Picture the scene: it’s 1982 and two fourteen year old boys living deep in the country head off to the big city (Exeter) for their annual summer holiday record buying trip. These boys are massive fans of punk music in general and anarcho-punk in particular. Anarcho-punk served up a cornucopia of pleasures – great music, brilliant artwork, information packed record sleeves and bloody cheap records (‘pay no more than…’ emblazoned on the front of every sleeve, and woe betide any record shop that dared to try and sell them for more).
All of these things are very important to these two boys – but the cheapness of the records made them infinitely accessible to people relying on the contents of piggy banks and parental donations, so a dash to the ‘crass records’ section of record shops became the modus operandi of all record buying excursions.
As normal, the two boys study the contents of the independent chart in Smash Hits magazine prior to the trip and both become very excited about one record in particular: ‘Farce’ by Rudimentary Peni. This record ticked all the boxes necessary for swift purchase – it was on crass records, they had a great name, it looked brilliant and it was only 80p.
It also had 11 tracks,
This was very important in the VFM required world of skint punky teenagers and so, of course, they both bought a copy.
On the way home, in the back of the car, all the sleeves were unfolded and studied with meticulous obsession – anarchist viewpoints were digested and lyrics read (if the parents in the front seats had known how many ‘fucks’ were present on the sleeves behind them they would’ve thrown them out the car, so the boys kept it quiet – a small victory against the patriarchy that crass/all the other bands told us to fight against, or avoidance of a telling off…) but none had the effect on them that the ‘peni did.
The sleeve was a mass of ridiculously detailed artwork, the like of which had never been seen before. Normally these sleeves would be full of mushroom clouds, CND badges, dead animals, soldiers, policemen and crude depictions of Reagan and Thatcher – but the Peni drawings were bizarre depictions of amputees, flying popes, coffins, fetuses and other inhabitants of a scary alternate universe. Years later it would be revealed that the artist, Nick Blinko, suffered from severe schizophrenia and that the drawings were the products of a tortured mind – but one single look at these immediately told you that something wasn’t right.
The artwork raised a lot of questions (and no answers) so what the hell would the music sound like? Needless to say, even John Peel hadn’t played the ‘Peni (certainly not when the boys were listening anyway) and so the boys hadn’t a clue what to expect…
The first track (‘Sacrifice’) started normally – buzzing guitar over a muffled rhythm section bashing out a good punky riff, but then – 9 seconds in – the vocals came in, and it suddenly sounds like no other band on Earth. Vocalist Nick Blinko’s vocals sound deranged and sad, like a man crawling out of a dark mental hole screaming for attention and pleading for help. in 1982 I (for I was one of those boys) had never heard anything like it and sitting here now, 35 years later, there is still nothing that comes close.
47 seconds later it ends.
And then the next track starts, then the next, then the next… until, finally, after 6 tracks (and about 7 minutes) side 1 ends and you are left physically and emotionally drained after the onslaught of anguish and anger. And scared (but excited) to turn it over and see what side 2 had in store… Having this record, at the time, felt like being a member of a secret society – no-one else like them (no-one in our vicinity, certainly) and nobody knew anything about them – they didn’t appear in the music papers and it took a lot of digging just to find out that they also had an earlier 7″ out the previous year.
35 years on, and revisiting this wonderful slab of vinyl, it still amazes/delights/scares me in equal measures – and that’s a brilliant recommendation.