by The Ghost of Music Past

On a recent visit to my brother in England I was again awestruck by the depth of his multi-genre vinyl record collection. He has about 5,000 albums, mostly covering the period from the 1960s to the 1980s.

But where to start? Well, the first thing that came to my mind was the brilliant, unfortunately short-lived, but fortunately recently re-formed, early British (is there any other kind?) punk group, Penetration. I first heard Penetration on the John Peel Show on Radio 1 back in 1978, when they had already been around a couple of years. Punk records seemed hard to get (limited numbers, and always sold out!), and for a while they were played by nobody else except Peel. His show was incredible, because you had cutting edge bands playing live every night. But for me, Penetration stood out even amongst their illustrious peers.

Maybe it was Pauline Murray’s intensely strong vocals; maybe it was the pulsating guitar, the driving beat, or the very poignant lyrics; I don’t know, but I did and do like Penetration’s music. They are probably my favorite punk band of all time. So here’s some recommended listening. Amazingly, their first two albums are available on YouTube in their entirety.

Moving Targets (full album):

Coming Up For Air (full album):

My choice from my brother’s collection, however, is the rare Race Against Time, which features live recordings from Newcastle and all three of my favorite Penetration numbers.

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Silent Community: Observes the late 70s in a state of decay – oppression, social control, the hallmarks of modern society were already very evident at that time, if Penetration lyrics are anything to go by:

Frightened to speak
Yeah, freedom of speech
Means nothing to most
And trouble if you preach it
Punished for speaking
And praised for the silence
Pent up emotion
Or modern-day violence

This song always makes me feel like rising up against social injustice, against the police state, against corporate hegemony, but I never do, because at the end of the day I’m just one of the silent community myself, alas.

Don’t Dictate: – punk in a nutshell – “Don’t tell me what to do!” Definitely gets your adrenalin pumping!

Lovers of Outrage: This live version from the reading Festival in 1978 is similar to the Newcastle recording, but you can see the band in action!

Let them go
Set them free
Let them be who they wanna be!

Penetration definitely had a message to communicate to their audience. It wasn’t just their brilliant music. Lovers of Outrage is definitive Penetration, and definitive punk.

There are plenty of other good tracks in their repertoire – those three are just my favorites. Future Daze, Danger Signs, Nostalgia… plenty more.

If you’d like to get to know Penetration better, the CD I have in my own very modest music library is the best buy, I think:

Penetration

That CD features the Newcastle live recordings and more. It is basically Race Against Time with some additional tracks. I wonder what else my brother has stashed away in his incredible vault of vinyl…

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— The Ghost of Music Past

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