Various: I’m A Mess • D-I-Y- Or Die! Art, Trash, & Neon Punk 45s In The UK 1977-1978 – UK – CD 
- The Art Attacks: I Am A Dalek
- The Drive: Jerkin
- Johnny And The Self Abusers: Saints And Sinners
- Trash: Priorities
- The Carpettes: Help I’m Trapped
- Stormtrooper: I’m A Mess
- The Electric Chairs: So Many Ways
- Social Security:I Don’t Want My Heart To Rule My Head
- Neon Hearts: Venus Eccentric
- The Cybermen: Cybernetic Surgery
- The Killjoys: Naive
- The Reducers: Things Go Wrong
- Johnny Moped: No One
- Neon: Bottles
- V2: Speed Freak
- The Exile: Fascist DJ
- Lucy: Feel So Good
- Machines: True Life
- Dansette Damage: N.M.E.
I’d not been too aware of the “Punk 45” series by Soul Jazz records documenting the UK’s Punk Rock Explosion® as recorded on dozens of indie 7″ singles until the day that this latest volume landed in my mailbox. Which is to say, that yes… it was unsolicited. The gift of a commenter who had one too many copies arrive in their order who [correctly] thought that it might be Monk-Bait.
A cursory glance revealed only a few familiar names: The Electric Chairs. Johnny + The Self-Abusers. Johnny Moped. I’ve had a copy of the Self-Abusers’ only single for at least 37 years as they would morph into Simple Minds on the day they split up [with the other members forming The Cuban Heels]. I might have paid $12 from a catalog [big money in 1986] for mine but it’s here on this CD for only a little more. That’s the joy of these compilations. Plus… the silver disc!
The Art Attacks were the high end of Punk orthodoxy with three chords and little else used for their “I Am A Dalek” single which is ringing all of my familiarity bells as it seemed to be a Punk re-write of “Hang On to Yourself!” The bass line was a dead giveaway. Their sleeve by singer Edwin Pouncey, was a taste of things to come from the person who’d come to be known as cartoonist/curator Savage Pencil. Punk orthodoxy was seemingly the furthest thing from the minds of Scotland’s “The Drive” with their “Jerkin'” bedecked with numerous flash drum fills and Ron Wood-esque slide guitar [was there anything less Punk?] to complement the Jaggeresque drawl of their singer.
I was very impressed with the amphetamine speedpunk of The Carpettes “Help I’m Trapped.” 60 seconds of succinct Pink sentiment and a record I dare anyone to get bored with. Perhaps the most amazing single here was the 1975, pre-Punk 45 by Stormtrooper, from this this volume got its name. “I’m A Mess” distinguished itself by being ahead of the curve as the band issued it themselves two years after they no longer existed. The song itself answered the question of what would The Who [ca. 1966] sound like if Pete Townsend had been a Punk instead of a Mod? The Cockney Daltreyisms and shambolic thud of the drumming didn’t attempt any distance from the Who comparisons! As a fan of Pre-“Tommy” Who, this was like getting a fine gift delivered by time machine.
Some of the songs here were outliers to the Post-Punk to come. None more than the Jayne County-less Electric Chairs “So Many Ways,” with its production by David [Flying Lizards] Cunningham being drenched in Dub and Art. With drumming by J.J. Johnson who would come to figure in Post-Punk cult band Gardening By Moonlight [more about them later…] this was a tasty glimpse of the road ahead.
Possibly the most orthodox sounding record here was The Killjoy’s “Naive.” The Cockney sneer of the vocals over the sub-Pistols thrash sounded pretty identikit. But why should we care about The Killjoys if it had all been done before? If we listen to the song, the lyrics were a cut way above for this sort of thing. Obviously the product of an intellect, but gott im himmel… the singer here was… Kevin Rowland?! You’d never know the guy singing this was Irish.
Finally hearing the semi-legendary Johnny Moped with “No One” seemed to be cut from the same stylistic cloth as The Killjoys, except with a real Croydoner singing! Too bad that the song itself was just nothing special. Give me Kevin Rowland faking it instead! At least he wrote a great song.
V2’s “Speekfreak” was something interesting. It sported a Punk-speed rhumba riff on guitar as the hook and opened with the sound of an air raid siren to to appall the parents. But the compilation would delve into some potentially controversial inclusions to wrap things up. The band Lucy were on board with “Feel So Good” and their Strat-wrangling was definitely more Hard Rock than Punk in its bearing. When investigating deeper we find their guitarist was one Phil Collen! No, not the Genesis guy but the future lead guitarist for Def Leppard!
Meanwhile, speaking of Def Zepplin [as we called them], the closing track here, Dansette Damage’s “N.M.E.” in spite of starting with a Glammy power chord intro, sped up admirably. And who was their producer? “The Wolverhampton Wanderer.” A.K.A. Robert Plant passing for Punk! There was something correct about Robert Plant helping to sow the seeds of Punk at the end of the day. He was always a guy who had better taste than you’d guess from the albums he made and his stature as a Rock God in need of toppling.
The beauty of a compilation like this one was that the curation was tight enough to prevent skipping ahead, while delivering enough solid goods and the occasional shock to repay one’s interest. Particularly when the indie-nature of these songs meant that none of this collection was in danger of being overexposed goods. Sound quality here seemed fine, though I’ve not done headphone listening, I suspect that many, if not most of these tracks were mastered from their original 7″ forms. In fact, I’d be shocked if any of the master tapes were traceable. Where a compilation like this one shines is in its value for money. Buying each of the singles appearing here would probably set one back a pretty penny! I looked up the lowest Discogs prices on the nineteen single tracks here and we were looking at $644, with the bulk of these an affordable $7.00-$10 each. But the high end was represented with “True Life” by Machines [not even the most interesting cut here] starting at $236. So this compilation can be said to provide excellent value for money. Interested? It’s still in print [for now] so hit that button for a mere £12.00 it’s yours on the shiny disc or £26.00 if your tastes lean towards the licorice pizza. Early releases in the Punk 45 series by Soul Jazz are edging towards a solid two figures these days.
What I don’t care for is that it doesn’t include the b-sides
postpostmoderndad – Some of these tracks were the B-sides to their respective singles! My thinking is that the best possible comp was curated from the material.
There’s also an MP3 downloadable version for 10 bob if you are curious enough to listen to the thing but not interested enough to collect it!
Vi-NIL lovers have to pay more than double for the privilege? Yes please!