April 27, 2006


No, this is not about Iggy Pop or the Italian band sometimes referred to as "Wop Hour"; it's about Raw Records, one of the English labels that sprung up in 1977 and put out about 2 dozen punk/pub rock/neo 60's-singles. You know, like Chiswick, or Stiff. There's a couple of differences though; whereas the 2 bigger labels licensed their wares to big record companies, Raw stayed Do It Yourself and therefore never had any big sellers. Also, if I dare say so, Stiff/Chiswick put out a clunker for every good record, a Radio Stars for every Damned; in contrast, almost every release on Raw is worthwhile (hell, I even like the Unwanted), a sizable chunk of it is even brilliant!
I don't know much about the Users, but they must have listened to the Saints a lot; "I'm In Love With Today", all chaotic riffs and loud hi-hat wash, could have been a track from (I'm) Stranded! "Sick Of You" is just as great and has a bit of a Ramones influence going.
The Killjoys were of course Kevin (Dexy's Midnight Runners) Rowland's first band. A whole lot of 80's pop stars started out in punk bands (Simple Minds, Pogues, Billy Bragg etc. etc.), making their early recorded output highly sought after by fans. The Killjoys' "Johnny Won't Get To Heaven" is no exception; the difference is that even if Kevin Rowland had disappeared from the face of the earth, this would still stand as one of the all-time greatest punk records. Fast, loud and messy, this little slab of wax defines the word thrash (as in punk, not metal). Kevin Rowland later said he was "trying to be something he wasn't" with the Killjoys. (He's since found out wearing a dress is more his style.)
The great thing about collecting UK punk is that, with a little patience, early classics like these will "only" set you back about $15-$20 a piece; try finding any Dangerhouse 45 for that price! And if that's too expensive, Damaged Goods has recently reissued these nuggets (on vinyl!).

Users - Sick Of You
Users - I'm In Love With Today
Killjoys - Johnny Won't Get To Heaven
Killjoys - Naive (all 1977)

April 21, 2006


So why did I sell my collection of rare Dutch punk? Well, simply because it wasn't worthy of being called a collection anymore. You can call something a "collection" when it's... not necessarily complete, but when it's a good cross-section of whatever you collect. I used to have a good Dutch punk collection, about 10 or 15 years ago. Then I started selling records when I needed money, bit by bit. I had no idea this stuff was/ would become highly collectable, so lots of records (BVD/ Tits/ Tandstickorshocks/ Filth/ GodsHeartAttack/ Vopos/ Pandemonium etc. etc.) went away for about $5 each (if I was lucky), after a couple of years leaving me with not even a severely amputated collection, more like a couple of amputated limbs rotting away in a box in the attic. So that's why I sold the limbs as well. Now these days Holland is one of the most collectable countries in early punk; I'm amazed at the prices some records fetch that I never even liked that much... It's gotta be rarity. Zmiv's Banzai EP from 1982, basically the first Dutch hardcore release, is super rare which may account for the unbelievable prices they pay for it (and I got), but this also happens to be a great record! Zmiv described themselves as "heftig" (translation: "heavy" or "violent"), as opposed to "softies" like the Ex. They even devised a system by which to measure "heftig"-ness: count the number of studs on your leather jacket, divide it by 100, and you have your Heftigness number! (I remember they averaged about 9.) Nowadays, the word "heftig" has entered the Dutch vocabulary as a synonym for "cool", but it all started with this bunch of heavy punks from some backwoods part of Holland, who - when not counting their studs - wrote some remarkably intelligent and catchy songs. I might add this is probably the only metal-influenced punk record that I like, ever. This stuff is recently rereleased on LP by the cool Noise and Distortion records. I won't post the entire EP, just buy the LP!

Zmiv - Fame
Zmiv - Beware
Zmiv - Alive
Zmiv - Why

April 13, 2006


A while ago I read this MOJO (or UNCUT?) Manchester issue at my job; it started out as a great recounting of the early punk scene. Of course, the mythical summer-of-'76 Pistols/Buzzcocks gigs at the Lesser Free Trade Hall are the starting point, and while it's nice reading about it once again, right down to the "Who Was There" (Mark E. Smith, Peter Hook, Morrissey, etc. etc.)/ "Who Wasn't There" (Mick Hucknall!) details, I think this whole "Buzzcocks begat punk in Manchester"-thing is a bit...biblical. Sure there were lots of likeminded souls around who would have started something anyway? Luckily there were also articles on Slaughter and the Dogs and producer/co-runner of early DIY label Rabid Records, Martin Hannett. Who? Hannett as in "overproduced by Martin Hannett, take four", as Jello Biafra mumbled in the opening grooves of "Nazi Punks Fuck Off"? Yes, the very Phil Spector of Doom actually started out producing the Buzzcocks' Spiral Scratch EP in 1976 (one of the very few punk records emblazoned with that magical-looking year - just 4 days later and it would have said "1977"!), and then did his knob-twiddling for Rabid acts like Jilted John, the Nosebleeds and John Cooper Clarke, always getting a punchy, trebly sound the exact opposite of the sonic murk he was to dip the likes of Joy Division in a few years later (don't get me wrong, I love those records as well).
Just when I thought about posting some of his stuff as mp3, I saw there's actually a brand new CD comp out called "Zero" (after his early epithet). So, I'll just post a couple of tracks that aren't on that CD, o.k.?
Even though I love the words, most of the music on Punk Poet John Cooper Clarke's records sounds too much like standard-issue synth pop to me; I like his 1977 Psycle Sluts debut EP the best, actually the track "Innocents" was one of the very first punk songs I had. Well, half of it; I recorded it off a VPRO radio program (in 1981?) and they were already at the first chorus by the time I'd maneuvred my tiny cassette recorder against the radio speaker. It's got that "rat gnawing at your leg"-guitar sound typical of early Hannett. Another track "Suspended Sentence" is slow and moody and even sounds a bit like Joy D's "Isolation" to me!
Then there's ex-Nosebleed Ed Banger's "Kinnel Tommy" from 1978, sort of a comedy record like "Jilted John" (the only top 5 hit Martin Hannett ever had?) but musically already a little spaced-out. In case you're wondering what a "kinnel" is, you'll know soon enough when the track starts.

John Cooper Clark (sic!) - Innocents
John Cooper Clark - Suspended Sentence (both 1977)
Ed Banger - Kinnel Tommy (1978)

April 06, 2006


Around early 1982, my class mate Rude Swearing (that's his real name! well, phonetically...) brought this LP back from the first real punk gig he'd been to: the Nitwitz and Pistache BV at local youth center Troll. Actually it was just the Nitwitz; Pistache BV couldn't come because, as they called up to explain, "the singer has a bloody nose". (I asked their singer Maarten about this years later when he was in De Kift, but he didn't remember anything about it.)
At the time, Ruud was Already Punk, I was Almost Punk (and 14) so I didn't go, but I eagerly lapped up the stories he told me. There was, for instance, the news that pogoing had evolved from the jumping up-and-down that we'd read about, into wildly thrashing around and bumping into eachother, ruining your punk badges in the process. The Nitwitz, I was told, took to the stage already drunk but played a great show unmarred by the fact that their singer took the bass drum mike by accident and sang into it during half the set.
Then there were the self-released records they sold at the venue, not just their own but also records by their friends like The Ex, Trockener Kecks, and more. The beautiful-looking Wielingen Walgt! LP was actually a joint venture between the Nitwitz and the more (early) new-wavey but equally great Gotterfliez, both occupying one side. (Think about it: the 4 bands I just mentioned were totally different from eachother, yet they were part of the same "scene", helping eachother out, etc. What a contrast with today's head-up-the-ass micro-cliques...)
The Nitwitz tracks on Wielingen Walgt! sounded like nothing I'd heard before; first track "The Wall" suddenly burst forth after a stuttering bass intro, other tracks would just as suddenly end. (One particularly difficult sounding abrupt ending, in "What Did You Get", was actually the band losing track of the song!) The songs themselves were fast, neurotic and yet very Rocking, in a way very few Dutch bands played back then. In hindsight, the Nitwitz already sounded very American, at a time when American punk was eyed upon with either suspicion or... not eyed upon at all, apart from the Ramones and Dead Kennedys. Those Ramones are an obvious influence, along with maybe the Dickies, and I wouldn't be surprised if one or two Nitwitz had gotten their mittens on a couple of (Weirdos? Alley Cats?) Dangerhouse 45s in the import section of RAF, Boudisque or some other Amsterdam record store.
About a year and a half later, 3 Nitwitz and a new singer would take their American influence to its ultimate conclusion and become BGK, Holland's premier Hardcore merchants. While I liked them for their sheer power, it wasn't the same "sound of surprise" anymore.
The Nitwitz put out a couple more records on their own Vogelspin label: the 2 EP's (1980/1981) are great but suffer a little production-wise; final mini-LP Scorched Earth Policy suffers a lot production-wise (I heard the drummer recorded his cymbals apart from the rest of his drumkit, and the guitarist decided on a whim he wasn't going to use distortion... well, you get the idea). The 3 cuts on the Als Je Haar Maar Goed Zit # 1
comp are great, and great-sounding as well (sort of a proto-BGK). But their all-time top achievement has gotta be these 6 cuts on Wielingen Walgt!

The Wall
Open The Gastap
I'm So Lazy
What Did You Get
You're So Cute