ALBUM REVIEW: 1977 – The Year Punk Broke (Cherry Red Records)

The 1977 – The Year Punk Broke boxset (Cherry Red Records).

Punk’s year zero, when it exploded onto the unsuspecting British public, was 1976, but only a handful of records were released that year, with the first, the Damned’s New Rose, not released until late October.

So it followed that 1977 would be the year that punk really began to take off on, as a largely DIY network of clubs, artists, fanzines, labels and distributors joined an indie revolution which would have a lasting effect on pop culture.

A tidal wave of new, young bands burst forth with three-minute adrenalin rushes of raw excitement, anger and energy, even if, in some cases, they had limited technical ability.

Here, over the course of 3 CDs, Cherry Red, the masters of such compilations, bring together most of the main movers and shakers, as well as some of the bands whose star rose briefly, and then fizzled out or disappeared as quickly as it had arrived.

So while there’s no Sex Pistols or Clash (pretty standard for a punk comp, as their labels keep tight control over their legacy), many of the year’s major breakthrough acts and cult favourites are included.

Thus we have tracks by many of the new bands, including The Jam, The Damned, The Boomtown Rats, Buzzcocks, The Stranglers, Generation X, Sham 69, The Only Ones, The Rezillos, Ultravox! (sounding a lot like Roxy Music!), 999, X-Ray Spex, ATV, The Boys and The Vibrators.

The older guard – the pub rockers, centred around London, who jumped aboard the punk bandwagon – are represented by the more technically-proficient likes of Eddie & The Hot Rods, Graham Parker & The Rumour and The Count Bishops.

Other key names include Motorhead (Lemmy’s metal band, much-loved by punks) and former New York Doll Johnny Thunders’ band The Heartbreakers, who recorded in London.

Although you’ll hear plenty of familiar songs (eg TRB’s 2-4-6-8 Motorway, Slaughter & The Dogs’ Where Have All The Boot Boys Gone), there’s plenty here which will be new to you, unless you have a very deep knowledge of ’77 punk indeed.

Who remembers Regulations by Neon Hearts, which features sax alongside Buzzcocks-like guitar, Development Corporations by The Now, or Art Attacks’ Arabs In ‘Arrods? No, me neither.

They’re just an example of the many gems you’ll find in this set, which promises to be the first in a series of year-based compilations by the label that does this sort of thing best.

If you enjoyed previous Cherry Red boxsets, such as 2016’s 4-CD compilation Action Time Vision 1976-1979, documenting punk on indie labels, and the power pop/new wave set Harmony In My Head (2017), you’ll find plenty to enjoy here. 8/10.

Gary Welford owner