Blitz is one of our favorite bands and one the most beloved and influential groups to emerge out of the second wave of U.K. punk. But what is sometimes not recognized is the 2 versions of the band; the early punk sound from the first couple of years and the lesser acknowledged dark wave sound that followed after their first album. Both are completely different but both incredible pieces of work. Unfortunately the later album was such a shock to fans it was immediately rejected and rarely gets any mentions. It was poorly promoted to a new audience and unable to sway their previous fans and made no real impact. The shame was that everyone expected a follow-up to sound like the first record with its fast, gutteral, aggressive anthems and battle cries but were let down when hearing a dance driven experimental record with singing instead of yelling. Maybe they should’ve just changed their name? Or maybe if people could’ve gotten past the labels and understood it for what it actually was; not a punk record, who knows? At any rate Blitz put out some of the best songs of 80’s punk and managed to do a complete 180 degree turn and put out a record that in retrospect was just ahead of the curve and proved to have great songwriting merit.
The original band consisted of 2 skinheads and 2 punk rockers, Nidge on Guitar, Mackie on Bass, Carl on Vocals and Charles on Drums. This alone seemed ground breaking on the sheer fact that the band consisted of an equal blend of two tribes that at the time didn’t always find common interests. It was a perfect recipe for what was soon to be called “Oi” music. They appeared on several compilations with other bands being funnelled through the moniker of Oi, but never openly embraced the term as their sound. Always referring to themselves as a punk band.
Friends from school Nidge Miller and Neil Mclennen known as “Mackie” met Carl Fisher at local punk shows around their hometown of New Mills, Derbyshire in the North West of England. All 3 joined a band called XS Rythm in 1979. Shortly after that two members left the band. In May of 1980 they were then joined by Charles Howe on drums which was to be the first lineup of BLITZ. Their sound was inspired by the Ramones as too their name. Blitz was actually a shortened version of the song “Blitzkrieg Bop”. The cover of the first Blitz release bears a noticeable resemblance to the first Ramones album, even the title of Blitz first ep ‘All Out Attack” is a definition for the german military term Blitzkrieg. Nidge the main songwriter responsible for their sound explains, “To be honest, I heard the Ramones and that was it! I wasn’t really into anything before then, maybe Slade or something, but i’d never heard anything quite like the Ramones, their speed, their energy, that guitar sound. They were the band that got me into punk not the Sex Pistols!” Blitz released 3 singles “All Out Attack”, “Never Surrender”, “Warriors” and one full length LP “Voice of a Generation” with the original 4 piece line up on No Future Records.
Blitz generated a huge following in punk terms and sold over 25,000 copies world-wide of their first single. Their debut album even went on to peak at number 1 on the indie charts in 1982.It was around this time that Mackie left the band after a rough tour alongside GBH. Producer Tim Harris soon joins Blitz to play bass and record……
“NEW AGE”, the single that set the tone for what was to come – a much more experimental side of the band introducing other inspirations. “New Age” was written in 5 minutes by guitarist Nidge for a TV performance. It sounded something like Joy Division but still retained that tough sound and edge they were known for. The B-side to the single was “Fatigue”, another great track that is reminiscent to The Stranglers or early Ultravox. Clearly the bands influences were coming from other “sophisticated” punk song writers. Suddenly Blitz were now dressed in all black button down shirts instead of bleached denim jackets, and they sounded as if Bernard Sumner had joined them on guitar. This also marks the first release on “FUTURE” records, a sub label of No Future said to be created for the band and its new horizons. Soon after the success of “New Age”, Carl Fisher and Tim Harris who aim to go further in this new direction drive Nidge to leave the band who then goes on to reunite with Mackie. The group then split into two factions. There is the foreward thinking side of Carl & Tim, and the punk purists Nidge & Mackie. There is conflict within the band in an attempt to continue their separate vision of how to continue forward. Blitz now find themselves in a power struggle to retain the BLITZ name and a contract with No Future. Eventually Carl and Tim won over the attention of No Future but now all releases were to be under the sub label “Future Records” in hopes of moving the label in a different direction with their best selling band on board. Blitz now begin to appear on compilations with other bands in the same vein as And Also The Trees instead of street punk bands that they used to be strictly associated with. The ‘Telecommunication” single was a brazen departure from their original hard sound, lending itself more to current New Romantic and Electronic bands of 1983. Incorporating synthesizers and drum machines their long time fans were alienated and felt betrayed. The self proclaimed voice of a generation was now saying something different and the kids were not happy.
What might be interesting to note if you havent caught on is that the skinhead half of the group carried on with the name and moved into the post-punk gothy sound, not the punks side which to some might seem to have been a little bit more expected to play on experimentation.
The two punk rockers Nidge and Mackie were obligated to carry on with another name for their group but remained true to the style they were greatly responsible for creating. They released the “Rose of Victory” single still on No Future Records and was promoted by the label as the former members of Blitz in hopes to generate sales to fans of the original punk sound and to do some damage control in the process.
Side A was an amazing cover of David Bowie’s “Suffragette City” with Nigel Beverly their producer on vocals who sounded a lot llke Bowie himself. It’s a killer sound and heavy version of the classic tune. The B-side was an instrumental powerhouse “Overdrive” which actually managed to have a presence in the UK charts. Sadly that was the only release of Rose of Victory and they too eventually split up.
The new version of Blitz went on to release one of the most underrated post-punk albums of the 80’s.
“Second Empire Justice” was released in mid 1983. Blitz, now having completely reinvented the band’s core sound with elements of industrial and post-punk were a new force to be reckon with. Now having utilized a drum machine and synthesizer, they were being negatively compared to awesome and groundbreaking bands like New Order. Many fans described this version of Blitz as complete sell outs. It didn’t help that the “Second Empire Justice” cover art and layout seemed eerily similar to something sterile that Factory Records might have released. In reality, Joy Division and New Order may have been more of an influence on their sound and imagery than one might be able to notice just on the surface.
The person to produce the aforementioned record was Chris Nagel, who was also Joy Division’s and New Order’s engineer under Martin Hennett at Factory records and probably understood exactly where they were trying to take the band. Looking back, to create an artistically valid record with commercial appeal, Chris Nagel must’ve been a veteran in the studio by that point. So its not that strange to hear the comparisons of either Joy Division or New Order at all. One can hear the influences in the song ‘Into the Daylight’ having a similar feel to Joy Division’s ‘Disorder’ and ‘Flowers on Fire’ with bass guitar very reminiscent of Peter Hook’s early style. The song ‘Skin’ has a very similar sound to early Virgin Prunes and the more artsy expiremental side of punk coming out of Britain at the time. “Alcolyle” could have been played at any dance club at the time as it has a great drum beat and catchy hook. Funny enough Blitz were likely inspired by the youth movement surrounding Club Blitz, which was owned and operated by Steve Strange of the band Visage; who were the kings of the New Romantic scene.
The record did manage to hit the UK indie charts presumably because of curiosity more so than having really reached a new audience. Their follow up single “Solar” proves the theory to be likely correct as it was a total flop as listeners must have not cared for the new style. Ironically the b-side ‘Husk’, is the only track that Nidge Miller recognized as a great song released during that period without the other two members. One could easily agree with him as its a really well crafted synthpop song with a similar feel to The Cure’s “Primary”. Sadly this commercial failure lead to the break up of the band and No Future/ Future Records also went belly up soon after. It was a courageous attempt on both parts. The punk years gave us so many classics and anthems that to this day send chills up and down our spines. It is their post-punk efforts from the second half of the band that clearly illustrates forward thinking and desire to be open minded musically. The “Second Empire Justice” Lp may not have made the biggest impact on audiences in 1983 but it may have helped other drum machine driven bands like Sisters of Mercy to better market themselves when they would soon release their full length debut in 1985. At any rate we love both versions of this great band! Here’s to you noise boys!