Reviews Zone

The Vibrators:The Epic Years 1976-1978 * 4CD Box Set (Anagram Records) 31st March

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)




Back in 1978 and the final days of the punk era, I was just starting out as a music journalist and photographer, and having been spat upon and verbally and physically abused once too often, just for having a camera around my neck and a press pass, I eventually refused to cover any more punk gigs.

But I did get to see, hear and photograph most of the major punk bands of that time. I still have many of the photographs I took back then. Two bands that slipped by me and I would have liked to have seen were The Pistols and this lot, The Vibrators.

Some detest punk and bang on about “they cannot play, they cannot sing and it is just bloody noise.” Not me. I like it. Well, most of it. It wasn’t just about the music though, was it? It was a movement. A rising up of disaffected ‘yoof’. What I focus on is what is at the very core of that music; the power, the attitude and the energy.

The Vibrators harnessed all three to become one of the bigger bands of the genre, and to land a major record label deal. They appeared on top TV shows like The Old Grey Whistle Test and were a favourite of Radio 1 DJ John Peel. They supported Johnny Rotten and the Pistols at the 100 Club in 1976, and at the Paradiso in Amsterdam for two nights at the beginning of January 1977, with the Heartbreakers on the same bill. They appeared at the famous New York club CBGBs.

The Vibrators were founded by Ian ‘Knox‘ Carnochan, bassist Pat Collier, guitarist John Ellis and drummer John ‘Eddie’ Edwards. They first came to public notice at the 100 Club in London’s Oxford Street, when they backed Chris Spedding in 1976. On Spedding’s recommendation, Mickie Most signed them to his label RAK Records. Most produced their first single, “We Vibrate”. The band also backed Spedding on his single, “Pogo Dancing”.

The Vibrators recorded sessions for John Peel at BBC Radio 1 in October 1976, June 1977 and February 1978. They were one of the pioneering punk bands that played at London’s Roxy Club. They headlined in January 1977, supported by The Drones, and in February they played twice at the venue. In March of 1977 the band supported Iggy Pop on his British tour. Later that year they backed Mott the Hoople’s former front-man Ian Hunter. The Northern Irish band Stiff Little Fingers took their name from a Vibrators’ song on the debut album “Pure Mania.”  

To celebrate The Vibrators 40th Anniversary (which was actually last year 2016, according to my memory), Anagram Records release a cracking 4CD box set of the punk legends’ material. 70 tracks including all of the bands recordings for Epic Records between 1976 and 1978.

Disc one is the debut “Pure Mania” classic which reached number 49 in the UK chart, and it includes the seminal “Baby Baby” single. Disc two is the “V2” album which charted at # 33 in 1978 and includes the hit singles “Automatic Lover” which made the Top 40 in the chart at number 35, and “Judy Says” which peaked at # 70. The third disc airs three sessions recorded for the legendary John Peel show on BBC Radio 1, and the four tracks the band performed on the “Old Grey Whistle Test” TV show.

The fourth disc offers up the band “In Concert” from London’s famed Marquee, in the summer of `77 at the height of the punk explosion. This disc gives us the full 19 track, raw, mixing desk version of the show, which is infinitely better than the over-dubbed truncated version that came out in 1992.

Record Collector magazine’s Shane Baldwin penned the sleeve notes, with contributions from the band. The booklet features pictures of all of their releases from the period. This set is a ‘must have’ for punk fans and for those of us who were around back then, and may not have been major league punk enthusiasts at the time, but can still appreciate how important that era was as part of music history. It also serves to pose the question; where the hell have the last four decades gone?  

The current version of the band regularly tour the UK and Europe, and features one original member, drummer John “Eddie” Edwards.



By Simon Redley


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