Over the years I’ve occasionally heard musicians on the end of scathing reviews express the idea that these critiques are motivated by jealousy. Some of them seem to think music journalists are all frustrated musicians.
I’ve rarely, if ever, found this to be the case – and certainly never had any such aspirations for myself. But I can think of two music hacks from the punk era who fulfilled that dream.
One was the NME’s Charles Shaar Murray whose R&B garageband Blast Furnace & The Heatwaves were almost as entertaining as his famous prediction that The Clash would never find success (“A garage band that should have been left in the garage with the motor running”).
The others were The Snivelling Shits, formed by Sounds and ZigZag writer Giovanni Dadomo.
I cannot better the description on Allmusic.com: “Punk at its most pristinely putrid. Conceived in an age when the streets resounded with upstart snotnoses screaming about smashing the system, then sucking up to the major labels regardless, The Snivelling Shits reduced every cliché of the era to as few chords as possible, then spattered them with a stupidity that would have been rank if it wasn’t so magnificent.
As their name suggests, they took themselves less than seriously, but they were far from being a parody group and their slender repertoire – this single – merits rediscovery.
I have it in my collection and while the A-side, Terminal Stupid, has a certain retro appeal, its B-side I Can’t Come now sounds like the template for Public Image Ltd despite being recorded at a time when Rotten was still wearing safety pins and bondage trousers.
The Shits were formed by Dadomo, who provided the words (obvs) and the snotty nasal vocals, joined by his fellow Sounds journalists Pete Makowski and Dave Fudger on guitar and bass, and Steve Nicol on drums. The single is produced by Ed Hollis and engineered by Steve Lillywhite, in what may well have been his first job.
I worked briefly for Sounds in 1977 and looked up to Gio, one of the first writers to enthuse about the nascent punk scene – and one of the first to prophesy its swift demise – as a cool dude with a penchant for black leather and sunglasses after dark, except onstage where he sometimes favoured sharp Italian suits.
The single I have in my collection is Terminal Stupid, released towards the end of 1977. It still sounds pretty good but what really catches my ear today is its B-side, a six-minute extravaganza described by Dadomo as “an iconoclastic mantra of amphetamine-induced sexual dysfunction.”
It’s exactly that, built around a grinding, repetitive beat that could have been inspired by Neu! with Dadomo reciting an extraordinary list of famous figures from Charlie’s Angels and Ena Sharples to Idi Amin and Adolf Eichman, Richard Nixon and Freddie Mercury, by way of Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Fonda, Linda Ronstadt and Cathy Kirby, taking in a couple of his fellow music journalists ( Caroline Coon and Vivien Goldman) along the way.
The Shits also had a song called Isgodaman that appeared on the 1977 Streets compilation of UK punk under a different band name, Arthur Comics and Dadomo went on to co-write two songs for The Damned – I Just Can’t Be Happy Today and There Ain’t No Sanity Clause.