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Robert Key in the UK

In 1976 the state of English cricket caused a growing group of disenchanted youngsters to form a movement that would create chaos and confrontation across the country. It became known as Punk. This is its story.

1. The Great Rock 'n' Bowl Swindle

Paul Monty (music journalist NME 1976-1988): People assume that the British punk movement came out of unemployment, lack of opportunity and a general anger at the state of the country. While some of that might be true a lot of it was actually down to some pretty miserable cricket. England lost the Ashes in 1975 and were stuffed by the West Indies in '76. Chris Balderstone got caps. The Wombles were in the charts. All the ingredients were there for anarchy.

Jimmy Rancid (first class umpire 1975-77): I got on the First Class list in 1975 after 10 years in minor counties and university cricket. It was a pretty big deal seeing that I hadn't been a professional player. I was only 32. I thought to myself: this will do nicely. I had it all planned out: work my way up, try and get on the Test list and retire at 65 with a fat TCCB pension. It sounded too good to be true.

photo of Middesex Seaxe members in 1975
The first Flourishings: Middesex Seaxe members in 1975 on an away trip to Grace Road.

Derek Pringle (ex Essex and England, now Daily Telegraph cricket correspondent): May 1976 and I'm playing for Cambridge University against Essex seconds at Fenners. I was in the early stages of talks about getting a contract with Essex full time after I graduated so I was pretty keen to impress. A few of the Essex lads - Ray East and Keith Pont especially - were into pub rock and wanted to shoot up to London after the game to catch a gig. We tried to get in to see Dr. Fieldgood at the Hope and Anchor but it was sold out. I suggested we try a couple of other venues and we ended up - more by luck than judgement - at the Sex Pistols gig at The 100 Not Out Club. Easty thought it was a cricket venue. None of us had heard of them before.

Joe Public (singer/guitarist with Test Squad 1976-77 and X Ray East 1978-81): Most Punk bands loved cricket and we were pretty peed off with the way things were going. I lived in a squat in Kennington with a load of other drop outs and there was a lot of anger in that community about Tony Grieg's England captaincy. There wasn't much fun to be had. During the '76 series we wanted West Indies to win. Things were that bad.

Paul Monty: Some of those early bands were very cricket obsessed, even those from the States. There was a cracking little band from Northampton called the Romaines who were heavily influenced by The Ramones. There was the Legside Stranglers from Guildford. The Underarms from Northern Ireland. Punk always gave female artists more opportunity. From America there was Jayne County-Championship and Lydia Lunch-Interval, and there were home grown girls like The Slips and The Whitecoats. It was an incredibly fertile period for musical activity. No-one was excluded.

photo of John Arlott
John Arlott was an early champion of punk. Here he controversially rounds off a 1977 JPL commentary with the words: "Oh bondage, up yours!"

Jimmy Rancid: I was doing the Middlesex/Lancashire game at Lord's in May '76.I got to London a day early so that I could see the Pistols at the 100 Not Out Club. The whole gig was a bit of a shambles: lots of aggro, bottles and glasses being thrown. Very nasty. The venue had hired a group of MCC stewards on the cheap to do the door. The punks were getting angry that they were being refused entry because they were not wearing a tie. Luckily I knew a couple of the stewards pretty well and they let me through. I saw Ray East, Ponty and Prings trying to get in through the toilet window. I said to them "it's alright lads the cricket boys are being let through." I think as the music started the stewards pretty much caved in and started letting anyone in. Sid Vicious wasn't in the band then but he was wandering around looking for umpires to fight with. Sid was Middlesex through and through. Word had got round that I had given Fred Titmus a dodgy decision in a John Player League match and Sid was after me. I had to hide in the bogs. Ironically we became good mates just before he died. He intended to come back to the UK and get his umpiring certificates. If he hadn't met Nancy Spungeon I reckon he'd have beaten Steve Bucknor's record for most tests. Tragic.

Paul Monty: The Pistols at The 100 Not Out Club was the key event. Johnny Rotten was wearing his 'I hate David Lloyd' T-shirt. After that nothing was the same. It was punk's Year Zero.

Jimmy Rancid: I turned up at Lord's on the Thursday morning still buzzing and hungover from the night before. I went to see Vince and Charlie at the print shop to tell them I was changing my name from James Richards to Jimmy Rancid. They didn't mind; I think they had been playing darts in Crockers the night before and were feeling as rough as me. Anyway, whilst I was there I borrowed some paint, ink and scissors. I wanted to make a statement to the establishment. I got a pretty angry reception when I walked out through the Long Room with a pink Mohican and the words 'destroy', 'anarchy' and 'no LBWs' spray painted on the back of my umpires coat.

Keith Fletcher (Essex captain 1974-85): We had a few punks at Essex: Ray East, Ponty (Keith Pont), Brian Hardy, Ackers (David Acfield) I was the captain and I didn't like it. I had been at Essex during the Mods and Rockers clashes in the early sixties. That got very unpleasant and caused no end of ructions in the dressing room; especially as we had 'faces' like Trevor Bailey on the same team as Rockers such as Brian Edmeades. The Essex team was a mixed bag in the mid seventies: Graham Gooch liked his jazz-funk, JK (John Lever) only listened to Abba and Keith Boyce was into some pretty heavy Rasta sounds. When Ray East deliberately taped the first Damned LP over one of Goochy's Shakatak albums it caused no end of ructions.

photo of Sid Vicious' Middlesex Member's card 1977
Sid Vicious' Middlesex Member's card 1977.

Jimmy Rancid: I was standing in the Surrey vs Essex game at The Oval with Dickie Bird when I got a call from Thames Television about their evening news show - London Reports. They wanted me to go to the studio to do a live interview about punk umpiring or something. I didn't want to do it because I was meeting some of the Essex lads to go and see Eater at the Rock Garden. Then Thames agreed to pay me £25 and for 5 minutes work I thought it would be worth it. So me, Ray East, Ackers, and a couple of chicks we knew - Siouxsie Six and Batwoman - grabbed a few cans and headed off for the studio. We were a bit sloshed by the time the cameras rolled but not half as drunk as the bloke who did the interview.

Paul Monty: Jimmy Rancid's infamous appearance on London Reports really brought punk into people's living rooms. From that moment on it was them against us. Things changed overnight. It was chaos.

Joe Public: I remember seeing Jimmy Rancid's interview with Bob Bundy on London Reports and thinking: it's really happening; this is something special. I thought the world was changing forever.

2. 'Oh Alright Siegfried'

Thames Television studios. London Reports host Bob Bundy sits to the right of Jimmy Rancid, Ray East and David Acfield. Behind them a handful of female hangers-on including Siouxie Six and Batwoman

photo of the infamous Bob Bundy interview
The infamous Bob Bundy interview.

Bob Bundy: [To camera] these are punks. The new craze, they tell me. Their heroes? Not the nice, clean Bill Alley or Arthur Fagg... you see they are as drunk as I am... they are clean by comparison. This is Jimmy Rancid and, and I am surrounded by him and his gang... Just let us see him in action. Come on kids...

[Film of Rancid sticking two figures up at a departing batsman is shown; then back to Bundy]

Bob Bundy: I am told that that this umpire receives £10,000 a year from the TCCB. Doesn't that seem, er, to be slightly opposed to your anti-materialistic view of life?

Jimmy Rancid: No, the more the merrier.

Bundy: Really?

Rancid: Oh yeah.

Bundy: Well tell me more then.

Rancid: I effin' spent it, ain't I?

Bundy: I don't know, have you?

Rancid: Yeah, it's all gone.

Bundy: Really?

David Acfield: Down the Bowlers Bar.

Bundy: Really? Good Lord! Now I want to know one thing...

Rancid: What?

Bundy: Are you serious or are you just making me... trying to make me laugh?

Rancid: No, it's all gone. Gone.

Bundy: Really?

Rancid: Yeah.

Bundy: No, but I mean about what you're doing.

Rancid: Oh yeah.

Bundy: Syd Buller ,Frank Chester and Hugo Yarnald have all died...

Ray East: They're all heroes of ours, ain't they?

Bundy: Really... what? What were you saying, sir?

East: They're wonderful people.

Bundy: Are they?

East: Oh yes! They really turn us on.

Bundy: Well suppose they turn other people on?

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East: [Under his breath] that's just their tough sh*t.

Bundy: It's what?

East: Nothing. A rude word. Next question.

Bundy: No, no, what was the rude word?

East: Sh*t.

Bundy: Was it really? Good heavens, you frighten me to death.

East: Oh alright, Siegfried...

Bundy: [Turning to those standing behind the band] what about you girls behind?

Acfield: He's like yer dad, innee, this geezer?

Bundy: Are you, er...

Acfield: Or your grandad.

Bundy: [To Siouxsie Six] Are you worried, or are you just enjoying yourself?

Siouxsie: Enjoying myself.

Bundy: Ah, that's what I thought you were doing.

Siouxsie: I always wanted to meet you.

Bundy: Did you really?

Siouxsie: Yeah.

Bundy: We'll meet afterwards, shall we? [Siouxsie does a camp pout]

Rancid: You dirty sod. You dirty old man!

Bundy: Well keep going, chief, keep going. Go on, you've got another five seconds. Say something outrageous.

Rancid: You dirty b*stard!

Bundy: Go on, again.

Rancid: You dirty f**.ker! [Laughter from the group]

Bundy: What a clever boy!

Rancid: What an effin' rotter.

Bundy: Well, that's it for tonight. The other rocker, Eamonn, and I'm saying nothing else about him, will be back tomorrow. I'll be seeing you soon, I hope. I'm not seeing you again. From me, though, goodnight.

3. England's dreaming

Reg Smoker (cricket correspondent London Evening News 1950-1982): I got my first front page with that story. And my last. All the dailies had it on the cover. It was the biggest news story of that year.

photo of Essex dressing room, 1977
May 1977. Punk caused divisions in dressing rooms all over the country. Essex prepare for a Gillette Cup tie against Shropshire.

Jimmy Rancid: Honestly I had no idea of the furore that the Bundy interview would cause. It was all over the front pages the next day: 'The filth and the fury' and all that. I got called straight over to the TCCB offices and my contract was torn up in front of my face.

Keith Fletcher: I didn't know what to do. The press had gone mad over it. We had to go into the field the next day and continue the game against Surrey. Ray East had been one of the chief protagonists in the Bundy interview scandal and I needed him to hold down an end with his slow left arm stuff whilst JK (John Lever) and Stuart Turner took turns at the Gasworks End. He had been sniffing Brian Hardie's hairspray and had put a safety pin through his spinning finger. I said "bowl properly or I'll take you off". He flicked the V at me and kicked Umpire Bird in the knackers. I had to banish him to Fine Leg where he spent the rest of the day gobbing at the crowd. It was a nightmare.

Derek Pringle: The TCCB held an emergency meeting at Lord's and the end result was that any cricketer or umpire who was deemed to be a 'punk' was in danger of being banned. It was farcical. They hadn't a clue what a punk was. They tried to ban anybody who had a dodgy name: Brian Brain, Roy Virgin. Poor Jack Crapp never stood a chance. Paul Pridgeon got banned. He said "why are you banning me?" They said "because your name sounds like pigeon". He said "there's nothing punk about a pigeon" to which they replied "there is if it craps on your head". It was like Punkfinder General.

photo of the Sex Pistols
(L to R) Never mind Bob Willis, here's the Sex Pistols: Dwight Riot, Jimmy Rancid, Lydia Lunch-Interval at the Roxy June '77.

Joe Public: The Bundy interview certainly opened doors for cricket punk bands. There was massive interest after that. I had formed Test Squad only a couple of months earlier and we were gigging virtually every night. After the Pistols got a record deal there were A and R men swarming round at every gig and every cricket match. There were stories of groundsmen and scorers being signed. Peter Marron was good at preparing pitches but couldn't sing to save his life. Despite that he got signed to CBS and I know for a fact that the advance he got paid for the heavy roller at Blackpool.

Paul Monty: It was ridiculous how quickly the major record companies moved in after the Jimmy Rancid interview. They just brandished their cheque books at anyone with a cricket connection. If you were an umpire then you could line your pockets. I remember going to see David Constant and the Bad Decisions supporting The Pistols at the Black Swan in Sheffield. The Clash and their followers were massive cricket fans but the audience resented Constant because they saw him as a chancer whereas Jimmy Rancid was the real deal.

Jimmy Rancid: After my contract was torn up I thought that it would be the end of my umpiring career. Then I had an unexpected stroke of luck: the chairman of the Minor Counties Umpiring Association contacted me and asked me if I would sign up to officiate in the 1977 season. I didn't need to be asked twice.

4. God Save The Queen

photo of Ted Dexter
Ted Dexter was inspired by punk and later formed his own band Dexter's Midnight Runners.

Paul Monty: The Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977 was a big event for the majority of British people but for the punks it represented everything that was wrong with British society: privilege, stagnation and boredom. The punk scene offered a way out. All punks were equal.

Derek Pringle: 1977 was memorable for two things: the Silver Jubilee and the Ashes. And Punk. That's three things. And I made my debut for Essex Seconds. Four things.

Reg Smoker: There were punks popping up everywhere. The indoor school at Lord's was full of them; all these young blokes with rips in their whites and chains and razor blades hanging off their pads. It was disgusting. Then they all started changing their names. If you look at the list of the MCC Young Cricketers from 1977 you will see the likes of Johnny Awful, Sid Bastard and Dwight Riot. Rascals all of them.

Derek Pringle: Dwight Riot was a very promising bowler; raw and fast but very unpredictable. The Clash loved coming to watch him. They even wrote a song about him on their first album. 'Dwight Riot, I want Dwight Riot ... ' Or was it the second? Actually I think it was the third.

photo of a record company chief
"Get me Ken Shuttleworth". Record company chiefs were desperate to sign up cricketers to make punk records.

Jimmy Rancid: I turned up to do my first Minor Counties game - Cheshire against Northumberland, I think - and just before I was due to go out on the first morning I got called into the committee room. The head of Minor Counties umpires - the same bloke who had offered me a contract - was in there looking very ashen faced. He said that due to numerous complaints from members and spectators he had no option but to rip up my contract. I just gobbed on the floor, punched a steward and walked out. I was upset but he paid me up in full so in the end I got my money for doing no work. It left me at a loose end though.

Reg Smoker: There was some good cricket being played in 1977. The Australians were over and looked like a pretty decent outfit. England were a bit of a shambles. They had been stuffed by the West Indies the previous summer and had not particularly enjoyed the winter tour to India. The Centenary Test offered a glimmer of hope and some of us were quietly confident that there wasn't going to be much between the two teams come June.

Paul Monty: Things reached a crescendo as the Jubilee celebrations approached. Geoff Boycott was back in the England team - on 99 centuries approaching the Headingly Test - and the Pistols were about to release God Save The Queen. The country was a tinderbox waiting to go up.

Joe Public: Boycott was the punks' favourite player. You might have thought that we were all into wham bam style players but we weren't. On the county circuit we championed the likes of Harry Pilling and Jim Foat. I remember a lot of the Bromley contingent used to follow Alan Ealham everywhere. In tests it was Derek Randall and Knotty; but Boycott was the master. There was real anger that he'd been overlooked for the England captaincy in favour of Denness. For a while no Scottish bands would play in England for fear of reprisals.

Reg Smoker: There were rumblings about something massive that was about to hit cricket - and I'm not just talking about David Shepherd bowling two overs in the JPL at Gloucester.

photo of young player signing for Middlesex
Teams like Middlesex attempted to counter-act Punk by signing young players from the most prestigious private schools, regardless of talent.

Joe Public: We hated Tony Grieg; everything about him was wrong: the accent, the bowling action, the stupid flat batting gloves. We wanted him gone.

Jimmy Rancid: By July 1977 I was pretty much doing nothing all day. I'd get up late, go down the boozer and then hang out on the Kings Road at (Malcolm) McLaran's 'Sex' shop. Vivian Goldman (designer) was working on some pretty outrageous new cricket gear: fishnet wicket keeping gloves, bondage pads, that sort of thing.

Paul Monty: God Save the Queen got to number 2 in the charts despite being banned by the BBC. It was kept off the top by Rod Stewart. The punks hated Rod Stewart: flag waving football fanatic with his identikit model girlfriends. None of the punks had the slightest interest in football. It was always cricket.

Jimmy Rancid: I was at Sex one day hanging out with Jonesey (Steve Jones) and Nick Kent (NME journalist) when the phone rang. I heard this Australian voice at the end of the line saying he was going to make me rich. I thought it was Bill Alley pulling my plonker ... it was Kerry Packer.

Keith Fletcher: There were rumours flying around about how some rich Australian was going to set up a private tournament for the world's best players and that Tony Grieg was acting as his go-between. I immediately rang up Griegy and said that I'd be available. He said "sorry Gnome I don't think it will be for you ... but have you got a number for Brian Edmeades".

Joe Public: A gang of us went up to Headingly for the test. There was about 20 of us crammed into this tiny van: Captain Sensible and the Damned boys were there, a couple of Stranglers, Glen Matlock, Sid. A few journalists tagged along for the ride: a couple from the NME and E W Swanton from The Times. He had lost his Senior Citizens rail card and wanted a free lift. It was a bit of a crush to say the least. Everybody was drinking cans of lager and taking copious amounts of speed; apart from Swanton - he'd brought a bottle of vintage port and a box of Mr. Kipling's Almond Slices. Someone slipped him a Micky Finn coming out of Watford. He was out of it by the time we reached Birmingham. Jet Black from The Stranglers was sitting on his head pretty much all the way from Dudley to Leeds.

photo of Vivienne Westwood
The infamous Sex Boutique was a meeting place for punks. Designer Vivienne Westwood created desirable cricketing fashions such as bondage pads and fishnet wicket keeping gloves.

Reg Smoker: When Boycott drove that ball from Greg Chappell for four to bring up his hundred it was like a rocket had gone off in the crowd.

Joe Public: That was a great night. We all went to the Snake Pit in Leeds to see The Vibrators. The atmosphere was unbelievable. E W Swanton and Jean Jacques Burnel were pogoing on stage until the bouncers tried to throw them out. Big mistake! Jean Jacques was a black belt in karate and Swanton could handle himself - he'd been in a Japanese prison camp so a few overweight doormen didn't bother him - it was all Queensbury Rules until Sid waded in with Ray East's bicycle pump and concussed the venue manager. We all scarpered quickly before the Old Bill descended.

Paul Monty: In some respects the Boycott hundred was the high point of punk. It was the moment when everything came together but it was also the moment that things began to fall apart. It was never the same after that. Bands started to take record company money; the sense of being 'outsiders' began to disappear. Once they began to be accepted it was over.

Jimmy Rancid: I met with Tony Grieg and Packer in a hotel in South Kensington. Packer was a flash git but there was something about him that I trusted. Packer said that he was putting together a cricket tournament that would bring all of the world's greatest players together. He said "great cricket needs great umpires". He liked my style. He said that he liked the way I'd head butted Jack Simmons when he started over-appealing and how I could gob the full 22 yards to give a batsman his mark. They wanted no nonsense from the likes of Lillee and Colin Croft and they thought I'd be the man to keep the peace. The £50,000 they offered me helped too. I signed up there and then.

5. "Ever get the feeling that you've been cheated?"

Reg Smoker: World Series Cricket was a good thing only in that it kept those punk rocker idiots out of the papers.

Paul Monty: After the Sex Pistols' first album and Boycott's 100th hundred things went downhill rapidly. There was some diabolical rubbish released in the name of punk. I think the nadir came when Brian Johnson started turning up on Test Match Special with ridiculous peroxide Mohican and comedy safety pin through his nose - like a prototype Sid Snot. Then he started talking about how much he loved the Sex Pistols and The Clash during the tea interval: all that Rotters, Vishers, Strummers stuff; it was just embarrassing. Even Fred Trueman re-inventing himself as a New Romantic in the '80s wasn't as bad.

photo of Kerry Packer (centre) and Northants Second XI skipper Maurice Harker (right)
Kerry Packer (centre) had the final say over who appeared in World Series Cricket. He tells Northants Second XI skipper Maurice Harker (right) that his services will not be required.

Derek Pringle: When Kerry Packer's team started recruiting players from England to play in World Series Cricket there was quite a bit of excitement in the Essex dressing room. A few of our players thought they were shoe-ins. Keith Fletcher was one. He even bought one of those hats with the corks on it. For some reason Ray East and Ponty both fancied their chances of going.

Paul Monty: World Series Cricket was doomed from the start. Although the punks were seen as anarchists, in actual fact, they were traditionalists as far as cricket was concerned. They saw WSC as cheap and tawdry. Kerry Packer was desperate to get the punks on his side - he even considered changing his name to Kerry Punker at one point - which is why he hired umpires like Jimmy Rancid. His original idea was to have The Clash play at the opening ceremony. When he suddenly realised that they were anti-WSC he panicked and signed up Showaddywaddy and Mud instead. He lost all credibility in one fell swoop.

Jimmy Rancid: I flew out for the first match - which was Australia versus the West Indies at Sydney - and discovered that I was the only punk there. The other 'new wave' umpires like Sid Fist and Johnny Gob had decided not to come after Packer did his U-turn over The Clash. I was livid.

Joe Public: We just weren't interested in World Series. There was no Boycott, no Jim Foat, and no Brian Brain ... no-one of any interest at all. Packer seemed to assume that everybody wanted to see Lillee and Thompson versus Viv Richards and Clive Lloyd. We didn't. We would have been happier with seeing Fred Swarbrook against Barry Leadbeater at a Second XI fixture at Abbeydale Park.

Jimmy Rancid: That opening match was a terrible experience. The SGC crowd were extremely hostile towards me - they just didn't get the idea of punk - and I was booed and jeered at all day long. I thought to myself: "I'm not going to stand for this ... I'm off". It was a very partisan, boozed-up crowd and they were all desperate for an Australia win. If I remember correctly it was a tight game with Australia just having the edge chasing down the Windies total. I was so fed up I started giving ridiculous decisions: an LBW here, a no ball there. I made stuff up. I didn't care. I just wanted to p*ss the crowd off.

Reg Smoker: I covered the first match for the old London Daily News and that Sydney crowd were not amused to see an English umpire with bright orange hair and a safety pin through his lip giving out Ian Chappell under the previously unheard of dismissal method of 'having a stupid moustache'. All the press boys were reaching for their rule books after that one.

Jimmy Rancid: Australia lost and as I came off the ground the crowd was baying for my blood and throwing beer cans at me. I just turned round to the drunken idiots on the hill and shouted: "ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"

Paul Monty: ... and that was that. English cricket entered the Brearley and Botham years. Brearley was interested in punk but only on an intellectual level; the same as he would be interested in the SCUM Manifesto or Dogme95. You couldn't se him ever going to a Crass gig. Botham, on the other hand, hated punk and everything it stood for. He was a Chris De Burgh man through and through.

Joe Public: When I look back at it now it's not the music, not the clothes, not the attitude that I like the best. It's the fact that cricket itself was the winner. We helped make it stronger. That wasn't the case with the New Romantics or the Mods - they were too busy poncing about and preening themselves. I can't remember Spandau Ballet ever trying to gatecrash a selectors meeting. Punk gave cricket the biggest kick up the backside in history.

Derek Pringle: I was playing in a charity match a couple of years ago and got out second ball to Sir Tim Rice's wrong 'un. As I started to walk off I heard the umpire at square leg say to me: "Still sh*t then Pringle." It was Jimmy Rancid. As I turned to look at him he just gave me the V sign and threw a light meter at Duncan Norvelle at leg slip. He never surrendered, did he?'