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Sham 69 is an English punk rock band that formed in Hersham in 1976. The band was one of the most successful punk bands in the United Kingdom, achieving five Top 20 singles. The original unit broke up in 1979, with frontman Jimmy Pursey moving on to pursue a solo career.
In 1987 Pursey and guitarist David Parsons reformed the band, joined by new personnel. Although subsequently going through a number of lineup changes, Sham 69 remains active and is still playing shows as of 2015.
Sham 69 formed in Hersham in 1976. The band's name is said to have derived from a piece of graffiti that founder Jimmy Pursey saw on a wall. It originally said Walton and Hersham '69 but had partly faded away, and made reference to when Walton & Hersham F.C. secured the Athenian League title in 1969.
The 12 November 1976 issue of NME noted that Sham 69 was rehearsing in 1976, although only Pursey would remain from this early line-up twelve months later. Sham 69 did not have the art school background of many English punk bands of the time, and brought in football chant backup vocals and an inarticulate political populism. The band attracted a large skinhead following (left wing, right wing and non-political). Their concerts were plagued by violence, and the band ceased live performances after a 1979 concert at the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park was broken up by National Front-supporting white power skinheads fighting and rushing the stage.
Sham 69 released their first single, "I Don't Wanna", on Step Forward Records in August 1977, produced by John Cale (formerly of the Velvet Underground), and its success in the independent charts prompted Polydor Records to sign the band. Their major label debut was "Borstal Breakout" in January 1978, followed by UK Singles Chart success with "Angels with Dirty Faces" (reaching No. 19 in May 1978) and "If the Kids Are United" (No. 9 in July 1978). These were not included on the group's debut album, Tell Us the Truth, a mixture of live and studio recordings.
The group had further chart success with "Hurry Up Harry" (No. 10 in October 1978), which came from their second LP and first full studio album, That's Life. The band's popularity was enhanced by their performances on Top Of The Pops, and the band performed in the 1980 film, D.O.A.. Sham 69 would ultimately be one of the most successful UK punk rock bands, releasing five singles that cracked the Top 20 chart in the United Kingdom.
The band eventually started to move away from punk rock, to embrace a sound heavily influenced by classic British rock bands such as Mott the Hoople, The Who, The Rolling Stones and The Faces. This was demonstrated by their third album, The Adventures of the Hersham Boys.
The original incarnation of Sham 69 broke up in 1979, following the release of the band's fourth album, The Game. Pursey was enormously critical of the album, calling it "a pile of shit" in a 1989 Flipside interview, noting:
"I was forced into making it, you understand? I called it The Game because that's how the music business had become to me. Like a little roulette wheel where everything we did had all of this political value to it, but it didn't make any difference because you spin the wheel and if it landed on the right number you were all right, the wrong number and you were not all right."
Pursey worked with Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols for a short time under the name Sham Pistols before moving on to a solo recording career. Pursey's first solo album was with Polydor Records, the label for which Sham 69 had recorded, but was a commercial and critical failure. The second solo album, Alien Orphans, was recorded with CBS Records France. For his third solo album, Revenge Is Not the Password, Pursey paid for the recording out of his own pocket in order to maintain artistic freedom.
In 1981, Pursey collaborated with Peter Gabriel on the single "Animals Have More Fun" which was commercially unsuccessful. He also became occupied with video production in London, making use of snippets of found video in an effort "to do something really anarchic."
Rick Goldstein, Dave Parsons, and Dave Tregunna joined the 1980s glam punk/gothic rock band The Wanderers with Stiv Bators of The Dead Boys. Tregunna and Bators later recruited Nick Turner of The Barracudas and Brian James of The Damned to form Lords of the New Church.
1987 and later:
In 1987, Sham 69 were resurrected with a different line-up; Ian Whitewood on drums, Andy Prince on bass, Tony Hardie-Bick ("Tony Bic") on keyboards and Linda Paganelli on saxophone, releasing the album Volunteer and the singles "Rip And Tear" and "Outside the Warehouse". The album Live at CBGB also features this line-up. The next studio album, Information Libre, has Patricia de Mayo on keyboards. Andy Prince went on to join the Magic Mushroom Band, and Whitewood was replaced on drums by Sonny Boy Williamson, who played on the Soapy Water and Mister Marmalade album and the singles "Uptown", "Action Time & Vision" and "Girlfriend"
In 1995, Whitewood returned on drums and former Chelsea (band) bassist Mat Sargent was recruited. This line-up recorded the albums The A Files and Direct Action: Day 21 and the single "Swampy". "If the Kids Are United" was used in a McDonald's advertising campaign, long after the rights to the band's songs had been sold. By that time, Pursey was a vegetarian and he appeared in the British media condemning the use of his song by what he considered a multinational abuser of animals and humans.
In 2005, the band gained media attention when the band's anthemic tune "If the Kids Are United" was played during UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's entrance at the Labour Party Conference. As a result of this, the band was invited onto BBC TV's current affairs programme Newsnight to sing a version of the song. Pursey sang altered lyrics, including "Mr. Blair/We know you care/So bring them home/Don't leave them there", referring to the troops remaining in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.
In 2006, listeners to Christian O'Connell's Breakfast Show on Virgin Radio voted overwhelmingly for the band to record a song to support the England national football team in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Released under "Sham 69 and The Special Assembly" (O'Connell and Blur guitarist Graham Coxon were also involved), the song was based on the Sham 69 hit "Hurry Up Harry", with the lyrics "We're going down the pub", changed to "We're going to win the cup!" The resulting single, "Hurry Up England" reached number 10 in the UK Singles Chart, becoming the band's first such hit in 26 years. However this caused some controversy as a band from Romford, England, called Mottys Sheepskin had already recorded this as an England World Cup anthem with all proceeds going to a cancer charity. The band had obtained permission from Pursey to release the song officially and were unprepared for what happened next. Several days later, on his Virgin Radio Breakfast Show, O'Connell played a version of "Hurry Up England" by Pursey.
2006 break-up and aftermath:
In late 2006, Sham 69 broke up, and Dave Parsons stated his wish to independently continue as 'Sham 69'. On 26 January 2007, BBC News announced that Sham 69 had split because of a bitter fallout between Pursey and Parsons.NME reported that a statement released by Parsons included the message: "Sham 69 have left Jimmy Pursey on the eve of their 30th anniversary. The band had become increasingly fed up with Jimmy's lack of interest in playing live and continually letting down both promoters and fans by pulling out of gigs at the last moment". Parsons and Whitewood continued as Sham 69 with Tim V on vocals and Rob Jefferson on bass. This line-up performed tours of the United States, played at many punk festivals across Europe, and released the album, Hollywood Hero, in August 2007.
Pursey and Sargent formed a new band Day 21 with Rev & Snell from Towers Of London. The band was named after the last Sham 69 album and also to avoid confusion with the fans over the name Sham 69. Day 21 recorded an album titled '4:10am' which was not released, although a single, "Having It Rock And Roll", was released in 2008.
Rob Jefferson (bass) left Parsons Sham 69 and was replaced by the former U.K. Subs member Alan Campbell. In 2009, Sham 69 was the first major punk band to tour China. They released an album titled Who Killed Joe Public in late 2010.
In May 2011, Parsons stated on his website that he had disbanded Sham 69, although this was disputed by the other members. In July 2011, Pursey announced on Twitter the re-formation of most of the 1977 line-up, comprising Pursey, Parsons and Tregunna. This meant that there were two active bands using the same name, with three of the original line-up (Pursey, Parsons and Tregunna) in one band, and Harris in the other. In June 2012, Pursey registered the name as a trademark. As of 2015, both bands are still touring using the name, with the Pursey version often using the "Original 1977 line-up" tagline, and the other using the "Tim V" name.