Boredom City: Southampton Punk 1977 to 82 – album review
Boredom City: Southampton Punk 1977 to 82 – (Various artists including Stratejacket, Catch 22, Street Heroes, X-14) (Sharproduct)
CD only (£4 by mail order)
What did you do in the Punk Wars Grandad? Ask the kids of Southampton. Archive recordings collect up 13 bands from yesteryear. Would-be Punk-historian Ged Babey has a listen.
The final piece in the punk rock jigsaw? A city where “nothing” supposedly happened. Cleaned-up demo’s and rehearsal tapes from 1977 to 1982 document thirteen bands, only two of whom actually released a record and prove the existence of vibrant and varied scene of stubborn, independent talents and have-a-go heroes.
To set the scene here are some extracts from an unfinished, incomplete history of the Southampton Punk Scene I put together more than a decade back…. (Two of Southamptons most well-known bands were Stratejacket and Catch 22, the latter of whom featured two future Men They Couldn’t Hang.)
Lucy O’Brien, taken from the prologue to She Bop 2 (Continuum books 2002) Lucy was in the Catholic Girls.
Southampton, a city perched at the top of the Solent, a day’s crossing away from Le Havre, France, and home of the QE2. It was a town of former glories, with sprawling docks, where cargo ships once unloaded exotic cargo and luxury liners would slide in from abroad. Bombed remorselessly during the Second World War, Southampton had a detached, prefabricated air long after the bleak restructuring of the post-war years. Ken Russell, the maverick film director, was born there, as was comedian Benny Hill ; but like all good So’tonites, they escaped early. “I’m from Southampton” doesn’t quite have the same ring as “I’m a Geordie” or “I’m from Glasgow”. It was never cool or hip to come from Southampton, but maybe that was a blessing, as it became important to invent your own identity.
Philip Hoare (in conversation) aka Pat Moore from Virgin Records / P Moore (Breakdown fanzine)
When I went to London to go to college in September 76 I always had this feeling of mild embarrassment about coming from Southampton … One of the things I think about Southampton, then as now, is that it lacks an identity, a national identity, culturally… It’s not like Manchester or Bristol, which have there discreet music scenes obviously ; I mean, big style, but, Southampton has never had that, and I see that reflected in a lot of ways. There are probably a variety of reasons, but I think its because it’s a port…
Liverpool is a port
Yes but Southampton is a place people pass through on route to somewhere else. No one actually comes here for any other purpose. Whenever I’ve spoken to people in London about Southampton they always seem to think it’s a dump, or at least what they see of it.
Surely that made it ideal, fertile breeding ground for punk?
Yes, exactly. It is interesting what could have happened but never really did because it was like a blank slate. There are lots of reasons why it didn’t happen I suppose….
Paul Simmonds: guitarist with Catch 22 and later the Men They Couldn’t Hang.
School halls, church halls, there werent really suitable venues Is that why punk never took off big-style in Southampton?
Don’t forget youth clubs! And I wouldn’t agree that punk didnt take off. There was well over a thousand of us at one point. We just lacked the one band that went “national”. As for venues, it was just as much fun bunking the train up to London to see a gig, sleeping at Waterloo station (or staying awake with a bag of blues) and getting the milk train home.
Where there any cool places to hang-out in Southampton? the Lord Louis and the Joiners?
Tons of great places! I know it’s “punk” to say there’s nothing to do, nowhere to go but it wasn’t true. We had the Lord Louis pub, just opposite the Civic Centre [gone now] which on a Friday Saturday night was packed with about fifty or sixty punks getting wrecked and forming bands.
The Clash played Southampton three times in those years; (1977-80) absolutely tremendous, life-affirming shows at the Top Rank. It seemed that being at those gigs was your absolute reason for being alive.
Stuart MacGregor: ace face
Stratejacket: Basically Kings of the Hill, formed around the nucleus of the O’Brien brothers Terry and Gordon. Stratejacket formed in 1977 and broke up, as the Captains in 1981. They only put one single out, You’re a Hit, self-financed. They were overlooked, dismissed, lied to and generally ignored by the music biz and media, which to this day I still find a travesty considering some of the shite which was released in the name of punk rock by bands who weren’t fit to kiss their arses.
Tony, Suspect Device fanzine ( who was 11 in 1977)
I knew about Stratejacket, they were like a mythical band almost. It was like “Southampton has a punk band – Wow!” And we never got to see them, even though they did play in Totton.
If you hadn’t seen Stratejacket actually play, you certainly knew their name as it was spray-painted everywhere; bus shelters, train stations, shop walls, subways, even listed buildings such as the Echo office just for good measure. They would stand outside the old Echo office just to let people know what they looked like.
Stratejacket by P Moore ( from Breakdown fanzine Number 2. SEPTEMBER 1977)
Stratejacket played their first concert at St Matthews hall on Saturday 17th September. The first Southampton Punk band and the first to play. The all punk (and some reggae) disco was by Rancid man (with Rancid Women) The hall eventually held 400 punters, a very good turn out for Boredom City. It was about 50/50 punks and others just interested. A visit backstage saw a bit of pre-concert nerves 20 or so chairs being thrown about by the members of the group at each other…. They came on at about 9.45 and proceeded to play the only four songs they knew but they are all their songs, and bloody good as well:- Boredom City (Southampton) Punk Bashing (Aint it smashing) In the Street or Stop Press and Talking ‘Bout London.
Terry shouted at the crowd. “Anyone who likes the NF must be a f…….. c….!’ . And that is what this gig was in aid of Fight the NF. The fights began outside where a load of coloureds thought that we were NF thanks to the Sun and others
Nick Petford : bassist with Stratejacket Mk1
Violence was always there. I can’t remember a gig not marred by trouble of some kind, but several particularly bad episodes spring to mind: after our St Mary’s gig we were ambushed by group of black kids who thought we were NF! We were in a car park and I looked up to see dozens of milk and beer bottles coming down out of the sky and smashing all around. We ended up escaping by running though a subway.
Our first demo was recorded at Hampshire Sound Services, a 4-track in a garage in Bishopstoke. The press was rife with “disgusting punk rocker eats Queen Mum” type stories, and I remember him looking very nervous when about 15 of us (band and roadies and mates) all turned up of the bus carrying our gear (we travelled in style back then!). Terry sang “fuck” on Stop Press and he nearly had a heart attack. I now have it remastered on CD. It has all our original tracks – Punk Bashing, Talkin bout London, Boredom City, Out in the Street and Stop Press.
Stratejacket were a fabulous band, as good as anything in London. I remember seeing them at the Onslow Arms in Bevois Valley. Terry, the singer, had written BIG EGO across his shirt, which I thought was fantastic. And they wrote great punk songs like Talkin’ About London’. I don’t have a problem with them being thought of as So ton’s no 1 punk band; they were. But we had our following as well. When you get two main bands, apologies to the other bands, but I think it’s true – in one city, there’s bound to be rivalry. A lot of it had to do with the fact that we were from the east side of town and they were from Shirley. We used to get the Winchester punks; they got the Bournemouth punks
John Russell : Stratejackets original drummer and for a short time Subway Sects
The story behind Mick Jones Big Ego shirt: how did you end up with it?
I ended up with Mick Jones’s shirt and trousers through a bit of light fingerdness (is there such a word?) I was living in Rehearsal Rehearsals. The Clash’s seamstress (they had their own clothes made by a full time employee) had a workroom there and the door was left open, one day I was having a mooch around and I was very taken by this shirt and trousers that I had spotted and then the shirt and trousers were very taken by me. I can’t condone my appalling act of theft but in my defence would Mick Jones have cared for those clothes like I have for the last 27 years? They are probably worth a few bob now so in a way it was payment in lieu for being a member of the Subway Sect
Jon Weafer ; singer with After London, prime-mover, manager, schemer, dreamer…RIP.
Was there a rivalry between Stratejacket and Catch 22?
They were completely different; Stratejacket who were a real punk outfit, from the streets, nitty-gritty… Catch 22 were more a poppy New Wave outfit, from shall we say, a more affluent part of the city. Yeah, there was definitely a class difference I suppose.
Catch 22 had a more poppy sound than other punk bands. Swill sounded like a cross between Billy Idol and Cliff Richard and their guitar sound could range from a 50’s type twang to a 60’s Beatles sound to 70’s rock feel. The cover versions they did included Cliffs Living Doll and Sham 69’s Rip off.
Press release/biography of Catch 22 written by Paul Simmonds in 1980 to accompany the Sarah’s Last Words cassette
A True Story
Catch 22 formed in the late winter of 1977, basically inspired by a weird combination of Generation X, Rich Kids, Jam, Ramones, 10CC, Mud, Black Sabbath, Supremes early Cliff Richard, various rockabilly and classic teen music in general.
In the beginning they were too busy posing and having snowball fights to do much practising, but they eventually worked up a set that consisted of true punk classics such as Asthmatic Boy and Enjoy Yourself While You’re Young and Fuck the Rest of Your Life Up and various new wave covers.
As summer came they started gigging seriously and an early highpoint was the local RAR carnival in an open park at which they supported Chelsea, Here and Now and Merger. This led to increased gigs and an increased following. By now they had actually learnt to play and were encouraged enough to try and play London.
Unfortunately they chose Deptford! Surprisingly, they went down extremely well and were invited back to support the likes of Crass and the Pack. Crass were seen tapping their feet to Catch’s version of Summer Holiday. What the implications of this are have never been fully realised.
Ransid (Paul Blatch) the Bitter Lemmings and now, the Lo-Fi Poet Band.
Frank Thomas, a very important historical figure in Southampton from the late 70’s, “The skateboarding grand-dad!”… he lived in Mount Pleasant, he’d been in the Daily Express, he had a big photo of himself with a skateboard, he showed me it once. He had long grey hair down to about here, clear framed National health specs, a real character. He used to come to all our gigs with this hand held mono cassette recorder and wander around and record the gig. I’ve got a couple of the tapes but they’ve practically disintergrated to nothing. He introduces one of these tapes at the beginning and he says “This is a recording of one of Southamptons leading rock and-a roll-a bands…”, like that and it’s brilliant and he’s The Skateboarding grand-dad and he became our sort of band mascot guy. He come along of his own accord, and was pretty old then so I guess he must be dead by now, but he was a really cool cat.
Martin Cavell;, Soton punk scene mascot later guitarist with UX Diver.
The Untalented Mob? Loved them! Ray and Andy and some other nerds who didn’t know anything about punk rock, but wanted to learn. The most experimental band in Southampton, however too frustrated and introverted to impress many locals
(Thanks to everyone who contributed their memories.) The book never got finished, but this CD is even better. All the local bands best known songs in one place;
Apart from Stratejacket, Boredom City and Talkin’ About London from April 77) and Catch 22 (Alien Landing and Children Playing) you get the Aborted and Street Heroes, classic pieces of vital punk rock from local legend Rich Chorleys’ bands, The Superb post-punk of X-14 and the Bitter Lemmings (who remind me of Adrian Borlands the Sound and a prime GBGB’s band relocated to Hampshire respectively.)
A solitary track by a band who never played a gig is The Hangdogs Skinhead Soldier which features Vince White of Cut the Crap Clash fame. One for Clash completists.
Damage from the Wild West suburb of Totton and Switch 5 are full of energy and anger and Pigs On Heat are a revelation. Anarcho post-punk with some wit and verve.
The Captains are Stratejackets later incarnation with a distinct Skids influence.
After London, fronted by the late, much-missed Jon Weafer were musically heading into new territory, a big Celtic-sounding rock with a lot of musicality.
And best of all, maybe worst of all, is the Untalented Mobs “Margaret Thatcher” (is a Fuckin’ Cow!) -a near-unlistenable, out of tune art-punk racket, which they performed at the Yacht Club in Tory Stronghold Hamble in 1978.
One of two songs by Z-Cars is probably punks only Anti-Smoking diatribe. (Its good to see incidentally that Nigel Woodcock, Z-Cars bassist has a son in the latest generation of Southampton musicians )
Ransid from the Bitter Lemmings still plays guitar with the Lo-Fi Poet Band and members of the the Untalented Mob, the Missons brothers (the Gilbert & George of the Southampton Scene) still perform as their later incarnation Inferior Complex.
Sharproduct, the non-profit-making, bedroom-based, label of love who has put this whole thing together is run by music fanatic, beer-monster & all-round nice bloke Dave Sharpe. He has brought out limited run CD-rs of demos by local bands for years now and simply given them away to anyone who wants them. Two years in the making this compilation attempts and succeeds in capturing the whole era and all the main bands from Southampton and the surrounding areas. If only he he been around in 1979, well, if only he hadn’t been busy with O’Levels. He has done the city and its bands proud.
For people outside of the city, collectors of the Bored Teenagers, and Messthetics series of rare and obscure punk will appreciate this collection. For the people from the city, this is an essential piece of social history.
Oh, and Frank Thomas, the Skateboarding Grandad lives on in spirit on a secret track at the end of the album!
Sharproduct can be contacted via there Facebook. A selection of other CD-rs are available, including Flik Spatula, the Cropdusters and more. Prices depend on postage. Boredom City is £4.
Other writing by Ged Babey can be found here.