Paperback Riders – Will Birch “No Sleep Till Canvey Island: The Great Pub Rock Revolution”

2016 Will Birch Publishing Kindle edition

Pub Rock sat in that middle ground between the more excessive bits of 70s rock, and the nuclear year zero of Punk. What it also did was open the door to music based on early R&B and the Country Rock being pioneered by The Byrds, and their offshoots. That music quietly evolved over the next twenty years or so and emerged as the UK’s version of Americana.

‘No Sleep Till Canvey Island: The Great Pub Rock Revolution’ was mentioned briefly when we looked at Will Birch’s Nick Lowe biography. Birch was there as the drummer for The Kursaal Flyers and brings a first-hand perspective to the emergence and impact of pub rock.

Full disclosure, this is one of my favourite music books. It captures the scene that lived in the pubs and clubs of London and Essex, where bands like Dr. Feelgood, Brinsley Schwarz, and Ducks Deluxe honed sounds that were raw and. Birch delves into the social and cultural context of the time, painting a detailed picture of the economic hardships, political climate, and disillusionment that fuelled the need for a back-to-basics musical revolution.

One of the book’s strengths is that it blends Birch’s personal anecdotes, interviews, and historical context into the narrative. He explores the influence of the key figures, and the impact of venues like as The Hope & Anchor and The Nashville Rooms. He lays out the road map of how the people and places converged to lay the groundwork for the punk rock explosion that followed a couple of years later. The book also gives us another chance to catch up with Dave Robinson of Stiff Records who seems to make quite a few appearances in Paperback Riders.

With the success of documentaries on Dr Feelgood and John Otway and others in recent years there is always the hope that some aspiring film director will pick this up and turn it into the film it deserves to be, while all the participants are still with us.

No Sleep Till Canvey Island‘ offers the personal insight into a scene that has been influential beyond its record sales or gig attendance that only an eyewitness could give. Birch’s passion for the music and fondness for the time is clear. This is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the roots of British Americana, roots Rock and indeed Punk and why it has had such an enduring impact.

Pub Rock remains shortchanged in the reissues department. Cherry Red Records suggested on the sleeve notes of their box set ‘Surrender To The Rhythm: The London Pub Rock Scene Of The Seventies’ that there were plenty of unrecorded bands, although you suspect the presence of some decided non-pub bands has more to do with licencing than songs committed to tape. Birch’s Kursaal Flyers and Brinsley Schwarz have had the big box treatment. Bands like Roogalator and Ducks Deluxe deserve it too…

About Tim Martin 239 Articles
Sat in my shed listening to music, and writing about some of it. Occasionally allowed out to attend gigs.
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Martin Johnson

This is a great book, and records a key part of music history. Too often pub rock is simply referred to as something that enabled punk but it was so much more. Danny Adler and Roogalator deserved so much more recognition and success.

Stephen Towler

This book really is an excellent read.
I saw Roogalator in Leeds back in the day, having bought ‘With The Roogalator’ simply because it was on Stiff. They were great.
I’d like to hear more of this stuff, especially Roogalator, The Hammersmith Gorillas and The Stukas.,