sham 69

Sham 69 at Kung Fu Necktie

The first U.K. punks, Sham 69, join No Consent and the Tone Bandits at Kung Fu Necktie for a night of punkness.

Though far less known than their fellow Class of 1976/1977 Brit punk brethren, the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Damned, Sham 69 and its charismatic lead singer, James Pursey, were releasing its first singles – “I Don’t Wanna” and “Song of the Streets” – at the same time that the Pistols dropped 45s such as “God Save the Queen” and “Pretty Vacant” and the Clash brought forth “White Riot.”

Stranger still, for those keeping score, Pursey actually first formed Sham 69 in 1975 before “punk” officially had its title and speed-driven sound.

sham 69
Sham 69 original lineup

Does this make Sham 69 Great Britain’s first-ever punk band? Perhaps. What is true and unassailable, as you’ll witness at Kung Fu Necktie on Friday, June 28, is that Sham 69 is indeed the longest lasting punk band with original members Pursey, guitarist Dave Parsons and bassist Dave Tregunna intact, and continually Shamming.

Maybe they didn’t get the notoriety of the Clash and its overt politicism, or the Sex Pistols with their controversial Malcolm McLaren-forged show-busy-ness. They had great songs, and Pursey always seemed to be bouncing off the walls while they performed.

There aren’t many interviews with the 1978-era version of Sham 69 to be found, but here’s one with the dean of British underground music, DJ John Peel:

Often more of a rushed, power-pop band with an edge than a straight-up punk act (and never a violent Oi band, as Pursey has vehemently denied), Sham 69 were beloved for chart-topping U.K. singles such as “Hurry Up, Harry,” the Who-like “If the Kids Are United” and for making their way into Polish film director Lech Kowalski’s underground classic D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage. If you don’t know the movie, you know the poster.

sham 69

When Sire Records boss Seymour Stein was filling his new label with downtown New York City punks such as the Ramones and Talking Heads and ventured into new wave and dance-pop with Madonna, he took a shot with Brits such as Sham 69 and released its first albums Tell Us the Truth, and That’s Life in America

Like the Sex Pistols, when they broke apart after their first album, their lead singer went on to make his own music and form his own bands. Only Pursey did something whack—he hooked up with the remaining Sex Pistols not named Vicious or Rotten, Steve Jones, and Paul Cook, and titled their ensemble the Sham Pistols.

Along with uniting again as Sham 69 in 2011, Pursey, Parsons, and Tregunna do something too few old headbands, punk or otherwise, would: they continue to make new studio albums such as 2021’s Black Dog and their just-released To the Ends of the Earth. I can’t promise that anything from their new 2024 album sounds anything like “Hurry Up, Harry,” but they’re alive, vibrant, and out there, slamming and Shamming at their best.

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