To avoid repetition, this week’s installment will be taking a collective approach to Link Records’ Live and Loud!! series of punk concert LPs.
The sub-imprint spanned just shy of three dozen releases (including related “Live and Rockin” rockabilly stuff) across half a decade, wrapping up in 1992. While a lot of Link’s imports were pricey and/or hard to come by, the Live and Loud records tended to be both ubiquitous and cheap on the used vinyl circuit. That would explain how I ended up with at least a half dozen of them, as they provided affordable access to material when the studio releases were otherwise unavailable.
I didn’t bother taking a full inventory in preparation for this post, but the ones I can recall owning with any confidence were Cock Sparrer, the Angelic Upstarts, the Cockney Rejects, Sham 69, and Vice Squad. There were a few others, picked up more for the $2 asking price than any great enthusiasm for the artists involved.
So dazzled was I by the cheapness of these finds that I overlooked the fact that the lion’s share of these recordings were absolute shit, quality-wise. There’s nothing as exciting as a live punk show, yet capturing that ambiance and energy on record is near impossible to achieve. Sins of technical proficiency or sound quality that would be overlooked from mosh pit level become impossible to ignore when blaring from the speakers of your bedroom stereo. It also didn’t help that most of the Live and Loud shows were recorded off dodgy PA systems at dive clubs with the acoustics of an aluminum storage shed.
The Cock Sparrer one was probably the best of the lot, probably due to the their roots as a pub rock outfit before they cashed in on the Docs ‘n’ slaphead demo. The Cockney Rejects installment, on the other hand, could have been released as ambient white noise release without anyone being the wiser. The rest fall somewhere in between those extremes, though favoring the latter pole over the former.
To be fair, the quality issues were addressed to some extent in mini-essays printed on the back of sleeves. In addition to the mixing board mea culpas, they also offered lashing of hype-as-historic-content and Serious Opinions on the State of Punk Rock. I recall the one for the Angelic Upstarts most clearly, because the author lashed out at The Clash for “going Hollywood” and the Damned for becoming a “cabaret act” while the streetpunk scene stayed true to its roots. I was coming off the height of my punk puritanism when I read it, and its defensively earnest confusion between “arrested development” and “authenticity” struck me as rather pathetic.
Few of the Live and Loud records got more than a spin or two on my turntable, just enough for me to determine if I was willing to seek out pricier studio recordings of the material. In that sense, at least, they served an invaluable purpose.