So what is this blog about? Well, it is not about a nostalgic reminiscing of bygone years, of “what we did when we were young” As an Ethnomusicologist I have travelled to different countries researching: stories, music/s, events, people/s, instruments, venues, histories etc. yet I have ignored my own; not just my UK culture and music, but my own life and what music/people/bands I have been involved with.
If it was just a reminisce then I would probably not begin it, but what happened between the years (1978-1989) of playing in bands in and around Carlisle/Cumbria was a social history of Carlisle and the people who lived (and died) in those years, and I think those people deserve a mention, just as much as people deserve a mention anywhere.
Carlisle is often overlooked. It is a city that is on the “Border”, and places/people on the border are often ignored and driven passed! This was certainly the case with a lot of “big” bands (then and now) who prefer to go to Newcastle or to Glasgow than come across over the Pennines, or through the remote beauty of the Scottish Lowlands, and play at the limited venues Carlisle has to offer. Carlisle hosted no real proper musical venue back then, it had a Market Hall that was transformed into a gig area, which used to host the bigger touring bands; or it had the small pubs and clubs for the small local bands.
This blog is inspired by a Carlisle musician/singer called Pod, he has an encyclopaedic memory when it comes to punk bands and it is due to conversations with Pod that I started this social history. He has given me lots of music over the years, as I was trying to fill in the gaps of “my lost years” (the years I had spent abroad learning other people’s music), and when I began to think of the bands that I had been involved with, and the bands that had influenced me, I saw it as something worth while to write about. I mean it is “our history”, not an invasion of another country or of kings and queens… and we should take ourselves seriously.
Now with the Internet a lot of punk groups can be viewed and listened too anew, bands from all over the country, but when I researched Carlisle bands I found a “gap in the market”…where were we? Again, we had been by-passed, or perhaps we had by-passed ourselves and taken ourselves not too seriously, as usual.
Pod and I intended to write a more detailed history of Carlisle Punk bands a few years ago, but the project was too big and it folded. But this is a modest project dealing with the bands I was involved with and the people I had met. But I want it to be about other Carlisle bands too, either punk bands or bands which were influenced by punk. I welcome contributions from anyone, and anyone can write to me or include comments, memories, photos etc. all is welcome; it is a work in progress…
There will be mp3 examples of some of the bands mentioned, some are recorded using the equipment of the day…cassette recorders placed beside the amps, or home demo recordings done a 4 track recorders, others are studio recordings, or live performances. The quality is just more important than the written content, as it is a “photograph” of those times, a “smell from the past…” a description of “what it was like”. People, comments and memories are just as important too; I would like to hear from people who remember gigs; the audience who saw the bands play, who still see punk bands play today. I would like to have contributions from other band members; I know a lot of bands were around then, but I have not the knowledge to write about them: who was in them? what songs they did? what gigs they played? If you write something I will find space to put it in.
Punk influences trickled though the counties of the UK until it reached Carlisle: Raffles, Currock, Harraby, Morton, Stanwix, Lowry Hill, Scotby, and other areas surrounding Carlisle; and these influences took the West Coast line to Workington, Whitehaven and onto the West coast of Cumbria. Also north over the border into Southern Scotland: Annan, Dumfries, Palnackie etc. These musical influences formed people into bands and these local bands naturally wanted to play. This localized Punk movement created a positive energy, which changed, for a time, the musical landscape of the Borders.
This is not about the beginnings of Punk, some of the bands mentioned maybe not be classed as punk, but the spirit of punk was certainly inside of these bands. All of them came from nowhere, went somewhere and returned to nowhere… and that’s the way it was, and that is the way it was all over Cumbria and the UK. The music was supported by venues, and the managers, who owned those venues…a silent community which is often overlooked. Landlords and club bosses giving these bands a try…
This could be the story of Punk in the late 70s/80s, like elsewhere in the UK, Punk released a wave of influences ranging from literature, music, artwork, and philosophies…which are still alive today. I welcome your memories.