I was in a band called the Renegades when I was a little kid, right, and we all wore black shirts and sunglasses.
About 1961/2 Knox was Knox and the Nightriders doing Cliff Richard and Shadows numbers and even beating the Zombies in a talent contest!
After that several bands followed including Stilletto, Lipstick - a three piece with a girl bassist - and lastly an Irish show band with a strange Nazi transvestite jazz organist in a gay bar in Hammersmith!
John Ellis was also playing. He had formed Bazooka Joe in 1970 with Danny Kleinman and later Stuart Goddard (Adam Ant) and legend has it that following a gig with the Sex Pistols at St Martins 6.11.75 the gig Adam left and embraced Punk rock.
At that gig were also Pat Collier watching the band, Ellis as well as he had left the band and Eddie who was roadying for the band.
In 1976 the Vibrators formed
Knox 2002 The band was started by Eddie in February 1976 and was essentially four friends. It did its first gig supporting the Stranglers at part of Hornsey Art College in March 1976. The band played lots of gigs, and the material was a mixture of pub rock classics (basically so we could get out there and play without a lot of rehearsal), and our own heavier material we were introducing, songs such as “Whips & Furs”, Sweet Sweet Heart”, “She’s Bringing You Down”, etc. which I’d been playing in three bands before the Vibrators, something most people don’t know.
Were they Punk rock? No is the honest answer. The Vibrators like many bands, had long hair and were sartorially challenged and were playing a large amount of cover versions for punters. But Punk rock was in the air, they had some originals that lent themselves to being punked up and they were astute enough to know which way the wind was blowing or maybe unconsciously songs were speeding up. However even at an early stage had the knack of shooting themselves in the foot credibility wise.
Pat Collier recounted to journalist Caroline Coon “We don’t really go along with the Punk Rock thing, but its the fashion isn’t it.” The band at the gig all have long hair. Next time its short.
We supported such luminaries as The Pistols and The Clash, then for me the thing which really Put punk on the map was the 100 Club Punk Rock Festival on 20-21 September 1976.’ We played the second night, and backed legendary guitarist Chris 5pedding (topping the bill) near the end of our set. Knox 2002
We played the 100 Club and Chris Spedding was more or less dragged into it by the scruff of his neck against his will… Collier 12.3.77
Spedding saw these adverts which said he was appearing at the 100 Club Knox 12.3.77
…the first time Pat ever met Chris Spedding was when he walked onstage to do the numbers with ‘im. Ellis 12.3.77
The gig certainly cemented the Vibrators being bracketed with the emerging Punk scene but considering their set was filled with old rock ‘n’ roll standards it was hardly year zero compared to the raw sets from the Pistols, Clash, Buzzcocks, Damned and Subway Sect.
Pete Shelley (Buzzcocks) on the !00 Club Punk Festival. My lasting impressions? I always remember the Vibrators’ drum kit. On the bass drum they’d painted this, like, house. The windows were cut out, and whenever they hit the bass drum this piece of cloth from behind flopped out. I thought, that’s not very punk, that. They were one of the London bands. I don’t think time’s been kind to them. They’re not remembered as one of the great punk bands. But when Caroline Coon did her original piece about punk she did have the Vibrators in there.
Knox. The Vibrators got lots of work through Eddie and Pat driving round to venues and asking if we could play. We had gradually been playing faster as both us and the audience liked it better; and we were then included under the press umbrella term of punk rock with a number of other bands, as people must have sensed that there was some kind of movement happening.
And so the Vibrators cock the trusty gun and aim at their feet once more as quite understandably they take the first opportunity to release a record. However in terms of credibility signing to Mickie Most’s RAK label wasn’t perhaps the best idea. Nor would making you first single backing Chris Spedding on the the kitsch (but viewed as a cash in single) ‘Pogo Dancing’ which was released in November 1976.
Knox (2002) We had no manager up until we signed to Mickie Most, who had an unbelievable track record with getting hits, on his label RAK Records, and he released Pat Collier’s “We Vibrate” in mid November 1976.
John Ellis (2002) Before we made Pure Mania we had made 1 single for RAK records. In hindsight, this was a bad move from a credibility point of view and cred was the thing you needed at that point in time. But being a little more naive in those days …
They also cut ‘We Vibrate’ coupled with ‘Whips and Furs’ and again that was released in November making Sounds single of the week but the damage was perhaps done credibility wise.
The band secured a prestigious support slot on Ian Hunters tour but in December Rotten swearing on Grundy caused a wave of cancellations of their gigs.
Pat Collier We’re suffering the worst but we’re never gonna give in. There’s nothing the establishment can do to stop punk coming through but punk doesn’t necessarily man smashing glasses in peoples faces.
This got the back up of the punk cognoscenti even more
A second single ‘Ain’t Got No Heart/ Bad Time’ was recorded for Most but never got released. In January 1977 there was talk of them recording the Rolling Stones ‘Jumping Jack Flash’; again a move not likely to endear them to the Punk crowd. However the majors were sniffing around and the band signed to Epic a division of major CBS and the Clash’s label in April 1977.
Meanwhile the band began to play venues like the famous Roxy Club and were even considered for the live album from the club that went top 30. However the band had signed to CBS Epic under new manager Tom Wereham and they didn’t go on the album.
When EMI got the gig and not CBS, the latter vetoed the Vibrators involvement.
Knox 2006 I think we were going to be on the record but I don’t know why we were not on it as we played the Roxy a bit. I think it might be that our record company weren’t going to get enough money or something. Or it could be Punk politics that we didn’t fit in with the format of the record…etc., etc. Looking back we probably should have been on it.
The Vibrators suffered terrible press both for their first album and their punk credibility but there are several undeniable things about the Vibrators that can’t be argued. They weren’t the first or last to change style and they did it with aplomb. ‘Pure Mania’ is a Punk rock classic filled with hooky, taut punk rock tunes with a brittle driving guitar sound and the distinctive nasal punk twang of front man Knox. Their look was also perfect and the album cover was both iconic and a classic. Like the Stranglers the times had rubbed off on them and they’d hardened and speeded up. But unlike the Stranglers they didn’t have neither their commercial success or aggression which set the Stranglers apart and made them feared. Its interesting, and I hope its not true, that the Vibrators now claim that being friends with the Stranglers damaged their credibility because the Stranglers were uncool.
That said critics like Burchill who slated it were seriously twats, too concerned with form rather than substance. If there was a problem it was that it was ahead of its time in its pop punk inflection of the oncoming splits of punk into first new wave then powerpop.
If the critics were not on the side then the public were coming round through the Vibrators relentless touring.
They lost Pat Collier for reasons that were never known though it would seem musical differences would be the main reason as he formed the powerpop band the Boyfriends immediately afterwards and who released 3 singles before disbanding in 1979. Pat would go on to run Alaska studios and has become a well known producer. In fact he’s helping out the Duel as we speak (July 2008) on their new album.
His replacement was unknown 19 year old Gary Tibbs. As punk began to mutate mid 1977 to both a harder edge style represented by Sham and a new wave and away from the original faces the Vibrators again made a strange move claiming the UK was too restrictive and decamped themselves to Berlin where they had previously toured mid 1976 and caught the eye of Iggy Pop who invited them to tour with him.
Knox Punk in Britain is becoming very fascist, very right wing all this business about people believing they have to conform to a certain image which is really only being determined by a small elite in London. Its getting so depressing when the main thing should be fun. 24.9.77 Sounds
Ellis One of the reasons the Vibrators have always been slagged off is because we’ve never fitted into the posey idea of what a punk band should be about.
The whole elitism thing is just stupid. The whole credibility thing built up because we used to play pubs doing old rock ‘n’ roll numbers.
The irony was of course that Berlin was even more paranoiac and schizoid because of life living with a wall running through the city and constant tension between the Russia and the west.
The Vibrators return to the UK and even more fragmented punk scene of hard punk, new wave and the main band the Sex Pistols split.
The Vibrators returned home on the up with the tougher punkier ‘V2’ garnering good reviews and reaching no33 in the charts and a charting single Automatic Lover and appearance on Top Of The Pops. Yet all was not well as first John Ellis departed as the record was released to form Rapid Eye Movement.
The band now wanted to change the harder edge.
Knox We are taking a more pop approach now. The time wasn’t right for a pop approach last year - its only now that people would listen. Record Mirror 25.3.78
The band appeared to be changing. Appearances on the Old Grey Whistle Test performing ‘V2’ numbers now had Knox in a white suit and longer hair. Another single Judy Says made the lower reaches of the charts and then that was it. Compare this to the regular bullets being fired out by the Stranglers.
The band now seemed in a strange phase. Dave birch was brought in on guitar and Don Show on keyboards and sax. At this stage the more heavily punked up Vibes were being fronted by a white suited Knox!! Shortly after Judy was released Gary Tibbs left to join Roxy Music in June 1978 (before joining Adam & The Ants in their most successful phase) in 1980 and Snow and Birch were sacked.
More changes then as Ben Brierley ex of the Front and Streak and husband of Marianne Faithful was brought in on bass and Greg Van Cook of the Electric chairs on guitar. While these were seasoned players they also came with a bit of history as both were heroin addicts at the time.
Next to leave was Knox in October 1978 while the rest of the band considered its options and split. Then in September 1979 after nearly a years absence they reappeared With Eddie on Drums, and Ex Electric Chairs guitarists Cook and Elliott Michaels on guitars and new vocalist Kip and ex Eater bassist Ian Woodcock.
There were reformations and line up changes aplenty. Over the years John Ellis famously joined the Stranglers replacing Hugh Cornwell and appeared on several albums. Eddie continued in the Vibrators but famously did a one off gig as PILs drummer. Gary Tibbs’ last band was the Fixx before leaving in 2008. Ben Brierley would divorce Marianne Faithful and end up on Don Was’ ‘Sleep It Off’ album by Cristina. Pat Collier is still producing records.
Now in 2008 the Vibrators are still going strong with Knox and Eddie the constants.
Edited by theMaggotFarmer on 6 Dec 2013, 19:49
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