ALBUM REVIEW: 1978 – The Year the UK Turned Day-Glo (Cherry Red Records)

After last year’s 3CD set 1977: The Year Punk Broke, which examined the UK’s punk explosion in microscopic detail, here we have the eagerly-awaited follow-up.

The format remains the same; three discs full of hits, near misses and no-hopers who were happy just to have grasped the DIY ethos of punk as the original wave of bands inspired hundreds more, spread across a dazzling array of sub-genres.

Household names like The Jam, The Stranglers, Skids, Stiff Little Fingers and The Cure rub shoulders with fledgling groups who barely progressed beyond their own bedrooms, but still managed to embrace punk’s DIY message by releasing a record.

The set kicks off with Sham 69’s bootboy stomper Borstal Breakout and follows with The Stranglers’ 5 Minutes and 999’s Emergency. It’s a good start, and gets better. Disc one also has The Vibrators’ Automatic Lover, The Outcasts’ You’re A Disease, The Boomtown Rats’ She’s So Modern, The Only Ones’ timeless Another Girl, Another Planet, and the eponymous Jilted John single which blared from youth clubs and fairgrounds all over the country

There’s also obscure gems like Bad In Bed by the Electric Chairs, Stella’s Got A Fella, from the one and only release by Social Security, and Glandular Angela from The Exits’ super-rare Yodelling EP.

Did I mention groups on the verge of greatness?: how about a punky Concrete Jungle by the Coventry Automatics (shortly to become The Specials), and Oh! Didn’t I Say, the B-side of the first single by Tubeway Army, who would hit the No 1 spot with Are ‘Friends’ Electric?, before singer Gary Numan went solo and became even more famous.

With the country then on the verge of a Mod revival, inspired by The Jam, it’s interesting to note two songs by The Who covered here; The Kids Are Alright by Surrey power-pop outfit The Pleasers, and I’m A Boy by under-rated York punks Cyanide – and this is the year before the film Quadrophenia came out!

Disc two starts with The Day The World Turned Day-Glo, the X-Ray Spex single whose paraphrased title gives the set its name, plus the excellent Up Against The Wall by the Tom Robinson Band, and The Lurkers’ biggest hit Ain’t Got A Clue. And who’d have guessed when they heard Live In A Car, the first single by UK Subs, that they’d still be with us 42 years later, and still led by the irrepressible Charlie Harper?

1978 was just two weeks old when the Sex Pistols, who’d kick-started the whole UK punk movement, went their separate ways. But its members had enjoyed a taste of fame and weren’t done by a long chalk. Singer Johnny Rotten reverted to Lydon and formed Public Image Ltd, whose self-titled debut single kicks off disc three.

Meanwhile, bassist Glen Matlock, sacked to make way for Sid Vicious, had formed new wave band Rich Kids, represented here by the highly enjoyable title track of their underperforming album Ghosts Of Princes In Towers. One of his bandmates, Midge Ure, would go on to enjoy rather more success with first Visage and then Ultravox.

Johnny Thunders, from US proto-punks New York Dolls, relocated to London, which gives us an excuse to enjoy his single You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory (later covered by Guns ‘N’ Roses), while you’ll find Scritti Politti before Green Gartside became a bona fide pop star

Other curios include former Nosebleeds singer Ed Banger with Kinnel Tommy, The Rowdies with the police-baiting A.C.A.B., plus lots more bands whose names would be forgotten forever if it wasn’t for compilations like this (The Bozos, The Parrots, The Stoat and No Sweat).

There are some glaring omissions, presuming for licensing reasons; there’s nothing by The Clash, Buzzcocks, or Siouxsie And The Banshees, whose Hong Kong Garden was one of the year’s outstanding debut 7”s. There’s plenty to keep you interested though, with 79 tracks spread over three discs, plus a 48-page booklet.

It’s another essential purchase for anyone with even a passing interest in the British music scene of the late 1970s. Roll on 1979! 8/10.

Gary Welford
gary.ipamusic@gmail.com
ipamusic.co.uk owner