Have you ever heard the Morrissey song Every Day Is Like Sunday? It could be about any suburban town that bores the kids growing up there to tears, but it’s actually about Southend-on-sea in Essex.

Southend is a pretty seaside town on the south coast full of retired folks, commuters and lots of young people within spitting distance of London. It’s one of those places were all the kids know each other and you share everything you’re into with your buddies.

If you’re into a subculture in a big city there’s a lot of politics, hierarchy and etiquette involved in getting involved, because everyone who was ever super into that subculture moved there to do that subculture full time, so there’s no time for amateurs. Did anyone ever go to a hardcore show in London the early 2000s? It was like a cross between the medieval feudal system and an antique t-shirt wearing competition. If you couldn’t slam dance in a very specific way you’d be laughed off the dancefloor, and if you did something embarrassing at a show like fall over or get in a fight it’d be all over the messageboards the next day and some anonymous commenter would give you a nickname that would stick until you stopped going to the shows. It was totally shit, and it didn’t reflect the spirit of the music at all.

If you’re into a subculture in a town like Southend, you’re going to be into it with your buddies that you went to primary school with, everyone knows everything about everyone and you’re all going to be actual friends with real life shared experiences. This kind of atmosphere makes for an adolescence spent being really enthusiastic about things you love with a bunch of people you love, which is the kind of adolescence everyone should have.

Steve Pegrum spent his adolescence and early adulthood in Southend being a punk with a load of other punks, at some point in the last few years he decided to collect all his memories together onto a website called Southendpunk.com. The site is primarily a library of amateur photographs of the punks of Southend from ‘76 to ‘86 - the years proper UK punk lived and died. There are hundreds of fantastic grainy photographs of kids with egg whites and wood glue holding up their hair, homemade t-shirts, punks looking out of place in old man pubs and teenagers snogging in bus shelters. The whole thing was obviously a huge labour of love for Steve, so to bring it to your attention we spoke to him about his project and being a punk and all that stuff.

What did you find so captivating about punk music?
I grew up seeing and listening to T-Rex, Sweet, Slade, Bowie, Roxy, Mott and most Glam music on TV and the radio, it really started to slowly penetrate my DNA, but I was too young to really experience any of these bands at the time. When Punk first started appearing on the TV and in the papers it seemed to really hit the zeitgeist and meld everything that was interesting about the past whilst simultaneously being very much about the ‘now’. I remember seeing the Sex Pistols late one night on Tony Wilson’s So It Goes and then in the summer of ’77 seeing them singing Pretty Vacant on Top of The Pops and it seemed the most engaging, dangerous and exciting thing imaginable. It really was an epiphany. It all began from there really, and I started exploring locally, and then in ’78 started going to the Kings Road and all around London with a school friend. It really seemed to accelerate from this point. I loved all the aspects of individual expression, for instance making a different outfit every time I went out. It seemed really cathartic covering old school blazers in safety pins and bleach and wrapping loads of straps round the legs with D-Clips - dying our hair every colour we could and enjoying every moment.

What was the community like?
In Southend I guess a central focus was always the High Street and in particular an area in the local precinct called ‘the flower beds’. Through the years, many generations of Southend’s alternative youth would congregate there, and it’d be a great place to meet up where you’d exchange information on what gigs were coming up etc. You could then walk down the High Street to Nasty’s or Projection records to get the latest releases and maybe a fanzine, then walk to clothes shop Graffiti’s and then pop into a pub. Different nights of the week would have different events – the local youth club ‘Focus’ was brilliant on a Monday and would be a major punk gathering point for many years. 90% of all the local bands passed through there. You’d have the main club up the road in Rayleigh – Crocs, where they’d have an alternative club night on a Saturday, and during the week would put on big name bands as well as local acts. In ’77 The Queen’s Hotel in Westcliff was a major punk haven, putting on The Damned + The Adverts, 999, Generation X and Slaughter and The Dogs. The venue would continue well in to the ‘80s until it was eventually burnt down. There were many great local pubs that were punk friendly, such as The Cliff and my own favourite, The Grand in Leigh-on-Sea.

What are your favourite punk records?
Ah, that’s a really difficult question as there was so much good music – I loved the US & UK Punk scenes as well as our home grown one, so I’d have to say favourites would include:

Iggy & The Stooges – Raw Power
The Ramones – The Ramones
Patti Smith Group – Horses
Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers – LAMF

The Dead Boys – Young, Loud and Snotty
The Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks
The Clash – The Clash

The Damned – The Damned

The Adverts – Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts
The Buzzcocks – Another Music in a Different Kitchen
The Stranglers – Rattus Norvegicus

Slaughter and The Dogs – Do it Dog Style
The Vibrators – Pure Mania
Live at The Roxy, London
WC2 – Various

Penetration – Don’t Dictate
The Clash – Complete Control
X-Ray Spex - Identity
The Only Ones – Another Girl, Another Planet
Richard Hell & The Voidoids – Blank Generation
The Ruts - In a Rut
Raped - Escalator Hater
Dead Kennedys - California Uber Alles
The Boys – Brickfield Nights
Magazine – Shot By Both Sides

A special mention has to be made for the song ‘Cranked Up Really High’ by Slaughter and The Dogs – it was one of the first punk singles I ever bought and to this day it maintains that sheer, visceral energy that inspired me then and still does to this day.

Who were the best Southend bands?
That’s difficult for me to answer, as I played in several of them (Cut Throat & The Razors, The Bleeding Pyles, Kronstadt Uprising & The Sinyx). However, certain bands made it to vinyl and released their own EPs or had tracks on compilation albums at the time and these include:

The Heat – 7” EP (1977)
The Machines – True Life 7” EP (1978)
Speedball – No Survivors 7” (1979)
The Vicars – ‘I’m Going Mad’ (1979) on Southend Rock LP
Idiot – Ging Gang Gooley (1979) on Southend Rock LP
The Sinyx – Black Death 7” EP (1981)
The Kronstadt Uprising – Unknown Revolution 7” EP (1983) + Part of The Game (1985)
The Convicted ‘Runaway’ + ‘Tomorrow’ on Dog Rock 12” EP (1982)
The Prey – ‘Sleepless Nights’ on Best of The Rest LP
Anorexic Dread – Tracey’s Burning –12” EP (1984)

A lot of great bands from the time never made it onto vinyl, although a few did make demos, and when I launch a label I’m planning - Angels in Exile - I intend to do a series of compilation CDs making some of these tracks available.

Its also worth remembering that given the spirit of the age, some of the bands would only last for half a dozen gigs, but those gigs might be some of the most electric local nights you could see, with the entire audience uniting in one colossal burst of energy.

Were people in the Southend scene involved in political stuff?
It depends how you define the word ‘politics’ – initially you might say it was very much about the politics of the individual and personal politics and issues of freedom to create, to exist the way we wanted to without any outside interference etc. Then I’d say a lot of people got involved with causes like the Anti-Nazi League, Rock Against Racism etc. and would go on the marches, distribute literature etc. By the early ‘80s when the whole cultural and political landscape in the UK had intensified, with factors such as the Cold War at its peak, a bellicose government, the Falklands war, then these more intense times did yield more intense responses from the punk community, and you’d see a concomitant rise of punks on CND marches, marches against unemployment, fox hunting, vivisection, social injustice etc. Not everyone got involved in these things, and I’d say that throughout, despite the ‘seriousness’ of all this, that everyone did their best to maintain a simultaneous sense of fun anyway.

Were there a lot of guys who went anarcho punk in the eighties? I always saw that sort of thing as taking punk as far as it could go.
Yes, quite a lot of punks whom had become somewhat disillusioned with the way Punk had been ‘fragmented’ and the way it was being increasingly marginalized by the mainstream and music media wanted whom seemed to want to diminish and neuter its power. The anarcho punk scene encapsulated the early punk ideas of DIY and self-expression, but took it further in terms of lifestyle commitment, participation and aesthetic vehemence.

A lot of people would be involved with organisations like the Hunt Saboteurs and The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection. People would produce their own leaflets and fanzines and take part in the whole early 80s ‘tape trading’ network. This was a very important part of the scene back then – pre-internet, everyone would trade tapes and information and would send letters across the country to obtain news, recordings etc from bands in other parts of the country and indeed the world.

What did everyone involved go on to do?
I think a lot have kept their punk ideals close to their heart, and indeed will do so until the day they die. As people progress through the years they may not wear their bondage trousers or dye their hair green anymore, but its not to say that they don’t still adhere to Punk-era ideals of ‘do it yourself’, ‘empower yourself’, ‘don’t take no for an answer’ and ‘believe in yourself and you can accomplish anything’.

I think its incredibly varied, the fields that are populated by the punk generation, they are involved in every aspect of society – I know of local examples that are tremendously important in Permaculture and sustainable future development, others that have become more corporate, even one that became a local magistrate (albeit one with a very liberal persuasion!). Punk really has permeated every aspect of modern life in some form or another.

What are you favourite memories of the time?
Taking the first tentative steps in PVC trousers and ripped up blazer down the High Street and meeting up with other local punks, whilst simultanouly avoiding any of the local people whom hated punks and wanted to kill you (there seemed to be many in the early days!). Realizing that others felt the same as you – playing early, shambolic and ecstatic gigs with the Bleeding Pyles – a terrible but euphoric racket! Speaking to other punks and getting a sense of ‘solidarity’. Making the first forays to London, then getting the milk train back from Liverpool Street. Early erotic encounters in the doorway of the local Wimpy Bar. Going to Crocs and dancing to an amphetamine sulphate inspired inner beat that seemed to fuse perfectly with The Cramps and Iggy singing The Passenger. Getting our faces immortalized in local photo booths at Woolworths. Running through the underpass and into the eternal night…

How did you compile the archive?
The Southend Punk archive was complied initially mainly from stuff that I’d kept myself – photos, fanzines, local newspaper cuttings etc. It provided a basis to launch the site and get it established, then slowly as the word got out people would send in their own contributions. It continues to this day as people discover it, and that’s one of the aspects I like the most – for example, someone whom was once a Southend Punk and is now living in a remote part of Australia might find some rare photos from a gig in ’78 that they’ve kept, then they scan then and send them over. Similarly with tapes or recordings from back then. I currently fund the site myself, but am hopeful to gets some arts funding to enable it to expand beyond its current size, so, as I mentioned earlier, I’ll be able to release some compilation CD’s of the bands etc.

Are you in touch with a lot of the people in these photos today?
A lot of people are spread around the corners of the globe now, and after the dissolution of this first wave of the scene in the late ‘80s, a lot of people have disappeared, some sadly have died, so there are a lot of people who are MIA. However, I did stay in touch with certain friends from then, and over the years, with the advent of the Kronstadt Uprising + Sinyx CDs and certainly with the emergence of the Southend Punk website, many people have been back in touch with each other, some of whom haven’t seen each other in nearly 30 years! I think as time passes everyone realizes what an amazing time it was to enjoy one’s adolescence and beyond, and as we’ve discussed earlier, they realize there were so many great ideals from that time that they still hold dear. Plus, of course, the music still sounds so fantastic. To this day, I can put on that first Ramones album and it plugs me straight into the mains and electrifies my soul and inspires me to take everything as far as it can go…

What was the atmosphere like for punks in a small town?
The atmosphere around the flower beds on a Saturday afternoon, or at Focus on a Monday or The Grand / Crocs on a Saturday night made them wonderful and life affirming places to be. Walking home after a gig at Anabella’s and being chased by Teddy Boys or avoiding Soul Boys pouring out of the towns lager drenched discos was not fun. However, it did provide a sense of unity amongst the punks I guess, and was an extra factor that bonded us all together. There weren’t so many punks around in the earlier years and people would walk across the road to avoid you, mainly due to all the awful stereotyping disseminated by the papers. I remember going into a local record shop and the staff were genuinely apprehensive about serving me… all I wanted to do was to get the latest Dead Boys album! By about 1980 the scene did start to expand which was great – a key ritual at this time was going into town on a Saturday afternoon and meeting up with good friend and fellow Bleeding Pyle, Spencer, buying several singles each at Parrott Records, then along with several others going back to his place and playing them on his parents excellent stereo (they had one of those 1970’s style ‘disco decks’ with proper turntables etc) – we’d hear and discuss so much great music this way. I vividly remember when we all got a copy of the Crass / Poison Girls 7” split EP – it was so inspiring. Incredible times.

Go to Southendpunk.com for more pictures.