Welcome back to Radio K-SAT, where all things are in bloom — finally! I’ve got year-zero of punk on my mind, and Legs McNeil’s fascination with The Dictators in particular: “I hated most rock and roll, because it was about lame hippie stuff … There really wasn’t anyone describing our lives—which was McDonald’s, beer, and TV reruns. Then John found The Dictators, and we all got excited that something was happening.” Then he caught The Ramones at CBGB—“the best eighteen minutes of rock & roll that I had ever heard”—and Joey & co. agreed to an interview with Punk. “They were like us,” McNeil remembered. “They talked about comic books and sixties bubble-gum music and were really deadpan and sarcastic” (Please Kill Me, p. 203, 206).
Across the pond, the same impulse took hold in a bunch of young Bristol lads (average age = 16), who signed to a new label run by Miles Copeland (of IRS fame, and brother to Stewart, of course) and Mark Perry (of Sniffin’ Glue). In a chat with NME, drummer Dan Swann reported, “we chose the name because it represents something cheap and nasty.” The Cortina, you may recall, was a Ford model produced through 1982.
(In December 1991, Chris Salewicz interviewed Joe Strummer about life as a Pogue, and he noted, about post-Clash life, ” … it all gets murky and people have to get to move on and have wives or partners and children and buy and sell Ford Cortinas.”)
For their debut single, which bubbles over with the energy of ’77, The Cortinas take on the fantasies of puppet governments (“Fascist Dictator”) and execs at the BBC (“Television Families”).
I love the youthful angst, which of course is tempered by the joy of finding a collective groove, of tapping into something greater than the repetition of the loathsome teenage voices filling up your head. The vocals are rather high in the mix, and seem to be inspired by the harmony (?) vocals lent by Paul Simonon and Terry Chimes (and even Keith Levene) on The Clash debut (April 1977). The connection is more than fortuitous, as The Cortinas’ rhythm guitarist Nick Sheppard secured employment in 1983 with The Clash, following the dismissal of Mick Jones.