Swansea is in South-West Wales. It’s provincial and a long way (in UK terms) from the big cities
of London, Birmingham, Manchester or Liverpool. It’s not a place known for any particular cultural
heritage apart from being the birthplace of the great playwright Dylan Thomas – and even he
famously referred to it in print as an “ugly, lovely town” (the superb film TWIN TOWN from 1997
gives a representation of Swansea that is not far removed from reality... it also translates
Dylan’s phrase as “pretty, shitty city”).
Yet, despite being such a backwater, Swansea is the second biggest city in Wales, with a large
catchment area, and so would be included on most bands’ UK tours. It was also one of only
20 towns and cities in the UK in the late 70’s that had a Virgin Records store. This was
important, as Virgin stores stocked all of the new punk and independent releases of the time
and became local meeting-points for musicians and non-conformist teenagers.
Four guys that spent their teenage years hanging out in the Swansea Virgin store and being
involved with various local bands have recently set up the label PUNKHOUSE RECORDS with a
mission to help archive, restore and release original period music, images and reminiscences
from the Swansea Punk, Post-Punk and New Wave scene – specifically the 5 year period between
1978-1983. The records are limited editions and come in high quality packaging. They are clearly
a labour of love.
Mitchell from Punkhouse Records was kind enough to do an interview for the customers of
I had been a Bowie/Bolan/Roxy Music/Sensational Alex Harvey Band teenager, steeped in
The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Chuck Berry through my uncle’s record
collection, then Dr.Feelgood, Dave Edmunds, and Graham Parker & The Rumour….. before Patti Smith
‘Horses’ and experiencing the weird thrill of hearing The Ramones first album when it was
released in April ‘76. What was this exciting new sound? How (and why) did they play so fast?
I bought The Damned “New Rose” when it was released in October that year, and “Anarchy In The UK”
the following month (although I was unaware until some time later that The Sex Pistols had
actually played a (sparsely-attended) gig in Swansea in September 1976). Buzzcocks “Spiral Scratch” EP
early in 1977 was another seminal release, and the first ‘punk’ gig for me, and many other locals,
was The Clash and Subway Sect ‘White Riot Tour’ at Swansea University on 16 May 1977. The Stranglers
and The Dictators played Swansea Top Rank Suite later that year but the scene really exploded in 1978
with gigs every week at the Circles nightspot and The Top Rank, and local punk bands starting to come
together to create a scene centred around the Virgin store.
I was amazed and impressed to discover that some boys from the same school as me had formed a band and
were playing Clash, Wire and Ramones covers, and we organized one of the first local ‘punk’ gigs in
a church hall in a village in the countryside near Swansea. Through this exposure we got to know the
hipsters that worked in the Virgin store and started to hang out there regularly. Ultimately, I
joined the staff at Virgin in the summer of 1979 and so had access to listen to all the music I
could and meet everyone in Swansea who was interested in new music and local gigs.
In early 1981 I left Swansea to work in a new Virgin ‘Megastore’ in England but my Punkhouse partners
Stephen, Glenn and James were still deeply involved in everything that happened on the local music
scene and kept me in touch with tapes of anything that got recorded (a rare thing in those days)
We were obviously influenced to some extent by the national success of the local Swansea label FIERCE
in the late ‘80’s/early 90’s, and I should also give credit to the guys from MAD (Music, Art, Dance)
IN SWANSEA who are making it possible for today’s local bands to have a place to rehearse and record
in Swansea. They have shown just how much can be achieved as a non-profit organization and are both
an inspiration and hopefully a partner for future Punkhouse plans
Releasing a series of 7” vinyl records in the meantime is a way of establishing the Punkhouse brand, to
garner wider interest, and to demonstrate the standard of quality that we aspire to in everything we
release. We want Punkhouse releases to be desirable artifacts even if many people that buy them don’t
even have a record player anymore!