‘Burning Britain – A Story of UK Independent Punk 1980-1984’ (Cherry Red Records)
4CD Boxset | DL
Released 27th April 2018
‘Burning Britain – A Story of UK Independent Punk 1980-1984’ is an enormous 4CD collection gathering together 114 tracks presented in a long-form CD package complete with a 64-page booklet written by Ian Glasper the author of the book ‘Burning Britain: The History of UK Punk 1980-1984’, the catalyst for this collection.
The compilation is effectively a follow up to the 2016 released ‘Action, Time, Vision’ collection which focussed on the independent label revolution that fuelled punk in the late 70’s, and is arguably the first proper collection to examine the second wave of UK punk; what became known as UK82 – where the bands and releases truly went underground.
Pending on your viewpoint; the initial flames of punk stemmed from London’s art schools, gigs at the houses of the Conran family, doctrine from the Situationist movement; what isn’t argued is that the grass roots of the UK82 scene, the second wave of UK punk stemmed from the provinces, those forgotten towns outside of the major cities, and that those in the scene largely rejected the posturing of the initial proponents excepting Rotten’s instruction to go out and start your own band – many of the bands spread across this 4 disc collection did exactly that!
Once again Cherry Red have excelled themselves in the presentation; 4 discs mounted within a hardback long form 64-page book that gather together tracks from household names including The Damned, UK Subs, Cockney Rejects, Adicts to less well knowns with releases on labels including Riot City, No Future, Fallout, Clay, Rondelet and more – many of the tracks have been unavailable for ears, some making their debut on CD.
Opening with the Cockney Rejects, the now infamous East End urchins who were fortunate enough to count guitarist Mickey Geggus in their midst – they might have been part time football hooligans but as evidenced with ‘Bad Man’ Geggus knew his way around a guitar, this remains perhaps the bands masterpiece and continues to impress with its sheer power – not to mention Stinky Turner’s roared wail; similarly The Wall who released ‘Ghetto’ on Fresh Records back in April 1980; this was the bands third single (the previous Kiss The Mirror was produced by Sex Pistols Paul Cook and Steve Jones) but the first for then new vocalist Ivan Kelly who had previously performed with Belfast based Ruefrex; the track shows vision, a band keen to broaden their horizons, its punchy and romps along on a militaristic drum refrain, to some extent it worked in that it led to them being signed to major Polydor who then (sadly) didn’t have a clue what to do with them!
I’d argue Poison Girls were more obviously linked to the Anarcho Punk scene than UK82, that said its good to hear ‘Pretty Polly’ again which was initially released as a free flexi-disc via In The City Fanzine, sadly vocalist Vi Subversa passed away in 2016, though there is a huge musical legacy left behind which I would urge anyone to seek out.
Discharge were never going to be contained under the UK82 umbrella, their unique stripping back of punk to a raw, snarling rage came to define the bands sound, ‘Decontrol’ came out via Stoke based Clay Records and despite its uncompromising energy it barely hinted at what was to later arrive courtesy of their ‘Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing’ debut album. The Mob were another band who challenged conceptions, ‘Witch Hunt’ being released via All The Madmen Records in November 1980, an atmospheric track that harked back to a fondness of Hawkwind and the hippy festival scene, that said the scathing lyric a study of persecution countered and peace and love pretensions; Vice Squad are rightly included, the classic ‘Last Rockers’ being a long way from the sub metal variant that Beki and Co. offer up these days… another band to alter direction were Charge, included here is the distinctly raw ‘Kings Cross’ from summer 1981, the production is dire, but there is a real charm to the track which captures the North London band before they turned towards more gothic leanings.
4 Skins included here with ‘One Law For Them’ perfectly encapsulate the UK82 scene, disaffected youths, taking up guitars and spitting out their sentiments, this was a Single of The Week in Sounds and later saw the band picked up by Secret Records, before being championed by journalist Garry Bushell, who also held a fondness for The Business who could easily make a respectable claim to be UK82 champions. ‘Harry May’ the bands debut 7” via Secret Records was a genuine terrace anthem, a rallying call to the pissed up boys and girls; sadly frontman Micky Fitz passed away in 2016.
Chaos UK crawled out of Bristol with their own take on punk, perfectly captured here on ‘Victimised’ courtesy of Riot City Records in March 1982, a pre-hardcore rant aimed at the then Stop Under Suspicion (SUS) laws.
No punk compilation would be complete without The UK Subs; opening Disc 2 with ‘Endangered Species’ the title track from their fifth album, an album that saw them began to expand their musical range, pulling back from the full on rage and introducing elements of blues rock and new wave to frankly great effect, here Charlie Harper’s voice is strident, that said it remains so to this day.
Blitzkrieg came from the post Victorian resort of Southport just north of Liverpool, and were included on the legendary compilation ‘A Country Fit For Heroes’ with this fairly standard punk blast; there was nothing standard about The Expelled, though sadly that wasn’t the view when ‘Dreaming’ came out on Riot City in April 1982; largely written of as Vice Squad copyists due to the label link and the fact they supported Beki & Co, there was clearly more to this Leeds based outfit who make a worthy inclusion in this collection.
Current Top 10 UK chart bothers The Damned are included here with ‘Wait For The Blackout’ which was first heard on 1980’s ‘Black Album’, but didn’t gain its own release until May 1982; there is nothing that really links The Damned to the UK82 scene, they were part of the initial fires of punk, were there as goth germinated and continue to push boundaries today, that said its always good to hear them on any compilation; similarly Erazerhead who might of looked like a punk band complete with leather biker jackets but they drew influence from 50’s rock ‘n’ roll and exposure to the energy of The Ramones.
Special Duties are better remembered for their dispute with Crass, who they suggested were trying to wreck traditional punk rock; looking back it seems odd to have a desire to confine yourself to a preconceived definition of approach; surely that was the point of punk in the first place, to challenge the status quo, there is little sign of anything challenging in this sub 2minute primitive rant.
In utter contrast to many here are The Adicts, hailing from Ipswich they preferred a more melodic approach, and ‘Viva La Revolution’ is the prime example; the version being the summer 1982 release from Fallout Records, they still play this one at their now infamous riot of colour live shows, the driving drums supporting a neat guitar refrain and Monkeys rallying call.
Chaotic Dischord were a joke band, formed by members of Vice Squad and their crew; they never played live, yet somehow managed to release the ‘Live In New York’ album (Riot City), they eventually released a total of 5 albums, none of them are worth seeking out, unlike ‘Too Late’ by Court Martial which came out on Riot City in the summer of 1982, the band were all under 16yrs of age so were unable to play in most venues, the track is naive , but has a level of snot nosed charm to it, and getting it here certainly prevents paying inflated prices for this collectable release on eBay and the like, if you were searching eBay you might find a copy of ‘Victims Of War’ by Northampton based Death Sentence, this the bands only release; its fast and furious, hardcore punk devoid of any finesse with a napalm vocal that still to this day shreds speakers.
Blitz open Disc 3 with ‘Warriors’ their second single recorded in the leafy surroundings of Cheadle Hulme, Manchester, the band came from New Mills in Derbyshire and signed to No Future Records, the track is marginally less savage than their debut ‘All Out Attack’ and comes with a guitar riff very similar to the Rejects ‘Bad Man’, the single did exceptionally well picking up releases in New Zealand and years later in the USA.
‘Have You Got 10p’ by The Ejected is so far removed from the initial aims of punk its almost comical, the track is simplistic in the extreme, despite this the EP reached number 8 in the UK Indie Chart, so I guess I am on my own in my view.
Another obscurity included here is ‘The Thatcher’ by Septic Psychos whose entire recorded output amounted to a single 4-track cassette in September 1982; a sonic onslaught based around a dominant bass that has since been re-released on vinyl in the USA via Fear of War Records.
Attak were also from New Mills, and their drummer Lindsay McLellan was the sister of Blitz bassist Mackie so the similarity to their neighbours is understandable, ‘Murder In The Subway’ being the bands second EP for No Future Records, housed in a 6th Form level pencil drawn sleeve; listening back now the cry of “Murder” is weirdly comparable to that of Mensi opening ‘Liddle Towers’, buried to far down in the mix is a neat niggling guitar that props up the atmospheric vibe.
No compilation of the period could be complete without including Icons of Filth, who rose to the forefront of the UK anarcho punk scene via releases on Conflict’s own Motarhate label, the track here the relentless ‘They’ve Taken Everything’ being lifted from their 10 track demo ‘Not On her Majesty’s Service’ which was recorded at X Ntrix Studios, London in September 1982 by People Unknown, the original artwork including a price marker of £2
Having mentioned Mensi, his band the Angelic Upstarts are included with ‘Lust For Glory’ which was the B-side of the ‘Woman In Disguise’ 7” a well-aimed kick at Margaret Thatcher…another more well known inclusion being Anti-Nowhere League who feature with ‘For You’ which was released in November 1982 the follow up to ‘Streets of London’ which was seized under the Obscene Publications Act due to the delicate lyric of ‘So What’. Animal continues to stir up controversy to this day, constantly having to defend his lyrics against claims of homophobia, sexism and the like, there was even an online petition launched to have them removed from the line-up of the Rebellion Festival!
Violators are another worthy inclusion, though they too don’t sit too comfortably within the entire UK82 raft, this largely due to the bewitching vocals of Helen Hill and the expansive sound; often lumped as a ‘New Mills’ band as they shared rehearsal space with both Blitz and Attak, it’s a lazy association however its clear that each band must have heard the other and in turn pushed themselves to achieve more; sadly it wasn’t to be as Helen and guitarist Mark Coley left after just releasing two singles before forming Taboo.
Charlie Harper makes a further appearance, Urban Dogs being a side project of his and Vibrators guitarist Knox (plus Subs bassist Alvin Gibbs on bass), ‘Limo Life’ appeared in March 1983 on Fallout Records, a steady paced blues tinged rocker with a storming vocal and sing-a-long chorus, a feature readily evident on Instant Agony’s ‘Fashion Parade’ courtesy of Half Man Half Biscuit Records – if you have an original 7” – look after it as they are rising in value.
The Blood open Disc 4, originally under the banner Coming Blood, the band were musically at least – forward thinking, somehow combing the swirling melodies of The Damned with speed of Discharge, ‘Megalomania’ was lifted from their sole album ‘False Gesture For A Devious Public’ which reached No. 1 in the Indie Charts
‘Holocaust’ from Warwound, as befits the title is a brutal swipe of blackened hardcore that originally appeared on a demo in April 1983, the band collapsed when members joined The Varukers, this stunning track not appearing until 2015 when it popped up on a Boss Tuneage Records compilation, equally obscure is Ultra-Violent ‘Crime For Revenge’ which features the vocal talents of Adie Bailey (later English Dogs), ‘Ballykelly Disco’ by Exit Stance is another track included here from a demo version, built around a pummelling drums, slashing guitar, and gravelled vocals. English Dogs themselves are included with ‘Psycho Killer’ from their debut ‘Mad Punx & English Dogs’ an ominously powerful headrush that featured vocalist Wakey.
The Varukers offer up ‘Die For Your Government’ their third single, and the first which ever so slightly moved them on from the previous thrash offerings.
Rose of Victory never got around to playing a gig, they did however record this rather average cover of Bowie’s ‘Suffragette City’ which came out on No Future, its not good and should of indicated troubles at the label which collapsed shortly after this tired release.
Screaming Dead began as a horror punk band, though that’s clearly a retrospective view – I really don’t think the genre had been defined in the early 80’s; but by the time ‘The Angel of Death’ appeared on No Future in September 1983 they had evolved to include both a piano and an organ in their equipment roster, so sit nearer to The Damned than say Conflict who are included with ‘The Serenade Is Dead’ their debut release on their own Mortarhate Records, a more melodic release than the majority of their savagery.
The entire compilation is a worthy exploration of the surprisingly diverse sound of the genre and time; yes there are obvious missing artists, and also a couple of more dubious inclusions, but no compilation will ever satisfy every buyer.