had become more well known, and once build a novelty hit in April 1979. The Monks
production values on their record releases took the punk parody one step further with
became more acceptable to the mainstream. their next single, Johnny B Rotten (EMI
Many of the successful First Wave groups 1979), even going so far as to mimic Jamie
who managed to establish careers on major Reids original artwork for the Sex Pistols
labels, such as The Jam, The Stranglers, Anarchy In The UK.
Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Police and The
Clash, expanded their musical repertoire as
their careers progressed, moving away from
the early generic punk rock description
in the process. There is also an overlap
between the New Wave genre and certain Proto
Punk groups and labels groups such as
The Radio Stars, The Motors, Squeeze and

10 11
diy, post punk and the avant-garde
Beginning with the notion of self-publishing, independent records produced by some of this trend in the promotion of a do-it-
often in parallel with other activities these bands ...mark the full UK take-up of yourself ideology, either through the
such as fanzine production, this category the challenge posed by Buzzcocks Spiral hand-crafted nature of labels and sleeves,
covers a broad range of musical styles and Scratch. Unlike the US, where major label or through a direct message within the
visual strategies, often produced in limited deals were rarely an option and putting your artwork or lyrics themselves. In London,
numbers. As indicated by the definitions own records out was a matter of necessity, The Television Personalities issued their
used to compile the Independent Chart, UK Independent label releases were often the first single, 14th Floor/Oxford Street W1,
independent releases were determined by result of choice becoming ideology. Savage on their own Teen 78 label early in 1978,
production and marketing factors rather refers here directly to the first record incorporating hand-written labels and folded,
than musical style, and as such the range release by the Buzzcocks from Manchester, a Xeroxed sleeves. Their second single, the
of independent and DIY releases in the late four-track seven inch e.p. (extended play) Wheres Bill Grundy Now? e.p., released on
1970s is very broad, covering everything single on their own New Hormones label the re-named Kings Road label, sold out of
from electronic pop to jazz and dance entitled Spiral Scratch, which was released several pressings during 1978, before being
music. During the First and Second Waves in the spring of 1977 and funded by a loan taken up and re-pressed by Rough Trade in
of UK punk, the influence of new labels and from guitarist Pete Shelleys father. The 1979, eventually selling in excess of 15,000
distribution networks such as Small Wonder, single got good publicity and was played copies. The Rough Trade version featured
Cherry Red and Rough Trade helped to create on John Peels national radio show it sleeves with reproduced notes on the reverse
a more established sub-genre of DIY punk eventually sold 16,000 copies before it detailing the recording and production costs
music, together with more sophisticated was deleted in September 1977, making it a of both record and artwork. Interestingly,
marketing strategies and longer production hugely successful, and widely recognised, the record sleeves were a major production
runs. Other small labels, such as FAST punk DIY enterprise. expense for the group (particularly when
Product, Illegal and Stiff, also enjoyed the you compare it with the cost of recording:
benefits of major label distribution deals Though Spiral Scratch became symbolic recorded at I.P.S. Shepherds Bush, August
with established companies. of the punk DIY ethos, largely due to 26/1978, cost 22.50). The sleeve note reads
its success in gaining radio airplay and sleeves 2,000 = 110 by Delga, Kent. We
This is the broadest category within this enthusiastic reviews in the music press, didnt want to but what else do we do?,
field, covering a range of activities from other groups were also experimenting with expressing the groups frustration with the
self-produced and distributed small label self-produced records around the same time. renewed demand for picture sleeves during
output through to popular independent Some of these achieved critical acclaim this period. The lyrics of the Television
artists or labels with a more established and sold successfully, particularly those Personalities record itself are heavily
catalogue, and as such it does impact across from the capital, where direct contact critical of the new punk market, with
a range of other sub-genres. Many Anarcho with journalists documenting the evolving its apparent obsession with coloured vinyl
Punk and Hardcore releases, for instance, scene was easier. One of the better known records, picture sleeves and trendy venues,
could equally be defined as DIY, in that they DIY groups were the Desperate Bicycles, and the track Part Time Punks makes a number
were low budget releases, often with who issued their first single Smokescreen/ of barbed comments on the way the punk scene
home-produced sleeve artwork and packaging, Handlebars on their own Refill Records label was developing at the time. Other groups
and were distributed via independents such in London during the summer of 1977. The moved from a base in the independent
as Southern Records or Rough Trade. However, total cost of production amounted to 153 avant-garde into more prominent positions
a distinction should be made between groups for recording, pressing and printing simple with the backing of major record labels,
who released their records independently one sided, one colour sleeves. The group and this development was seen not only as
and saw the Do It Yourself maxim as an used the profits from the sale of the limited good business by some participants, but
explicit reflexive practice, and those who edition of 500 records to produce a second as in some ways inevitable in light of
may have run their own labels but were less single entitled The Medium Was Tedium/ the historical development of the music
concerned with promoting and foregrounding Dont Back The Front (this time with a two industry. Some independent labels, such as
the anyone can do it message. Independent colour sleeve printed on both front and Fast Product, actively encouraged links
labels were to have a strong influence on the back) some three months later. 1,000 copies with the major labels, setting themselves
structure of the music industry throughout of this single were issued, selling within up as a kind of pro-active A&R department
the following two decades. The Cartel weeks and leading to a repress of a further to establish groups on the ground and then
distribution network was very successful for 1,000. After this batch was sold, the label pass them through to the major labels.
a number of years, and it took some time for became self-financing, producing a further Fast Product released debut singles by the
the major labels to reassert their grip on three singles and an album over the ensuing Gang Of Four, Mekons, Scars and the Human
the market. When they did, a new category, three years. The first two Desperate Bicycles League, all of whom went on to sign to major
Indie, emerged as a loose branding tool, the releases were also interesting because they labels in fact, Fast Product was itself
major labels clumsily attempting to tap into featured the same two tracks on both sides, eventually bought out by EMI Records.
the well-established independent market and apparently because the group could only
audiences. afford to cut one master for one side of a
record. The lyrics were also concerned with
Many Second Wave bands were heavily promoting the DIY ethos on Smokescreen
influenced by both media coverage of punk the singer announces Xerox musics here
and by direct contact with bands on at last! and on the run out groove a lone
tour and records made available through voice shouts the phrase It was easy, it was
national distribution and radio airplay. cheap, go and do it!. Self-produced DIY
As Jon Savage suggests, a number of DIY, efforts over the following year continued

12 13
oi and street punk
This category stems originally from the The Hoople, and both The Damned and The Daily Mail went so far as to target music single by Cock Sparrer, Runnin Riot
early Second Wave of UK punk, with bands Rezillos covered The Sweets Ballroom Blitz. journalist Garry Bushell and the Sounds (Decca 1977) had featured a photograph of
such as Sham 69, Menace and Slaughter & The The Damned also toured as support act to music paper: a headline on 9th July 1981 a pitch invasion by West Ham supporters.
Dogs providing a musical style based on Marc Bolan in March 1977, and a television described Sounds as The Skinhead Bible Coupled with lyrics which were often
traditional rock & roll forms twinned with series entitled Marc, which was commissioned of Hate from an Establishment Stable, the anti-establishment, and in particular
Glam Rock and pop, and a visual aesthetic by Granada Television and presented by Bolan editorial going on to report that it was anti-police, this image attracted a
which references the image of the boot in the autumn of 1977, featured a number ...not merely a pop paper but a vehicle following which included football hooligans,
boy, skinhead culture, and working class of punk artists including Generation X for viciously extremist and fascist views. skinheads and some right-wing elements.
youth iconography. The terms Oi and and the Boomtown Rats. The interpretation Sounds management took legal action against Many of the early Oi bands gained a strong
Street Punk were coined in the late 1970s of Oi as an essentially live music form the Daily Mail and the NME (who had repeated following and achieved minor chart positions
by journalists, notably Garry Bushell at which embraced singalong traditions and the allegations), but the perception of the with record releases, but by 1981 were
Sounds, in order to promote a particular a (drunken) party atmosphere is also Oi movement as wholly embracing the racist attracting an increasingly violent faction
genre of newly developing bands and labels evident in other cover versions and in the cause had already become widely accepted as to their gigs. Garry Johnson asserts that
who drew on the image of those earlier bands development of Oi sub-genres such as the fact. trouble within the movement was largely
and refined their sound into a loud, fast Garry Bushell-manufactured Punk Pathetique caused by football allegiances rather than
and aggressive new style. Often dealing movement incorporating Splodgenessabounds, Garry Johnson, an outspokenly anti-racist racism: ...the real problem of the movement
with supposedly working class subject the Toy Dolls and Bushells own group The Oi poet, did make an attempt to redress was rival football fans but it was a
matter such as football, drinking, sex and Gonads. The Gonads recorded a punk version the balance with his 1981 book Oi: A View problem we were fighting and winning.
violence, songs usually combined singalong of Tom Jones Delilah, and both the Toy from the Dead End of the Street, written
choruses and simple chants with melodic Dolls and Splodgenessabounds were renowned in the weeks following the Southall riot.
hooklines. The influence of earlier Glam Rock for various comic interpretations of well-known Placing the contemporary skinhead culture
on both the musical and visual direction of songs. Splodgenessabounds covered the Rolf firmly within a set of historical references
Second Wave UK Street Punk and Oi should Harris childrens classic Two Little Boys which traced back to the 1960s rude boy
not be overlooked. Glam Rock had initially which actually spent seven weeks in the fashions and their adoption of early ska and
grown in popularity as a back to basics national charts between August and September reggae music from Jamaica, and including
pop rock format in direct opposition to 1980 while the Toy Dolls achieved a Top photographs of black punk fans and ska
the increasingly complex and professional Ten place at Christmas 1984 with their musicians, Johnson states white working
output of the Progressive Rock movement. radical reworking of the nursery rhyme class got more in common with black working
The most successful UK singles band of the Nellie The Elephant. class, than they have with white rich middle
early 1970s were Slade, from Walsall in the class. He also argues strongly against
West Midlands. Their early image tapped The patriotic sentiments expressed by the both right and left-wing political groups,
into the skinhead style of the late 1960s, likes of The Last Resort (whose record and tries to centre the Oi movement within
wearing the outfits of the football terraces releases included titles such as Red, an apolitical working class youth culture
and street style of working class youth, White and Blue, Lionheart and Rose Of (thus mirroring the position of much First
and their music was simple, loud and heavy, England) and Cock Sparrer (whose 1982 single Wave punk). This is a similar argument to
utilising strong 4/4 drum patterns which England Belongs To Me became an instant Oi that put across by Garry Bushell and other
became central to the Glam Rock musical classic) helped to give the Oi movement a sympathetic journalists, though their ideas
style. As the public interest in Glam Rock notoriety and fascist associations. Even the of working class tradition and pride are
grew, Slade, along with other successful nationalist associations of songs such as often fraught with ideological problems.
Glam artists such as David Bowie, Marc the 4 Skins version of the Dambusters theme
Bolan, The Sweet and Mud, moved further into and The Business interpretation of Ironically, the press backlash which forced
the pop mainstream, adopting a musical style traditional Negro spiritual Dayo (The Banana the Oi movement underground may well have
which married their earlier raw rock & roll Boat Song) appeared to display an uneasy led to a consolidation and strengthening of
with catchy hooklines and melodic choruses. mix of male drinking rituals and jingoism. the right-wing factions within it, with
Tensions created in the press came to a far-right elements continuing to grow
Oi groups such as Cock Sparrer, who formed head with a gig at the Hamborough Tavern, throughout the 1980s and 1990s and the
in 1974 as a pub rock band playing mostly Southall in July 1981 featuring the 4-Skins establishment of dedicated labels and
Small Faces covers and attracted a skinhead and The Business. The venue was attacked by fund-raising gigs for neo-fascist parties.
and bootboy following in East London, were local Asian youths, and fighting between Some Oi groups such as Cock Sparrer and
directly influenced by early Glam Rock, and gig-goers, the police and local Asians the Cockney Rejects (whose track Oi, Oi,
later Oi and Street Punk groups tended to led to a full-scale riot and considerable Oi, on their second album, Greatest Hits
wear their influences on their collective damage to the pub and local businesses. Vol.2, leant the movement its name) espoused
sleeves: both One Way System and The Crack The resulting publicity meant that the Oi allegiance to football teams (in both cases
covered Slades Cum On Feel The Noize, while movement was forced to go underground, and West Ham FC), and dressed in the uniform
the 4 Skins covered Merry Xmas Everybody many left-wing and non-political groups were of the football terraces boots, braces and
and Vice Squad recorded a version of The put in a difficult position of disassociating short hair. The Cockney Rejects featured a
Sweets Teenage Rampage. It should also be themselves from the movement that they had photograph of a football crowd on the sleeve
noted that this link between punk and Glam been happy to be connected with earlier of their single We Are The Firm/War On The
Rock had also been prominent during earlier in their careers whilst it had led to Terraces (1980), while another single based
periods of the movement: the Sex Pistols had gigs and audiences for their records. The on a football terrace chant, Im Forever
auditioned singer Johnny Rotten by asking Southall riot was widely reported in the Blowing Bubbles, featured military stripes
him to sing along to a recording of Alice national press, with almost all journalists in the colours of the West Ham football
Coopers Eighteen, guitarist Mick Jones of placing the blame firmly in the camp of the strip. These approaches were not without
The Clash had been heavily influenced by Mott bands and their skinhead followers. The precedent: promo sleeves for the debut
14 15
real punk, new punk and hardcore anarcho punk
Parallel to the development of Oi as a Neurotics and The Partisans, appeared on A sub-genre which developed in its own country, often outside of the regular music
separate genre, another punk style was the early Oi compilation albums, before right, partly as a reaction to the increased industry circuit. Many of these events
evolving which drew inspiration from the establishing their own identity as central political polarisation within punk as a whole, raised funds for a range of political
First Wave sounds of the Sex Pistols, The to the New Punk movement. Others, including and as a connection to earlier concerns of causes, from CND to the Animal Liberation
Clash and The Damned and Second Wave Infa Riot and Blitz, sought to distance the underground movement of the 1960s. Often Front, as well as smaller local campaigns.
back-to-basics groups such as the UK Subs, themselves from early categorisation with employing explicit visual and verbal attacks Book and record stalls at venues provided
The Lurkers, The Ruts and Stiff Little the Oi movement following the negative on the power of the state and authority access to the underground and anarchist
Fingers. New Punk and Hardcore groups often publicity and connotations of right-wing figures, together with strong anti-war and/ media, and gigs were sometimes scheduled for
espoused anti-authoritarian sentiments along political positions attributed to the genre. or animal rights sentiments and an austere, afternoons without a bar licence in order
with an abrasive, less melodic, musical Some early influences, both musically and monochrome, deliberately lo-tech sleeve design to give admittance a younger audience. The
style set against the popular trends in lyrically, also cross the boundaries: Sham approach, Anarcho Punk records tended to Crass Records label also released a series
New Wave and other Post Punk releases. As 69, Menace, The Lurkers and the UK Subs, follow certain unspoken aesthetic rules, of budget-price compilation albums, entitled
with the Oi sub-genre, the Sounds newspaper for instance, married overt working class often directly influenced by the output of Bullshit Detector, showcasing demo tapes
was again instrumental in defining this sentiments to rabble-rousing chants and the leading Anarcho Punk band Crass. Crass sent in by unknown bands sympathetic to
development as New Punk and groups football terrace choruses themes which were an anarchist collective based in a the Anarcho Punk cause. Later developments
such as The Exploited, Chron Gen, GBH, continued to be central to both Oi and New commune in Epping forest. In the late 1970s, in the sub-genre saw a further reflection
Discharge, Vice Squad and the Anti Nowhere Punk songwriting. However, fairly strong the members of this loose-knit, strongly and critique of the way that Anarcho Punk,
League gained large followings and enough divisions musical, political and sartorial ideological group formed a punk band to in itself, had become stylised and had
record sales to reach the national charts. were to become apparent between the relay their anarchist message following established invisible rules and codes of
It is also important to note that none of developing Hardcore Punk and Oi sub-genres, the networks established by Rock Against conduct among its followers.
these groups came from London: the overall to the extent that these two terms became Racism and a wide base of support for CND,
impression given by the music press and widely recognised and the New Punk category the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Their Anarcho Punk was also to split politically
supporters of New Punk was that it signalled itself faded from view over time. media interruptions incorporating records, as the sub-genre developed during the early
a return to Punks true roots in working books, films, events, concerts, and posters 1980s, at least in terms of approach. While
class culture, and many of those involved employed a distinctive visual style and an Crass continued to offer a subversive
were from working class backgrounds across overt anarchist rhetoric, and paved the way critique of the British governments
the smaller towns and cities of the UK. for an entire sub-genre of anarchist punk involvement in the Falklands War and the
bands. They also had a strong influence on threat of global nuclear conflict, others such
Some labels specialising in New Punk and Oi the growing traveller movement, and their as Flux Of Pink Indians and Conflict took on
records did achieve solid sales figures and utopian visions of the future, coupled with radical positions regarding animal testing
regular placings in both the alternative an aggressive refusal to cooperate with the and the meat industry, through records such
charts and the national chart. The Riot City mainstream, saw them frequently in direct as the Flux debut album Strive To Survive
label became synonymous with the New Punk confrontation with authority. A successful Causing The Least Suffering Possible and
movement, following their initial success marketing strategy, based on word-of-mouth Conflicts To A Nation Of Animal Lovers.
with Vice Squad, The Insane and Abrasive communications and the underground scene Conflict also encouraged a more proactive
Wheels, although Garry Bushell, writing in born out of the early punk networks, saw form of resistance than the peaceful means
Sounds, described the label as the dustbin the bands name stencilled on walls across of protest put forward by the Crass camp,
of punk. Vice Squad were later signed to the country, even though their records were with strong links being tied to underground
EMI records, though they kept the Riot City blacklisted in many of the major record anarchist groups such as Class War and
label identity on their releases: in fact, chains. Using a strategy of (low) maximum activists within the Animal Liberation
EMI set up a subsidiary punk and new wave price details on the sleeves, visual devices Front. The Stop The City campaign, which
label under the revived Zonophone banner, centred on a heavy black circle (initially involved mass rallies in central London to
and signed other successful punk groups the derived from the bands central visual bring the city to a halt, also had close
Cockney Rejects and the Angelic Upstarts, identity), the anarchist symbol, and fold- ties to a number of interlinked anarchist
both of whom went on to have national chart out posters, the groups graphic output was groups, and running battles with the
successes. This model of specialist New Punk designed to make strong political messages. authorities were commonplace.
labels was mirrored by others such as Beat
The System, Rot Records, Razor, Fallout, Pax Crass had a strong influence among the In common with the cross-over between New
and Clay Records (the latter, like Rondelet, countless number of young groups formed Punk and Oi, a grey area exists in the
covering both New Punk/Hardcore and NWOBHM/ in their wake who shared their concerns distinction between Anarcho Punk and several
Heavy Metal releases). Other labels crossed about the threat of nuclear war and the groups who are more commonly labelled
over between the New Punk and Oi sub-genres; exploitation inherent within the capitalist Hardcore, in particular the latters scene
Secret Records became home to The Exploited, system, though they often expressed this in leaders Discharge and other associated
The 4 Skins, The Business and Chron Gen, less convincing terms. Many of the Crass groups on Stokes Clay and Bristols Riot
while No Future Records released material collective were from an older, and more City labels. Nearly all of Discharges
by Blitz, The Partisans and Peter & The educated, background than their followers, output between 1980-84 was concerned with
Test Tube Babies, many of whom featured and the inclusion of substantial anarchist the threat of nuclear war and included
in the national and alternative charts. texts on their record sleeves was mirrored strong anti-militarist statements: songs
Categorisation does become blurred at this by some (often rather inarticulate) such as Realities Of War, State Violence
point, as some groups crossed boundaries copycat pieces by younger bands. Bands State Control, Two Monstrous Nuclear Stock
between definitions of Oi, Street Punk and were supported by underground Anarcho Piles and Protest And Survive provided a
New Punk. This is partly because some Punk networks gigs were set up by local central manifesto for the group, and their
bands, such as The Exploited, the Newtown activists in small venues across the lyrical and musical concerns were adopted

16 17
sound and vision
by a number of like-minded groups such as a genre-defining Oi classic released in 1980:- The punk categories and sub-genres listed industry to remain underground, avant-garde and
The Varukers, The Skeptix and Broken Bones. above were defined in large part by critics uncommercial. As the industry invested in the
Songs recorded by these groups do indeed Its the greatest working class rip off, oi, in the music press, with labels and groups New Wave, for instance the only punk sub-
echo many of the sentiments of Anarcho oi, oi What a fucking rip off, oi, oi, oi often keen to latch on to new trends as a genre to achieve relative success in the USA
Punk groups such as Crass and Flux Of Pink form of promotion. The later sub-genres other punk sub-genres sought to distance
Indians, but the groups were more commonly The success of groups such as Discharge, of UK punk Oi, Hardcore, New Punk and themselves from this field. The development
associated with the evolving Hardcore scene both in terms of chart placings and critical Anarcho Punk became firmly established of a number of increasingly aggressive,
for a number of reasons. Firstly, the support in the music press, also saw them during the Third Wave, and carried musical abrasive and awkward sub-genres (such as
overarching banner of the Crass collective more closely aligned with the New Punk and sartorial codes through which to define Hardcore, Oi, New Punk and Anarcho Punk, as
encompassed so much of the Anarcho Punk establishment. Discharges participation in themselves and their opposition to other well as the more radical elements of DIY and
scene during this period that many groups the Apocalypse Now tour of 1981, alongside groups and factions. A key question in Post Punk) can be seen to be an inverse reaction
found themselves in a position where they The Exploited, Anti Nowhere League, Anti relation to punk graphic approaches is to punks co-option into the mainstream, and
had to either ally themselves with the Crass Pasti and Chron Gen, saw them gain some whether similar distinctions were voiced in patterns can be observed in the way that
camp or be seen as distinct from it. Some level of critical and commercial success, the sleeve design of records within these waves of acceptance and opposition play
music journalists adopted a very negative but also placed them firmly in the New Punk punk communities. A series of exhibition out over time. These patterns can be seen
attitude towards Crass, and were followed by camp by association. Whereas Crass, Conflict panels relating to these punk sub-genres to have been both political and aesthetic
outspoken members of a number of groups in the and Poison Girls deliberately operated aims to display the range of graphic codes from the lyrics and public statements
Oi and New Punk scenes. It should be noted here outside of the music press and standard and iconic devices present on a range of the groups involved to the musical and
that these sub-genres were evolving in parallel performance venues, and were prepared to of record sleeves, in order to evaluate visual styles of their records. This trend
to Anarcho Punk, and could be seen as being vary their musical and lyrical styles distinctions and to unpack the subtle identifies punk as distinct from other
in direct competition, so allegiances tended to encompass a broad range of influences ways in which agendas might be promoted contemporaneous forms of popular music such
to become more explicit. A rift grew between (including poetry, literature and spoken-word and audience allegiances secured. Strong as Pop, Disco and Funk, each of which could
those groups who identified themselves with performance for instance), the Hardcore graphic styles, such as the raw, black and be seen to enjoy a sense of close allegiance
Anarcho Punk, centred around Crass, and the groups tended to retain the visual and white aesthetic of the Crass label, were with the record industry, and where new
New Punk and Oi bands who featured on the verbal language of anarchy allied to a emulated by other groups who felt an affinity artists were keen to be embraced by the
Oi! compilation albums and were championed brutal, monotonous sound assault. to that particular scene, and this led to commercial mainstream. Disco and funk, like
by Garry Bushell in Sounds. Crass had the cementing of certain generic visual jazz, country, rock & roll and rhythm &
included a song entitled Punk Is Dead on codes across a range of material: indeed, blues before them, enjoyed far higher levels
their debut mini album in 1978, and Bushell the graphic styles of scene leaders were of commercial success worldwide than punk,
had taken it upon himself to criticise often mirrored by up-and-coming groups, although the development of new markets and
the group regularly within his reviews. particularly through home-made, DIY artwork. an international punk underground was to
The debut album by The Exploited, Punks In some cases, visual styles were directly have far-reaching effects. In particular,
Not Dead (Secret 1981), bears a direct lifted in order to provide an instant the close fit between the punk subculture
relationship to the Crass title, and the connection to the original, while others and a wide range of radical political and
group became standard-bearers for the New used appropriation as a tool to comment on cultural groups meant that the genre was to
Punk movement. punks internal discourse, or as an ironic become widely successful in spite of the
attack on the movement. While many early mainstream, and punk record sales and events
The war of words between New Punk groups punk releases were housed in plain record remain buoyant in a largely independent and
and the Anarcho Punk bands even went so far company bags or simple black and white underground market.
as the trading of insults on vinyl: Crass picture sleeves, and increasing number of
released a flexidisc entitled Rival Tribal New Wave sleeves produced during the boom The graphic and musical styles of a number
Rebel Revel (Crass 1981), mimicking the of 1978-79 show signs of a major financial of Third Wave punk sub-genres were to
stylised Cockney accent adopted by many Oi investment coloured vinyl records housed remain underground, going on to influence a
groups, and exchanged words with Bushell in full colour litho-printed sleeves, for range of new movements during the 1980s and
in the music press and fanzine interviews. instance. Parallel DIY efforts tended to be 1990s. The hard-edged styles of Anarcho and
The argument was later taken up by Special much more basic, with limited use of colour Hardcore punk were always unlikely to cross
Duties singer Steve Arrogant (the pseudonym and the adoption of simple folding and over into the mainstream, but did enjoy a
itself an ironic opposition to Crass lead packaging solutions. Meanwhile, the 1981-82 New strong level of support among fans and went
singer Steve Ignorant). Arrogant was a Punk explosion displays a real split between on to influence new genres such as Thrash
regular commentator in Sounds, frequently sleeves incorporating glossy, full colour Metal and even the Rave scene of the early
writing letters to the paper to put forward images (and, curiously, a growth in the use 1990s. Other punk-inspired developments such
his vision of 1980s punk, and Special Duties of picture discs, a very un-punk format if as the new electronica of Mute Records and
released the single Bullshit Crass on ever there was one), and the raw, back- The Human League crossed over to the pop
Rondelet records in 1982, reaching number to-basics, black and white sleeves of the mainstream in the early 1980s and helped to
seven in the independent chart. Many of Hardcore and Anarcho Punk groups in this build a foundation for electronic pop which
the sentiments expressed in this song were case, the result more of an ideological, continues to feature in the charts. A range
reiterated by other groups, including the rather than purely economic, split. of DIY styles also provided a strong musical
Crowbar single Hippy Punks (1984) and The and visual influence on the development of
Gonads Peace Artists (1982). Ever ones to When compared with other contemporary punk as a whole. Innovations in packaging
take an argument further, Crass retorted forms of popular music, punk offers some materials and marketing techniques by
with the track Its The Greatest Working interesting contrasts. In particular, a pioneering labels such as Stiff Records and
Class Rip-Off, itself a parody of The Cockney significant strand of punk can be seen to Beggars Banquet, including coloured vinyl
Rejects single The Greatest Cockney Rip Off, have been in a constant battle with the music and limited edition releases, were also

18 19
subsequently mirrored by the major labels. Published in conjunction with the exhibition
Indeed, it should be unsurprising that many Hitsville UK: Punk in the Faraway Towns
innovators in the music industry continue at the Millais Gallery, Southampton
to release their initial recordings on a April 12th to May 26th 2007.
small independent label, before signing to
a major label and developing their approach Thanks to: Sarah, Roger Sabin, Rob Bevan,
within a more commercial framework. The Alex and Chrysostomos at Company,
hard edges of the original approach might Les and Bridget at the Millais Gallery,
be softened in the process, but the influence Janice, Angus, Stuart, Patrick and
can often be seen to filter out across a the LCC Research Department, MAGDLCC,
range of subsequent releases. The success Alex Ogg, Ged Babey, TV Smith, The
of indie music since the mid 1980s bears Joiners, Rich Levene, Tony Suspect and
out this assertion: the use of lo-tech the Southampton DIY scene, Ian PTP,
materials and the incorporation of a hand- Wayne, Chimp, the Luce boys and all
made and limited edition craft aesthetic is punx everywhere
a central theme of many releases within this
genre, and has become something of a visual
trope in itself. Indeed, the increasing
homogenisation of the music industry,
reduced to four or five major international
labels and distributors by the early 21st
Century, together with the growth of new
technologies such as the internet, has
allowed the DIY underground and punk with
it to continue to thrive as an authentic
voice of opposition.

Russell Bestley, March 2007

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