Featuring over 150 contributions from people who lived and grew up in South Yorkshire during the Punk revolution, Our Generation recalls the impact Punk made as it found its way up the M1 and into the lives of the bored teenagers of Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster. Its a gripping piece of research. Most accounts of the UK Punk explosion are London-centric for obvious reasons, but the importance and impact of Punk elsewhere in the country cannot be understated. In many respects Punk meant more to those outside the capital, in the towns and villages where the youth really did have nothing to do.
Our Generation includes recollections of the Sex Pistols at the Black Swan, Sheffield in July 76, the Outlook Doncaster in September 76 and August 77 and Huddersfield on Christmas day 77. As with most 76 Pistols gigs, the early shows were sparsely attended unlike the August 77 Outlook show, which was a part of the famous S.P.O.T.S tour and played under the pseudonym of the Tax Exiles.
The recollections in the book are honest, which is a breath of fresh air - no one's trying to re-write history with the benefit of hindsight. This is evident with the mixed response to the Sex Pistols shows; somewhat surprisingly not everyone who attended rated them highly. The August 77 show hints at the tension now surrounding the band: "The atmosphere was quite heavy... roadie Roadent was throwing and
smashing bottle about. I think he was aiming for Nancy. The Sex Pistols were awkward that night and Sid Vicious was a completely nasty piece of work."
Above: an alternative book cover artwork from
the book's cover designer Dave Spencer
Contrast this to the Black Swan in July 76 with Rotten clearly on form "Put your hands up if you bought Patti Smith's 'Horses' album" (pause while people put their hands up) " You've been cheated!" The audience clearly did not know what to make of it and by the end of the show there was about ten people left. However over the next 18 months people did start to grasp what it was about. The venues themselves were to prove so pivotal to the local Punk scene. The previously mentioned Outlook club in Doncaster, the Windmill in Rotherham, the Limit club, Top Rank and later Marples and the Leadmill in Sheffield, all put on shows that changed the lives of many local teenagers.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the book is that it acts as a mirror of the Punk years that were being played out, not just in South Yorkshire, but throughout the provincial towns. Punk took a while longer to take off outside London, but the way in which it seeped into the collective consciousness of the UK's youth will seem familiar to many. One contributor believes that 1979 was the year Punk really hit its stride, citing all the incredible singles released that year. The Skids 'Into the Valley' is recalled as one such galvanising record. The Mod revival and emergence of 2-tone during the same year is also recalled; many Punk Rockers were die-hard Jam fans themselves and had no real differences with the Mod crowd.
Also fascinating are the many stories of fans meeting the bands themselves and proving the old Punk adage that Punk broke down the barriers between bands and their fans. Tales of helping 999 set up equipment, the Buzzcocks getting an under-age kid into a show and touring with Sham 69 are re-told alongside many bar-side encounters with amongst others, Paul Weller, Sid Vicious and Gaye Advert. Gaye, Debbie Harry and Pauline Murray are also remembered fondly by the Punk boys for obvious reasons.
The book takes the story right through to 1985. I lived the best part of four years in Sheffield from 82-86 and particularly enjoyed re-living this period - some of the gigs I attended are remembered, including one of the all time legendary shows, the Dead Kennedys' in November 82 at the Leadmill.
Punk was much more than just the music; it was a way of life, a statement. Perhaps thats the strength of Our Generation. The excitement, the violence (against the Punks rather than by the Punks) the sheer thrill of belonging to such a breathtaking cause, are brought vividly back to life by those who were affected the most, the kids themselves. Its their story, it was my story, and it may be yours. Its a tremendous book which I thoroughly enjoyed. A true Punk Rock book: honest, vibrant and passionate. I have not enjoyed a music book as much since Sulphate strip. Highly recommended.
South Yorkshire Times 11/6/09 by Sally Burton
Nothing transports you back in time more effectively than a song. But in Rawmarsh ex Punk Rocker Tony Beesley's new book, Our Generation, memories of a whole musical era jerk you back decades...real life accounts from the school playground to local living rooms and gigs all over South Yorkshire explode from the 444 pages that pull you in from the first paragraph. Many make you laugh, some might almost make you cry... yes, the meetings,moods and recollections spread out mainly across Rotherham, Mexborough and the Dearne, then visit Sheffield and Doncaster, but you don't have to have been in these parts to bond with the book.
I wasn't around the Dearne at that time but I could have been - so strong were the images and memories of the 70's and 80's, that will resonate in everyone of a certain age and have huge interest even for those who aren't.
I was no Punkette either but I loved the sounds of The Clash and The Jam, while also being into some of the Northern Soul scene. It all came flooding back with the turn of the pages... the clothes, the gangs, the in-places, the do's and the don'ts... Teenagers all busy being so different - and so much the same. Punk was daring and for most who couldn't afford to get the look in designer fashion it was a case of 'tearing your school blazer, writing the Clash on it and taking in your Brutus jeans' as Tony recalls. He added 'Punk was dangerous and I got more excitement and euphoria out of Punk at the age of 13 to 15 than at any other time'. Famous names and local bands add their accounts and exclusive photographs of idols litter the pages - theres not the slightest chance of getting bored.
The South Yorkshire Times gets a mention - not least for featuring the launch (in 1978) of Mexborough band The Diks, who later found fame, hitting the Sunday Mirror front page after alledgedly dedicating songs to the Yorkshire Ripper (still at large at the time the book notes). Searingly honest, Diks singer Paul Hutley states 'We didn't really mix with any of the other bands. We were too far up our own a***s. We also had a reputation of not paying our support acts'.
I can't recommend this book enough!
First time author Tony Beesley dips into his own memory bank to chart the rise of the punk scene and the mod revival in northern England during the bleak years of the late 1970's / early 1980's. a fascinating insight into being a teenager & growing up in Thatcher's Britain. quite simply, if you were there (and I was fortunate to have been) it brings back memories in spades and if you weren't there, you'll be wanting to sell your soul to wish you had!
it combines that rare quality of being both factual & funny and can be rightly described as unputdownable!! A superb effort for his first book, the second is eagerly anticipated.. (Andy Morton - Rotherham)
This is a great book. I was a bit too young to experience this time first hand but this book brings the Punk and New Wave era of this area to life. Like the other guy, I couldn't put it down. (Richard J. Bonsall - Sheffield)
A great book, taking forward the 'oral history' concept used in Legs McNeil's 'Please Kill Me', Clinton Heylin's 'Babylons Burning' and John Robb's 'PUNK' book, but the addition of a local voice and the local people Beesley track's down makes it a great read, even if he's not found Marcus Featherby just yet!
It's well written, full of characters, gigs you should have been at and many a great anecdote and just as many incidents. A book to dip into or read from cover to cover, and really does not dissapoint!
Buy it for any old SoYo punk rocker and make them very nostalgic, and so very happy!
Roll on volume two where everyone who bought this and missed getting their punk tale in the first one gets to tell their stories too! (Martyn Marshall - Sheffield)
Talking 'bout Our Generation by Trudy (Rotherham News free newspaper)
Tony Beesley has spent a very intense year writing a book on his favourite subject:Punk and Mod music in South Yorkshire.
Our Generation is a brilliant acccount of the effect punk had on the local youths in Rotherham, Sheffield and Doncaster between 1976 and 1985.
In the book we follow Tony and his punk 'cast' as they share some of their humorous anecdotes, and by the second chapter you really begin to feel like you are friends with these people; it's almost as if you are reliving their youth with them.
When you first pick up the book you'll see it's 444 pages long, which does put you off a little. To be honest it could have been shorter, but once you get into the swing of the book it doesen't seem long at all.
Our Generation is a well written book, with stories that everyone can relate to: the first time we heard that band... the first time we cried when a member of that band died... not forgetting the first time we tried to sneak into a pub under age.
If you are a music fan then do give this book a read. You never know, if you are from one of the areas mentioned you could have been there too.
A book I got hold of recently, and I can't recommend it strongly enough... is Our Generation by Tony Beesley. Outside of London the Punk explosion detonated throughout many areas of the UK in the late 70's. Tony Beesley's book is the story of how it affected the future Punk/new wave kids in one area of the UK, miles from London, and through their own recollections of the punk scene we hear the story of teenagers forging identities through fashion and music.
I confess I knew nothing about the Doncaster/Sheffield/Rotherham punk clubs or it's local bands (well apart from the Human League) and this book gives a good account of the punk bands who visited (Sex Pistols/Clash/Damned/Gen X/Ultravox/Wire/Hot Rods/UK Subs/Adam and the Ants/Radio Stars/Lurkers amongst early visitors). Where they played, the trio of towns certainly managed to compete with Mnachester and Liverpool for having early buzzing punk venues and supporters.
What really endeared me to the book was the way it avoids just being another book about the bands. This book is about you and me... its Our Generation, us boys and girls who were still at school or had just left when the two sevens clashed. It feels like my story... but told by someone called Tony from somewhere I had never been. If you remember mates becomming Mods or Rude Boys and passing on punk gear to you, this book will bring back those memories. If you got chased by skinheads, made your own punk clothes, had to save up to buy your first punk album... it's all retold here by someone who was going throughb the same expereinces, in another street in a different town.
Oh and lots of pictures too!
Our Generation - The Punk and Mod children of Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster 1976- 1985 by Tony Beesley is a fantastic read and for all of us who lived through those tumultuous times, I would recommend getting a copy of this book.
The book unfolds chronologically, via the areas pre-Punk, last year or so of the Glam days, into Sheffield's full immersion into the Punk era, then its fragmentation via the myriad shards that the POst-Punk era represented, from Mod to Proto-Goth etc.
The things that's refreshing is that the book is populated by the voices of Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster punks and that its easy to extrapolate their experiences into anywhere around the country - eg, watching Punk TV show Revolver in 1978, the hazards of running fast in bondage trousers, the visceral thrill of a Ramones gig, the first D-I-Y attempts to customize old school blazers etc.
Neil Anderson (Author) - Frenetic reaction brought back to life,
Tony Beesley's mammoth offering brings back to life South Yorkshire's frenetic reaction to the punk movement that swept across the UK from 1976 onwards. With vivid recollections from scores of local punks - this is the must have read for anyone that wants a change from the normal London-centric views of the anarchic explosion.
It includes pics, newspaper articles and also tackles the mod movement that followed in the late seventies.
Key venues like Sheffield's Limit and Doncaster's Outlook get the credit they deserve as pivotal parts of the movement.
Jack Stapleton Big Cheese (High Street music magazine for Punk, Rock and Alternative music) ****
Regional books telling the story of how punk happened for the majority of people, miles away from the hip London clubs, are always fascinating, and this one is no exception. Spanning 444 pages of interviews with bands, fans, promoters and others involved in the South Yorkshire scene, 'Our GEneration' covers the eraly days of punk, the UK 82 resurgence, the mod revival (with the author's recollections of his mod outfit The Way) and the new rimantics, vividly capturing the flavour and atmosphere of a confusing but extremely creative era. Though South Yorkshire was quick to embrace punk, it never produced a major punk band, coming into its own with post-punk bands like the Human League, ABC, Cabaret Voltaire and Clock DVA, and these are also given just coverage. Odd typos aside, this is a well researched and written tome, packed with interesting illustrations - highly recommended.
Michael Heath (San Fransisco Tad Williams review)
And if you think it was exciting on this side of the Pond, it was even more so for one Tony Beesley
and his pals, growing up in the South Yorkshire region of England at that same time. All these years later, Beesley has assembled the memories of he and his fellow music heads into a trilogy of books. Of the three, Our Generation: The Punk and Mod Children of Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster, 1976 – 1985
(Upfront Publishing) is as all-encompassing and weighty (unto blunt-object physical status) as its title suggests.
That said, it’s quite the admirable achievement as Beesley and cohorts raid their brainpans to recount what it really was like to be that relatively isolated, yet bedeviled by this new beat noise. The fashions, the fights, the partying in the pubs and discos that served as makeshift Punk venues, and powering it all, the music coming fast and furious and galvanizing.
Have also read Beesley’s second of the trilogy, Out Of Control: Doncaster Outlook and Rotherham Windmill (Days Like Tomorrow Books), and while more narrowly focused on the doings of two of his hood’s primary Punk/Wave venues, it’s also worthwhile.
If nothing else, I’m indebted to Beesley for reintroducing me to early Sheffield post-punk trio 2.3
(who sadly only ever released one single, ‘Where To Now’/’All Time Low’, for the same Fast Product indie label that would debut fellow locals Human League
and Gang Of Four
), as well as a one-hit wonder called Tonight
, whose 1978 power-pop party starter ‘Drummer Man’ was a big hit among South Yorkshire’s punknoscenti
. (And now available on a recent CD anthology from the Angel Air
label: good fun for fans of the solidly lightweight, Seventies Punk/Pop option.)
WHERE YOU'RE FROM IS WHERE YOU'RE AT...
"Our Generation: The Punk & Mod Children of Sheffield, Rotherham & Doncaster, 1976-1985" - Tony Beesley (Days Like Tomorrow 2009, 444 pages, available via Amazon £19-99) reviewed by Den Browne for Mudkiss fanzine
This is a terrific effort by Tony Beesley, & really is pretty essential reading for anyone interested in the early years of punk, new wave & post-punk. Its assembled in oral history format, edited down from the author's interviews with friends, associates & people on the scene. There are already several really good books of punk-themed interviews (notably by John Robb), but where they concentrate on the musicians & other big players on the scene, this book takes a ground-up rather than top-down view of the story.
Although people like Jarvis Cocker are quoted from other books, the nearest you'll get to big hitters here are Jo Callis (Rezillos/Human League) & 999's bass player - and the book's all the better for it
Although the book concentrates on the local story around Sheffield, Rotherham & Doncaster (with fairly regular diversions to Manchester as well), there's nothing parochial about it. My experience of punk was totally from the London end of the scene, so its fascinating to read about how it all happened somewhere else - some big differences, obviously, but a lot that's the same. Of course, there's also a strong universal element here too, as the book's inevitably as much about Tony & his friends growing up, negotiating the teenage years, & their own punk-inspired creative efforts.
The book really works through the volume of detail, verbal & visual. Apart from the photos at the various clubs & gigs, there's an incredible amount of great stuff like flyers, fanzines, adverts, newspaper cuttings, ticket stubs & other ephemera., & gives the book a nicely authentic fanzine feel.This helps evoke the atmosphere of the time, and its great seeing pictures of Tony's mates & others as they evolve through punk, new romantics & all the other myriad styles & groupings of the time.
The drab early 70's years are well described - like most punk fans, the author was really into Bowie, Bolan & glam in general (& never loses his love of soul music, either), and is strong on describing some of the groups who almost anticipated punk, like the Doctors of Madness, Mott the Hoople & the Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
There doesn't seem to have been the kind of London pub-rock scene, where Dr Feelgood, the 101'ers & Kilburn & the High Roads were able to make connections & prepare the way a little for punk (although most of the pub-rock scene is forgettable & over-rated: endless groups pretending to be Little Feat or the Band)
When punk happens its initially little more than a rumour up North, creeping up from London, or to be found out about in out-of-date music papers. Everything changes in July '76 when the Pistols & Clash play the Swan in Sheffield. The impact on the author is immediate & immense. Where initially he & his friends are conscious of being behind the times compared to the London scene, they're soon part of a lively gigging scene, & in a few years the whole London end of things is pretty much irrelevant.
Once the music biz realised that punk wasn't going to go away like some novelty single, there was a really bizarre & amusing period as everyone wondered, "what is punk?" The record companies flailed away, signing everything in sight in the hope that some of them would succeed. This led to all kinds of anomalies, with anyone from Tom Petty, Mink de Ville or Dire Straits being promoted as part of punk. Equally, were older groups who turned to punk - like the Stranglers or Vibrators - to be accepted or not?
After that first crucial Doncaster gig, the book is mainly concerned with the constant live action in the area, focussing mainly on the Windmill in Rotherham, the Doncaster Outlook, & Sheffield's Limit, Top Rank & Leadmill. There are great descriptions of many gigs, & its really good to be reminded just how many good groups there were then, apart from the big names like the Clash, Jam, Pistols & the Damned. There were also originators like Subway Sect & the Buzzcocks, & people with massive live reputations like 999, Radio Stars, the Ruts, UK Subs, Adverts & others who've been pretty much written out of the story since then.
Apart from recording the vibrant local gigging scene & visiting groups, there's also a wealth of detail about local groups like 2.3, & the vastly underrated Cabaret Voltaire (who probably deserve a book on their own). There are also a host of interesting stories from the Sheffield electro scene, beyond the familiar ABC, Human League & Heaven 17 ones. And in keeping with the punk DIY spirit that informs the book, there's also the story of the author's own group, the Way & how they battle their way (arg!) into the spotlight, before being sabotaged by the perennial "musical differences".
The book's really strong at evoking the in credibly rapid shifts in scenes & styles that followed the initial punk uprising, & the amazing musical diversity that flourished for a few years. Some of these scenes overlapped & fertilised each other, while others would also be in opposition.
Apart from punks - who would become more factional as time went on - there were Teds, heavy rockers, hippy students, football crews, Mods - traditional & revivalist, Two-tone, soul boys, casuals, skins & later New Romantics.
The scene took a real shift as the decade ended. The original punk main players were in disarray or touring the US, & as unemployment rose & the Thatcher Dictatorship took a grimmer hold on society, the atmosphere inevitably hardened. Tony Beesley doesn't shy away from the less palatable aspects of the scene - a serious level of violence at gigs, inter-factional fighting & paranoia. As if all that wasn't bad enough, racist movements like the NF were active in clubs , at gigs & on the terraces encouraging violence & division.
But as is so often the case, extreme times can inspire real creativity & the diversity on the music scene in the "new wave"/post-punk period is astonishing. The Fall, PIL, Siouxsie, the Cure, Magazine, Siousxsie, Wire, early Ultravox to name but a few. This was really the time when the scene divided, between those who saw punk as a DIY/try anything positive creative force, & the increasingly conformist scene generated by groups like the Exploited & Conflict, & which provides most of the public perception of punk now.
Basically, there are chapters devoted to each of these movements, as told by the participants & onlookers - mainly punk, of course, but they're all given their time in the spotlight. The story of the early days of the Sheffield scene, & how it evolved to the point where for a while it overtook the London music biz scene, is very well told. Equally, the Two Tone phase is massively important - tho' the author's a bit too generous with some of the later Mod scenes.
The book captures the uncertain mood of the time, after the first wave of punk had spent its energy & everyone wondered what would come next. Record companies & music papers flailed around desperately in the hope that they'd be the ones to discover the Next Big Thing - Power Pop anyone? Papers like Melody Maker, NME & Sounds had much more influence on the market than now - Sounds tended to be always playing catch-up, especially after NME's promotion of punk from early on, & was always desperate to find or invent a scene to call its own, whether it was Garry Bushell's "Oi!" groups , trying to work up a mod revival from the "Quadrophenia film (we got Secret Affair & the Merton Parkas instead) before finally making a mark with the elegantly-named "New Wave of British Heavy Metal".
I hope I've managed to convey the sheer scope & arduously assembled details in this book. Its this recording of detail that makes books like this important. If the book does have a fault, its almost that its scope is so ambitious, covering all the many changes & convulsions in music & society between '76-'85 - there's really enough material here for 2 or 3 books. In fact, I believe Tony Beesley's already working on a couple more books, going into some of the places & people in more depth - bring it on! The book never loses its extended fanzine feel, & that's what gives it a lot of its character - although it could do with a bit of a spellcheck/edit (things like "Black Uruh" for "Black Uhuru"). But any of the minor faults in this book are down to sheer enthusiasm & love of the subject, really.
Don't be put off by the local emphasis of the title - although obviously the book will be extra enjoyable for anyone who was on the scene there at the time - because its a universal story, not just of how the punk ripples spread out in the late 70s, but abt growing up & finding your identity in changing times. You'll love this whether you were there or not.
"Our Generation" simply overflows with great stories, characters, visuals & all kinds of detail you won't find elsewhere. I'd say its essential reading for anyone interested in punk & the wider picture of the late 70s.