Sunday, October 01, 2006
Picking Over The Scabs (The Scabs...& bonus Avant Gardener)
“The Scabs could have gone further but a couple of us hated each other! Nobody liked the guitarist so it was never going to last. We didn't fight or anything but you just knew that it wasn't going to be a long-term thing...”
(Ex Scabs drummer Patrick Cunningham interviewed by myself in 2000)
My old hometown, Exeter, has a long and varied punk rock history dating right back to 1976 and it’s a scene that has continued on and off right up to the present day, with hordes of bands passing through the city’s punk rock H.Q, the Cavern Club.
Exeter’s first punk band circa late ‘76/early ’77 was The Brakes but the first Exeter band to release a record was The Scabs. The bands sole 7’’ EP from 1979 is a quintessential slice of DIY UK punk rock and from the very first day I heard it, it never fails to bring a knowing smile to my face.
The band may have really meant it maaan but the vocals come close to being a parody of Rottens sneer (the sarcasm levels in singer James Young’s voice are set to the absolute max!), guitars buzz, bass and drums keep things zipping along and the whole thing is topped of by cheap and cheesy keyboards. This is a great EP (ok, three out of four songs are great) which has rightly received due recognition by being bootlegged on numerous KBD style compilations over the years.
The band, who were all students at Exeter University, managed to sell enough of these to press up two separate pressings (2000 copies in total) and they also completed a small tour of the UK to promote it before splitting up. A lot of music has come out of Exeter since but this first release still stands up as being one of the very best. Get it while you can:
The Scabs-Untitled EP
(One Exeter punk related release predates The Scabs 7’’. Avant Gardener were a band that released a 7’’ EP on Virgin Records in 1977 and who regularly played in Exeter. They actually came from the nearby Dartmoor town of Okehampton though and played a primitive mix of Captain Beefheart/Velvet Underground influenced noise. Y’know what? I’m feeling generous! While I used the version of ‘Back Door’ here for a comp CD I put out a while ago and enjoy it’s beyond raw qualities, the rest of this isn’t my cup of tea but here is the bands 1977 demo that predates the Virgin EP. They certainly don’t make them like this anymore!)