Black problems like frustration, depression, teenage displacement, alcoholism and and drug addiction. This is what rock and roll songs are all about. If people say that rock and roll is fun or should be fun that just makes me laugh; it shows to me a fundamental misunderstanding of what good rock music is. The Bay City Rollers are fun". — Pete Townsend, of The Who.
When punk hit England in 1976, it heralded a new era in British rock.
Not only did it put energy back into the music, and at the same time kick the hell out of the musical establishment, but it revived the political and social protests for which rock has been a mouthpiece.
The violence, the spitting, the fashions and the off-stage con troversies were all part of the "shock treatment", leapt upon by the media and exploited to the full.
A lot of those artificialities have disappeared now, and the initial euphoria surrounding the "new wave" in general, has died down a lot too.
But what's left isn't just the fragments of another passing musi cal fad. Far from it. Punk sowed the seeds for a lot of other bands, and in 1978 England is overflowing with them.
They arc young, inexperienced but dedicated rock-and-rollers. The best of them have reached star status, but most are still plodding away at the club and pub circuit. They are, for the most part, poorly managed, poorly promoted, and have limited equipment and mon ey. And their concerts are often plagued by bad sound and slipshod organisation. But what they have got in their favour is enthusiasm, constant touring and a gradual building up of support.
At a time when the "super groups" are visiting Britain less and less, the newer bands are continually on the road. This autumn only three "big names" — yes, Santana and Eric Clapton, arc visiting the country, at a time when major tours usually reach a peak.
It is not an uncommon development. In the past a lot of big groups, (Jethro Tull to name one), have abandoned England to concentrate on the American market, where they money is easier and faster, and the security greater.
So while the Americans continue to lap up the established bands, and a lot of burn-outs as well, England is producing fresh talent.
Since the early 60s the UK has consistently produced the world's best rock and roll banks. Then it was The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who, and a few years later Led Zeppelin, The Faces, Deep Purple and The Free.
And now it's acts like Elvis Costello, Ian Drury, Graham Parker, The Stranglers, The Boomtown Rats and The Tom Robinson Band. They are not supergroups but they're on the way.
Below them there's heaps of talent — Wrecklcss Eric, The Rezillos, The Police, Sham 69, The Only Ones, Siouxie and the Banshees, XTC, The Adverts, Doctor Feelgood. They're all on the road this autumn and playing major venues.
But what of the bands that started this rock revival?
Of the now defunct Sex Pistols, only singer Johnny Rotten is picking up the pieces. He's got a new band, Public Image Ltd, which arc presently putting down an album and rehearsing for a series of concerts in London at Christmas. Guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook are surviving on past glories and Sid Vicious, who never could play bass very well, is battling heroin addiction and a murder charge in New York.
The Clash, who, with the Pistols, spearheaded "political punk" in the UK, have been working on a second album for almost a year and at the same time fighting with their record company, their management and each other. The band's first album, which included tracks like "Hate and War," "White Riot," "London's Burning," and "I'm So Bored" with the USA," was huge and indications are that the second is just as good.
But whether Rotten or The Clash come back, or fall in a heap, won't make a lot of difference to the scores of others ready to take their place. It's a healthy sign.