Music History

Ever fancied a trip to the UK to explore some punk rock landmarks? Check this out.

[Calgary reader Scooter made a pilgrimage to London to revisit some punk rock landmarks. Read the write-up and stay for the pictures. – AC]

Back in Cowtown it seemed to me that things had changed, the old group of friends from high school were busy trying to make a living or headed out of town.

Darrel the social director had left for San Francisco to seek his career in the music business, which left us with out a coordinator. I had the travel bug, I had a few dollars and a bonus in my pocket from Conklin Shows so I thought I would hit the road, although not sure where. I found an ad in the Calgary Herald that said you could get to London from Calgary for $449.00; I called and booked myself a flight for the last week in September. Armed with some loot in my pockets, a passport, a EuroRail pass, I was off again, it’s high time I go see what’s happening in the rest of the world.

Suddenly, I have arrived on British soil and Calgary and Carnivals and Stampedes seem a million miles away. I have always been a huge fan of music, how music is made and the business of music. In fact only a few years before I passed my ARCT course in Piano, 14 years of training for a two and half hour test. Upon my arrival

in London my interest and thoughts returned to the love of music – which in a short period of time I was immersed. North America at the time was swept with the agonizing and relentless sounds of Disco. The Billboard Top Hits reads like a horrible dream gone bad. Such gems as Leo Sayer’s’ “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing; Rose Royce Whitfield and “Car Wash,” and Thelma Houston, “Don’t Leave Me This Way” filled the airwaves much to my distain. Even more distressing is this Disco trend is picking up speed and there doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.

Only days later I fine myself living in a flat no bigger that a good size closet, on Edgewater Road just north of Hyde Park in the heart of London. The apartment building was the run down, rent by the day type joint with barely any heat and complete with only one washroom on every floor. Across the road was a Pub which the locals call the Trat, that’s where I met Mark.

Mark, then 21, had lived in the city all of his life and embraced all that London had to offer. Mark worked during the day at a local theatre company and at night played in a on again, off again punk rock band call “Jungle”. He spoke of this punk rock thing with great enthusiasm.

Of course, I had heard of punk rock music, although did not understand it.Mark was meeting with some friends that were headed to the 100 Club and invited me to come along. We arrived shortly before seven to wait in line for two hours. Once inside the small room is crammed with punks dressed in black boots, black jeans and t-shirts supporting their favorite band.

The first bit of the night was very uncomfortable as I surely didn’t look like these people and the crowd was in an ugly mood to say the least. Fights would break out every now and then and beer bottles hurdled above my head. Then just like magic the lights go down and from back stage a voice said “All right, All right, Here they are (pause) The Jam”. The place went crazy.

Still to this day I can still remember the events of that night just like it was yesterday. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing or hearing for that matter, this was sure a departure from Calgary and Leo Sayer. Paul Weller of the Jam I hold in the highest regard as one of the great musical talents of our time.

Mark got me a job at the theatre company where he worked, painting, building sets and doing odd jobs for the production manager. Mark also found me a new flat on Blackfiars Road, complete with my own bathroom. I’m hanging out with Mark and his numerous friends every night and we regular such clubs as Rochester Castle, Music Machine, Nashville Room, Hope and Anchor, Marquee, Outlook, Rainbow, Moonlight and the Vortex. We see countless bands like X-Rays Spex, The Lurkers, The Cortinas, The Banshees, Adam and the Aunts, Elvis Costello and the Attractions at the Nashville Room, Ian Dury & the Blockheads and Gary Numan and the Tubeway Army.

Punk was happening. I can remember hearing “God Save The Queen” for the first time and wondering why I had ever bought an Eagles album. Here was something real. This really meant something.

The Sex Pistols were the biggest news; they were all over the press and the hottest act in town. At the end of October, they released “Never Mind the Bollocks” and a frenzy swept across London. I remember only a week after the albums release, High street stores banned sales of the album and independent shops were forced into selling it under the counter for fear of prosecution. The Pistols booked a show at Mr. Georges in Coventry in mid December.

We arrived at 10:00 am to make sure we got in; we are by far way too late. Even though the doors didn’t open until 9:00 the line was so long we didn’t have a chance and bailed at 6:00. I never did get the chance to see the Sex Pistols for shortly after the Mr. Georges show Sid and Nancy headed to New York. The rest is history.

It’s now almost Christmas and I don’t foresee myself leaving London any time soon. My world started to revolve around London, where it seemed the eyes of the world were looking on as punkstarted to rip up the nation’s youth. One of Mark’s friends, Anna, knew a Bartender at the Roxy and five of us slipped in the back
door. Inside is another legendary band the Buzzcocks. Up on stage was Pete Shelley delivering punishing wall-of-guitar punk in power and machine-gun drumming, mixed with disarming, irresistible pop melodies.

The club hall is mayhem, there are flights everywhere, the club looked like it had been squatted for years – there was graffiti everywhere, the toilet doors were hanging off their hinges, and your feet stuck to the floor. Within less then an hour, two of our group, Scott and Tony, had been in a flight. Anna had cut her hand on a beer bottle and some flipped out punker barfed on my leg. We had to go. This was sort of the unpleasant side of punk, it seemed that a whole nation of kids had nothing to do and they were angry.

I guess the anger sparked the music and the movement.

After New Years, I heard of a band that making some noise in Melody Maker (which I read like the bible). The stir was about a band call “The Police”. The first single, Fall Out, was getting a little air play and they were leading the charge of something called new wave. The five of us headed to a small pub which I think was called the Angel that may have only held 100 people to see them perform. Upon our arrival the crowd is mixed with about half being a people that wanted to see the band and the other half, the regular boozers that almost owned the place.

We stayed at Angels for all three Police sets, this is the early Police and their act is hardly polished. They perform a number of songs that did not appear to be finished and did a couple of cover tunes not half badly. A non committal Sting attempted a sorry version of what would later become Roxanne. They saved the best for last and the third and final set was actually pretty good.

Our party agreed that we would not venture out to see these guys again and most likely would not have the opportunity as we didn’t think they would last very long Little did we know.

Jannie is the Punk Rockers, Punk Rocker. She lives and breaths Punk Rock. She never works, although always has money, and follows the music scene every wakening hour. Jannie appears at the Trat one night with six tickets to go see the Clash at the Rainbow. The Clash UK album has been out for some time and they had released a few singles, Clash City Rockers and Jail Guitar Doors.

Actually, The Clash is more popular at this juncture in London and is stealing the show from the recently departed Sex Pistol whom were now in the US. To see the Clash in 1978 was to see a band on fire. Very few bands have matched the pure energy the Clash embodied in their early days. They were a blur onstage, constantly in motion, fuelled by their prodigious speed consumption. Strummer performed like the stage was electrified, spitting and shaking and convulsing. Jannie was in love with these guys and after the show so was I.

I will take the memory of that night at the Rainbow to my death bed.

March came and I now have been in London for 7 months and have taken in well over 80 bands and shows. The theater job had just ran out, so that put Mark and I out of work and our group of five were headed in different directions. Mark got a job on a tour boat in the north, Jannie ran off with the Bass player from the Outcasts. Anna went to Scotland to stay with a sick Grandfather and Scott and Tony just didn’t stay in touch.

So I found myself, alone back at the “Trat” where I first started out in September. I stuck it out in London for a few more weeks, now with a now expired Euro Rail pass that never got used. I decided to head back to Canada.

I hear from Mark every now and again and I saw him 5 years ago on a trip to London. His band didn’t work out for him and but the Theater thing did as he’s now a stage manager on Dury Lane. I didn’t realize it then but I sure do now, what I heard, saw and experienced in those seven months in London was a once in a life time chance.


100 Club – Oxford Street

First 1976 punk Rock Festival – Sex Pistols, The Clash, Buzzcocks, Siouxie, Subway Sec, The Dammed, UK Subs and Discharge. The Sex Pistols played here in May 1976 and the venue hosted a punk festival in the fall of ’76. In January 2016, ’70s bands including 999, The Members, UK Subs, and Discharge played here as part of a punk series.


Dingwalls – Camden

Some of the legendary nights at Dingwalls saw performances by The Clash, The Sex Pistols (who eventually got banned from Dinwalls.) and The Ramones. Britain’s top punk band The Stranglers played there years before they released their first album, and Dingwalls hosted Blondie’s debut in the UK – a gig that went down as one of the wildest nights in the venue’s history.


Hammersmith Odeon – Hammersmith

Iggy and The Stooges, Blondie, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Stranglers, X-Ray Spexs, The Jam.


Hope and Anchor – Upper Street

The Hope and Anchor gave so many Punk Bands a chance to play live. Hope and Anchor has a lovely ground-floor pub with a small theatre space upstairs and music venue in the basement. The basement’s roster has included The Jam, The Ramones, The Police, The Stranglers, XTC, U2, The Cure, Joy Division and The Pogues. Hope and Anchor also hosted pre-punk bands playing what was called pub rock, including a group led by Joe Strummer, The 101ers.


The Marquee Club – 9 Waldor Street

Sex Pistorls, Buzzcocks, X Ray Specs, The Clash, The Police, The Cure – too many to name. People crammed in to crush point so much, they would open the doors in the back to let air into the joint. No wonder it earned it’s name: The Soho Sauna.


Music Machine – Camden

The Cash, Richard Hell, Screwdrivers, and of note – The site of AC/DC singer Bon Scott’s last bender, who cocked on his own vomit, UK Subs recorded London 8/8/80 here.


The Nashville – West Kensington – my favorite.

Elvis Costello, Sex pistols, The Stranglers, Vibrators, Fischers Z, Wayne County, Electric Chairs, The Stranglers were to have had their first album as a live one from a 1976 recording at the Nashville called Dead on Arrival.


The Rainbow – Finsbury Park

The Clash, The Stranglers, Ramones (records It’s Alive here), The Meat It was infamous for The Clash riot where seats were torn up. The Stranglers regularly played here and the Ramones had their 1977 New year Eve concert immortalised on vinyl with the double classic ‘It’s Alive’. In 1977/1978 Jock McDonald would rent out the top and put on gigs, meaning you could have Thin Lizzy playing below while The Meat cranked it out upstairs.


The Red Cow – Hammersmith

The Stranglers, The Dammed, 999, The Police, The Jam, Tom Robinson, The Skids. Situated at 157 Hammersmith Road, London W6. Bands who played at The Red Cow included The Stranglers, 999, The Damned, the Police, the Jam, Tom Robinson, The Skids, and AC/DC (their debut gig in England!) and was a regular venue for bands playing London. The Stranglers famously played to a packed Red Cow in September 1978 in a secret gig as The Shakespearoes.


The Roundhouse – Camden

Ramones, Patti Smith, The Clash, Stranglers so many others.


The Roxy – Soho

Most of the top ‘punk’ or ‘new wave’ bands of the day, played The Roxy, and it soon became one of London’s top ‘live’ punk-music venues, that punks from all over the country would travel to, to be a part of that movement – to watch bands such as The Jam – The Buzzcocks – Generation X – The
Damned – Sham 69 – The Police – The Stranglers – XTC plus many more play ‘live’. By the end of 1977 a ‘live’ album of bands that had played The Roxy, was released – and it made the Top 20 of the UK Album Charts – which just goes to show how popular and influential the venue was.


The Vortex – Wardour Street

The Buzzcocks – The Fall – Siouxie & The Banshees – Generation X – Sham 69 – The Police – Tubeway Army, 999, Boomtown Rats & The Jam. The Vortex was licensed to hold 650, but the punk gigs regularly attracted over 1,000 punks from all over the country – and that overcrowded atmosphere only helped to create the ‘vibe’ that The Vortex was famous for.


The Angel – Soho

The Police – maybe there first performance.

Malcolm McLaren – Sex Shop – 430 Soth Kings Road -South Kensington.

Start of the Sex Pistols Vivienne Westwood, one of the most famous fashion designers in the world, made a name for herself by bringing punk rock designs to the forefront of the fashion industry. During the 1970s, Westwood and Malcolm McLaren opened a boutique on 430 King’s Road in London called SEX. The pair specialized in punk clothing and provided outfits of armor to rambunctious rockers. McLaren’s Sex Pistols, as well as Siouxsie Sioux, were frequent buyers of
Westwood’s original designs. The shop became synonymous with punk and its garb adorned a generation of Londoners.


Chelsea Cloisters – Kensington. 87 Sloane Ave

Home of Syd Vicious, Nancy Spungen and Johnny Rotten. Also, former home of Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett.


The Ship – Wardour Street

The Ship, steeped in musical history, was traditionally the place where musicians would drink before hitting the Marquee stage. Kinda of the Centre of the Punk Revolution.

Rough Trade Record Shop

The Rough Trade record shop opened in 1976 on Kensington Park Road. Today it’s on Talbot Road, filled with vinyl and CDs, its walls and ceiling adorned with posters featuring The Clash, Sex Pistols, and others.


NO.TOM, Denmark Street

A small guitar shop on Denmark Street, near the Tottenham Court Road tube. The short street, once known as London’s Tin Pan Alley, was home to many music publishers and studios. Behind NO.TOM there’s a tiny 19th century cottage where the Sex Pistols once lived. It’s covered with graffiti created by the Pistols’ John Lydon (Johnny Rotten), including a drawing of the Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren, and another of Nancy Spungen, Sid Vicious’ girlfriend.


Screen on Green

Screen on the Green, with a fabulous neon facade, hosts movies and live events. It’s one of the oldest cinemas in the UK. The Clash, Sex Pistols and Buzzcocks played together there on the night Aug. 29, 1976. It was the end of the long, hot summer when punk was born.


Joe Strummer Subway – Edgware Road Subway

This is the subway where Joe Strummer, before he found fame with The Clash, used to busk. Strummer has described how busking during his formative years influenced the successful style of the band; “It had to be simple and it had to be loud”. Still listed on Google Maps as Joe Strummer Subway.


Bench Tribute to Kirsty MacColl – Soho Square – Soho


Credits
Photos – Scooter Korek
Commentary – Scooter Korek, Geoff Clements, Punk77.co.uk

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38403 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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