The long awaited 40th anniversary tour commemorating the release of the brilliant debut album by The Ruts was upon me at last. No need to deliver a sermon on the virtues of the band…. my thoughts of them are amply communicated across other posts on this site. Suffice to say their flame burned brightly but for a very short period of time, their time in the public eye as a band was ever shorter still at little over a year. Nevertheless, it is no over exaggeration to say that the heat of that flame can still be felt despite the passage of 40 years….. just ask Henry Rollins!
Generally considered to be a second wave punk band, they are one of the few of those ‘later’ bands whose material is of such quality and originality that in my opinion they sit comfortably in the company of those accepted elite bands of 1976 vintage.
Bass player Segs Jennings has always been a fan of The Clash and when I once said that I thought The Ruts were better than Strummer and Co, I am sure he flinched. Perhaps when it came to the primal roar of punk, The Clash may have edged it but I contend that when it came down to a reggae groove the cup went to The Ruts every time. Maybe the influence of their Southall mentors Misty in Roots was a factor, but I think that there is a greater degree of authenticity in The Rut’s reggae influenced material.
But hey, this is not a competition. Tonight it was all about ‘The Crack’. The tour package was exceptionally promising with support coming from The Professionals. Last year they released a highly acclaimed comeback album ‘What In The World’. I for one was very much looking forward to seeing Paul Cook behind the kit.
Unlike much of the tour where the stage times were very early in order to accommodate club nights, tonight’s gig in Cambridge was running along the usual timelines, meaning that a pre-gig pint with Leigh Heggarty in the nearby Earl of Derby was possible. Here he was confronted by fans wishing to have knowledge of his stage gear to the nth degree….. such is the downside of rock ‘n’ roll celebrity I guess! Ha!
Back in the venue, just before the lights dimmed for The Professionals, we took up a position on the barrier (Mo always wants to be right at the front these days) and watched Paul and Co. deliver a sound and tight set of old and new. I have to say that the new material sits well with the likes of ‘Join The Professionals’, ‘Just Another Dream’ and ‘1-2-3’. A highlight of course was a rendition of ‘Silly Thing’ to which I ‘sang’ myself hoarse! One of the finest ‘Pistols’/Professionals moments and a blueprint for the ‘Power Pop’ that came in the wake of punk if you ask me.
Paul Cook (The Professionals)
The Junction Cambridge 17th February 2019.
At this point it is required to mention tonight’s stage backdrop. A huge reproduction of that album sleeve… so unusual for the time when sleeves would typically feature a snarling or surly photo of the band in question.
'The Crack' boasts a crowd scene in oils and is now proudly in the possession of the aforementioned Mr Rollins.
The venue lights dropped once again as an Auntie Pus voiced history of the band in verse…..
Once upon a time, down a long and winding road
That grinned and bared itself for the crack,
The world was staring at the rude boys
And the boys were staring back –
Who you looking at?
Auntie Pus gave way to the familiar wailing of the 1970’s ‘Blues and Twos’ that could only mean one thing….. ‘Babylon’s Burning’. A tough opener but is you are going to reproduce ‘The Crack’ as it appeared live that’s just the way it’s got to be. And we got it all, a high octane set of songs that were forged in the social furnace that was late '70's Britain. Britain at that time being a country politically torn with the left and right wings of politics being as far apart as they are well.... today. The far right were in the ascendancy with punk gigs being seen as the recruitment ground of the National Front and British Movement. Sadly, we are as close to this situation in 2019 as we have ever been in my lifetime and I hope above all we can pull back from the brink!
The Junction Cambridge 17th February 2019.
So for 45 minutes we had an exquisite dose of Southall/London as it sounded in 1979 (incidentally as an aside, the best year for British music ever!.... Discuss). I am conscious that I keep on making comparisons with the present day, but I am all too aware that songs like 'Babylon', 'Something That I Said', 'You're Just A..' are as relevant today as they were 40 years ago.
After the full album track list.... including a run through of 'Human Punk' Ruts DC continued the set with the relevant singles and a couple of songs from their post 2011 canon.
Seeing them shortly after coming back together in an interview I sat in on for Vive Le Rock both Segs and Ruffy expressed their concerns that the worst thing that could happen to them musically was that people would view then as a mere Ruts tribute band. Well, 8 years into the reunion, with two brilliant albums of new material under their belts they have nothing to fear in that respect and they could take the time to revel in their past glories just one more time without fear of criticism.
Well done, Leigh, Segs and Ruffy....... Foxy and Malcolm would approve whole-heartedly without a doubt!
Afterwards, Mo and I were thrilled to meet Paul.
Later we went back to have a chat with the boys. It was an absolute pleasure to share their enjoyment of such a successful night... not to mention a share of their beer, which to be honest was quite frankly surplus to requirement at this point of the evening's proceedings!
Until we party again in a Welsh castle..... many thanks to Ruts DC! x