Various Artists - Action Time Vision album review

Punk ethos captured on an anarchic collection celebrating the good, the bad and the ugly

Jimmy Pursey photograph
(Image: © Getty Images)

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Literally anybody could be in a punk band. If you were a punk in 1977 and you weren’t in a band, you simply weren’t trying. All you needed was one mate who could hold down a barre chord and you were off. Bassists, drummers and vocalists could wing it. As soon as the Pistols demystified musicianship, everyone felt free to have a go. Within seconds of holding a bass, it became obvious that mastering its rudiments was going to be significantly easier than learning to swim. Or tying your shoelaces.

Pretty soon it seemed that everyone you knew was in a punk band. Yet to be in a convincing punk band – that is, to avoid being labelled a ‘poseur’ (the worst of all ’77’s insults), you had to have rage. Not an easy attribute to fake. You could sniff a poseur out four bars in. But as luck would have it, there was a lot of self-righteous anger about – though, it has to be said, the best of it was hoovered up by major labels and ultimately doused with handsome advances and fame. Fatal fame.

In the independent trenches, UK punk’s plucky volunteer foot soldiers mounted their own doomed assault on fame – or infamy at least – armed with little other than their ire. A significant chunk of the very best of them are curated on this four-disc collection subtitled A Story Of Independent UK Punk 1976-1979.

There’s lashings of good stuff on here, which you’ve probably already got. The Damned’s New Rose is the ultimate case in point, along with obvious selections from The Ruts, Cortinas, Rezillos, Killjoys, Alternative TV, SLF, Sham 69 and the pre-Marco Ants. Other less celebrated gems abound from Johnny Moped, The Drones, Flys, Pack and always readable sleeve-noter Kris Needs’s Vice Creems, but as John Lydon succinctly puts it: “to be a diamond in a mud-pile, first you need a mud-pile”.

There’s a veritable hillock of poseurs, charlatans and general aggregate on here to make up the numbers: Puncture, Leyton Buzzards, Fruit Eating Bears, Jerks, Pigs… They know who they are. So, in all, ATV’s a very fair overview of the independent punk era, an era characterised by anarchy, mayhem and poor quality control.

Ian Fortnam

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 20 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.