By 1979 The Sex Pistols had split, Sid Vicious was dead and the punk euphoria of 1976/77 had dissipated into mainstream fashion and commercial pop-driven ‘New Wave’. A two-headed beast rose from the ashes. On the one hand, what became known as ‘post-punk’ included musicians formerly associated with the likes of the Sex Pistols & Buzzcocks exploring unknown territories of post-rock music with bands like PiL & Magazine. On the other, was the start of a second wave of punk that aligned themselves with Jimmy Pursey & Sham 69 rather than the Sex Pistols & Johnny Rotten.
The second wave of punk was much grittier, hardcore, thrash and from the working class streets of the UK, not fashion shops and art colleges. From 1980 to 1984 the UK was full of punk rock groups. ‘Young spotty herberts’ (as my mother used to call them) dressed almost identically with outrageous and dirty spiked hair, leather bike jacket, tight ripped drainpipe jeans and Dr Martens boots. On the back of leather jackets would be D-I-Y designs of studs, patches & favourite bands.
No better example of this hardcore, fast, furious, aggressive style of music, compete with screaming spit-driven vocals were Discharge.
In 1980 a local record shop owner, Mike Stone, decided to form his own record label – Clay Records to promote local east midlands bands. The first release was to be ‘Realities Of War’ a four track EP that, with the help of Radio 1 DJ John Peel sold way more than either Mike Stone or Discharge could have imagined. Within months and without warning, Discharge was leading a ‘new’ movement that swept across the UK. The following EP, ‘Fight Back’ was even better.
‘War’s No Fairytale’, ‘Fight Back’ & ‘No TV Sketch’ are the best examples of the power and noise of this second wave of punk.
Discharge released more singles on Clay between 1980 & 1982 ‘Decontrol’, ‘Never Again’, ‘State Violence State Control’ and the 12” ‘Why?’ – all of which, in my opinion, capture Discharge at their peak. In 1982 they released their debut album – ‘Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing’ & followed that with ‘Never Again’ in 1984. But by 1984 many of the second wave of punk bands had erred towards Oi! an offshoot that entangled punk with ignorant right-wing politics or as with Discharge towards heavy metal in an attempt to sustain their popularity.
The peak of popularity for this style of music was short-lived, as was my own interest. But in his excellently research and definitive book, Burning Britain: The History Of UK Punk 1980 – 1984, Ian Glasper opens with a short introduction to the topic, in which he explains the book only covers the so-called hardcore punk groups of the time and purposely ignores the groups associated with Crass & anarcho-communist politics. This, he suggests, is another topic for another book. To cover the four years of punk between 1980 & 1984 he divides the chapters into geographical areas of the UK. First up, the south west, including the likes of Beki Bondage & Vice Squad, Disorder & Chaos UK; each chapter subsequently introduces the main protagonists with a short history, interviews with key members and a selected discography.
Burning Britain: The History Of UK Punk 1980 – 1984 took me on a happy nostalgic trip down memory lane of times spent listening to John Peel and the likes of Discharge, Anti Pasti & The Anti-Nowhere League between my formative school and college years.
These days, rarely do I play music from the either the first or second wave of punk but as I read through each enjoyable chapter, I couldn’t help but don my headphones & listen to the likes of ‘Fight Back’ (Discharge) , ‘No Government’ (Anti Pasti) & ‘Flares & Slippers’ (Cockney Rejects).
A few groups that straddle the original punk movement of 1976 – 79 such as Angelic Upstarts & UK Subs are rightfully included as they continued to play through the second wave, unlike Sham 69. But I was surprised to see the inclusion of UK Decay (‘The Black Cat’ EP, ‘For My Country’, ‘Unexpected Guest’) & The Wall (great single ‘Barbed Wire Ghetto’) and The Adicts as I would argue they had nothing to do with this movement.
Burning Britain: The History Of UK Punk 1980 – 1984 by Ian Glasper concludes with a look at a few of the more influential labels – Clay, Riot City, No Future and more recently, Captain Oi; and a list of websites for some of the bands & labels included in this well written book that is a must-have for anyone who had the pleasure to live through it or want to know more.
Burning Britain: The History Of UK Punk 1980 – 1984 by Ian Glasper is published by Cherry Red Books.