Every Dog Has Its Day
or Robert Lloyd in Revenge Of The Underdog
You couldn’t make it up could you? Robert Lloyd, one of the great unsung heroes of the punk explosion, realises he may be in danger of being rather more than a footnote in the official history books? As is entirely appropriate for a man who’s demanded cheaper bus fares in a pop song, we’ve waited years and years for a fitting salvage job to be carried out on Robert Lloyd’s earliest works, then along come two at once. It’s got to be coincidence. Nothing Lloyd related has ever been so co-ordinated.

It seems like years ago that Tangents ran a lovely little overview of Lloyd’s early adventures with the Prefects and the Nightingales. Since that’s still accessible, it seems silly to cover the same ground again. So let’s just say that his back pages (the ones that really matter) are available again, and anyone looking for an antidote to these asinine days is urged to investigate.

The Prefects were punk outsiders from Birmingham, benefiting from not being part of any in-crowd. Their few surviving recordings have been collated by our favourite label Acute on the charmingly titled The Prefects Are Amateur Wankers (an epithet doled out by Bernard Rhodes). Eight of the ten songs are from their John Peel sessions. It reminds us of the incredibly important role those sessions played in providing a platform for groups that never really had the chance otherwise. It also meant we were oddly as familiar with the likes of the Prefects and Subway Sect as we were with the favoured figureheads.

The credits on the Prefects CD are an insight into that inventive punk underground, with mentions for kindred spirits and comrades like Buzzcocks, Subway Sect, Slits, The Fall, Manicured Noise. I like to play a Subway Sect spotting game. There was one weirdly this week in a railway magazine. And it’s worth mentioning there’s one in Jonathan Coe’s Dwarves Of Death. I mention that because I’ve always thought it strange that there is no mention of The Prefects in his Rotters’ Club masterpiece.

When The Prefects dissolved Robert Lloyd went on to form The Nightingales, refining his art along the way. Cherry Red have delightfully reissued Pigs On Purpose, the ‘Gales’ first LP and assorted additional singles tracks, to coincide with Acute’s Prefects set. And it sounds better than ever. Lloyd had a way with words, and there are so many casual throwaway lines spat out here which are an absolute delight.

Maybe it’s the mood I’m in nowadays, but Lloyd’s cynicism and caustic wit are what we need right now. The title seems more apt than ever, and it still spells pop. With so much suffocating slickness and garish gloss, Lloyd’s worldweary awkwardness is wonderfully welcome. This by the way is not to belittle the glorious noisy zigzag wandering hillbilly boogie the boys brew up which can still get you jigging and jiggling about madly.

Over 20 years ago Alan McGee would claim the Nightingales along with the TV Personalities were the leaders of some sort of pop resistance, and he would aver that their respective frontmen Robert Lloyd and Dan Treacy were poets and prophets. There’s been some strange water under the bridge since then, some of it very muddy, but maybe time is proving him right.

© 2004 John Carney