Waynster

Gilbert and the Planks – Chelmsford’s punk legacy

by on Aug.26, 2013, under Music

I want to take you back to the halcyon days of a young lad from Essex, just turned 18 and busy on a bout of self discovery – one that not only consisted of the effects of Bob and Abbot and the occasional funny fag on this slight spotty youth, but also with it  falling in love with music in all its mad and eclectic genres. I was pretty much a wannabe rocker back then – Iron Maiden were an early love and i’d not often be seen without my single Eddie emblazoned shirt. But I also had a passion for Punk – something I’d missed in my junior years but relished with later rediscovery.

I’d also been introduced by my MRSL YTS buddies to Chelmsford’s legendary Prince of Orange pub – full of the cities reprobates and rebels and although I mainly felt like a guilty outsider these were the people I wanted to be – the bikers, the rockers, the punks – all the people your parents didn’t want you to be yet as much as society hated them I felt at home among these misfits – if somewhat scared of many. I seem to recall even one night being accused of being a narc by one local – I didn’t know if I was more scared of the kicking I would get or the fact that I was seen as an outsider – almost an enemy – neither of which I was or wanted to be. But it didn’t stop me going in there on packed Friday nights, always a tad fearful that the threatened glass fight would kick off (it never did) and all the memories I had of that great place are all happy ones. And it was also here that I discovered Gilbert and the Planks – probably Chelmsford’s greatest band (well along with the Prodigy but tenuous links to that later).

My lifelong friend Donna had given me a tape of ‘Fear of a Plank Planet’ – she’d done some promotion work at the local YMCA booking bands and they had gotten to know her – she was more into Bon Jovi at the time so thought with my love of the Pistols and the Ramones that I would appreciate the tape more (yep in those days demos still came on C60 cassettes).

gp

I’d seen and heard a lot of local bands and they were okay –  many of my mates were musicians so you’d get dragged along to the Army and Navy for a show just for the support more than anything and none really shone out back then to me – until I heard Gilbert and the Planks’ Fear of a Plank Planet. It instantly struck me with it’s lack of production, honesty, non-sensibility and – stated with all true respect – amateurism – that made it instantly a favourite. It was proper home-made music like punk should be – no airs or graces, just down to earth, balls to the wall punk. And I loved it.

It was identifiable – the  lyrical content of overpriced haircuts and Renault owners of questionable sanity rang a bit of a chord with my love of Half Man Half Biscuit but with a much more aggressive stance and of course being about where it was from – ‘Supermarket’ you could just imagine was about Sainsbury’s in the Precinct and everyone – especially in Essex – knew at least one Turbo Nutter Bastard. It was a local band for local people (to paraphrase the League of Gentlemen) and that meant that it was something you felt you were almost a part of – I’m just sad I never got to see them and buy the T-shirt (which I now know to exist)

I met some of the guys just once – again it was my friend Donna and me, upstairs at the Prince – drinking with some friends of hers. She hadn’t even realized that I didn’t know these were the guys behind the tape but when the penny dropped there was much hero worship and laudation laid among these local heroes of mine. I think they may have thought me a tad strange waxing lyrical about the tape as I did (somewhat drunkenly no doubt) – the memories are hazy at best – but they were a good laugh and most amiable to me.

My tape collection has long since disappeared (although I think they are with a friend of mine in Holland) and I now live in the USA, but somehow I never forgot about Fear of a Plank Planet – remembering it vaguely yet fondly. I even did an internet search but just one result on the B3ta website for Gilbert and the Planks existed anywhere. But then through the wonders of the internet I remembered the Prince of Orange reunion page on Facebook and on the extreme off chance thought I would ask if anyone knew anything about them – I could not have been more happily surprised. Within minutes I not only had confirmation of their memory but a photograph of someone wearing a Gilbert shirt in Kathmandu of all things,  then a scan of the tape and a lineup confirmation. It seemed a lot of the old Prince crew knew the Planks well (and their spin off bands)  and people’s ownership of tapes soon surfaced. And of course it was not long before someone shared for us all once again the beauty that was Gilbert and the Planks doing what they did so marvelously. Bryan Barker fantastically was able to send me MP3’s of the whole album and in tribute and I hope in no way insulting to the legacy or members of the band, here is Fear of a Plank Planet in its entirety. Enjoy:

Supermarket  

Julian’s Car

Having a Swim

Big Country

t.n.b.

Twenty Five Quid

Cupboard

Salad Days

1-2 Crush on You

Superfish

Instrumental

All songs by Gilbert and the Planks (I believe) except 1-2 Crush on You by Strummer/Jones. Songs are copyright of Gilbert and the Planks and are used in tribute only and not to imply any ownership of the webhost or contributor.

So what happened to them? Well there was later a band called Involuntary Shudder  as well as I believe other projects but soon they all went their separate ways. I know at least Dennis is now just up the road from me in Massachusetts so I guess a reunion is out of the question sadly – (but maybe a pint? Give us a shout maybe). Additional musician Kieron later went on to play with the Prodigy and also tech for the Wildhearts – a band I later went on to work for for a number of years in various capacities. Small world eh?

As for the others – well I hope that anyone reading this might be able to fill me in –  I just thought it only right that the memory of this wonderful band be kept alive a little so this page is an homage to them and I would like to certainly add to it. Bands such as this should not be forgotten in the mists of time and the internet allows us to post up small tributes and this is mine to them. Gilbert and the Planks were nothing short of genius to me – I’m sure if he didn’t hear them John Peel would have loved them – I know I did.

If anyone from the band has any issue with copyright please email me at waynster at gmail or indeed if anyone wishes to add or contribute to the memory of these Essex punk extraordinaires please go ahead and get in touch!

Thanks go to Kev, Jansen, Harry the Grout, Paul, David and many others for the information and of course to the Prince of Orange for Bob and Abbots and a hell of a lot of fun. Extra special thanks to Bryan for the MP3’s and if I forgot anyone – sorry – but thank you.

Planks tape

Scan of rear of ‘Fear of a Plank Planet’

 


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