we oppose all rock and roll


Subway Sect – Ambition (Rough Trade 1977). Design: unknown.

Punk singles

New exhibition now on in London's second smallest exhibition space – the L Gallery in W+K's reception desk. It's a selection of Neil Christie's collection of old punk singles.

'We oppose all rock and roll'

In 1977 I was
fifteen. I was a kid living, it seemed to me, on the edge of everything, up in the
frozen wastes of northern Scotland, waiting for something to happen. The first
wave of punk was what I’d been waiting for: a movement to join, a cultural call
to arms, a teenage rampage, a riot of our own. It’s hard now to imagine the
scarcity of media in those days. There was no internet, only three TV channels,
you could buy chart records in Woolworths or Boots.  And they cost so much you could afford to buy maybe a single
a month. There was only the NME and the John Peel show – and in Aberdeen these
were like bulletins from another world.

Punk singles 2 


Sex Pistols – God Save the Queen (Virgin 1977). Design: Jamie Reid.

The 45 rpm 3
minute (or less) single was the key artefact of the era. Songs on singles weren’t
generally included on albums, many of the bands never even made albums and
things were changing very fast. (Some purists would insist that anything
recorded after 1977 isn’t really punk.) The singles were the thing. Old school,
Old Grey Whistle Test rock was LP
music – records with sleeves big enough to roll your joint on… you hippy. Punk
was 45s.



Generation X – Your Generation (Chrysalis 1977). Design: Barney Bubbles.

These singles
were totems, talismans and badges of allegiance. Not widely available, hunted,
hoarded, swapped, carried to school, played again and again and again. The
graphics on the covers were themselves codes to live by that we wore on our
sleeves and pinned to our blazers.


The work of
artists and designers like Malcolm Garrett (Buzzcocks), Jamie Reid (Sex
Pistols) and Barney Bubbles (Stiff Records) helped to shape the iconography of
punk and were as different from the sci-fi/whimsy of Hipgnosis/Roger Dean album
sleeve imagery of the old guard as the raw sound of the Pistols was from the neo-classical
pomp shite of Emerson Lake & Palmer.

Punk maybe
didn’t overthrow royalty and the government in the way it aimed to. But it
changed me. And its influence – the sound, the look, the attitude – is still to
be felt today in the indie scene, the DIY aesthetic, design, art, the fashion
world and society at large.

In the words of Subway Sect (from A Different Story, B-side of Ambition):

"We oppose all rock and roll
as going down the chute.
We oppose the rock'n'roll that's held you down for so long you can`t refuse

Punk singles 3 

  Sex Pistols – Holidays in the Sun (Virgin 1977). Design: Jamie Reid.


The Clash – Complete Control (CBS, 1977). Design: CBS in-house.

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