Much has been made about female representation and recognition in the music press during the formation and growth of punk, i.e. there wasn't that much. Which, when you consider how many women were fronting bands, performing or just been spat at during gigs, is a travesty. Thankfully, today's eager aficionados of punk, post-punk and new wave are keen to learn and hungry for redressing the balance. Lest we forget the efforts of the late Poly Styrene and Ari Up and the surviving Siouxsie, all from the London area - but what about those further afield?
In Durham, an unlikely cathedral city famous for schooling Tony Blair and Rowan Atkinson, punk quietly grew in the shadows of London and Manchester's scenes. Perhaps the most familiar new-wave act to come out of the North East was Penetration, fronted by one Pauline Murray. Formed in 1976, they quickly grew into an engaging live prospect that expanded on the typical two or three-chord exponents of punk and chased melodies rather than dreams.
Their first single, 'Don't Dictate' backed with 'Money Talks', issued in 1977 on Virgin, remains a blueprint for these hard times and set them up for two studio albums, the brash spiky 'Moving Targets' and the grown-up 'Coming Up For Air', which features some of their finest numbers including their final official single, 'Come Into The Open', released in 1979.
After the band split, Murray hooked up with renowned Manchester figureheads such as producer Martin Hannett, guitarist Vini Reilly (Durutti Column), bassist and ex-Penetration member Robert Blamire and Steve Hopkins to create the basis of The Invisible Girls, an occasional ensemble that also backed John Cooper Clarke throughout his recording career in the '70s and '80s. Her self-titled debut 'solo' album showed her pop chops but failed to ignite huge interest.
In 2001, Murray parked her various musical projects and reconvened Penetration for live shows, something which has continued to this day. The band are back on the road next month to continue celebrating the 35th anniversary of 'Don't Dictate', starting in Kingston on 13th September, followed by gigs in Bristol, their hometown for the Durham Punk Fest (also feat UK Subs, Buzzcocks etc), before resuming in November in Newcastle, Manchester and York.
We have tickets on sale now, priced at £8-£12, or for the Durham fest, £27. Great band, try and see them.