When I worked at my college radio station in the mid-90s, we ran it like a rock 'n' roll university. Before you got anywhere near getting your own show, you had to learn a fair bit of indie history. Since this was in the dark, pre-Wikipedia ages, this knowledge was disseminated via photocopied handout sheets written by music directors as instructional guides for junior members of staff. It all might sound like it was sucking the fun right out of rock music, but quite the contrary: it was our way of preserving a secret history. When I should have been studying chemistry in my dorm room, I spent late nights alone in our music library playing song after song on our little stereo, slowly bringing to life eras I'd previously only read about.
It didn't take long for me to veer off the music director's coursework and start listening to anything that looked remotely interesting, just to find out what it sounded like. This is how I discovered The Rezillos.
Download: The Rezillos - "Top of the Pops"
Even before I set foot in the Islington Bar Academy, I knew this was going to be one hell of a night. With no faffing about, the band stormed the stage and launched directly into one of the best album openers of all time, the amazing "Flying Saucer Attack". Bouncing up and down with the crowd and singing along with everyone, I felt the surreal side of this sink in. How did everyone in this room come to set aside a portion of each of their brains to hold the lyrics to this song when for most of my life I never knew anyone that had even heard it?
Three decades hadn't slowed this troupe down one bit, and soon "No" had given way to "Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight". An old Fleetwood Mac oddity (recorded under the name Earl Vince and the Valiants) that The Rezillos transformed into a proper punk anthem, this was another easy candidate for shout-along time. If there was ever going to be a moment in the gig where things got messy, this was destined to be it, but everyone in attendance was so fun-loving that what erupted turned out to be the most polite pit I'd ever witnessed. As we all pogoed whilst carefully minding each other's personal space, we gave this stomper the call and response action it deserved. Each time Eugene Reynolds cried, "Somebody's gonna get their head," we followed with our own screams of, "kicked in tonight!"
I may have considered this the highlight of the evening if I hadn't been immediate hurtled into what many people remember as the band's stand out classic, "Top of the Pops". An intensely catchy indictment of profit-driven pop charts and methods of achieving success in the nascent video era, the song was once performed by the band on the classic UK television programme of the same name in the late 70s. With our outer space punk heroes directly in front of us instead of on the television screen, the dance party came home and a bit of innocence returned to pop music.
The merry mood continued through the rest of the show as Edinburgh's finest punks made a convincing argument that the most fun in the UK happens north of the border. Full-album gigs can sometimes be awkward recitals of the past, but given the fierce enthusiasm that the Rezillos poured into this performance, the uninitiated would have been forgiven for assuming that this was a new band who'd just recorded these songs last week. With the album set behind them, the group gave us a taste of new material with their latest single, "No1 Boy", as well as a cracking encore of "Destination Venus" and Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep - Mountain High". Much like the record they performed, when it was all over, I wanted to pull back the needle and start it again. If you even remotely dig punk rock and you're lucky enough to have the Rezillos visit your town, you'd be mad to miss this top night out. Until then, pick up a copy of "Can't Stand The Rezillos" and pogo like a maniac in your bedroom (but only if you're mum's gone out, of course).