Monday, May 17, 2010

The Ruts: The Peel Sessions

The Ruts were not "Clash copyists" as Chris Salewicz claims in Redemption Song, nor did they have "...Every thing The Clash had been striving for in their ersatz reggae excursions" as Clinton Heylin claims in Babylon's Burning. The Ruts need not be a facile point of comparison for Clash-freaks and Clash-bashers to buttress their argument, for they were the instigators of a funky-reggae-punk-metal riot of their own. It's not to say that The Clash's regatta de blanc didn't inspire The Ruts (as well as Stiff Little Fingers, The Specials and {yes} The Police) but, as with any band, you judge their success not based on what they began with but on what they finished with.

Malcolm Owen and Paul Fox were living on a Welsh hippie commune when punk rock came calling. Moving to London, leaving behind a funk band named Hit and Run, the band found unusual patrons like Phil Lynot of Thin Lizzy (who gave them a song) and Brit-reggae band Misty (who financed their first single) and BBC DJ John Peel (who played that single every night for weeks). Less then two years later it wold all be over when Malcolm Owen made the the classic junkie slip of celebrating his detox with 'one last fix' and died on July 14th 1980.

Thankfully, the band's sole album, The Crack, and it's odds n' sods follow-up Grin and Bear It, (each with a few bonus tracks) remain in print. Unfortunately without the kind of deluxe re-issue which would include all their studio material, these incendiary songs the band recorded for John Peel (why, oh why does this version of the proto-hardcore "Society" never make it onto one of their primary re-issues?) remain hard-to-get. So relish this out-of-print collection, which sounds more singular now than ever, and be sure you've done your part to support the surviving Ruts.

Peel Sessions CD link is in the comments.

Speaking of comments, is there really a significant Ruts-Clash rivalry?

Support the band!

Captain Oi




And for some live Ruts, run over to the ever-awesome King Rocker Rocks On.



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  2. Thanks for this - Probably one of the best but most underated punk bands ever - if Malcolm had lived they would have been bigger than the Clash - They had better songs for a start and i love the Clash too but the Ruts were the best

  3. Thanks Jeff! I had never heard these guys before. From the two videos they seem like something I would really enjoy!

  4. thanks for this post. I remember listening "Babylon's burning " in my youth, 30 years ago.

  5. I don't know anything about any rivalries.

    I came late to the Ruts, being kind of put off by the ever-present "Babylon's Burning" on all the punk comps back in the day, but boy did I ever miss out!

    Totally made up for that quick.

    @Mike: you are in for a treat!

    I can recommend the Captain Oi! Punk Singles Collection as indispensable.

    8 singles with their B-sides, 17 tracks total. (The Peel Session version of "Black Man's Pinch" here being retitled "Give Youth A Chance" off the "Something That I Said" single.) Fantastic stuff!

    Thanks again, Jeffen!

  6. Many thanks for this Jeffen, and just thought, to say thanks, I could add some info and links to a couple of rare Ruts recordings. Please delete this if you do not want external links in your comments.

    The Ruts did record one last Peel session (not on this CD) backing Laurel Aitken in April 1980. Thanks to the great Gobshyte for this!

    Laurel Aitken and The Ruts - Peel Session

    Rec: 28/04/1980 TX - 12/05/1980
    Producer - Tony Wilson
    Engineer - Dave Dade
    Studio - Maida Vale 4

    Big Fat Man
    Rudi Got Married
    Jesse James
    Rock Me Baby/Caledonia

    Laurel Aitken (Organ, Vocals)
    Paul Fox (Guitar, Backing Vocals)
    Gary Barnacle (Saxophone, Organ)
    Segs (Bass)
    Dave Duffy (Drums, Backing Vocals)
    Malcolm Owen (Backing Vocals) Track Listing:

    Recorded two months after the Ruts' last Peel session (11/02/1980), and three months before Malcolm Owen's tragic death.

    The rarest Ruts' earliest known recordings, paid for by a fan, in studio quality:

    Ruts - Freerange Studio Session (01.10.77) @ 160 kbps

    01. Rich bitch (demo)
    02. Out of order (demo)
    03. Lobotomy (demo)
    04. Stepping bondage (demo)

    Thanks and cheers, Dave Sez.

  7. Thanks. I don't think I've heard their album but definitely know a few songs from it

  8. Hi Jeffen

    Ya gotta love The Ruts.I specifically remember the day I bought 'The Crack'.I had been reading about the album in my weekly NME fix.It was to arrive at my local neighbourhood record shop(Charles Bogle Record Dispensary near the UBC Main Gate) for moi on a Friday.On the Saturday morning I headed to the shop to find legendary Vancouver DJ J.B.Shane looking through the shop's records getting ideas for his Saturday evening CBC programme.

    I turned to Shane and said ... 'What do you think of this?' showing Shane the album.His response 'Rubbish!'.

    Of course, it is not rubbish and still sounds fantastic.


  9. As far as I'm aware,there were no such rivalries. I think people compared the bands as they both could play reggae and play it well. Maybe some thought the Ruts copied the Clash but personally I think thats bollocks. Both great bands in their own right and god only knows how great the Ruts would have been but for Malc's untimely death.

  10. Crimewave is dead on. Couldnt have said it better!


  11. Crimewave
    It's fuckin' sad that we'll never hear where the Ruts were going but judging by the later singles it was somewhere amazing.

    Sometimes I think I'm just blogging to the converted thanks for reminding me that that is not always the case!

    The Ruts are part of a well-balanced squandered youth!

    Yeah I came a bit late to The Ruts party, only getting 'Grin and Bear it in 1987! But I too fell for them hard.

    Dave Sez
    I'll leave up the links - thanks for you additions and it would be great if the people that appreciate the links could drop a thanks gobshyte's great blog:

    Don't miss out on The Crack or Grin and Bear it.

    As always, you have great vignettes. Thanks for talking Ruts with us!

    I'm pretty sure The Ruts took early inspiration from The Clash (even the stingy Clinton Heylin allows that their first single likely came from a Joe Strummer interview line about making hippies see that were in a rut and had to get out of it")but in the end like you say both great bands in their own right.

    Sometimes the comments are the best part of a post, like this one.

  12. this is the 14 track album, not the complete sessions album which is 18 tracks


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