“Typical – twenty years of punk .. “Ooh,I like the Sex Pistols” – Fuck the Sex Pistols!”
The words of Chaos,by then vocalist of Chaos UK, on stage in 1996*, but I’m sure there are many in the punk scene expressing similar sentiments this weekend as we witness the official history of punk rocktrotted out again, declaring it dead by 1979. There were many bands that helped to drag punk kicking and screaming through the 80s and 90s and a prominent one that you may not be aware of are Chaos UK.
Starting out in Portishead near Bristol in 1979, Chaos UK were a rowdy drunken bunch who (judging by their choice of covers) were influenced by some of the lesser known bands of the late 70s such as Johnny Moped, Valves, Albertos Los Trios Paranoias,(“Damned, Sex Pistols and Stranglers records were too expensive” – Gabba on CD sleevenotes), but went on to produce something much noisier.
Chaos UK were signed up by local label Riot City (“Never had I been subjected to so much abuse, violence and just downright bloodymindedness by a completely uncooperative and generally nasty, rude bunch of bastards…I love ‘em!” – Simon Edwards, Riot City boss, CD sleevenotes)
They released the EP Burning Britain in March 82. Musically uncompromising with a nasty guitar sound, pounding drums, shouted vocals and mostly unintelligible lyrics, this record is up there as one of the best ever punk EPs. The first impression you might get from tracks like Four Minute Warning is that they were earnest Crass-style political agitators. One review of a retrospective CD in Record Collector even sneered that they failed to realise that to be John Lennon they needed decent tunes. This missed the point that for Chaos UK politics came on the list of priorities somewhere behind making a racket, warped humour, drinking huge quantities of cider, and a Wurzels fixation. Being the new John Lennon was probably not anywhere on the list of priorities. There was social comment though, eg Victimized, one of their few mid-tempo tracks, but still an anthem for punks who were getting bored with police harassment.
Burning Britain sold well and was followed up with the Loud Political And Uncompromising EP, which saw the band getting faster, tighter and more intense, apparently with the assistance of a £2,000 amp that they broke out of a locked cupboard in the studio after being told they weren’t allowed to touch it. The lead track No Security attacked smug types who poured scorn on the unemployed only to find their jobs were next for the chop, so applies as well today as it did then. Not that you can make out the words. It did have one of the best intros on any punk record though. Here is the studio version with live footage on the Channel 4 documentary UKDK.
Things began to change after this with vocalist Simon leaving. They put out their prosaically titled first album Chaos UK LP in 1983 with bassist Chaos on vocals. Not a bad release but not a great one when compared to the 7”s, and further band departures followed. At this point if you’ve read other instalments of this series on other bands you might assume this was the end of the story, but Chaos recruited new shouter Mower and “guitar hero” (according to band t-shirts) Gabba and started producing even more extreme music, notably the Short Sharp Shock album which was very influential although unlistenable to some with more refined tastes (like me). The band became very popular abroad, particularly Japan. Chaos UK continued through the 90s, when Chaos took over as main vocalist and amusingly obnoxious frontman, and the band took on more of a 77 punk influence – 77 style punk played at Motorhead volume that is. These years produced some classic tracks – Head On A Pole, Cider I Up Landlord, Ronnie Was A Rebel, King For A Day, Little Bastards, and the ridiculously noisy The Chunderer.
By the mid-2000s Chaos had buggered off to go raving, Mower briefly came back, and then Chaos UK finally staggered to a halt and probably threw up in the gutter. But never mind, Gabba soon hooked up with a slightly younger character apparently called Cliff Vicious, and has continud his assault on punters’ eardrums with FUK.
*as I remember anyway – can’t trust the memory!