Wednesday, 27 April 2016

I Thought Solihull Was For Snobs

Paul Panic I Thought Solihull Was For Snobs (2015)
I'll always have room for one more punky history book, despite having read some fairly shitty efforts over the years. This effort comes from some bloke who was singer for the Accused. You may not have heard of the Accused and I suppose they might be deemed insignificant in the great scheme of things. They failed to tickle the grown-up charts, but Peel played them, and it sounds like anyone who ever saw them live probably had a decent time, or failing that a memorable one. I myself had heard of them, although I can't quite remember where; but this looked interesting, not least because it details what was going on at the edge of my world, Shipston-on-Stour where I lived when I was growing up as the seventies turned into the eighties. I was about three years behind this lot but there's plenty of common ground.

Could have used an editor, I thought flicking through as it turned up in the mail, picking up on a certain tone and some wacky punctuation of a kind which normally gets on my tits; but it was just a fleeting impression, and is revealed as redundant by firstly the disclaimer of the book having been written in true DIY punk spirit with the author making no apologies for bad grammar, slang, self-indulgence, attitude, bad memory recall, or lack of writing skills; and secondly by the book itself. It's always a pleasure to read any history of any aspect of punk which doesn't waste either pages or brain cells on idiots like Malcolm McLaren, or banging on about Situationism or the sodding Sex Pistols boat trip or boring New York poetry circles; so this one scores highly with me because it really gets to what it was all about, right there on the shop floor with the sheer excitement of forming a band regardless of playing ability, of staying up to catch Peel, of being young and realising there's more to life than the shite Dave Lee sodding Travis was playing on the radio. In fact, this is probably one of the better books I've seen written about punk - at least up there with Stewart Home's Cranked Up Really High, and at the opposite end of the scale to the pointless photographic paving slab written by that knob from Blue Rondo a la Twat.

On a more personal note, it's also kind of thrilling to read something making intimate reference to so many parts of my own teenage landscape - Birmingham and Solihull having been the big bad city for me, Look Hear presented by a young Toyah Willcox, Coventry's Alternative Sounds fanzine, gigs at the Mermaid and Fighting Cocks, bands such as the Photos getting noticed; and there's even a couple of more direct connections - as a paper boy I used to deliver the Daily Telegraph to the home of one of the Ideal Husbands, and then I used to write to David from Urge when he moved to Holland and started recording as Scram Ju Ju, and Jesus - the fanzines I used to churn out back in the nineties were even printed at the same place that did this book. The list could go on but probably shouldn't, and doesn't really even relate to why I found this such a cracking read.

It probably doesn't matter if you weren't there, because Paul Panic was, and he communicates the whole thing as a sort of universal experience which probably wouldn't work half so well had he adopted a more formal tone. What you get has the conversational rhythm of tales related in the pub by a natural wit, so even when he wanders off on some peculiar tangent, it all seems to work and hold together. The account of stuffing forty or fifty friends, fans, and band members in the back of a tiny van and driving them down to Weymouth for a disastrous gig is probably worth the cover price alone, and should be savoured before someone turns it into a self-consciously cute film with Bandersnatch Cucumber and gets it all hopelessly wrong.

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