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 naïvete 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.