BBC Radio DJ. Punk pioneer. Champion of great music. Gary Crowley spins his Top 10 Punk Tracks for Punktuation!
From punk to ’80s new wave and Britpop, DJ Gary Crowley has been one of the UK’s most influentialbroadcasters, TV presenters and DJs for more than four decades.
As a 15-year-old schoolboy, he launched The Modern World fanzine and managed to ‘blag’ interviews with many influential bands of the day, including The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Jam. Suddenly, Gary found himself at the epicentre of London’s punk movement.
Leaving school in 1978, Crowley had stints at Decca records and music paper NME. Then, in 1980, Gary’s knowledge of music attracted the attention of London’s independent commercial station Capital Radio, which hired him and, aged 19, Gary became the youngest radio DJ in the UK.
As well as his radio show on BBC Radio London (every Saturday evening between 18.00 to 20.00) where GC continues to champion up-and-coming artists as well as playing the classics, he also presented Gary Crowley’s Punk and New Wave Show on Soho Radio with his pal Jim Lahat. Covid restriction put a hold on the show in recent months but watch this space… Gary hopes it will be hitting the airwaves again in the not too distant future.
Gary has also curated several superb compilation boxsets in recent times, most recently ‘Gary Crowley’s Punk And New Wave’ and ‘Gary Crowley’s Lost ’80s Vol 2‘. (See below for more details).
About My Top Ten
“I’ve got to admit, I really enjoyed coming up with my top ten, but trying to cram it and trim it down to ten is hard. Seriously, it isn’t easy.
“I thought I’d do the obvious route because the obvious route is the honest route. It was where I was in 1977/78, so there are not too many surprises here.
“I’ve tried to mix it up with some of the songs suggestions rather than the obvious ones. Compiling this was a real walk down memory lane for me. I really hope you enjoy my selection.”
10: Singing In The Showers – Fun 4 (Gary Crowley’s Punk And New Wave)
So, this is a bit of a nod to my pal Jim Lahat, and it’s off our’ Punk And New Wave’ boxset. I chose this track by Fun 4 because it reminds me of why we did the Punk and New Wave radio show in the first place and reminds me of the really enjoyable afternoons I had in the studio with Jim.
This was a record I hadn’t heard before Jim introduced me to it, and I think that’s why the show worked. We played some of the obvious stuff we all know and love, but also, Jim was great at throwing in curveballs. He can pull some fantastic stuff out of the bag, and that’s why people enjoyed the radio show.
When Jim first played me ‘Singing In The Shower’, I was like, “fucking hell, where’d you get that from? I just love it. This is amazing! You can hear the Ramones influence but wow, what a song. It’s pure punk, raw, edgy and has great energy.
If I were wearing a hat, I would doff it to Jim because his knowledge of punk is so much deeper than mine and thanks to him the boxset was probably one of the best things that came out of doing the radio show.
Compiling the ‘Punk And New Wave’ box set was a musical version of Sherlock Holmes; we had to do so much detective work to find the tracks. It really was a punk and new wave archaeological search. We spent a very long time looking around and finding unusual artefacts and going, ‘yeah, this that’s great, let’s put it in.’
I said to Jim right from the beginning that there were a lot of artists on the compilation that we had a connection with, so why don’t we ask the likes of Richard Jobson and Duncan’ Kid’ Reid for their memories of that time? I think that made the the the package a little bit special as well.
“When I first heard Fun 4 ‘Singing In The Shower’ I was like fucking’ hell where’d you get that from? I just love it, this is amazing!” Gary Crowley.Tweet
9. Wild Dub – Generation X (B-side to Wild Youth)
I’ve put ‘Wild Dub’ by Generation X down as my number nine because I’m a massive fan of Generation X. They only made two albums, and it would have been interesting to hear what they might have done had they stayed together – but I guess sometimes bands are only meant to be fleeting.
I’ve got memories of seeing them live a couple of times at the Marquee when they did a residency there, which was either 77 or 78. I remember that gig well. I went down a little bit early with a pal of mine because we were doing our school fanzine and by then we had cottoned on that if you go down to a gig venue at around about five o’clock the band would invariably be sound-checking, and we could typically bunk our way in and get to say hello to the band.
We chatted to Tony and Billy but sadly, I can’t find the cassette of the interview, but it has got to be in the flat somewhere because I did keep them all.
For me, Generation X was almost the perfect pop-punk band. They also looked great. Pre-punk days, I was interested in ’60s pop culture, and it was obviously an interest as far as Generation X was concerned. As well as having brilliant songs like ‘Ready, Steady, Go’, they had the clothes. At that time, if I could have had any T-shirt, it would have been one of those pop-art punk T-shirts that I think Tony was mostly in charge of designing.
What I loved about ‘Wild Dub’ was just that kind of acknowledgement of reggae and just how significant its influence was at that time. I went to a school not too far from where I live now, literally just off the Edgware Road, a real inner London school, so it had a diverse mix of kids from different ethnic backgrounds, and I would try and hijack the record player in the sixth form common room and me and my mates would play a lot of Bob Marley, a lot of dub. I loved dub music, and still love dub, and I love what Generation X did on that track.
Tony James told me that Phil Wainman, who produced some of The Sweet and other glam-pop stuff, also produced ‘Wild Youth’, but he just didn’t get really what they wanted to do to the track – he had no idea how to dub it up. So Tony said that essentially the band mixed it themselves. I think it still sounds so exciting, and I love that.
“For me Generation X were almost the perfect pop punk bands. They also looked great.” Gary Crowley.Tweet
8. She’s Nineteen – The Moondogs (Gary Crowley’s Punk And New Wave)
Ok, so this is another track off the ‘Punk and New Wave’ boxset. The Moondogs were a Northern Irish band from Derry. They were also really, really good pals with The Undertones, who took them on tour and not long after that, the band signed to Real Records – which was the label that, of course, had The Pretenders, Johnny Thunders and others.
I was a massive, massive fan of the Moondogs. I bought ‘She’s Nineteen’ (which was on Good Vibrations) from Rough Trade Records and loved it. On the other side is another track called ‘Ya Don’t Do Ya’, which is also really good.
At that time, I was working for a chap called Clive Banks, who was this hotshot plugger whose job it was to get records played on TV and radio. However, he also had a publishing company and I remember playing the song to Clive and saying he should sign them.
We didn’t go over to Derry to see the band; I think they were gigging in London, and Clive managed to secure their publishing, so I saw them so many times.
The Moondogs, for me, just encapsulate what punk was about. They had that back to basics approach, and its impact on kids my age was amazing. They were the perfect youth club band, in a way. The songs were teen stories, but from a boys perspective – a bit like The Undertones – you know, songs about girls and affairs of the heart, but with this great punky powerpop edge to it.
Again, another band that only released one album. I don’t think it ever came out in the UK. The album, which Todd Rundgren produced, only came out in Germany.
She’s Nineteen was produced by themselves, maybe with some help from Terri Hooley and I just thought that they were great. They were one of those bands that should have been much bigger.
“The Moondogs for me just encapsulates what punk was about. They had that back to basics approach and the impact that it had on kids my age was amazing. They were one of those bands that should have been much bigger.” Gary CrowleyTweet
7: So Tough – The Slits (Cut)
My number seven is the Slits’ ‘So Tough’ from the ‘Cut’ album because that was one of my favourite LPs from 1979. I remember Island Records had a really, really cool press officer, a lovely fellow called Rob Partridge, who sadly passed away a few years ago. When we started the fanzine, I used to commandeer the phone box opposite the school and ring up record companies and punk and new wave PR people in an attempt to blag records.
Rob was always receptive, took my calls, and was very encouraging. I remember him telling me to come over to Island Records because ‘Cut’ by The Slits was in. I can remember rushing out and getting the train over to his office almost immediately. That anticipation was so exciting, and I remember coming back and slapping it onto my trusty old red Dansette record player (which I wish I’d kept) and just falling in love with it straight away.
I think ‘Cut‘ is one of those albums that you can go back and listen to again and again. There was a freshness to it that has endured. It was so raw. It was what punk was about – just pick up an instrument and play it.
When ‘Cut’ came out, the band had been together for a while, so they had time to nurture and hone those songs, and it paid off, and Dennis Bovell’s production, I think, complemented what they were trying to do and what they were trying to say as well.
I had met Ari Up a few times over the years, and I’ve met Viv a few times too, but I never saw the Slits live. I don’t know how I missed them, but it’s a regret.
Where I went to school was literally a couple of roads down from a house in Daventry Street, where there’s now a blue plaque, because it used to be a squat, and Joe Strummer used to live there, and I think some of the Slits did as well.
After school, you would see all these interesting, very colourful characters walking down the street, including Joe and Ari. Further down the road, towards Lisson Grove, was a flat where Steve Jones and Paul Cook used to live – so certainly, as far as location was concerned, where I was at school and where I was living couldn’t have been any better, really.
“I just think Cuts is one of those albums that you can go back and listen to again and again. There was a freshness to it that has endured.” Gary CrowleyTweet
6: White Mice – The Mo-dettes (The Story So Far)
I love this track, and Kate Korris, an original member of The Slits and brief member of The Raincoats, was the guitarist in the Mo-Dettes. The great thing about punk and new wave was the number of bands that featured women.
It’s weird thinking about it all these years later, but pre-punk most girls were just backing vocalists over to the side of the stage, but punk was all-embracing, very inclusive, and the likes of Siouxsie, Pauline Murray and Poly inspired a whole generation of other girls to join bands.
The Mo-Dettes were one of my favourites, and I saw them play loads of times. I was always going to gigs with pals, and the Mo-dettes seemed to play with everyone – they were gigging all the time. I remember them playing with the Clash at Notre Dame Hall, where the Clash previewed tracks off ‘London Calling’ for the first time.
I went to two nights. The first night was special because I got together with my girlfriend at the time. The Low Numbers were on first, then the Mo-Dettes, who were absolutely fantastic.
Ramonawas one of the greatest frontwomen of the time. I loved her voice and her accent, and she had her own very unique style of dancing. The bass player Jane Crockford has presented on the Punk and New Wave Show a few times, and she has some very interesting stories about living in squats with Joe Strummer and Sid Vicious.
As a band, I thought they looked fantastic. The music was excellent, and I loved the video for ‘White Mice’. This was shot on the cheap at The London School of Printing, and thank God it was because otherwise, we wouldn’t have any record of the Mo-Dettes playing.
When we were compiling the ‘Punk and New Wave’ boxset ‘White Mice’ was always a shoo-in for me. Again, only one album – so many bands just came and went, and I’ve always wondered what would have happened if they did a second album and went into the studio with someone like Chris Blackwell, who produced the B52s.
“Ramonawas one of the greatest frontwoman of the time. I loved her voice, and her accent, and she had her own very unique style of dancing.” Gary CrowleyTweet
5: First Time – The Boys (The Boys)
The Boys had to be in my Top Ten because, technically, they were the first punk band that I saw live. My first gig was The Jam with The Boys. It cost 75p to get in to see them, and me and my pal got to the gig early. We were almost at the front of the queue, and I remember there were rumours that Teddy Boys were about to turn up, and there was going to be a punch up. I found that quite exciting and scary at the same time (being a lover and not a fighter) – thankfully, they didn’t turn up.
The Boys were the first band on, and the first song they belted out was ‘Sick On You’. I will never forget the night. When they started playing, I looked around, and there was just this mass of pogoing bodies all around me, and I thought, ‘fucking hell, this is everything I thought it would be, but a million times better.’
From that moment, I became a big fan of The Boys. Yet again, another band that should have been much bigger than they were. They gave us some great songs. I especially like the first album ‘The Boys’ and I like ‘Brickfield Nights’, that’s a good album too’. The Boys are just a great pop-punk band – I love them. You never forget your first band.
“The Boys are just a great pop-punk band – I love them. You never forget your first band.” Gary CrowleyTweet
4: Harmony In My Head – Buzzcocks (Single Only)
So, the rest of my Top Ten are the big guns, but I hope my song choices aren’t too obvious. I chose ‘Harmony In My Head’ because I love the song’s energy and the edginess of Steve Diggle‘s vocals. The Buzzcocks, as far as a lot of us are concerned, is one of the great bands.
Not wanting to state the obvious, Pete’s passing a few years ago was incredibly sad. I interviewed Pete a few times and occasionally met him socially, and what a nice chap. I also know Steve Diggle, he’s a great chum, but that isn’t why this is at number four. It’s at number four simply because ‘Harmony In My Head’ encapsulates everything about punk; the vitality, the freshness. I love it.
Buzzcocks are one of the most inventive bands. They are always moving forward, and for me,‘Harmony In My Head’ has the edge and spikiness of punk, but it is also a great pop record.
I think all my favourite punk songs have a great sense of melody. In the UK, we all grew up listening to BBC Radio One or local radio stations, so you were aware of the greats of pop music. Whether you liked it or not, it had to seep into your musical DNA. It did for me, and great melody is what I look for when checking out new music.
“Buzzcocks are one of the most inventive bands. They are always moving forward, and for me‘Harmony In My Head’ had the edge and spikiness of punk, but it was also a great pop record.” Gary Crowley.Tweet
3: 1-2 Crush On You – The Clash (B side to Tommy Gun)
This was the b-side to ‘Tommy Gun’, and the reason why I chose this is because bands like The Clash and The Jam had great b-sides. When you bought singles, you’d always play the b-side after you played the a-side, and they seldom disappointed – especially with The Clash.
I’ve always loved ‘1-2 Crush On You’; it’s just so poppy and sticks out amongst the canon of The Clash’s work. It’s kind of a Beatle-ish, Beach-Boy-esque song of Mick’s that had been around for a while. I don’t think London SS ever did it, but it was one of Mick’s earliest songs.
I was lucky enough to see The Clash play live, so they were always special to me. They ran The Jam to a very close second. The Clash were just so special. The passion of the band was amazing. They really believed in what they were doing, and they were breaking down the wall of the whole being a star thing.
I mentioned earlier that I went to school near Joe’s place, and one day I saw him and thought I’ve gotta grab this opportunity. I ran up to him, and I don’t think Joe knew what hit him. I talked ten to the dozen telling him that I had a fanzine and loved The Clash and would love to interview him.
Joe’s face, I will never forget. He was looking at me with this ‘are you for real’ look, but he was smiling too, and bless his cottons, he said, “What are you doing tomorrow? You and a pal can come down to the studio.” I raced back to school and told my pal, and of course, word spread quickly. In the end, I think six of us rocked up to the rehearsal studios in Chalk Farm after school the next day.
All of The Clash were friendly, especially Joe. We were with him for a couple of hours, and we talked about everything. He was just as interested in us. He wanted to know what we were listening to and what we liked. It was just a real thrill – it meant a lot to me and meant a lot to my pals too.
“When you bought singles you’d always play the b-side after you played the a-side and they seldom disappointed – especially The Clash’s.” Gary Crowley.Tweet
2: The Jam – Away From The Numbers (In the City)
This is a track off the first album, and again like The Clash, I could reel off so many singles and album tracks and b-sides that could be my number two.
‘In The City’ could have been number two because it was the first song of the Jam that grabbed me by the scruff of the neck. After hearing it, things were never really the same again.
However, I chose ‘Away with The Numbers’ mainly because it shows another side to Paul Weller and his writing. It stands out from the other songs and, to my ears, sounds like it could have been on a Who album. ‘Away with The Numbers’ was a pointer to the fact that Paul Weller wasn’t going to standstill. He was going to move ahead constantly and shake things up.
The Jam, for me, were great ‘cos they harked back to that ’60s pop culture that I spoke about earlier, and they were the only band from that time that admitted that they liked The Beatles, and I think that’s one of the things that makes Paul Weller interesting and sets him apart for the rest.
Weller was passionate about punk and its ideas and its celebration of youth, which was really attractive to me. The Jam had the energy of punk and had some memorable songs.
“Away with The Numbers’ was a pointer to the fact that Paul Weller wasn’t going to standstill. He was going to move ahead constantly and shake things up.” Gary Crowley.Tweet
1: Pretty Vacant – The Sex Pistols (Never Mind The Bollocks)
In my opinion, ‘Pretty Vacant’ is the Sex Pistols finest moment. It’s punk, but it’s also a great pop song. As much as I loved ‘Anarchy’ and ‘God Save The Queen’, ‘Pretty Vacant’ is the one that has endured and stood the test of time.
One of my favourite Sex Pistol memories happened about 15 years ago. I used to do this music show called ‘Rock World’, and I remember Glen Matlock came in with just his guitar and he did an acoustic version of ‘Pretty Vacant’, and to be sat next to him singing was just amazing. He also played a great version of the Rich Kids song ‘Ghosts of Princes in Towers’
To bring it back to full circle… there’s a café about a ten-minute walk from where I live, and Mr Weller and Mr Matlock were outside this coffee shop, both having their ciggies and chatting, so I joined them for a natter.
It was a real fanboy moment for me. I had Paul Weller on one side and Glen Matlock on the other. If someone said to the 15-year-old me, who interviewed these guys for a school fanzine, that you’d still know these guys at 60 and you’d still occasionally hang out with them, I wouldn’t have believed them.
Sitting there chatting with them was a good reminder of how encouraging the guys were when I was younger and also a reminder that I am blessed to have been able to make a living out of simply being a music fan.
“Pretty Vacant is the Sex Pistols finest moment. It’s punk but it’s also a great pop song. As much as I loved ‘Anarchy’ and ‘God Save The Queen’ ‘Pretty Vacant’ is the one that has endured and stood the test of time.” Gary CrowleyTweet
You can catch up with Gary and listen to the best in new and old music on BBC Radio London live every Saturday between 18;00 and 20:00 GMT. Listen live or catch up with previous shows HERE.
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Crowley (and Jim Lahat) bring you 77 tracks of Punk, New Wave, Post Punk, Power Pop and Mod Revival, including many of which are available on CD for the first time.
The boxset comes with a 40-page booklet featuring an introduction and track-by-track notes by Crowley and Lahat, along with ‘punk memories’ from some of the artists themselves.
Gary Crowley’s Lost 80s, Vol 2 four-CD boxset offers 65 tracks and is themed by disc. The song selection includes tracks by lesser-known artists and rare tracks by more well-known artists!
The 32-page book includes an introduction and track-by-track notes by Gary Crowley, plus memories from Mick Talbot, Corinne Drewery, Dr Robert, Glenn Gregory, and more.
Like This Top Ten? Then Check Out These…
- Steve Rapport: My Punk Top Ten
- Mark Illuminati: My Punk Top Ten
- Tim Palmer: My Punk Top Ten
- Nigel Bennett: My Top Ten Punk Tracks
- Gaye Advert: My Top Ten Punk Tracks
- The Automatic’s David Philp: My Top Ten Punk Tracks
- Jim Lahat: My Top Ten Punk Tracks
- Steve Lillywhite: My Top Ten Punk Tracks
- Ginger Wildheart: My Top Ten Punk Tracks
I’m a London born and bred music journalist, a mediocre bass player and the occasional strummer of the guitar. In the ’80s I worked in recording studios and made a few records you’d probably recognise. I have written a couple of books and made the odd media appearance as a music commentator. I now call Brisbane home.