Has it really been seven years since the publication of ‘Dear Mr. Kershaw: A Pensioner Writes’, the collection of ludicrous letters to pop stars from retired member of the public, Derek Philpott (with help from his neighbour, Wilf Turnbull)? That’s a lot of lyrical scrutiny under the bridge.

For any of you shamefully unaware of the world- and word-weary correspondence from Philpott, here’s a quick recap: curious as to why a successful Eighties pop star could find himself ‘Living In A Box’, Derek started sending letters to various denizens of the hit parade questioning the legitimacy of their lyrics. Amazingly, the pop stars started replying. In the aforementioned debut tome, luminaries as varied as Saxon, Rick Wakeman, and Toto Coelo had their work disassembled by an elderly man on a mission. So well received was that rib-tickler of a book that a second was destined to follow. ‘Dear Mr. Pop Star’, now in hardback, appeared in 2018; Derek now aided and abetted by his increasingly-cantankerous offspring, Dave. This second collection upped the ante somewhat and harboured genuine replies from the likes of Gillan, Mott The Hoople, and Tears For Fears within its hefty four-hundred pages.

The 2020 lockdowns accompanied the World turning in on itself like that monkey in Cronenberg’s version of ‘The Fly’ but, swathed in the quintessentially British way of finding humour in the harshest of climates, Derek and Dave filled their hours, not just with daytime television, but with a slew of new letters, this time focussing solely on the U.K. punk community. Cock Sparrer, GBH, Sham 69, Angelic Upstarts, Peter and the Test Tube Babies, and a gob-full more all got the D & D treatment, the letters collected into a third classic book in 2021, ‘Grammar Free In The U.K. – The Lockdown Letters’. Now, grasping technology in their arthritic hands (they’ll be texting next), Derek and Dave have only managed to get a load of those U.K. punk rockers to record their replies to the latest letters! ‘Grammar Free In The U.K. – The Audio Book’ is a wonderful companion piece to the book, the whole Philpott library to be fair, and is as brilliantly silly as hoped. The letters in audio form, quite remarkably if you’ve been with these aged anarchists long term, are often funnier now that you can hear them in fluent Philpott rather than your own boring inner narrator. And the replies, well, they really take this whole letter-writing saga to the next level. From Duncan Reid and the Big Heads to Viki Vortex and the Cumshots, via Steve Ignorant, The Vibrators, and Chelsea, the bonkers correspondence is now more crazed than even the more hopelessly hopeful could ever have yearned for. There are even a load of bonus tracks to entice you to have your auditory canals rictus-grinning: Tenpole Tudor, Bauhaus, The Piranhas, and Public Image Limited feature among these bananas bonuses. Also, as with the paperback version of ‘Grammar Free In The U.K.’, all purchases of ‘The Audio Book’ will see a portion of the profits donated to charity. Like you needed another reason to buy this.

Derek and Dave Philpott have promised to debase the annals of literary history with a fourth and final book in the near future. Personally, I hope that this pop culture dismemberment carries on forever. If, however, the Philpott legacy stops with four books on your shelf and at least one audio book in your lugholes, then I guess that’s a pretty good result.

I have to go now. Bargain Hunt’s on.

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Author: Gaz Tidey

A follow up on two successful Captain Oi! box sets by the band, ‘THE EPIC YEARS’ and ‘THE ALBUMS 1979-85’

Disc One is the band’s first-ever live album that includes Punk classics like ‘Baby Baby’, ‘Automatic Lover’ and ‘Troops Of Tomorrow’. The recordings are vibrantly captured and the band’s boundless energy is well captured. When I’m listening it dawned on me how overlooked the band’s catalogue has been in general terms. Knox and the gang wrote some really great slabs of power pop punk rock and had it down to a tee and did it better than most of that time period. None more outstanding than ‘Amphetamine Blue’ which has stood the test of time and is still a stone-cold classic.

The second disc is 1988’s ‘Recharged’ album which features the single ‘String Him Along’ that opens the album in a more countrified power-pop but the band was able to go from that to the more aggressive and choppy ‘Hey Little Doll’. ‘Go Go Go’ is pure Rock n Roll’ and indicative of the time with regards to the production. One of my favourites off the album is the acoustic ‘Every Day I Die A Little’ maybe a predictable rise and fall middle section as the drums kick in but a top track all the same. Rounded off nicely with a crowd-edited rendition of ‘Disco In Moscow’.

Disc Three is the ‘Meltdown’ album which now adds the previously non LP ‘Wasted Life’ as a bonus track. ‘Office Girls’ kicked off the album and the band had lost none of their appetites to pen spikey punchy power pop, tight verses and uplifting chorus. Again I love the balladeering on ‘So Young’ with its great saxophone break from Waterboy Anthony Thislewaite that took the Green On Red sounding track into another direction making it one hell of a song. The band mixed the songs up quite a bit on ‘Meltdown’ running through their repertoire of influences from the balladeering to the tougher punkier songs and other genres getting some oxygen which helped make The Vibrators one of the best bands to emerge out of punk and beyond.

In under twelve months the band released the follow up to ‘Meltdown’ with the fourth disc in this set 1989’s ‘Vicious Circle’ album which features the Billy Fury cover of ‘Halfway To Paradise’ single and the rare bonus B-side ‘Drive’. With a better fuller more rounded production that really suited The Vibrators songs, ‘Vicious Circle’ kept the show on the road with topical ‘Polltax Blues’ adding some grunt to proceedings and that Stooges piano tonk underpinning the rolling riff.

Whilst ‘Fire’ was still snotty having it lean on the Billy Fury cover still sounds weird such is the contrast.

The final disc is the band’s tenth album, imaginatively called ‘Volume Ten’. Opening with ‘Losing It’ is something of a classic sounding Vibrators song with a strong pop melody and chorus glued together with a sharp guitar riff that leads to a palatable chorus. ‘Hot For You’ is more uptempo and yet another example as to how good the band was even when they did a cover of ‘Rave On’ which I’m still not sure about. It’s not like they were struggling with writer’s block and could have gone with just original tunes but hey ho what do I know.

The clamshell box also has a booklet containing detailed liner notes overseen by Jon ‘Eddie’ Edwards which are pretty cool.

For a relatively cheap amount of dosh, these Vibrators box sets are a fantastic purchase and people who possibly got blown off course and missed out on these recordings now have the chance to fill those gaps with some great records. Pick one up it’s a no-brainer!

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Author: Dom Daley

In an increasingly odd year, this should come as no surprise, but I was still taken aback. After the pleasant shock of The Damned announcing dates by the original line up, I am now listening to the new album by the original line up of The Vibrators. There are those who will say “never look back”, and, usually, that’s sound advice. But, ably assisted by Chris Spedding, the band have produced a great album.

 

I admit that I haven’t followed their progress since Knox originally left, and gave them his blessing to continue. I have no feelings either way, and was a fan of his albums as Fallen Angels as much as anything. So, I’m not approaching this as a purist. But, his voice has certainly been missed.

 

The title track could indeed sit nicely on a Fallen Angels LP, with the familiar drawl in place over three chords and what I assume is Spedding’s lead work, which would compliment that of ex-Angel Andy McCoy. Like a six-string version of Suicide. ‘Jesus Stole My Little Dog’, apparently. Lyrically weird, but it works, another up tempo number.

 

‘Garbage Can’ is a close cousin of ‘Amphetamine Blue’, then lead vocals change on ‘Turn The Pages’. The countrified riff could be Neil Young, not a bad thing at all. John Ellis wrote ‘Big Black Sea’, which is in a similar vein. He also wrote ‘Platinum Dress’, with some nice slide work, and ‘Passing Of Days’ which is more brooding, in the style of ‘Working Class Hero’.

 

Good songs, but for me it’s Knox’s voice that holds it together as a band. Whether on the heady four chords of ‘Woman 3.2’ or the tender ‘Love Me Forever’, it sounds like The Vibrators. Even the cow bell on ‘Follow Your Destiny’ works. ‘Made In Heaven’ is slushy but lovely, with a great solo.

 

‘Paper Tiger’ and the riffmungous ‘This Is The Way’ are a fine way to bring it to an end. Who’d have thought it? Now, once this pandemic nonsense is under control, will they spoil us with some gigs?

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Author: Martin Chamarette

Way back in the mists of time there were records that got released that a small collection of people went absolutely nuts over much to the bemusement of the rest of the population and still to this day some bands – records are the things of legend and that first Fallen Angels album can certainly be placed into that bracket somewhere near the top if you please.  Sharing the same management and having the stars align meant Knox could have what some (me included) to have the dream team rhythm section helping knock these tunes into shape that would eventually make up The ‘Fallen Angels’ album.  It originally surfaced early 84  after being recorded late 83.  Fallout records released it The band consisted of Knox, Sami Yaffa, Razzle, Nasty Suicide Knox cousin Richard Wernham (The Motors), Michael Monroe and Andy McCoy also guested on the recordings.

The sleeve notes are the same as those used on the CD reissue in 2006 but this RSD exclusive has an extra two tracks to that CD so don’t dismiss this out of hand because those of us who know – know right? Right!

Judging by the sleeve notes it was a bit of a riot recording this and those Hanoi boys had a ball as Sami testifies but lets not gloss over their efforts here because those kids could play and whilst they did like to indulge they were also extremely talented players and Knox knew this and with the rock and roll songs he’d written they would lend themselves perfectly to each other.  From the single ‘Inner Planet Love’ to the ‘Chinese Rocks’ of ‘Rain Rain Rain’ its blistering stuff.

What’s not to love about the snotty ‘Runaround’ and the magnificent ‘Amphetamine Blue’ probably the definitive version right here edging it due to Razzles sense of rhythm and his floor tom rolls having said that how he managed it with Yaffa and Nasty trying to put him off god only knows. The album proper finished with the melancholic ‘Vipers In The Dark’ with its acoustic strum which just about wrapped up an absolute 24 carrot album from the middle of the ’80s make no mistake about that and seeing as its celebrating its 35th year this year why not bring it back for more people to enjoy.

This version pulls in the singles and B sides over the two discs and to complete the set and make this the definitive copy it also has the 12″ version of ‘Inner Planet Love’ and the 7″ version of ‘Amphetamine Blue’ oh and it does come pressed on a couple of lovely coloured records.  Make this one you head straight for on RSD on forever kick yourself its a belter! The biggest shame is the line up never got to play these songs live now that would have been something.

Author: Dom Daley

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