The Record Story no.1: Straightedge Sunday [ish…]

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve done a few useful things around the house this weekend, one of which I have been meaning to do for some time – drag my record collection out from under the stairs and place it in its rightful location in my office.  And as a result, I thought I would start off what might become an occasional series, when I pick out certain records, photo them and then try to tell the stories behind them.  And so, inspired by the ‘edge of Bleak Reality, let’s crack open a Stella* and get cracking with six Straight Edge Stormers:

Chain of Strength: What Holds Us Apart EP

So, clockwise from top left, we have ‘Chain of Strength‘ with their 7″ ‘What Holds Us Apart‘.  A good, solid US Hardcore outing from 1991, this 4 tracker was released in the US on Foundation records, but my copy is licensed by First Strike, which was the Hardcore imprint used by the legendary Alan’s Records of Wigan.  I picked this up, as I recall, on mine and DeHud’s only visit to Alan’s, which in its heyday was one of the punkest shops in the UK, selling skateboards and associated ephemera, as well as a fine selection of both import and domestic hardcore records.  We traveled from Huddersfield and became increasingly amazed at the complexity of the train journey from there to Wigan – it necessitated at least two changes of train in each direction and on the way back we were slightly menaced by a group of football hooligans from some northern town or other, who soon tired of our skatey appearance and went looking for some more appropriately attired youths.  Incidentally, Alan, who now runs a bike shop in Wigan, recently opened what Londoners tiresomely refer to as a ‘Pop Up’ store and sold off all his personal record collection at bargain prices.

Judge: New York Crew EP

Moving right, in both direction and I suspect political views, we find Judge‘s ep ‘New York Crew‘.  Released on Revelation in 1989, this is a 5 track ep which showcases Judge’s powerful New York Straightedge sound to the full; this remember was in the heyday of the NYHC bands such as Youth of Today, Agnostic Front, and so on.  Including a cover of the legendary UK punk band Blitz‘s song ‘Warriors‘, we are also treated to some good old nostalgia in the form of ‘New York Crew’, whose storyline extols the virtues of going to punk gigs, being in a gang, fighting other lavishly tattooed, crop-headed young chaps and, rather bizzarely, wearing ‘chains round our waists…..and construction gloves‘.  It’s still a cracking ep, though, and went on to form part of a cracking album.

Minor Threat: Salad Days EP

And then we come to the motherlode of Straightedge, the grand-daddy, the 24-carat original – Ian MacKaye and Minor Threat with the ‘Salad Days‘ ep on Dischord, an import again.  Three tracks of absolutely definitive hardcore recorded in December 1983, this ep was actually released in 1985 and I have no memory of where I bought it from.

Sick of It All: Sick of It All EP

Ok, bottom left – back to New York and back also to the days [1987 in fact] of yet more muscular, tattooed, short-haired chaps wearing big white sneakers and playing Hardcore with a capital ‘H’ – Sick of it All.  Released again on Revelation – this is actually release number 3 – this almost constitutes a 7″ album, as it has 8 tracks on it, all of which deal with the experiences and problems of guys on the street and their New York environs.  I guess it’s a period piece, as I believe that in those days New York was not the Disneyfied theme park it is now, and by all accounts was a tough, violent and generally exciting place to be.  I almost certainly bought this on a trip to Manchester’s Eastern Bloc records, which although at the time it was not a purely dance music shop [Acid house had only just broken], did still have the famously haughty, arrogant staff on the till who would examine and sniff disgustedly at your purchase, whatever you bought.

Minor Threat: Bootleg 7″

Moving to the middle, we find a bit of an oddity – a 7″ bootleg of Minor Threat‘s show at Camden Buff Hall, 20th November 1982.  I know where this came from, because it was released on Lost and Found records.  This means that its purchase resulted from an afternoon sitting drinking tea with Andy ‘Tez’ Turner in the dusty top floor offices of his Full Circle Distribution empire in Huddersfield.  Tez ran a mail order business at this time, the Instigators having more or less folded, and we would go and hang out with him and his assistant, the ever phlegmatic Steven ‘Leebo’ Lee, and without doubt Tez would always convince us to buy something – nobody ever left empty handed, and I bought some obscure Japanese hardcore a few times, but I never recall him managing to sell anybody one of those dodgy Fuck Geez baseball hats of which he strangely always had stacks…..

Madball: Ball of Destruction EP

And then it’s nearly over, for this Sunday at least.  Madball – Ball of Destruction.  Now then.  You may know of Madball today – the hard man New York moshers who between them have more tattoos than our readership has had hot dinners.  But this record has a story to it.  You see, back in 1989, Rip It Up had attracted the attention of a marketing chap from the newly formed In Effect Records, who I suspect were a hardcore imprint of one of the Major labels in the US.  They had just signed up Agnostic Front, and a load of obscure metal bands, most of whom I forget.  The chap who ran the publicity arm** wrote to us, and hailed us ‘Yo, ‘zine dude!’ – a greeting of such utter crapness that I shudder even now.  But subsequently he flowed us records for some months – until, I suspect, his internal audit people in their red framed glasses asked him what monetary return he had gained for the label from sending stacks of free records to a bunch of no-hope, scruffy drunkards from Huddersfield –  at which point the free records stopped abruptly.

And this was one of those freebies.  Freddie Cricien, the considerably more youthful half brother of Agnostic Front’s Roger Miret, had begun a habit of getting up on stage at AF shows in his native New York and unleashing his barely broken 12 year old bellow onto the baying, shaven-headed, 7-Up crazed crowd.  Clearly sensing that he was a schoolboy of such punk potential that this situation could not in any sense be allowed to continue, a few of AF’s members and pals hooked up and formed Madball, with young Freddie on vocals.  And I have to say it’s not at all bad.  It is hardcore that brims with thick, crunchy slabs of aggression. This constitutes ancient history compared to today’s Madball releases.

And that’s that.  Next time, we will run through another little record-based story with you; until then, stay punk!

Footnotes:

*The irony is beautiful, isn’t it?!

**An apology on my part – the chap in question was named Howie Abrams, whom I originally in this article described as a record industry yuppie, and I have believed this ever since, because….errr…that’s what people in record labels generally used to be like.  HOWEVER I have since read about Howie and I now realise that he was in fact all about hardcore and indeed appears to be a stand up guy.  So I apologise for my incorrect stance for all these years, and I’m fascinated to have finally found out more about the guy behind the label that flowed us all those records!!!

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2 comments on “The Record Story no.1: Straightedge Sunday [ish…]

  1. I’ve never been the biggest fan of sXe Tough Guy Hardcore, probably because I live a hop, skip and hour and a half jump from New York City and almost all the bands out here in the ninetys tried to front on that whole gangthink thing. I mean, I saw kids get rat packed by kids who just a day before had been their friends all because the offender drank some beer.Thankfully though there has been some evolution in hardcore out here, musically at least (with the exception of the “beat down” subgenre which just took the old mosh part breakdowns and deleted every other dynamic enedmic to a good hc song), and the violence has somewhat abated though I haven’t been to a show on this side of the state in awhile. If you want to check out a good example of some quality contemporary straight edge (H)ardcore from out this way hit up Wisdom in Chains on the You Tube search and there’s some good stuff by them. It’s not exactly N.Y.H.C. by the book, they incorporate varied styles, but you can still bug out to it and the lyrics are thoughtful.
    Did I tell you guys last time you’ve got a fucking killer blog? For serious, your prior work with the ‘zine shows through in what you’re doing now and it makes for a damn fine read.

  2. A quality comment as always Dave. We in the UK had a very small number of such people in the scene in the early 1990s, especially up in the Leeds area where we used to go to shows. There were rare instances of people having beers knocked out of their hands at gigs, although generally I have to say everybody got along ok – the scene was quite factional by the early 1990s but generally I found that people got along ok.
    The tough guy attitude always seemed to be a New York thing, because the Agnostic Front image was always about fights and such like, and I guess they were like the ‘big brothers’ of many of the other bands; sad when you think that the whole thing was originally started as a self improvement ideal, in opposition to early punk’s nihilism and self abuse.
    I don’t really follow that whole scene now, so I’m not even sure what it’s become, although I know from watching vids on YouTube that being in the pit at a Madball show looks like a pretty dangerous experience!
    Thanks again for your kind comments about Rip It Up, keep reading and commenting and spread the word!!!

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