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Krautrock and Punk

Krautrock and Punk do not seem the obvious bedfellows, and when I do my research into punk in Carlisle this musical collaboration in the 80s are not obvious. The books that are out now delving into the early days of punk do not quote Krautrock as being one of the main influences in the UK in the 1970s; they often quote it as being home-grown, and dealing with social issues of the time; or the influences from across the Atlantic from the USA. Whether this is a social/political interpretation of today is another story, but I feel there is enough evidence to say that Krautrock influenced the early (London) punks from 1976 and therefore elsewhere in the UK including Carlisle.

How much of those German bands influenced local bands in and around Carlisle is perhaps not so evident compared to the rock guitar bands from London, but if we listen to Cumbrian bands like “The Dead” and “Kirsty and the Husbands”, we see evidence of the use of synthesizers or electronic keyboards, and there is at least a slight chain-of-events that can be traced back to European Krautrock from the 1975 or earlier.

My mate Fib has just played me Neu’s CD from 1975, especially the track “Hero” which has vocals that sound just like Johnny Rotten’s vocals on the early Sex Pistols tracks such as “I did You No Wrong”, The Bollocks album, as well as “No fun” his style is the style not so distant from Neu’s Hero’s track, in fact I had to give myself a nip to tell myself this was not Rotten singing. It has been documented in books that Lydon did listen to Neu and therefore Krautrock before he joined the Pistols, and it is clear (at least to me) that he used their style of singing in his own band.

Also if punk was influenced by the Pub-rock scene in and around London before 1976 then it is no stretch of the imagination to see the influence of the small local bands that were in contact with musicians; who came across from the continent via the underground music scene of the squats and communes, that were springing up in Germany and England. Feminism, Communism, Anarchism all belonged to some underground squat in the 1970s. And it is safe to say that those underground movements had its fair share of music connected to them.

Joe Strummer came from a diplomat family background therefore was involved within a political environment, and had lived in Europe; he must have known something about these German bands as he lived in London squats and toured the pub-rock venues in the mid 1970s. The Stranglers use of electric keyboards and long solos had a more European/Krautrock sound than most bands around at that time, as well as a French bass player who had his own musical European influences. One of the early gigs of the Pistols was in Paris, organized by McLaren who had been influenced by the student underground protests from the late 60s and the German underground scene was influenced by the French student protests.

The political underground theories of the 1970s were rife in “Commune 1 and 2” in Germany and experimental/rebellious music came directly from these communes. These German Communes had a political as well as a social element to them and they had contacts with the UK squats and communes. These influences came into London and influenced the squatters that eventually became the “Angry Brigade” a British equivalent of the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany. Music, politics and squatting went hand in hand.

The punk rock groups that came from the squats, pub rock scene and underground movements such as The Clash must have had some knowledge of what was going on in Germany at the time, and perhaps it is why one of the early tours of The Clash’s was in Germany. As they knew there was an audience that were politically sympathetic to what The clash were singing about.

What came after the 1st wave of punk is quite evident as Krautrock influenced the early bands that we know of The New Romantics and these British musicians who were listening to Krautrock in the early 70s used electronic music in the 80s.

Of course it is easier and cheaper to pick up an electric guitar in 1976 than it was to obtain a synthesizer! The rock scene at the time: the 3 minute song, 3 chord trick, lent itself to a rock and roll format, much more than to an experimental 8 minute piece of sounds and electrical frequencies of Krautrock; after all punk was against Prog-rock, even though most of the bands came from some sort of art school.

My point is to suggest that Krautrock had an influence on the early bands of punk that has not been propagated and perhaps should be looked at to give credit where credit is due.

Anarchist Jacket

I had a black and white copy of the The Sex Pistols File:

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And in this one source of information available at the time on the group, there was a photo of the Anarchist shirt made by Vivienne Westwood and worn by Steve Jones.

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This shirt was amazing, and I decided to create my own. By using a workers jacket from my dad’s work place I started to add slogans and patches, which ment something to me at that time.

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My Anarchist Jacket

The jacket was cheap cotton, that the drivers of a local agricultural firm, used to deliver oil to the farmers. My dad got one for free. There was no lining, it was a basic single layer cotton jacket. It was not supposed to be fashionable or artistic, I did not take  a lot of time to “design” anything. The zips I bought at the local market or what were lying around the house, the studs were bought at the local market and  were more worn in leather jackets than soft cotton.

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Backside of Jacket

The back of the jacket was painted with emulsion, no fancy fabric paint ! The badges were bought from our local White Elephant shop, which I used to frequently go when I was walking the streets of Carlisle in the week days.

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Hidden Messages

The back of the jacket originally had text, and underneath the 3 diamond sign, there can still be seen the lyric/slogan from The Angelic Upstarts song, “Police Killed Liddle Towers“. I probably thought this too much of a target for our local police, who would not take it too kindly, so I painted over the text (but still faintly seen today) and painted the 3 diamond sign, as seen on the front of The Clash’s 2nd Song Bookclash-b-2

Also, on the back of the jacket (but also painted over) was text from the verse of the Sham 69’s song “Questions and Answers“. The text reads “As soon as we are born we are told what to say and do”. This was painted out and the name of my band at the time, “Frenzy” (see the page in this blog).

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Frenzy

I used to cut the stencil out from newspaper and spray-can over it… D.I.Y.

On the back of the jacket there was a badge with an inverted royal crest. In those days, if you turned a symbol upside down, it meant you were against it… I then sew the words “Freedom” above the crest… “Freedom from the royal family”.

The same idea was used for the nazi emblems. nazi  badges was turned upside down and sewn onto my sleeve. In the 1980s the national front was popular and by wearing such things it left you open to attacks, I was anti-fascist and I wrote about such topics in my songs.

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Independent British State

As The Sex Pistols had created an Anarchy shirt, I decided to put my political ideals onto this jacket. “I.B.S.” stood for the title of one of my songs (Independent British State) and below that “Federalism”. Through these 2 statements I tried to convey my wish for a break-up of the UK, into smaller, more ungovernable, counties. The same way the U.S.A. had federal states where laws for each state had precedence over another law in a different State, yet still have a loose federal law. I.B.S. was the equivalent. To break up the UK, not only in having a separate Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales; but dividing counties within those countries, and giving more control to the local governments and to the people within those counties. 

“Pravda” was one of the first songs I had written, it was a Russian word meaning “Truth”. The content of the song was similar to the Sex Pistols “Anarchy in the UK”.

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Red Army Faction / Rock Against Racism

The “RAF” symbol did not mean I was a supporter of the Royal Air Force ! but I wore it as it had the initials “R.A.F.” which meant “Red Army Faction” a political activist organization, and which was supported by Joe Strummer in the film Rude Boy. It also meant the musical/political movement “Rock Against Racism” which was popular in the 1980s to counter-react the growing right-wing elements in pop music.

The front of the jacket had “Rebel Red” again mimicking a Clash slogan and the 5 pointed Star, mimicking the symbols the anti-nazi internees were forced to wear in the ghettos (Jews, Homosexuals, Gypsies, Communists, Anarchists etc), I got this idea from the 1st Clash song book.

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R.A.F.

On the shoulder there was a R.A.F. regiment badge, symbolizing the dual meaning. There used to be a piece of text, written onto a square piece of cloth and was safety-pinned on to the shoulder. The text was taken from a few quotes of the Anarchist Mickael Bakuinin’s writing. 

This jacket if I remember correctly, was only worn twice. The first time it was worn to a gig at Carlisle’s Market Hall to see a punk band, possibly The Angelic Upstarts or Stiff Little Fingers, I can not really remember. The 2nd time was on a saturday afternoon: punks used to meet in the center of Carlisle and generally hang about. I remember having Bakuinin’s text pinned to my shoulder and people trying to read it… ! The afternoon past off ok, until it was time to walk home. A friend and I were walking past the cathedral and then we heard a voice behind us saying “you are running, aren’t you punks?” glancing behind we saw 2 Heavy Metal bikers coming after us, we did not hang around but ran for it. The problem was we had to run passed The Boardroom Pub which was the hangout for the biker gangs and Heavy Metal music lovers. As I mentioned above, these writings and slogans on ones jacket had reactions in the 1980s, it was a spark, and thats all was needed.

Back then a bike gang member had the “right” to go up to another Heavy Metal follower and demand his “cut-off” (his denim jacket), well they did not get mine !

The Wishing Chair

Nick Scott – vocals / guitar
Dunoe – vocals
Liz – bass
Simon Blackshaw – Drums

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I knew of the Wishing Chair when I was around in Carlisle, but it was towards the end of my time there, and I can not say I had seen them live, but of course you knew they were giging a lot. Skog was my old pal from the early punk days, but the Wishing Chair was not punk in that sense, they have evolved from it, they had been in a lot of other bands before that. I knew Duno as a Mod, at first, i think he was still at school. He was heavily into the Jam and the Who and so was I.

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The best thing to do is to let them tell about the band in their own words:

Nick Scott writes, “Years ago I used to play in a band called The Wishing Chair, which was composed of Dunoe on vocals, and my ex-wife Liz on bass and Simon Blackshaw on Drums ….it was a very self cathartic experience……Dunoe was my bessie mate for a long time….we had grown up together…, wrote songs together, and shared the same wife, albeit not at the same time….it broke my heart when I found out he was sharing the same bed as me with Liz…..through my Dad and Mum’s guidance I realized it was ok to still love and feel no jealousy…so what did we do ??? we formed a band together to help heal the wounds…..the songs originally were about what was going on in our lives, and were not ashamed to feel these feelings…because of these feelings, we wrote some awesome songs….and feel very lucky that it has shaped the person that I am today….there were times when I felt bitter blows by Dunoe’s words, and it’s very much taken from his side, and if I had my take on it, it would have been a different story…the only thing I could add was the music. but I think we added to each others emotions well. even today is difficult, don’t know why, but it is….our lives are intertwined on many levels still today, ….but today I feel happy that we shared these experiences together..I would like to think I have grown by my experience doing this and for my future in Love & Life…..long live the Wishing Chair”

The article below is taken from Cloudberry Records. It is an interview with Nick Scott concerning The Wishing Chair and bands in Carlisle.

“20 recorded songs but no releases. How did you end up recording so many songs and not putting them out on a record?

i suppose we were developing our sound and never thought about putting them out as singles or a cd.

++ How many demos were released? Do you remember the tracklist of them?

We released 3 demo’s with hand felt-tipped covers and envelopes, which was a great job !

Demo 1
1) Randall and Hopkirk (deceased)
2) Three White Leopards
3) Cattleline
4) Hide the Clock

Demo 2
1) Cloak and Dagger
2) The Magic Faraway Tree
3) Amateur Dramatics
4) The Wishing Chair

Demo 3
1) Climb
2) Painted They Stare
3) Claiming Islands
4) Soap Sculptures.

++ How did The Wishing Chair came together? Was the Carlisle music scene small? Did the name The Wishing Chair come from Enid Blyton’s books?

We had all been friends for a long time, and had been in a band six years previously together called ‘Long Street’. Stephen and I were school friends and had been in a band together at school called ‘Jamswamp’ after school we worked together delivering beds and furniture and had a love of music and Carlisle United, we met Liz when we were thirteen through a friend and great inspiration at the time called Steve Harkins who was singer/songwriter.simon was alot younger than us but fit in really well, and we knew him from various bands around town. At the time there was a very healthy mix of bands, who were all very supportive of each other, The Twiggs, who were my favourites, Cosmic Cat, the E-Springs, The Cat in the Hat, The Mighty Helmets, April Sunshine, Red Mullet, 10 Gladioli. The name certainly did come from Enid Blyton, A world of make believe, but with both dark and light story lines The sense of escape, adventure and realising true and full potential are laced throughout each song and each song was like a short story with characters entering, telling their tale then disappearing off…to I know not where

++ Speaking about children books, which are your favourite 5?

– Lion the witch and the wardrobe (there’s a theme here isn’t there, of magical lands)
– Lord of the rings (as a series of books)
– The Wishing Chair (of course)
– The magic faraway tree
– The Shoot football annual of 1975 (as Carlisle United were featured in it as they were in the top big las league then)

++ What were your first dreams and intentions with the band? Did you have any particular style or band you wanted to sound like or was it mainly about getting together and having a good time while playing?

Getting together, having a good time and blending everything we’d ever heard into our own sound was how we sailed all the songs were drawn from emotion and real life and fantasy

The dream was to stay dreaming…

++ Seems like you and the others were in a couple of other bands on the side, was it hard to find time for Wishing Chair? Which were these bands you were involved with? Were being in bands and play music a common hobby in Carlisle?

Stephen and I both played in different duos playing the working mens club/pub/bingo hall circuit which provided us with a living. Stephen was in partnership with guitarist Ian ‘mert’ from the Daisychain Connection in a duo called ‘Waiting for the Postman’ and I was in ‘the men upstairs’ with Paul Musgrave who was the singer in ‘Celtic Storm’, so if we were playing at night, we would rehearse in the afternoons, the duos were our bread and butter so we needed to do it, and we played 3/7 nights a week, I enjoyed it but I think stephen would say different. I suppose being on the circuit you come across many musicians across the ages from your area, so everybody did seem to be a musician, but its like that in every town im sure

++ Being from Cumbria, so close to Scotland, who were more influential for you at the time, Scottish bands or English bands? I guess also Scottish bands toured more around your town, right?

I love it that Carlisle used to be in Scotland (even though I love being English) I feel it breaksdown the crazy nationalistic sillyness that sadly has ebbed and flowed throughout history. We’re a City firmly influenced by both, aswell as Italians (who came to build a great big wall) and Danish who came and knocked down loads of walls, then settled down to stay I love how when you peep under the covers of nationality you see that it is indeed a great big collage of identity.

As a band we were influenced by both English & Scottish bands soaking up everyting we came across (like a big pop sponge).

Touring wise we got a good mix back in the 1970’s & 80’s sadly the bands used to play in our Market Hall, which had a glass ceiling so in the summer it was like watching a gig in a green house

++ Last summer Paul Vickers wrote a piece about you saying that “the music they played was quite skiffley, but with Johnny Marr-style guitar. It had a Hans Christian Andersen quality to it as well – lots of childlike imagery”. That’s a nice comment to receive! What about the Hans Christian Andersen reference, you think it was based on the music itself or simply the rather imaginative song titles (mainly thinking about 3 White Leopards which indeed could’ve been a child play by Andersen, and of course The Wishing Chair)?

Paul’s description is absolutely ace we couldn’t have put it better ourselves We were always facinated by the different levels of things like Hans Christian Anderson they were adult stories told in a child like way with all the hope, fear and excitement that childhood holds and with no limitation to imagination and possibility. 3 White Leopards is a pastiche of TS Eliot poems i’ve always been fascinated by ‘metaphysics’ (on a very basic level, not the deep deep really complicated levels that talks about maths and stuff, but on the level of it being ‘the theory of being and knowing’) this was a theme throughout all the Wishing Chair songs.

++ How often did you practice together and how did the usual rehearsal look like? Did you meet for other things other than playing, like mini golf or maybe paint ball?

We used to rehearse as much as we could, I would think at the beginning it was everyday, and that continued, we loved sculpting the songs, Simon our drummer was brought in once a week , so it was me, Stephen and Liz practicing round the fireside most nights, and in our spare time we all enjoyed origami and shark fishing together.

++ You recorded the song Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), was it your favourite TV Show and why? Which other TV shows did you enjoy back then?

Randall & Hopkirk was such a great concept two detectives and one of them a ghost who could walk through walls and basically be wherever he wanted without being spotted.

Fave TV show was Mr Benn the very thought of having a mate (in a fez) who can offer you different costumes and doorways to felt tip coloured worlds completely blew up my tiny brains as a child and still sets off quite a few explosions now.

++ Its interesting that you never released any records but managed to shoot some live videos. Were you a live band more than a studio one? Any particular gigs that you remember the most?

We did a bit of everything. we used to enjoy playing acoustic in the bar of our local arts theatre before and in the intervals of productions,because it was like our fireside rehearsals,very intimate, i don’t think we ever had a bad gig,it was all a big adventure.

++ What was the biggest highlight of The Wishing Chair as a band?

Being in a band together

++ Why and when did you call it a day? What did The Wishing Chair members did after?

I don’t think we ever split up ! we’ve all done loads of different things since then, Stephen is a professor of pop and spreads the word in many directions, Liz is postmaster general and runs base camp, Simon toured the world playing in big bands on cruiseships and I live in Thailand and have a live music venue

++ You now have your own band November222 and you included The Wishing Chairs song ‘Wishing Chair’ on your first live show (which you do superbly)! Have you ever covered other Wishing Chair’s songs?

hey thanks, we did a version of ‘digging in the shade’ i didn’t play the original recording to the Thai lads in the band, so it was a very different version,and i was singing it, i have some live video, so it maybe will be on youtube on eday . and most nights i do an acoustic set in the bar and one or two songs sometimes make the set.

++ Thanks so much! Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for taking a trip in The Wishing Chair, Off we go, we know not where ………”

Cumbrian Band “Chaos”

I got sent these tracks by John Kemp, in response to Ed Butlers mail, which I enclose here:
John writes:

Chaos were
Jav Turnbull (Vocals),
Eddie Brown (Gtr),
Brian Mounsey (Bass) & Duncan McDonald (Drums).
Later Frank Chapman was added as a 2nd Guitarist.

“Chaos from Aspatria. I rated these in my top 3 bands in 79/80 alongside the Clash and uk subs. Gave psycho faction their name from the punky reggae song whose lyrics were “man killed on the street, cos he doesn’t eat meat, cos he had a black face, cos he spoke to a nun”. Cover of somewhere over the rainbow was epic, tinged with threat and Menace. Come on and join in the chaos was just F F Fun.
Original line up was Jav vocals, fast Eddie guitar, Brian mousey bass and Duncan Drums. All were huge characters, friendly, funny & welcoming people. I went drinking with them before some gigs and just laughed all the time.
Fast Eddie left and was replaced by Frank Chapman of Whitehaven who is now in Hexed.
At one point they were preparing to go to London to further their career & Duncan may even have gone. Things get vague round here. The hunt for any recorded music by them went on for years. They were legendary. Some news filtered through about brushes with the law that, if true, makes me a bit sad that such great people were put out of circulation. If they had punk rock judges the lads would have been pardoned due to their phenomenal, powerful, original and truly epic music.

Some basic recordings eventually surfaced.

The gigs I remember – Chaos supported the UK Subs at Wigton in April 79. They played twice at Silloth with Blitz and the Black Crow’s Gazztops.
Chaos’s songs – Somewhere over the rainbow, Chaos ’79, Spyatree Life. They also done great covers of Public Image and Kill (Albert Y Los Trois Paranoias).
They used to practice at the back of the Brandraw pub in Aspatria.
Duncan later played for a band called the Doonicans (They released a record on Probe Plus). Eddie produced an album for Distortion in the 80’s.
There is another 4 track demo out there somewhere. Maybe someone in Aspatria might be able to shed some light on this.

The tracks by Chaos that John Kemp sent are here:

Design a Cassette?

Did you ever make anyone (or yourself) a music cassette? If you did, did you take the time to design it? To spend time and thought into making it individual and artistic? Sadly, I did not ! It never occurred to me to make it beautiful. My cassettes were “functional”, they had a title and a penned list of tracks… but often, it did not have even that! For people who painted on jackets, t-shirts, designed poster etc. cassette covers were an extension of that artistic outlook. Mine vision was “blue and white” not Technicolor.

I do not have many original cassette covers left in my attic. But the little I have may reflect some of the people who took the time and trouble to design me a personalized symbol of their creativity… many thanks to them.

The first cover on show was given to me my Swanny, when I joined the “Red Aligatorz” in the mid-80s. Being a punk, I guess I was not musically ‘cultured’ enough to play Rockabilly music from the 50s, I was lacking the background and information to play that music.

To ‘educate’ me, Swanny made me several cassettes with countless artists of the 40s, 50s and 60s. Musical styles such as: Blues, Rockabilly, Skiffle, RnB, Swing, Jive, Talking Blues, Country, Hillbilly, Bluegrass…etc. His cassette covers were hand-made, often pen on a white background with imaginative characters drawn on the cover with ‘text boxes’ coming from the character’s mouth. Inside the cover was hand written titles, with minute handwriting the artists and titles of all the songs.

Not only did the covers have a stamp of originality, but the recording themselves had its own trade mark. For example, as Side A came to its end and the last song had been played, there would be a few seconds of tape remaining. Swanny would record his vocals saying something like,”turn the cassette over or I will kick your arse”…! But often the song would end in the middle as the cassette finished. Music (and sound) was crammed into every millimetre of tape.

The example here shows Swanny’s multicoloured cassette cover entitled “Nameless Musical Styles of the Fifties”picture-004picture-005

Next follows a series of cassettes by Swanny, with coloured headers: Getting Hot, Feeling Blue”

Another style of cassette art was from my friend called Jamil. He was also educating me into a music that I had by-passed. “Joy Division” had long ceased to be when I read for the first time “Touching From a Distance” by Deborah Curtis. I had not listened to them much when they were climbing the popularity charts. But after reading that book I was hooked. Jamil kindly did me an extensive collection of recordings of demos, live gigs, singles and LPs. What made these cassettes special for me was the hand writing. They were (in my opinion) works of art. More a type of calligraphy than hand writing. When I travelled abroad, Jamil and I used to correspond, and I used to receive letters in this style, beautiful pieces of literature.picture
As Ian Curtis was a big David Bowie fan, Jamil also inducted me into Bowie’s music too. I do not think I would have listened to it other wise! I am pleased I did if only the 1st 2 LPs.picture-028

The front covers of these cassettes were made from designed paper:

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Joy Division Cassette Cover
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Joy Division Cassette Covers

And the Bowie front cover was a wrapping paper design:

 

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Bowie Cassette Cover

The final example of a cassette design was from my friend Paul. He used to do me a mixture of music from the 90s, not Punk by any stretch of the imagination. His cassette was a compilation of Punk songs. His front cover design was his own typical humour!!

 

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I think CD covers were just as equally creative as cassettes, perhaps more so as we had the added help of the computer software, but that what gave the cassettes more of a Punk/D.I.Y. approach was the absence of this technology. It was not always “correct” or “tidy” precise and “finished” and that’s what gave them an attraction.

 

Sid (D.O.S.) R.I.P.

sidA few days ago I read the news of the death of Sid, the singer in the Carlisle band ‘D.O.S.’ (see ‘D.O.S. page’ for more details about the band).

Nigel Holmes says in his FB page: “I received some sad news last night that a friend (singer of the punk band D.O.S.) who I spent some of the happiest (and eventful) times of my life with, has died, Hope you are happy, wherever you are Sid Suitor……R.I.P”

I don’t know what he died from?

for those who knew him (and for those who did not) here are his songs, from the first D.O.S cassette:

R.I.P. Sid

“No Thrills” in concert

It has been ages since I was at a punk gig, I can’t even remember when it was? The other week I went to see 3 punk bands in Carlisle’s “Club Rock” (situated in Botchergate, Carlisle), but only one of the bands were local.

The experience was very similar to what I remember back in the 80s, (especially when my band played): few people in the audience, a crazy loud sound (ears ringing for the next 3 days), but a good vibe. I enjoyed the night, I met some people I had not seen in ages and I had a reason for being there: to document some music for this blog.

The local band was “No Thrills” from Penrith/Cumbria, a small town about 20 miles south of Carlisle (check out the “Penrith Bands” page in this blog for other music from Penrith). I had not heard them play before, but I enjoyed it.

Here is their video recorded with a ‘point and shoot’ camera… not high tech but so what. I will try and get to some more of the local bands over the next few months…try and do the same if you have a free evening.

David Bell puts on a lot of the local punk music events and it was great catching up with him that night.

There are some other videos of the band on youtube… here they are:

wishing “No Thrills” all the best