More info and stuff at the Culture Shock website!
It was 1986 and I was at Swansea University pretending to study anthropology when my housemate and punk rock comrade Dan announced he was going to a gig in Cardiff by a band called Culture Shock. Dan and I had got pretty close what with going out cycling, organizing gigs, fly posting, causing the local McDonalds as much trouble as we dared, hunt sabbing and doing an anarchist paper called Black Sheep. So I was wondering who the fuck this band was but didn’t ask it as I was planning something more comfortable for the evening. Later I realised that Dan’s omission to explain who Culture Shock were was pure meanness on his part, he knew that The Subhuman’s The Day the Country Died was one of the tapes that rarely went far from my cassette deck. When he got back late that night exhilarated by another successful train fare dodge with the Shrapnel lads from Briton Ferry he confessed that Culture Shock was the new band of Dick (Lucas) of the Subhumans. I tried not too look too hurt and was so relieved to hear that Culture Shock weren’t a punk band but a ska band! Ha! What a disappointment that was gonna be! images of Two Tone, and men in suits with brass instruments came to mind.
How wrong I was. it wasn’t long before we had the band down at the Student Union Mandela Bar for a Hunt Sab benefit gig notable that night for a useless PA which Dick struggled through with his usual wit and enthusiasm. Culture Shock had for that time a unique sound, a mash of ska rhythm; reggae beat with punk vocals and attitude. They were so good and the PA so bad that night that we brought them back a month later to do it better for another benefit.
I went on to see Culture Shock’s infectious tunes get people moving at gigs all over the country including many of the Free Festivals that they were so keen to be part of even when there was usually little equipment, no money and plenty of police hassle on offer. Pretty soon their song Stonehenge became the one always demanded for encores regardless of whether it had already been played. Watching them play you could see that Dick had the energy and drive to sing and jump about all night as well as to illuminate the inevitable broken string gaps with witty tales and his trade mark very personal political banter or sometimes just weird whoop whoop noises! The others seemed content to leave him to it and concentrate on having a good time and playing as well as they could.
They played mostly in the anarcho punk scene and had to contend with many an ungrateful punk (such as myself) heckling them to play Subhumans classics till their last gig in 1989. Their music was though a welcome break to the dirge that was becoming fashionable within the punk scene as bands seemed to lose their drive to do something special but instead to sound as devastatingly noise-some as they could. Culture Shock gave everyone a chance to dance, prance and jump about in that speedy reggae-ish non-aggressive manner that meant the bruises from the macho punx could heal a bit and we could actually have fun. I remember one gig at the Bath Longacre Hall after a long day hunt sabbing when they played with Chumbawamba and Atavistic. The crowd for the most part tried to throw themselves about to the frantic pace of Atavistic or just gawped stupefied by the noise. Then they stood in awe as Chumba’s did their theatrical stage show and finally danced as madmen and women when Culture Shock took to the stage (it may have played in a different order). It was always good to meet up with Dick and the others at festivals, demo’s and the like, they never acted self importantly, like so many bands do, sometimes they were too drunk to have a sensible conversation with but they were always up for helping out giving you a lift home if there was space in their van, helping persuade a promoter that there should be space for my bookstall or driving miles to play a benefit for not much more than the petrol cost if that! My most treasured moment of them remains an evening during the 1987 struggle to hold a Stonehenge festival. We were a large group of walkers, cyclists (well there was Dan and me!) and some “Convoy” vehicles parked up on some marshy land by Collingbourne (?) As evening began a small tarp was put up over an even smaller stage and what almost passed as a vocal PA began to play music. When Culture Shock started up their audience couldn’t have been more than 30 people but they were hard-core fans. Then after a few songs the generator ran out of fuel, a familiar tale at such events, I mean who wants to watch the petrol level on a “genny” when there’s hash browns to eat and special brew to sup? Dick found his mike no longer effective so he started a song he knew we all would know. Pretty soon everyone was singing along to “When the people of the country have forgotten how to disagree……” it’s a Subhumans song but was a great Culture Shock moment.
Culture Shock eventually called it a day in 1989 as family pressures became too much for Bill and Nigel. Dick went on to form Citizen Fish with some of the Subhumans and they too reformed to keep both bands pretty busy to this day. Reforming Culture Shock became a 'no no' after Nigel killed himself in 1993 whether it was ever considered or not. Someone more adept at band details once described Culture Shock thus “ (they) were one of the rare pre-Operation Ivy ska bands, and it really shows. This is ska music, all right, but it's not quite as bouncy and poppy as the ska we're all familiar with. This is a bit darker at times, much looser, filled with reggae elements and a bit of jazz here and there. It's quite an interesting musical experience, and to top it all off, you've got Dick's vocals.” Interesting enough for us to want to put this discography package together in homage to a band that inspired and were much admired.