77 Sulphate Strip

When I was young my parents paid the subscription on a comic or weekly publication.  For a long time it was Scorcher, later Scorcher and Score (wiki) before being incorporated into Tiger.  A weekly dose of Scorcher Comicsfootball comic strips and articles on football related matters and trivia.  I still have the 1974 Scorcher Annual – that was part of the deal with my parents, you got an annual as well.  Before Scorcher whatever comic I had featured the war and other things, Scorcher was new and just featured football.  That’s why the war seemed real to me as it featured everywhere, in family conversations, on TV, in comics etc.  But that’s an item for another occasion.  I also wonder if many people subscribe to something printed and have the joy of the new issue arriving, but that too is for another time.(Hat Tip Ardis Books for the picture of Scorcher.)

After 1974 I started getting interested in music as well, first Elton John and then I moved onto Free (wiki) and I became teenage boy about them, wanting to know all about them and have all their records.  Then 1976 and punk happened.  I still liked Free although I didn’t talk about it.  Elton John having been jetisoned for being an old fart – being so young things were so black and white then.  I was 13 when on 1st December 1976 the Sex Pistols and members of the Bromley Contingent swore on the Thames Television Today programme and were all over the newspapers I was delivering the next day. (Listen to it here)  Fast, short music you didn’t need a degree in music to appreciate plus rudeness, chaos and anger, as a 14 year old boy I was smitten.  The football comic had to go.

There were three music papers at that time, Melody Maker who disliked punk, ignored it, and wanted the World to go back to how it was before, eg where they published 16 pages of nonsense on Afficher l'image en taille réellesome musician from a ‘supergroup’ who had written a prog opera about elves, wizards and witches.(yeah not bitches)  They thought they were the paper for real musicians not these punk upstarts.  New Musical Express (NME) were more at the forefront of publicising what was happening and would become my read of choice when I became responsible for the decisions about what to buy.  Then there was Record Mirror who published the charts and were more poppy (See the copy with the ABBA cover) and it determined was the safe one for me to read.  A journalist at Record Mirror at the time was Barry Cain, who I do not remember but then I do not remember any other of the journalists at the paper at that time.  He has pulled together interviews, reviews and articles from Record Mirror for the year of 1977 and published them as a book giving a month by month record of what happened together with, it being from Record Mirror, the single and album chart for each month.

The first thing that strikes you about 77 Sulphate Strip is how few of the bands who are talked about in the interviews and reviews feature in the charts.  They are solidly disco and the prog nonsense we wanted to see the end of.  It was also interesting that while in the recent books about the NME writers from the time, they talked about their housing problems the Record Mirror journalist spent the whole time living with his parents and returning to them.  It was interesting to have the ‘backstory’ filled in with how the author got interested in music and got to be a journalist, as well as the stories of excess on record company junkets abroad as well as what happened when they went to elsewhere in the UK.  It was a great read to remember what happened, to identify significant events that passed by a callow 14 year old youth living in a village outside a small town but excited by what was happening, and just to read the good writing of the author.  I’ve read other recent books about people who worked in the music industry at the time and they’re much more about how important they were in everything that happened, whereas here, possibly as a result of the form – a collection of pieces written at the time with filling in around them – this seems so much more genuine and believable.  I also very much liked the subsequent interviews, with three of the main people featured in the earlier interviews, done 30 years later asking them about their view in hindsight about the times but also questioning them about their views on what they said at the time.  All in all a great read about a year which as the strapline says, changed everything, well for me at least.  in the meantime, enjoy:

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One Response to “77 Sulphate Strip”

  1. Coincidence or what – you decide « The Flashing Blade Says:

    […] of the books I bought was 77 Sulphate Strip reviewed by me here, and the second one I’ve read that I bought on that trip was ‘sonically speaking mc5 a […]

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