Punishment Of Luxury – Puppet Life

22nd December 2022 · 1970s, 1979, Music, Punk

Of all the crimes committed in the name of music, few deserve a capital sentence more than this 1979 performance by Punishment Of Luxury. As you would expect from a group who had the truly terrible idea of marrying punk to its polar opposite, prog.

I actually have this single, Puppet Life, and the album from whence it came, lurking at the back of my record collection ever since a kind PR gave it to me at the time.

I cannot believe I ever played the LP more than once. It was once voted one of the 100 worst albums of all time in Mojo magazine’s Hall of Shame.

Punishment Of Luxury formed in Newcastle in late 1976, shared a background in left-wing fringe theatre groups, and specialised in earnest critiques of western capitalism. So far so Pop Group, but there the similarities ended.

While Mark Stewart combined anger and intelligence to make his points, front man Brian Bond opted for the am-dram costumes and mime movements of his mentor Lindsay Kemp, previously popularised by Bowie and Bush. And, for that matter, a band name taken from an 1891 painting by Giovanni Segantini.

They made their debut on a Peel session in the summer of 1978, with a lineup of Bond, real name Brian Rapkin (vocals, keyboards), Malla Cabbala aka ‘Red Helmet’ (guitar, vocals), Nevill Luxury (guitar, keyboards), Jimmy Giro (bass) and Jeff Thwaite (drums), who had replaced original sticksman ‘Liquid’ Les Denham.

By their second session the following year, Cabbala was gone and Steve Secret (aka Steve Sekrit) had replaced Thwaite, and they recorded The Laughing Academy, which included this single, Puppet Life, released in July 1979 on the Small Wonder label.

It seems from the YouTube comments that while the vast majority dismissed them as the pretentious clowns they actually looked like, they seem to have acquired a fervent audience of admirers, who may or may not have witnessed their biggest moment in the limelight at the 1979 Reading Festival when they played after The Cure and before Motörhead.

Their second album, Gigantic Days, was, inevitably, planned as a concept album (of course it was) but while recording it their label United Artists was taken over by EMI who instantly dropped the band – quite possibly after viewing this performance – and Bond left the group soon afterwards, bringing to an end one of the oddest chapters in punk history.

Undaunted, Luxury, Sekrit and Giro recruited guitarist Tim Magenta to a new line-up, now going by the abbreviated name Punilux, and released another album in 1983 before Luxury went solo. But fear not, hardcore progsters, for the master tapes were salvaged and their magnum opus Gigantic Days was finally released in 1998.

By the way, if the bloke introducing them on this long-forgotten Tyne Tees TV programme, Alright Now, looks at all familiar, it’s Dan Hegarty of the a capella group Darts (and, previously, Rocky Sharpe & The Razors).