When Punk Rock first exploded in the UK in 1976, gobbing and pogo-ing its way into rock n’ roll folklore, I was far too young to appreciate the musical and cultural revolution that was going on at that time. When the Sex Pistols played their legendary gig at the Manchester Free Trade Hall on 4th June that year I was just 8 years old so I definitely WASN’T there like every man and his dog has claimed to be over the years (story here). Besides, I lived in Nottingham – a city not known for being at the forefront of musical trends at the time – so it is unlikely that I would have been aware of that gig even if I was old enough. (Paper Lace were about as radical as Nottingham got in the mid-70s).
When punk ‘blew up’ I was still in primary school, Highbank Junior School in Clifton to be precise – riding my Raleigh Tomahawk and swopping football cards in the playground. Despite being massively into music as a child (see earlier post) I don’t recall seeing anything remotely punk on Top of the Pops during those very early days. This may have been because the ‘stuffy’ BBC had banned most of the artists or possibly because my respectable parents would have discouraged me from watching such snarling aggressive bands like the Pistols, The Clash or The Damned on Top of the Pops, much in the same way that a child of my age might have been sent off to bed whenever a sex scene appeared on The Sweeney or Gangsters (anyone remember Gangsters by the way? Awesome theme tune?!)
I first became aware of punk in 1977 when we went to a Clifton ‘street party’ for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations (actually in a council garage block on Moreton Road). The party started out quite civilised and family friendly – union jacks, bunting, tables laid out with sandwiches, crisps, jelly and ice cream. The local John Travolta’s were slipping a disc or ripping themselves a new arsehole, trying to mimic their new hero from Saturday Night Fever as they disco-danced danced to ‘Staying Alive’.
As dusk fell the mood of the party changed and I can distinctly remember my mum grabbing my hand and saying to me and my younger brother “come on then, time for bed” as a swarm of pissed young punks took over the party and started pogo-ing to Pretty Vacant and God Save The Queen!
I grabbed my bike (festooned with red, white and blue streamers on the handlebars) and headed off home – my conscience pricked by what I had just witnessed. Despite this, for the next few years I continued to grow my hair and got more and more into heavy rock bands like Deep Purple, Rainbow and Rush – all bands the punks would HATE and I had decided that punk wasn’t really for me. Besides, most of the dickheads at my school would become either punk, mod or two-tone and I was never one to follow the herd (I have long since grown to love some of that stuff now).
Fast forward to the mid-80s and I got more into punk and ‘new wave’ after one of my old mates Dez shared his memories of being in Nottingham punk band, The Abductors. He would have been really young at the time but that hadn’t stopped him from fully immersing himself into the lifestyle and fashion – all bondage gear and glue sniffing. He had some interesting tales to tell. Over the years I’ve gained a greater appreciation of what the punk movement was all about and how it really did change the world of music for the better. I’ve only recently watched the Rock Against Racism documentary ‘White Riot‘ on Sky Arts for example – really powerful stuff. I love seeing old live footage of bands like the Clash, 999, The Buzzcocks and some of the more technically gifted bands like The Stranglers. I can now appreciate how exciting it must have been to be involved in something so new and pioneering at the time and sometimes wish I’d been a few years older during those early days of punk. I would no doubt have been seduced by the whole movement (maybe not the glue sniffing bit though!)
I have always been intrigued by Nottingham’s changing music scene over the decades so when I recently saw an ad for the book ‘Chicken Town’ by J A Pollo I just had to read it. The book is a personal account of local punk Jess Chicken and his band Some Chicken who were were part of the city’s emerging punk rock scene in the late 1970s. It contains some vivid recollections of the gigs they played around Nottingham venues such as The Sandpiper and The Imperial plus the other places they hung out. During their relatively short career the band supported XTC, X-Ray-Spex, Tom Robinson and Adam and The Ants. They also got to play at London’s Roxy Club – widely regarded as ‘Mecca’ for the punk scene at the time. During his time in the band the author lived and worked in Daybrook (at a brewery which is presumably Home Ales) near the town of Arnold – all places I’m very familiar with having lived in the area myself for much of the 1990s.
I’m not going to attempt to write a book review – I’ll leave that to the experts (or you can always Google it) – but I really enjoyed the read and if you’re one of the original punks, especially one from Nottingham you will probably enjoy it too. Here’s a link.
More Notts Punks links:
Nottingham Punks 1976 Onwards Facebook page
Punk memories on Nottsalgia
Photos of Nottingham punk band Some Chicken at the Sandpiper
The night the music stopped