For this Wild Wednesday I’ve put together a set I’ve been meaning to do for along time, 70s UK pub rock, precursor and progenitor of UK’s punk rock movement.
As the image of UK, and especially London, changed with the passing of the 60s from a swinging town of pop and psychedelia to a far more honest image of a gritty urban sprawl, beset with extremes of poverty and wealth, unemployment, racial tension, and largely run by vicious gangsters, moods of people in the rock and roll business also began to rebel against the psychedelia and corporatization of rock with big venues, the glitzy costumes and make up of glam-rock, and the (viewed by some) pretentiousness of ‘out-of-touch’ progressive rock.
This gave rise to a return to live rock and roll at smaller venues, mostly around north London and it’s near environs, hosted in traditional pubs that had been around decades, if not centuries, and who were themselves struggling to keep open.
By the mid 70s, pub rock, as it had been christened, had become a strong movement although it’s proponents failed to gain any notable chart success or even, in most cases, make any commercial releases. Consisting of older rock and rollers who had started out in the 60s and who had become dissatisfied with the music industry, and new raw – some would say unskilled – talents, they epitomized the ordinary working class in spirit, music and style.
But it was short lived. Having reached prominence by around 74 or 75, a year later the pub rock movement spawned the punk scene with bands like the Sex Pistols who had played live support act to a number of the pub rock bands, but who felt that they had failed to attack the big venue corporate rock industry and anyway, in the words of Sex Pistols’ guitarist Steve Jones, “the chords were too complicated”, meaning I guess it was still not raw enough. I know where he was coming from… I could never get my fingers around those minors and 7ths.
Some pub rock bands and band members, notably The Stranglers, Joe Strummer, Ian Dury, and Elvis Costello, transitioned to the punk rock movement and, later, to the new wave era, and although some of the pub rock bands were getting critical acclaim by the late 70s, the movement was largely unseated by the punk explosion that had taken over playing in the same pubs.
If you’re into naming genres, pub rock has since been called ‘proto punk’ but if, like me, you prefer to call things as they were then it will always be ‘pub rock’, raw, belting extorted sounds, fag ends and sawdust on the floor, strippers between bands, and a pie and pint – or ten – before heading off for a late night curry or, if you didn’t “look right”, ending up in a fight.
Now, where’s me jack handle?