Holy crow, look at the releases in January and February, 41 years ago. That is some stellar work folks.
Ramones -Leave Home on January 10th. Buzzcocks-Spiral Scratch EP on January 27th. Television-Marquee Moon on February 8th. Eddie and the Hot Rods doing a Peel Session on February 15th. The Damned-Damned Damned Damned on February 18th.The Damned- Neat Neat Neat 7″ EP on February 25th. The Saints-(I’m) Stranded on February 26th.
All of those are some great recordings — all released within the span of 59 days to start 1977. It’s fun to take a slice of time and see the great releases in that time period, as an aside Motorhead released a single in December 1976 and The Clash released their first, White Riot, in March of 1977, just outside the parameters, so it’s not like I’m cherry picking a good two months. I could probably take any two months between 1977 and 1984, and have some stellar punk records released (although release months for many independent records are near impossible to peg).
Let’s start with the Ramones. The fact that “Swallow My Pride” which isn’t a bad song by any stretch, but isn’t the strongest song on Leave Home, peaked in the UK charts at #36 in May of 1977, says a lot about how important punk was at this time. Leave Home starts with “Glad to See You Go” and then follows it up with “Gimme Shock Treatment”, a song that had been a part of the Ramones set from 1977 on; that’s a great one-two punch. This album is really about the little gems that show that the Ramones were craftsmen of those songs: the 1–2–3–4 of “Commando”, the perfectly placed harmonies and chanted “hey” in the middle of “Carbona Not Glue”, and the perfection of “You Should Never Have Opened That Door” closing out the album. While in hindsight “Pinhead” feels slow (and for comparison, listen to the album track then the live version from 1996), this is pretty perfect as a punk rock album.
Buzzcocks released their first EP, Spiral Scratch, and while I’m not a huge fan of the band, this single has that trademark buzzsaw guitars that you think of when you hear the band’s name. It’s one of the reasons I own the record, the guitars on this are absolutely nasty, and sound as if they were strangled. “Breakdown” exemplifies the sound best, but the guitars fight with DeVoto’s singing and just builds the tension. You can really feel the desperation, the feeling of the time throughout the single.
Television released Marquee Moon and there’s been a lot written about this record, and it’s influence on college rock in the 80’s and 90’s is undoubted. A lot of people talk about the dual guitar work that “sing to each other” and the clever, smart lyrics; it’s almost as if Television are the polar opposite of the dumb, workman like approach of the Ramones. To say they were released 29 days apart and still considered in the same “genre”, should tell you a lot about how wide ranging punk was in 1977. I think that some of the songs are a bit overthought, but when most of the album is smart, rather than intellectual, you have to be doing something right.
Eddie and the Hot Rods, who are essentially a sped up pub rock band (and I think in all cases are a punk band at this point in their career) play a Peel Session (which never made it to Strange Fruit, but did circulate on tapes) is a solid session. Four songs, “Keep On Keeping On”, “Why Can’t It Be”, “Teenage Depression” and “On The Run” all great songs off of their 1976 LP Teenage Depression. Someone put it up on YouTube:
It’s a good set of pubby-punk rock. I’m a bit of a sucker for this stuff, but it’s just good rocknroll.
Damned Damned Damned is a record I came to late in life, but I think it’s the best punk record of this period. Waaay better than Never Mind the Bollocks. Much better than The Clash’s self titled. Heads and shoulders above what their peers put out at this time. Brian James’ slashing guitar leads, Rat Scabies attack on the drums, Captain Sensible’s solid melodic bass playing and Dave Vanian’s 50’s crooning-meets-Vincent Price (albeit that was much later that Dave went full on Hammer era horror film star). Do I need to go on? Well I will because the single Neat Neat Neat came out a week later. This could legitimately be called a double A-side, with “Neat Neat Neat” and “Stab Your Back” buttoned up together on this one. I’ll forgive the throwaway “Singalong With Scabies” because it’s just “Stab Your Back” repeated backwards (ostensibly to fill time or annoy people, depending on your version of history).
Lastly, The Saints (I’m) Stranded, which is Australia’s answer to “punk” and sits somewhere nicely in between the rock of the Damned and the art of Television. The LP was a follow up of the independently released single of “(I’m) Stranded”. After giving birth to the single in 1976, the band was signed to EMI and ended up label mates on Harvest Records with Wire. Harvest was a label that was perceived as “progressive” but also hosted many rockabilly bands as well, so I guess that punk was kind of a combination of both. This album is also one of the few that sounds better after being remixed. So, try to get the 2007 CD reissue (with a second batch of songs) as it’s a bit punchier than the earlier CD release.
So that’s the first two months of punk releases? Is there another that tops it? Maybe something later like in hardcore’s heyday, 1982? Let me know on Twitter at @GenAdmShow.