I’m A Mess

 Released by Cleopatra Records in January 2014. Liner notes.

stormtrooper sml

The tracks on this limited edition CD are as legendary as the band itself. Stormtrooper, a little known and struggling band from London, had formed and disbanded all in a space of ten months in 1975, two years before punk rock had risen out of the ashes of glam and pub rock. They had been formed in the bar of the famous Marquee Club in Wardour Street in London’s West End, by British front man Nigel “Hutch” Hutchings and American/Irishman bassist Jeff Piccinini, with Londoner John Pilka on guitar, and Mike Lee of San Francisco, on drums.

Once they were a band, and had run through a few rehearsals in the cellar of the Marquee, they were ready to record a demo and take the music world by storm – or so they thought! They cut four songs in August 1975, and then signed with Corruption Management on the Portobello Road for a couple of pints and some distant promises. After having their songs rejected by one record company after another, the band quickly became financially destitute and despondency set in. The group’s heroic appearance as the top-billing act at the Bath Pavilion in October 1975, as a replacement for Be Bop Delux, was to be their only live appearance. By Christmas, they ceased to exist. But then the unexpected happened… punk rock was born! Two years after disbanding, the band released a self-financed record, from their original demo tape, on Solent Records, in October 1977, which was quickly picked up for distribution by Indie start-up labels Rough Trade and Albatross, as well as HMV Music.

Although the resultant vinyl, ‘I’m A Mess’ was considered pretty outrageous at the time, it was nonetheless, an archetypical punk song. Despite the disdainful reviews in all the major music press of the time (Melody Maker, Sounds and NME), Nigel and Jeff still managed to sell almost 3,000 copies in and around London in the wake of Britain’s 1977 punk wave. A button badge declaring ‘I’m A Mess’ was given away as a promotion freebie with each single, and so, two years after it had been written and recorded, it now fitted in perfectly with the punk spirit and attitude of the time, and soon became synonymous for anyone who followed punk rock. It was literally made famous by the then still-emergent Sid Vicious, wearing it on the lapel of his leather jacket.

Even though the song was regarded to be way ahead of its time in 1975, it was much more than that. It was the very first punk rock single ever recorded. It was wild, weird and antisocial. Tony Parsons, reviewing the record in NME, called it ‘about as musical as the sound of a commuter being shoved under a tube train at rush hour,’ and Jon Savage in Sounds had something similar to say about this garage early mixture of heavy metal, hard rock and hard punk. All the same, the sales of ‘I’m A Mess’ earned enough to finance the next recording session in March 1978 for the new single, ‘I’m On Fire’ which has never been released until now, on this special collector’s limited edition set.

The band reunioned in 1978 for a few shows, but disbanded again, and Jeff Piccinini (also known as Geoff Myles) went and joined CHELSEA as their bassist, and took ‘I’m On Fire’ with him, which the band recorded for their debut U.S album and single the following year. Nigel Hutchings became the manager of the Marquee, the very place that Stormtrooper had been conceptualized in late hours of nightclubbing and drinking!

Now for the first time, Cleopatra Records has collected together all the Stormtrooper recordings and are proud to release them all on this limited edition CD. The tracks include four songs from the original ‘I’m A Mess’ 1975 demo, two songs recorded in 1978, and a 2003 version of ‘I’m A Mess’ played with Nicky Garratt of UK Subs on guitar, and Bryan “Brain” Mantia from Guns ‘n’ Roses on drums, and as a special bonus, a fabulous punked-up version of Dusty Springfield’s top ten hit from 1963, ‘I Only Want To Be With You’.

This album is the result of Jeff Piccinini’s goal to archive all the original Stormtroooper material and to make it available in one package. It is the best from a band that forged a new sound and changed the shape of things to come. It is also a timely reminder what it was like to be a punk rocker in the seventies before punk rock was even thought of, so don’t forget to turn the volume way up and listen to this disc as it should be heard – loud and full of noise.