Bristol’s very first punk band, The Cortinas, are to reform in 2012. They will be appearing at the Rebellion Festival, Blackpool, in August, as part of a major UK tour, their first for 34 years -‘The Defiant Pose Tour 2012’
The Cortinas formed in March 1976 when Jeremy Valentine (vocals), Nick Sheppard (guitar), Mike Fewins (guitar), Dexter Dalwood (bass) and Daniel Swan were still at school.“Jer put the band together, he definitely had a vision of what he wanted; he was very hip – Dexter and Mike went to the same school as him”, remembers Nick. “He found me via Mark Stewart, who I went to school with, and I brought Dan in; we had played in a band together before. We used to practise at the back of Jer’s Dad’s shop”. The Cortinas soon built up a big local following, and a break came when the band supported the Stranglers at the fabled Roxy Club in Covent Garden on 22 January 1977. Nick recalls how it came to be: “Hugh Cornwell was staying at a friend of his’ flat near the university, on holiday, and me and my girlfriend met him in the street. This would have been in the summer of 76. We started talking to him because we recognized him from seeing The Stranglers and hung out for the afternoon. I told him about the band. Later on, in January 77, he sent us a postcard asking us to play at the Roxy, so we rang up and said yes! I remember my mum telling me not to be too disappointed if people didn’t like us…”. Things then moved quickly for the band. Miles Copeland and Mark Perry’s Step Forward label released the classic singles ‘Fascist Dictator’ in June and ‘Defiant Pose’ in December, the band recorded a fine Peel session, and they appeared on the front cover of the April/May issue of Sniffin’ Glue. Heady stuff, but sadly, it was over all too soon. The following year, after a poorly received album, the band were no more, but in 1977 they were unstoppable – simply one of the best first wave punk bands around.
Nick famously joined the last line-up of the Clash, touring the world with them for over two years. He now lives in Australia. Dan moved to San Francisco and played with The Sneetches, then worked with a management company that handled Green Day and he now runs his own music management firm there. Jeremy moved into academia and is now Dr Jeremy Valentine, a senior sociology lecturer at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. Mike later played with the likes of Stewart Copeland and Brian James, and is the fourth original member taking part in the tour.
Recent interest in the Cortinas is largely down to the Bristol Archive Records label, who first released two download-only albums, The GBH Demos 1977 and live set Please Don’t Hit Me. Such interest was aroused that the label released the album MK1, which included both of the band’s singles, plus demo tracks, on vinyl. The album has now gone into a second pressing on white vinyl.
Indie giants Cherry Red have also released The Cortinas – Punk Rock Anthology, which brings together the singles, the True Romances album and the Peel session, and to coincide, Record Collector magazine ran a major feature on the band.
Bristol Archive will be releasing a new CD including never seen before pictures of the band to tie-in with the tour. When the reformation was announced Nick said that “We are all still friends and the release of MK1 was an enjoyable experience, so I guess we feel that might continue.” He added: “The Cortinas is where I come from, so I feel like going back for a visit. I love a challenge, and the idea of reforming the Cortinas is extremely challenging, let alone the reality.”