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"Punk's about keeping the faith. Not just in a movement but in each other,” fires off Jimmy Pursey, in-yer-face singer with rowdy punks Sham 69.
“It’s a yes situation, not a no situation,” he continues, words rattling out like shell cartridges from a gun.
“It’s an attitude you have on life and on energy.”
Pursey’s got it in truckloads. But when the energy disappeared from Sham 69 gigs as National Front skinheads began to appear in 1980, it broke up his band.
Constantly being asked to defend a despicable idea – “I never had a skinhead haircut, I never said join us” – was like chewing dirt.
His passion for Sham 69, a punk idea as much as a band, still runs deep.
He was asked to be on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here when money was tight.
“I told them you can offer me what you like but I’m not going on. I try to live a reclusive life.
“I thought, it’s not about clowning around – it’s about doing something right to get people to do it themselves.
“If I f*** up and don’t show another way of living, then punk wouldn’t have meant anything at all.”
And in a show of solidarity bar none, Pursey speaks to The Guide the day after his dad has died.
At one point he admits he is a little tearful.
But he wanted to do it because it’s a “yes situation”. And Brighton has a special place in his heart. He references the city in songs and he’s often recorded here. When he decided to reignite the Sham flame, they reconvened at the Levellers’ Metway Studio in Canning Street to rehearse.
“We used to rehearse in 1976 and 1977 in Brighton. We’ve played places from the Top Suite to the Regent pub. But being back at the Metway again, it felt like we were meant to be together. It was like a divorced man being reunited with his kids.”
Now Sham are back with the original 1977 line-up – guitarist Dave Parsons, bassist Dave Tregunna and drummer Mark Cain – Pursey has had a shot in the arm.
“It’s as though I have a blank canvas but with a manual and template, I don’t feel so battered and bruised by life.
“It’s gone back to being that real Sham 69 that it was when it first started, without it being tainted.
“That’s keeping me going at the moment.”
His old man was not a big supporter of the band. His mother was more interested. She funded a van and lopped off a mole Pursey had on his face because she wanted him to be an actor. (As it was he did a bit of modelling and even tried his hand at modern dance with Hot Gossip. He made a video interpreting The Stranglers’ Waiting For The Men In Black, of which the less said the better).
What his mother helped produce was the leader of one of Britain’s greatest purveyors of punk – who formed in Hersham in Surrey in 1976 and had their first top-ten with the terrace chant If The Kids Are United in 1978.
They wanted to change things, not destroy things.
“We didn’t have the Johnny sarcastic approach as well as being a boy band put together by a manager – ‘you are going to do this and wear these clothes’.
“Our philosophy came from the fact what we saw around us had had absolutely nothing to do with us. We could get up and be ourselves and completely energise a music scene without any direction, when the direction needed to be hope. We had that understanding that no matter who you were, you might not be understood by this tribe or that tribe but I’ll give you a tribe to be understood by.”
He’s a poet and painter as well as musician.
A few years ago his art about oppression was booked for a gallery in Brighton but when the owners refused to show all four pieces he told them to rip them down.
“My integrity was being questioned,” he explains. Instead he hung the pictures depicting an Abu Dhabi interrogation centre, with a priest hooked up to electrodes, in a local pub.
And what does he say to those who ask, why reform now?
“My songs are still up to date lyrically and musically. It’s your decision on which type of music you like, but lyrically it adds up to questions and answers: tell us the truth – what have we got?”
“These kids are still angry for Dirty Faces, these kids are still united. They are strong in the meaning. Even that populist record Hurry Up Harry seems to put a smile on my face when years ago I couldn’t stand the thing.”
His hatred for flags and borders continues, but with age comes wisdom.
“As a kid I spat the lyrics out. Now I chew them and spit them out because I understand the value.”
Support from Running Dogs.
Sham 69 play Concorde 2, in Madeira Drive, Brighton, on July 13, doors 7pm, £18. Call 01273 673311.
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