punkdaddy reviews Alex Ogg's
No More Heroes
published 2006 by Cherry Red Books Price £17.99
"We were punk when you were spunk" The Pork Dukes
This is just one of many amusing quotes and anecdotes to be found in Alex Ogg's exhaustive reference work, No More Heroes, A Complete History of UK Punk From 1976-80. This is a comprehensive A to Z of punk bands from all over the UK that stretches to well over 700 pages.
This was the way it was back then: "from Cardiff to Caithness, from Portrush to Plymouth, bands promoted their own gigs, designed their own artwork and organised their own pressing and distribution."
The book kicks off with two forewords, one from David Marx of the Aggravators and another from dear old Captain Sensible, full of his usual wit, wisdom and blah.
No More Heroes must have been a massive undertaking and Alex has certainly done his research. With over 200 interviews conducted with band members and friends, much of it is in the artists' own words and makes for compelling reading. Each band has it's own full discography and there's plenty of photographs, many of them never previously published.
As well as very detailed accounts of the usual suspects, The Pistols, Clash, Stranglers, Damned etc., there's excellent coverage of Brighton's bands from the era, featuring 19 in all, from Attrix through to Wrist Action. That represents a massive contribution from Brighton.
But I found the omission of Peter & The Test Tube Babies a bit mistifying, considering they were arguably one of the only truly punk bands to emerge from the town and are still going strong to this day.
I did mention this to Alex, who explained that P&TTTB had been well covered in another recently published book on punk, Ian Glasper's Burning Britain (A History of UK Punk 1980-84).
In his introduction, Alex sums up the problems encountered dealing with so much information: "In the end I found myself with far too much material, comfortably more than double what you will read here, and the editing process was sadly very harsh. In being forced to curtail the length of the project, I have abandoned any claims to equivalence or balance, and simply gone with the most interesting stories and the freshest insights that I could find."
The resullt is a really good read and there are some names that I'd never heard of or forgotten the first time around: The Scrotum Poles, Anal Fleas, Ed Banger and the Nosebleeds, the Vertical Strokers...the list goes on.
The entries for the well known bands, like the Clash, are quite intimate and in-depth but are written with a tongue-in-cheek approach that is in keeping with the spirit of the times. Apart from page length, no band is treated more favourably than any other and it's mostly a warts-and-all portrayal, very down to earth and honest.
Take this piece on the death of Joe Strummer in 2002: "...the canonisation of Saint Joe continues apace, much of it a little icky. It's all very well the likes of Bono paying tribute, but when Elton John starts talking about the 'huge importance' of your work in Interview magazine, sorry, but having the Pinner pianist wank on your bones means you're in deep do-do. Joe Strummer as the Lady Di of punk? Poor bugger doesn't need that..."
No More Heroes is the kind of book that will keep you occupied for weeks. Alex Ogg (and the publishers Cherry Red) should be congratulated on a monumental effort that is worth every penny.