One of the things I was looking for on my recent visit to the UK, was former pop mover & shaker (Yardbirds, Marc Bolan, Wham!) Simon Napier-Bell's book You Don't Have To Say You Love Me
, which I thought was out of print. Not only did I see a brand new reprint of that book on the shelves, but there was another book by him sitting next to it. It was thicker and had smaller lettering, so I bought that one instead! Black Vinyl, White Powder
is a roller-coaster ride of a read, taking in no less than the complete history of UK pop from about 1956 on. What's great about it is that it's written from the viewpoint of someone who was (1) a manager (as opposed to an artist) and (2) gay. Napier-Bell is equally at home with scandalous gossip and business figures, and isn't afraid to share some of his own ideas with us. One of his theories: just like American rock & roll was influenced and informed by black culture, English rock & roll was influenced by gay culture (just think of the rock stereotype of the flamboyantly anti-bourgeois, eternally youthful loner). Another great one: they don't find the right drugs to go with the music; they invent the right music to go with the drugs! In that light, here's his account on the birth of punk rock:"A new drug appeared, as speedy as cocaine but much cheaper, and it revitalised the music business. Amphetamine sulphate came as pinkish white crystals that had to be chopped fine enough not to scrape the nose when they were sniffed. It was a drug of pure aggression, the high came quickly and made you want to charge like a bull, but it was also disgusting. To complement its foulness, sulphate users needed to find a new type of music as rough-edged and disgusting as the drug itself. What they came up with was punk rock."
Simon Napier-Bell, though one of the "old farts" by 1977, knew enough about English subcultures to want to be involved, so he went about finding his own punk band:"At the end of the first year of punk, there were probably more people in the music business who'd never seen a punk band play than people who had; I was one of them. So I went one night to a punk club in Soho to see what I've been missing. When the group came on-stage they stiffened their bodies and bounced up and down as if they were on pogo sticks. Thirty minutes later I was backstage offering a management contract with an advance of ten thousand pounds. The next morning I called Derek Everett at CBS and described what I'd seen."They jump up and down as if they're on pogo sticks and spit at the audience.""So do a thousand other bands," he told me."
The band he signed was called London, nowadays most famous for having future Culture Club drummer Jon Moss among its ranks. They were better musicians than the "average" punkers, but compensated (according to Napier-Bell) by behaving especially rude and vulgar. There's a classic anecdote where Napier-Bell calls Jon Moss (the most vulgar one) on the phone only to have it answered by a very well-behaved posh-sounding lady who turns out to be his mum! Despite major label support, London went nowhere fast and Napier-Bell quit punk rock to hit paydirt with Japan and Wham.
Curious what London sounded like, I looked for and found their 1977 No Time
EP, supposedly their finest hour. First track "Summer Of Love" ain't no great shakes; pretend-punk in the vein of Depressions informing us that, wait for it, "The summer of love was just one big mess!" Then there's a punked-up version of the Easybeats "Friday On My Mind"... Funny how almost all punk covers of 60's songs don't come close to the original; this one has its moments (I like the way he sings "Everybody seems to nag... MEUH!" Gumby-style) but it's still less than essential. My fave track on this EP is "No Time", nice fast-paced melodic stuff sorta like the 2nd Clash LP.
After London, Jon Moss did a brief stint in the Scabies-less Damned (making him the only person to have been in 2 of the 3 top UK punk bands, as he was an early drummer for the Clash as well!). The Damned broke up, and Jon Moss formed The Edge with fellow former Damned Lu Edmonds. (There's a rumour they thought about having Dave Vanian or Captain Sensible in as well, but decided against it on grounds of professionalism!) Their "Macho Man" debut 45 is pretty good, I like it better than London; it's almost powerpop but with a sinister Stranglers-type vibe.
O.K., here's the music, the London tracks sound pretty scratched but that must be my imagination as the seller claimed this copy to be mint!London - No TimeLondon - Friday On My MindThe Edge - Macho ManThe Edge - I'm Cold