(GBH, as much of the UK punk rock, never really made it to my record collection, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get an ear full of it. While living with an assortment of rabid fans of GBH over the years, it was impossible not to be inundated by the pure sonic assault of the aptly named GBH. Many nights have been spent at the end of a bottle of whiskey or 10 cans of cider while this band smashed my head into the ground. It sounds horrible, but fuck we loved it. As I said, I never did go out and buy any albums, but it was because I didn’t need to – there was plenty playing wherever I was – and the shit seemed to be on constant repeat. Here’s a bit of what the interweb has to say about possibly the most violent band I’ve ever heard. – FATS)
Charged GBH, commonly known as GBH, are an English street punk band which was formed in 1978 by vocalist Colin Abrahall, guitarist Colin “Jock” Blyth, bassist Sean McCarthy and Drummer Andy “Wilf” Williams. GBH were early pioneers of English street punk, often nicknamed “UK82”, along with Discharge, Broken Bones, The Exploited and The Varukers. They have gone on to influence several punk rock musicians. The name GBH was inspired by then-bassist Sean McCarthy’s trial for grievous bodily harm, though some fans also believe it is an acronym for “Great Britain Hardcore”.
Charged GBH embarked on several English and mainland US tours during the early 1980s, including several gigs at the 100 Club. 1982 saw GBH’s first LP, City Baby Attacked By Rats. Lyrically, the album dealt with criticism of British and European culture, violence, morbidity (especially in reference to the song “Passenger On The Menu”, which describes in graphic detail the experiences of the passengers on the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571), atheism, nihilism and humour. Musically, the album was loud and fast, with few songs exceeding three minutes. In 1984 the band changed their name to GBH (grievous bodily harm).
They and many of their UK82 peers such as The Exploited, Picture Frame Seduction, Discharge, and The Varukers have all enjoyed resounding success among street punks in the USA. Although many of their contemporaries have evolved towards other styles over the years, GBH have remained fairly faithful to their original UK82 sound in subsequent releases. However, the band have experimented to some degree with a more speed metal-inflected sound, notably with their 1992 release Church of the Truly Warped, although they have since returned to a more purist punk sound. The band is still active and touring and maintain a strong following both in England and the rest of Europe, as well as in United States and Japan.
There isn’t a self-respecting gutter punk, hardcore kid or subcultural miscreant alive who hasn’t seen the GBH logo emblazoned on the back of a leather jacket, a denim vest, or a torn-up t-shirt. And now the world will be slapped upside the head with another reminder as to exactly why GBH is so important, in the form of Perfume and Piss, the legendary and iconic punk band’s first album for Hellcat Records.
Barn-burning, fist-pumping, palace-gates-storming tracks like “Kids Get Down,” “Cadillac One” and “This is Not the Real World” carry the torch forward with the band’s trademark fury that is alternately nihilistic, optimistic, pessimistic, anarchist, violent, humorous and deadly serious all at once.
Charged GBH have been a band for over 30 years; far longer than your average careerist outfit of radio rock garbage who are here today and gone tomorrow. Their longevity is a testament to their purity of sound and vision. Although, as vocalist and founding member Colin Abrahall tells it, there was never anything close to a “plan.”
“We didn’t think it’d last a week when we first got together,” he says, with a laugh. “None of us could really play our instruments or do our specific job within the band. We just kind of winged it for a while. If you were born the day we formed in 1979, you’d be a mature adult now!”
GBH could have only been born in Birmingham (or, Abrahall reckons, maybe Detroit) with its heavily industrialized factories. From Led Zeppelin to Judas Priest to Black Sabbath to Charged GBH, the Birmingham vibe is as distinct as it is working class, gritty and real. “You stay in a band because if you don’t, you have to go back and work in the factory,” Colin says. “So you do what you’ve got to do.”
Worldwide touring and gigs at places like the legendary 100 Club throughout the ’80s were commemorated by a slew of now landmark albums like City Baby Attacked by Rats (1982), the epitome of what is now known and beloved in every corner of every scene by punks as the “UK82” sound.
City Baby’s Revenge followed two years later, followed by no less than six albums in the ’90s. Ha Ha, released in 2002, was the last full-length we’d heard from GBH before now… And hot damn, it was certainly worth the wait!
Perfume and Piss is, in the band’s own words, the “best album we’ve done in a long, long time.” The album was created in fits and starts (two weeks on, two weeks off) which allowed them to fine-tune the material and compose a more complete feeling album. “We’re really pleased with it,” says Colin.
“We’ve been on various dodgy labels in the past and ever since Hellcat first started, we’ve wanted to be associated with it,” he remarks. “To actually sign with Hellcat is a dream come true for us.”
30 plus years on, GBH still calls a crappy van home and wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s what we live for — the main purpose of each and every day is to get to the gig; that’s the raison d’être.”
And so what would the Colin Abrahall of 1978 think about the GBH of 2010?
“I think he’d be pretty speechless that we’re still doing what we’re doing,” he says. “We used to live for the day that it was. We never used to think about the future that much. I don’t think he would have said I’ve sold out or betrayed punk rock or anything. We’re still true to our roots.”