Speaking on BBC 6Music recently former Sex Pistol John Lydon listed his many influences. This included German band Can, but then he surprised the interviewer by fixing a piercing stare, pausing then adding, “don’t you dare leave out Abba.”
In compiling ‘Dirty Water: The Birth Of Punk Attitude’ journalist and DJ Kris Needs has thankfully chosen to leave out Abba but has provided us with no shortage of other surprises.
Can are included, so too are other more obvious influences on punk Dr Feelgood, New York Dolls and The Monks. But in mining music from the 1950s to the mid 1970s he has looked for punk roots in all sorts of other places.
For every obvious choice such as MC5, represented here with a live version of ‘Rocket Reducer No. 62’, there’s an off the wall selection like the DIY doowap sound of ‘Get A Job’ by The Silhouettes or ‘Elemental Child’ by T Rex.
There’s also some real discoveries on here for us at Neon Filler. I feel cheated to have lived so many years on earth without hearing the fantastic mid 70s metal sound of Detroit black punk trio Death, whose ‘Politicians in My Eyes’ is featured here. This is one of a number of standout discoveries, as is The Pink Fairies’ track ‘Do It’, from their 1971 debut album Never Never Land.
The Standells ‘Dirty Water’ is a downright dirty slice of mod influenced rhythm and blues as is The Hollywood Brats’ version of The Kinks’ ‘I Need You’, which appears here on CD for the first time.
For Needs, who is a former editor of the fanzine ZigZag, punk pioneering is about both musical influence and attitude. This explains the appearance of Gene Vincent, whose punk attitude and love of a good riff shaped The Cramps and much of Jon Spencer’s output. It also explains the appearance of 1960s counter culture band The Deviants, whose track ‘Garbage’ is featured here.
Mick Jones from The Clash’s favourite Mott the Hoople gets a place as does reggae act Culture’s ‘Two Sevens Clash,’ which influenced much of The Clash’s work.
Across the mammoth 33 tracks all show a glimmer of the punk music to emerge in the late 1970s and indicate this wasn’t a music revolution at all – punks had been around for years.
This is now the third compilation to be sent to us through the Future Noise Music’s punk label Year Zero. The previous two, under the ‘Bustin’ Out’ tag and focusing at punk’s influence on electronic music, were also excellent collections but this latest is by far the pick of the bunch. Even the curmudgeonly Lydon would be hard pressed to find room for Abba on such a collection.
by Joe Lepper