One Hundred Singles
One of the more popular features of the current Punk 1976-78 exhibition is the wall of vinyl singles. This consists of 100 records from the period chosen from the BL’s sound archive. The selection includes the obvious hits as well as obscurities and curiosities and is not intended to be a ‘best of’, rather a selection of musicians and labels that in one way or another were associated with punk.
The rationale for inclusion varies - not many people might instantly recognise the single by Metal Urbain but appreciate its inclusion when they learn it was the first release on the Rough Trade label. In a similar vein, ‘Shadow’ by the Lurkers was the first release on the Beggars Banquet record label which is now the internationally-successful Beggars Group, releasing recordings by acts as diverse as the White Stripes, the Prodigy and Adele. The selection also includes first releases on Cherry Red Records and on the Factory label.
Other releases involve people who went on to explore different musical directions – Birmingham punk band the Killjoys featured vocals by Kevin Rowland, later of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, and bassist Gil Weston who went on to play in Girlschool. Liverpool punk band Spitfire Boys featured future Frankie Goes To Hollywood member Paul Rutherford and Nipple Erectors, formed by Shanne Bradley who was subsequently a member of The Men They Couldn’t Hang, included vocalist Shane MacGowan, later of the Pogues.
There is an audio loop playing in the area but visitors can use headphone points to choose any of the 100 titles to listen to dubbed from the original vinyl. Visitors to the exhibition can often be seen counting off how many of the singles they have in their own (or recognise from their parents’) collections and arguing as to why certain records are not in the selection. Those that are not on display are available through the British Library’s Listening and Viewing Service together with hundreds of thousands of other recordings. Further details on the Sound page.
The exhibition ‘Punk 1976-78’ is at the British Library until 2 October. www.bl.uk/punk