To say that 1982 was a good year for British punk rock is something of an understatement; it was a fucking great year! So much so, in fact, that over 30 years later there’s an entire sub-genre called UK82 – named after the Exploited song of the same name – which has gone on to inspire spiky-haired hooligans and metalheads from all around the world.
Sure, there have been – and will continue to be – many outstanding years for punk rock emanating from the grey and rainy little island, not least in the current political climate, but ‘82 was something special, perhaps never to be repeated. The first wave of punk had largely been and gone; the Clash had long ago sold out, the Sex Pistols had split up, the Damned and the Banshees were busy inventing goth, but thousands of discontented youths, many too young to see those bands, decided to make punk rock their own. The music was faster and more aggressive, arguably owing as much to Motörhead and the second wave of punk as to the Pistols, and later going on to inspire thrash metal, grindcore, and d-beat. And in taking the music one step further, so the fashion followed suit, with an army of mohawks and studded jackets up and down the land. If you were going to be unemployed, you may as well be unemployable, no part-time punk bullshit, dressing up for the weekend. This was full on and full time!
Of course, it wasn’t called UK82 at the time, just punk rock, and, ironically, all of the bands now given the tag were formed before ‘82, and some even came after (Broken Bones formed in 1983). But if the first wave of punk lit the fuse of this explosive genre, then 1982 is when it all went bang! And, yes, there were casualties, even many deaths, but amid the violence, drug abuse, and chaos was a scene that truly took no prisoners. There are literally hundreds of bands to choose from, some great and some downright awful, some lasting no more than a couple of gigs and some still kicking ass to this day. Here, then, are ten of the best.
Given that UK82 punk is, as mentioned, named after an Exploited song, from their brilliant Troops Of Tomorrow album of the same year, it would be kinda stupid not to kick off our list with them. Never a band to mince words The Exploited were (and still are) dismissed as cartoon punks by many, and yet to their own ‘barmy army’ they were (and still are) the very definition of punk. Either way, there is no denying that their music is hugely influential, with Slayer and Ice-T later covering three songs from Troops Of Tomorrow – War, Disorder, and UK82 (updated and relocated to LA92) – for the Judgement Night soundtrack. Despite suffering a heart attack in 2014, frontman Wattie Buchan can still start a riot at the drop of a hat.
Released in 1982, the phenomenal debut album, Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing, from Stoke On Trent’s Discharge, is quite simply one of the greatest and most influential punk records of all time, changing the face of both punk and metal forever. Hell, they didn’t so much change that face as completely disfigure it. Of course, we could spend time trying to explain, but instead, here’s a brief (and woefully incomplete) list of bands who’ve covered their songs, many of whom wouldn’t exist without them: Metallica, Anthrax, Soulfly, Machine Head, Napalm Death, At The Gates, Nausea, Sepultura, Prong, Extreme Noise Terror, Ensign, Nasum, Neurosis, Mob 47, Anti Cimex, GBH, Driller Killer, Doom, Brutal Truth… You get the idea. Now get the fucking album!
While many bands seem to change their line up more often than they change their socks, Birmingham’s GBH (formerly Charged GBH) have remained remarkably solid over the years, their ‘newest’ recruit being drummer Scott Preece who joined in 1994. Likewise, while other bands experiment with new sounds, GBH have stayed pretty consistent, rarely deviating from what they do best. They’re kinda like the Motörhead of punk, or the British Ramones. Granted, many would insist that their 1982 debut, City Baby Attacked By Rats, was their finest hour, but that’s more to do with dodgy production on some later albums than the quality of the songs. A massive influence on thrash metal (Metallica’s Cliff Burton pretty much lived in a GBH shirt) they are rightly treated as legends by punks worldwide. Oh, and Slayer covered Sick Boy, which was rather cool.
Although they didn’t release any records in ‘82, two EPs, Complete Disorder and Distortion To Deafness, from the previous year, ensured Bristol lunatics Disorder broad recognition in the UK82 scene, as did Radio One DJ John Peel saying that their early singles sounded like Triumph Bonneville motorcycles. Which, frankly, is putting it mildly. Disorder were, as the name suggests, the sound of chaos put to music. Arrested on the Stop The City demonstration whilst attempting to storm the stock exchange with a banner reading ‘Make Homebrew Not War’, they once played Islington’s Hope And Anchor in the dark, because the lights went out, and were often so drunk that they fell off whatever passed for a stage. They live in Norway now, and continue to make a horrible racket. Great band.
Personal taste aside, it would be churlish not to mention Bristol’s Vice Squad in our list of prominent UK82 bands. Fronted by Beki Bondage, who was arguably punk’s first pin up, they formed their own record label, Riot City, on which their debut single Last Rockers sold 20,000 copies, staying in the UK indie charts for almost 40 weeks! Singing to EMI in 1981, much to the chagrin of punk purists, Vice Squad released their second album, Stand Strong Stand Proud, in ‘82 and headlined venues all over the UK, their logo adorning the back of many a leather jacket, while Beki graced the cover of numerous music magazines. Having spilt up in 1985, Vice Squad reformed in 1997 and remain inexplicably popular.
Cider-fuelled hooligans Chaos UK were another band out of Bristol, known for their riot inducing performances. For a band who seem more interested in getting drunk and causing trouble than in making music, they have been remarkably prolific, featuring on the aptly named Punk And Disorderly and Riotous Assembly compilations, and putting out countless singles and albums of their own. Considering that, when questioned on his punk credentials, guitarist Gabba has a habit of pissing in his own mouth, it is even more remarkable that Chaos UK have managed several world tours, including Japan, where they are considered to be punk legends. Pity, then, whoever has to sit next to them on a 14 hour flight.
Leeds punks, Abrasive Wheels were rarely out of the independent charts in 1982, with three cracking singles and the release of their impressive debut album, When The Punks Go Marching In, the title track being a rowdy reworking of When The Saints Go Marching In. Known for their sing-along choruses on songs like Vicious Circle, Army Song, and the anti-Thatcher scorcher Voice Of Youth, they were not so much underrated as never seeming to achieve their full potential of moving up to the bigger venues. That said, it probably didn’t help that their second album, Black Leather Girl, was mostly rubbish. Having split up in 1984, Abrasive Wheels reformed with a new line up in 2002 and have made a welcome return to form.
Cited among Devildriver frontman Dez Fafara’s top ten favourite punk bands, The Partisans, from Bridgend, South Wales, formed in 1978 as a covers band before writing their own material. They released just one single in 1982, 17 Years Of Hell, but it was a huge hit, reaching number 2 in the independent charts, as was their self-titled debut album a year later. After the departure of bassist Louise Wright they recruited a bloke called Dave Parsons, and if the name sounds familiar it’s because he’s the same Dave Parsons who later played bass for Nirvana copyists Bush! Weird huh?
Anti Nowhere League
Formed by a bunch of bikers in Tunbridge Wells, in 1980, (frontman Nick ‘Animal’ Culmer was a former member of the Chosen Few MC) the Anti Nowhere League gained notoriety when their debut single Streets Of London was seized by the obscene publication squad, because the B-side, So What, (later cover by Metallica) was deemed utterly offensive. They continued that fine tradition with their 1982 album, We Are The League, which contained such classics as Woman, I Hate People, and Reck-A-Nowhere. Often over-stepping the mark just for the sake of it, The League are perhaps best summed up by the lyric from the title track of that album: ‘Fucked up noise like you’ve never known/We’ll make you wish you’d stayed at home” Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Given that they were influenced as much by Black Sabbath, Hawkwind, and Killing Joke as by more straight ahead punk rock, doubtless there are many who will argue that Amebix don’t really fit the UK82 mould. Then again, since there was no such thing as UK82 punk until years after the fact, it would be kind of a pointless argument. Hailing from Tavistock, Devon, before moving to Bristol, Amebix were something of an anomaly, their dark, eerie, sound often far removed from the city vibe that inspired many bands in the punk scene, and going on to influence bands like Sepultura and Neurosis. Frontman Rob ‘The Baron’ Miller now lives on the Isle Of Skye and makes swords.