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   Inside Out - North East: Monday September 18, 2006

Confessions of a punk rocker

Arturo Bassick
Arturo Bassick - still rocking with the best

Arturo Bassick from The Lurkers and 999 was one of the well known faces of the punk era.

The Lurkers got started in 1976 and are still going strong today.

Arturo now lives in the North East which he describes as "the punk rock capital of the World".

Thirty years ago punk was starting to change British music forever, kicking out the old and bringing in the new.

But in the 1970s it took awhile for punk to catch on in the North East, being an outpost away from the main scenes in London and Manchester.

Once it did take off, the North East produced a multitude of punk styles from the working class aggression of The Angelic Upstarts to the angry but melodic punk of Pauline Murray's Penetration from County Durham.

Arturo Bassick presents an Inside Out special on North East punk, looking back at some of the bands who were punk rebels in the 1970s, and meets up with them nearly 30 years on.

In this exclusive web interview Arturo remembers what it was like to be a punk in the late 1970s.

Inside Out's Sue Wilkinson asks the questions:

Arturo in the late 1970s
Arturo Bassick getting those teenage kicks in 1977

What was it like gigging at the height of the punk era?

Well, early times were all a big adventure - we were very naive and signed rubbish deals with record companies, agents etc - and got ripped off.

But we had loads of fun playing towns and cities which we'd hardly heard of, meeting new people and making our amateurish noise in far flung places such as the Isle of Arran, Accrington, Plymouth etc, playing for the princely sum of £50 a night.

It was great!

Who were your favourite punk bands back then and did you get to meet any of them?

Sex Pistols
Early Sex Pistols - ever felt you've been cheated?

The Ramones, The Gorillas, Wire, Johnny Moped, The Stranglers - I met them all as I was one of the first fans of many of them.

Except for The Ramones, it was easy to approach bands when they were starting out.

Most were good blokes but the odd one was an A hole but that's just folk in general isn't it?

What was the craziest or funniest thing that happened to you during the punk years?

Meeting Sting at the Marquee Club in London in '77 and thinking he was called Stink.

"The songs were short, sharp and energetic. The bands were sticking two fingers up at the establishment - it was an exciting time."
Arturo Bassick

I remember asking if I could borrow his bass and him flipping out coz I got his name wrong, getting all precious about it.

I just laughed and he got madder, but fair play to him, he lent me it anyway.

They were a really small band at that time before they had Andy Summers in the group or any hit records.

Looking back, do you think punk was as ground breaking as rock critics claim?

Modern punk c/o PA
Punk has never gone out of fashion. Photo - PA Images.

It was more ground breaking than most people realise.

The effect that it's had in all aspects of the media is easy to see if you know the roots of where it came from, be it art, TV, styles of dress, attitude...

Today punk's influence is massively far reaching.

Was punk a great rock'roll swindle or was it the real thing?

There were some who were a huge con trick and some were very well intentioned, as in all movements.

The charlatans are always gonna be there.

The Lurkers - Fact File

Formed in London in mid 1976.

Developed their own brand of punk encompassing subjects such as social unacceptability and personal politics.

Inspired by American groups such as the Ramones and the New York Dolls, the British beat boom of the 1960s and glam rockers Slade and Sweet.

Signed to Beggar's Banquet and had five top 40 hits between 1977 and 1979.

Appeared on Top of the Pops and were regulars on the John Peel Show.

Called it a day in 1980 but two years later got back together to record for Mike Stone's Clay label due to a resurgence of interest in their music.

Singer Mark Fincham ran off to work the drag clubs of Berlin in 1984 and the band folded.

Bassist Arturo Bassick revived the band in 1987 after a chance meeting with German punk band Die Toten Hosen, who were huge fans. Die Toten Hosen financed the comeback album, 'Wild Times Again'.

The current Lurkers line up is Arturo Bassick (bass and vocals), Nellie (drums) and Dave Kemp (guitar).

What do think punk's legacy has been to the musicians of today?

That you don't have to be a virtuoso to play in a band...

And that if you get stuck in and don't take no for an answer, you can express yourself and have a voice.

What do you think of today's bands who carry the punk banner?

Well, Green Day have been around a long time - about 18 years, I think.

But music is always being recycled.

It's incredibly hard to be totally original really.

In a lot of ways it's the same thing but with different faces for a new generation.

Do you think it's a bit sad that some of the old bands have reformed all these years later?

No, I don't think so if they really enjoy it and can make a few bob entertaining people and can play it with spirit.

As long as they are not back thinking that they are some sort of long lost genius gods - that's where there's a problem.

It's better than tribute bands cluttering up stages pretending to be someone they're not.

What are up to these days? Are you still gigging?

Yes!

"Thirty years on, punk is everywhere - it's so much part of our culture that you can't even see it anymore."
Arturo Bassick

All the time in The Lurkers and 999, and doing my own solo punktry and western gigs

What do you think of the North East and Cumbrian local music scene today?

There are some great bands from the area - Crashed Out, Holy Racket, Barse, Loudmouth, Sancho Grey, City Kids, Distortion.

I love the scene and long may it continue.

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Cemetery
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In an increasingly secular world where customer choice rules, there are emerging bizarre and exotic ways to remember our deceased friends and relatives.

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