I’ve mentioned here before how my sister went from being a screaming, tartan-scarf-waving Bay City Rollers fan to loving those noisy punk rockers The Clash which is obviously something of a radical jump but people made a lot of radical jumps during 1976 and 1977, not just in musical taste but in the length of hair and width of trousers too.
My sister never actually became a punk herself — too sensible at the end of the day, my sis — but her friend Sue went the whole hog into bondage trousers, safety pins, and dyed, spiky hair. Nowadays no one would bat an eyelash at the “punk” look (it’s almost quaint now) but back then I remember walking down the street with Sue in all her pierced, ripped, and bound finery and people would visibly bristle when they walked past us, looking at her in disgust as if she had some disease or her very appearance was an affront to decency. Sue found it all very amusing and, like a lot of punks, took pleasure in playing up to the tabloid guttersnipe stereotype. One time we were out, some little kids were staring and pointing at her so Sue took a big swig from her can of Coke, turned to them, and belched very loudly in their faces. They ran away, probably going home to tell their mum how rude those nasty punks were. It wasn’t all fun and games though, one day she was spat on by a Teddy Boy while walking down the King’s Road where there were often fights between Punks and Teds during the summer of 1977. I actually used to be a little scared to go down there at the time.
Punk didn’t just cause a rift in English society either, for a while it caused a big split in our house too because one thing The Clash had in common with The Bay City Rollers was that I hated them both. As I’ve also noted here before, I originally thought this album was just a horrid, moronic noise that was like being hit over the head with a brick by a gang of angry yobs. As much as it pains me to admit it now but my sister was hipper than I was at the time. It really pains me to admit that. But I eventually got hip myself (and of course became far hipper than my sister, ho ho) and came to hear what was so incredibly great about it. Obviously it’s essential, vital, life-changing etc. etc. and I think the best album The Clash made, tighter and more focused than London Calling (which I have to say I’ve always found to be just a teensy bit overrated) without an ounce of fat on it.
They never repeated the primitive and visceral punch-punch-punch of this and to their credit they never tried to either and moved on musically. This was a quickly-taken snapshot of a moment that, like punk itself, shone brightly for a very short time and burnt itself out. But what a “moment” it was while it lasted.
I still think it sounds like being hit over the head with a brick by a gang of angry yobs — but in a good way.