Bob Stanley/Pete Wiggs: Winter Of Discontent

❉ Bob and Pete’s latest Ace collection captures the DIY ethos of 1978 to 1981.

There has been many a ‘winter of discontent’ over the years but if you hear the phrase and think of rubbish piling up in the streets, “Labour isn’t working” Tory propaganda posters and the birth of Thatcherism after the fall of the Labour Government in 1979 this latest Ace Records compilation from Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs will open your eyes to what was going on below the surface in that fateful year.

After last year’s brilliant 1990/’91 downtempo & after hours compilation Fell From The Sun, Bob and Pete return to the 1970s with Winter Of Discontent and this release has a completely different feel from 76 in the Shade, their lush collection that captured the hot summer of 1976. It captures the truly DIY ethos of the years 1978 to 1981 when the ultimate ambition for many a band was just to record a single, play a few gigs and maybe get an airing on the Peel show or a decent review in one of the music papers.

As Bob Stanley states in his typically informative sleeve notes, the DIY mentality this music embodied was inspired by punk and particularly by the famous statement “this is a chord, this is another, this is a third. Now form a band” featured in Mark Perry’s zine Sniffing Glue (taken from an earlier zine, 1977’s Sideburns).

For many of these bands, it would have been the first and possibly only experience of a recording studio and that would often lead to inspired results. Indeed one band on here, Exhibit ‘A’, were still at secondary school when they went into the studio and recorded the brilliant Barry Gray-influenced Into the Night. It was often also a practice to itemise the cost of making the single on its rear sleeve, inspired by an early Desperate Bicycles record that cost exactly £153 to make and emphasising the DIY aspect.

Stand-out tracks here include the inspired Anne Bean and Paul Burwell Low Flying Aircraft, a wild improvisation with motorik drums and distorted screeches that allegedly blew two speakers in the studio when it was recorded, and the scary Violence Grows by Fatal Microbes which features on vocals real-life juvenile delinquent Honey Bane, who would later appear on Top of the Pops as a solo artist and whose EP You Can Be You was the debut release of anarcho-punks Crass’s “Crass Records” label.

The Fall appear with the B side In My Area (Take 2), the flip side of Rowche Rumble with its repeated phrase “I have seen the madness in my area”. The wonderful Television Personalities have the staunchly political King And Country with its Byrds-style introduction and its brilliant line “Steal your memories from Dad’s Army”. As Bob notes, there may have been a lot of “discontent” in these records but also a lot of humour and “the sound was often art-school-based, a kind of urban British folk inspired by Vivian Stanshall, Syd Barrett  and music hall. It related to punk in the way skiffle had to rock n roll; instrumentation often included redundant keyboards, kazoos or household implements.”

There’s also tracks by early Scritti Politti, Nirvana favourites the Raincoats, Leeds band the Mekons with the classic Where Were You? and Fall offshoot Blue Orchids with their brilliant track Work. Also check out the brilliant Different Story by Tarzan, the rockabilly sounding The Sideways Man by the Digital Dinosaurs, the cartoonish Zounds and the closing track, The Door and the Window’s Throbbing Gristle-inspired Production Line.

Really, there are too many great tracks to list them all. Even reading the band names and labels on this glorious collection is fascinating. Who cannot love a band called the Performing Ferret Band? (the only artist to have two tracks on this album) or not be tickled by colourful record label monikers such as Dead Hippy, Irrelevant Wombat or Fuck Off. It’s yet another great compilation from the Bob Stanley/Pete Wiggs Ace stable. Looking forward to the next one.

❉ ‘Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present: Winter Of Discontent’ (CD: CDCHD 1603/ 2xLP: XXQLP2 097) was released by Ace Records on 21 January 2023, RRP £11.70(CD)/ £29.21 (LP). Click here to order from Ace Records.  Also available as a Red Vinyl Rough Trade Exclusive (Limited to 300 copies): Click here to order from Rough Trade.

❉ James Collingwood is based in West Yorkshire and has been writing for a number of years. He currently also writes for the Bradford Review magazine for which he has conducted more than 30 interviews and has covered music, film and theatre.  His Twitter is @JamesCollingwo1

Become a patron at Patreon!