Disco Zombies - South London Stinks (Optic Nerve Recordings)

Disco Zombies – South London Stinks (Optic Nerve Recordings)

Back in the 1970s, actor Warren Mitchell used to have to deal with people coming up to him, telling him they agreed with his views that they’d seen him airing “on the telly.” Mitchell was appalled that they could confuse him with his most famous character, the satirical, xenophobic, somewhat misogynistic comic creation Alf Garnett. On many an occasion, he felt obliged to explain that the audience is meant to be laughing AT this character and his ill-informed, archaic views, and not WITH him.

A similar fate befell Leicester punk band Disco Zombies back in 1979 with the release of their ‘Drums Over London‘ single in 1979. John Peel loved it, and ‘got’ it, a catchy track sung from the point of view of an Alf Garnett type fearing an influx of foreigners, having been presumably sucked in by Tory MP Enoch Powell’s repellant ‘Rivers of blood’ speech from 1968. The song was meant to poke fun at the kind of people who held such views, but unfortunately was taken too literally in certain quarters and saw the band finding unwanted support with alt-right types. I’m not sure whether this is part of the reason why the band never went on to the heady heights they should have achieved – the single was at least relatively successful (albeit not in chart terms) – but whatever the reasons, Disco Zombies should be considered one of the great unsung punk groups.

Certainly, the collapse of their production company, scuppering the release of a debut album, didn’t help. Such a shame when you consider songs like ‘Top Of The Pops‘ (unrelated to the Rezillos track), which makes you yearn for times when not liking the latter TV show’s agenda was the root of your problems! Or ‘Punk A Gogo‘, with lyrics that are not always exactly easy to decipher except perhaps for the charming line “My premature ejaculation went over her head!”

But the fact is that South London Stinks is absolutely jam-packed with melodic gems that tragically never got to see the light of day. They should have been huge. They weren’t just your run of the mill punk band either, as evidenced by the surprisingly heartfelt, rather more downbeat tribute to Mary Millington, a year after her suicide aged just 33, due in part to the constant police raids on her sex shop in Tooting.

Perhaps their finest moment though came with the more progressive punk of ‘The Night Of The Big Heat‘, which has more in keeping with the likes of Wire or Magazine than any of their early peers, and talks of aliens landing, not exactly a punk staple!

Still, the Disco Zombies story does at least have a positive epilogue, with singers Dave Henderson going on to contribute to Mojo magazine and Andy Ross co-founding Food Records with David Balfe.

South London Stinks, though, is a timely reminder that Disco Zombies were once a force to be reckoned with and here are twenty songs to prove it.

South London Stinks is released today through Optic Nerve Recordings.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.