Review: The Vibrators - The Epic Years 1976-78

The Vibrators - The Epic Years 1976-1978.
The Vibrators - The Epic Years 1976-1978.

The Vibrators were one of the bands who emerged out of London during the first wave of the burgeoning punk movement in 1976.

Famous for playing at the now-legendary 100 Club and the Roxy, they never made it big, unlike contemporaries like the Sex Pistols and The Clash.

That might have had something to do with their slightly risque name, and there's little doubt that cost them airplay in those more conservatives times.

As its name suggests, this 4CD box set gathers all the band's recordings for Epic Records between 1976-78, including their best-known material.

Released slightly belatedly to coincide with the band’s 40th anniversary, it includes their debut album Pure Mania, and the follow-up, V2.

The first, which made No. 49 in the national charts on its release in June 1977, includes the single Baby Baby, the extremely un-punk Sweet Sweet Heart and the song Stiff Little Fingers, which gave the Irish punk band their name.

The VIbrators.

The VIbrators.

Considered one of the most influential records of the era, it's easy to see why they were asked to support Iggy Pop, as their sound owed a lot to The Stooges' garage rock and Dr Feelgood's pub rock/R'n'B than their contemporaries.

If you doubt their influence on the scene, listen to London Girls, and then the UK Subs' much-better-known Tomorrow's Girls (released two years later), or Wrecked On You, and then the Angelic Upstarts' hit single Never 'Ad Nothin' (also from 1979).

Second album V2, released just 10 months later, features their only Top 40 single, Automatic Lover, and is basically more of the same, but speeded up, and a bit snottier.

As well as their sole hit, which is an acknowledged punk classic, it's notable for Troops Of Tomorrow, later covered by second-wave Scottish punks The Exploited and used as the title track for their second album.

Disc three comprises the trio of sessions recorded for John Peel's Radio 1 show between October 1976 and February 1978, plus four tracks the band performed on TV on The Old Grey Whistle Test.

Like many Peel versions, the songs you'll find here are superior in many ways to their 'official' versions, as they sound much more raw.

The last disc sees the band captured live in concert from the Marquee in London during the summer of `77, at the height of the punk explosion.

The full, raw 19-track mixing desk version of the show is used here, which presents The Vibrators in all their glory, rather than the truncated and overdubbed version previously available.

They give a nod to their roots with covers of Iggy's No Fun/Raw Power, and the Rolling Stones' Jumpin' Jack Flash, and make a decent fist of them.

Though some of their songs sound a little dated four decades on, and The Vibrators never became one of the elite, there's no doubt they earned their place in punk's hall of fame.

That's what makes this an interesting, if inessential, document of a memorable couple of years in the life of a band which is still treading the boards today, albeit with only drummer John 'Eddie' Edwards from the original line-up. 7/10.