Sham 69

After the dust had settled on the media frenzy surrounding the Sex Pistols, Punk gradually became a little more acceptable to the masses around the country with the written word and TV being more welcoming to bands who had something to say. This acceptance from the mainstream may well have been the reason the youth of the day looked to another band to be their spokesperson in hard times, a band who sang about the hardships of council estates, being skint in dead-end jobs or your mum nagging you to get out of your bed.


Sham 69 told the truth about the real issues and united a generation of kids with a common language; even their name was taken from worn out graffiti on a backstreet wall where they grew up. They were harsh, brash and in your face and with Jimmy Pursey they had an articulate front man that became a council estate pied piper in those early years, backed by Dave Parsons Guitar, Dave Tregunna – bass, Billy Bostik – drums the had the music to go to war with.

Play: Sham 69 – Borstal Breakout


Releasing their first single “I Don’t Wanna” in 1977 which prompted interest from Polydor Records, which then enabled the band to release a run of singles that would establish them as one of the most successful Punk bands to come out of the UK. 1978 was unquestionably Sham 69s year with the classic “Borstal Breakout” being released and “Angels with Dirty Faces”, “If the Kids are United” and “Hurry Up Harry all breaking into the top 20 singles chart. The lyrics conveyed the struggle of working-class life by putting on your Dr. Marten boots rather than rose-tinted spectacles and shouting choruses that came from the terraces and not the music halls.  Although some gigs were marred by trouble, and at times frequented by right-wing activists, the band encouraged real audience participation on a level that only emphasised the bond they had with their followers. But as with many young bands who take up an early place in the spotlight record company disagreements and infighting added to Sham splitting, with Jimmy then pursuing a solo career that never touched the band’s heights.


They were another band who did not recognise their collective talents and what made them successful, or maybe it was the fight to reach the spotlight in the first place away from their own working class struggles that delivered those classic songs. The sheer raw aggression, honesty, and passion that those songs delivered still stand the test of time today and any disillusioned angry youth wanting to put music to their council estate life should look no further than Sham 69 to give them inspiration to breakout.