Presumably it doesn’t need saying that Johnny Kidd and the Pirates were the best of Britain’s first-generation rock ‘n’ roll acts. ‘Shakin’ All Over’, ‘Please Don’t Touch’, ‘Restless’ – these were genuinely great singles that could hold their own against the best American records. They also sounded distinctively British, rather than simply being decent imitations, which was about as good as anyone else was getting at the time.
Many musicians passed through the Pirates before Kidd’s early death in 1966, but the best known line-up comprised guitarist Mick Green, bassist Johnny Spence and drummer Frank Farley. They made the magnificent 1962 single ‘A Shot of Rhythm and Blues’ b/w ‘I Can Tell’, which should have been a huge hit but wasn’t.
And it was they who re-formed as the Pirates in 1976, with Spence taking over the vocals. Over the next few years, they became one of the best live acts in the country, a pre-Beatles band who still managed to sound (and look) harder than the punks playing the same circuit of pubs and clubs.
On record, they weren’t quite as good, but the first couple of albums, Out of Their Skulls (1977) and Skull Wars (1978), had their moments. From the latter came this single, which was issued as a picture-sleeve 12-inch, as though their record company – Warner Brothers – expected it to be a hit. It wasn’t, but it’s still damn fine: an angry, rabble-rousing anthem that takes potshots at politicians from Marx to Hitler.
And in the wake of Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation letter, the contemptuous dismissal of the slogan that we’re all in it together (‘Don’t it make you wanna puke?’) seems particularly apt.