New Kick

Life is short
Filled with stuff
Don’t know what for
I ain’t had enough

I learned all I know
By the age of nine
But I could better myself
If I could only find

Some new kind of kick
Something I ain’t had

The Cramps – New Kind Of Kick (1981)

If the lockdown has been good for anything, it’s nostalgia. Confined to one postcode, my brain started vomiting up odd memories. Old kicks.

From 1980 to 1987, my trudge to secondary school included a narrow passenger bridge over a railway. I had to be at school by 8:45 and I knew if I reached the bridge by half past eight I would be OK if I kept up a brisk pace.

But there were hazards for those last 15 minutes. Sometimes I would be chatting to a mate and lose track of time. Sometimes I would be physically assaulted by other pupils. Sometimes there would be distractions of punk iconography.

In my first year I would occasionally walk behind an older kid wearing a leather jacket with Adam and the Ants painted on the back of it. Not the merry chart topping Adam Ant that I’d seen on Top of the Pops, though. This was the stark monochrome S&M artwork of Adam and the Antz of “Dirk Wears White Sox”. An eleven year old gawping at his jacket is probably not what the guy wanted on the way to school.

The surfaces of the bridge became an altar for more parochial iconography. Alongside the usual football graffitti and boasts of sexual exploits, the local bands staked their claim. Black Mass had thick black lettering and two circled ‘A’s denoting their allegience to the cult of Crass.

But New Kick upped the stakes. One cold morning the bridge was bedecked with half a dozen huge stencilled versions of their logo, spray-painted in a sinister greeny blue. A robotic skull that was leaking… oil? Blood? They loomed down at me for months, on the way to school and on the way home. New Kick. Who were they, what where they like? How did they manage to be doing something so out of whack in this respectable market town that was supposedly a city?

I eventually made the connection with The Cramps – a band that the cooler kids in my year had written on their canvas army surplus bags. A couple of years later I bought my first ever fanzine in the local independent bookshop:

And there they were on the front cover, alongside Crass and some other pretty big names of the day. By this point I had wised up slightly and identified the older kids with the black leather jackets and the wild coloured hair in the town. I had deduced it was them that left a trail of sloganeering stickers on lamp posts and the odd bit of anarchist graffitti. Later on there would be gigs in church halls, but that’s another bit of nostalgia for another day.

Mucilage was a revelation. Someone near me had put their own fanzine out which was serious and stupid and subversive and looked unlike anything I had ever seen before. Also they had their own printing press, which blew my mind. I could have walked round there and introduced myself but obviously I did not do that. But I could have, and that conjured up all kinds of possibilities that I had never conceived of. (If you are better at navigating the ISSUU site than me you can read a scan of Mucilage issue 2 here.)

The Crass interview was an eye-opener for the teenage me. The New Kick interview was markedly less articulate, but you have to support your hometown team. It’s easy to underestimate the importance of local bands that nobody else has heard of. Small scenes that meant everything to people in them. David Keenan’s novel This Is Memorial Device (Faber & Faber 2018) perfectly encapsulates the intensity and oddness of small town punk in the UK around this time. Later on a couple of my schoolfriends would form their own bands…

Image courtesy of Radioactive Vampire

New Kick were not playing gigs by the time I was of gig-going age. It seems like they’d had a reasonable run supporting people like Dr and The Medics, Blood & Roses, Furyo and notably The Meteors at St Albans Civic Centre, where I would later go to some generally awful gigs by Hawkwind, hard rockers Magnum, and Peter Murphy of Bauhaus (an evening so awful it temporarily put me off music).

The Mucilage interview conjured up live shows of debauched violence and excess, which to be honest I was happy to imagine rather than experience. My first gig was mild-mannered Howard Jones after all.

New Kick had released a tape “Bucket of Blood”, but I assumed there was little point writing away for it by the time I’d found Mucilage. Also I didn’t really want them coming round my parents’ house. So they remained a band that existed purely in my imagination.

That stencilled logo, twice a day for months. It stayed with me. A periodic google gave little away, but during lockdown I finally found someone selling “Bucket of Blood”. Of course I bought it. And? It’s great. Four dollops of punko-psychobilly with tinges of horror theatrics. I would have fucking loved it if I had heard it when I was 14.

The 35 year wait made it all the sweeter for me, but everyone wants their kicks quicker than that now, so here is 1984’s “Bucket of Blood”, freshly digitised for your delectation: