On October 22, 1976, a seven-inch single on the Stiff label appeared in British record shops. It was from The Damned, one of the handful of British bands into this new thing called “punk rock.” Interest in punk had exploded across the UK the previous summer and the race was on among the members of this still tiny community to be the first to release a record. The Damned beat everyone to it with this song.
There had been other punk records elsewhere in the world–the Ramones’ debut album had been out since April–but England had yet to have a vinyl artifact to call its own. The Observer picks up the story of “New Rose.”
On October 22, 1976, there were people still alive who remembered the death of Queen Victoria. That’s how very, very long ago 1976 was.
Yet much of the music of that era remains fresh, vital and exciting; in fact, Punk Rockremains one of the essential vocabularies of guitar-based music. Very little of that era remains more dynamic and engaging than “New Rose” by the Damned, which was released on October 22, 1976. That event also marks, indisputably, the first vinyl release by a modern British Punk Rock band.[i]
Today’s pop/rock landscape is a rather giant and amorphous inkblot; that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just the way it is. Everyone likes a little bit (or a lot) of everything, largely due to the fact that a little bit and a lot of everything is available, and it’s available immediately. Being a music fan no longer requires chasing delicious, exotic rumors and sounds one-quarter described and half-imagined; we can access the work of virtually any artist whose name we hear within seconds.
The 1970s was a more pointillist time, where us fans/squirrels dug little holes, and tried to find every nut, juicy and dry, that existed within that particular sock of earth. So identity mattered; the idea of Punk Rock mattered.
Punk Rock was electric in our hearts. It contained the DNA of earlier obsessions—the Who, the Kinks, the Stooges, the Dolls, Nuggets-style garage rock—and provided an immediate identity for those of us who sought something to set us apart from the flares and feathered hair that made the mid-1970s such an atrocity.
Punk Rock mattered, not just for those of us who remember life before Punk Rock, but also for everything that came after in the cultural landscape. So noting the release of the first true British Punk Rock record is deeply important.