The Vibrators were an English punk-pop band that debuted as the backing act for Chris Spedding on a 1976 one-off single on RAK. Signed to Epic, the band released the album Pure Mania in 1977, followed by V2 with bassist Gary Tibbs in 1978. Tibbs followed the gig with stints in Roxy Music, Code Blue, and Adam and the Ants.
After the second album, the Vibrators paused for several years but reconvened in 1982 for a steady stream of albums over the ensuing three decades. During the split, guitarist John Ellis scored a gig with Peter Hammill, appearing on the 1982/83 albums Enter K and Patience.
Members: Knox (vocals, guitar, 1976-78, 1982-present), John Ellis (guitar, 1976-78, 1982-86), Pat Collier (bass, 1976-77, 1982-84), John “Eddie” Edwards (drums), Gary Tibbs (bass, 1977-78), Don Snow (keyboards, saxophone, 1978), Dave Birch (guitar, 1978), Ben Brierley (bass, 1978), Greg Van Cook (guitar, 1978-79), Kip (vocals, 1979-80), Ian Woodcock (bass, 1979-80), Phil Ram (guitar, 1979-80), Adrian Wyatt (guitar, keyboards, 1979-80), Noel Thompson (bass, 1984-86), Mark Duncan (bass, 1986-89), Mickie Owen [aka Mickie Rooster] (guitar, 1986-89)
The Vibrators formed in London in early 1976 when guitarist–singer Ian ‘Knox’ Carnochan teamed with guitarist John Ellis, bassist Pat Collier, and drummer John “Eddie” Edwards.
Knox (b. 1945) hailed from Watford, where he played in the unsigned 1960s garage bands The Renegades and Knox & the Knight Ryders. He enrolled in art school and took up painting, which occupied most of his twenties.
Ellis (b. 1952) formed his first band, Bazooka Joe, in 1970 with future video director Daniel Kleinman. Though they went unsigned and unrecorded, Bazooka Joe lasted six years through multiple lineups. Reputed for their campy image and musical mix of glam, rockabilly, and proto-punk, they influenced Madness, whose debut album (One Step Beyond…) contains a cover of the Bazooka live staple “Rockin’ in A♭.” At one stage, Bazooka featured singer Stuart Goddard and backing singer Arabella Weir, a future comedian. Goddard fronted the band at the time of their November 6, 1975, performance at St. Martin’s School of the Art. The event marked the live debut of their opening act, The Sex Pistols.
Collier joined a mid-’70s Bazooka Joe lineup before joining Knox and Ellis in their new band. (His Bazooka replacement, bassist Gary Tibbs, would later replace him in The Vibrators. In 1981, Tibbs teamed with Goddard, by then famous under the stagename Adam Ant.)
Punk, Chris Spedding
The Vibrators played the London pub and club circuit for several months during the spring–summer of 1976 as a shaggy-haired R&B/pop group. Soon enough, they gravitated to a new aesthetic put forth by the Pistols and other acts formed in that band’s wake, including The Clash, The Damned, and Buzzcocks.
They connected with guitarist Chris Spedding, a veteran jazz and rock guitarist (Battered Ornaments, Nucleus, Sharks) with a sympathetic ear to London’s new breed. Spedding, who produced an early set of Pistols demos, chose The Vibrators as his backing band for a set at the 100 Club Punk Special, an eight-act festival arranged by Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren. The event marked the debut performance of Siouxsie & the Banshees, formed by members of the ‘Bromley Contingent’, a group of teenage stylists who followed the Pistols from gig-to-gig.
Spedding and a now leather-clad Vibrators played on night two (September 21, 1976) of the festival, between sets by The Damned and Buzzcocks. They performed covers of The Beatles (“I Saw Her Standing There”), The Rolling Stones (“Jumping Jack Flash”), Jerry Lee Lewis (“Great Balls of Fire”), and Chubby Checker (“Let’s Twist Again”), plus the Spedding original “Motorbike.” As they played, police arrested audience member Sid Vicious for a glass-throwing incident that left a girl injured in one eye during The Damned’s set. Journalist Caroline Coon covered the event for Melody Maker and got arrested when she intervened on Sid’s behalf.
On November 19, 1976, Chris Spedding and The Vibrators issued “Pogo Dancing” (b/w “The Pose”), produced by Mickie Most for RAK Records. Spedding wrote the a-side as an ode to the pogo, the dance of choice at punk shows where attendees jump up and down in time to the music’s breakneck downbeats. Vicious purportedly invented the dance at an early Pistols show.
Spedding and The Vibrators performed “Pogo Dancing” (and “Motorbike”) on Show 14 of the ITV music program Supersonic (aired 12/13/76). In the footage, Knox sports his now-trademark curly quiff and goggles. The single followed The Damned’s “New Rose” by four weeks and preceded the Pistols’ “Anarchy In the UK” by one week, making it the second UK punk release.
The Vibrators released their debut album, Pure Mania, in June 1977 on Epic–Columbia. It features thirteen Knox originals and two tracks (“Keep It Clean,” “Stiff Little Fingers”) by guitarist John Ellis.
1. “Into the Future…” (2:17)
2. “Yeah Yeah Yeah” (1:17)
3. “Sweet Sweet Heart” (2:37)
4. “Keep It Clean” (2:55)
5. “Baby Baby” (3:40)
6. “No Heart” (1:50)
7. “She’s Bringing You Down” (2:23)
8. “Petrol” (2:06)
9. “London Girls” (2:30)
10. “You Broke My Heart” (3:30)
11. “Whips & Furs” (2:11)
12. “Stiff Little Fingers” (2:16) inspired the name of a Belfast punk band that released four 1979–82 albums on Rough Trade and Chrysalis.
13. “Wrecked on You” (1:29)
14. “I Need A Slave” (1:42)
15. “Bad Time” (1:57)
Knox – guitar, keyboards, vocals
John Ellis – guitar, vocals
Pat Collier – bass, vocals
John “Eddie” Edwards – drums
The Vibrators released their second album, V2, in April 1978 on Epic–Columbia. It features ten originals by Knox, who also co-wrote two songs (“Destroy,” “Public Enemy No. 1”) with bassist Gary Tibbs. Guitarist John Ellis submits “Flying Duck Theory.”
1. “Pure Mania” (3:00)
2. “Automatic Lover” (3:04)
3. “Flying Duck Theory” (2:58)
4. “Public Enemy No. 1” (2:07)
5. “Destroy” (2:16)
6. “Nazi Baby” (4:19)
7. “Wake Up” (1:57)
8. “Sulphate” (1:43)
9. “24 Hour People” (2:52)
10. “Fall in Love” (4:31)
11. “Feel Alright” (1:51)
12. “War Zone” (2:17)
13. “Troops of Tomorrow” (5:39)
Knox – guitar, piano, vocals
John Ellis – guitar, synthesizer, vocals, cover artwork
Gary Tibbs – bass, vocals
John “Eddie” Edwards – drums, vocals
Sisters of No Mercy – choir on “Sulphate”
Berlin Symphonia – strings
Nicky Graham – string arrangements
Dedicated to Wolf “Moishe” Moser.
- Pure Mania (1977)
- V2 (1978)
- Guilty (1982)
- Alaska 127 (1984)
- Fifth Amendment (1985)
- Recharged (1988)
- Meltdown (1988)
- Vicious Circle (1989)
- Volume 10 (1990)
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