Mastered from a lost cassette recording of a demo tape recorded at Spectro Studios in Newcastle Upon Tyne (by Ian Boddy) in 1981.
Punching Holes comprised Brian Bond (ex Punishment of Luxury) Tim Jones (ex Neon), Sid Smith, Steve Cowgill and Norman Emerson.
The rough, jagged energies of punk mix with sophisticated Zappa-esque time signatures, Talking Heads-like grooves and post-prog textures.
A fascinating lost history.
12" vinyl in gatefold cover.
Formed in 1980 in Newcastle by vocalist Brian Bond in the aftermath of his departure from Punishment Of Luxury, Punching Holes rapidly became one of the leading bands on the North-East post-punk scene.
Alongside Brian Bond the band consisted of Tim Jones, guitar & vocals, Sid Smith, bass guitar & vocals, Norman Emerson, drums and Steve Cowgill, keyboards.
With a line-up made up from members of well-respected outfits such as Neon, The Weights, The Hotpoints and the region’s experimental improv scene, Punching Holes generated momentum and expectation from their opening notes of their debut sell-out gig in the city.
Musically, they harnessed the rough, jagged energies of punk but mixed with sophisticated Zappaesque time signatures, Talking Heads-like grooves and post-prog textures, all fronted by Bond’s intense, theatrical presence that made their live performances so compelling.
In 1981 they recorded a series of demo tracks intended as promos for radio, TV, press and A&R people at record labels at Newcastle’s Spectro Arts Workshop, based in Pilgrim Street, at the time a cultural hotspot in the local art world.
In time, despite interest from record labels the band split. The songs on the demo tape that sketched out a possible debut album were long forgotten as group members moving on to other projects, careers, and lives.
Nearly forty years after those tunes were laid down, a cassette copy came to the attention of ZX Records owner and Punching Holes fan, Richard A Sharpe whose enthusiasm for the group was rekindled by the passion, force and originality of the performances and material.
With the multitrack recordings long-vanished a humble cassette copy of the tapes was the only record of the original lineup of the band.
Despite the lo-fi origins of the recording and with the full co-operation of the band members themselves, The Ghosts Of Pilgrim Street, finally sees the light of day some four decades on.
Punching Holes’ songs were anything but straightforward. Some laid bare a variety of unpleasant character flaws and misanthropic tendencies; Sourface Valerie’s big-mouth misogynist; the deadly egotism at the centre of Gone Loco; Joke Elaine’s cowardly protagonist. Others scrutinised societal issues. Spots On The Sun, with its hymn-like chorus, explores the quasi-religious implications of technology, while Mad Mother unflinchingly gazes upon prurient hypocrisy and media-complicit demagoguery.
Life In Zoo traces the tender angst of romance, while the exuberant love-hate outbursts of Bits Of Romeo captures that addictively exciting volatility. Even the usually reliable nexus of sex and guilt is unexpectedly subverted with something akin to supernatural dread in The Ghost Of Danube Street.
Although Brian Bond was the band’s principal songwriter, Bond was never precious about his work and always keen for others to shape and arrange the material.
The tracks were recorded live in the studio usually within one or two takes onto 4-track tape which was then bounced down to stereo leaving two remaining tracks for overdubbing vocals or guitar.
The rediscovery of long-forgotten cassette tape has rekindled vivid memories for each of the players. “It was a mix of colourful and creative personalities that I dearly hoped would remain a tight unit, energised but also stabilised like a diverse but secure family,” says Brian Bond.
Whatever the sonic limitations of the source tapes, The Ghosts Of Pilgrim Street nevertheless captures something of the spirit of what everyone in the band agrees was a special time and one which they remain proud to be associated with.