The Straps – Young Guns Of Brixton.
The Straps emerged from the ashes of The Pack in south London Town as the 70s neared their death. Fired by the enthusiasm & DIY aesthetic of Punk Rock, The Straps flirted with rockabilly to forge a sound that would eventually become known as ‘Punkabilly’.
The following passage is taken from the Boy shop (Kings Rd) website & illustrates just what made The Straps such a unique combo:
‘There were Punk bands that changed things and there were punk bands that just made noise without any statements. Probably my favourite Punk band would have to be The Straps. My reasons for this choice is simple: they were original Punks that took up guitars and started creating a sound that was totally in tune with the Punk Movement from 78 onwards. The Straps never really got the recognition they deserved, probably due to lack of management, but they did tour the UK with The Damned and had a strong hardcore following across the country. The Straps always ended up in some sort of chaotic scenario that was out of their control, like the time they were lined up to play the Rainbow theatre with Adam & the Ants and were told to feck off cause the promoter had not paid for the PA. All the bands were kicked out the Rainbow – the promoter was Jock McDonald – hahahaha.
The Straps played the 100 Club quite often and also The Music Machine. Their songs had plenty of raw energy, songs like ‘Pox Kid’, ‘No Liquor’ (aka ‘No Vicar’), ‘Brixton’ and ‘News Of The Day", with Andy Sex Gang on backing vocals. How's this for lyrics:
‘A Kentucky fried Chicken and a few chip shops,
Quite a few Punks & too many drunks,
Ah, life in Brixton, feel the heat,
Too much trouble on the street,
But I'm not gonna leave,
I've got nothing else nothing to achieve’
Only somebody living in Brixton could write these lyrics and of course The Straps were based in various squats in the South of London finally anchoring in Brixton, I was surprised that Mick Jones did not reach out and give The Straps a helping hand.
The Straps singer Jock also worked in BOY for a spell and Jim Walker left PIL to play with The Straps due to Simon & John "Big Poopsy" Werner who were already adding their Canadian talent alongside Dave "Diesel" Reeves and Jock Strap "Johnny Grant". They released a 7" Single, a 12" Single and an album entitled ‘BRIXTON’. I heard that the singer now lives in Cornwall and has 4 kids and still has the master tapes - so maybe in the future we will see a Straps CD on sale.
Stan Stammers played with The Straps before he moved over to The Pack (aka Theatre of Hate). There was a little feud between The Straps and TOH – funny, cause Kirk came from Cornwall and Jock now lives there. Talking of which - did you know that Kirk and Boy George were good friends? – Dennis Boy
As a bonus to our recent feature on The Pack, Johnny Forgotten tracked down Dave Reeves (Bass) to his south London home to quiz him about Punk Rock, Kirk Brandon, The Damned, Punkabilly & his memories of The Straps:
trakMARX - What turned you onto Punk Rock?
Dave – The Sex Pistols on the Today Show (Bill Grundy).
trakMARX - What was your first genuine Punk Rock experience?
Dave – I saw the Ramones with Talking Heads supporting at the Croydon Greyhound. It cost £1 to get in.
trakMARX - When did you decide to take Mark P up on his advice, form a group & join in?
Dave - I started playing guitar at 13 years old & I was 14/15 when punk burst on the scene. I thought fuck it - I can do that!
trakMARX - The Straps eventually swapped members with The Pack following the sacking of Kirk Brandon. Tell us more about the 'sacking' - it doesn't seem to be mentioned in Kirk's Pack biog.
Dave - To be honest I can’t remember 100% what happened between Kirk & The Pack so I would rather not comment as I don’t want a lawsuit like Boy George ended up with!
trakMARX - How long did it take for the new Straps to get down to business?
Dave - After Stan & Luke left, Simon Werner, John Werner & Jim Walker (PIL) rehearsed on a Thursday night with me & Jock. We played at The Music Machine on Friday night with the UK SUBS (which are the two live tracks on our album - early 1980 - I think). So we only had 1 rehearsal.
trakMARX - How did you get involved with Donut Records?
Dave - Donut records was Jim Walkers label.
trakMARX - Who were your label mates?
Dave – Our labels mates were The Pack before they split & joined us.
trakMARX - Your debut 45 - "Just Can't Take It Anymore"/"New Age" (Donut 1) - hit the racks in 1980 with a punked up rockabilly vibe. What were your influences around the time of its composition/recording?
Dave - I was a big Damned & Ruts fan, the ‘Punkabilly’ (‘Just Can`t Take Anymore’) came about by fucking around in rehearsals with me & Stan & then Jock added the vocals in 1979. It’s been said that we may have invented Punkabilly, it was way before The Straycats had even been in the UK. I recently saw Tim from The Polecats & he told me that they wanted to release a cover of ‘Just Can’t Take Anymore’ for their 2nd single - but their record company said it was too punky for them.
trakMARX - The Straps were big mates of The Damned. How did this come about & what anecdotal memories survive?
Dave - I live in the Croydon area of South London & Captain was a drinking buddy of mine, we used to frequent the wonderful pubs of Croydon on a regular basis. Captain told me about The Black Album tour (1980) & Jim Walker paid £2,000 for us to get on it & jolly good fun it was, as you can imagine.
trakMARX - A second 45 - "Brixton"/"No Liquor" (Donut 3) - followed in 1982 & saw a return to a Punkier sound. Why did you abandon the rockabilly tendencies?
Dave – ‘Brixton’/’No Liquor’ was the true Straps sound, & we didn’t have anymore rockabilly songs, that was just a one off track which I personally feel was the wrong track to release as it wasn’t the real Straps music. I think we should have released House Of The Rising Sun.
trakMARX - "The Straps" (CYC 2) LP arrived on Cyclops in 1983 featuring Rat Scabies on drums on one track. What can you remember of the recording of the LP?
Dave - The album was recorded in 6 hours (Cyclops was Simon’s label which released The Pack records). We just played a live gig with no overdubs or extra tracks or anything - & went for it. Jim Walker had left by then & Pete Davies (UK SUBS) stood in & he didn`t even rehearse with us, he turned up at the studio & we gave him a brief blast of each song & nodded to him when each song was about to end. Rat Scabies was on 1 track only (‘No Liquor’) which was a demo that Jock & Simon did with him. Andi Sexgang is on backing vocals on ‘News Of The Day’ which he wrote & was his 1st release when he was in the Panic Buttons (he played Bass for us before Stan joined & used to live in a squat in Battersea with Jock).
trakMARX - Tell us about the death of The Straps.
Dave - The Straps fell apart in 83, I think. We had just recorded a 3rd single called ‘Omega Man’. It just didn’t feel right anymore, it seemed to have lost it’s spark & we drifted apart. Jock went on to record some stuff with Jah Wobble in Bartok & some more stuff with Rat.
trakMARX - How was Kirk Brandon's subsequent success perceived by The Straps.
Dave - Kirk always seemed a bit distant, but I got on really well with Stan & Luke & I was genuinely pleased that they went on to be successful.
trakMARX - How has the world treated the ex-Straps since meltdown & what are you all up to these days?
Dave - We played Brixton academy in 93 (Me & Jock were the only original members) on the Fuck Reading gig. I still get recognised when I go to the odd gig, which I find amusing after all these years. Jock moved to Cornwall, living the simple life. I am back in touch with him now. Don`t know where Simon, John or Jim are though. I seem to be getting a lot of interest lately regarding the band which I think is great. There’s even talk of releasing a ‘best of’ album.
Johnny Forgotten – tMx 14 – 04/04