Court Martial were another short lived band that most of you probably haven’t heard of but in their own way they almost the definitive punk band – a bunch of teenagers with hardly any musical ability and no hope of stardom who made a racket, released two singles, and disappeared again. It may not be the best record ever made, but Court Martial’s first EP is one of the records I might play to someone if they were struggling to grasp the concept of punk.
Court Martial started out at school in Bristol under the 77-sounding name of The Zeds, before taking on their slightly more serious sounding monicker as the 80s wave of punk got underway. Bristol was quite a hotbed of punk in the early 80s with several of the most influential 80s bands being based there – Vice Squad, Chaos UK , Disorder, Amebix. It was also the home of Riot City, a label which gave many punk bands their first (sometimes only) vinyl releases. Court Martial managed to get a track, Your War, on the label’s Riotous Assembly compilation in 1982. It’s not a bad track, with vocalist Alex doing his best schoolboy Johnny Rotten impression, but it’s Gotta Get Out, the title track of their first EP also released in 82, that is the classic for me. Rough production, dodgy playing, unintelligable vocals, and a chorus that is quite obviously a rehash of the chorus of a classic single by a much better known band – but I don’t care, I’ve never got bored of this record since I first heard it nearly 20 years ago. It’s the sound of youthful anger, frustration, and at the same time enthusiasm
There was a bit of a knockback for the band when the one music journalist who they perhaps would expect to give them a decent review, a certain Garry Bushell, gave the record a slagging in Sounds because of the “thick punk” vocals. This may have been the same Garry Bushell whose big discovery had been the Cockney Rejects!
Here’s another track from the EP, yet more completely incomprehensible lyrics..Fight For Your Life
The EP sold well, and was a hit in the indie charts. Not that life was plain sailing for a young punk band. Touring wasn’t really an option due to small matters such as the need to attend school and being too young for licensed premises. Not to mention the problem of dodgy booking decisions when they did get gigs – a big Riot City showcase gig in Preston was a disaster presumably because every punk in the north of England was at the Crass gig in Leeds the same night.
The band released a second EP, No Solution, which some maintain was the better of the two records. I don’t agree, but you can make up your own mind. A slightly slower track, although the lyrics are still beyond the understanding of ordinary listeners such as myself – sounds like something about “living in a tree”, but I could be wrong.
Things came to what was probably a natural end shortly afterwards. The band disappeared into obscurity, but it’s that kind of obscurity that finds a kind of cult following attached to it. They may only have released two singles but people are still printing t shirts of those two single covers and selling them on ebay to punks in far flung corners of the world. And it will come as no surprise that I’ve also seen rumours of a reunion on somewhere on the net.