On this date in 1978, STIFF LITTLE FINGERS released the single ALTERNATIVE ULSTER, (October 17th 1978).

    ALTERNATIVE ULSTER was definitive Stiff Little Fingers, lyrically and musically perhaps their finest moment: "Take a look where you 're living / You got the army on your street / And the RUC dog of repression is barking at your feet / Is this the kind of place you wanna live?... “

    Jake Burns sounded in physical pain, yelping his words like he was involved in a life or death argument.

    "Is this the only life we're gonna have? What we need is an ALTERNATIVE ULSTER...”

    Coarse, brittle, harsh and penetrating. A perfect vehicle for the expression of solid anger. It simply reeked of sweaty frantic passion, words spat out of the speakers.

    Britain first heard of SLF via two of '78's most dynamic 45 releases, 'Suspect Device' and 'Alternative Ulster', though it took live performances – notably at the September 100,000-strong Anti-Nazi League Carnival in Brixton – to convince all but the deadest cynics that here was a band with the power to scorch a hole right through the apathetic "punk is dead" poses of a bored music press.

    Here was a band with something to say. And the message SLF rammed home was simple: there's a war in Britain's backyard, state repression and sectarian violence are No Fun, we want an alternative.

    But they never presented themselves as street hard-nuts. The paradox in the fierce punk stance of their music was that they had clearly been the type of people who always wanted to steer clear of trouble. Growing up in blue-collar working class areas of Belfast like the Antrim Road and Andersontown, they weren't the kind of kids who went out looking for trouble but inevitably and repeatedly trouble came to them.

    In a 1979 interview, Jake said: "As I grew up there were people trying to force me to join this and that paramilitary organization. A friend of mine saw one of their parades marching with broom handles for guns and turned to me and said 'I could be a soldier.'

    That became the first line of 'Wasted Life' which is about him: ‘I could be a soldier, Go out there and fight to save this land. Be a people's soldier, Paramilitary gun in a hand’.

    Choosing to walk the quiet side of the street, they were still kicked, harried, chased, beaten up by drunken soldiers, knocked about by the police.

    From certain quarters came accusations that in some absurd sense they hadn't paid the "dues" entitling them to this subject matter. In fact, they followed the oldest and soundest of maxims to "write about what you know".

    Did he think the band achieved their full potential as a voice of Belfast youth? "I don't think we could have done any more to help the people, though,” said Jake in 1979.

    “What can you do? All we did was sing about was happening about us and that's all we do now. If bringing it to the fore helped people, then great. I hope it did. It's like 'Alternative Ulster' which just told people to help themselves."

    "To this very day I get fans asking me just what my alternative Ulster would be. They think I'm advocating a new state or something. But it's a personal alternative.”

    The video here includes two performances of ALTERNATIVE ULSTER, the first taken from the brilliant Northern Ireland punk documentary ‘Shellshock Rock’ and the second from SLF’s 1980 ‘Rockpalast’ show.

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  • ALTERNATIVE TV – COMMUNICATE (1981) Oct 16, 2020


    On this date in 1981, ATV released the single COMMUNICATE, (October 16th 1981)

    When MARK PERRY threw the towel in as editor for punkzine Sniffin' Glue – a mag that, for one year, ruled the British fanzine roost - he started a band that turned out to be a logical extension of that famous publication.

    Just as he commissioned lesser-known writers for the paper, so he set about recruiting lesser-known musicians for ALTERNATIVE TV. With Perry taking vocals, ex-Gen X drummer John Towe, Mickey Smith on bass, and former Nobodies guitarist Alex Fergusson, the band got together in March 1977, rehearsing at Throbbing Gristle's studios in Hackney a studio where they wrote and recorded their debut effort, LOVE LIES LIMP, a free flexi disc issued with the final August ’77 edition of Sniffin' Glue.

    Between ’77 and ’78, various members left and replacements were brought in. Finally, achieving some stability, the band recorded and released their debut album, THE IMAGE HAS CRACKED in May 1978.

    By the early 80s, Perry and Alternative TV had gone in “some pretty avant-garde directions for a bit with Vibing Up the Senile Man, The Good Missionaries, The Door and the Window,” wrote the Acute records blog.

    “In 1981, Alternative TV perhaps took a stab at the charts with this totally charming and accessible LP on IRS, STRANGE KICKS (also issues on CD care of Overground Records).”

    “It even has one octave-bassline proto-electroclash new wave dance track in “Communicate”.”

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    On this date in 1984, GUANA BATZ were guests in session on the John Peel Radio One show, (October 16th, 1984).

    For their third Peel session, Guana Batz recorded five tracks: DYNAMITE, BRAND NEW CADILLAC, PURPLE PEOPLE EATER, NIGHTMARE FANTASY and ROCKIN’ IN MY COFFIN.

    Coming together in 1982 in Feltham, Middlesex, the GUANA BATZ were a leading light in the British psychobilly scene centered around the legendary Klub Foot nightclub.

    An initial line-up of vocalist Pip Hancox, guitarist Stuart Osbourne, drummer Dave Turner and bassist Mick White saw gigs but no recordings and White was soon replaced by stand-up bassist Sam Sardi.

    Playing psyched-up rockabilly with punk attitude and speed to match, theGuana Batz worked the scene alongside the Meteors, Stingrays, Caravans, and other bands who gigged at the Klub Foot.

    Following the Batz appearance on the ‘Stompin' at the Klub Foot’ compilation, they released their first long player, 1985’s ‘Held down (to vinyl) …at last!’, one of only two genre LPs that topped the Indie charts and cemented the Guana Batz importance as one of most popular and respected Psychobilly bands of that decade.

    Admiration for their music came from all corners, and not just from genre fans. "When I go and see The Guana Batz,” said Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, “I love the wrecking crews at the front, the blatant euurgh of the music. Some of that is still bouncing through me. And I see the audience is totally in sympathy with it, whether it’s The Prisoners or The Milkshakes. And then I go and see Stevie Winwood and it’s time to sit down and cool out.”

    The video here is the track NIGHTMARE FANTASY as performed on the Peel show with a classic horror film edit from Robbie Woodford (

    Guana Batz continue to play festivals and gigs all over the world with a Pip, Stuart, Jonny Bowler and Paul "Choppy" Lambourne line-up in the UK and Europe.

    Band details here:

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