Sham 69 are an English punk rock band formed in 1975 in Hersham. They are one of the highest charting bands in British punk with a total of five Top 20 singles. They split up for the first time in 1979 after which frontman Jimmy Pursey went on to pursue a solo career. He reformed the band in 1987 with guitarist David Parsons and new other members. They have had many line-up changes throughout their career but remain active and gigging today. Along with the Cockney Rejects and Angelic Upstarts ,they are considered to be the forefathers of the Oi genre. Our Top 10 Sham 69 Songs is a subjective look at some of the best songs the band has released over the years.
10. Hurry up England
This reworking of “Hurry up Harry” from 2006 features Blur guitarist Graham Coxon and was released as a charity single. The lyrics are changed to be about the England team in the world cup with the band declaring “Were gonna win the cup!” which obviously did not happen. However, the song is still a rabble rousing and energetic track much like the original and was a nice alternative to the rather dreary official cup song by indie band Embrace. It also managed to chart, reaching No.10 just two places below the aforementioned song.
9. Tell the Children
This lead single from fourth album, 1980’s The Game was released after their split in 79 and it reached No.45 in the charts for three weeks. Leaning more towards power pop than punk, it is more commercial than their earlier material despite charting lower.
8. Questions and Answers
From third album, 1979’s The Adventures of the Hersham Boys this single reached No.18 in the UK charts. Featured on several other releases, the b-side featured a Beatles cover “With a little help from my friends.” It shows the band experimenting somewhat with a less steet-sound , with the guitar sound being more reminiscent of 70’s rock and Pursey puts on a slightly American sounding accent.
7. Sunday Morning Nightmare
From second album, 1978’s That’s Life, this is a track that a lot of us can relate to dealing with the concept of the Sunday morning hangover after a Saturday night out. Although it sounds a little lame now, it is still rather amusing, painting a picture of a working class teenager feeling particularly rough and having to deal with the consequences. From the band’s perspective, it may be very much “of it’s time” but it’s safe to say the song’s lyrical content will always be relevant.
6. I Don’t Wanna
The band’s debut single released in 1977 is a classic piece of working class frustration talking about unemployment and dead end jobs clocking in at just 1 minute and 45 seconds. It was their only release on Step Forward Records before they signed with Polydor. It featured two B-side tracks “Ulster” and “Red London” and was notably produced by John Cale from the Velvet Underground.
5. Angels with Dirty Faces
From That’s Life this single like many off their others deals lyrically with the bands working class roots and “hooligan” image. It also featured as it’s B-side “The Cockney Kids are Innocent”. It was released initially as a 7 inch in 1978 before being re-released as a 12 inch in 1982. It reached number 19 in the charts for twelve weeks and was written by Pursey, Parsons and producer Peter Wilson. Featured on several releases, it is a track which the band performed on BBC show Top of The Pops.
4. Borstal Breakout
This song from their 1978 debut Tell Us the Truth about being in a borstal is essentially the musical equivalent to the 1979 film Scum. Their third single, it is truly one of the greatest punks tracks of it’s era, as an account of life as an angry working class youth. Maybe a little dated now, as borstals in the UK don’t exist in the form that they used to, it nevertheless is a classic slice of late 70’s grit. Featuring a classic riff and catchy chorus, it certainly pulls no punches.
3. Hersham Boys
This track from The Adventures of the Hersham Boy’s see’s the band celebrating their cockney roots. It is their highest charting hit, reaching No.6 in the UK charts. Despite this it received a particularly scathing review in pop magazine Smash Hits with journalist David Hepworth describing it as “A tired, hollow effort struggling between weary attempts at rabble-rousing and blush-making pseudo-Springsteen ‘street’ songs that reek of desperation and contract fulfilling. As empty self-satisfied a record as anything they supposedly set out to replace.” It has been included on several live and compilation albums. Two live tracks appeared as B-sides to the single “I don’t Wanna” and “Tell us the Truth.” The song also had its own promo video which saw the band performing next to the sign for Hersham Road.
2. Hurry Up Harry
This famous song from the band was released in October 1978 and taken from That’s Life. It was also released as a single featuring the B-side “No Entry.” One of their highest charting singles it reached No.10 for eight weeks. The track has also been featured on the 1980 compilation album The First, The Best and The Last and the 1989 live album The Complete Shame 69 Live. They notably performed it on Top of the Pops and in 2006 did a reworking of it, the previously featured “Hurry up England” for the world cup.
1. If the Kids Are United
Released as a B-side to their single “Sunday Morning Nightmare” this is easily the band’s signature track about rebellious youth being united. It is a song that in many ways signifies the beginning of the second wave of punk, with it moving away from it’s art school origins and becoming the voice of the council estate. To this day, it is still regarded as a punk anthem, particularly with it’s chorus which features the classic line “If the Kids are United, they will never be divided.” It spoke to many young people when it first came out and the message still rings true 40 years later.