The Singles Collection 1978 1981
When the history of British punk and new wave was written, for some unfathomable reason, certain bands have been almost completely overlooked. Most people, including those with little or no interest in this genre, will have heard of the Sex Pistols, Clash, Damned, Stranglers and Buzzcocks. However, they would have little knowledge of the second wave of bands that sprang up in their wake.
It could be argued that they had as equally profound effect on teenagers' lives, as these mostly regional bands (Stiff Little Fingers, Angelic Upstarts, Outcasts, Cortinas, Members, Oppressed, Victimize, Leyton Buzzards, Rudy etc etc) carried on the passion of the movement well after the London punk elite had signed to major labels. Its therefore nice to see that Captain Oi records have released a well deserved anthology for one of the most influential and successful of their number, Dunfermlines finest the SKIDS.
Founded in 1977 by Stuart Adamson (guitars/backing vocals) they originally boasted William Simpson (bass guitar / backing vocals), Thomas Kellichan (drums) and a distinctive vocalist in Richard Jobson. Within six months they had issued debut release "Charles" which brought them to the attention of John Peel who gave their careers well deserved impetuous. Ultimately this resulted in them gaining a local support slot for the Clash and they impressed enough to warrant Virgin Records signing them up in April 1978.
They had a changing line up of members, but always retained the core of Adamson/Jobson. So when Kellichan left the band, he was temporarily replaced on drums by Rusty Egan. Egan had previously played with the Rich Kids (the band Glen Matlock started after leaving the Sex Pistols) and would later go on to have a hand in starting the New Romantic movement. Later Mike Baillie took over drumming duties, whilst Alistair Moore was drafted in on keyboards.
The band was not without a certain amount of controversy, especially the release of second album Days in Europa. Originally the album cover bore more than a passing resemblance to pre WW2 German propaganda poster, with an athletic Olympian and Germanic gothic-style lettering. However, it was quickly withdrawn and as the band were never accused of any right wing leanings, it is more likely that the image was in just an ill conceived artistic statement.
As with the similarly excellent UK Subs singles collection (also on Captain Oi), it seems pointless to trawl through every one of the Skids 33 tracks on the album. However, I will highlight half a dozen that, for one reason or another, are my personal favourites:
Probably now considered to be their most famous song, although when
initially released in October 1978 it only made # 48 in the charts.
A unique piano based opening, which was unheard of at the time for a
punk band, preceded the full might of the band kicking in to give its
Famously the song was later covered in 2006, by the combined might of Green Day and U2, to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina. Interestingly U2's The Edge delivered the eulogy at Adamson's funeral in 2001.
INTO THE VALLEY:
The first single I bought by the band, it came in rather startling white vinyl. Awarded single of the week in Sounds music paper on its release in February 1979, it is a corker of a number with a brilliant bass line intro. Unfortunately due to Richards Jobson heavy accent it was years before I had any idea what they were singing about. However, in retrospect it shows the wordsmithery of Jobson and Adamson at their finest, with few punk singles at the time containing anything like the deep lyrics of first verse and chorus:
Into the valley, betrothed and divine,
Ahoy, ahoy. Land, sea and sky.
It managed a very healthy top ten position and spent 11 weeks jostling for chart supremacy along with the likes of true rock legends like The Village People, Cliff Richard and Boney M. It also contained a live b-side that eulogised Coronation Streets grumpy old git Albert Tatlock, a character I am empathising with more and more every passing year.
Another single of the week, this time in Record Mirror, it was initially issued as a double gatefold 4 track. Even punk journalist par excellence Jon Savage (author of seminal punk history Englands Dreaming) was moved to write The title track is another exuberant chant, enhanced by some judicious trickery. Wise words indeed.
For me it was a prime example of Adamsons unique guitar style which was partly based on his hero, Bill Nelson of Be Bop Deluxe. He would utilise it further in his later band Big County that would garner him even greater commercial success. A great writer and guitarist, that passed too early in life and is still sadly missed.
It reached a respectable 31 on the charts during a six week sojourn on the charts. This really a hidden gem by the band, and a number that still conjures images for me of Richard Jobson cavorting like a man with St Vitas dance:
WORKING FOR THE YANKEE DOLLAR:
Jobsons lack of diction made this song a perennial favourite on the lyrics round of Never Mind the Buzzcocks. However, that doesnt make it any less of a cracking song.
Once again the band showed a depth to their lyrics that at the time only perhaps the Clash could get near. For the record what he is actually saying is:
Saw Vietnam as a partisan and wished Id never
Incredibly this seemingly anti war song spent nearly three months in the charts. The NME neatly summed it up by championing a rousing anti war tirade with all the Skids customary trademarks from terrace chants to Stuart Adamsons highly individual approach to his guitar.
The only time I saw the Skids live was on the tour to publicize the album Absolute Game, from which this was the lead single. I remember vividly that Jobson wore a cricketing sweater and Oxford bags, which seemed diametrically opposed to the look of leather jacket and boots that was fast becoming the standard uniform for all punk bands. He danced like a dervish all night and the band seemed to be going from strength to strength. However within a year Baillie and Adamson would leave (the latter to form Big Country) and after one final LP the band would dissolve in 1982.
In December 2001 Stuart Adamson took his own life, a musical genius that was never truly given full recognition. It seems even more poignant that I received a copy of this album a day before another young man passed on by his own hand. Admittedly from a different field, but still equally as shocking and heartbreaking to his friends and family.
Stuart Adamson and Gary Speed, you went too early my friends.
Rest in Peace.