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.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Bombsite Fanzine 2008; London Discuss 1977
Above; London Flyer included in Bombsite Fanzine issue #1 from July 1977
British punk band 'London' originally formed in 1976, their line up included Riff Regan (vocals), Steve Voice (bass/vocals), Jon Moss (drums) and Dave Wight (guitar).
London is a great story, and should never be overlooked when researching or commenting on the 1977 UK punk phenomena. True to punk rocks anarchistic style the band formed in 1976 went on a wild ride, and then split up during December 1977. They were together long enough to make an impact, and to plant the seeds for this beautiful period of creativity, so that others would benefit from the energy going forward.
The Bombsite writers reproduced copies the ad [above] retrieved from Probe records in Liverpool, and then used them to add content and more pictures to the first fanzine.
In late 1976, Riff Regan placed an advert in the back pages of Melody Maker looking for a drummer to join a newly formed punk band. Soon after with Jon Moss on board, the group started rehearsals in a small room joined to a lock-up garage just off the Kilburn High Road in London. By April 1977 they were playing live gigs regularly, and by May they had fostered a loyal fan base and launched a nationwide UK tour supporting The Stranglers. Later that summer they teamed up with 999 and played regular dates at the Nashville in Kensington and the Hope 'n' Anchor in Islington. Then during September 1977 they would perform their own national tour. Their final gig was at the Marquee Club in Wardour Street on the 8th December 1977.
Recently, I managed to catch up with Riff who had just returned from the notorious Rebellion Fest 2008 where the reformed "London" had performed a great live show.
London the early days, where would you be when the Ramone's played the Roundhouse on July 4th 1976?
I don’t honestly know except that I wasn’t at the Roundhouse watching the Ramone's, which is strange because I used to go there all the time. I remember seeing The Damned there supporting Graham Parker and the Rumour, and of course when Jon took over from Rat Scabies I saw the Damned there again. We played the Roundhouse ourselves for two shows at the end of the Stranglers tour. That was good, playing on the stage where we had watched so many of our favourite bands perform.
Did the Ramone's or any of the US scene play into your influences at the beginning?
No not really. The only similar thing between the Ramone's and London was the incredible speed we delivered our songs. We were much more into the UK music scene.
above; Clip from Soulkiss diary London & Stranglers at Wigan casino
The media and press back in the day tried to suppress the whole punk rock movement, and would try to characterize bands as something other than part of the movement, do you think that they influenced the outcome?
On a global level perhaps but not in Britain. Many UK punk bands that eventually broke around the world were accepted as mainstream rock overseas. But in the UK the whole movement was tightly tied into the music papers like the NME and Sounds, and for one glorious year in 1977, those bands went around the country spreading the word. Every night there were great gigs in every town and city. It was a very exciting period.
London toured with the Stranglers, that must have been just an energetic part of London's early career, can you describe the feeling? was the whole country alive? or was this youth movement contained in isolated pockets?
It was amazing; we had only just started gigging when Hugh and Jean-Jacques of the Stranglers offered us the support slot on their lengthy Rattus Norvegicus tour in 1977. Suddenly we were traveling the country and playing to these huge audiences. For many people we were the first punk band they had ever seen. I think real punk fans were in isolated pockets around the country just as it had been in central London during 1976/77. It didn’t matter though; you just felt you were part of an exclusive club.
Is there something you can remember from the Stranglers tour that sums up the 77 period?
The thing that sticks out in my mind was how friendly and receptive (with one or two exceptions) the audiences were. Even though the tabloid backlash against punk rock rolled out in June/July, people still came along to support their favourite bands. The other thing that stands out was that although the Stranglers were high in the charts with ‘Peaches’, they rarely played it live. We found that most odd.
I know that John Moss, London's drummer turned down the Clash open position. Were the Pistols or Clash an influence, or was there enough uniqueness to the scene where everyone was an individual, and therefore interestingly at the same level?
The Pistols and the Clash were a huge influence on all the bands at the time. We particularly liked the Clash’s first album. It was packed with great songs simply produced. We use to play it a lot in the car. When we formed London, Jon was being tried out as the drummer for the Clash. It has always amazed me that he walked out on them and joined us! I think there was some sort of chemistry clash between him and Joe. I personally feel that there was a lot of difference between the bands’ sounds at the time. The Stranglers were very different to the Pistols, XTC were very different to the Buzzcocks.
Did you know the Clash on a social level? And were you able to work together?
Didn’t really know them. Met Joe once or twice but that was about it.
London were right on the cusp and played an important part in the early Punk scene. I remember watching you guys over at Eric's on more than one occasion. We bought the single as soon as it hit our local underground record store, most likely Probe in Liverpool or Brook Street records in Chester. Do you have any memories from Eric's that could describe the gigs there? How many times did you play, and do you have the dates recorded?
Definitely remember playing Erics on the Stranglers tour. We did two gigs but I can’t remember whether they were on consecutive nights or both on the same day. Might have been both on the same day as we did quite a few dates like that on that tour in 1977. We liked Eric's a lot and found the audiences very enthusiastic and friendly. One thing that stands out in my mind was how hot it was down there though. I remember Jet Black sweating like anything when The Stranglers were on, and that was despite a huge film studio size electric fan being bought in on the side of the stage. We didn’t record any of the gigs at Erics which was a shame.
above; London 2008 Photo credit Juliet Hanlon
Your manager was Simon Napier-Bell who had previously managed the Yardbirds and Marc Bolan. Later he went on to manage Wham and George Michael. How did you first meet him? Or how did a bunch of young guns go about finding a manager with those credentials in 1977 punk London?
It was pure luck, we were playing our very first gig supporting ‘Advertising’ at the Rochester Castle pub in Stoke Newington and we were approached by someone called Danny Morgan after our set. He was Simon Napier-Bell’s talent scout and he persuaded Simon to check us out at our next gig the Roxy in Covent Garden. Simon liked what he heard and signed us a few days later. Then a few weeks later he got us a record deal with MCA records. It all happened so fast but that was the norm for that time. Simon was one of the old school rock managers and some of his ideas didn’t quite fit in with the times. He did produce a blistering album out of us though. People still come to our gigs today and say that ‘Animal Games’ is one of their favourite records.
I know that John Moss left the band in 78 to join the Damned, was the explosive scene over at that point, or had London grown tired of the exhausting pace? How did Punk rock look at this point?
We never grew tired of touring to be honest. Jon actually left ‘London’ in November 1977 but agreed to play a last gig with us at the Marquee in early December (that gig was filmed by an Italian TV company but we’ve never seen the footage). Jon had just come out of hospital following a car crash with punk comedian Johnny Rubbish when the Damned asked him to replace Rat Scabies. There was never any bad feeling between us about it. We just thought that we would carry on with a new drummer. We rehearsed a bit with John Towe, ex-Chelsea and Generation X drummer but things didn’t work out and we disbanded in February 1978 just as our album ‘Animal Games’ was released. MCA weren’t too happy about that but that’s what punk was all about. Short lived and on the edge. Although Steve and I are back on the road now with ‘London’, people forget that the original band was only together for about a year. But what a year!
The 2008 "London" line-up is Riff Regan (vocals), Steve Voice (bass/vocals), Hugh O'Donnell (guitar/vocals) and Colin Watterston (drums).
To Purchase London's Classic CD
Link to London's CD Amazon UK
Link to London's CD Amazon US