About punk music in Wales - part one

Crowd at a punk concert. Photo: James McLaren

The real beauty of punk rock, from its inception onwards, was its ability to inspire groups and sub-groups of kids to coalesce into scenes across Britain. Wales was no exception, writes Noel Gardner.

Manics Street Preachers, The Alarm and Lostprophets, three of the most iconic bands ever to come from Wales, all have palpable punk rock roots.

While punk has been thriving in Wales since the 70s, often it's merely a case of bands who happen to be geographically and chronologically connected. Simon Phillips, promoter of the Cheap Sweaty Fun nights in Newport's TJ's venue, sums it up: "My attitude to it all is, the whole time we've been doing it there's always been good bands. There's been times when there's more of them, but if they're not slapping you in the face you've got to go and dig harder."

Manics Street Preachers, The Alarm and Lostprophets, three of the most iconic bands ever to come from Wales, all have palpable punk rock roots.

The early MSPs' flagrant Clash apery and self-released debut single Suicide Alley affords them plenty of punk points. The latter two bands formed from the ashes of, respectively, Seventeen (Jam-type mod bounciness) and Public Disturbance (brutal Victory Records-loving hardcore) which if nothing else indicates how far the umbrella of punk rock stretches.

The 'birth' of punk, around 1976-77, was represented in South Wales by bands including Tax Exiles (who played The Roxy, London's first live punk rock venue), Llygod Ffyrnig (their NCB single was the first Welsh punk record), The Tunnelrunners, Victimise and the Screen Gemz. None of these released more than a couple of singles, but have dripped through the filter of history in the process. More active were Cardigan's Ail Symudiad, new wavers Y Trwynau Coch from the Swansea valley, and the aforementioned Seventeen.

Ail Symudiad
Ail Symudiad

One of the most knowledgable South Wales punk people you'll meet is Welly Artcore. Frontman of Cardiff hardcore outfit Four Letter Word, he's been immersed in the culture for a good 20 years. He mentions names from the early 80s like anarcho punkers Icons Of Filth, the recently-reformed No Choice, and "bands like The Living Legends, who released a single, The Pope Is A Dope, for the Papal vist. They tried to play it live on the day in Llandaff fields but were arrested."

The Living Legends were founded by infamous anarchist Ian Bone, at the time a mature student in Swansea, and who later went on to found the magazine Class War.

After this, two main names stand out in South Wales. The Partisans and The Oppressed were from Bridgend and Cardiff respectively; both started gigging in the early 1980s shortly before releasing debut singles and both have, over the years, cemented reputations on a worldwide scale. Fervently anti-fascist skinhead streetpunks The Oppressed have thrived thanks to the bizarrely popular global Oi! movement. The Partisans still play occasionally today at beery punk-nostalgia fest Holidays In The Sun.

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