Jah Punk - New Wave digs Reggae, OK?

Vivien Goldman in Sounds

3 September 1977

David Hinds & Tessa from the Slits on the cover of Sounds 3/9/77

The Slits/Steel Pulse gig at Clouds, a mainly black disco, in Brixton, felt very different. Deliberate. Conscious. Both bands knew that in playing together in this particular environment, they were doing something radical. Steel Pulse had already shown an almost uncanny affinity with punk audiences when they supported Generation X at the Vortex, a white punk club. The appearance of the Slits attracted a whole bunch of punks down to a club they'd normally be wary of entering, so that for once you had the unusual sight of a half-black, half-white audience.

The success of the night (which would have been better attended if it hadn't been so extremely expensive to get in) was, natch, down to two extremely hot sets. It looked like it was the first taste of punks for most of the blacks there, and they were very obviously staggered at Arianna singing refrains from the newest Jamaican pre-release singles between numbers - they weren't to know that the Slits listen to loads of reggae, used to be managed by a Rasta (Don Letts), still have a Rasta roadie, and selected this gig as a place they felt they'd actually enjoy playing.

The Slits are (for me, blissfully) the antithesis of the Rasta ideal of a kinder-kuche-kirche good little woman. They're aggressively free in the way they move onstage, the energy of their playing, and very much a threat to male complacency simply by relishing playing/being with each other at least as much as being with a man. When Arri screamed, "under heavy manners and discipline!" a basic Rasta catchphrase, bouncing up and down like an ecstatically pogoing scarecrow, the Jamaican male contingent almost dropped their glasses of Red Stripe in shock.

Steel Pulse, even David the militant one, acted like they'd seen a coach-load of duppies (Jamaican ghosts) when the Slits roared into a rather dull photo session, jumping around in ferocious union just like Jimmy Cliff in The Harder They Come, 'like they were all enriched with nourishing marrowbone jelly and Steel Pulse has been stuck with brand x.' By the time photographer Stevenson had finished his shots, Steel Pulse had found the groove too. Just another instance of the way cultural interchange can be fun, and also result in finer art.

Note; I've not included the whole article due to its length. David Hinds appeared with Tessa of the Slits on the front cover of Sounds on 3/9/77.

Text copyright Sounds 1977, used without permission.


Jah Punk - the black new wave

Vivien Goldman in Sounds

10 September 1977

Steel Pulse hang out on a London street for photographer Stevenson & Sounds.d

Steel Pulse are exciting to watch. They have a sense of internal dynamics that makes them move on the tiniest stage, you're looking from one to the other of the three-man front line-up all through the set, which is great.

They've got a nifty line in strongly rhythmic and tuneful original songs, and they're adept at getting people to sing along and dance to stuff they've never heard before - expecially punks. I've never seen a band so remarkably in tune with a new wave audience. Steel Pulse come from Birmingham, send out a message of youth and hard-core jollies, they're forthright and have a stylish flair for tough showmanship that adds the element of rough excitement to polished playing.

I like 'em. In fact, I was tremendously excited when I first saw them play, supporting Generation X at top punk niterie, the Vortex. I wasn't in the least surprised to find they've been booked back there, and at the Nashville.

Steel Pulse themselves seem faintly bewildered by the speed with which they've been adopted as the new hip thing to have playing with you. They're pretty tired of schlepping up and down the motorway all bundled into one small van, though, so I reckon they'll adapt to topping the bill more than happily. I'd be very surprised if that doesn't happen. Very soon. Check them out AT ONCE!

Note; The article included reviews of the following reggae bands - Aswad, Black Slate, Black Stones, Brimstone/Sons of Jah, Cimarons, Matumbi, 90 Degrees Inclusive, Rico and Tradition.

Text copyright Sounds 1977, used without permission.

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