As punk’s year zero proclamations dissolved into scenes of snarling bigotry, hypocritical u-turns and speed-addled stupidity a few bands started to surface with a wider musical vision than punk’s reductionist three chord rock. These artists would later become known as Post-Punk, but at the time this progression seemed like the natural thing to do.
In many ways punk’s music failed in delivering on the punk manifesto. Where punk art, literature, publishing, poetry, fashion design, and so on, grasped at the creative freedom created by the removal of all boundaries in an attempt to articulate the shock of the new, punk’s music just hurtled back to British R&B and rock and roll. Its so-called nihilistic destruction of all things musical was simply a nurturing of the past. Not in a post-modern ironic way either, this nostalgia was a fully fleshed embrace of the music mummy and daddy had loved in their youth… But with a mouth full of phlegm.
The delivery was everything in Punk Rock. Jonny Rotten’s whine and poses helped lift the Sex Pistols out of pub rock territory; Strummer, Jones and Simonon understood the power of graphic design and stencilled opposition in their quest to give The Clash something extra.
Little surprise then that the image would soon take over as 1979 emerged aspirations formed around a misreading of Warhol’s oft-used claim that everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. This era was more exclusive though… our version read, ‘anyone who can get into one of London’s futurist/new romantic clubs and with access to a lot of make up will be famous for 15minutes’.
So this was the era and ethos of the Decadent 30s. A band I put together around a few friends, but with the post punk, new romantic dream in my head. I used to bunk school and head to London to go to Billy’s, Blitz and Hell (those exclusive clubs) and then catch the milk train home for school in the morning. With my floppy fringe, Bowie bags and box-cut jackets I thought I looked the part. My girlfriend of the time did a great line in Victorian mourning clothes, complete with a crow in her hair. We were every inch the cool kids on the block.
With the exception of bassist Steve’s androgynous looks, the band had a different style agenda though. Guitarist Mick was a bit of a hippy hangover; Chris and Mike (guitar/sax) were like mad-scientists; Grant (drums) looked like a trainspotter; and Alan’s combination of bleached mullet and casual loafers gave him the look of a wannabe soul boy. It wasn’t a good look for a band in those image-obsessed times.
But I looked good. The epitome of capital city cool. In with the in-crowd and sashaying my way to fame. I was Davids Bowie and Sylvian merged into one fantastic whole.
Then one evening I met Boy George and Marilyn. They looked at me in my finery, laughed and called me a “country bumpkin”, which I was really. A lad from Marlow-on-Thames with a little toe dipped into the London scene, but decidedly provincial in every way. Not unlike the one single the band produced. ‘III Songs’ was a mish-mash of ideas that was devoid of cool but with a little-toe dipped into the scene.
In my mind we were Japan meets Talking Heads, jamming with A Certain Ratio. The reality was a lot more… provincial. But what could I have expected? We were a bunch of mates whose influences ranged from Van der Graff Generator to Henry Cow. And the songs were produced by Wild Willy Barrett!
Not exactly the cutting edge of high-rolling People’s Palace new romantic chic.
The Decadent 30’s III Songs