Penetration

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)


Background

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.”[1]

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.


1977

On January 29, 1977, Penetration 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).


“Don’t Dictate”

On November 11, 1977, Penetration released their debut single: “Don’t Dictate” backed with “Money Talks,” both co-written by Gary Chaplin (music) and Pauline Murray (lyrics).

A. “Don’t Dictate” (2:45)
B. “Money Talks” (1:35)


1978


“Firing Squad”

In May 1978, Penetration released their second single “Firing Squad”

A. “Firing Squad” (3:00)
B. “Neverr” (2:12)


Moving Targets 

Penetration released their debut album, Moving Targets, in October 1978 on Virgin. It contains nine originals that singer Pauline Murray co-wrote with assorted members, including two each with guitarist Neale Floyd (“Future Daze,” “Reunion”) and bassist Robert Blamire (“Vision,” “Movement”). Side One closes with the epic three-way composition “Stone Heroes.”

Lead guitarist Fred Purser collaborated with Blamire and Murray on “Too Many Friends.” Pauline and earlier guitarist Gary Chaplin co-wrote three songs: “Lovers of Outrage,” “Silent Community,” and “Life’s a Gamble,” Penetration’s third single. Side Two wraps with covers of the Buzzcocks (“Nostalgia”) and the Patti Smith Group (“Freemoney”).

1. “Future Daze” (2:58)
2. “Life’s a Gamble” (2:59)
3. “Lovers of Outrage” (3:56)
4. “Vision” (3:24)
5. “Silent Community” (3:29)
6. “Stone Heroes” (3:15)

7. “Movement” (3:22)
8. “Too Many Friends” (3:13)
9. “Reunion” (3:59) is a ballad with Purser on keyboards.
10. “Nostalgia” (3:49) is a song by singer–guitarist Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks, whose version appeared weeks earlier on their second album: the September 1978 UA release Love Bites.
11. “Freemoney” (4:48) is a song by American singer Patti Smith and guitarist–bandmate Lenny Kaye; first released as the fourth track on her 1975 debut album Horses and since covered by ex-Montrose singer Sammy Hagar on his 1977 eponymous second solo album.

Studio Matrix Studios, London; The Manor Studios, London
Producer Mick Glossop, Mike Howlett
Mick Glossop – engineer

Robert Mason, Russell Mills – sleeve artwork
Paul Nugent – sleeve photography

Penetration lifted “Life’s a Gamble” on October 13, 1978, as their third a-side; backed with the non-album Murray–Chaplin song “VIP.”

B. “VIP” (2:30)


1979


“Danger Signs”

On April 20, 1979, Penetration released their fourth single: “Danger Signs,” a Floyd–Murray track backed with a live version of the Moving Targets cut “Stone Heroes.”

A. “Danger Signs” (2:27)


Coming Up for Air

Penetration released their debut album, Coming Up for Air, in September 1979 on Virgin.

1. “Shout Above the Noise” (4:02)
2. “She Is the Slave” (3:07)
3. “Last Saving Grace” (2:54)
4. “Killed In the Rush” (1:47)
5. “Challenge” (3:59)

6. “Come Into the Open” (2:49)
7. “What’s Going On” (3:04)
8. “Party’s Over” (2:50)
9. “On Reflection” (2:08)
10. “Lifeline” (2:50)
11. “New Recruit” (3:02)

Recorded at Ridge Farm Studios and Phonogram Studios
Producer – Steve Lillywhite
Engineer – Ian Taylor
Artwork – BOLD images

On August 24, Penetration released “Come Into the Open” as an advance single (b/w “Lifeline”).


Discography:

  • “Don’t Dictate” / “Money Talks” (1977)
  • Moving Targets (1978)
  • “Firing Squad” / “Neverr” (1978)
  • Coming Up for Air (1979)

Sources:


References:

  1. Savage, Jon. England’s Dreaming

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