The output of the early 80s wave of punk bands is often sneered at now as naive and dated. This is easy to do, but you have to remember what life for young people in the early 80s was like: high unemployment, a right wing government determined to cut public services, riots, royal weddings, tension between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands – hard to imagine now isn’t it?!. This was the backdrop for bands like The Samples who released one of the classic singles of the period, Dead Hero.
The Samples were formed in 1978 in Worcester, hardly a focal point for punk rock or in fact rock of any kind, which might explain why they took a while to get noticed. They self released their debut 7” Vendetta in 1980, a plodding amateurish recording which I’ll move swiftly on from. “We just wanted to put something out!” explained vocalist Sean interviewed years later in the book Burning Britain. They didn’t release anything else until they got a track No Future records Country Fit For Heroes compilation, the much more promising Government Downfall. The Government didn’t fall but the band did start getting a lot more gigs.
The band released their second 7” Dead Hero in March 1982. As astute readers may realise, this was very bad timing as it coincided with the start of the Falklands war. Band and label were obviously not looking for a Crass-style controversy, and apparently adds were put in the music papers stressing that the song was about World War 1. Whether this affected sales is unclear but the single didn’t sell as well as a lot of releases on the label. Now however Dead Hero seems to be recognised as one of the best tracks of the period, a cut above many of their contemporaries in the songwriting stakes. It’s tight and tuneful with a great angry but clear vocals, and simple but effective lyrics.
The other two tracks on the 7” weren’t bad at all either. Fire Another Round was one many punk songs about the 1981 riots, but was possibly the only one to note that the riots were bad for window cleaners (on the other hand they were probably good for glaziers). The other track, Suspicion, was a great Angelic Upstarts style rabblerouser about police harrassment.
Another single was recorded for No Future but not released “No Future blew their budget on Blitz second LP” sneered Sean on the sleeve notes of a retrospective CD “and we all know how good that was”(that’s a story for another instalment). Eventually the tracks turned up on a compilation album with the terrible title Party Pooping Punk Rock Provocations. I got to hear these tracks a few years after I heard Dead Hero and to be honest I didn’t like them, feeling the band had gone a bit wimpy. The tracks have grown on me, particularly since hearing a cover of Nobody Cares by Japanese oi band Allegiance. The Samples were becoming a lot more melodic at the same time that most of their contemporaries were becoming heavier and thrashier. Here’s Nobody Cares, so you can make up your own mind.
The band carried on until 1986, often playing benefit gigs, supported by a strong local following. As a bonus here’s possibly the only Samples live footage in existence, filmed at their final gig, “Worcester’s version of Live Aid”.