Release Date: Dec 9, 2016
Record label: Cherry Red
Genre(s): Punk, Pop/Rock, Punk/New Wave, British Punk
Forty years on from the first wave of punk, what does it mean today? While bands like Green Day have carried the three chord melody and spittle drenched snarl into stadiums all around the world, its true spirit lies in DIY enterprise where anyone can make a record if they want to. People like Stormzy telling everyone to 'Shut Up' or Skepta appearing on Christmas Day Top of the Pops dressed as a postman for starters. Modern day artful dodgers rallying against a conservative industry that would rather sink in its own pre-packaged mire than help those throwing new ideas into the mix swim.
Two days after Led Zeppelin's concert film The Song Remains the Same hit theaters, The Damned dropped U.K. punk's opening salvo with their debut single, "New Rose." The four-CD box set Action Time Vision celebrates the 40th anniversary of British punk rock with a focus on the independent punk scene over the course of 111 tracks. Early key figures such as Stiff Little Fingers, Sham 69, and The Ruts are included, as well as some who made a post-punk mark (Adam and the Ants, Joy Division).
If, like so many of us, you were a first-generation punk apostle, the passage of time saddles you with a conundrum. The distancing aspect allows you to view the all-consuming passions, pursuits and sartorial misadventures of your gobby younger self with a degree of sober objectivity; but the ticking clock has a tendency to whitewash everything in your far-off past with a levelling topcoat of nostalgia and a skein of (possibly delusional) significance. Such is just one of the dichotomies proffered by Action Time Vision, a laudably exhaustive roadmap of Britain’s viral independent punk outbreak in the closing overs of the 70s.
In the early years of the punk rock explosion of the '70s, the record industry didn't know what to make of the aggressive new sound. Punk certainly seemed like the coming thing, but no one seemed sure of how to sell music that was built around open disrespect for authority figures -- which in the eyes of the punks included the music industry. Thankfully, punk was born with a passionate desire to document itself, and if the major labels weren't going to put punk rock on records, the punks would do it themselves.
Various Artists — Action Time Vision: A Story of UK Underground Punk 1976-1979This massive, 111-track collection of late 1970s punk songs from the U.K. skips the big names — no Clash, Pistols, Buzzcocks or X-Ray Specs here — while trawling through the second tier (the Damned, Stiff Little Fingers, Sham69, Adam and the Ants) and below to great effect. A tight three-year frame of reference keeps these four discs eminently listenable as mixes, and a temporal sequencing gives you a sense for the evolution of brash two-chord punk into art punk, new wave and post-punk.
In this 40th anniversary of punk, the original ideal has been turned into a commercial commodity; Ramones t-shirts in Primark for people who don’t know who or what Sheena is, endless reissues and rehashes, punk exhibitions, and let’s not even go there about the idiotic event of Joe Corré’s burning of rare punk items, forever depriving future generations a glimpse of what life was like in 1976. Let’s put into perspective though. Punk died as soon as it crossed over.