Paisley Punk & Groucho Marxist Records

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by Mike Clarke

In the wake of the Ha! Ha! Funny Polis furore a similarly titled package tour was mooted (Chik remembers “the four bands cramming into a transit van to play in Northern England, somewhere”; McGlynn recalls it as the Leeds F Club) whilst both Robin Gibson, of local fanzine It Ticked And Exploded, and Groucho Marxist funder Wullie Harris managed to blag themselves column inches in London music weeklies Sounds and NME, the latter under the pseudonym Harry Longbaugh (he later quit after several of his articles were credited to fellow Scot Johnny Waller, formerly of Fife’s Kingdom Come fanzine, who served as the current features editor). This canny bit of self-marketing led to decent coverage of two ambitious Paisley RAR events, the first of which was a large open-air festival on the notorious Ferguslie Park Estate, wherein the usual suspects were joined by bands from Glasgow such as Liberty Bodice, The Zips, Alleged, and The Dyelatiks. (A special commemorative fanzine was also produced for the occasion and in the existing photos someone is apparently filming the event. Anyone got a copy?) Persistent rumors of both torrential rain and imminent phalanxes of charging riot police thankfully came to nothing (Ferguslie Park later made the news in the 1990s over a series of political scandals involving local gangsters, missing public money, laundered drug-proceeds, death threats, smear campaigns and vote-rigging—all “alleged” of course).

The main gig of the proposed Ha! Ha! Funny Polis Tour featured all four bands venturing into the dubious wastes of a Youth Club on Glasgow’s (equally notorious) Easterhouse Estate. By reputation “a journey to the Heart Of Darkness,” far from being greeted with the sight of grinning skulls on sticks, the bands were instead gleefully booed offstage by an audience of local scallies between the ages of 7 and 14, hyped up on a combination of Mars Bars and Irn-Bru. Sounds: “The Ha! Ha! Funny Polis backdrop was last seen being dragged around Easterhouse by a bunch of kids followed by a police escort at 3 in the morning.”

The Ha! Ha! Funny Polis EP itself, despite ritual patronizing reviews in the national press and though less gleefully amateurish and individualistic than the debut EP, wins out through its sheer verve and immediacy. Recorded live in one day again, this time at Sirocco Studios in Kilmarnock, XS DISCHARGE once more borrowed SNEEX drummer Ian Andrews for “Lifted,” the almost endearing tale of police brutality. DEFIANT POSE shambolically urge local youth to “Fight,” the FEGS posthumously decry the local cop-shop in ‘Mill St. Law And Order,” and URBAN ENEMIES, noted for their on-stage uniform of striped mohair jumpers and “the ultimate fat kid street gang member…playing bass” (Sounds) play a lighter, more melodic punk reminiscent of early Outcasts, with plenty of SLF-tuneage and plaintive “whoah whoah” vocals, only let down by the painful “because we only wanna rock’n’roll” refrain on the chorus. As with the first EP there is none of the calculated pretension you might have expected from a similar project originating in London or Manchester. With traditional DIY constraints ever to the forefront, the bands simply plug in and play, first or second take, overdubs/polishing irrelevant. As a whole, the record benefits from a collective theme, and reflects the dynamic, rabble-rousing vision of Tommy Kayes himself. Joe McGlynn remembers driving down to London’s Rough Trade with Kayes and Harris in a car crammed with boxes of the single: “We were stopped and searched in an underground carpark by Special Branch (the IRA were busy at the time), they opened all the boxes and I thought our time was up, but they let us go. I don’t know what they were looking for, maybe they didn’t know what ‘Polis’ meant, ha ha. Arriving at Rough Trade, the Spizz Energi single ‘Where’s Captain Kirk?’ had just been released: strangely, that was the name of the top cop in Paisley whom our record was dedicated to. Good old Rough Trade, they took every single copy, agreed to distribute them, AND paid us in cash!”

Summed up by Tommy Kayes as “high energy revolt” (It Ticked And Exploded), XS DISCHARGE remained a core duo throughout their existence, borrowing drummers from SNEEX or DEFIANT POSE, losing others to, variously, married bliss/illness/the Orange Lodge. Barred twice from Paisley Tech, their one concession to political comment on 1980’s “Life’s A Wank EP” was “Across The Border,” written about Northern Ireland. This, the third release on Groucho Marxist, evoked a standard, patronizing, NME review: “A stubborn refusal to stray even an inch from the tenets of ’77 has already caused a sell-out of the first pressing…. one day their devotion to dogma will be rewarded with a revival.” Paisley bands were generally dismissed by their Glasgow contemporaries as “trapped in an endless punk time-loop,” but the curious thing in hindsight about “Life’s A Wank” (though this is probably due also to the change in perception over time) is just how little it sounds like a standard ’77 dole-queue rant. Whether down to a more expansive, brittle production, there’s more than an element of the first two PiL albums (particularly the second) influencing the crystalline guitars, accentuated snare and reedy vocals of “Across The Border,” “Confessions,” “Frustration,” and “Hassles.” NME noted in the earlier, abortive Easterhouse gig: “XS DISCHARGE came on and made the event seem even more like entertainment for dissident refugees hiding out in the sewers of a Dalek city. They have the tattered clothes and subterranean-life white skin and though they’re highly derivative of PiL, it all sounds bleak and dismal instead of haunted and rhythmic.” In short though, despite a natural progression from their earlier efforts, XS DISCHARGE simply didn’t take themselves seriously enough to turn the PiL influence into some portentous “lost post-punk classic,” but legions of younger punks digging in the used record bins in the following years would at least hear something different from the three-chord/fuck-the-system punk-by-rote conjured up by the band name and record title.

The last Groucho Marxist release came in 1981, a double-header from DEFIANT POSE: “After The Bang” b/w “Someone Else’s War.” Coupled with a 1982 practice tape featuring tracks like “Day Goes On,” “Hello Boys,” “Lookin’ After You,” and a raging cover of the SUBS’s “Gimme Your Heart,” the two-headed single reveals a tight, punchy outfit, again moving away from standard three-chord punk into a more Jam/Purple Hearts suited ‘n’ booted vintage Who/Mod-stomp, but combined with the snap and urgency of the rockier tracks from “London Calling.” This trio of Joe McGlynn (guitar/vocals), Crawfy (bass), and Callum Reid (drums) was the seminal DP lineup and followed the single by signing up


with Scottish agency Regular Music. Support slots with the Chords, Exploited, Killing Joke, and more followed, but just as they began garnering column inches in the likes of Sounds (they also produced their own, epononymous zine, unrelated to this author’s own rag), Crawfy packed up and left without a word, and McGlynn disappeared for 2 years to, as he put it, “pursue my criminal career.” Come 1983 he and Reid recruited Davy Cameron of local third-generation punk band DESTROY for a new line-up, only for Reid to leave due to that old chestnut ‘”musical differences” (he preferred Rush, apparently). Next to fill the drum-seat was Blair McDonald (aka Preacher) and some recording ensued until Davy took the same road as Callum…. Rush! And in the same band as well! (McGlynn). The next, short-lived, DP incarnation was in 1986 but after a less than memorable show at Paisley’s Paris Disco a year later, McGlynn killed the band off. Blair McDonald, whose brother David Tennant is the current Dr. Who on BBC Television, moved to London and became CEO of Sony UK. After a short-lived band called THE UPRISING, McGlynn put his guitars under the bed and went back to 9–5 work, except for a brief fling doing sound and then 2 nd guitar for jangly shoe-gazers The Close Lobsters in the early 1990s.

By 1981 the initial Paisley scene had grown older and begun to fragment. A fifth EP, another compilation provisionally called Pissing In The Wind and featuring DEFIANT POSE, FALLOUT, DESTROY and URBAN ENEMIES, was recorded but never released, possibly because it was deemed below-par. The Bungalow Bar, as well as a regular platform for local bands, soon became part of the national tour-circuit, hosting everyone from the Skids/Angelic Upstarts/Exploited/Cockney Rejects/Discharge to Wah! Heat/Tenpole Tudor/Theatre Of Hate.




Chik of XS DISCHARGE is now in a Glasgow reggae band called MAN AT THE WINDOW, with Tam O’Malley of MENTOL ERRORS. The URBAN ENEMIES apparently took up golf. Tommy Kayes has a print shop in Glasgow’s East End. All four Groucho Marxist records command both decent prices on the punk collectors’ market and a ghostly afterlife on internet blogs that far outstrip any posterity accorded (or not, as the case may be) to the journeyman-journos who once panned them in the pages of Sounds, Melody Maker, and NME. Paisley’s Bungalow Bar has long gone, but was recently resurrected in both physical and virtual form in response to a still-healthy and thriving local scene. DEFIANT POSE are also back, and the last word goes to frontman Joe McGlynn: “Fast forward to 2002 and we were offered a gig, went to the studio to rehearse as much of the old stuff as I/we could remember and came up with a set of 14 songs with the line-up of Chad (vocals), me and Polo alternating between bass and guitar, plus Callum (drums). The one-off gig at Bhudda in Paisley, Xmas 2005, whilst raising a few quid for the local hospice, was a funny sight to see fat/bald/drunk 40-somethings have a right good pogo and, to my surprise, the past meant as much to them as it did to me. Meanwhile, we’re currently in Blue Cat studios getting it together, hoping to produce a document that the music deserved but never delivered. Could be perceived as indulgence, but to me it’s just part of my personal list of Earl’s things to do before I die. I don’t give a fuck if anyone likes it or not, as long as I’ve done it the way I always had it in my mind to do.”



Many thanks to Chik Doherty, Davy for the CDs/fliers/photos, Warren at Vicious Riff, Peter Don’t Care for the scans, and especially Joe McGlynn, without whom this would never have happened. For more information on old Paisley punk, check out


Click to enlarge any of the record sleeves.