One of the great myths in rock & roll is that only serious, dedicated musicians can make great records; a philosophical tract dictating that great rock & roll is not the province of bandwagon jumpers, poseurs, fakes and commercially minded trend groupies.
The reality is that great rock & roll can be made by anyone, even accidentally. Case in point, The Vibrators. If you saw a photograph of this “punk” band a few months before they signed a label deal with Columbia in 1976, you would have seen long hair, and bell-bottom trousers – they were bloody hippies!
But, by the time they released their debut LP, Pure Mania, in 1977, they had short hair, fake leopard skin pants, safety pins, cheap sunglasses, all the accoutrements a good born-again punk band needed.
Did that make them inherently bad? Not really. A tad disingenuous perhaps, but no worse than a punk band (e.g. Generation X) that professed to be real punks while secretly harbouring the desire to be as commercially viable as the dinosaur bands they purportedly loathed.
Although the existence of Pure Mania is a good illustration of accidental inspiration, it also proves that moments like this can happen only once in a dross-filled career. Such was the case with The Vibrators who went on to record nearly a dozen records over a 15-year period, none of them worth mentioning.
Pure Mania, on the other hand, remains as good now as it did when it was released. This is due to the fact that the band simply adapted a formula that eschewed the rage and fury of The Sex Pistols and The Clash for the relative accessibility of The Ramones and The Damned.
So, while The Pistols sang No Future, Pure Mania is jump-started by a track called Into the Future. Even the songs about emotional desolation (No Heart) are more catchy than frightening or ominous.
Sure, Pure Mania is a fake through and through, but hating it for that reason alone makes you the boring old fart. Besides, the speedy guitars, irresistible hooks and snappy songs are infectious.
Their follow-up album, V2 (1978), narrowly missed the UK Top 30, but the only single to be taken from that album, Automatic Lover, was the only Vibrators’ single to reach the UK Top 40. It earned the band a TV appearance on Top Of The Pops.
The Vibrators’ final single on Epic, Judy Says (Knock You In The Head), was released in June 1978.
Despite numerous line-up changes, The Vibrators are still touring to this date as a three-piece, with Knox and Eddie the only original members.
Ian ‘Knox’ Carnochan
Vocals, guitar, keyboards
Guitar, synth, vocals
John ‘Eddie’ Edwards