Paul Fox

Guitarist with the Ruts
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The Independent Online

Paul Fox, guitarist, singer and carpenter: born London 11 April 1951; married (two sons); died London 21 October 2007.

The second wave of British punk bands proved as influential, if not more so, than the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Damned, the Stranglers and Buzzcocks. Championed by the DJ John Peel throughout 1979 and the first half of 1980, the Ruts recorded three sessions for Peel and left their mark with the incendiary singles "Babylon's Burning", "Something That I Said" and "Staring at the Rude Boys", as well as their début album The Crack.

Paul Fox's urgent riffing and incisive guitar playing, possibly at its best on the Ruts' début single "In a Rut" and their last, the haunting "West One (Shine on Me)", was an integral part of the group's heady, intoxicating sound. Fox also contributed many of the words to "Babylon's Burning": "I was asleep one night when the lyrics just came to me; those words, 'the spark of fear is smouldering with ignorance and hate'."

Following the death of the Ruts' lead vocalist Malcolm Owen from a heroin overdose in 1980, Fox, the drummer Dave Ruffy and the bassist John "Segs" Jennings took over vocals and, with the addition of the saxophonist Gary Barnacle, attempted to carry on as Ruts DC. However, they soon fell out with their record label, Virgin, and broke up altogether in 1982.

Fox subsequently played with Dirty Strangers, Choir Militia, Screaming Lobsters and Fluffy Kittens but, by the mid-Nineties, he was making a living as a carpenter. In 2006, he formed Foxy's Ruts with his eldest son Lawrence on drums and began performing his old band's material throughout Europe.

Paul Fox was born in Bermondsey, London, where his parents ran a pub, but spent most of his childhood and first met Owen in Hayes, Middlesex. In the early Seventies, the two of them spent time in a commune on Anglesey and, after playing in a jazz-funk band called Hit and Run, they formed the Ruts in 1977. They aligned themselves with Rock against Racism and often played benefits with Misty in Roots, who issued "In a Rut", the Ruts' first single, on their People Unite label in 1978.

The Ruts then toured with the Damned, gained a huge following and, after selling 20,000 copies of their independent début, signed a deal with Virgin Records the following year. For 18 months, the Ruts became the "people's" punk band, appearing on Top of The Pops with their three hit singles, but unfortunately attracting the kind of skinhead following formerly associated with Sham 69. The group struggled with these contradictions as best they could until the death of the charismatic Owen.

The compilation Grin and Bear It kept them in the charts briefly but, although they released the albums Animal Now in 1981 and Rhythm Collision in 1982, Ruts DC failed to take off.

In 1997, Fox recorded "Chelsea Gonna Win", an unofficial FA Cup final single on which he and other musicians were billed as the Chelsea Punk Rock All-Stars. He also worked with Laurel Aitken, Bad Manners, the Riffs, and the Ruts tribute band Savage Circle.

Pierre Perrone