Two of my absolute favourite publications are the Irish fanzines, Loserdom and Riot 77. They could hardly be more different in style. Loserdom had a hand-crafted ‘zine that draws from the anarcho-punk side of things, and it feels like a personal art-project full of personal stories, hand-drawn cartoons, politics, campaigns as well as music. Sometimes the covers are even individually screen-printed. For me it is unmissable, a dispatch from the counter-culture and funny and clever too.
Riot 77, on the other hand is slick, and I mean that as a compliment. The paper is glossy and it is the same size as the major music magazines, just with more of the type of music I love reading about. The new issue is 48 pages and features interviews with bands who would have graced the cover of the NME during the glory days of 1977-1981. Even better, for people who care about the music scene in Ireland, each act is generally asked at least a question or two about their Irish experiences. And that can be very revealing. This issue, which I picked up in Freebird, might be the best issue yet. It includes major interviews with Richie Ramone, the absolutely brilliant Ruts DC, Walter Lure from New York’s legendary Heartbreakers, Johnny Moped who were on the Chiswick label, as well as a lengthy and insightful conversation with the proto-punk Flamin’ Grooves. In addition, the book, album, DVD and live reviews are all really to the point, and helpful in deciding what to watch, listen to, read or regret not going to.
The Ruts, the Clash and the Adverts are the bands that I listen to most from the class 1977, and the Ruts DC are my favourite live act now. So naturally I quickly read their piece first. It had a few unexpected nuggets that surprised me, and that makes me appreciate Riot 77. The interviews are always well researched, which is why they often contain nuggets of information that you don’t find in the average artist interview. Here, for instance I learned that Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott co-wrote a song with the Ruts’ singer Malcolm Owen. This was more evidence of just how Lynott viewed the up-and-coming punks as comrades instead of competition. Given that Sid Vicious used to hang out in Lynott’s London flat it is poignant to think that Lynott, Owen and Vicious all died prematurely from apparent drug-related deaths.
The other interesting thing I learned, is that that the Ruts outstanding drummer, Dave Ruffy (who later played with the Waterboys and Aztec Camera) had an Irish grandfather. Yet another example of prominent members of the early punk/new wave community with Irish ancestry.
Equally interesting and insightful is the interview with Richie Ramone, once again there is an unexpected, at least to me, Irish link. The Ramones’ drummer was in Ireland five years ago to record with a Boston band, the Gobshites. It’s a recording that hasn’t seen the light of day yet, but it sounds worth keeping an eye out for. There’s also an Irish connection with Johnny Moped. I must confess they’re a band whose name I knew, but I couldn’t name any of their tunes. Riot 77 rate their debut album alongside the first LPs from Stiff Little Fingers and the Adverts. That’s pretty high praise. The Irish connection: Johnny Moped were on the mighty Chiswick record label, home of the Radiators From Space as well as the Damned.
The interviews with Walter Lure from the Heartbreakers and the one with the Flamin’ Groovies are also well worth checking out. I certainly learned a lot about these two bands who were part of the scene that nourished and nurtured the early punk movement.
And while the actual zine is great value at €3, the book, DVD and album reviews have prompted me to go out and buy yet more music product. So thanks to Riot 77 I’m going to by some more music I love and books that inspire me. It’s a hard life, isn’t it?
The book, Punk Rock Entrepreneur, from Microcosm publishing, sounds particularly interesting. Riot 77 loves that the DIY movement, without the pursuit of profits that drives most commercial labels, has created so many brilliant, creative and meaningful pieces of art. It is important to remember that most industries benefit from innovation, and the punk/DIY movement has been the source of lots of that. Other interesting books and DVS reviewed include a new book by the last-surviving Ramone, Marky, a cool sounding book called Making Stuff and Doing Things: D.I.Y. Guides to Just About Everything and a history of the Rockford, Illinois music scene. Lots to read.
On the music front, the Outcasts’ live album, recorded in 1983, seems to include really good history, press-clipping and reminiscences. That’s a must-buy for me, as they were one of the Northern Irish bands that brought so much colour and inspiration to me growing up. Another band outstanding from the North, Rudi, have a new piece of vinyl that compiles some of my favourite tracks from them. Tigerland is a song that showcases their power-pop skill. A song that could have/should have been a hit. But that’s not how the music industry works….it needs hits, and it needs them fast. And that’s why fanzines like Riot 77 are vital. From a personal point of view they connect me not just with my youth, but with a creative, even entrepreneurial, DIY spirit. To me that’s really important.
Riot 77 also recommend the new Nirvana and Damned DVDs, so there’s another €30-plus I need to spend…and the DVD about the early US hardcore stalwarts, the Dicks, who Mick McCaughan introduced to me in about 1984, sounds damn good too. And there’s a new Hard Skin single….
I could go on, but hopefully you haven’t made it this far in my lengthy review because you are on your way to Freebird to but Riot 77.
Michael M Murphy