Punk And New Wave Singles – (My favourites and why)

Inspired by #Punktop16 on Twitter I’ve been minded to create my own punk and new wave favourites list which actually will be an A to Z rather than a 1 to 20 because I couldn’t rank them at all myself. In any event at the time of writing there are twenty-three but who’s counting!

So I want to write about (if I can remember) where I first heard it, where I bought the single, what I loved about it (content and structure) though most of you who know me a little will know that late seventies I was in a Surrey children’s home and my pocket money was spent almost entirely on vinyl.

The Squirrels, Banstead is now a respite centre

I know that once I got my own single room (at 12 you could, you were in a dorm that slept four before), I had a Fidelity record player but the boy next room, Anthony, he had a Dansette. He was like a teddy boy with a drape and quiff and everything and actually taught me a thing or three about rockabilly.

At the other end of the spectrum, a boy called Christopher, 14, year younger than Anthony, now he was into punk and I remember he had these red PVC trousers with zips everywhere and a fleecy kind of jumper or sweater that was leopardskin.

My bedroom walls in posters mostly had Debbie Harry and Chrissie Hynde as pin-ups. I really liked The Pretenders although they themselves don’t feature in this project.

The music came first from the radio of course. I can remember the first time I heard London Calling at the breakfast table – knew I just had to buy that single soon as I could.

But there were magazines of course and things like Melody Maker and NME, Record Mirror and Sounds where you could see the charts and learn about all this stuff going on.

GOD BLESS WILLIAM GRUNDY

And then there was the famous Bill Grundy interview on (Nationwide was it?) – “Go on then – say something outrageous” – later I even bought the Flogging A Dead Horse album though even now I still probably side with The Great Rock And Roll Swindle over Never Mind The Bollocks though, when I did the Best Debut Album bracket on Twitter, a fair few said that Bollocks was the album that changed everything.

Later I would learn that punk rock actually started years earlier, New York Dolls were unknown to me then. I would say that the earliest single I had that would fit the bill was I Need To Know by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.

All of these singles I’m about to discuss, many are household names but as it’s personal, there may be a few surprising and hopefully pleasant picks for readers.

As I said, it’s unlikely I could classify these in any particular order of merit and so in the interests of fairness, we will go through in an alphabetical line-up.

Can’t Stand Losing You – The Police
Danger Signs – Penetration
Emergency – 999
Gotta Getaway – Stiff Little Fingers
Harmony In My Head – The Buzzcocks
Hurry Up Harry – Sham 69
(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea – Elvis Costello And The Attractions
In A Rut – The Ruts
Love On The Terraces – Serious Drinking
Manny Moe And Jack – The Dickies
Mary Of The 4th Form – Boomtown Rats
Pretty Vacant – Sex Pistols
Public Image – Public Image Limited
Run Like Hell – Peter And The Test Tube Babies
Smash It Up – The Damned
Something Better Change – The Stranglers
Sound Of The Suburbs – The Members
The Greatest Cockney Rip-Off – Cockney Rejects
This Perfect Day – The Saints
Tommy Gun – The Clash
Tomorrow’s Girls – UK Subs
You Bastard – Alternative TV
You’ve Got My Number – The Undertones

THE POLICE – Can’t Stand Losing You

Released: 14 August 1978; June 1979 (re-release)

This is a fine way to start although there’s a darkness and rather a sad story attached to it.

To begin with, I do remember that this was bought for, I think, something like 32p in Woolworths in Banstead High Street and this is the one, the very same, below.

There was the out-of-chart record rack and that cover – a man dangling over a block of ice with a three-year electric fire next to it – these days we would say something like “what the actual fuck?” and ten-year-old me thought along those lines though perhaps not in quite those exact terms.

32p at the time would have got you, in a subsidised establishment like a working men’s club, a pint of Double Diamond. And one of the many benefits of researching as you write is learning – I had no idea until now that there was a Double Diamond Export.

This was an early Police single (later on I would find a copy of Fall Out) and with it’s reference to the bitterness of a break-up and thoughts of suicide, it can be heard as somewhat depressing but the cod-reggae underlay gives it a positive push I feel, one of those songs that has a bittersweet edge.

I was at an impressionable age. Back at the children’s home we learned the dad news that a resident, Geoffrey, aged 14, had thrown himself in front of a train at Brookwood station. He had run away days before. The news hit everybody hard, the children and the staff.

Because there were children there from various backgrounds, broken homes, divorce, health reasons, me with autism, it was a supportive environment that trued to be just that but there was always some kind of disturbance, to be expected with such a mix of social issues.

Of all The Police singles that I love dearly, this one had to be my choice where I’m only giving a place to one song per band and where I can, I will link a music video.

I can’t see the point in another day
When nobody listens to a word I say
You can call it lack of confidence
But to carry on living doesn’t make no sense

The timing of it all makes me think today of how ill Geoffrey must have been with thoughts similar to those lines to make him do what he did.

PENETRATION – Danger Signs

Virgin Records, 1979

I have no recollection at all of where I heard Danger Signs the first time or where I purchased the single. I hadn’t really been aware of Don’t Dictate.

Years later I would buy that Pauline Murray And The Invisible Girls album on the strength of having a 10-inch copy of Dream Sequence which I thought was amazing and played to death repeatedly.

Still, Danger Signs is to me a classic punk affair and easily grabbed a spot in this. A vinyl rip here, scratches and all – wonderful.

“Go on, go on, go on, go ON…”

999 – Emergency

Released: June, 1978

I’m back – in full atTACK!

They were great weren’t they? 999. Didn’t seem to have any longevity, they were suddenly there and then… but I learned only this morning that The Dickies are still going!

Emergency though, a fine new wave single, oh my word, yes.

Black jack wanna quack
Never get your money back
Pack attack in the back
By a bloody maniac
Better see industry
Take it fast and make it last
Go away make them pay
Never make the same mistakes
Sometimes care sometimes not
See them bleed and see them rot
I’m back in full attack
Never give in until they crack
Emer… emergency
Emer… EMERGENCY!

STIFF LITTLE FINGERS – Gotta Gettaway

Released: 27 April 1979

One of the finest moments in life was the 1987 visit to the Netherlands and south-west Germany.

I had a birthday there in Valkenburg and the morning after an evening of many litres of Dutch fuel, to clear my head I decided to go for a dip at the Polfermolen, local public pool.

Walking out into the early Sunday morning sunshine, the first song on my cassette Walkman was Bloody Sunday (Stiff Little Fingers) – enough to clear anyone’s head.

As we are cataloguing singles here, I’ve decided on Gotta Gettaway for my inclusion. It’s just as immense and I love the imagination of it all. Life really was passing me by. And still is.

You know there ain’t no street like home
To make you feel so all alone
Plenty of folk to tell you what to do
But they don’t speak the same language as you
They wanna have me here
Have me and hold me near
Hold me down fasten and tie
But the cars are all flashing me
Bright lights are passing me
I feel life passing me by

THE BUZZCOCKS – Harmony In My Head

Released: 13 July, 1979

Where do you go with Buzzcocks singles?

Their most successful, some would say although I tend to despair at the term, signature tune in Ever Fallen In Love or one of the many other superb sing-alongs; Promises, Orgasm Addict or What Do I Get? That very nearly made the cut here but I’ve gone for Harmony In My Head here. I had the blue sleeve but with Aldershot in mind perhaps I ought to have had the red too.

Whenever I’m in doubt about things I do
I listen to the high street wailing sounds in a queue
Go out for my walking sailing social news
Don’t let it get me down I’m long in the tooth
When I’m out in the open clattering shoppers around
Neon signs that take your eyes to town
Your thoughts are chosen your world is advertising now
And extravagance matters to worshipers of the pound
But it’s a harmony in my head
It’s a harmony in my head…

SHAM 69 – Hurry Up Harry

Released in October, 1978 on Polydor Records.

We can probably see this as a novelty record now or perhaps some did at the time but, coming from their second LP and in my opinion one of THE great concept albums, there’s so much going on in the narrative of That’s Life that actually, one hardly notices Harry.

My copy was merely a paper sleeve, I wasn’t aware of the picture sleeve until some while later.

And because of my location at the time, Hersham wasn’t that far away. While the band didn’t have that many singles in their discography, Hurry Up Harry is the one that stands out for me.

ELVIS COSTELLO – (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea

Released: 3 July 1978 on Radar Records.

Several different picture sleeves for this I’ve found but this was mine.

Ah, Elvis. That lip curl he did and the strange way he held the mic in those early days, remember?

Reminded me a bit of Alvin Stardust at the start of the decade.

Detectives was the first Costello song I heard on the radio but of the period, I had to choose Chelsea.

Oh, no, it does not move me
Even though I’ve seen the movie
I don’t want to check your pulse
I don’t want nobody else
I don’t want to go to Chelsea

THE RUTS – In A Rut

I can’t concentrate, I’m in a state
I don’t feel straight, I can’t love or hate
I can’t feel nothing, can’t feel no sting
Only just learning, I ain’t a king

You’re in a rut,
You gotta get out of it – out of it – out of it – out of it – out of it
You’re in a rut,
You gotta get out of it – out of it – out of it… out of it!

Ain’t no use, you ain’t that sloose
Don’t tie that noose, it’s just abuse
Don’t take that ride, it’s suicide
You cut your wrist, You tried and missed.

You’re in a rut
You gotta get out of it – out of it – out of it – out of it – out of it.
You’re in a rut,
You gotta get out of it, out of it – out of it… out of it!

I can’t concentrate, I’m in a state
I don’t feel straight, I can’t love or hate
I can’t feel nothing, can’t feel no sting
Only just learning, I ain’t a king

You’re in a rut
You gotta get out of it – out of it – out of it – out of it – out of it
You’re in a rut
You gotta get out of it – out of it – out of it – out of it… OUT OF IT!

Ain’t no use, you ain’t that sluiced
Don’t tie that noose, it’s just abuse
Don’t take that ride, it’s suicide
You cut your wrist, You tried and missed

You’re in a rut
You gotta get out of it – out of it – out of it – out of it – out of it
You’re in a rut
You gotta get out of it – out of it – out of it – out of it… OUT OF IT!

The Ruts’ first single, “In a Rut” was finally released on People Unite in January 1979, having been recorded back on 24 April 1978 at the Free Range 8-track studios. It was backed up with anti-heroin tirade “H-Eyes” on the B-side (“You’re so young, you take smack for fun/It’s gonna screw your head, you’re gonna wind up dead”). DJ John Peel expressed his admiration for the group on air (as can be heard on a retrospective 1978 radio show clip on the In a Can album) and a session for the BBC swiftly followed the same month.

Out of all those fine Ruts singles up to Staring At The Rude Boys and Jah Wars, I always return to In A Rut, it’s home for me.

SERIOUS DRINKING – Love On The Terraces

Her name was Sharon, she came from Saafend with sister Karen (a little skinhead), she liked football, she liked scooters, she liked A Certain Ratio, she liked the Cockney Rejects…

Is it me or was that just one of the cutest verses in a song I ever did hear?

It’s also one of only two songs I know that mention Southend.

And the later line – “she nabbed my programme, she broke my heart” 💖

Surely one of the great footy songs this and yet still unknown to a few.

THE DICKIES – Manny, Moe And Jack (1979)

From the sound of that car ending to the crash at the end, this is one fine auto adventure. Sure it was fun collecting all those fab singles from the yellow through to the red (Fan Mail) but it was slightly displeasing that this single came in bog-standard black. Some band though, still going today and a few great covers, notably Paranoid.

When you’re on the road
And your car wont pull that load
And your wheels aren’t feeling fine
Well I know of this joint
Where they’ll check your plugs and points
I know these guys they’re three good friends of mine
Manny Moe and Jack
They know what I’m after
Manny Moe and Jack
They know what I’m after
They’re Manny Moe and Jack
Once your inside
They wont take you for a ride
They got a good deal for you and your automobile
For the right price
They will sell you fuzzy dice
And leather hand grips for your steering wheel
If its tires you want they got a lot for you
Dunlop, firestone, Pirelli too
Manny, Moe (and Jack)
Manny, Moe (and Jack)
Manny, Moe (and Jack)
Manny, Moe (and Jack)
Manny, Moe (and Jack)
Manny, Moe (and Jack)
Manny, Moe (and Jack)
Manny, Moe (and Jack)
Manny, Moe and Jack!
They know what I’m after…

BOOMTOWN RATS – Mary Of The Fourth Form

Released: 11 November 1977

Because of Bob I guess, not everyone’s cup of tea but I thought (yes, even Rat Trap) all those early Rats singles were fantastic, especially this one. I wonder now if it was the lyrics too. 🤔

Stretchin’ out her long legs
Pullin’ up her stockings
She’s combing out her black hair
Starin’ at the teacher
Openin’ her lips wide
Shiftin’ in her seat, yeah
She slowly moves her hips aside

SEX PISTOLS – Pretty Vacant

Released: 2 July, 1977

Not much that needs to be said on this. Not quite my favourite Pistols track but my first purchase, this single and could never stop playing it.

There’s no point in asking, you’ll get no reply.

PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED – Public Image (1978)

“Its not a game of Monopoly”

This is very atmospheric I’ve always felt, like you’re travelling through a wind tunnel. Careering even. Monster tune even if I say so myself, well worthy of inclusion here.

PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES – Run Like Hell (1982)

I was down the local disco getting’ off with this girl., things were going really good, going really well.
We was alone in a corner kissing and then I heard, this bloke come up behind me and say ..
” Oi, you! – that’s my bird!

Peacehaven’s finest, Peter And The Test Tube Babies. Formed in 1978, by Derek “Strangefish” Greening and Peter Bywaters. Due to their humorous tongue-in-cheek lyrics, they have been considered part of the Punk Pathetique sub-genre. Run Like Hell may be the youngest single in this selection.

THE DAMNED – Smash It Up

Released: 12 October, 1979

You can’t have part one without part two!

It really couldn’t be any simpler.

That sublime build up, the fade out, the fade back in then… ooh-ooh SMASH IT UP!

That’s how it must be done. 👍

THE STRANGLERS – Something Better Change

Released: 22 July, 1977

Slightly more tricky choosing a Stranglers single.

There’s a Stranglers bracket right now on Twitter and I think this one’s in the last sixteen.

So why have I picked it? “Stick my fingers right up your nose” for one – a true punk sentiment. Then there’s Greenfield’s keyboards and, I’m a real fan of abrupt endings as in… CHANGE! in this instance. Walk On By and Peaches ran this one close.

THE MEMBERS – Sound Of The Suburbs (1979)

Clear vinyl for me at the time and with this of the two rather different picture sleeves.

Same old boring Sunday morning
Old man’s out washing the car
Mum’s in the kitchen cooking Sunday dinner
Her best meal, moaning while it lasts
Johnny’s upstairs in his bedroom sitting in the dark
Annoying the neighbours with his punk rock electric guitar

COCKNEY REJECTS – The Greatest Cockney Rip Off (1980)

Back in my hometown of Farnham my best friends were all West Ham fans (no idea why but there we are) so they ought to have liked Cockney Rejects but at the time The Jam were all the rage.

Still, on the wave of the coloured vinyl fad, here’s what I would have had a copy of (above).

THE SAINTS – This Perfect Day

Released: July, 1977

Has to be one of the earliest punk / new wave singles I had, impossible to leave out of a top twenty like this.

THE CLASH – Tommy Gun

Released: 24 November, 1978

This is by some distance my favourite song by The Clash but it’s all about the ending.

The lyrics and… those drums before the death – superb! 🤪

Boats an’ tanks and planes, it’s your game
Kings an’ queens an’ generals learn your name
I see all the innocents, the human sacrifice
And if death comes so cheap
Then the same goes for life!

UK SUBS – Tomorrow’s Girls (1979)

Another GEM of a band and firmly riding the coloured vinyl bandwagon, ensuring I had at least my only rose pink single in Teenage.

Tomorrow’s Girls is anthemic to me, such a simple tune, so easy on the ear but a song that will always make you remember where you were and who was around you, ergo, something special.

ALTERNATIVE TV – You Bastard (1977)

Can qualify as a B-side can’t it? 😋

The flip-over of ‘How Much Longer’, I’ve always had a fondness for this. Vinyl crackles again too, awesome…

Leave me alone, you’re wasting time
(you bastard, you’re wasting time)
Get out of the way, you’re no friend of mine
(you bastard, you’re wasting time)
My precious, precious time
Everybody’s wasting my time
My precious, precious time
You’ve never seen excitement if you know what I mean, so leave my time alone
Get out of my town, there’s no room for two
(you bastard, you’re wasting time)
Get out of my way, I don’t like you
(you bastard, you’re wasting time)
My precious, precious time
Everybody’s wasting my time
My precious, precious time
You’ve never been in rock and roll, you know what I mean
So leave my rock and roll alone
My precious, precious time
My precious, precious time
My precious, precious time

And to end this look into the beginning of my teenage years musically, we’ve the Undertones and my favourite single of theirs, You’ve Got My Number. It’s that wonderful beginning and of course that sudden ending with WHY DON’T YOU USE IT!!! that does it for me. In the meantime if you’ve taken the time to read what had taken me six hours to put together, I hope you enjoyed it and thank you sincerely.

THE UNDERTONES – You’ve Got My Number

Released: 9 October, 1979

You’ve got my number
Why don’t you use it
You know my name
You won’t abuse it
If you wanna wanna wanna wanna
Wanna have someone to talk to
I’ll pick you up
In my car
Take you home
It’s not far
If you wanna wanna wanna wanna
Wanna have someone to talk to
Do it – do it – do it – do it
Why don’t you ring my number?
Why don’t you ring my number now?
Let’s say goodbye
I couldn’t stand it
You’ve got my number
Why don’t you use it




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