The Boys – “In Concert”

I’m intrigued by how certain bands can’t seem to gain any traction in their home country, but somehow become incredibly popular somewhere else in the world. Some American groups can’t even put 500 butts in the seats in major U.S. cities, but if they go somewhere in Europe they can headline and play in front of thousands… or go to South America and play (full) soccer stadiums. One of those countries that has shown great passion over the years for bands like this is Japan, and Japanese fans are renowned both for their passion and loyalty to their musical heros. As such not only is there a thriving record collecting scene there, but there are any number of Japanese only releases.

I ran across one such release the other day at Hi-Voltage – The Boys In Concert vinyl put out by Vinyl Japan in 1999 as a limited edition of 2,000. Now, The Boys certainly attained a level of popularity as one of the earliest punk bands, having formed in 1976 and released a number of genre-establishing hits such as “I Don’t Care” and “First Time” and ridden the punk nostalgia wave by reforming for shows and even releasing a new single as recently as 2008. So it’s not like these guys were nobodies who were only popular in Japan. But still – earning yourself a Japan only release certainly says something about what kind of fan base they still have there.

In Concert is a live performance recorded by the BBC on February 13, 1980, in front of what I’m guessing was a rather well behaved studio audience based on the applause between songs and the quiet while the band is performing. Interestingly, it’s more or less a re-release of BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert, a 1993 release that featured The Boys on side A and The Vibrators on the reverse. The one difference as near as I can tell is that In Concert includes one extra song – track three, “You’d Better Move On,” which did not appear on the 1993 recording. Because this was recorded by BBC Radio, the quality is absolutely fantastic – this is about as clean a live punk recording as you’re likely to find. It’s too bad they simply didn’t re-release the entire thing – I’d like to hear those Vibrators tracks too. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for the original.

The Boys’ sound is classic punk rock – a three chord staccato attack. It’s fast-paced rock, bordering at times on rockabilly (especially on “Livin’ in the City”) but far from the speed that would eventually become a driving force in the genre. Most of the songs are originals, though the band includes a cover of American country-soul singer Arthur Alexander’s 1961 minor hit, “You’d Better Move On” (a widely covered song). Start to finish this is an enjoyable album, and a solid representation of the early punk sound that captures at least some of the band’s live energy (though I’m sure the BBC Radio studio audience hardly compares to that of a small, packed club – but I’m sure the band appreciated not having fans spitting on them as English punks were wont to do back in the day). While I give this a thumbs up, I’d recommend looking for the 1993 release and checking out the Vibrators as well – they’re awesome.


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