:: Article

Still Runnin’ Riot

By Trev HAGL.


Steve Bruce, The Best Seat In The House – A Cock Sparrer Story, Cherry Red, 2010

Despite only ever having two (poorly promoted) short stints on major labels Decca and Carrere 25-30 years ago, Sparrer now out-sell every major punk band from back in the day. This book however, is far from being a quick cash-in from a bandwagon jumping journalist. It’s the full monty as told by drummer Steve Bruce. A mixture of autobiography, travel diary and scrapbook, it has everything you could ever possibly want on the band. Photos galore, gig ads, records, tour diaries, press cuttings/interviews, discography and of course Steve’s story from his childhood where he inherits his dad’s drumming genes right through to present day worldwide adulation. The only fault is the painful type size, but (as with Esso from The Lurkers book), it’s essential reading so persevere we must.

After a comparatively uneventful childhood (at least compared with the ‘other’ books I read!) Steve takes us through the early days of the band (then spelt COCK SPARROW) and their HQ, a flat that would do the Young Ones proud (cat shit in the oven etc!). We soon move on to their first single ‘Runnin’ Riot’ (a pic of the rare demo version included) and the follow up, The Stones’ ‘We Love You’ which Steve states (as with their other R & B stuff like ‘I Need a Witness’) he wasn’t happy with. Decca turned down their album (although rare copies of the Spanish release exist) and the band are that broke they sell their (or at least someone else’s) PA and bravely embark on a trip to America. Things may have turned out different if they hadn’t turned down the advances of a one Malcolm McLaren. Steve says the band simply did not fit. They did not want his ‘Sex’ fashion; they were more in tune with football hooligan attire.

There’s plenty of real life stuff such as birds, drugs, booze and running pubs and all the hassle that entails. Steve runs the gauntlet of knowing people on both political divides which gets a bit tense when two rival marches kick off near the Stick of Rock, the pub he owned. And the band admit that the Live & Loud CD er… wasn’t.

The last third of the book is less eventful, as the band members are now older and wiser and capacity for hellraising is limited, although practically every other page involves alcohol consumption. We still get plenty of stuff on the European tour, US tour, HITS / Wasted / Rebellion, how the new album came about, the Lars from Rancid connection, another US tour and even a spot of legal action from Bitzcore – makes ya proud to be punk, eh?

It’s good to see Steve name dropping smaller bands they have played with, and individuals who follow ’em around the globe, and the whole book has a personalised nature to it, with family members mentioned etc.

Nearly 300 pages and A4 to boot, totally justifying the 15 notes price tag. You know you want it!

Trev HAGL is a worryingly middle-aged skinhead with punk rock values from Co. Durham (that’s near The Toon). He has written fanzines since 1983: HAGL (aka Have a Good Laugh), Savage Amusement and currently Negative Reaction. He likes to give the punk and Oi scene a kick up the arse and a dose of reality and hopefully make people laugh their tits off in the process!

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, June 25th, 2010.