15 of the Very Best Scottish Punk Rock Bands
Here is a raw and fret-full list of some of the best Punk bands to have burst onto the music scene in Scotland.
As you would expect we are going back to the wild days of the late 70's early 80's before the mellowed transformation into New Wave and the polar opposite style and grace of New Romantics. An explosive mixture of the unknown, the underground but even some chart superstars with uncompromising lyrics, music and hard-core principles from the Caledonian crews riding on the wave of a rasping guitar.
Ex-Cathedra are what is described as an 'Anarcho-Punk' band. They specialised in Ska-Punk which was a popular form of the genre in the 1990's. Hailing from Glasgow they were formed in 1991. Soon came a debut album called ‘Tartan Material’ and they are still going strong and gigging around the UK and Europe. You may even hear a cover version of Culture Club’s ‘Karma Chameleon’ if you go to one of their gigs. Amongst their own material look out for 'Stick Together', 'Reasons', 'Needles' and 'Give me Tomorrow'.
2. The Exile
This band started in 1977 and have been called the 'Godfathers of Scottish Punk'. They released an independent EP in their first year called 'Don’t Tax Me' and their spirit of enterprise continued when they opened their own club at 'Gigis' in Glasgow. Lack of opportunities elsewhere, primarily for punk bands, to be able to play inspired this self-help venture.
Proceeds from the EP went then towards funding the club. Popular Scottish disc jockey Tom Ferrie railed against the genre and so became the subject of their song 'Fascist DJ.' But they didn't last long and after songs such as 'Disaster Movie', 'Tomorrow Today' and 'The Real People' they actually split up in 1978.
3. The Exploited
A Hardcore Punk band from Edinburgh. They began in 1979 and leading the charge on vocals was ex-soldier Walter ("Wattie") Buchan. In 1981 they dropped their debut EP 'Army Life' followed by the album 'Punks Not Dead' in the same year. A famous TV appearance on the BBC 'Top of the Pops' programme followed with their classic tune 'Dead Cities' featuring the remarkable Big John Duncan on guitar. They've undergone many line-up changes and Wattie even suffered an on-stage heart attack in 2014. But have kept going and have also won fans the world over with songs like 'I Believe in Anarchy', 'Sex and Violence', 'Fuck the USA' and plenty of other musical expletives.
4. The Freeze
Formed in 1976 by school pupils Gordon Sharp, David Clancy and Keith Grant from Linlithgow, West Lothian. The following year they linked up with drummer Graeme Radin, They then went gigging around Scotland often playing support to many top Punk/New Wave bands. They also released two self-financed singles plus the 'In Colour' EP in 1979 followed by the 'Celebration/Crossover' single in 1980.
A high point was recording two sessions at Maida Vale for the BBC Radio 1 show of legendary DJ John Peel. In 1982 the band change their musical style and also their name. Then known as 'Cindytalk' they relocated to the musical nerve centre of London.
5. The Jolt
Coming from Wishaw in Lanarkshire and formed in 1976. The Jolt were said to be the first Punk band to play live in Glasgow. This was during a difficult era to secure such gigs for this riotous new music. It's believed that they beat another local band, Johnny & The Self Abusers into second place. However the latter evolved into the megastars Simple Minds.
The Jolt quickly moved to London in early 1977 and enjoyed support slots for the likes of The Jam and X-Ray Spex. Plus they were signed by the Polydor record label in the same year. The band split in 1979 leaving songs like 'You're Cold', 'I Can't Wait', 'Maybe Tonight' and a cover of The Faces 'Watcha Gonna Do About it'.
6. Oi Polloi
Oi Polloi was formed around 1981 and although they started as an Oi! band, they then evolved into an Anarcho-Punk outfit. They have gone through a multitude of many members with the only permanent presence being vocalist Deek Allen. A political act they support direct action in defense of the environment, hunt sabotage, and resistance against racism, sexism, homophobia, fascism and imperialism.
They have also become notable for their contributions to the Scottish Gaelic-Punk sub-genre. They began singing in Gaelic in 1996 and recorded a whole album entitled 'Ar Ceòl Ar Cànan Ar-A-Mach' in 2006. Some of their best songs are 'Nazi Scum', 'Let the Boots do the Talking' and 'The Face'.
7. The Prats
The group was founded in 1977 in Edinburgh. It comprised schoolfriends Paul McLaughlin, David Maguire, Greg Maguire, and Tom Robinson. An E.P. entitled 'Earcom 1' soon followed. In 1979, the band recorded a session for John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show. In 1980 another EP called 'The 1990s Pop' came out on the Rough Trade Music label. But the end of school in 1981 meant saw the demise of the Prats as they went their own separate ways into the big, bad world.
However in 2004 Film Director Jonathan Demme's version of the movie 'Manchurian Candidate' featured The Prats song 'General Davis' in the opening titles. This helped encourage the release of a 2005 compilation CD of their best tunes called 'Now That's What I Call Prats Music.'
Formed from the ashes of the band Slik who had with 'Forever and Ever' had scored a UK No.1. Originating as the band 'Salvation' in 1970 by the end of the decade they had decided to change from Pop Music to Punk. Consequently, they renamed themselves PVC2 in 1977. A previous member was Midge Ure who eventually left and later joined Ultravox singing on their hit 'Vienna' in 1980.
In 1984 he became a co-author of the massive single “Do They Know It's Christmas?' and an organiser of the following Live Aid concert in 1985. After The Rezillos, PVC2 was the second band to be signed by Zoom Records. In August of 1977 their only single 'Put You in the Picture' was released.
9. The Rezillos
Formed in Edinburgh 1976, the Rezillos were inspired by bands like The Buzzcocks and The Ramones. The group soon released their first single “I Can’t Stand My Baby” in 1977. They signed with the major label Sire and travelled to the USA to record the now classic album 'Can't Stand the Rezillos in New York in 1978.
They reached the Top 20 of the UK singles charts and a memorable appearance on the 'Top of the Pops' TV show. Ironically the song of the same name was a satirical mickey-take of the BBC programme.
Band rows led to a split in 1978 and a new group was formed the following year imaginatively called 'The Revillos' who continued until 1996. Most of the original members with the original name got back together in 2001 and were more successful than ever playing gigs in the UK, USA, Europe and Japan.
Their song 'Somebody's Gonna Get their Head Kicked in Tonight' appeared on the soundtrack of 'Jackass: The Movie' which helped introduce a new generation to their music.
10. The Scars
Another band from Edinburgh formed in 1977, The Scars are another of the great lost bands of post-punk. The aggressive guitars on their debut single 'Horrorshow' made people sit up and take notice. However, they introduced a more Pop style on their debut album before eventually breaking up in 1982. After many years they popped up again with a reunion show in Edinburgh in 2010 with a BBC Radio 6 recording session in 2011.
So we may not have heard the last of The Scars yet. Other notable songs to have a listen are Adult/ery', 'Your Attention Please', and 'Author!Author!'
11. The Skids
Hailing from Dunfermline and founded in 1977. The Skids achieved great success at a national level. The band was built around lead singer Richard Jobson and the guitar riffs of Stuart Adamson. A style he would later transfer and further develop with international stars Big Country. Sadly he struggled with alcohol addiction and tragically committed suicide in a Hawaiin hotel in 2001.
Jobson’s lyrics became one of the act’s trademarks being sophisticated prose although sometimes verging on the pretentious. Clever and witty turn-of-phrases with a satirical bite infused the driving Punk onslaught of classic track 'Into the Valley'. Other great songs were 'The Saints are Coming'(later covered by a U2 and Green Day coalition), 'Masquerade', 'Working for the Yankee Dollar' and 'Circus Games'. Despite Adamson's notable absence the band will still occasionally get back together and play live on stage.
They began life as 'The Reflectors' in 1979 and came from Dalkeith, near Edinburgh. They wrote political songs that addressed contemporary social issues. For example the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Their song Iron Maiden was directed at UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The demo was recorded in 1979 so it seems they got there before the famous Heavy Metal band in using Thatcher as a creative influence.
In 2013 after many line up changes the band ended but then transformed into a new group called Jim Threat and the Vultures.
13. Toxik Ephex
Formed in 1979 originally as The Abductors by founding member Fred Wilkinson. In September 1980 came a change of name. In 1987 the band recorded their first 7" record on their own record label Green Vomit Records to distribute the record. The style of Toxik Ephex has inspired many other Scottish punk bands such as Ex-Cathedra. After a break-up, the band reformed in 1999 with a completely new line-up. The reward was a prestigious come-back gig supporting US legends The Dead Kennedys in Aberdeen. Once again the band went their separate ways but got back together for their 25th anniversary. Nowadays the band keeps their hands in by still regularly playing one-off gigs.
14. The Valves
One of the pioneers of Scottish Punk, The Valves began in 1977 and came from Edinburgh. A gig supporting The Tom Robinson Band led to them signing up with Zoom Records. Their subject matter showed that British Punk’s fascination with Nazism extended beyond the Sex Pistols
The band's song “For Adolfs’ Only” traced the same historical black humour as Johnny Rotten and crew. Lines such as “Well I got my uniform, I’m okay/I can do the goosestep any day” testify to how singer/songwriter Dee Robot had his sharp tongue stuck firmly in his cheek.
15. The Zones
Zones were founded in 1977 in Edinburgh. They were a follow on from the demise of PVC2. In February 1978 they released an excellent single "Stuck with You." They were another band who attracted the interest of John Peel and a session for his radio show. Arista Records promptly signed them up and another single 'Sign of the Times' was released. Into 1979 and they released an album called 'Under Influence' described as 'Post Punk Power Pop' by the alliterative set. But the album did not sell well and not long after the band split up.
Now you can settle down into the soft calm after the storm. I hope you enjoyed our little foray back in time when the Mohican Jocks were on the march.
Scottish popular music has even more to offer so keep yourself in touch with what's going North of Hadrian's Wall.