Tuesday, February 10, 2004


There's a bootleg label called Punk Vault which has released a number of CDs by well-known 70s punk bands. Recently I've been listening to a 2-CD set by them entitled Midnight Express at Scene on the Green, which records an August 29, 1976 concert by the Buzzcocks, Clash, and Sex Pistols. The Sex Pistols are very good here, despite what Roger Armstrong says in the liner notes--they had a leaner, less heavy-metalish sound live than they did on Never Mind the Bollocks--but if you've already heard them live from around this period there won't be any surprises. The Clash, playing their first public gig (though the 101's, the band they evolved out of, had been around for a while), come across as a good "power pop" band (though the term hadn't been coined yet, afaik), though lacking the explosiveness of their first album. But to me the revelation on this set was the Buzzcocks, here with Howard Devoto still in the band. I may have heard their first album, but I don't remember for sure; I have heard their highly acclaimed Spiral Scratch EP, which didn't make much of an impression on me. But this performance makes me want to give it another listen. Good songs, though not as good as the Pistols'; a band that rocks hard; and, on "Friends of Mine," "I Can't Control Myself," and "I Love You You Big Dummy/Don't Mess Around," amazing dissonant guitar solos from Pete Shelley, which anticipate Lydia Lunch's guitar in Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. (And yes, that is indeed the Capt. Beefheart song, but they don't sound anything like the Magic Band.)

Another Punk Vault disc I have is Poor Circulation by Television, a collection of rehearsals, demos, and live tracks from 1974 and Jan. 1975, with Richard Hell on bass. There are eighteen or nineteen cuts here (depending on which pressing you own), only two of have appeared on legit Television records afaik, and most of which I've never even seen bootlegged anywhere else. Listening to this, it's clear that they really did play "punk rock": not in the sense of sounding like the Ramones or the Sex Pistols, a standard that obviously didn't exist then, but in the sense of being deliberately unpolished, even crude. To be honest, by and large the music isn't very good, though it would undoubtedly have sounded revolutionary in 1974. But as a document of the early CBGB's scene, this disc is invaluable.

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