BACK TO NO FUTURE: THE VIOLATORS

Clockwork punks? A “street level Joy Division” ? The Oi! Banshees? A band that tried to stretch the boundaries a bit, the Violators emerged from the Clockwork Orange dystopia of …err… Chapel En Le Frith. Some, such as Garry Bushell, were predicting big things for them, which never happened. They came and went leaving a tiny handful of records, leaving you to wonder what they would have done if they’d got as far as doing an album back in 1982.They were possibly also the only punk band of the time to take their name from an article in The Guardian (“Urban Violations” being the headline)


The Violators were signed to No Future, one of the bigger punk labels of the time, and made their first appearance on the Coutry Fit For Heroes compilation with two tracks Die With Dignity, an atmospheric featuring the melodic vocals of co vocalist Helen, and Government Stinks, a thrashier song featuring the growled vocals of band mainman Shaun “Cess” Stiles. This mixing and matching of male and female vocals, and of the more tuneful elements of punk with the more aggressive sounds gave them the potential to reach a wider audience than some of their peers.


The debut single Gangland / The Fugitive came out in 1982. Gangland was a brooding mid tempo song that drew the “street level Joy Division” tag (Oi Division???), and unusually was over 5 minutes long. Slightly too long in fact, but a minor classic all the same. The Fugitive with Helen on vocals meanwhile had definite shades of the Banshees. The single sleeve featured the most famous photo of the band (not a lot of competition for that accolade admittedly) which, with some of the bad dressed in the very height of droog fashion, saw them labelled Oi (which they weren’t really) and Clockwork Punk (despite the droog look only being adopted briefly by the band, and the lyrics to Gangland being based on The Warriors instead).


The second, possibly best known single, featured (the A Listed!) Summer Of 81, not the only punk single of the time about police brutality and the riots, but one of the most tuneful, and the more aggressive, slightly ridiculous but catchy, Live Fast Die Young. Garry Bushell reviewed the single in Sounds alongside the Dead Kennedys Halloween, suggesting that the Violators were the future of punk, not the DKs. Not for the last time Bushell was wrong.


With a couple of successes under their belt a minor disaster then struck when a big gig in London went badly (“cos of technical problems..and the amount of illegal substances taken prior to our arrival at the venue” according to Shaun on the sleeve notes of the No Future Years retrospective CD). I can confirm the gig was a disaster as a bootleg exists, with a set punctuated by continual cock ups and on stage arguments. After this the band lost momentum, split in two with Helen and guitarist Coley forming the more mainstream Taboo and vanishing into obscurity, and the rest carrying on with a new line up. Like several others on No Future Records they were pushed in a more post punk/ “futurist” direction. The label rebranding itself Future Records and even producing a “no swearing” contract for band recordings! The final single Life On The Red Line was definitely in post punk territory, and didn’t go down as well (certainly judging by the number of second hand copies I’ve seen)with the punk scene, although at the risk of destroying any cred I may have I quite like it. After this they relaunched as Ice The Falling Rain. A band that had once talked of mixing synthesisers with punk , now started producing  delicate OMD style synth pop, leaving behind the Life’s Illusion single as the incriminating evidence.
The Violators, unlike many of their peers, haven’t jumped on the reunion bandwagon (yet) but the few tracks they recorded stand up with the best of 80s punk. Roll on 2015 (or whenever the almost inevitable comeback gig happens)

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18 thoughts on “BACK TO NO FUTURE: THE VIOLATORS

  1. I have a very vague recollection of them at the time – and since then nothing, except perhaps once or twice when you might have posted something on the blog. It really is exceptionally good stuff. Very three dimensional, rich sounding, good vocals. What a shame they had a bad experience and split. I hope they do reunite at some point.

    Thanks for posting this Wyngate. Is the baby louder?

    Live Fast Die Young is so great.

    • Thanks again. I think they were really good although whether they could have sustained it any longer who knows? Always the tantalising question with these shortlived bands.
      A good reunion would be great although these things can also be disppointing though. I bet they’ve been asked about it at regular intervals.

      The baby is not particularly louder, but is getting grizzly more frequently!

  2. OOh, I love “Die with Dignity” why haven’t I heard it before? The sound of the flanger at the beginning, the chunky bass and the very Sioxusie-esque vocals, I can see why people thought they would go far.

    Im going to listen to the rest in a minute, but for now, thank you for introducing me to this band :-)

  3. “Gangland” is quite up my alley too, musically, not so keen on the male vocalist. Nice to hear the girl singing again in “Live Fast Die Young” but are they really singing about umpa lumpas?

    I’m off to explore some more of the Violators, yay!

  4. Haven’t had time to listen to this properly (I have a “sickie” to attend to) but wanted to say thanks for the series and keep going.

    I’ve been reading an mag I have which has a collection of old NME articles in it. Funnily enough Bushell wasn’t the only one to be spectacularly wrong at times.
    Charles Shaar Murray, in 1976, tipped Eddie and the Hot Rods over the Sex Pistols as the “future of punk”.

    Laugh ?
    I nearly shat !

    • Thanks, I’m certainly planning to keep going, there’s loads I can do (other committments allowing). I guess there’ll be quite a few bands where I find I’m in a minority of one but that’s just how it goes. Keep looking, I’m sure you’ll find the odd thing that appeals to your “sensibilities” at least!

      That’s the joy of old music mags. I’ve got the edition of Sounds where they announce the upcoming 4 Skins gig in Southall which will prove that Oi isn’t about violence – ouch!

  5. these were great, thanks!

    I checked Mrs. Panther’s collection but couldn’t find any of their stuff…although she claims to be familiar with their work!

    As Pairubu said. These posts are great and I hope you keep ‘em coming.

    • Thanks, they should keep coming although with my imminent return to work and general lack of sleep at the moment there might be pauses occasionally.

      No that’s not me in the avatar photo – it’s from an album cover, Truth Decay – Another Day Wasted, from the 90s. It’s the kind of sight I used to see at all dayers a lot in the 90s, someone like the Exploited playing incredibly loud i the background and someone nearby sleeping through the whole thing.

  6. The Summer Of 81 is easily ONE OF THE GREATEST PUNK SONGS EVER. If someone were to ask me to play a handful of ’80′s English punk songs by lesser known bands, this is a song I will always reach for. Tremendous music, incendiary intelligent lyrics and heartfelt singing by Helen. No wonder Bushell chose this as the single of the year. And then they broke up!! One can only imagine how high this band could have soared. Their recorded output is one of the high points in English punk.

  7. they reformed for a short time in 2005 even recorded a song then Everyting’s In A State Of Decay but sadly this was short lived I would love to hear the unreleased ep

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