Penetration was an English New Wave/hard-rock band from Ferryhill, Durham, that debuted with the single “Don’t Dictate” on Virgin in 1977, followed by the album Moving Targets in 1978. The band released another standalone single and a second album on the label before folding in 1979. Vocalist Pauline Murray subsequently fronted The Invisible Girls for one album and several singles during the early 1980s.
Members: Pauline Murray (vocals), Gary Chaplin (guitar, 1976-78), Neale Floyd (guitar,1978-79), Fred Purser (guitar, 1978-79), Robert Blamire (bass), Gary Smallman (drums)
Penetration were formed in October 1976 by Pauline Murray (b. 1958) and Robert Blamire (b. 1959), both musical novices at the outset. Murray hailed from Durham, equidistant from Newcastle and Middlesbrough in northeast England.
An avid concertgoer, Murray followed the sequence of glam-era bands that passed through the region (T. Rex, Roxy Music, Hawkwind, Mott the Hoople, Cockney Rebel). Scanning the music weeklies for upcoming northern shows, she was struck by photos of a new, unsigned band from London, The Sex Pistols. In May 1976, she saw them perform for the first time at the Sayers nightclub in Northallerton. A short time later, she saw them with the Doctors of Madness in Middlesbrough where, according to her later claim, the Pistols “wiped them out.”
Galvanized, Murray and fellow attendee Blamire took up the mic and bass, respectively. Teaming with guitarist Gary Chaplin and drummer Gary Smallman, they named their band after the song “Penetration” from the 1973 album Raw Power by Iggy & the Stooges. As devotees of the emerging punk scene, Murray and her friends were dubbed the “Durham Contingent,” coined by an NME journalist as a northern analog to the “Bromley Contingent,” the group of London-area Pistols fans that included future members of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Generation X.
Penetration played their first concert at the Middlesbrough Rock Garden in October 1976. On January 29, 1977, they made their London debut at the Roxy opening for Generation X. That summer, they gigged the city’s punk-friendly haunts (the Marquee, the Vortex) with an assortment of fellow up-and-comers (The Vibrators, 999). In July, they played a multi-act bill at the Electric Circus in Manchester, headlined by the Buzzcocks and also featuring John Cooper Clarke and newcomers Warsaw, who soon became Joy Division.
In the fall of 1977, Penetration were swept up in Virgin Records’ post-Pistols flurry of new wave signings (The Motors, XTC, The Members, Magazine). Their debut single, “Don’t Dictate” (b/w “Money Talks”), was released that November. Both songs were co-written by Chaplin (music) and Murray (lyrics).
- “Don’t Dictate” / “Money Talks” (1977)
- Moving Targets (1978)
- “Firing Squad” / “Neverr” (1978)
- Coming Up for Air (1979)
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