Hope & Anchor Front Row Festival is a hit double-LP of live recordings taken from various bands – mainly Power pop, Pub rock, Punk, and New wave groups - that played the Front Row Festival at the Hope and Anchor, Islington between Tuesday 22 November and Thursday 15 December 1977. It reached number 28 in the UK Albums Chart.
The Hope & Anchor has been described as a "seminal live venue" in 1977, catering for "both emerging punk / new wave bands and the numerous pub rock acts operating on the live circuit at the time". The same author called the album as "eclectic" with "superb performances from artists like The Stranglers, The Only Ones, X-Ray Spex, The Saints and The Suburban Studs alongside staple pub rock acts".
So we had the Roxy live Album and we had the Vortex live album; now came the Live At The Hope Anchor - Front Row Festival. Does it hold up against those? The answer is yes and no, but then again it didn't have to. There's no shots of the audience or such like because it's the the venue who's the star here.
If there were stars then it would have been the Stranglers who opened the three week festival on November 17th 1977. Playing the Hope as early as 1975 they had endured the typical start of one man and his dog in attendance. Come November 1977 and they were hot property breaking attendance records at the Roundhouse, top thirty singles and albums and in the middle of a nationwide tour.
For the gig the band had rehearsed every song they'd ever done and wrote a song specially for the occasion 'Tits'. Though only 'Straighten Out' & 'Hanging Around' were selected for the album, the whole gig came out on CD some years later that revealed the band in particularly fine and fun form as songs were played on an almost request basis by the audience. Earlier obscurer tracks such as 'Mean To me' and 'Choosey Suzie' were added to a classic early set list.
The album was released on March 3rd 1978 by WEA a double album but despite a lot of publicity only managed to make it to #28 in the charts. This despite it only costing £4.49 as well.
To be honest it's a fair representation of the music scene in London in Pubs at around the end of 1977/78 - from the obvious punker new wave acts such as the Stranglers,999, Suburban studs and X Ray Spec to the more pub rock R&R of Wilko and the Pirates to the power pop of the
Pleasers and the new reggae of Steel Pulse. Near enough everyone of the bands who played had outgrown the Hope and were now playing bigger venues and had record deals but for the festival they were giving something back by returning to their roots.
There's a great selection of tracks but in hindsight you can see why it wouldn't sell. Most Punk fans would want half of the album and consider it too expensive and most other fans would want the the other half and consider it too expensive.
The Saints Offer DEmolition Girl and its a ferocious take on the number at breakneck speed and one of the best tracksa on there. X Ray Spex give us 'Let's Submerge'. Hell even the Suburban studs sound ok on this and there's a nice version of 'I'm Bugged' by XTC. Even the more pub rocky stuff from Wilko, Tyla Gang and The Pirates are passable.
All in all a good album with some great tracks and a fine testament to the Hope and Anchor.