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Punk/New Wave, Anarchist Punk, British Punk, Hardcore Punk, Heavy Metal, Punk Metal


Country: Scotland


One of the leading bands of the second wave of U.K. punk, the Exploited championed a raw, no-frills sound that found common ground between fans of street punk, Oi!, and hardcore with their anthems of anti-authoritarian fury. On early albums like 1981’s Punks Not Dead and 1982’s Troops of Tomorrow, the Exploited cranked out buzzy four-square punk enlivened by the passionate bark of lead singer Wattie Buchan. By 1987, when they issued Death Before Dishonour, the Exploited had added elements of crossover thrash metal to their formula, which suited their defiant attack quite well. While studio releases were few and far between after 2003’s Fuck the System, the Exploited continued to tour the U.K. and Europe on a regular basis, leaving ringing ears and chaos in their wake.


The story of the Exploited began in 1978 in West Granton, a decaying working class neighborhood in Edinburgh, Scotland. Four friends, emboldened by the success of the Sex Pistols and the Damned, decided to form a band led by vocalist Terry Buchan. Their first gig took place in December 1978, but attendance was slim due to the Damned playing in town the same night. One of the few patrons was Terry Buchan’s brother Wattie Buchan, who had spent time in London checking out the punk scene, and when Terry decided to drop out of the group after their disappointing first show, Wattie volunteered to take his place. Wattie would become the sole constant member of the Exploited for the next 40-plus years. Under his leadership, the band would settle on an initial lineup of Wattie on vocals, Steve Hay (aka Hayboy) on guitar, Mark Patrizio on bass, and Dru Stix on drums, who would record the group’s debut single, “Army Life” b/w “Fuck the Mods” and “Crashed Out,” released in 1980 on their own Exploited Record Co. (The Exploited’s antipathy for the U.K. mod revival scene was also noted on the 45’s sleeve, which urged local punks to “keep on mod bashing!!”) A second single, “Exploited Barmy Army” b/w “I Believe in Anarchy” and “What You Gonna Do,” followed a few months later, with Steve Hay and Mark Patrizio gone from the lineup, replaced by guitarist Big John Duncan and bassist Gary McCormack. The second single did well on the U.K. independent charts, and the British indie label Secret Records signed the Exploited to a deal. The “Exploited Barmy Army” edition of the group stayed together long enough to complete the group’s first LP, 1981’s Punks Not Dead, which became an unexpected success, rising to Number 20 on the U.K. album charts, leading to the band making an unlikely appearance on Top of the Pops.


On Stage

It didn’t take long for the Exploited to follow up the success of Punks Not Dead, releasing a live LP, On Stage, through their own Exploited Record Co. label later the same year. Their second studio album, Troops of Tomorrow, appeared in 1982, and introduced drummer Danny Heatley, who’d replaced Dru Stix. By the time they released their next album, Wattie had fallen out with Secret Records and the rest of the band; 1983’s Let’s Start a War … Said Maggie One Day was issued by Pax Records, and found Wattie accompanied by guitarist Karl Morris, bassist Billy Dunn, and drummer Willie Buchan (Wattie’s brother). When Pax ran into financial problems, the Exploited cut their next LP, 1985’s Horror Epics, for the Belgian Konexion label; the metal specialty label Combat Records released it in the United States, and Dojo issued it in the U.K. in 1986. The album saw the group with a new bassist, Wayne Tyas, and later the same year, they issued another live album, Live at the Whitehouse, recorded during an April 1985 concert at Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club. (Another live set, 1987’s Live and Loud!!, was compiled from several U.K. and European shows.)


The Massacre

The influence of thrash metal had been seeping into the Exploited’s guitar attack for some time, and it was front and center on 1987’s Death Before Dishonour, which featured Wattie, Willie Buchan, guitarist Nigel Swanson, and bassist Tony Lochiel. Several live albums appeared (reflecting the Exploited’s frequently busy touring schedule) before the band made their way back to the studio to cut 1990’s The Massacre for Rough Justice Records. For these sessions, the Exploited were Wattie, Gordon Balfour on guitar, Mark Smellie on bass, and Tony Martin on drums. 1996’s Beat the Bastards was a family affair; along with Wattie on vocals and Willie Buchan on drums, the lineup included another sibling, Jamie Buchan, on guitar, with Jim Gray on bass. 2003 saw the release of Fuck the System, with Wattie and Willie Buchan accompanied by guitarist Robbie “Steed” Davidson and bassist Arthur Dalrymple. The disc was issued by Dream Catcher in the U.K. and Spitfire Records in the United States, which put out two versions, the unexpurgated original and a “clean” radio edit titled F@#k the System.


Apocalypse Punk Tour 1981

While the Exploited released no studio albums in the decades that followed Fuck the System, they remained one of the hardest-touring acts in U.K. punk, and while they often changed guitar players, the group had their most stable lineup from 2004 onward, with Wattie Buchan, Jamie Buchan, and bassist Irish Rob (aka Robert Halkett) part of every tour. The Exploited continued to periodically issue live and archival material in this period; 2022’s Apocalypse Punk Tour 1981 preserved rare tapes of a package tour with the Exploited sharing the bill with Anti-Pasti, Chron Gen, and Discharge. In 2023, Cleopatra treated fans to a collectable 7″ single that featured a 1984 studio recording of the tune “Race Against Time,” backed with a live take of “Sex & Violence.”