Teenage Punk Rockers

This site explores the punk culture as it was in 1977 England. We were teenage punk rockers that wrote a fanzine and formed a garage band.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bombsite Fanzine 2009; The Skunks Exclusive

The UK's love of expression and freedom to innovate, has helped them produce many unique rockers. The Skunks could be characterized this way. They were part of the original core of 77 rockers that carved out a recipe for British punk music. Nobody will argue about that. With a distinguished bass line that fueled a more complex mix The Skunks have their own punk sound and their compositions are still refreshing today.
Recently performing live, the band still has what it takes to give the nostalgic a reminder of how it was "back in the day". Plus, there will be plenty of youngsters discovering how techno dance rap has submerged our music into a lost haze of overlaying and sampling.

Above; Bombsite has The Skunks playing at Liverpool Polytech on October 7th 1977 supporting the Buzzcocks. We are fairly certain the Skunk photos were taken on that evening. Confirmed date here; 20thcpunkarchives/oct/id24

Gerry : Yes Martin, we played Liverpool, wow even then, I'd read the books of Paul, George and I could relate to all of their beginnings as similar to our own. And actually we had a lot in common with the Beatles as it turned out. Their experiences in Berlin in the early sixties seemed very similar to the kind of lives we were living on the road at the time.
Martin; Whilst touring outside of London did you perform at Manchester's Electric Circus or Eric's club in Liverpool?
Gerry: The Skunks toured with Gen x, UK Subs, Wayne County, Killjoys, Spitfire Boys, XTC, and others too numerous to mention. we used to bump in to loads of touring musicians at the motorway service stations at the time, and would catch up on all the gossip and action, there were no mobile phones at the time, so a lot of things were really word of mouth. Bands then were
not famous as such so there was a bond between us all in a way. I remember Liverpool Poly very well, it was probably our first real gig. We just got up, plugged in and did our set. The audience were fantastic that night, and I think we were all highly nervous and charged for the performance, but then that became the norm for our performances throughout that time ( one of the things that the WHO picked up later in the year when we were spotted by them playing at the Vortex Club supporting Generation X ) Our singer at Liverpool Colin Ward was great as usual he for me epitomised the real Punk Rock at the time, for us it was the gateway in to live music and the opportunity to experiment with recording for the first time. Colin exemplified the youth that was frustrated and angry with the society of the time, despite working occasionally as a builder and his young age, he already had a young family and felt that music and songs were a perfect way to vent his anger. I took over on lead vocals when Colin left the band.
We supported The Buzzcocks at Manchester Free Trade Hall it was a Radio Manchester do, there must have been 5000 people in the place the night we played.
I thought The Buzzcocks were good and the locals loved them I think at the time there was piece in Sounds about Pete Shelley buying his first Council house( Sounds 1977 ).Well the first thing is we loved the Spitfire Boys. I think wed met them before the Manchester gig, possibly earlier in the year at The Roxy, Convent Garden. They were a great bunch with no pretensions', and were very good live ! I think we lost touch with them later in our career.
The other thing I would say of the time, was that people from the audience would offer to put the band up when no accommodation was arranged in advance ( which was nearly always ! ), that gives you an idea of some the character of the people.
Frank: I remember doing Eric's Club mainly because of a conversation I had after the show with Jean Jacques Burnel. He came down after the Stranglers had played in the town, along with members of the notorious gang that followed them at the time. His hand was all cut up where he'd just knocked out an over keen fan that tried grab his mic stand. He caught the end of our show and was very complimentary. I found out that we had a lot in common at the time!
Martin; Can you describe the different flavour of Liverpool verses the Manchester [or North] scene during the 77 period? The energy, the support bands, the fans etc.
A: Frank: I just remember this insatiable appetite and inquisitiveness for more that was much more intense in the North. I wouldn't say the South audiences were "blasé" but it seemed that the South had easier access to all the main bands at the time. This was London, because you only had to go just outside London, areas like Milton Keynes and Watford on the M1 corridor to see the difference. This could be why Liverpool and Manchester became such powerhouses of creativity in there own right. It seemed that the Manchester scene was more energetic, more audience and band connection than in Liverpool. That's not to take anything away from Liverpool, we loved playing there and always looked forward to it and it's just a subtle difference.
Martin; You are regarded as a London punk band, did you get to play with the Pistols or the Clash during the old Roxy, Vortex days?
A: Frank. No, we didn't play with the Pistols or the Clash, but filled in for them and often met them on the London club scene. The Pistols pulled out of a gig at "Knickers" in Keighley . We were in the middle of a tour of the North and we had a night off so we did it. Obviously we were a bit apprehensive 'cos these people had paid money for the Pistols and were gonna get the Skunks, but it turned out to be one of the best gigs we had ever done. Supporting us that night was a young very talented John Cooper Clarke.
The owner of the club was so relieved that he tipped a bag of flour over my head whilst playing our third encore ! We also covered for the Clash when they pulled out of Birmingham University , not so friendly this time ! A group of hairy, tanked up, greaser bikers infiltrated the crowd and started heckling aggressively. They were upset 'cos they'd paid to see the Clash and were not prepared to listen to us. Big mistake came when Gerry started heckling back.. We just managed to escape with a few cuts n' bruises, but fuck me it was close !!
Martin; Bombsite fanzine photographed you playing live in Liverpool during 1977. At that gig you were supporting the Buzzcocks. Can you remember any interesting events that occurred at that concert? Or maybe another Buzzcocks event?
A: Frank: I just remember how friendly, warm and welcoming it all was. Not much gobbing !
The Buzzcocks were a great band to support. They never did that old trick of keeping the PA volume down and jacking it up when they came on.
Martin; Tony Wilson was an integral part of developing the early scene around Manchester. Did he play any role at your Manchester events?
Frank: Not to my knowledge.
Gerry: I think Tony may have compared the Free Trade Hall show, I'm afraid we never met him but obviously we were aware of Joy Division, and to this day Love Will Tear Us Apart is my favourite song. My other regret is not getting to meet up with Paula Yates !!
Martin; It is interesting that you brought up the Spitfire Boys. They have almost been lost from the Liverpool radar. But, during the day they were an energetic punk band and way ahead of other Liverpool bands. Their single British Refugee is a classic 77 punk gem. And singer Paul Rutherford would go on to become a crucial part of British pop culture with Frankie Goes to
Hollywood. Do you have another Skunks Spitfire Boys incident or memory?
Gerry: We knew the Spitfire Boys pretty well, they were around the same age, and we had a lot in common, what with starting out at about the same time. We cant remember when we first bumped in to them, may have been one of the Northern shows, I know they played Manchester Free Trade Hall on the same bill as The Buzzcocks and us. Think we spent a lot of time just generally fooling around !! We kind of lost touch when we went back South and they were based up North. I remember their music though, it was really high energy with some great songs. I didn't realize Paul went on to Frankie's though! Seem to remember playing on the same bill as them possibly with the Killjoys. The Killjoys had a lovely looking bass player who we all fancied!
Martin; From the more up market Sloane Square, to the council estate district called World's End a visit to the Kings Road in the late 70's was a journey towards self expression. For the punks who colonized it in 1976, there was revolution in the air, and the hot weather that year helped, too. Were the Skunks drawn to the Kings Road clubs, pubs and record stores? Do you remember the Man in the Moon where so many punks got started?
Frank: Being only 14 in '76 and having grown up in Clapham, The Kings Road was a whole new area to explore. Colin Ward, our first singer when the band was called Dole Q, enticed me down there the first time, 'cos he was part of the "arranged" Punk 'n Teds fight. I have to say, although I liked a scrap in those days, it just did not feel right.
We had our musical and fashion differences, and I liked there stuff, so why were we fighting?
I later went on to write a song called "Backstreet Fighting" which was influenced by this and all the troubles in Brixton with the line "It's not ourselves we oughta fight " Over the years we spent more time in Kings Road. Saturday was the big day for groups of punks hanging around outside shops like "Boy". That summer of '76 was amazing. You could sense the whole movement taking pace and it was great to be on the "inside" of it.
We always started at the Sloane Square end, where the 137 bus stopped and would make a beeline for Malcolm McLaren's shop SEX, renamed Seditinaries and later BOY. We then wondered up to Worlds End and things would just develop. Some of the best days and nights happened where nothing was planned or structured, you never knew where or who you would end with! I can't remember if we ever played The Man In The Moon?
Gerry - Yeah the Kings Road on a Saturday was a laugh. Imagine all the Sloane Ranger debutantes in their Barbour jackets and Wellingtons, mixed in with the squaddies based in the Army barracks stationed nearby, then you had us lot all punked up, and then the obligatory Teddy Boys who would come down to see what was going on!, and the poor ordinary residents out doing their shopping! I suppose it made for a pretty intimidating atmosphere, but somehow every one put up with everyone else I bought some nice shirts in the Boy shop ( think it was pretty expensive though ! )
I think I remember nearly getting caught spraying the SKUNKS !! graffiti over there back in the day! What we wouldn't do for some free publicity ! In fact the graffiti on London bridges, and even outside the Roxy stayed there for years ! I think a lot of Joe public from that time remember us purely because of the graffiti they would drive past every day!
Martin; On Tuesday June 7th 1977, the high day of Queens Jubilee celebrations, the Sex Pistols attempted to interrupt the Jubilee festivities by playing live from a boat on the River Thames. The long holiday weekend started on Friday June 3rd, The Bombsite Boys hitched down to London. Can you remember what the Skunks were doing? [I see you played Brighton on Sat]
Gerry: Think we might have gone over to the Nashville rooms. We never did get to play the Brighton gig as Hugh Ashton our bass player broke his finger when we were moving our equipment in to the venue. Some great parties over there though. The clubs always seemed to be in really small places like the basements of some of the houses near the sea front.
Martin; The Skunks were seen as having a young Who sound, and as I remember, The Skunks were somewhat linked between punk and the 77 mod movement. As young guns were you inspired by The Who's music? Did your meeting and further partnership with them change your focus away from Punk and more toward the Mod revivalist scene?
Frank: Briefly maybe, but we were just developing as musicians and Gerry started playing a synth. It was just a natural progression. You learn't a few more chords and wanted to use them.
We never wanted to say "hey look how clever we are,'cos your all playing with three major chords and we can throw in an augmented 9th!" It was more just enjoying being a bit more "musically challenged "without trying to recreate the likes of Emerson Lake and Palmer!
If anything, we moved towards a punk version of the new romantics. We were started hanging out with Steve Strange at "The Blitz" and he and Rusty Egan tried to poach us from our management. Steve's parties were the stuff of legend!!
Gerry - Yeah I'd agree, Pete always liked the music we produced, and it gave us the opportunity to play and record at Maison Rouge Studios in Battersea, and Pete's Eel Pie Island set up. Plus we had some decent amps and guitars for a change, so if anything they helped us to develop our sound even more. Had some funny experiences where we met Genesis in the bar at Maison Rouge, and over drinks we helped them with the design of one of the album covers ( it was a jigsaw on the floor ), but they still went on to use it! Seem to remember Elkie Brooks popped in once to say hello, that was a funny meet ! On the sound, I think its fair to say that as we had been going to the Marquee most Saturdays pre 77 , we heard Baba O Reilly, and Teenage Wasteland quite a few times . I don't think we intentionally modeled our music on the Who, it just happened that we sounded very much like them when ( especially when we played live ! )
Martin; I read that Alex Harvey was with Pete Townsend at a gig during 1977. The Alex Harvey band was part of the earlier pub rock scene, and would have an influence on the later scene. Did the Skunks get to meet Alex Harvey on that evening?
Frank: Alex Harvey was with Keith Moon and Pete Townsend the first night we met them when we supported Generation X at The Vortex. Had a piss next to him and could not help look over the pissoir, .Yep, I saw Alex Harvey's cock!
Gerry - I don't think either of them were at the Twickenham gig. I borrowed Petes 1952 Fender Telecaster for that show, and unfortunately busted the neck, when I missed the down stroke of the closing chord of the closing number! I had some explaining to do when I had to give it back the following Monday in pieces ! He was great about it , to be honest, even though it cost 2k to put it back together ! Still I must be the only musician / guitarist that can boast that I have smashed up one of Pete Towsends guitars!!!
On our My space site, there are pics from the gig, and also a record book from one of the audience who scored it a measly 4 out of 10, I didn't think we played all that bad!!
Martin; Do the Skunks plan to play live in the future?
Frank: We have been invited to play at Rebellion next year, and a massive gig in Poland this coming August. Yes, and we played Bar 12 back in June 08, with Lloyd Grossman and Eddie Ten
Pole amongst others. (Camera phone videos of the show are also available on the Skunks site : skunksukofficial )
I think everyone who was there that night would say it was a fantastic night. And really reminded me of what it was like to see and hear what we would have sounded like in the Skunks heyday , we haven't changed that much. Still as mad as ever, although Id like to think we have improved musically !
We probably won't go full time touring, but you might see us pop up here and there, as occasional support. Gig details will be on the My Space site. skunksukofficial
Good from the Bad
Back Street Fighting
Above were released on Eel Pie Island Records, only 2000 were printed and its now a collectors item

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