Loud, brash, rude, crude, obscene, and unpolished, with loads of attitude to spare, The Exploited were Scotland's entry into the punk foray of the late 1970s. The genre sprang up in the middle of the decade when New York three-chord rockers The Ramones visited the United Kingdom, inspiring such like-minded groups as the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Adverts, and the Damned. By the end of the 1970s other groups had emerged, including the Jam, the Vibrators, and the Buzzcocks. These groups were distinctly anti-establishment, and eschewed middle-class values, refined musicianship, manners, and recording production values in favor of the DIY (do-it-yourself) aesthetic, impassioned vocal deliveries, and a total lack of reverence for almost everything previously held in high regard, including the Royal Family, politicians, and celebrities. Punk performers channeled the anger and "no-future" perceptions of a once-great empire currently suffering economic depression and rampant unemployment. The Exploited rode the crest of this wave and beyond. While most punk groups disbanded, imploded, or lost members to drug overdoses by the early 1980s, The Exploited instituted a revolving-door policy that rotated around leader Walter David "Wattie" Buchan, and have continued to record and perform under the band's brand name.
The earliest lineup of The Exploited to actually record consisted of Wattie on vocals, "Big John" Duncan on guitar, Dru Stix (real name: Glen Campbell) on drums, and Gary McCormick on bass. Wattie joined the band after his discharge from military service. Some sources reported that Wattie's brother Terry formed the band originally, but left shortly after Wattie's military discharge, thus beginning a chronic lineup change that continued well past the band's celebration of its twenty-fifth anniversary. The group members hailed from East Kilbride outside of Edinburgh, Scotland. Their energetic performances and punk attitude led to an extensive touring schedule, including serving as an opening act for such groups as U.K. Subs and the Cockney Rejects. Wattie, for example, took to wearing a Nazi swastika on stage, generating a skinhead, fascist following for the group, which eventually hampered a wider acceptance beyond Scotland punk audiences. The group, however, consistently maintained that the swastikas were nothing more than an accessory meant to tweak bourgeois complacency rather than display a racist point of view.
The Exploited released the first of several highly regarded singles in the 1980s. "Army Life" and its flipside, "F-k a Mod," captured Wattie's attitude about military service and the reemergence of the Mod subculture championed by such bands as The Jam. The group followed up their debut single with "Barmy Army" and "Dogs of War," which continued the band's diatribes against military service. The following year, Oi! Records included two songs by The Exploited, "Daily News" and "I Still Believe in Anarchy," on a record company compilation album. Secret Records signed the group to a recording contract, and released the live set On Stage and the follow-up studio debut album Punk's Not Dead. Recorded in three days, Punk's Not Dead reinvigorated the flagging punk scene, which had mostly evolved into power pop and New Wave music. According to The Rough Guide to Punk, Punk's Not Dead "was the rallying cry the rump end of punk had been waiting for. Blasts of polemic were spattered around in all directions as Wattie's sawn-off shotgun vocals took out chunks of the establishment." The album established the band as proponents of pacifism—ironic, considering the band members' propensity for inciting violence from the stage; in fact, riot police frequently were called to break up melees at the group's performances.
After releasing Punk's Not Dead, The Exploited embarked on a tour with the groups Discharge, Anti-Pasti, Chron Gen, and The Anti Nowhere League. The Exploited's next move served them well financially, but was problematic strategically. The three-song extended play single Dead Cities proved enormously successful, resulting in an offer to appear on the BBC music series Top of the Pops. Appearing on the program, however, caused the band's hardcore fans to write them off as commercial sell-outs. The single allegedly sold 20,000 copies before their appearance, but sold only 50 copies the day following their television appearance. The Rough Guide to Punk, however, labeled the performance "incendiary" and "the perfect backing track to the long summer of 1981, when the cities of the UK were intermittently aflame and riots were the order of the day."
After releasing Dead Cities, The Exploited experienced extensive lineup changes. Drummer Dru Stix was sentenced to seven years in prison for armed robbery. Following the release of the albums Troops of Tomorrow and Let's Start a War (Maggie Said One Day), the group left Secret Records, and "Big John" Duncan and Gary McCormick quit the band, with Duncan going on to form the group Blood Uncles and eventually to play briefly with Seattle grunge pioneers Nirvana. The Exploited consisted now of only Wattie and whatever group of musicians played behind him. As described by Al Spicer in Rock: The Rough Guide, "Since then The Exploited has essentially been Wattie—still raging at the moon and kicking against the pricks—plus whoever he can draft in and keep upright." The Rough Guide to Punk concurred: "By this point, Wattie was the only member of the band who actually remembered when they started and where their roots lay. He kept an immoveable hand on the tiller, refusing any musical compromise and sneering at the idea of changing course lyrically through to the end of the decade and beyond."
In 1985 Wattie released Horror Epics, which marked a gravitation toward metal music. In 1989 Wattie and his musical backing group released Death Before Dishonour, followed by 1991's The Massacre. The last two albums prompted Spicer to assess that the recordings "are pretty peripheral unless you've decided to devote yourself to late-period punk rock and need to brush up on Scottish rage." Wattie and the boys reemerged in 1996 for Beat the Bastards, a recording of new songs about old rage. Various anthologies and reissues followed, as well as numerous live appearances and full-scale European tours.
Punk's Not Dead, Secret, 1981; reissued on Snapper Classics, 2004.
Troops of Tomorrow, Secret, 1982.
Totally Exploited, Dojo, 1984.
Let's Start a War (Said Maggie One Day), MNW, 1983.
Horror Epics, Sub Pop, 1985.
Live at the White House, Suck, 1987.
Death Before Dishonour, Rough Justice, 1987.
Live Lewd Lust, Step-1, 1989.
The Massacre, Rough Justice, 1990.
The Singles Collection, Cleopatra, 1993.
Beat the Bastards, Rough Justice, 1996.
Live in Japan, Rough Justice, 1996.
Live on Stage, Harry May Records, 2000.
F-k the System, Spitfire, 2003.
The Singles Collection, Snapper Classics, 2005.
For the Record …
Members include Walter "Wattie" Buchan, vocals; William "Wullie" Buchan (joined band in 1980s), drums; "Big John" Duncan (left band in 1982), guitar; Dru Stix (left band in 1980s), drums; Danny Heatley (joined band in latter incarnation), drums; Steve Roberts (joined band in latter incarnation), drums.
Formed in East Kilbride, Scotland, 1979; released Punk's Not Dead, 1981; released Troops of Tomorrow, 1982; Big John leaves band, 1982; released Let's Start a War (Said Maggie One Day), 1983; released Horror Epics, 1985; released Beat the Bastards, 1996; released documentary, Rock & Roll Outlaws/Sexual Favours, 2001.
Addresses: Website—The Exploited Official Website: http://www.the-exploited.net.
Rock: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides, Ltd., London, 1999.
The Rough Guide to Punk, Rough Guides, Ltd., London, 2006.
All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (Nov. 14, 2006).
The Exploited Official Website, http://www.the-exploited.net/history.htm (June 4, 2004).
Passagen Hemsidor, http://www.hem.passagen.se/strebers/exploited.htm (Nov. 16, 2006).