My initial introduction to these suburbanites from London wasn't through a proper album or singles compilation. An old bud from college had picked up The Lurkers' Greatest Hits Live as an alternate choice via mail order from the Get Hip catalog. The year on the release read 1990. By this point, only bassist Arturo Bassick remained from the '70s glory days. Other members such as vocalist Howard Wall and gas-station-named drummer Esso had long abandoned the punk scene for pursuits like proper dress and steady employment. With Bassick and a bunch of scabs in tow, I was concerned that GHL would paint The Lurkers in the nastiest shade of fecal matter imaginable. Any poop-smeared fears were overcome after the first few chords.
Blending the carefree fun of the Ramones with the earnest chants of Sham 69, The Lurkers '90 instantly made me a true believer. After securing a dubbed tape for myself, I took the C-90 home and popped it in the deck for the first of at least 125 spins. On every play, Bassick's rapport with a rowdy audience elicited hearty laughter. Threatening free-jazz improvisations after someone in the crowd called The Lurkers "shallow"! Dedicating "Just Thirteen" to Bill Wyman! Thanking the 34th member of the band's fan club! To this day, I posit GHL on the short list of must-hear live albums. How do the original studio slabs compare, you ask?
Collecting twelve tracks from the first two LPs (Fulham Fallout  and God's Lonely Men ) and adding six cuts from the 45s, Greatest Hit has Jimmy Buffett-like laughs with its title, but serious students of punk rock know many of these songs by heart. Nigel Moore plucks the bass on most of the selections, but Bassick provides the thump on two of The Lurkers' most crucial A-sides. As the front slice of the first release on the Beggars Banquet label, "Shadow" is a three-layer cake of loss, jealousy and revenge. Not enjoying the sight of his former girlfriend flaunting the affections and riches of a new lover, the jilted John crumbles the good-bye letter and enlists help from a pistol-packing mama ("Jenny said she'd lend me her gun/She knows I'm not well/Then I'll shoot that boy in the legs/When he comes to ring your bell"). Emptying the chamber on an unlucky bloke gives our hero time to place a M4W personal ad in a specialty mag. Though it would be nice to report of a coupling with a lass as sweet as Kate Winslet's character in "The Holiday," John's blind dates star in a fictional film entitled "Freak Show." Perhaps a blurb in a different publication is in order, since the 1977 version of Craigslist UK isn't working for him on Friday nights ("Always out with terminal cases/I don't remember their rotten faces"). John wants to drown some sorrows in a pool of brown ale, but his name is mud throughout the local pubs and hostelries. Should he sip amidst the snickers or drink at home? The poor guy "Ain't Got A Clue," so extend a surprise invitation to a night out with the lads. Well, look who's back on the block? "Jenny," with her hazel eyes and slow dances, fires Cupid's arrows into John's wide-targeted heart. However, a murder involving a knife is pinned upon her. What's up with this girl and weapons? Pete Stride consoles John with a blanket of Thunders-style guitar, but our man still can't put his arms around the memories of better days. Over time, John heals the wound caused by Jenny's prison term by falling for a woman in the free world. Wanting to be a hero who shines in her eyes, he adopts a humbling "I Don't Need To Tell Her" strategy. Still, John has enough hidden hubris to think he's gonna get first prize. Failing to win even a bronze-medal kiss from Jenny's potential replacement, J-Man develops a taste for abusive substances. Whiskey and gin are old hat. Heroin does not fit into the budget. Thus, "Cyanide" becomes the best way for John to get his kicks. If the U.K. Subs-sounding beats come across as rough, imagine the state of our man's nasal passages. John's end is drawing near, so he tells no one in particular to "Take Me Back To Babylon." His plan for a return to the basics is uncomplicated ("Soon, I'll listen to the radio/Guess I'll go out and watch a show/ I'll have fun, if we live off the land/When I say, "Can I give you a hand?' ").
From the 35th member of your fan club, thank you for not improvising.