Welcome to the next installment of my Haphazard History of UK Rock. Next up, the punks — those sneering, mohawked malcontents everyone loved to hate.
So now we’re in 1976, and the daily papers overflow with fearsome stories of wild-eyed kids performing heretofore unheard of acts such as gobbing, pogoing, and slam dancing. Bondage-inspired clothes are all the rage, often shredded and held together with safety pins (which also gain popularity pushed through people’s faces), along with a return to leather jackets, straight leg denim jeans, and Doc Marten steel-toe boots. The punk triangle: fashion, aggression, and music.
Like skiffle before it, one of the most important traits of punk rock was its inherent democracy. Rich or poor, girl or boy, talent high or talent shy, all it took to start a band and grab some gigs was passion and a desire for self-expression. Growing up in the deified shadow of The Beatles, and the instrumental shade of Hendrix or Yes, these kids decided instead to create a kind of “anti-music” (at least, that’s how the establishment viewed it.) Although quite a few punk rockers had skills, it certainly wasn’t a requirement and many’s the band who survived the initial rush only to end up replacing at least one member. But those who made it through provided the blueprint for the future of UK rock.
Buzzcocks formed in Manchester in early 1976 and initially made music in an experimental, repetitive, and rebellious vein. They took the DIY aesthetic to heart, becoming the first of the punks to start their own label and subsequently self-released their debut EP. After a few lineup changes and some well received singles, the band settled into a tight groove with their energetic and catchy songs — focusing more on the politics of the heart than their angrier brethren — helping to define the punk-pop genre along the way.
Buzzcocks’ biggest hit by far arrived in 1978 with a title inspired by a line from the musical Guys And Dolls. It never saw action in the US, but “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” reached #12 on the UK charts.
Oi! Get the buzz, mate — it’s the dog’s bollocks.