Nigel Bennett, guitarist for The Vibrators and The Members, spins his Top Ten punk vinyls for Punktuation!
In a new regular feature, we speak to punk-loving celebs and ask them: “If you were only allowed to have ten punk singles in your record collection, which ones would they be?”
Nigel Bennett, lead guitarist of The Vibrators and formerly The Members, has been the driving force of touring punk and rock bands for over four decades and has played with artists including Julian Lennon, Hugh Cornwell, Tom Robinson, Joan Armatrading, Toyah Wilcox and Eddie and The Hot Rods!
Nigel is a self-taught guitarist and has long been considered by many of his contemporaries and fans to be one of the best lead guitarists on the punk music circuit.
He started playing the guitar at age seven (“and piano at age three”, Nigel adds) and was 12 when he decided that he wanted to be a musician for a living.
Nigel however admits that he can’t remember the first song he played because “I started playing so long ago.”
Written by: Nigel Bennett
So, here is my top Ten Punk Tracks. They’re numbered 10 to one, but to be honest, there is no real order (other than number one). These are just a few punks songs that I like for various different reasons. Some I just like listening to, some are fun to play live, and I’ve slipped in a few tracks that I’ve played on and one that I wrote – just because I can! Hahahaha!
I didn’t want to do the usual top ten filled with obvious bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash because everyone does that. Anyway, I hope you enjoy my selection as much as I enjoyed putting it together!
10. THE MEMBERS – Radio (Uprhythm, Downbeat)
Ok, so Radio isn’t pure punk, but I thought I’d be cheeky and add it – mainly because I wrote it, and it got to number five in the Australian chart. I remember it was shooting up the chart, and it got to number ten. Mushroom Records thought it wouldn’t get any higher, but it then lept from 10 to five. The very same week, Mushroom Records released a compilation called Out Of The Blue, and Radio was on it- so that killed the sales of the single.
Martin Rushent produced this track, and we recorded it in a studio in Pangbourne that was running 24-hours a day. Dexy’s Midnight Runners were doing the day shift, and The Members were doing the night shift. We didn’t start in the studio until 11 pm – so I remember we were always exhausted – turned out well though.
“Radio isn’t pure punk, but I thought I’d be cheeky and add it – mainly because I wrote it and it got to number five in the Australian charts.” Nigel Bennett, The VibratorsTweet
9. Vibrators – Automatic Lover (V2)
The Vibrators are prolific. We put out an album a year, and we gig all the time, and this is one song that the fans always want us to play. And this is the song we did on Top of The Pops. I chose Automatic Lover because I love playing this song, and I chose it for my good, good mate Knox who wrote the song.
Not only is Knox a great songwriter, he’s an amazing artist too – he’s the punk Ron Wood. He paints loads of pictures and writes songs that blow me away. Sadly Knox doesn’t want to tour anymore – he’s 75 now, so I chose this one for him.
We’ve also just finished the last ever Vibrators album. It’s in the can at the moment because of COVID, but it will be released later in the year. We’re very pleased with it, and again most of the tracks are Knox’s songs. He’s just got this way with words and melody that I just love. Anyway, as I previously said, Automatic Lover is in my top ten for my mate Knox.
“Not only is Knox a great songwriter he’s an amazing artist too – he’s the punk Ron Wood. He paints loads of pictures and writes songs that blow me away.” Nigel Bennett, The VibratorsTweet
8: THE MEMBERS – Sound Of The Suburbs (At the Chelsea Nightclub)
I’ve played this song every night for years, and when you’re so close to a song, you hear it differently, but I will always love Sound Of The Suburbs. Wherever I go, in clubs and bars around the world, this song plays – it was a classic of that time.
Many bands wrote about urban Britain, but more people relate to the suburbs where that song comes from. You know; you’re bored, pissed off and wanting to go into the city. When I first heard Sound of The Suburbs, I thought, ‘shit, this is a hit’, and when we signed to Virgin, it was put forward for being our first single. It got to number 12 in the charts, and this song got me my first Top of The Pops too.
Despite what people think Top of The Pops was a farce. We were all out of it, we had to hang around the BBC all bloody day doing various rehearsals, and of course, we had to mime – it was crap. Funnily, as soon as we were on the telly people thought we must have been rich and mates kept on asking us to buy the drinks. But the reality was we were paid a flat wage of about 40 quid a week. Everyone else in the world with regular jobs was earning ten times more than us.
“As soon as we were on the telly people thought we must have been rich and mates kept on asking us to buy the drinks But the reality was we were paid a flat wage of about 40 quid a week. Everyone else in the world with regular jobs was earning ten times more than us.” Nigel Bennett, The VibratorsTweet
7: Stiff Little Fingers – Alternative Ulster (Inflammable Material)
Jake Burns is a friend of mine, and I always loved this song. I remember touring in Ulster back in the day, and it was fucking terrifying. There was no one in the streets, and it was bleak. We supported Stiff Little Fingers, so we went on first, and SLF went on after us, and the place was packed with punks and skinheads – it was heaving. So after our set, I decided to leave.
As I walked back to our hotel (The Europa – which is the most bombed hotel in Europe) the streets were desolate, there was no one around. Suddenly a Land Rover tore by with heavily armed British troops in it – it was so fucking scary. As for Stiff Little Fingers, I thought ‘good on them’ for writing a song like Alternative Ulster. Why is it in my Top Ten? Well, it brings back those memories, and I love the song – it’s that simple. Play this loud!
“As I walked back to our hotel (The Europa – which is the most bombed hotel in Europe) the streets were desolate, there was no one around. Suddenly a Land Rover tore by with heavily armed British troops in it – it was so fucking scary.” Nigel Bennett, The Vibrators.Tweet
6: EDDIE AND THE HOTRODS – Do Anything You Wanna Do (Life on the Line)
When The Members first got signed, our first tour was with Devo, and then we went on the road with Eddie and The Hot Rods. They were massive at the time, so we played very big venues. We learnt a lot from touring with them.
I’ve also been in Eddie and The Hotrods – on two different occasions. When they broke up in the ’80s, I was on tour with them; then I toured with them again a couple of years ago. Barrie Masters was a good friend. Sadly he died not too long ago, so this is a special song for me and brings back great memories of my mate.
When The Members were on the road with them, it was brilliant fun. We did all those cliche things bands did back then; got out of it, drunk loads and slept with loads of women. We lived the rock ‘n’ roll life. We were young, and it was just a good vibe between the bands. Eddie and The Hotrods were very exciting live, and this was their classic single!
“Eddie and The Hotrods were very exciting live, and this was their classic single!” Nigel Bennett, The Vibrators.Tweet
5: THE STRANGLERS – No More Heroes (No More Heroes)
There are so many Stranglers songs that should be in the Top Ten, so I chose this one simply because it’s brilliant – as most of their songs are. The Stranglers were such a dark and aggressive band, and they were a band that everyone knew not to fuck with – they had tough management, and they were tough boys, but fuck what a sound!
I also had to have them in my Top Ten because I was invited to play the guitar with them. They had two gigs at the Rainbow, but Hugh had been arrested and was in jail. So I met the band, and we did a rehearsal, and I played three or four songs with them.
Two or three years later, I met Hugh at a dinner party, and we became best of mates. Hugh’s a brilliant guy, he’s a wonderful guitar player, and his voice is great, and No More Heroes just has something about it that I love.
“The Stranglers were such a dark and aggressive band and they were a band that everyone knew not to fuck with.” Nigel Bennett, The VibratorsTweet
4: RAMONES – I Wanna be Sedated (Road To Ruin)
Again, there are many great Ramones songs, and most of them could have ended up in my top ten. I like I Wanna be Sedated because it’s simply a great tune and has great lyrics. Loads of punks just wanted to get fucked up, you know…’I wanna be sedated’. The Members played a show with the Ramones in Oakland, California, and we were staying in a hotel together, so we hung out with them, and they were nice guys.
I like I Wanna be Sedated because it’s a simple song but has such great power chords. It’s actually a physically demanding song to play as a guitarist, but not for the Ramones – they played so fast and so aggressively when live. It was just one song into another, into another. Live, they were probably one of the best bands I’ve seen.
“I like I Wanna be Sedated because it’s a simple song but has such great power chords. It’s actually a physically demanding song to play as a guitarist.” Nigel Bennett, The VibratorsTweet
3: 999 – Emergency (999)
999 is a great band that has also stood the test of time, and Nick Cash is a great guy. This is one of the tracks that I don’t really have any stories about, but I just like the songs. This just had to be in my top ten. The song has an urgency about it and just captured the spirit of that time for me.
2: IGGY POP – The Passenger (Lust For Life)
What a fucking great song, and what a great guy! I had a totally wild night with Iggy Pop in New York. The Members had just arrived in the city, and we played a gig that night. After the show, we went back to the Iroquois Hotel on West 44th Street where we were staying. Iggy was actually living there at the time.
I got back to the hotel later than the rest of the band, and I went to the bar. While I was there Iggy came up to me and said, “Hey man. Have you got anything to drink?” I said, ‘We flew in today, and I happen to have a litre of duty-free Bacardi (God knows why Bacardi, but there you go!)
Iggy said, “I got a bag of something else in my room – come on up, and we’ll hang out. ” I remember thinking, ‘yeah, fucking great.” Of course, I went up. There was a huge bag of nose, my litre of Bacardi, and there was also a girl in his room who didn’t say a word all night. Iggy and I drank the Bacardi, almost finished this huge bag, and I remember that all evening this girl was literally trying to climb up the walls – she was that out of it.
Iggy and I talked all night long like two stoned people and we chatted about anything and everything. I left about nine in the morning and I’ve never seen him since then. But what a fantastic impromptu night; me and Iggy, a girl who never said a word, loads of drugs and a bottle of Bacardi in a New York Hotel room! So, because of that reason, I had to have Iggy in my Top Ten
“Iggy said, ‘I got a bag of something else in my room – come on up and we’ll hang out.’ I remember thinking, ‘Yeah, fucking great!” Nigel Bennett, The Vibrators.Tweet
1: THE RUTS – Babylons Burning (The Crack)
This is my absolute favourite song of all time, and this IS my number one. I remember when The Members and The Ruts gigged together. I think they were supporting us at this gig in The Nashville Rooms, and when I first heard that riff I thought fuck me – this is brilliant!’ The Ruts were all lovely guys, and these days Ruts DC play just as good live, if not better than they did back then. With this song and West One (Shine on Me), The Ruts were right on the fucking money!
“With this song and West One (Shine on Me), The Ruts were right on the fucking money!” Nigel Bennett, The VibratorsTweet
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Nigel Bennett, lead guitarist of the Vibrators and formerly the Members, has been the driving force of touring punk and rock bands for over four decades and has played with artists including Julian Lennon, Hugh Cornwell, Tom Robinson, Joan Armatrading, Toyah Wilcox and Eddie and The Hot Rods!