Back in pre-internet 1976, ideas travelled slowly, meaning that when punk hit Northampton, it had morphed into a very different beast from the Pistols, the Clash and the other London based punk acts. Instead, a small group of committed individuals harnessed that original punk energy and created a vibrant scene whose DIY ethos still echoes around the town’s venues and clubs today.
Although Northampton is otherwise known for its long history of boot and shoe making, the ‘A-Z of Northampton (shortened in the title to the Northampton postcode, NN) Punk & New Wave 1976-1980’ is far from cobbled together, being an exhaustively researched, detailed and engaging history of a time when local music scenes both flourished across the country and also mattered. Most will know about the Liverpool scene that spawned Echo and The Bunnymen, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Wah Heat and Teardrop Explodes, the Leeds scene that produced Gang of Four and Sisters of Mercy, or Sheffield with Cabaret Voltaire and Human League. Much like my own home town of Coventry and The Specials, musically Northampton may be forever associated with Bauhaus (or Bauhaus 1919 as they started out), but stopping there would do the city, and you, a huge disservice, by missing out on fellow bands Isaws, Aliens, The Russians, Xyclon B and a host of others, all detailed here.
Each band is allowed to tell its own story through quotes from founder members, photographs, flyers and posters and a detailed chronological history. Bauhaus are featured of course, with a lengthy section dedicated to them, and many will buy the book for this and to read about little known predecessor bands to Bauhaus like Judy Snacks, but then be introduced the rich variety of other bands the town spawned, including one called Coil, who pre-dated their more famous experimental namesakes. Fanzines are also featured, including interviews with the editors of Burnt Offering and NN49PZ, along with a complete reprint of every issue of Burnt Offering itself. Northampton Art School (where many of the bands formed), venues, and even a well documented punk pie fight are also included. You see, I told you it was exhaustive!
For anyone interested in the history of a time now long gone, when local scenes were brimming with invention and energy and it felt like anything was possible, and which produced some of the most iconic bands of a generation and even kick started whole musical genres (ie Bauhaus and Goth), this is a must read.
Main image by - Flickr
The A-Z of NN Punk New Wave 1976-1980 by Pulse Peter, Alex Novak and Andy Denton is released on 24th June and can be ordered from https://www.spiralarchive.com