Reissue CDs Weekly: The London Pub Rock Scene, The Year The UK Turned Day-Glo – The Arts Desk
The standard recitation goes like this. In the early Seventies a London scene evolved, centring on bands playing in pubs. Music was taken back to the grassroots. Finesse was unnecessary. What happened was dubbed pub rock and it laid the ground for an even more basic style: punk rock. Pub rock fed into and helped foster punk rock.
This is charted by Surrender To The Rhythm: The London Pub Rock Scene Of The Seventies and 1978: The Year The UK Turned Day-Glo, a pair of three-CD sets. Although the specifics of 1977, the year punk was most boldly platformed are leapfrogged, the two packages handily represent the before and after of Brit-punk. Each follows the same format: a slipcase houses three card-sleeved CDs and a booklet. Surrender To The Rhythm has 71 tracks, …Day-Glo has 79 (78 might have been more mellifluous).
It’s firmly underlined that 1977 was not a year when a shutter was drawn on the past. The Jam, The Pleasers and ex-Ducks Deluxe member Sean Tyla are on both sets. The Records, formed by Kursaal Flyers drummer Will Birch are on …Day-Glo. The Kursaals are on Surrender To The Rhythm. In this continuum pub rock did not go away, amply evidenced by the presence of Elvis Costello, Dr. Feelgood, Ian Dury and Eddie & The Hot Rods on the charts of 1977 and 1978 – all of them are on Surrender To The Rhythm. The Stranglers are on …Day-Glo only with “5 Minutes” but their “Go Buddy Go” would have fit snugly onto Surrender To The Rhythm.
There’s a lot of very hot music on both sets. The 101’ers “Keys to Your Heart”, Brinsley Schwarz’s “Surrender to the Rhythm”, Dr. Feelgood’s “She Does it Right”, Elvis Costello’s band’s Flip City’s “Imagination (Is a Powerful Deceiver)”, Starry Eyed And Laughing’s “Money is no Friend of Mine” and Stretch’s “Why Did You do it?” are amongst Surrender To The Rhythm’s hit picks. The period covered is 1971 to 1979. …Day-Glo kicks off with Sham 69’s “Borstal Breakout” and runs the gamut with The Automatics’ “When the Tanks Roll Over Poland Again”, The Monochrome Set’s “Alphaville”, The Only Ones’ “Another Girl, Another Planet”, Skids’ “The Saints Are Coming” and X-Ray Spex’s “The Day the World Turned Day-Glo” and much more. Scope is not a problem with either set, although it’s hard to hear anything “day-glo” as per the title in Alternative TV or the Tom Robinson Band.
Pub rock was amorphous. As noted in the booklet, rock music played in pubs was by dint of its setting pub rock. Of course, rootsiness, preferences for R&B and soul were early markers. London did not have The Band or Little Feat, so analogues were created. Time moved on, bands fell by the wayside when success didn’t come, while others got success and became smoother, and harder-edged outfits emerged: Dr. Feelgood, Eddie & The Hot Rods. By 1977, the words pub rock were an anachronism.
Even so, as …Day-Glo shows, pub rock bubbled away after its sell-by date. The UK Subs were punk when they began issuing records (“Live In A Car” is heard) but were initially an R&B band. The Stranglers got to where they were via a pub rock booking agency and management infrastructure. Nick Cash of 999, whose “Emergency” is collected, had been in Kilburn & The High Roads. The Reaction, with a pre-Talk Talk Mark Hollis, had ties to Eddie & The Hot Rods. That continuum again.
Both sets do their job well, but it is hard not to wonder whether The Heavy Metal Kids, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, college rockers Stray and Thin Lizzy really fit into the pub rock bag. On …Day-Glo, the scrappier – though fun – tracks like The Bleach Boys’ “Chloroform” and The Exits’ “Glandular Angela” sound awfully rickety in the company of fully formed, forward-looking creations such as Public Image Ltd.’s “Public Image”, “The Monochrome Set‘s “Alphaville” and Ultravox’s “Slow Motion”. Most anything would be towered over by The Only Ones’ “Another Girl, Another Planet”. But that’s 1978, a year of flux.
The packaging of …Day-Glo has some curious aspects. The pictures on the CD wallets of The Jam, The Rezillos, The Stranglers, Ultravox and The Vibrators are from 1977, not 1978. Those of The Rezillos, The Vibrators and Ultravox are of line-ups different to and earlier than those heard on the CDs. The picture of X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene is from 1981. Potential buyers should be aware that the version of The Lurkers’ “Ain’t Got a Clue” is from the Fulham Fallout album, rather than the single.
Most importantly, Surrender To The Rhythm: The London Pub Rock Scene Of The Seventies and 1978: The Year The UK Turned Day-Glo show that nothing was cut and dried in the period when Britain was formulating and perfecting its own punk rock. Raring-to-go neophytes rubbed shoulders with made-over pub rockers.