God save the scene: The 40th anniversary of punk

God save the scene: The 40th anniversary of punk

The Buzzcocks / Credit: Ian Brook

Punk turns 40 this year, so Fiona Shepherd examines the genre's Scottish history

The very idea of celebrating the 40th anniversary of punk would probably be anathema to the coterie of dead end kids who first ripped up the rockist rule book and puked all over it back in 1976. Nostalgia – as well as musos, flares, exclusivity and the establishment – was the enemy.

Back then, they were not to know – or care – that that initial short, sharp, seemingly incontinent explosion of rage and disgust would produce a music, style and ethos as durable as it was potent. Some of those dead end kids built careers and even fortunes on the notion of ‘no future’. Some of them grew up to play the annual Scotland Calling festival of punk nostalgia.

London, the ground zero for the UK iteration of punk, is well stuck into its year-long punk birthday party. The 100 Club has already marked the occasion, the British Library archive turned out its pockets in May and the Museum of London will shortly unveil its punk display, while the Rough Trade record shop will celebrate its own 40th birthday and role as chief disseminator of dissent and dissonance later in the year.

In Scotland, specific celebrations are less conspicuous, unless you count the latest welcome visits from PIL and Television, and annual forays from The Buzzcocks and The Damned in the autumn. But you could argue that the flourishing independent music scenes in Glasgow and Edinburgh are an ongoing celebration of the DIY ethos which took hold forty years ago and has yet to loose its grip.

And for that, we can probably credit The Clash’s White Riot tour date at the Edinburgh Playhouse on 7 May 1977, where callow punk fans Edwyn Collins, James Kirk and Alan Horne, among other future luminaries of Scottish pop, were in thrall to bottom-of-the-bill Subway Sect and The Slits, the former for their music and style, the latter for their attitude. Orange Juice and Postcard Records were duly born – with no thanks to Glasgow City Council who had taken the decision to ban punk music from the city’s pubs and clubs following a rowdy Stranglers gig at the City Halls.

A few brave outposts – the Mars Bar, the Doune Castle in Shawlands – flouted the ban but punk’s growth in Glasgow was stunted by the move, forcing fans to head beyond the city limits to such iniquitous dens as Paisley’s Bungalow Bar and Silver Thread Hotel.

As a result, Glasgow failed to produce any punk bands of note – although Johnny & the Self-Abusers did not too badly once they regrouped as Simple Minds. The east coast punk acts fared better, welcomed into the bosom of Nicky Tams on Victoria Street. The Rezillos, The Exploited and The Skids each fashioned their own spin on punk, and all made it on to Top Of The Pops, rebelling against the “no-sellout” strictures of the more fundamentalist punks. All three bands have since reformed – or never split up in the first place. Because punx not dead, right?


Punk veterans who can still pull off those frustrated teenage sentiments and shine with 'Ever Fallen in Love?'.

The Forum, Hatfield

Sat 26 May

Times to be confirmed / £40 / 01707 285008

Komedia, Bath

Fri 4 May

£25.30 / 0845 293 8480

Tramshed, Cardiff

Fri 27 Apr


Also at:

The Damned

The punk legends, fronted by Dave Vanian, zip through their pithy catalogue.

O2 Guildhall Southampton

Wed 22 Aug

Prices to be confirmed / 023 8063 2601

With Slim Jim Phantom.

The Picturedrome, Holmfirth

Thu 23 Aug

£26.95 / 01484 689759

Pyramid & Parr Hall, Warrington

Fri 24 Aug

£26.95 / 01925 442345

Scotland Calling

One day punk festival featuring Buzzcocks, Cockney Rejects, Angelic Upstarts, UK Subs, GBH, Ruts DC, Subhumans and Dirt Box Disco.

O2 ABC, Glasgow

Sat 28 Apr

£29.70–£33.50 / 0141 332 2232

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