“It Makes You Want To Spit” by Sean O’Neill & Guy Trelford
As 1977 collapsed in a hail of spit, fatigue, disillusion & heroin, the first wave of UK Punk Rock was on it’s knees - & inspiration was no longer at a premium. As the second wave of UK Punk groups laboriously cut their hair & applied the lard/sugar & water carefully peeling the ‘four symbols’ & Rainbow stickers (sadly not Bungo, Zippy & pals, Punk-kids, but something much sillier than that) from their guitars & drum kits a considerably more integrity laden scene was sprouting across the water in ‘war-torn’ Ulster. Out on the streets of the UK’s most abused province (outright winner of the Oliver Cromwell Divide & Conquer Award for the 400th year running), Punk Rock meant a whole lot more to kids with a whole lot less to lose than many of their UK contemporaries.
The Ulster Punk scene rapidly developed into a celebration of unity: phlegm across the divide meant the poison & corruption of religion & it’s associated crime families were irrelevant factors to the young Punk Rockers of Northern Ireland. Catholic & Protestant Punks pogo-ed in unison, bibles were full of liable - & their religion was falling apart. Gloriously.
Most Ulster Punk groups didn’t want to sing about politics they’d already had a lifetime of radical bullshit & dubious theorising they were more concerned with the idea of a trouble free community & the prospect of having a good night out with the best music without the logical conclusion of a visit to the local infirmary.
Sean O’Neill & Guy Trelford have captured the spirit of these heady days perfectly in their superbly realised history of Alternative Ulster: “It Makes You Want To Spit” (Reekus Publishing). Subtitled, “An Alternative Ulster 1977-1982” & “The Definitive Guide To Punk In N.Ireland”, “Spit” really does have all bases covered. Featuring a foreword by local boy made good, Stuart Ballie, the depth & breadth of “Spit” is truly breathtaking. In the author’s introduction, O’Neill & Trelford make the supremely valid point that Ulster Punk wasn’t just about Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones & Good Vibrations Records - & then spend the next 250 odd pages proving exactly that: The Bankrobbers, Big Self, The Defects, The Detonators, Dick Tracy & The Green Disaster, Dogmatic Element, The Doubt, Hit Parade, The Idiots, The Moondogs, Moral Support, The Swear, The Outcasts, P45, The Peasants, Protex, Rabies, Rudi, The Sect, Stalag 17, The Starjets, The Tearjerkers, Toxic Waste, Victim & The Xdreamysts to name but 25.
Record shops & fanzines played an invaluable part in forming a community that could look after itself: labels, venues & the means of production were soon demystified & established all over the front line of the scene. Alternative Ulster, No Fun, C.S.Control, Complete Control, Culture, Nine To Five, Private World, Follow The Crowd, So What & Laughing Gravy were all fiercely independent self financed publications that kept the onus on ‘accessibility’ & directed their scorn at ‘the man’. Suddenly, it was ‘going on’ all over the province it made a welcome change from ‘going off’.
“Spit” features notable contributions from a host of visitors to Ulster: Joe Strummer, Penny Rimbaud of Crass, Carol Clerk, Rat Scabies & John Peel, amongst others - & their insight is invaluable (Penny Rimbaud’s piece is especially thought-provoking) but it’s the locals that really convince the reader of the importance of Punk Rock to Ulster - & their dedication, commitment & passion simply pour from their words.
“It Makes You Want To Spit” rightfully deserves its place alongside Mark P’s “Sniffin’ Glue” compendium, Fred & Judy Vermorel’s “Sex Pistols File” & Allan Metz’s “Blondie: From Punk To The Present” in the pantheon of indispensable volumes on Ye Olde Punk Rock. It paints a far more realistic portrait of the way we (they) were than any fancy Savage theorizing or bolted-on (second-hand) Situationist rhetoric.
Invest today & chase the bullshit away.
Guy Debored tMx 19 03/05