❉ “It’s music that grabs you by the bollocks and doesn’t let go!”
Marking the fortieth anniversary of the British musical revolution that was Punk Rock, ‘Action Time Vision’ is the first-ever box set to document the independent punk scene, which was born with Punk and thrived outside of the major label framework.
What’s this I see before me? A 4-disc punk compilation that DOESN’T include The Sex Pistols? Heresy, surely? Well, not exactly. Let’s be honest, we get more than enough of the Pistols on every punk documentary ever made in television history. Every music documentary viewer in the UK must be more than familiar with the opening strains of Anarchy in the UK by now, so do we need the Pistols on every punk compilation? Of course we don’t. Especially not when it’s as strong a compilation as this one.
It’s certainly not an easy undertaking to compile a 4-disc UK punk compilation covering the years 1976 to 1979 (ish – more on this later). There were a HUGE number of releases during this era, many self-released by bands that often made only one single. Some bands were lucky if they only managed one track on a compilation album. There are plenty of examples of both on this album. As a huge punk fan and big record collector myself, it was immediately apparent looking at the track listing that the person behind this release, John Reed, really knows his stuff.
There’s a real eclectic mix of styles on display here, from the sheer frenetic aggression of Flares and Slippers by The Cockney Rejects, through to Patrik Fitzgerald’s acoustic magnum opus Safety-Pin Stuck in My Heart.
Many of the bigger names from this era are present, as you would expect. The Damned’s New Rose (the first UK punk single released) opens the first disc in style, and many of the familiar punk names are here too, such as The Rezillos, Sham 69, and The Lurkers. This first disc really gives a good feel of the excitement of the early punk releases, from 1976 through to 1977, when it was at its most vibrant and captivating. What’s really noticeable here is just how fresh these songs sound even to modern ears, despite having been written and recorded some 40 years ago. It’s music that grabs you by the bollocks and doesn’t let go. Marvellous!
The standard remains high throughout the other discs. Tracks by household names such as Adam and the Ants and Joy Division sit comfortably alongside bands as obscure as F-X and The Bazoomis (who never released anything at the time, until a recent compilation album surfaced). At this point punk started to branch off into other sub-genres, such as Powerpop, Oi!, Post-punk, DIY, Anarcho Punk, Pathetique etc, and there’s a good spread across the discs. One major criticism of punk is that many of the songs can sound the same, and whilst there’s some truth in that, there’s a real eclectic mix of styles on display here, from the sheer frenetic aggression of Flares and Slippers by The Cockney Rejects, through to Patrik Fitzgerald’s acoustic magnum opus Safety-Pin Stuck in My Heart.
It’s hard to pick out the real standout tracks here because there are so many great ones. There aren’t really any I’d want to skip. Kudos too for including Sick on You by the fabulous Hollywood Brats. Recorded in 1973, this really is punk before punk existed and it’s perfect for inclusion here.
It’s also a chance to check out The Nipple Erectors, fronted by Shane MacGowan. Their superb punk/rock’n’roll mashup King of the Bop really demonstrates how strong a vocalist MacGowan was before his lifestyle started to get the better of him. A band well worth investigating further, despite a definitive retrospective compilation not yet having emerged. Ironically, some of the most fun tracks here are by the “fake” punk bands, such as Horrorcomic and Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias. Many of the best “punk” songs were recorded by guys in their 30s with moustaches, but that’s something we can tackle some other time as it deserves an article in itself.
If you’re a newcomer to punk, this is a great introduction because it features such a diverse cross section of the best releases of the era. There really is something on here for everyone. I defy even self-confessed punk haters to not enjoy the catchier numbers such as the wonderful Big Time by Rudi, or In a Rut by the criminally-underrated Ruts. On the other hand, even if you’re a seasoned punk aficionado there’s still plenty on here you probably won’t have heard before. I’ve made some new discoveries on the back of this release, and I’ll be investigating some of the back catalogues of the bands featured. If there’s anyone on here you like, check them out online. Many of these bands are still performing today, so go and see them while you can. Not many of them will still be going by the time punk celebrates its 50th anniversary in 10 years time.
It’s a shame they couldn’t find space on here for two of my favourite bands from this era, The Now and The Pork Dukes, but you can’t have everything, can you? This is the best compilation I’ve heard in a long while, and I can’t recommend this highly enough.
❉ ‘Action Time Vision: A Story of UK Independent Punk 1976-1979’ (CRCDBOX27) is out now from Cherry Red Records, RRP £24.95