By Imogen Hunt
It’s the early 1970s and a revolution is taking place in a handful of pubs across London. These small, smoky rooms are playing host to some the most exciting new bands of the era. Audiences are packing in to experience the electric atmosphere and to consume live music in a whole new way. Bands such as Dr Feelgood, Kilburn and the High Roads, and The 101ers represented the pinnacle of this scene, with Dr Feelgood, Ian Dury (Kilburn and the High Roads) and Joe Strummer (The 101ers) going on to enjoy mainstream popularity in the music chart.
Many of these Pub Rock bands have had a long-lasting legacy and can be seen, in many ways, to have hugely influenced the development of Punk subculture. Musically, their influence cannot be understated. Many Punk bands appropriated their fast paced, simply-structured sound, as opposed to the elaborate and decadent sounds of the Glam Rock musicians of this era. Indeed, Joe Strummer of The Clash bought a Fender Telecaster to emulate the sound created by Wilko Johnson of Dr Feelgood. Similarly, the Telecaster was an instrument also used by many other Punk musicians and associated with the stereotypical Punk sound.
Musically, the Pub Rock circuit can also be seen to have influenced the DIY music culture of Punk. Many of these bands were unsigned and promoting themselves, showing young people that performing in a band was not something exclusive to the bands selling out Wembley Arena. In addition, the music they played was much more accessible to amateurs, requiring less equipment than the music made by the likes of Bowie and Roxy Music.
Pub Rock can also be seen to have influenced the development of Punk style. While it is clear from examining photographs of this era that there was no cohesive Pub Rock look, the clothes and attitude of individual musicians can be seen to have shaped the way that some Punks dressed. For instance, the band Dr Feelgood could be considered greatly influential to Punk style. Although the band always wore suits on stage they were often covered in dirt and stains from previous gigs, as they often hadn’t been washed. This is particularly notable in the suit worn by lead singer Lee Brilleaux, whose stained white suit jacket later featured hanging on its own in an NME feature, such was its reputation.
Whilst the state of their suits may not seem particularly significant, it helped to establish their persona and attitude. They did not want to be seen as polite young men wearing suits, instead they chose to dress and style themselves in a way that seemed intimidating, and their music further established this. Although Punks did not typically dress in this way, Dr Feelgood’s attitude towards their dress, and the way that they composed themselves, can certainly be seen to have contributed to the way that Punk subcultural style developed.
Dr Feelgood, Roxette, Old Grey Whistle Test, 1975.
Although only lasting for a brief period of time, Pub Rock can be seen as an incredibly important moment in the development of the Punk subculture. Many Punks later dismissed these bands, largely because they were more established and older than their younger Punk rivals, but in many ways these bands can be seen as the unsung heroes of Punk. They opened doors and lead the way for the younger generation to create something more relevant to themselves.
Imogen is currently writing her dissertation, asking “How Did Class Base Positions Impact Upon the Development of Punk, 1972-6?”