Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I'm a little bit overwhelmed by this......

It's Footage of Penetration, at the Reading festival in 1978, playing "Life's A Gamble".
First up, it's 1978. My favourite year for music ever. Now I know most purists will sniff that '78 was too late for punk, too early for post-punk, that it was the refuge of bandwagon-jumpers, scene-stealers and pouting poseurs, but it was the year that I really began to do nothing else but buy records, read SOUNDS (R.I.P) and obsess about music. To me, '78 is as much about the Dickies and Devo as it is about all the other more worthy stuff that was around at the time. My ears were full of Magazine, of Ultravox!, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Cabaret Voltaire......
It's the year I started living, started feeling, started really hearing.
Next, it's Reading. This was the year Ultravox! and Penetration played, alongside such other luminaries as John Otway, Radio Stars and Sham 69. All of that and Spirit played as well! Bloody hell, what I'd have given to be in the crowd. However, I was a little too green for gigs at that time, and my cosy teenage haven of the Wiltshire countryside seemed a million miles away from a muddy field on the outskirts of Reading. It would be another 8 years before I made my first pilgrimage to the site (Bonnie Tyler being bottled off, Hawkwind, The Mission and lots of fumbling in a soggy tent with my girlfriend of the time)
Of course, a few years after that, I was lucky enough to actually play the Main Stage (believe me, if you think the crowd looks big when you're in it, try looking at it from the stage: I nearly soiled myself) and most years since then, I've spent an agreeable couple of days slowly sliding off a plastic chair in the backstage arena.
But then, above all, it's Penetration. One of the best bands around at that time (and they're still playing now!) playing one of the best punk singles of ALL TIME. "Life's A Gamble" is an extraordinary single: it's short (a couple of minutes) yet manages to cram that time full of giddy enthusiasm and hope. It's a record with a HUGE grin on it's face: a beaming, wide-eyed blast of sunshine. It's real golden moment comes straight after the first verse, where Pauline Murray bawls out "Decision, a clearer vision, you can see it....TOO!" and then there's the chorus. Except, there isn't. In the space where that first chorus should be, is that most un-punk of things: a guitar solo. It's rocky, chiming, and melodic; tripping over its own shoelaces as it bursts out of the middle of the song. Every time the first little notes of the solo burble up, my heart literally misses a beat. After all these years, it still makes me smile.
To get the full force of "Life's a Gamble" you need a copy of the album "Moving Targets", which is utterly indispensable. But for now, enjoy this, whilst I dream about 1978..........

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