Monday, March 20, 2006

That 'true punk spirit'

Jim Kerr once said Johnny & The Self Abusers were merely a human jukebox, using other act's material to land gigs. One can only wonder what song from their tiny clutch of covers they were performing when the sparse crowd at Glasgow's Saints and Sinners finally went nutters. "Blitzkrieg Bop" by The Ramones? How about "Waiting" by Doctors Of Madness? (Or was it Eno's "Baby On Fire?" Yeah, we didn't think so either.)

The ruckus caused at the St. Vincent Street pub in February of 1977 was one of the seminal, early moments in Scottish punk. Sure, it wasn't on par with Bill Grundy's sit-down chit-chat with The Sex Pistols, but it did help shape the fledgling movement and serve as a herald to listeners all over the U.K. that Scotland would soon be a player (albeit, a small one) in the punk scene.

Following the gig (only the band's second) -- which either descended into some pint-glass-smashing and furniture-breaking, or a full-blown riot; depends on what one reads -- punk bands were banned outright from Saints and Sinners. It was no shock, really, based on the city government's feelings at the time. Thanks in part to hellfire-and-brimstone philippics from the pulpits that were the daily tabloids, the ultra-conservative Glasgow District Council had essentially made the city a no-go zone for U.K. punk acts. (By many accounts, the first English punk band to perform in the city was The Damned, who played in March of 1977 in support of T-Rex.)

Eight months later, Johnny & The Abusers released a song dedicated to the infamous events of that gig. And on the day of the single's release, the six-piece band from Toryglen -- in a move that certainly had the hipsters drooling and citing the act's "true punk spirit" -- called it quits.

(Side note: As many already know, several members of the group went on to form Simple Minds. In 2005, that act returned for a show at Saints and Sinners, which is now called King Tut's.)

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Saints And Sinners" by Johnny & The Self Abusers.