We’re Talking about Rich Kids (& Martha)

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As January 1978 dawned many music critics, already fed up with punk, began banging on about Powerpop, an idea that at this point I had little understanding of, although I did have a copy of the Vertigo compilation New Wave, that had Shake Some Action by The Flamin’ Groovies on it.

Back then I bought one music paper per week, basing my choice not on any big allegiance but more on which of them looked to have the most promising cover. Mostly it would be NME or Sounds, although Melody Maker might occasionally win out; very, very occasionally I might even go for Record Mirror but preferring that to the big three was a bit like believing Ringo was the most talented Beatle.

When NME went for their Pleasers, Stukas and Boyfriends front page I certainly would have went for one of the others even though for ‘nostalgia freaks’ they were also featuring The Sex Pistols and Rich Kids that week.

NME Jan 21 1978

Elsewhere, The Rich Kids often found themselves being tagged Powerpop, which in Britain then was being seen largely as a reaction against the rawness and unpredictability of 1977, although The Rich Kids had little in common with the slew of guitar bands in suits such as those on the NME cover, whose their sole mission seemed to be to make music that sounded not only pre-punk but that you might think had been written and performed by Gerry and The Pacemakers in 1964. As a homage to Merseybeat, The Pleasers even tried to brand their sound as Thamesbeat.

Okay, Glen Matlock, famously, wasn’t averse to bit of Beatles and of course, Malcolm McLaren falsely claimed that he was sacked from The Sex Pistols for going on too much about Paul McCartney (Glen’s favourite Beatle) but the sound of The Rich Kids still had more in common with The Sex Pistols than it did with The Searchers and The Swinging Blue Jeans. They even did a cover of Pretty Vacant when they played live at Satellite City in Glasgow early in ’78, although Midge made it clear that night to punters that if they’d come to see a punk band they’d come to the wrong place.

Although he had been referred to as the Pete Best of Punk, any new band involving Glen Matlock was always guaranteed to send the music biz hype machine into an almost demented overdrive and during the first weeks of 1978, The Rich Kids were repeatedly tipped as the band most likely that year. In Sounds, for instance, Pete Silverton asked, ‘How can they Fail?’, adding that so pre-ordained their success looked to be that, like the Clash a year earlier, anything but complete triumph would be seen as a failure.


Last year in the Observer, Glen speculated on why The Rich Kids failed to live up to expectations. ‘In many ways, the Rich Kids were ahead of their time,’ he said. ‘I always believe if you try to copy what’s going on, by the time you’ve written some songs and put a record out you’re going to be a year too late.’ He also made the point: ‘I think we went wrong by being too hasty – or rather, we were pushed into being too hasty, and we should have taken a bit more time out to make our album.’

After all the buzz and build-up, that album, Ghosts of Princes in Towers, amazingly stalled just outside the UK Top 50, although I’ve always remained very fond of it.

Performing the title track on the pilot of the ITV show Revolver, here are The Rich Kids:

Martha describe themselves as a four-piece powerpop ensemble from the North East of England. I’ve only come across them in recent weeks but have been impressed by their fine album Courting Strong. Think Arctic Monkeys if they’d emerged in Belfast during the Troubles and been signed to Good Vibrations as a quick reference point.

According to the Independent, the group are ‘tearaway DIY super-vegans’, while Drowned in Sound describe their songs as ‘clever but not smart-arsed, fun but completely serious, catchy but lusciously enriching.’

The band will be playing the Pop South Weekender in Glasgow’s Glad Cafe next month – a great wee venue incidentally – along with upcoming acts local acts like The Just Joans and TeenCanteen. Should be fun.

Pop South Festival Glasgow

This is 1967, I Miss You, I’m Lonely:

For more on Martha:


Independent Scotland #3


PVC 2 - Put You in the Picture

P.V.C. 2: Put You In The Picture (1977) Zoom Records

Scottish pop band Slik moved rapidly from being the next big thing when, early in 1976, their song Forever And Ever topped the British singles charts to a point where, before the year was out, they’d practically dropped of the radars of all but their most loyal fans. In fact, when their single released that December, Don’t Take Your Love Away again failed to recapture the public’s imagination and enter the UK charts it wasn’t even much of a surprise.

March ’77 saw Jim McGinlay abandon Slik, replaced by Russell Webb. By this point Slik were without a record label and were often playing to paltry audiences. Appearances in teen-girls magazines began drying up and the next time they made any kind of real media splash was that summer when they announced they’d broken away from the reins of Bill Martin and Phil Coulter. Pictured in the Daily Record, there wasn’t a trademark retro baseball top or cap in sight; instead they were almost unrecognisable, wearing shades and dressed in zip T-shirts and straight legged trousers and, looking a damn sight punkier than many of the bands who were finding themselves being categorised punk.

Midge Ure spoke about regretting the fact that they’d let themselves be pushed in the wrong direction and reckoned that the band’s songs were now better than before. He was also convinced that without their teen heart-throb legacy, they would have been snapped up by a label thinking they had another Stranglers on their hands.

Well one label did want to get involved although with a little less clout than the likes of United Artists, then home to The Stranglers. Bruce Findlay’s Zoom Records, an ambitious Edinburgh independent largely inspired by Stiff and Chiswick, agreed to release what was described as a triple ‘A’ side, the three new songs, Put You in the Picture, Deranged, Demented and Free and Pain being recorded cheaply on a borrowed Revox in a pub out-with opening hours.

In his autobiography, If I Was. Midge Ure explained: ‘We called ourselves PVC2, because we knew if it was Slik nobody would buy it – though it became pretty clear when Slik played the songs live. We sold 18,000 copies – not bad at all and the biggest-selling record Zoom ever had.’*

NME’s Ian Cranna saw the band live at Edinburgh Odeon and poured superlatives on their performance, describing it as, ‘a magnificent display of blistering high energy rock’n’roll’, before going on to lavish praise on Put You in the Picture. Meanwhile Ian Birch in Melody Maker called the song a ‘diamond’ but like other journalists, when reviewing the record, he spent more time on discussing Slik, a fact that looked fated to never be forgotten.

Despite the creative success of the venture, Slik/PVC2 were still on their last legs but luckily for Midge, he had a very important punk admirer, a famous bass player who’d already tried to lure him to London to join what was guaranteed to become one of the most heavily hyped bands of the era. Since Glen Matlock had left the Pistols – and not been thrown out as Malcolm McLaren preferred to portray his departure – there had been much speculation about his next move. He’d always impressed by the Glaswegian singer and had immediately considered him as a potential front man and guitarist.

Midge Ure, though, wasn’t convinced but was persuaded to troop down to London and hook up and jam with existing members, Matlock, Steve New (who had briefly played in a pre-Rotten version of the Pistols**) and Rusty Egan.

He was adamant that Slik/PVC2 were superior musicians to Rich Kids and even let his potential new bandmates and the music press know it – I bet Glen loved him for that – and he declined the offer to join, meaning their search to find the elusive missing piece of the jigsaw continued.; in September, they played in London twice with Mick Jones of The Clash guesting on vocals and guitar and already obviously had the makings of a good set – that even included an airing of Pretty Vacant.

Midge though would eventually succumb and, early in October ‘77, the Evening Times led with the not entirely accurate headline SLIK STAR QUITS. MIDGE LEAVES TO JOIN PUNK BAND.

Slik played their final British gig at Satellite City in Glasgow and before the year was out Rich Kids were gigging across Europe, where ironically Slik had managed to retain their popularity levels and then fitted in a quickly organised short British tour. In fact, before long they played Satellite City too.

Slik Satellite City 1977 Rich Kids Tour December 1977

As 1978 dawned, Midge would again be touted as being the next big thing as his new band’s debut release came out in a blaze of publicity on the label that had first signed The Sex Pistols, EMI.

* I think Midge is forgetting The Simple Minds originally being on Zoom here.

**As for the tale of Midge being asked to front The Sex Pistols in 1975, some other time maybe.