Erazerhead: The Singles
Collecting all the A and B sides from East London’s answer to “Da Brudders” Erazerhead….LTW’s Ian Canty looks at the forgotten David Lynch-dodging kings of 80s Pogo-Punk…..
Although it had its share of good points, the early 80s UK Punk scene did seem to take itself awfully seriously on the whole. It was as if the ethos of Punk around then did not allow having a little fun among the social comment and politics. You got the feeling that humour was not to be countenanced under any circumstances, being a frippery associated with “selling out”.
Erazerhead, formed by Sid Vicious lookalikey Lee Drury and song-smith Jim Berlin, represented a much needed breath of fresh air. Obsessed with old style Rock ‘n’ Roll and comic book toy-town sick humour, they were quite snappy dressers for the time (all this is relative) and of course they were very influenced by the Ramones, that much is obvious. They followed the blueprint in a quite rigid manner at times, but not to the extent it was a mere impression. Like their forerunners the Lurkers, they put their own spin on the old “1,2,3,4”.
Though named after the film, they substituted the s for a z in their name just in case David Lynch was watching and made their first public appearances at the legendary Bridge House venue in Canning Town. In late 1981 made their bow (bells) with their first single, the 3 track “Apeman”, on Terry Razor’s Test Pressing imprint (who Blurt, Charge and Shane MacGowan’s Nips also recorded for), a classic slice of Punk Rock daftness. Via the success of this record they were soon signed up to Flicknife Records (founder Mark Frenchy Gloder wrote the sleeve note for this comp) and spent the rest of their recording career on the label.
This upward trend continued on their next offering “Shellshock”, possibly their finest moment – I’m not going to say this was as good as the constant barometer they were judged against, i.e. Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy, this single was just a great slice of pure fun. It came complete with a tasty pseudo-dumb b-side too in “She Can Dance”. Next they stumbled a little with “Teenager In Love”, because even though Erazerhead had a deep love of 50s Pop, they couldn’t quite get the better of this hoary, corny old chestnut. Sounded like a bit of a punt at the charts and in the end it fell between two stools with the fans not digging it with people new to the band not being enticed to find out more. The flip was good again though, a “Commando” style effort in “All For Me”.
After this, the “Rumble In The East” album was issued and by all accounts sold very well and put them on the edge of the national charts. I never felt this LP showed the band at their best and I recall being a bit disappointed with it back then, besides the single tracks there were times when it seemed a little thin. But it is just possible that my judgement may have been clouded a little because my copy jumped like a kangaroo on a pogo-stick. Their pedal to the floor mayhem was evidently best experienced in shorter bursts and come the new year they delved into the live environment where they were most comfortable, with an extended play of four tunes set to tape at the legendary Psychobilly venue the Klub Foot. It’s a bit rough and ready though their re-positioning of “Lets Twist Again”, “Get Pissed” is full of beery East End charm.
“Werewolf” put the band right back into the comedy horror stuff their mentors often favoured and was flipped with a re-recording of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Zombie” that made the record feel like a Punk answer to Screaming Lord Sutch (or a punk version of “Abbot And Costello Meets The Werewolf”?). “Werewolf” itself is split in two by a slow, would-be scary section echoing the intro, their debt to the early 50s rockers clear as day here.
The final single here “Summertime Now” marked a change of direction for the band. Sick of the constant Ramones comparisons, they incorporated brass and keyboards in an effort to progress. The single was far more restrained and “mainstream”, but catchy as hell, with the flipside “Tonight” being more commercial, classic pop that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in the UK charts of the time. The attempt at going forwards was a noble effort, but like when Blitz came out with their “Second Empire Justice” record, the minds of the fans were closed when the album “Take Me To Your Leader” emerged and the band folded for good soon afterwards.
This 15 track compilation is a neat summary of what Erazerhead did best – provide short, catchy songs packed with a metric tonne of energy and charm. They were in their element as a singles act and this collection serves them best to show their strengths. Never having reformed, in what some would contend was the true Punk way, the only way to hear Erazerhead’s tunes is on record and this is as good a place as any to begin with.
Erazerhead have their Facebook page here
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here