By the late 70s it was easy to watch movies like “Woodstock”, “Monterey Pop Festival”, and maybe even “Tommy” or “Quadrophenia” some early Sunday morning at a theater near your neighborhood. Maybe this applied more to Athens and Thessaloniki and not with the countryside where the kids who listened to rock music were given a hard time.
Students in the senior class of high schools in Greece get a six day excursion to a Greek island and most of the classes organised events in order to raise funding for these excursions. The above-mentioned movies were sometimes used for that reason as there was an on-going interest in rock music.
But things changed in the international music scene.
Punk rock gave a chance to new bands and musicians to come to the surface and Greece followed. Well, not exactly the whole country but there was a small number of bands and kids that joined the punk movement…
The first Greek punk rock band was called “Parthenogenesis” and by 1978 they supported “Socrates Drank the Conium” when they stated on stage that “Rock is dead“. The audienced booed them heavily but this was the beggining of the Greek punk rock scene.
A second band was formed next year, “Stress“. Their frontman, Frank, would later form “Panx Romana“. In the early 80s the movement in Athens became even more powerful by having 250-500 punks centered around the Plaka (the old part of the city under the Acropolis hill) with even more bands, a punk club for gigs, “Aretousa“, and a couple of places like “Mad Club” (in Plaka) or “Snowball” (in the Kolonaki area) where these kids could go.
Several bands were active, such as “Chaos Generation“, “Birth Ward 82“, “Stress“, “Ex Humans” (the first greek hardcore band to release an album in 1984, former names: “Guilotins” and “Soldiers Of Anarchy“), Anypoforoi, “Ausschwitss“, “Flowers Of Romance“, “Gulag” (in Salonika), “Grover“,”Adiexodo“, “Magic De Spell“, “Arnakia” “Panx Romana” and others.
In the years to come, some of them would split, some of them would change or move into different music directions, but most of them helped each other during those heydays and shared instruments and rehearsal rooms.
Things were difficult for these kids while they had to deal with the conservative Greek society. Every day people attacked them or they had to stand for hours and hours during police interogations and street fights with football hooligans who were carrying knives, razors and chains (there was a club for hooligans, called “Aris” on the oposite sidewalk of “Aretousa“).
The skinheads were their only allies (until 1983 when the skins and punk parted ways after a fight during the Bauhaus gig in Athens).
Some were visiting London, bringing back records and some were working for record stores (Happening was one of them) ordering punk vinyls especialy for their friends. The first 7″ single of this first-generation of Greek punk rock scene, was released by “Birth Ward 82” through Happening Records (this Athenian record store had a few releases).
EMI offered a deal to “Soldiers Of Anarchy” after a gig at Zografou University camp where they were the opening act for “Mousikes Taxiarhies” (engl: Music Brigades). When “Soldiers Of Anarchy” went on stage, a crowd of 2500 booed while about 50-100 punks took positions in front of the stage to protect the band. Lambros, their singer back then, was very sharp dressed and the audience didn’t realise what would happen. When the band started playing the audience almost turned to run to escape while Lambros started shouting, singing and trying to bring down the towers of speakers. That night, EMI went backstage with an offer for them. The band had to agree to change their name first. They refused although they changed their name to “Ex Humans” a little later. During the same year, this Black Flag influenced band released their album, and in 1984, the first punk compilation was released too on an independent record label (Enigma) titled “Diataraxi Kinis Isihias” (Engl: Disruption Of Public Peace gr: Διατάραξη Κοινής Ησυχίας) that featured only bands with greek lyrics.
“Aretousa” was shut down when somebody set the curtins of the club on fire and the scene moved “Skylab“, the club next door. Almost every night you could find live performances by “Birth Ward” as they played their own songs in addition to UK Subs and Cockney Rejects covers.
One more club opened the doors for these bands, “Sofita“, owned by Iraklis Triantafylides, a very open-minded musician of the Prog Rock band, Lernaia Hydra.
During the mid 80s, the goverment decided to turn the whole Plaka area into a tourist attraction and everything was turned into little shops which sold ouzo and miniature replicas of the Acropolis … and, of course, there was the addition of tavernas …
Punks were spread in many other areas of Athens after that and new clubs opened for their music. “Blue Note” (mostly a new wave bar with video projector), “Dragon’s Fly” (with a VCR for punks to watch “The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle“, the “White Riot Tour“, “Plasmatics Live“, etc., every Saturday morning).
More people joined the movement, new wave bands appeared, independent labels were founded and things took their way.
Panx Romana released their debut album, “Paidia sta Opla” (engl. Kids on Guns gr: Παιδιά στα Οπλα) in 1984. They were carrying a strong anti-war message and quickly gained the interest of the public with songs heavily influenced by the Clash and the Ramones.
In 1987 the band released the LP “Antartes Poleon” (engl: “City Guerillas” gr: Ανταρτες Πόλεων). Both albums sold thousands of copies and the band released a third album titled “Spase tin Grami” (engl: Break the line gr: Σπασε την Γραμμή). Three years later, “Diagogi Kosmia” (engl: Good Behaviour gr: Διαγωγή Κοσμία) came out and “Kratos Kliston” (engl: The Country is Closed gr: Κράτος Κλειστόν) was released in 1999 before the band went on a break.
Their music influenced a lot of greek groups to follow this music style that Panx Romana never changed. Using Greek lyrics made it very difficult for the band to go over the Greek borders, but on the other hand, their lyrics were dealing mainly with Greek issues.
During 2008 the band was reactivated with their first line up for a string of gigs. Time will tell if they will release a new album or not.
All their releases were through independent record labels.
panx romana – official site
Panx Romana – live 29/08/08
Thanks to those first punk bands, it was just a matter of time before hundreds of new wave bands showed up, as well as fanzines and independent labels. The underground scene in general would become more active than ever for the next 10 years.