Sham 69 was one of the many bands to come out of England during the punk movement between the mid to late seventies. However, I wouldn't consider them just another punk band that sounded like many other bands at that time. While they play raw punk and rock music, they have hard rock influences, and on some songs they include different types of instruments, something that many punk bands didn't do, with the obvious exception of The Clash and a few others. They formed in 1975 by frontman and singer/songwriter Jimmy Pursey and guitarist Dave Parsons, but didn't release their debut album, Tell Us The Truth
until 1978 on Earmark record labels. They sing some songs about politics and the working class, like many punk bands did and still do, but they also have some humorous songs in which the lyrics are just plain funny. Something that is noticeable in almost every song is that they always have a very catchy and sing along chorus, most of the time with backing vocals which works very well, influening a great many of Oi!/street punk bands after them. Sham 69 was also the first of the punk bands from the UK to feature a song that made it on the charts with their hit and top ten UK single Hurry Up Harry
, was released the same year as their debut in 1978. The record doesn't feature the greatest sound quality, though I wasn't expecting it too. It kind of brings the record down a bit, but it is not too bad. The album does have some comedy in it as sometimes there is some dialogue before or after songs, even though sometimes I can't understand what they are saying it is still pretty entertaining. Jimmy Pursey has a fairly good voice and works well on all the songs. He has a good (yelling) vocal range which he demonstrates on many tracks including Who Gives a Damn?
and Is This Me or Is This You?
When you first listen to the album, it may put you off guard because the opener, Leave Me Alone
has some talking for about a minute until the song finally kicks in. But at least the song is well done and sets the tone for the album but not one of the best off it. This album has some very solid punk tracks including the title track That's Life
. The song has some great clean vocals, and keeps a steady pace throughout the chorus. It also features one of the albums few guitar solos. Overall a very good song, but kind of gets messy at the end. Another great punk song is Who Gives A Damn?
. After some noise, the opening riff comes in followed by Jimmy's distinct vocals. This song also has a great solo and some good lyrics with Jimmy yelling: "Who Gives a Damn; I'm Doing The Best I Can"
. A personal favorite of mine is Angels with Dirty Faces
, a very catchy song that has the signature group chant in the chorus. It is a short and effective song. This song was also the second and last single released off the record. Sham 69 tried to mix things up a bit with the Reggae Pick Up
songs. These songs though are not even reggae. They do have somewhat of a reggae beat in the background, but both songs are basically just dialogue and easily my two least favorite songs off the album.
and Win or Lose
are both good tracks, but nothing that stands out from the rest, just pretty basic Sham 69 songs with changing tempos back and forth and mixture of Jimmy's harsh and clean vocals. Some other highlights of the album are The Cockney Kids Are Innocent
and Sunday Morning Nightmare
. The Cockney Kids Are Innocent starts off after Jimmy yells '1234' and then everything comes in. The chorus is very catchy with it being the band singing the title all together a couple of times which equals a classic Sham 69 song. Sunday Morning Nightmare has some of the funniest lyrics on the album about being late at a disco on Saturday night, and then having well, a Sunday morning nightmare. The song also makes references to the movie Grease which just adds to the humor. Overall a very funny and good punk song. The big single off the album Hurry Up Harry
is one of, if not the best on the album. It is a very catchy with the chanting chorus with an unexpected piano solo and appealing to the general public. The only flaw in the song is its repetiveness. Though it's easy to see why it made the top ten in the charts.
So overall, Sham 69's That's Life
is recommended to any fan of classic punk or just punk rock in general. Sham 69 was, in my opinion one of the best bands to come out of England during the punk movement and an influence to many of the street punk bands that came after them. I often feel they are underrated and not given enough credit. In the case of being overlooked, many people always think of the Sex Pistols, The Jam, or The Clash (as they should) when it comes to 70's British punk rock, but Sham should be up there. Anyways, this is a solid record (although it can get a little messy at times) from Sham at their peak. From here on, after the excellent Hersham Boys, Sham released albums throughout the early 80's, but the increasing violence at their shows made it difficult for the band to tour, however they regrouped in 1987.
Jimmy Pursey: Vocals
Dave Parsons: Guitar
Dave Tregenna: Bass
Mark Cain: Drums
Hurry Up Harry
Who Gives a Damn
The Cockney Kids are Innocent
Sunday Morning Nightmare
Angels With Dirty Faces