On a late afternoon in October, 1977 I hit every side of cringe. Seeking a musical direction away from Abba’s Greatest Hits (as edgy as it got in my parents’ record collection) I took the route then most favoured by the neighbourhood bams. The Stranglers had just released their second album, No More Heroes with its vivid cover of a red-rose funeral wreath wrapped in rats’ tails atop a coffin lid; the title embossed on a brass plaque.

I’d spent most of that week’s wage from my Saturday job on this record and duly sat down to listen to it after school as my mum made dinner, seemingly beyond the reach of outrage. If only she’d walked in on me during the sixth track, the album’s best-known (and mildest) air, Something Better Change. But no. She had to appear without warning in the middle of the previous track, a violently pornographic wee number called Bring on the Nubiles.

I know what you’re thinking here: that the title alone should have been a red flag and I should simply have skipped over it. But I was a Catholic 14 years old (about 10 in the non-Catholic world). I thought the Nubiles were female Vikings. The album didn’t carry the lyrics (at least, not as I recall) and there was no internet to check them out beforehand.

So, I couldn’t have known that the chorus was a raw and repeated entreaty for no-nonsense concupiscence that brooked no misinterpretation. So, there’s me who sought nothing more than a surreptitious kiss, listening to Hugh Cornwell belting out “Lemme Lemme f**k you, f**k you.”


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And suddenly there’s mum, who’s more Catholic than Mother Teresa’s rosary beads, the blood rapidly draining from her face. And there’s me looking like I’ve just been caught reading Rustler. There was nowhere to hide.

“What on earth is that man singing,” she asks.

“I think it’s Lemme Lemme Kiss you, kiss you,” I reply feebly.

“Let me hear it again.”

“Mum, it’s not what you think.”

The next few moments proceed in slow-motion. She’s moving to the stereo to place the needle at the start of the track and I’m heading out the room, unable to listen to those lyrics in her presence.

“Just get it out of this house before your father gets home and we’ll say no more about it.” So I did. And we never have.

Curiously, there was only an arched eyebrow a month later when I brought home AC/DC’s If You Want Blood album. The cover art, hardly less subtle than No More Heroes, depicted the lead guitarist being bludgeoned by an electric guitar.

It featured a song called Whole Lotta Rosie about a night of sex with a plus-size groupie and the line: “But you give it all you got; weighing in at 19 stone.” Perhaps she thought this was more open to interpretation than Bring on the Nubiles.

And so, as punk tock began to menace polite society I could only watch mesmerised from the margins, having to settle for sporadic appearances by Sham 69 and Captain Sensible and The Clash on Top of the Pops. And having a fleeting moment of hope when my dad said he “quite liked” London Calling.

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I’ve never since regretted becoming a metal-head (Deep Purple, Led Zep, Van Halen and Sabbath), but I’d have liked – even for just a month or two – to have dyed my hair yellow in a Mohican (or at least an Apache); added chains to my leather jacket and maybe a stud in my nose and pogo-ed at Tiffany’s to a band called The Snotters or something like that.

The Scottish photographer and fashion and textile designer, Lynda Robertson had moved from her home in Edinburgh to Glasgow at this time to study at the Glasgow School of Art. “I was unfamiliar with Glasgow and it seemed big and raw compared with Edinburgh,” she told me this week, “so, I felt that the best was to get to know the city was to photograph it at night with my old OM-1 camera, recording people and places using black and white film.”

Many of her images were taken from the eye of the punk cyclone that hit Glasgow and feature in This is Croydon’s Music exhibition 2024, after London mayor, Sadiq Khan had nominated the South London district as London Borough of Culture last year. They also featured in last December’s Southampton exhibition.

Her pictures captured all the glorious anarchy of punk and none more so than an image titled Dundee Punk which was recently selected by The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum. This is now on permanent display within their culture section.

Others feature The Damned and their fans one memorable night at Tiffany’s, on Sauchiehall Street in October, 1982 and some original images of Finnish band Hanoi Rocks in Glasgow’s Strathclyde University Union in May 1983. Her collection includes portraits of Dave Tregunna, bass guitarist with Sham 69 and Terry Chimes of The Clash as well as Glasgow punks snapped in September 1982.

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“Glasgow’s punks were very distinctive,” she recalls. “You need to remember that young working-class people then didn’t have much money and there was a lot of pent-up fury at what was happening in politics.” This was the era of peak Thatcher and punk seemed to resonate with young people much more than the pomp, millionaires’ rock of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Genesis.

“Punk seemed to give young working class people in particular an opportunity to fight against the establishment on a very tight budget. Nor did it oblige you to attend college or university to get politically active.

“They all had their own individuality,” Ms Robertson recalls. The clubs were dark and basic and you had to capture these moments in an instant as the crowds were literally bouncing off the walls and all over each other.

“The energy of the music was thrilling and then bands fed off that. I’ve recently done some events with Captain Sensible of The Damned. The image of him at Tiffany’s shows him bedecked in jewellery, but he told me it was actually much lighter aluminium because real jewellery would have been too heavy when you’re leaping about a stage non-stop for a couple of hours. Dave Vanian, The Damned’s lead vocalist had also emerged dressed a Minister and had persuaded three dancers to cut about as nuns.”

Ah yes, Dave Vanian. I once saw him on Top of the Pops bleached white like a corpse and a mane of thick black hair. I’d read that he drove about London in a converted hearse and slept in a coffin. To me, this suggested commitment and authenticity. I mean, if you’re the lead singer of a band called The Damned it would have been dishonest to have conducted yourself in any other way.

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“I actually found punk rockers to be very gentle people and not at all as they were being portrayed,” she said. “There was much more thought about their music and lyrics than they’re often given credit for. They emerged for a few years that represented a momentary mood. It was a response to the political chaos that was engulfing the country then: the wars; the industrial unrest and the sense that people like them were being ignored and left behind.

“Throughout history, any break with what was considered the norm in arts and culture can seem radical. It’s what hastens change and maintains momentum and moving forward. Change is always disruptive.”

The Damned recently announced that they’ll be playing in Glasgow later this year and I’m hoping that Dave Vanian is still cutting about his neighbourhood in a hearse and sleeping the sleep of the undead. If he turns up in a four-door saloon wearing quiet jeans and a cargo jacket I’ll not be pleased. And there better not be any brown or talk about climate change.

“Captain Sensible was 70 last week,” says Ms Robertson. “He’s just such a lovely gentleman, a committed pacifist and a vegetarian. I love the fact that The Damned and other punk bands are still going up on stage in their 70s.

“What I find interesting is that parents are going with their children to see these bands. Young people appreciate the energy and it bridges the generation gap. Universities are now doing courses on punk as social history and the discomfort of something new and angry. You can’t label it and box it and control it. In time, it’s come to have a place that sits in the development of our culture.”


Donald MacLeod, owner of Glasgow nightclubs, The Cathouse and The Garage was caught up in the punk vortex and says it continues to define his life. He played guitar in his bands First Priority and The Crows and toured Britain supporting The Clash, The Damned and Public Image. He recalls nights at The Mars Bar and the old Glasgow Tech and watching Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill perform in the Third Eye Centre as Johnny and the Self-abusers. “This was their last gig before they became Simple Minds,” he recalls.

What excited him most about the dawn of punk? “My hormones! I’d always been into rock music and at 12 and 13 I’d loved Bowie and glam rock and then Alex Harvey and Genesis and Supertramp. I was at Bishopbriggs High at the time, which was quite middle class, but had always considered myself a bit of a rebel.

“So, when the Sex Pistols burst into life I thought, ‘this is the stuff for me’. They didn’t give a f**k and the establishment hated them, especially after that Bill Grundy TV interview in 1976 when he goaded them and they started swearing at him. He was patronising them as so many of the media establishment did with those they wanted to ridicule “I wanted to be a part of it. And yes, I know that a lot of this had been orchestrated by their Svengali, Malcolm McLaren, but who cares? We felt we were in on something that was truly radical.”

He rhymes off all the bands as lovingly as though recounting the heroic deeds of old football teams: Crass – “they were real anarchist punk” – the Pistols, The Clash, the Vibrators and then plastic punk and post-punk and new wave which extended the life expectancy of those bands that had proper musicians.”


Speak to any of those who had ringside seats as the action unfolded and they all tell you the same thing: that it was a moment in time, but that it ended almost as soon as it had begun. The football financier, David Low and his friend, the musician, Bobby (Young at Heart) Bluebell are discussing this outside an artisan coffee shop on Woodlands Road, gateway to Glasgow’s arboreal and refined west end.

“Look, in 1976, just a year after I’d left secondary school I grew my hair and went down to the Knebworth Festival where the headline acts were the Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd and 10cc. Before the summer was out, that was dead and punk had arrived. It was an explosion of torn woolly jumpers, safety pins and spiky hair and we were all pogoing our heads off.

“Back then, it all seemed radical, although in the end capitalism and the music establishment – as it always does – hollows it out and trims off the rough edges. No matter what anyone says, the heyday of punk lasted three years, from 1976 until 1979. But what a glorious three years.”

“I suppose you could say that the birth of all popular music genres seemed to challenge accepted norms: from modern jazz; the Delta Blues; 1950s rock n roll; The Beatles and heavy rock right through to the new romantics and electronic dance music. But of all those movements I don’t think any of them caused such shock to the adult world and the accepted way of doing things than punk,” says Bobby Bluebell.

With other musical forms, you might recount the names of the songs like cup finals and Latin verb structures. But when these two begin naming the old punk bands they take turns at belting out the jaggy choruses. “Something Better Change; God Save the Queen (and her fascist regime).”

We talk about The Clash and Rock the Casbah and immediately they both burst into “The Sharif don’t like it, rock the casbah,” and then fall to debating whether it’s “rock” or “rockin”. You can’t really do this with Stairway to Heaven.


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Donald MacLeod tells his own shocked mum and dad story, one that ended with him spending a night in the cells. He recalls a night watching The Ruts performing Babylon’s Burning at the Kinema in Dunfermline. “There was a big troupe of us and we were all steaming with the drink. When the band came on the place just went mental and the stewards came charging in and I tried to deck one of them, but he ducked and knocked me out. I made a court appearance after some nearby property got damaged.

“Unfortunately, my dad was a police officer and I tried to keep my court appearance secret. I had to beg the bus fare home from a lady in the court. The judge told me to apologise to the owner and pay up the cost of the damage “I hadn’t realised that the courts contacted your home to verify where you lived. So, of course my parents knew and my dad was just mortified. But he still backed me when I said I wanted to be a musician. He came to the gigs when we supported The Clash and the Damned.

“Punk was pivotal in changing my life and it led to what I do now. I still consider myself to be a punk. If it wasn’t for The Clash and the Pistols I’d still be working as a printer.”

The Damned play the Barrowlands, Glasgow, on December 5