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Reissue CDs Weekly: The Outsiders - Count For Something | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: The Outsiders - Count For Something

Reissue CDs Weekly: The Outsiders - Count For Something

Box set tracking Adrian Borland’s pre-Sound path through punk

Adrian Borland fronting The Outsiders in 1977

With the Spiral Scratch EP, Buzzcocks became the first British band of the punk rock era to issue a do-it-yourself seven-inch. Everything was organised and paid for by the band: the recording session, the manufacture of the record and its sleeve, its design. It hit shops in January 1977.

Four months on, in May 1977, The Outsiders became the first British band of the punk rock era to issue a do-it-yourself album. It was as significant a move as that taken by Buzzcocks, but is less lauded. The label the Wimbledon-based three-piece created for their records was named Raw Edge Records and Calling On Youth was its first release. An EP titled One To Infinity followed in November 1977. Next up, their second and final album, March 1979’s Close Up (it was recorded in 1978). All were on Raw Edge. There were line-up changes, an evolving sound and around October 1979 the band changed its name to The Sound. Their leader was Adrian Borland, who died in April 1999.

he Outsiders Count For Something Albums, Demos, Live & Unreleased (1976-1978)Much as Warsaw became Joy Division, The Outsiders were the early chapters of The Sound.  However, although The Sound and Borland made many great records, The Outsiders aren’t given much acknowledgment as integral to the development of what was tagged post punk. They were indeed integral, but their profile was low.

Formed at school in 1974, The Outsiders pre-dated punk. They began making demos in July 1976 and after adopting their name scored a major leg-up by supporting Generation X on 21 December 1976 at The Roxy. Virgin Records financed a demo session at Pathway Studios in February 1977. There was no signing, so they set off on their own path. Similarly, they weren’t really punk in The Clash, Sex Pistols or Ramones knock-off way. They covered The Stooges’ “Raw Power” and Borland had a US-styled delivery. In retrospect, they were aesthetically closer to the Brian James Damned and Warsaw-period Joy Division. None of the bands sound the same as each other, but all drew from the same Detroit musical well and had a touch of the Jim Morrisons.

The arrival of the four-CD clamshell box Count For Something: Albums, Demos, Live & Unreleased (1976-1978) might not rewrite history but it’s a fascinating overview of a distinctive band, one given impetus by the arrival of punk. The cover image is a painting by Borland. Intriguingly, his father and mother were actively involved in helping the band: their own Raw Edge Studio was a DIY enterprise set up by Adrian’s father Bob at the family home.

The Outsiders Count For Something Albums, Demos, Live & Unreleased (1976-1978)_band 1978As per its full title, Count For Something includes the two albums and the EP. They are supplemented by 37 previously unreleased demos and alternate versions, the earliest of which were recorded in August and September 1976. The fourth disc is occupied by a raw live show recorded at The London School of Economics on 8 February 1978. This set isn’t the last word on The Outsiders as the cancelled March 1978 “Vital Hours”/“Take Up” single is not included (no version of “Take Up” is included). Also, the band were recorded live on 20 May 1979 in Chelmsford, Essex for a proposed compilation album on Limp Records, and nothing from this is included. Neither shelved releases are mentioned in the box’s booklet. (pictured left, The Outsiders c. Autumn 1978)

With the home studio, The Outsiders could record when they wanted and hearing the evolution of their sound over and above what was issued is fascinating. The earliest tracks are spikey and skeletal but hint that they were aiming somewhere texturally beyond their musical ability. This early phase peaks on the peerless One To Infinity EP, one of 1977's essential records. The latest tracks were recorded at a late 1978 rehearsal. Of these, “Blind Date”, “Sooner Or Later” and “Night Vs. Day” point to a future where the rock aspect of the band would be less to the fore: pointing towards The Sound.

Count For Something: Albums, Demos, Live & Unreleased (1976-1978) is a lot of The Outsiders and – for ease of understanding of what’s collected – it would have helped if the recording chronology in the booklet had been married up with the tracklist and the various text sections edited into one, coherent piece of running copy. Nonetheless, this tells the story of a band who stuck with their do-it-yourself approach to navigate their way through punk. As The Outsiders stood apart from punk, it took until 1979 to find their proper context. The name change to The Sound helped them seem as if they had arrived fully formed for the post-punk era. Would they have got there if they'd signed to Virgin – or any other label – in 1977? Doubtful. Sometimes, sticking to your guns is the best approach.

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