In 1976, in a small mining village in Co. Durham, four former school friends decided to play cover versions of their favourite Bowie, Velvets and Stooges songs very badly.
Having more enthusiasm than ability, they soon picked up on the fact that some NME journalists were becoming disinterested in the status quo (quite literally) and were starting to champion what would become Punk Rock.
If they struggled to sound like The Spiders from Mars, then sounding like yourself would be a lot easier. In doing so they began to discover quite accidentally that being creative was actually possible.
In January 1977 they named themselves The Valves, unfortunately on a road trip to London that spring to visit the Vortex they became aware of a Scottish band of the same name. So in a tiny tent somewhere in a field in Oxfordshire, with a specially bought copy of 1984 for company, singer/ bass player John Black suggested that they should become The Proles, as that seemed to best describe the powerless, working class position of all members of the band: Kevin Willis and Peter Short on Guitar and Kevin Wilson playing drums.
An early dalliance with Newcastle Rock Against Racism, led to a number of gigs on their behalf and eventually the Tyneside RAR E.P. featuring their songs Stereo Love and Thoughtcrime.
Only 1000 copies of the E.P. were pressed and despite a slightly surreal phone call from Rough Trade’s Geoff Travis to John’s mother (‘he’s at work’) pleas for more pressings were fruitless as the band just had no money at all.
Gigging continued in the northeast and eventually, a demo found its way into the hands of Small Wonder’s Pete Stennett, who invited the band to Walthamstow for an afternoon of Crass played very loudly while Pete got slowly stoned.
The resulting single released on Small Wonder, Softground /SMK received significant airplay from John Peel on Radio One and made the Sounds New Wave chart.
Despite regular live gigs from 1977 to 1979, the writing was on the wall when the hippest kids in Newcastle moved out of leather jackets and into pork pie hats. Those who clung to Punk were destined for ever higher Mohican cuts, and ever lower seams of creativity. When it stopped being fun, The Proles were no more.