Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sham! Sham Sham! - A review of sorts

I wish I had more time because I could spend ages telling you about this but I'll (try to) keep it short...I saw Sham 69 play t'other night at the Brudenell Social Club (supported by Chelsea btw who I think I last saw supporting the Adverts in Lincoln in 1978 though I could be wrong).  And Sham 69 were really good!  They're one of the original punk bands that seem the most difficult to understand.  The most likely reaction to a mention of their name in the modern world will be 'weren't they awful?' or 'were they skinheads'? or 'didn't they have Fascists at their gigs'?   Well the answers are sort of, not really and yes, they did but they didn't like it.  And they did write Hersham Boys and Hurry Up Harry!  And no, I still don't know where Hersham is.

I've got the first 2 Sham albums, I bought the second one when it first came out (!) and well...there are some truly awful lyrics going on and some comic Cockney fake 'family dramas' between tracks.  BUT...they were a tight band with a great guitar sound and a kind of no-nonsense integrity that was a necessary counter (in my opinion) to the artsy dress designery Roxy / Bowie wing of punk rock (great though that was too).  And there's some humour going on too (Sunday Morning Nightmare as a riposte to Saturday Night Fever being one of my favourites that they didn't play).

Moving on...to quote a couple of lines from 'Angels with Dirty Faces'..."We're the people you don't wanna know, we come from places you don't wanna go".  My question is how many bands have there been with some genuine working class anger and an exciting way of expressing it that made them massively popular?  'Borstal Breakout' may be a bit dumb and romanticizes the rebel / unjustly accused and all that - but it's still a great punk rock song.  Considering their age they still look good and Jimmy Pursey is still a great front man too.  By the way, along with the few early 80s type punks in the audience there were loads of aging thick necks and bald (previously shaven) heads I'd have been rightly scared of back in the day.  They did have some scary followers way back when.  A lot of lads with no 'o' levels who generally no-one sings about or stands up for.  Fights, flirting with the far right and lads from Grimsby putting on fake Cockney accents (this really did happen!) - and a frontman telling them how wrong they were (the far right thing and the fighting, not the accents)from the stage.

I'd also like to mention 'If the Kids are United'.  Thing is that at the time you could walk down the street as a little punk rocker (as I was) and be faced with aggressive (aging) teddy boys, mods (the revival ones), skinheads, greasers, bikers, mofos (almost the same thing) casuals and massive hostility from casually racist, sexist small town idiots with air horns on their Ford Cortinas (or Capris for the flash ones).  There were loads of youth groups who really did not like each other and it was a bit dangerous out on the street. So when someone said 'this is stupid why are we fighting each other, if we could get together we could really achieve something' it really meant something.  To me at least.  I stood next to skinheads at Sham gigs and didn't get beaten up!   The song and its sentiment fitted with Rock Against Racism and gay rights and feminism and all that stuff that was in the air - whatever the exact intention.  It meant something to me at the time and it still does.

So...there are lots of legitimte criticisms of Sham 69.  Shouty, not clever, some horrible simplistic naive and whiney lyrics - BUT...a great tight live band with lots of energy, more sing along tunes than you'd think was possible and a definite major place in the story of punk rock which too often gets reduced to the Clash and the Pistols....

Sham 69 turned up to Cleethorpes Winter Gardens on more than one occasion and I still have my half ticket from the last time I saw them there.  They're a part of my life and despite reservations about re-formed bands and nostalgia I'd like to tip the hat and say 'thanks, lads'...

All together - Sham! Sham! Sham!

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