Neon punk artist and documentary film director Mark Illuminati (a.k.a Mark Sloper) spins his Top 10 Punk Tracks
Artist and film director Mark Sloper’s punk pedigree is not in question. As an 11-year-old latch-key kid from a broken family (“My dad had sort of run away with some women and my mum was in and out of mental institutions, so I was left to, my own devices.”), Mark ended up spending his formative years hanging around punk icons including Adam and The Ants, The Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and The Banshees – all of who took the young Mark under their collective punk wing. He counts Paul Cook, Steve Jones, Hugh Cornwell, and others as good mates to this day.
As an artist, Mark creates beautiful punk-influenced works of art from his Shepherd’s Bush studio, using vintage flags, t-shirts, distressed wood, and punk neon messages. He has had art exhibitions at the Saatchi Gallery London, the Herrick Gallery, Mayfair, London, the G&M Gallery in Monaco and many others.
As a documentary film-maker, Mark has Directed documentaries about Superbikes (“I love motorbikes. They are my passion.”), The Beatles, David Bowie, Billy Fury, and several punk documentaries as well as music videos for The Professionals with Paul Cook.
Mark Sloper Documentary Film Credits
About My Top Ten
It’s funny when I looked through this list of my favourite punk song, I’ve realised that I like the real classic punk songs. As a disclaimer, I gotta say this top ten isn’t in any real order because they all mean the same to me. It might look like I only like the older stuff, but to be honest, I just like simple, fun music. I like rockabilly; I like early Elvis, Eddy Cochran, Gene Vincent, punk, of course, and probably not a lot after that. But anyway, here’s my punk top ten.”
10: PUBLIC IMAGE LTD. – Public Image (First Issue)
As a kid, I was so upset when the Pistols split. I couldn’t believe it. I just didn’t understand it. I said to them, ‘What the fuck! You had an excellent thing here.’ But I was too young to understand the real reasons why they split, but I was gutted.
Then I remember seeing the video for Public Image on the telly. John still looked like a punk, their drummer was amazing, and the bass player, Jah Wobble, was just incredible. I thought, ‘There is life after punk’.
But then the album came out, and I fucking hated it. I didn’t understand it. It was trying to be too clever, it was snidey, and Lydon was winey. Lydon says it’s the best thing he’s ever done, and I totally disagree. But that single was my motivation to keep punking it up for a few more years.
Jah Wobble eventually became a good mate, but I was warned never to approach Wobble as he was like one of the Krays of the punk scene – very east end and violent. On one occasion we almost had a fight. Wobble was best mates with Sid; it wasn’t John. And I remember when we were pissed I kept asking Wobble a question about Sid, and he got furious. He said, ‘If you ask me about Sid again, I’ll fucking smack you in the face.’ We both had a few too many, and he later apologised, but he fucking meant it. He has a very short fuse.
Public Image still sounds great now, as it did when it first came out!
“I remember seeing the video for Public Image on the telly. John still looked like a punk, their drummer was amazing, and the bass player, Jah Wobble, was just incredible. I thought, ‘there is life after punk’.” Mark Sloper, Artist and Film Director.Tweet
9. Adam & The Ants – Plastic Surgery (Jubilee)
When I was 11 or 12, I was riding around my village on my little orange chopper bike, just hanging around. I was bunking off school ‘cos I didn’t really have any parents. My dad had sort of run away with some women, and my mum was in and out of mental institutions, so I was left to my own devices.
Anyway, I saw this bloke with a long leather jacket on and a purple eyebrow, and I thought, who the fuck are you? I stopped and gave him some attitude, and I said, what are you doing here? He told me he was in a band, and they were playing in town that night.
He turned out to be a young Adam Ant. He was a nice bloke – and he said come and check out my band tonight. To be honest, the only reason I went was cos he said they had some food.
When I saw Adam and The Ants play that night, my life changed. Adam was hanging off the ceiling like a bat singing Plastic Surgery, and the bass player Andy Warren looked really cool. He was playing, standing totally motionless, staring at the ground. I thought that was cool.
Andy and I became good mates because when I was 12, I would bunk the train up to London, and Andy let me sleep at his place in South Kensington after gigs and stuff. I soon became an unofficial part of the Ant entourage. I was always hanging out with them, and they took me around on tour, so the band gave me a little job, and I used to introduce them on stage.
I chose this track because it changed everything for me, and it has some terrific memories.
“When I saw Adam and The Ants play that night my life changed. Adam was hanging off the ceiling like a bat singing Plastic Surgery and the bass player Andy Warren, looked really cool. He was playing standing totally motionless staring at the ground.” Mark Sloper, Artist and Film Director.Tweet
8. Siouxsie And The Banshees – Hong Kong Garden (Single only)
The first time I saw the Banshees, I hitchhiked to Poole to see them. Because I was 12 at the time and not allowed in, Steve Severin pulled me in through a toilet window to see the band play. After the gig, I had no way of getting home, so I broke into a beach hut to sleep. To be honest, I can’t really remember the gig, but I remember the effort it took to get there and back home again.
I’ve always loved The Banshees, and I’ve got a portrait of Siouxsie in my house. I remember Cookie’s (Paul Cook) 50th birthday party, and Siouxsie was there. I was really looking forward to meeting her again, but I ended up being really disappointed. I felt she had a really high opinion of herself. I don’t know if that’s because she’s shy or she’s just stuck up – I don’t know. So yeah, I was gutted. But this is still a brilliant song.
“The first time I saw the Banshees, I hitchhiked to Poole to see them. Because I was 12 at the time and not allowed in, Steve Severin pulled me in through a toilet window to see the band play.” Mark Sloper, Artist and Film Director.Tweet
7: THE DAMNED – Love Song (Machine Gun Etiquette)
I saw The Damned in Bristol in 1978 – I think, The Ruts were the support. Anyway, The Captain came on stage naked, and the venue immediately shut the gig down – so it wasn’t much of a show! Another Damned fuck up!
When I became mates with the Sex Pistols, they told me not to have anything to do with the Damned. The Pistols said they were a bunch of muppets, and I said, ‘no, I like them, they make me laugh’, so I started hanging with them too.
Dave Vanian and I are still good mates to this day, and I go bike riding with him. I love my bikes and Dave’s into his Harleys and Triumph. Sadly he’s been really down due to the lockdown ‘cos they couldn’t gig during that time. Lockdown was tough for so many musicians.
“I saw The Damned in Bristol in 1978 and The Captain came on stage naked and the venue immediately shut the gig down – so it wasn’t much of a show!” Mark Sloper, Artist and Film Director.Tweet
6: THE Sex Pistols – Bodies (Never Mind The Bollocks)
When I bought Never Mind The Bollocks as a kid, I played the record over and over until it wore out. The standout song, for me, was ‘Bodies’. Those lyrics “Fuck this and fuck that, fuck it all and fuck a fucking brat,” I was so shocked that someone could release a song with lyrics like that. I loved this song because of that.
I play it now with my daughters in the car, and they’re shocked by it too – even in this day and age. ‘Bodies’ epitomise everything about punk for me. It’s offensive, clever, witty and LOUD. It’s just fucking ace! That is the Pistols to me. It sounds just as good today as it did back then.
“‘Bodies’ epitomise everything about punk for me. It’s offensive, clever, witty and LOUD. It’s just fucking ace! That is the Pistols to me.” Mark Sloper, Artist and Film Director.Tweet
5: SEX PISTOLS – C’mon Everybody (The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle)
When this song came out, I thought it was brilliant ‘cos Sid looked like a punk Teddy Boy. As I said before, when I was growing up, my dad wasn’t around very much. He was an alcoholic, and when he did see me, he would give me ten quid and tell me to fuck off and go and buy some food. I would use that money to buy Vivianne Westwood tee shirts and go and see bands.
My Dad was a Teddy Boy. He had a quiff and a silver BSA motorcycle, he was good looking, and all the women loved him, and the original Eddie Cochran version was something I was bought up with listening to it in the back of the car. I love Eddie Cochran, and I’m in production with a new documentary about him for Netflix and Sid’s version of C’mon Everybody brought my two worlds together.
So many people think getting Sid to sing C’mon Everybody was Malcolm McLaren‘s idea – it wasn’t. This was all put together by Steve Jones ‘cos the band were going to make Sid the new lead singer for the Pistol’s second album. So to get Sid away from Nancy, they scooted him off to Paris, and the record company put them in the studio for a couple of weeks to knock out some songs.
So Steve chose the simplest songs he could find, and they were these old rock ‘n ‘roll songs, and Sid could sing. He was a better singer than he was a bass player. I remember my Dad hated my Westwood clothes and dyed hair, and when Sid released this amazing Cochran track, the world was at peace for a day.
“So many people think getting Sid to sing C’mon Everybody was Malcolm McLaren‘s idea – it wasn’t. This was all put together by Steve Jones ‘cos the band were going to make Sid the new lead singer for the Pistol’s second album.” Mark Sloper, Artist and Film Director.Tweet
4: THE STRANGLERS – Peaches (Rattus Norvegicus)
I was with Hugh Cornwell in Grouchos in Dean Street last night. We were just talking shit, but after a few drinks, we often end up singing this song. When I was younger, I always found Hugh scary. He always looked like he was going to punch you, and he was known on the punk circuit for being aggressive, moody, and up for a fight – as was Jean-Jacques. Then when I met Hugh, he was nothing like that. He trained as a scientist, he’s really well educated, unlike me, but I like ‘Peaches’ ‘cos it’s punk, and it’s offensive and sexist! This song’s not irony either; Hugh wrote it ‘cos he likes to go to the beach to look at women’s tits – simple as that.
“When I was younger I always found Hugh scary. He always looked like he was going to punch you, and he was known on the punk circuit for being aggressive, moody and up for a fight.” Mark Sloper, Artist and Film Director.Tweet
3: The Sex Pistols – Frigging in the Riggin (The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle)
I love this song! I was in the bathroom the other morning playing Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, and ‘Friggin'” came on, and I hadn’t heard those lyrics for years, and I laughed and laughed and laughed.
Nothing in the world sums up Jonsey more than ‘Friggin’ In The Riggin’ ‘cos he’s always talking about masturbating. He’s just a foul-mouthed footy yob who I go and watch Chelsea with.
The song’s got nothing to do with punk. It’s just a hilarious piss-take, and I love it. My wife shouts at me to “turn that filth off”. Steve and I are Chelsea yobbos, and when Steve sings this, I laugh my fucking head off – that’s why I love it.
“Nothing in the world sums up Jonsey more than ‘Friggin’ In The Riggin’ ‘cos he’s always talking about masturbating. He’s just a foul-mouthed footy yob who I go and watch Chelsea with. The song’s got nothing to do with punk. It’s just a hilarious piss-take and I love it.” Mark Sloper, Artist and Film Director.Tweet
2: THE SEX PISTOLS – God Save The Queen (Never Mind The Bollocks)
Yes, I know! Another Sex Pistols song. But when you were a kid in London, you had no choice – you were either with The Sex Pistols or The Clash. There was no in-between. If you were into The Clash, you were from the Noting Hill area and were a bit more educated. If you were with the yobs, a bit like myself, you were with The Pistols. You couldn’t say ‘I like The Pistols and The Clash ‘cos it would cause fights.’ Secretly everyone liked everything, of course, but you had to choose your tribe. So I was with the Pistols.
Strummer was a posh kid, really – he came from a good background, whereas Mick Jones was from Acton and was a little oik just like us, but he never looked the part, did he? He always had long hair, and now he looks like Steptoe! For British punk God Save The Queen was the turning point. It’s the punk national anthem.
“You couldn’t say ‘I like The Pistols and The Clash ‘cos it would cause fights.’ Secretly everyone liked everything, of course, but you had to choose your tribe. So I was with the Pistols.” Mark Sloper, Artist and Film Director.Tweet
1: THE DAMNED – Neat, Neat, Neat (Damned Damned Damned)
I just love this song. When The Damned play live, they either start with Neat Neat Neat or end with Neat Neat Neat – it’s so powerful, and it’s got such a good vibe that I just want to be down the front jumping around – Dave tells me I have to calm down ‘cos I’m old now!
If you listen to the lyrics, it’s very Americanised, there are lots of American images in them, and Dave has never explained why. I think he was just obsessed with Americana, and it’s like his homage to all things American.
I used to go to see the Damned a lot with my mate Huggy, and he was a boxer, so he would look after me down the front so I could have my little freakout. Neat, Neat, Neat is a song I feel is better live than it is on record. I must have seen the Damned over 100 times, and I always hang out for that song!
“Neat, Neat, Neat is a song I feel is better live than it is on record. I must have seen the Damned over 100 times and I always hang out for that song!” Mark Sloper, Artist and Film Director..Tweet
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The London based artist Illuminati draws on his punk roots and a lifelong passion for rock music, its attitude, articulation and cultural dynamism. Using vintage and historic flags, clothing and distressed materials which he crowns with neon and in doing so brings new life to these lost materials and phrases.