The Lurkers – 5 Albums Box – Album Review

LurkersBox_edited-1 Album Review

The Lurkers – 5 Albums (Boxed Set)  (Beggars Arkive)

CD only

Out now

 

UK Punks least-pretentious, high-energy rock’n’roll band.  Complete Works 1977-1980.  “To some of us”, says Ged Babey, “the Lurkers were more important than the Clash” as he opens the box…  

It is said that the Clash were the Only Band That Mattered…

Well, to me personally, ALL OF THEM mattered: Pistols-Clash-Damned -Buzzcocks- Adverts-Jam-Vibrators- Generation X-Slits-999- Eater-Penetration-X-Ray Spex- Slaughter-Moped-ATV …..

When it comes to my favourite UK punk debut album though, well,  nine times out of ten, if you don’t count Times Up by Devoto’s Buzzcocks,  I’d choose Fulham Fallout by the Lurkers.  To me it means much more than ‘the Clash’ by the Clash’.

And, it’s not just me. (Steve Lamacq was a fan, Rollins rates them in his Top Ten…) The Lurkers were many provincial punks favourite punk band.  A friend of mine puts it down to the fact that to ‘get’ the Clash fully, you had to live in a big city, an urban environment. On the back cover of Fulham Fallout you can see grass…

Living in dead end small-towns or the sticks, you instinctively understood the humour and sex & booze & rock’n’roll escapism of the Lurkers. That and the fact they looked and dressed like local Cortina boys and played music so straight-forward that if you did form a band you could play (Shadow) in a day, Bert Weedon style – it just took a bit of practice to get up to full-speed.

The Lurkers appeal was a real-ness and authenticity which which just couldn’t be faked. The songs about mad-girls and basic urges and everyday hang-ups were easier to relate to than sten-guns in Knightsbridge, the Westway and Hammersmith Palais, despite the reality that the band were (outskirts of) Londoners.

Forty years on the Lurkers sound every bit as vital as ever they did. It’s just, simple, bassick, rock’n’roll.  This nicely packaged box with reproductions of the original sleeves is as ‘No frills’ as the band. No extra’s like sleevenotes and badges and a Lurkers penknife… just the music: Everything they ever recorded including all the Peel Sessions and the New Guitar In Town album (credited to Pete Stride & Honest John Plain of the Boys).

The facts are all in the Beggars Arkive Press Release here which  ends with this quote from Manic Esso (Pete Haynes) from Sounds 3.6.1978.

“The name of our band is The Lurkers because that’s what we are…we’re all a bunch of temperamental so and so’s. But we won’t conform to anybody’s fashions. Before the Lurkers I was playing jazz… this New Wave thing came along and I was crazy on it. We all were because we thought it was genuinely outcast by society. But it’s all just another fashion.”

Pete Haynes book Gods Lonely Men is essential reading to understand the man and the band and their whole sense of being outsiders.

With apologies to Arturo Bassick. The band he fronts which has been touring and recording as The Lurkers since 1987 to me, will never be THE Lurkers.  There’s nothing wrong with them, he is a lovely geezer, but they don’t have the unique chemistry and sound of the Classic Line Up of Nigel, Howard, Pete & Esso who recorded the two Beggars Banquet albums Fulham Fallout and the hugely under-rated God’s Lonely Men.

So, for £16, here is what you get – broken down, with as-I-listen, thoughts and comments…

DISC ONE – Fulham Fallout  Perfect in every way. Pure energy, great songs. Punk Rock’n’Roll.

• Ain’t Got A Clue   Probably the song which earned them the unfortunate epithet ‘The Status Quo Of Punk’ – but as much of a punk classic as What Do I Get and Neat Neat Neat. It’s the spoken section in the middle which makes it for me. “I dunno, I dunno whats-the-matter-with-me!”

• I Don’t Need To Tell Her  The way that bass kicks in at the 4 second mark and rumbles! A great performance on Revolver, which is a classic piece of genuine punk history now, if only for how the audience look and dress. It’s Esso’s manic drumming which make this Punk Rocks ‘Wipeout’.

• Total War   The Lurkers do ‘bar-stool politics’ . ‘Always fed on Fleet Street shit … What goes on in the EEC only makes things worse for me…’ Now there is irony for ya!  

• Hey You    There is seemingly nothing ‘deep’ about the Lurkers lyrics but their songs were very much about outsiders and rejects who couldn’t identify, (or live a lie) until punk came along.

• Shadow  A much improved version of the original single, which, collectors item or not, was a bit clunky and crap.

• Then I Kicked Her  The Lurkers love of New York Dolls is well-known and here they do them proud with a joyful straight faced cover of a Girl Group classic.

• Go Go Go  Pete and Dud style 1234 and a absolute classic piece of sheer self-indulgent piss-taking which mocks Heavy Metal as it attempts to ape it and inadvertently out-Motorheads Motorhead.  The guitar sound is so raw it’s practically avant garde. Perhaps this was the Lurkers attempt at being the Sister Ray-era Velvet Underground?

• Jenny  One of my all-time favourite songs; possibly because I was in love with an older school-girl called Jenny Harper at the time: it was never gonna happen- she was 16, I was just 13 and had horrendous acne. She looked like Lindsay Wagner and I looked like a pizza with national health glasses… anyway – a subtle joke about getting an erection and a mad-girl with a knife (and access to a gun) -the perfect love song.

• Time of Year  Always referred to as England’s answer to the Ramones… personally I’d say this album as a debut tops the Ramones no question.

Self Destruct  As a 13 year old there is NOTHING quite as rebellious as playing a song that rhymes  Self Destruct with Gonna Get Fucked!

It’s Quiet Here    The  whimpered ‘Please Help Me’ is the key moment – mental illness being in the background of a lot of these songs  –  Fractured love songs  is how Pete Haynes describes them.

• Gerald   Yes- my real, full, ‘christian’ name is Gerald.  So of course this was written for me.  A few years before my mother died and I actually DID  receive letters like the one recited.  Seriously,  this song is a Punk Rock Play For Today ( well, a melodrama by Mike Leigh) – a brave move and a endearing classic which no other band could have got away with or attempted. It is supposed to be ‘funny’ perhaps, but still has pathos (and other Muskateers…)

• I’m on Heat   A punk rock song about being randy. Nuff said. Except -the Ramones couldn’t pull off two 9-second guitar solo’s like the ones in this.

• Be My Prisoner   Not just a song about having a sex slave, but another song about insecurities, rejection and insanity…. with a great tune which takes my breath away, before the archetypal sped-up Chaos Brothers ending and the slam of a prison door!

 

DISC TWO – God’s Lonely Men  

Great, crisp production, slightly smoother, but a brilliant pop/rock album with the same streak of punk outsider attitude and lyricism. I would say it is ‘better than Fulham Fallout’ in some ways, but how could they better perfection?

• She Knows  Just (a great pop song about) lust.  The way the Lets-go! merges into the start of the guitar-solo is class.

• God’s Lonely Men  The finest Loser’s Anthem ever writtenA song which only fully makes sense if you’ve read Esso’s book of the same title.

• Out In The Dark.  A definite ‘musical progression’ but still that urge to speed up at the end to mess it up!

• Cyanide  It’s as if they decided to write their own version of Strychnine. Silliest song on the album and only worthy of its place due to the backwards guitar-solo

• Whatever Happened to Mary  I used to love this song-to the point of obsession.  Pisses all over everything the Undertones ever did. A real genuine pathos to it.

• Take Me Back to Babylon  Probably a reference to the Dolls rather than Rastafarianism.  Ideas stolen from the Ramones Happy family too.

• Room 309   A classic ‘party’ song which GBH might well have been inspired by (Drugs Party in 526), Great guitar soloing on this.

• I’ll Be With You   ‘I could make a dream of reality, please believe in me ‘….is one of the greatest opening lines in any love song…. a beautiful romantic number with Thunder-y guitar.   I’d also use this as an example of Esso being one of punks best drummers.

• Non-Contender  Always thought this seemed strange subject matter for such a ‘lads’ band. A very sympathetic account of an ageing drag queens life. “So afraid he will die alone”.  A country’n’psych arrangement too.  One of my absolute favourite Lurker songs.

• Seven O’Clock Someday … as is this. Faultless. from the guitar squeaks to the ‘just to show ya how much I love ya / se ya tomorrow with a bottle of vodka… line.

• Sleep On Diamonds  A drug song? The lyrics to this are nonsensical so must be psychedelia Lurkers-style.  Music-wise it’s just a tremendous piece of work. 

• Bad Times.   Cynicism you can dance to. Sorta.  Maybe that is why I love the Lurkers so much their ingrained negativity and pessimism is turned Midas-like into solid-gold easy rock’n’roll action.

DISC THREE – Singles & Demos  

All of the A-sides and B-sides from  Shadow (single version) to New Guitar In Town and including the priceless fuck-about ‘We Are The Chaos Bros. (from the Fulham Fallout Firty Free).

A cover of Bo Diddleys Pills -via the New York Dolls version- is perhaps my all-time favourite Lurkers moment as it captures their absolute essence.  Brilliant drumming, stupendous guitar, a restrained enthusiasm to the vocal which lets the words tell the tale.  Sex and Drugs and rock’n’roll personified. And it just rocks – the middle section with the ad-libs and guitar solos is just sheer energy whipping up a rock’n’roll storm…..

The Cyanide (Pub version) is notable as, for a cheap piss-take of the fashionable at the time ‘dub version,’ it stands up as both still funny and a period piece… Watneys Red Barrel!

The single ‘Just Thirteen’ was problematic even at the time. Post-Saville it sounds horrible as a lyric.  I could have avoided mentioning it. It will only give ammunition to the Young Punk Safe-spacers theory that Old Mans Punk was riddled with -isms.  Pete Haynes says in his book – “It wasn’t a  paedo song”, it was a story told from the point of view of a young messed up girl and her adolescent problems.  Promiscuity is a recognized symptom of certain psychiatric disorders, but that said Chuck Berry era Rock’n’Roll always had an obsession with teenage girls and even Jerry Lee (Lewis) gets namechecked in a song on Disc 5.

 

DISC FOUR – BBC sessions .

I would say the Lurkers Peel sessions were not particularly special.  They were good.  But not markedly different to the other studio work.  Slightly heavier – but the vocals and guitar-solo’s were occasionally a bit weak. A particular  low-point being a comparatively shit solo on Pills  and the last sessions ‘School-Girls’ which is knowingly a bit Benny Hill with its line about the voyeurs ‘suspended sentence’, rhymed of course with ‘repentance’.

The session version of God Lonely Men incidentally has completely different lyrics and music to the finished song on the album of the same name so in fact it’s a different song completely!

 

DISC FIVE   Pete Stride and John Plain – New Guitars In Town

1980. Some Lurkers and some of the Boys convened to make an album…  Quite a few covers and bands who had run-dry creatively but were on the sauce literally making a good old pub rock’n’roll album.  It is of it’s time and out of place at the same time.  What would of made it better would have been Gary Holton swaying into the sessions and singing on a few numbers….   The title track to me seems to be saying without-knowing-it that there is an ‘Alternative to the Guitar’ in Town… with critics and trendies preferring the new fangled synthesizer to the guitar.  Times had changed and the Lurkers, despite never really being in fashion, were out-of-vogue.

It’s not a bad album -but it’s more Chas’n’Dave by the final boozehound song ‘Pick Me Up’ which uses Jerry Lee and Deano as its guiding lights. Half the Time and Cure For Love almost reach the standard of the Pretenders and Only Ones – the kind of sound they were attempting – but don’t quite get there.

Of the five discs, it’s the one which will get the least plays… unless you have trouble sleeping….

……………

All in all, warts and all, this is a brilliant box-set for former fans and newcomers to old-punk – reared on the pop-punk of the Offspring, Green Day, Blink etc – cos this is the roots of simple honest pop-punk / punk rock’n’roll.  The Ramones live on thanks to a million t-shirts but the Lurkers live in the hearts and minds of the Provincial Punks for whom they meant everything.  They were the underdogs.  The band that celebrated the waifs and strays, the fucked-up losers and made them immortal in song.   Jenny, Mary, Gerald … the clueless, those in the shadows,  the quiet ones, the drinkers, the thinkers, the Lurkers…. God Bless Them All.

 

Essential Purchase – even if you’ve got the old albums/singles/tapes… 

Pete ‘Esso’ Haynes Facebook  and website 

The Lurkers Facebook (Arturo & Co)

 

All words Ged Babey

 

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  1. Roger Holdstock

    Excellent!

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