Sunday, 17 March 2013

This was my sound of the suburbs

On 13th November 1979 John Peel opened his radio show with this song...


The Epileptics were home-grown punk heroes in the small market town where I spent my formative years.  Before they’d even played a single gig, their name, logo and rather inspired slogan, 'smash guitar solos', had become a common sight on walls and hoardings around the locale. 

I’m quite pleased to be able to say that I was there for their very first live outing in August ’78, which was rather oddly on a Saturday afternoon as it was part of an all-day punk event at the town's regular music hang-out.  They looked a motley bunch (and not a spikey haircut in sight).   There was a pixie-faced lad with shoulder-length hair on guitar (he left the band soon after) and as their bassist was on holiday they’d drafted in Steve Drewett from the Newtown Neurotics (as the Neurotics were called, pre-Red Wedge).  At that time his blonde barnet was long and curly making him look a little bit like Ian Hunter from Mott The Hoople, especially with the tinted specs he wore.  I remember theirs being a short and endearingly shambolic set, with the nice-looking skinhead drummer attempting to do fancy twirls with his sticks and frequently dropping them.   Looking back, I don’t know quite how their charismatic singer managed to deliver the lyric, “I wanna give you a sixty-nine” with a straight face, but he did.

The Epileptics went on to gain a certain amount of notoriety in our neck of the woods, particularly when the vocalist tried to swing from one of the light fittings whilst on stage which got them banned from the venue for a while, and then when complaints were levelled against them from the British Epilepsy Association about the name.   It was never intended at all to offend anyone suffering from epilepsy, but it’s a good example of that ‘shockability’ crossed with na├»vete which seemed just a natural part of that whole early punk thing.  The label who issued their first single weren’t happy about the name, though, and for a short while they became The Licks, which is how they were introduced on the Peel show.

Nearly thirty-four (thirty-fucking-four!!!) years later this track still sounds good to me (of course): energetic, catchy, fresh, a little rough around the edges and, perhaps most poignantly, forever frozen in its own decade by the lyrics “1970’s…” 

Ahh.   Even though school was a pain at the time, these were amongst the happiest days of my life and I have hugely fond memories of many nights out at my local music haunt watching this band just get better and better.  The drummer even stopped dropping his sticks.





NB - The Epileptics later evolved into Flux Of Pink Indians.  There were several line-up changes and they released three very different albums, but their first, ‘Strive To Survive Causing Least Suffering Possible’  is the one to remember them by.

14 comments:

  1. A sound forever certain to transport you back to a certain time.

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    1. Indeed, and it's nice not to feel embarrassed or ashamed about what that was! It's good to look back so affectionately...

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  2. Of Course Ian Curtis had epilepsy...I wonder if that was influence for the name...maybe too early. I remember a group called Stump, that may well have caused an outrage to-day.

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    1. Stump?! That's quite a name!
      It was a different kind of outrage then to now, somehow, wasn't it... hard to explain... I'm sure you know what I mean though!

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  3. There's nothin' wrong with the sound of that.

    Most of my high school years were spent in a tiny crap town up north...there was no live music until we moved back down South.

    That must have been fun.

    P.S. my blog is no longer updating in the reader. There have been three post since the one on your sidebar. I have no idea what's up.

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  4. It was fun, e.f. It was a great little scene for all the misfits, and I fitted in :-) I still hanker for live music over any other kind of entertainment.

    Oh no! I thought you'd been quiet! I'll come over later and catch up with what I've missed, and hope it corrects itself asap.

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  5. Cenet Rox. Who? Precisely. No Cenet Rox were a post-punk... something - the best thing in Medway at the cusp of the 80s. Fronted by Nick Hughes who had a voice like Mark Bolan after drowning in Helium wrote most of the material. Rob Smart and Peter Cook played guitar and Keith Seddon was on bass - who was the drummer... sadly lost from my memory. Nick and Keith had come from Gash one of Medway's first punk bands who had featured Dave Hasley on drums - I could have been rhythm guitarist if I'd not been kicked out of the formative Gash line up for not learning material quick enough!

    They sadly never did make it to Peel's show or anywhere else, they were gone and that was that but for a while I thought I'd be able to say "That guy Nick who fronts Cenet Rox. Yeah well he through me out of a band once".

    Actually there is an attempt by Peter - who is better known these days as a business advice guru and author to get Cenet Rox together one last time this year for a never to be repeated final ever gig.

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    1. Any plans to reunite Gash for a final ever gig with their original rhythm guitarist, that one who got thrown out....? ;-)

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  6. The number of local punk bands in Cornwall could have been counted on the one hand of a sloth in 1978. The county only surfaced from a cloud of patchouli oil and hemp by the early 80s.

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    1. :-)
      Cornwall's not known for its thriving cutting edge punk scene, then...

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  7. I remember Monkey Snr buying that Flux of Pink Indians album and me thinking it was a very weird thing for my jazz loving OLD dad to buy. He must've been 38...

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    1. Wow, that's interesting, do you know why he bought it?!
      (I still have connections to FoPI and can reliably inform you that a special anniversary edition of a remixed Strive, with extras, is currently being worked on and coming out in May!)

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    2. I don't know really. I think it was just a phase he was going through! He had a couple of a Crass records too. They were all tucked kinda furtively in the row of records he keep behind his chair - stuck between Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie LPs. I don't remember listening to them but do recall being horrified by the images in those fold out sleeves.

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    3. Even tho' I obviously don't know your dad, I can't help but be curious as to what made him buy them! - I think because I was so close to it all at the time it's hard to imagine how that stuff must have seemed/sounded to anyone outside of the immediate scene.

      Indeed - all the horrors of the world could be found in/on those sleeves...

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