A Little Bit Of Punk Rock History
Interview with Singer Jesse Lynn-Dean
11. November 1977
“THE WASPS have their debut single out today on 4-Play Records. These teenagers are regulars down at the Vortex and Rochester Castle. They´re a quartet from Walthamstow made up of Steve Wollaston on bass, John Rich on drums, Gary Wellman on guitar and Jesse Lynn-Dean on vocals.”
>>> from the Punk Diary 1970 – 1979 (written by George Gimarc)
Letztes Jahr im Oktober veroeffentlichte „Overground Records“ das Album „Punkryonics“ von the Wasps, siehe ausfuehrliche Review im 3RD No.26 auf der Seite 65.
Eine Ansammelung von 15 durch und durch grossartigen Songs, die aus einer Zeit stammten, als über das Vereinte Koenigreich mit den SEX PISTOLS angefangen die letzte große Revolte in der Musikszene hinweg fegte. Alles, was daraufhin in den vergangenen beinahe 28 Jahren folgte war nichts weiter als kalter Kaffee.
In der Mitte findet ihr dann noch ein Interview mit Andy Blade, dem Saenger von EATER, der wie auch der Saenger von the Wasps, Jesse Lynn-Dean, einige interessante Storys parat hatte. (Ralf Real Shock)
Is that the first time you make a interview for a germany fanzine? How do you feel about it?
Yes it is the first time. I've done an interview with a German fanzine. I know that there is a strong Punk following in Germany and I am glad to contribute my experiences and views.
Is that right, that you are now living in spain and working as a songwriter? What were the reasons to move? What do you miss from the britain?
Yes I am working as a songwriter in Spain. The main reason I left England was because after the breakup of The Wasps I needed a complete change of scenery. I miss a lot of things. In Britain fashion come from the streets and not the catwalks. I come from London and go back very often. There's a constant energy and buzz on the streets. There are always new bands playing small venues, great pubs and clubs and lots of freedom of expression. Spain has other attributes, but I do find I have to go back to London to get my cultural fix occasionally. I think you'll probably understand this because in Germany you've got some great cities with a similar vibe.
How is your business as a songwriter going?
Over the years I have collaborated successfully with a well known Spanish band, more recently I have written two albums for new artists which should be released early next year. I am also writing some new songs at the moment for a possible new Wasps album to follow our recently released Punkryonics album which is doing really well.
Is punk relevant in your life anymore or just a phase of your misspent youth?
It will always be relevant to me, I feel exactly the same way now as I did when The Wasps were on the road. Punk is an attitude, that's why it still lives on and in fact is today as big as it has ever been.
What was the first punk band that made an impression on you and how do you think that influence manifests itself in your music?
The Damned were I think the first British Punk band I saw live. I think it was probably their second gig. It was in a school hall in Finchley, North London and they played to about 50 people, all Punks from London and friends of the band's playing that night. Also playing that night was Cat Woman and Slaughter & the Dogs who I felt had something special. Of course previous to this I'd been listening to The Stooges, MC5's, Velvet Underground, just like everybody else, but I still think that the British Punk movement brought something orginal to the table. The energy and freshness and unselfconsciousness had an infectious influence over how I started writing Wasps songs.
When you look back at the time you spent in the Wasps, what sticks out the most? What's the general feeling you get about it? Do you miss it?
What sticks out most in my memory is that the music business is a catch 22 situation. The good bit is when you first start to play a new song in rehearsal and it comes together, then there is the excitement of playing small venues to audiences that want to see the raw energy and spontaneity of a band playing a set that is fresh and dangerous. Then the shit starts, managers & people in suits want you to stop getting your cock out on stage, want you to let your hair grow and say nice little things between songs when you're performing. Then comes the record companies who want to market you. It's just not possible to enjoy what you are doing like you did before. So I can say I miss the first bits, the early parts of the band, i.e. The Roxy, The Vortex, John Peel sessions and small Punk venues all over the country, but I don't miss the business side of it. So the more successful you get, the worse it is.
Could you discribe the days of 1977 in London? Was there cameraderie between bands or were they distant to each other? How did the bigger bands treat you?
Well, '76 was the most amazing year because Punk had just started and people were really shocked, but everybody could feel something really important was happening, not just with music, but a whole social phenonemon was taking place and it wasn't put together with money or a marketing plan it just happened and nobody could stop it. A lot of people credit Malcolm MacLaren with having a lot to do with Punk rock, but in actual fact it had already started on the streets, he just capitalised on it. Having said that, the early Pistols were a great band and The Bollocks album still stands up as a tremendous piece of work by any standards.
Regarding cameraderie between bands, I don't think it was really cool to say to each other, "hello, how's it going, I like your music", every band just couldn't wait to get up on stage and blow the arse out the place. There wasn't any animosity between bands and any cameraderie was felt and not spoken. The well known bands that we played with were at the time in their infancy and no bigger than anybody else.
Being over the teenage age, how do you view teenagers now?
I don't feel any different now as I did then. I think being a teenager is a licence to express yourself any way you feel and if you piss a lot of people off you are probably on the right track.
Please give me one or two questions to ask the next band I interview.
If you wasn't in the band you are (or were) in, what band would you have liked to have been in and why?
Was there much violence at your gigs? What was the strangest thing that´s been thrown at you on stage?
Usually the violence was at gigs when we played outside London and in industrial areas. The worst was at Shrewsbury in '77 when we had to play behind a barricade of chairs and security men, there were a lot of casualties which put a strain on the local hospital and led to us being banned from some towns in England.
We had lots of things thrown at us on stage. Fireworks, lighted cigarettes, coins, but I think the most unusual thing was probably a dead cat which landed with perfect timing across our drummer's cymbal just as we finished playing "Do the Zoo".
Name one famous non-punk person you would consider "punk" and explain why you believe they deserve this distinction.
The obvious answer to this is Mother Theresa, because she was such a fucking nuisance to the Pope, she just refused to join into the mainstream and did her own thing.
As 77 turned into 78 what differences did you notice happening on the punk scene? Was there a noticeable difference between audiences in and out of London? Why did you can´t wait till ´78?
As I have said before, '76 was the most exciting time for me as I was in London and right in the middle of the birth of Punk rock. '77 was good, but I knew the choice for bands in '78 would be "sell out or get out" and this is what I was writing about in the song "Can't wait till '78". In the song I'am trying to illustrate how great it was and at the same time predict that '78 was going to be a critical year for Punk and music history.
Who is/was the biggest loudmouth in punk rock, that you met or knew? And why?
I never really noticed anybody outstanding enough to win that title, maybe Malcolm MacLaren?
The most clever word you ever said?
I don't really understand the question. Do you mean 1 word or 1 sentence? If it's 1 word it has to be - "Think" If it's 1 sentence - "Don't think too much".
You played both, the famous Vortex and the Roxy. What did you make of the atmosphere, the audience and the reaction there?
The Roxy was smaller and more intimate, it was a privilage to play there. The audience were "full on" Punks and I knew a little bit of music history was being made. The Vortex was bigger and a better stage to play on and had a different kind of magic. It was less intense and when I played there I always felt inclined to try to wind the audience up and provoke them a little bit as I did on the "Live at the Vortex" album.
Let´s talk a little bit about the Wasps CD "Punkryonics on Overground Records. How did you get in touch with the Labelboss, John Esplen?
I'd been contacted by several labels over the years to bring out a Wasps album, but I didn't really consider it until I started to recieve emails, etc from Punkers asking if there was any unreleased Wasp tracks in existence. I was then contacted by the author Mario Panciera (who has written a book which is a definitive history of Punk to be released in January 2004), who convinced me to put an album of original Wasps recordings together and suggested 3 labels that he thought would be suitable. They were all very enthusiastic and genuinely interested in doing something with The Wasps. It was a difficult decision, but we eventually decided to go with John Esplen at Overground Records.
On the CD are the demo versions of your second single "Rubber Cars". Was there no chance to get the orginal mastertapes from "RCA Records"?
Our demo of "Rubber Cars" on the Punkryonics album is a much better version than the RCA produced single, so we never felt inclined to use the RCA version.
Is this now the complete recording stuff from the Wasps, or exist a couple of other recordings from the 70ties? Is there a chance, that in the near future the two John Peel Sessions are coming out on CD?
If you are speaking of original recordings from the 70's, there were some other songs recorded, but up to now we haven't been able to locate them.
Regarding the John Peel sessions, anything is possible. In the meantime we have been approached on two occasions to record a new album as a follow up to Punkryonics.
The songs from the demos at the end of the CD have a poor quality, but the music is great. Ever got the idea to recorded this tracks, like "She´s Alarming" or "Free Country" today?
I think I will be inclined to leave history as it is as far as re-recording these tracks are concerned as the energy in them depicts the sound of the time, but as you say, they are both great tracks and would certainly be part of our set if we do go back out on the road and maybe it would be a good idea to include them in a live Wasps album.
Could you tell me a little about the opening track on the CD, you wrote, called "Jjjjenny"? Who was she, and what was the history behind that song?
We were playing at the Roxy one night when a Punk girl got into our dressing room and she had a few beers with the band before we went on stage. She was talking about the difficulty in having to have a job and be a Punk at the same time and how her attitude was beginning to overlap from the weekends into Monday morning at work and how she just wanted to go into the office sometimes in full Punk regalia and stuff like that. When I asked her her name she stuttered "JJJJenny" and it just stuck in my head and I wrote the song after the gig.
Did you get a reaction from the other bandmembers, when finally the CD was out?
I was in contact with Johnny Rich (drums) and Steve Wollaston (Bass) throughout the preparation of the album and we were all satisfied with the finished product and John Esplen at Overground was always on the same wavelength as the band and consequently did an excellent job.
"Teenage Treats" was in 1977 one of this One Chord Wonders-7"inches, that fit perfect in John Peel´s radioshow. I could remember he played it very often on his programme. Did you met him personal? And how would you discribe him and his work in the early punk rock years?
"Teenage Treats" got a lot of air-play from John Peel who said it was one of his all time favourite Punk songs. I met him on many occasions and John Peel's contribution to Punk was massive. He gave a lot of new bands a chance to be heard nationally and was genuinely interested in pushing back the boundaries and allowing bands to express themselves.
How would you compare the scene you were involved 27 years ago to the punk scene today? What newer bands are you in to?
Here the issue is a bit clouded. For example, there are new Punk bands who are over produced, then there are the Skate Punk bands and there are bands with a more organic approach like, The Vines, The Strokes, etc. I think the scene today is good and a lot of good things are happening. The main difference is that in '76-'79 it was all new and that feeling could only be experienced and not described.
I like The Vines, 'cos they seem to be able to cope with a soft tunefull song and then completly almost go into rage and yet it all hangs together. I like Queens of the Stone Age and I could probably get into Marilyn Manson if he could only be a bit more extravert!
Which record could I find in your CD-player or at your turn-table?
"Songs for the deaf" by Queens of the Stone Age.
Could you tell us behind every name a little story, that happens to you? Joe Strummer, Iggy Pop, Sharon Osborne, the Ramones, Bob Geldof.
These people are covered in the Punkryonics sleeve notes, but I'll briefly explain here.
Joe Strummer dragged me out from under a pile of Punk bodies who had dived on top of me at the Roxy one night, he lost a front tooth and probably saved my life.
Iggy Pop again at the Roxy tried to come up on stage with The Wasps and do a number, but although we had a healthy respect for Iggy, we decided this superstar behaviour was not what Punk was all about and we kicked him off.
The manager of The Wasps took me to Los Angeles in '78 and we stayed at the house of Don Arden (manager at the time to E.L.O), father of Sharon Osborne who at that time looked exactly like Kelly Osborne does now and (this is not in the sleevenotes), within 10 minutes of arriving I found myself invited by Sharon to their private cinema and nervously enjoyed a private screening of Linda Lovelace's famous porno film "Deep Throat".
The Ramones, a band that I have always enjoyed were playing at CBGB's in New York and I got up and guested with them for two songs.
Bob Geldof who I never met until after he had reviewed "Teenage Treats" and declared it a great record, was around in London at the time we were playing. I've spoken to him a few times, but didn't really know him that well.
Is there anything else on your mind you'd like to share?
Thanks for asking me some very interesting questions and I enjoyed trying to answer them. Good luck.
Thanks very much for the interview, Jesse. It was great fun. And thanks for the photos, too!
To contact Jesse:
INTERVIEW - Ralf Real Shock ( Februar 2004, fuer 3RD Gen. Nation No. 27 )