Wednesday, 12 January 2022

God Save The Teen! ( My Top 3 Teenage Punk Songs )

 


My good friend and esteemed fellow blogger Tom ( of Poetry, Music, Other fame ) recently suggested that we both write a post on the subject of our three fave teenage Punk songs and drop them ( as I believe "the kids" say ) on the same day. I initially thought he meant three Punk songs about being a teenager or having the word "teenage/r" somewhere in the song. Easy, I thought: I can think of three straight away, no problem. But no, the brief is to write about three favourite Punk songs from my teenage years. That subtle difference instantly meant I had to consider many, many more songs. Am I up to the challenge? Find out below, after another adorable Punk Cat picture...

I've been over-thinking this of course but, as Punk was such a singles-driven genre, I decided to include singles I actually own(ed) so couldn't include Anarchy In The UK ( 'cos I'm not rich ) or such classics as The Jam's In The City or The Ramones' Blizkrieg Bop as they were never in my collection on 45 rpm. 

I do have about 100 Punk singles ( give or take a few, I mean do I count Adam & The Ants as Punk? ) so it's been a painful process, made doubly difficult by trying to remember what I actually liked as a teen as opposed to what I think I liked in hindsight. And to be fair, I did like some crap back then. A lot of the time I listened to the more Street Punk / Oi! / early '80s end of the Punk spectrum which sounded great when I was an angry teen but doesn't really stand up now. I don't really lounge around in my smoking-jacket and reminisce to the soothing sounds of The 4-Skins or The Cockney Rejects nowadays but, when I was about 15 and everybody else hated that stuff, I thought I was a proper rebel. ( Pause here for hysterical laughter. ) Anyway, I've chosen my Top 3 ( for the purposes of this blog anyway ) which comprise two all-time classics and one slightly more obscure offering. Hey ho, let's go...

Number 3: Religious Wars e.p. by The Subhumans

By 1982 Punk was Officially Dead, the movers and shakers and taste-makers had moved on to Joy Division gloom or New Romantic glitz, and teenage rebellion was old hat. Of course, nobody told the diehard Punks that and they kept angry and carried on as their increasingly-fractured "movement" went back underground where it had started. As well as the Punk / skinhead hybrid of Oi! and the proto-Goth which went by the counter-intuitive moniker of Positive Punk, there was a large Anarchist Punk sub-genre. Spearheaded by the Crass collective, a whole bunch of spiky-haired crusties were making very noisy music ( in the loosest sense of the word ) and shouting about violence, vivisection, vegetarianism and other subjects that didn't begin with "v". Bands like Conflict, Poison Girls, Omega Tribe, Dirt and The Subhumans. This last bunch were probably the nearest the sub-genre got to an actual rock band ( they could play their instruments and everything! ) and were pretty successful. I mean, they actually sold a few records: one such being my Number 3, Religious Wars. This kicks off with a mighty guitar riff ( they freely admitted to heretically liking Sabbath and Led Zep ) and then sets out to destroy organised religion from the comfort of their squat. They didn't actually succeed of course but it's a powerful, angry and bitter attack on the kind of indoctrination which leads to wars and genocide  -  "Religious wars, no reason why / What a glorious way to die" - with a scorchingly propulsive momentum which seemingly pushes you through the 2 1/2 minute song in about 2 1/2 seconds. If that makes any sense. It's an assault on the ears, a nagging question beaten into your brain by a breeze-block, it's not pretty but it's bloody immense. 

Number 2: God Save The Queen by The Sex Pistols

I know, I know, this is the most boring, obvious choice BUT it still sounds absolutely fantastic 200 years after it was recorded ( I think that's right ) and has to win out over Anarchy because, well, see above. GTSQ, as we all know, was actually a Number One Hit Single in the Jubilee year of 1977 despite media censorship / chart-rigging ( Rod who? Rod Stewart? Never heard of 'im ) and was probably the high point for Punk in terms of mainstream success and attention. ( I was, of course, blissfully unaware of this at the time. My musical tastes at the age of 10 didn't stretch much further than the Abba and Boney M albums my Mum had or the Glenn Miller tapes my old man would play in the car. ) Although the furore over the anti-Monarchist lyrics seems ludicrous today ( Lydon never calls Her Maj a moron  -  he calls "you", her subject, a moron ) the song is still good, seething fun and the closing "No Future" refrain still grabs you by the throat and leerily belches in your face. Which is nice. The Pistols themselves may now be a cartoonish "heritage" act, more of a brand than a band, but this slab of paradoxically organised Anarchy stands tall on its own bug-eyed, vein-bursting merits.


Number 1: ( White Man ) In Hammersmith Palais by The Clash

Again, an apparently safe choice: the band who were famously accused of "selling out" because they dared to sign to a record label... or alternatively the "Only Band That Mattered"  -  the mighty Clash. I suppose I could have gone for The Varukers or GBH for a bit more street cred. But they were shit. The Clash, by the point of this single release, had gone through the "Gob on you!" days and had started to dismiss the received wisdom of the day by learning to play their instruments and write songs with actual tunes. It's not as if they'd turned into Steely Dan or anything ( at least, not yet ) but they were certainly becoming more sophisticated. ( White Man ) In Hammersmith Palais is testament to this: a fusion of Punk and Reggae, far more potent than their earlier efforts to combine the two genres. The song chronicles the time that Clash-man Joe Strummer accompanied the legendary Don Letts ( DJ and future member of BAD ) to a Reggae gig at the equally-legendary Hammersmith Palais. Strummer was expecting some heavy Roots Reggae, cultural tourist that he was, but was disappointed to hear the more pop-slanted sounds of Ken Boothe. The song then moves on to various gripes about the state of the nation, deciding at its climax that the UK was in such a state that "If Adolph Hitler flew in today / They'd send a limousine anyway." The more things change etc. It's all a bit incoherent but that's part of its charm and the supremely confident playing, coupled with Strummer's snarling vocals, make it a top-drawer Punk classic. Even if it doesn't have a chorus to speak of...


So, that's my Top 3 all-time fave Punk songs ever, ever. Well, not really. They're all definitely up there, with the Pistols and Clash offerings obviously near the top... but, if you asked me tomorrow, I might say something different. The great thing about those years is that so many wonderful songs were released, so many beer- or amphetamine-fuelled anthems by and for angry youth. Mostly. A lot of this I experienced in a second-hand way, years later ( most of these singles were bought from second-hand record shops ), although I was definitely there for the likes of The Subhumans  -  pogo-ing around my rural bedroom as if I was some urban desperado, instead of a teenager with absolutely no conception of "life on the street". It was good, vicarious fun and opened my eyes to music, politics and attitudes that you didn't really see on Top Of The Pops. I've added some photos of some of my old singles here as a sample of the kind of thing I was listening to back in the day.


Alternative Ulster - Stiff Little Fingers / Ready Steady Go - Generation X / Safety In Numbers - The Adverts / Nazi Punks Fuck Off! - The Dead Kennedys / Warhead - UK Subs / No More Heroes - The Stranglers / California Uber Alles - The Dead Kennedys / The Cost Of Living e.p. - The Clash / Reality Asylum - Crass / Woman In Disguise - The Angelic Upstarts / No Room For You - Demob

And there's more...




And that's more than enough dodgy old Punk singles. Thanks to Tom for suggesting this synchronised blogging bonanza, can't wait to see his choices.

Punk Rock For Life!


12 comments:

Tom Wiggins said...

Absolutely love this! Probably my favourite blogging moment ever. Punks 4 Life!

cerebus660 said...

Thanks Tom, it's been a pleasure to take part in this project. Roll on Part Two :-)

McSCOTTY said...

Ooh good one. So much good stuff so I'm sure I've missed some classics but ones that come to mind:


1: X-Ray Sex. Germ free adolescents
2: Babylon's Burning.The Ruts ( just made this by a week as a teenager)
3: Sex Pistols. God Save The Queen

McSCOTTY said...

X-Ray Spex not "sex" I have the worst spellchecker ever on my tablet , sorry

cerebus660 said...

Great choices, Paul! Babylon's Burning is one of my all-time faves from a highly underrated band. X-Ray Sex were great too :-)

Joe Ackerman said...

New Rose - the Damned.
Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight - the Revillos.
Babylon's Burning - the Ruts.

that's my three favourite teenage punk songs today. ask me tomorrow, & you'll probably get a completely different answer. except the Revillos. the Revillos will almost certainly always be one of the three.

Anonymous said...

God save the Glass Walking-Stick, and its fascist regime!

Well, well, this is a surprise. I have to say that its been quite some time since I've come across a mention of the Omega Tribe. Nice one Simon - No Nukes! Stop the City! Pay no more than £2.99! Have you got 10p mate?
Er... not that I'm particularly into the Omega Tribe or a lot of those Crasstafarian bands... but I do have pleasant memories of that stuff anyway. After all, back in the day if you weren't into metal, what else was there (in the early 80s who could afford to be a New Romantic or a Young Soul Rebel)?

Anyway, here's my top three:

1. 'Public Image' - Public Image Ltd
Hey - it was a punk record when I bought it, so don't even think about telling me it doesn't count (who cares what critics say?)

2.'Bankrobber' - The Clash
Yeah, another one that doesn't quite fit the received picture. But it's the best thing they did.

3.'Germ Free Adolescence' - X-Ray Spex
Paul is right.

4. 'Tube Disasters' - Flux of Pink Indians
So I'm breaking the rules with a fourth one, so what? (My bedroom is untidy too)
Thought I ought to include at least one indisputable racket, and that fits the bill.
It was either that or 'Holiday in Cambodia' and Flux were noisier and dumber.I

Anarchy and peace, man

-sean

McSCOTTY said...

I was thinking of adding "Public image " to my top 3, it's a great tune but had to add the Pistols.

cerebus660 said...

First of all, my apologies guys - I've taken waaaaay too long to reply to your comments.

@Joe
Mighty Joe! You're back! Glad to hear from you matey. Some top choices there: I've jumped around / been crushed to New Rose a fair few times at Damned gigs :-) And Babylon's Burning? Epic, mate, just epic.
Hope you and Mary are well?

@Sean
I must admit I was a fan of ( some of ) the Anarcho bands even if it did all become a bit humourless. ( Can't say I listen to it much today. ) I actually saw Omega Tribe play live once and they were surprisingly very tuneful and polished, a far cry from most of their contemporaries. And... "Public Image"? Definitely Punk mate!

@Paul
I know what you mean... picking just three was verrrry difficult.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I accept it probably wasn't fair picking on the Omega Tribe, Simon.
Tbh the main association in my mind is going to see the Poison Girls and Flux one night, arriving a bit later than I expected and asking my mate if I'd missed anything yet. "No, only the Omega Tribe". Which became a bit of a running joke.

So, if any of the Omega Tribe should ever read my comment (hey, maybe they regularly search themselves) - sorry lads.

-sean

cerebus660 said...

Beware the wrath of Omega Tribe!

The Poison Girls! Yeah, they were a fine live band as far as I can remember ( it was a loooong time ago ) and the late Vi Subversa was certainly a ferociously unique front person.

Anonymous said...

The Poison Girls were definitely the best of those bands, and it was saddening to come across Vi's obituary in the Guardian a few years back.
In fact, I now find myself and wondering why I didn't go for 'Persons Unknown' in my top three. Maybe I should add a fifth choice...?

-sean

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