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Sham 69 formed in Hersham, Surrey in 1976 (the 12 November issue of NME notes they were rehearsing at this time, although only Jimmy Pursey would remain from this early line-up 12 months later). Sham 69 lacked the art school background of many British punk bands of the time, and brought in football chant back-up vocals and a sort of inarticulate political populism. The band had a large skinhead following (left wing, right wing and non-political), which helped set the tone for the Oi! movement. Their concerts were notoriously plagued by violence, and the band ceased live performances after one of their gigs at Middlesex Polytechnic in 1978 was broken up by National Front skinheads fighting and rushing the stage.

Sham 69 released their first single, "Ulster", on Step Forward Records in August 1977, and its success in the independent charts prompted Polydor to sign the band. Their major label debut was "Borstal Breakout" in January 1978, followed by UK singles chart success with "Angels With Dirty Faces" (reaching number 19 in May 1978), "If The Kids Are United" (number 9 in July 1978), and "Hurry Up Harry" (number 10 in October 1978). The latter came from their second LP and first full studio album, That's Life.

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