Mick O’Shea- The Anarchy Tour
(Omnibus Press, £16.95)
available to purchase now
As suggested by the title, the infamous Anarchy Tour is the topic of the day. But can there really be anything from the tour that hasn’t already been covered, any stories from it that haven’t been published? Apparently so, and this book has found them.
Given the glut of books around that cover the whole punk rock explosion, aftermath and aftershocks, not to mention the websites poring over the minutiae of 1976 and all that, I approached this wondering if there was much I would learn wasn’t already out there.
As you all know, I’m sure, the Anarchy Tour wound its way around the UK in the aftermath of the Bill Grundy TV appearance of the Pistols. Support from The Clash, The Damned (briefly) and The Heartbreakers made this the first country-wide exposure of the whole punk phenomenon. And what a line-up! Press outrage and cancelled dates followed, and only a few shows were actually played.
A band these days could only dream of the exposure the Sex Pistols gained from the tour, but the actuality and mundanity of the day-to-day drag around the by-waters and service stations of Britain was something of a trial for those involved.
The book uses the events of the Anarchy Tour to place the wider connotations and the development of punk rock into some kind of order and does so in a way that’s entertaining throughout. I couldn’t put it down.
Printed as an A4 size picture-style book, albeit with a veritable glut of text, on first flick-through I’m groaning aloud.
In the first chapter alone, there are several mis-labelled photographs: Jordan is “Sue (sic) Catwoman”; Strummer is “Steve Jones”. Not a good start.
This is probably an editing issue rather than anything attributable to the author and I’m sure it’ll be addressed in further editions.
There are, on the other hand, a number of pictures that I hadn’t seen before. There’s a great publicity shot in particular of the (very young) Sex Pistols posing over an antique sewing machine that’s startling in its innocence.
Starting from page one; however, I’m impressed by O’Shea’s writing. He is incisive, thoughtful and has enlisted a veritable who’s who of eyewitnesses. He goes straight to the horse’s mouth, rather than dragging out the old Sounds and NME articles and rejigging them as others have done. The quotes from fans Steve Strange and Siouxsie (who rarely talks about the Bromley Contingent days) are funny and intuitive. These people were there.
We’ve all read the original accounts. Everyone knows the well-worn quotes and stories. Reading the words of the peripheral characters is a real treat.
O’Shea has, if not skirted by these, at least side-lined them in favour of some new and eye-opening accounts. The fans, the venue owners, the EMI executives all tell their stories and it’s so refreshing to hear the human side of the Anarchy Tour rather than the well- known tales of McLaren and the band members.
sit well with the account of The Heartbreakers’ arrival on these shores. It’s been mentioned before, but Thunders, Nolan et al were amazed at the naivety of the UK bands and the press attention that followed them. And the well-worn tale/myth of the NY bands bringing heroin to the UK is, if not debunked, given a radical shake-up.
A final chapter tying up the “where are they now” might be a little extraneous to the target audience of this book, but it does neatly wrap up the story.
A cracking book and one that should join the pantheon of “must-haves” in the punk fans bookshelves.
You can find a list of more books by Mick O’Shea here
All words by Joe Whyte. More work by Joe on Louder Than War can be found here.