Archive for July, 2011

Eighties Punk stories in ebook news

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

We have been alerted to the news of punk fiction relating to the nineteen eighties being released in ebook form, available for free. We have been alerted to this by the writer of said works.

Marcus Blakeston, the author and self-proclaimed ‘shouting poet’, says the work is “Nine interlinked slice of life dramas set in and around a small Yorkshire town in the early 1980s. They are populated by an assortment of punks, skinheads, yobs and hooligans. Not suitable for yuppies.”

As far as I can gather you get the books for free HERE

And there’s more about it all HERE , where for some reason it asks for £2.50. but you can read it all anyway.

A biography of sorts and the subject matter within the books:

“I was 13 in year zero. Like most of the people in these stories, I was too young for the first wave and only really got to be a part of it for the second, though my older brother did sneak me in to the local night club to see a few of the original bands.

I left school the year Thatcher first started to fuck the country up, and other than a few brief periods in dead-end jobs, I spent most of her reign on the dole, just like most of the people I knew.

In the 80s I started writing poetry. Spurred on by people around me, I used to dive on stage uninvited at local gigs and shout poetry at the audience while the band tuned up, until I either ran out of poems or got shoved off the stage by the band. I was approached by Marcus Featherby once, who said he was looking for a poet to put on a compilation album he was putting together for PAX Records, but I turned it down.

Domesticity called in the late 80s, with children arriving soon after, and all my childhood interests were put to one side. I still went to gigs, but only as a member of the audience. I stopped writing, and the dole forced me onto various training schemes that I hated intensely until one day I said I was interested in computers and they sent me on a computer training course. I found I had a flair for desktop publishing, and landed a job with a local training company who had bought the software but struggled to do anything worthwhile with it. They paid me through college on day release, I got myself a degree in graphic design, and then they made me redundant.

Back on the dole again, everything was completely different. Now you had to actually prove you were applying for jobs before they would give you anything, and they treated you like scum. I couldn’t really handle that, so I set up my own business, designing leaflets (and later websites) for anyone who would pay me. I also buy and sell on Ebay, mostly books and old games consoles, but also anything else I think might turn a modest profit”.

This is the blurb for the full book:

Nine interlinked slice of life dramas set in and around a small Yorkshire town in the early 1980s. Written by shouting poet Marcus Blakeston, they are populated by an assortment of punks, skinheads, yobs and hooligans. Not suitable for yuppies.

Punk and Disorderly: Punk rocker Colin Baxter was looking for a good night out, getting as drunk as possible to escape the tedium of his life on the dole. He certainly wasn’t looking for a fight with one of the local skinheads.

Yob Culture: Skinhead Trog was in a foul mood when he pushed through the door to The Black Bull, and the rowdy sounds of his favourite band The Cockney Upstarts playing on the jukebox did little to calm him. It was bad enough having his bird yelling and screaming at him and then stamping off in a sulk without having some gobby student call him a ‘rotter’.

Bored Teenagers: Four short vignettes in which nothing much happens.

Warrior in Woolworths: Woolworths security guard John Taylor doesn’t like punks. If he had his way they would all be shipped off to the Falklands to fight the Argies. Management might say he has to let scum like that in the shop, but that doesn’t mean he has to put up with any nonsense from them.

Gothic Rooms: “Come back to my bedsit,” Stiggy said, “we’ll play some records and stuff.” But when Colin gets there he finds out Stiggy has other plans.

It’s All Done by Mirrors: Colin and Brian had it all planned out, a romantic night out with a couple of punk birds – go and see a band, ply the birds with drinks all night, then see how it goes. But then glue sniffer and social misfit Stiggy decides to tag along.

Sniffin Glue: There’s only one thing worse than having some kid yapping in your ear while you’re trying to enjoy a good bag of glue in peace, and that’s having the coppers turn up while you’re off your head and unable to defend yourself.

I’m an Upstart: Top oi band The Cockney Upstarts, much loved by both punks and skinheads alike, are playing in nearby Shefferham. Unfortunately they chose to play at a time when tensions between punks and skinheads are running high. Life Moves On. An announcement is made.

Discuss – should some future puppy madness be disseminated this way?

Xmal Deutschland – Zick Zack Records – 1982

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Schwarze Welt

Wolken / Grossstadtindianer

Incubus Succubus

Zu Jung Zu Alt / Blut Ist Liebe

The marvelous 7″ and 12″ singles by Xmal Deutschland on the excellent Zick Zack label from Hamburg. After these two releases the band signed up to the equally wonderful 4AD record label and released several other 12″ singles and an absolutely brilliant debut LP which you can listen to on this site HERE The second LP on 4AD is also worthy of inclusion in any record collection. It is no secret that Mr Penguin simply adored this band during the few years that they first performed in London, I witnessed the band many times and eagarly awaited all the vinyl that was released up to 1986 when the band went off my radar somewhat. I think the last time I saw the band live was at the last night of the Lyceum in the middle of 1985, and that was a special occasion for sure although my favorite performances were in 1983 at The Hammersmith Clarendon and also at the Venue in Victoria.

Text below ripped from the ever ripped off wikkipeardear.

 

Xmal Deutschland were formed in 1980 by Anja Huwe (vocals), Manuela Rickers (guitar), Fiona Sangster (keyboards), Rita Simon (bass guitar) and Caro May (drums) in Hamburg, Germany.

Their first single, Großstadtindianer was released a year later on Alfred Hilsberg’s ZickZack label. The band also contributed to the ZickZack label compilation LP Lieber Zuviel Als Zuwenig. Around this time Rita Simon was replaced by Wolfgang Ellerbrock.

In 1982 the band released the goth classic Incubus Succubus. Drummer Caro May left the band and formed a new band, and the vacant drummer position was filled by Manuela Zwingmann the same year. While German audiences were less than receptive at first, a United Kingdom tour opening for the Cocteau Twins resulted in a label deal with independent label 4AD Records. Their debut album, Fetisch and the singles Qual and Incubus Succubus II were released in 1983, all three making the UK Independent charts, even though the band wrote and performed in German.

Fetisch was met with unanimous critical acclaim from journalists and fans alike it impressed with its freshness and exhilarated with its power. There was no confusion over the German delivery – Anja Huwe epitomized the voice as instrument. The album reached no.3 in the independent charts behind the pulp pop of New Order and Aztec Camera. It stayed there. ‘The seductive foreplay had begun’.

Manuela Zwingmann left the band after one year, being replaced by Peter Bellendir. This lineup, Huwe / Rickers / Sangster / Ellerbrock / Bellendir proved to be the longest running. 1984 saw the release of the single Reigen and the album Tocsin, followed by a world tour through 1985.

The Sequenz EP was essentially a remake of a John Peel session, which had been originally recorded April 1985 and was broadcast in May 1985. The EP contained the tracks Jahr Um Jahr II, Autumn (the band’s first English lyrics, apart from brief snatches of English that appeared in Qual, Young Man and Tag für Tag) and Polarlicht but omitted Der Wind, which was played at the Peel sessions.

Many happy returns to Lena Servo who is celebrating her birthday today. KYPP online wish you all the very best for your special day. Hoping you are fine and dandy…

Amebix – Spiderleg Records – 1982

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

I fancied bringing this post forward to the present date from January 2008 just because I been playing the tracks a fair bit recently…!

Carnage / Curfew

Belief / No Gods No Masters

From sleepy Devon, Amebix formed in the late 1970’s, influenced by Killing Joke, this band were one of the earliest to incorporate metal riffs within the punk genre. This debut record was released on Flux Of Pink Indians label ‘Spiderleg’, and recorded in Bristol and is absolutely essential. Amebix spent a fair amount of time in and around the Bristol scene of the early 1980’s, with fellow west country lads, Chaos UK and Disorder. Amebix tuned into the Black Sabbath style riffs even further for the next few records released and became very popular with the nu-metal crowd.

Photo below from the personal collection of Martin Flux, text below courtesy of deafsparrow.com. The couple of flyers are fresh from my scrap book!

Amebix, now recognized as one of the most influential ponderous bands ever, was born in England during the summer of 1978. Originally trolling their minds and coming up with the thought provoking moniker the Band With No Name, the group of dirty, broke punks recorded a trashy six-song demo and managed to sell a meager four copies of it. Opting for the name Amebix, the band released a track from the demo called “University Challenged” on the first edition of the obscure compilation series “Bullshit Detector”.

Life was chaotic from start to finish for Amebix, because they were really living the lifestyle that their lyrics and image portrayed. Guitar player Stig writes on the gatefold of the posthumous album of live and studio recordings “The Power Remains” that “none of us signed off the dole in all the years we were together.” Living in squats and other unstable accommodations, eating out of the garbage, scamming and hacking out a living by any means possible, it’s amazing that the band were able to amass equipment and practice on a somewhat regular enough basis to last for nine full years. However, through all of the strife and chaos, the band were astoundingly prolific, recording enough material for seven full-length albums, two 7″ records, two compilation tracks, and the previously mentioned Band With No Name demo in that period of time.

Prior to 1983, the band’s lineup changed quite a bit. In one humorous incident, shortly after the release of the “Bullshit Detector” compilation, the band added a fellow named Martin to their roster in the drummer role. One of the fringe benefits of Martin’s being in the band was that he invited the whole group to come live with him in a manor house in Dartmoor. Unfortunately, the owners of the house (Martin’s parents, who were away at the time) weren’t aware that Martin had extended this kind offer to the band. Upon returning home, the horrified parents booted Amebix into the street and sent Martin away to an institution to be “corrected.”

The Baron and Stig, the core of the band, added synthesizer player Norman to the mix and moved to Bristol in 1981. By 1983 they had acquired a stable drummer named Virus, who left the band Disorder to join Amebix. 1983 saw the release of the “Who’s the Enemy” EP, the “Winter” 7″, and the first LP “No Sanctuary” on Spiderleg Records. Norman appeared as the synth player on the two 7″ records, but was replaced by a fill-in player on the full-length album. After a brief tour, the band returned to England and in 1984 signed on a new synthesizer player named George. With George filling the synthesizer position for the remainder of the band’s existence, the band hit the road again for a short tour, and upon their return kicked Virus out of the drummer’s chair.

The final band lineup was secured in 1985 when drummer Spider joined the group. After disputes with Spiderleg, the band had gotten a deal with Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra’s label Alternative Tentacles just prior to the drummer Spider’s arrival on the scene. “Arise” hit the stores with the Alternative Tentacles imprint in 1985. Alternative Tentacles didn’t mesh with the band either, and they left the label after the release of “Arise”. In 1987, the masterpiece album “Monolith” was released just months prior to the breakup of the band. Amebix split up at the end of 1987.

Their Story Straight from The Baron

“I was there from the beginning to the end, along with my brother Stig, a period of adventure, fun, and extremes of hardship that spanned nearly ten years, that took us around most of Europe, made us good friends and firm enemies and produced a small number of records to leave behind us.

We started whilst I was at school in Devon. A fellow friend Andy Billy Jug played drums and Clive the bass, we practised in old village halls, never learning to tune the instruments and calling ourselves the BAND WITH NO NAME. Stig had been working in Jersey and returned with a guitar to start the ball rolling. We played every little hall in the Tauestock area, delighting in the thrown cans of beer and insults, 1978, and anyone could play in a band!

We released a 6-track tape recorded in my bedroom and sold 4 copies, all to friends from school. I had a part time job as a columnist in a local paper and wrote a review of any bands that played the area. This led to us giving a tape to CRASS when they played in Plymouth, one of the tracks University Challenged subsequently appearing on the first Bullshit Detector LP and launching us into the heady world of local stardom, albeit unearned.

The dark side of the band did not appear until we met Martin, a 6 foot 5 Sid Vicious look alike whose parents had a manor house on the edge of Dartmoor. They were away in London and had no idea that the family home had been overtaken by spiky undesirables. We played music all night and slept during the days, living a weird twilight existence that began to inform the lyrics and style of music. Martin became the new drummer, I played the bass and sang, and the band was called Amebix.

Martin was taken away to London upon his parents return, he suffered a breakdown that has had him diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic and on heavy medication to this very day. I have seen him several times in the preceding years, a gentle soul in a giant¹s body who was punished for his sensitivity.

After Martin we acquired Norman as a synth player and moved en masse to Bristol in the hope of furthering ourselves, only to fall into abject poverty fairly quickly. The first squat we moved to had sold all the doors to buy glue. We lived with and close to Disorder at this time, and for another four years moved from one ruin to another, no sanitation, little electricity, and skip raids for food.

Friends were lost to heroin and drink, we excelled in drug abuse, a way to numb the hard life on the streets. Guitars were never sold, we borrowed Virus, Disorder’s drummer, who became a solid part of the band for the recording of our first two singles Who’s the Enemy, Winter, and the 12″ EP No Sanctuary. These were all recorded for Spiderleg Records, run by A Flux of Pink Indians. We met Jello Biafra during the recording of No Sanctuary at Southern Studios in London. He liked what we were doing, gave us a copy of Generic Flipper, and suggested we get in touch in the future.

Amebix became the first UK signing for Alternative Tentacles with our debut album Arise. I remember some reluctance to release the LP, mainly because of the style. There was simply no one else at that time playing heavy music with a punk attitude. We were steeped in Black Sabbath despite our musical illiteracy, waking up to Motorhead and bass power chord riffing. Gigs were amazing, people didn’t know quite what the fuck was going on, we were intense, heavy as hell, and loud!

It’s funny to look back and see the stock that was spawned from those tunes and a legacy that still carries on, a lot of it of a very dubious and nefarious nature, but to have been at the crucible was a privilege none of us will forget. We played hard, practiced hard, and lived the life”.

Various Artists – Sub Rosa Records – 1984

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Mark Stewart And The Maffia – The Wrong Name And The Wrong Number –  William S Burroughs – The Five Steps

The Camberwell Now – For Those In Peril On The Sea / Replash – Martyn Bates And Peter Becker – Sun Like Gold In Three Parts

I originally bought this LP for the track by the ex Pop Group front-man Mark Stewart collaborating with New York’s Sugarhill Gang session musicians, Skip MacDonald, Doug Wimbush and Keith Le Blanc.

On this Sub Rosa released LP the Mark Stewart track is a longer and more abrasive version of ‘Bastards’ that originally appeared on the ‘Veneer Of Democracy Starts To Fade’ LP that was released by ONU Sound / Mute records that same year.

This track is awesome and essential listening mixing up various W.S. Borroughs quotes over an extreme dance beat adding the odd yelp of  “Y’ALL BASTARDS” and “THE ECONOMICS OF GENOCIDE”. The guy who (via the studio mixing desk) makes the track sound like an aeroplane taking off  is ONU Sound’s boss Adrian Sherwood. Play it loud to really get the most from the track and to annoy your neighbours.

I was lucky to have attended many Tackhead / ONU Sound system events and one of the main draws for the night was watching Adrian Sherwood sweat it out over the mixing desk. What was occurring on stage sometimes faded into insignificance compared to watching this wizard at work all night. Added to that the sound at these events was bastard loud which always helped when participating throughout the evening. What was also great to see was the wide mix of public that would peacefully turn up for these Tackhead / ONU Sound system events. Rastas, punks, wideboys, mutoid wasters, hip hoppers, and everybody in between. Happy daze indeed.

Further details on the Sub Rosa release below swiped off the thethingonthedoorstep.be blog.

1. Mark Stewart started out in Bristol in 1978 with the Pop Group, an out there, genre busting band whose titles, political conviction, disrespect for copyright and willingness to collaborate laid the foundations for his later work. Post Pop Group members Mark Stewart, Bruce Smith and John Waddington thus heading off to London and hooked up with the emerging On-U Sound as part of the New Age Steppers. On-U supremo, Adrian Sherwood, had previously worked as European tour manager for legendary Jamaican deejay Prince Far I, whose live backing band largely comprised members of Creation Rebel and later Roots Radics. So while Lincoln Valentine ‘Style’ Scott, Errol ‘Flabba’ Holt and Eric ‘Bingy Bunny’ Lamont formed the core of Dub Syndicate, they were also enlisted as part of Stewart’s new backing band and the first line-up of the Maffia. The second line up and the line up that appeared on this Sub Rosa LP was the ex Sugarhill Gang members, Skip MacDonald, Doug Wimbush and Keith Le Blanc.

2. Novelist William Seward Burroughs born in 1914 initially drew acclaim as a member of the 50s Beat movement, alongside friends and peers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. His acclaimed publications, notably The Naked Lunch, The Soft Machine and The Ticket That Exploded, exhibited the “cut-up” technique first espoused by fellow-writer Bryon Gysin, in which passages and texts were cut and reassembled to create unconscious writing. The pair subsequently brought the same method to recording during their stay at the Beat Hotel in Paris. Burroughs’ experimental nature and his espousal of drug use made him an attractive figure of the 60’s counter-culture. Aided in sound by Martin Olson.

3. The Camberwell Now is a Experimental rock band formed in 1982 by Charles Hayward after the breakup of This Heat recorded at the bands Cold Storage studio in Brixton.

4. Martyn Bates and Peter Becker, after releasing experimental / industrial tapes of Antagonistic Music / Dissonance (as Migraine Inducers), Martyn Bates formed Eyeless In Gaza in 1980 as a duo with Peter Becker. Eager to explore musical territories that veered crazily from filmic ambience to rock and pop, industrial funk to avant-folk styles, the duo steered hungrily and rapidly through several albums that culminated in the reflective swan songs of Rust Red September and Back From The Rains.

Various Artists – Fresh Records – 1981

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Dumb Blondes – Sorrow / Cuddly Toys – Someone’s Crying / The Igloos – Octopus / Family Fodder – Savoir Faire / Cuddly Toys – Madman / Wilko Johnson – Back In The Night / Bernie Torme – All Day And All Night

UK Decay – Unwind / Manufactured Romance – Times Of The Life / The Dark – Hawaii Five O / The Wall – Ghetto / J.C.s Mainmen – Earbending / Menace – The Young One’s / The Art Attacks – Punk Rock Stars

A great compilation of recordings from 1979 until 1981 UK Decay, The Wall and The Art Attacks…great stuff. Also some Cuddly Toys and Family Fodder for good measure…What more do you want?

The seeds of Fresh Records were sown in Alex Howe’s Wretched Records stall in London’s Soho Market in 1978. Alex also ran a mail-order service, and demand from other shops for the Buzzcock’s ‘Spiral Scratch’ EP led him to start Fresh Distribution. Bands such as the Art Attacks, Second Layer, UK Decay and Manufactured Romance came to the stall looking for an outlet for their records. Alan Hauser joined Alex in 1979 bringing his Parole Records label with Family Fodder, Cuddly Toys, The Wall and Bernie Torme to set up the Fresh Records label, and the roster quickly took shape.

A quick glance at Sounds venerated AIternative, Oi Oi and Futurist charts discloses a healthy cluster of waxings from Fresh Records bedding down with releases from other independents. UK Decay, Family Fodder, The Wall, Cuddly Toys, Manufactured Romance, Dumb Blondes and The Dark … a large number of brain screwing, provocative, enjoyable or excruciatingly painful offerings arrive at our (now even more luxurious} offices from Fresh each week. Fresh are typical of an ‘Indie’ going places fast. But will the smell of success turn into another corporate stink?

Time for an insight-style probe.

Alex “Don’t quote me on that” Howe is label boss, catalyst and hustler. His deceptive ‘need a drink or some sleep’ image hides a very sharp mind, and an obscene amount of physical energy. He’ll have a chat while dealing with a publishing agreement, and hold three phone calls simultaneously. Then go and bop to a fave band till four in the morning.

His running partner Alan ”you’ve caught us at a busy time” Hauser. Alan’s the label manager, a diplomat who’d turn ‘no shit, meathead’ into ‘we wouldn’t look too favourably on that’. He can put on that pained expression, like he’s got the whole weight of the record business on his shoulders, and have a grin over a pint seconds later. That comes from risking life, limb and overdraft on a band called Raped and a record company Parole.

In the office, where you couldn’t swing a gerbil let alone a proverbial cat, it was hard to tell who was staff and who were band members. Who did what?

“Charlie Casey’s ex Menace and now our distribution manager and organises gigs. Phil, from The Dark, is on telephone sales, Graham Combi’s a nutter and supplies the shops and John’s Knight is my trouble shooter well, the person who glues the phone back together when I get annoyed.”

Other group members could be seen generally helping out and getting artwork for labels and sleeves together. “Every outfit does their own artwork we try and make the organisation mutually self reliant”.

So far, all seemed OK if not actually beautiful.

“The advantage of having musicians around is extra ears! They’re in contact with the gig scene, can get opinions from other bands, and give us a much more objective view than if we just had one A&R who had to be levered out of his office”. Alan signifies agreement.

So how did these widely differing personalities team up?

Alan formed Parole Records to release material by Raped. “Things started to get serious in late ’78. Other companies refused to touch the band shocked puritanism could describe their reaction!”

My eyes misted over at the memory of that first pair of bondage pants down the Roxy.

“There were other bands like The Disturbed and 4 Kings that I wanted to put out, and before I knew it I was doing twenty different jobs and trying to look confident when I went to my bank.”

Meanwhile, Alex was starting a record shop, working in close association with Rough Trade.

“It was little more than a pre-fab garage, really wretched, hence the name Wretched Records. I knew a few street market sellers, had met Alan some years before, and I was able to get some of his records on the street”.

Pause for a quick argument over who did what.

The conversation drifted round to various ‘Indies’ – Small Wonder, Rough Trade and it seemed as if there was a bit of an old boys network going on, eh Alex?

“Err, yep but it’s a positive thing, things evolved around that time a lot of like minded people suddenly decided to do it, and help each other out. We were able to form a network, outside the majors, without the hassles of rivalry which plague the large companies. I don’t want to sound all clinical about this, but combining a retail shop, mail order, your own distribution and finally a label is a perfect, self supporting format. Point is, we’re young, enthusiastic and are totally behind the music. Being a businessman isn’t a consideration. We’re not.”

Would Fresh sell out to a major, or do a licensing deal?

“We’re both agreed never. Because there’re all these ‘Indies’ working together now, we’ll be in a very strong position within six months. We keep in contact with Rough Trade, Red Rhino, Revolver, Discount and Inferno, and we can cover the whole country and keep costs down. EMI were amazed when I told them we broke even on under 2000 sales.”

Rough Trade have a reputation of ‘letting the music sell itself and not following through with their acts. What’s the Fresh approach?

“Rough Trade have got this policy I respect and they’re genuine in what they do. Afraid I’m more aggressive. Just look at the stunts the majors pull to break’ acts, cut-throat tactics, and if we’re too passive, people won’t get a chance of alternative music”

(First Published in SOUNDS November 15th 1980)

 

Acid punks and Albion Dreaming

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011
Orange sun LSD blotter

Orange sun acid blotter

Review
Albion’s Dreaming the History of LSD in Britain by Andy Roberts (available from Housmans for £9.99)

I got this book after Nic Bullen asked me about the Brew Crew recently

I first remember experiencing ‘Brew Crew’-esque behaviour when we were trapped by police on the road in Wiltshire near Stonehenge in 1985 when a few (maybe 5 or 6) swarmed up and down trying to scrounge anything they could (in a manner which would be called ‘aggressive begging’ now). I don’t remember any of them at the Westbury White Horse festival a couple of days later though…

My interest is in just HOW it developed: how did the ‘Peace’ dream slip very quickly into the nihilism and ‘medieval brigand’ mindset of the ‘Brew Crew’? Was it something to do with the climate within the ‘Peace Convoy’ (and environs), or to do with the surrounding political / economic climate? 

The Brew Crew don’t get mentioned, but Chapter 12- Coming Down Again , pages 203- 211, covers the period from punk to acid house. There isn’t much on punk directly, apart from a mention of LSD (‘the most unfashionable drug in Britain at the time’) being taken at the Liverpool punk club Eric’s and how Julian Cope / Teardrop Explodes were on acid when they played Top of the Pops in 1981.

Since it is unlikely to surprise readers of KYPP that the UK government really did test acid on ‘volunteers’ (who weren’t told what they were being given) at Porton Down in the fifties, the most interesting aspect of the book is about the social impact of acid. For example (page 134) that acid inspired an upsurge of interest in whole foods/ organics/ vegetarianism. Another impact is connected to the ‘set and setting’ theory that the difference between a good trip and a bad trip depends on expectations and environment. Chapter 10 Bring What You Expect to Find shows how the first free-festivals emerged out of the desire to create spaces /environments which would facilitate good trips.

Night clubs and commercial rock festivals did not appeal to the sensitivities of acid sensitized hippies who were questioning the ideas of profit and control; wanting to be more than just consumers of entertainment industry product. There was a demand for events self-generated by the counter-culture, which would provide hippies with gatherings where they could live out their life-style with like minded people in a spirit of celebration and purpose.

The first such free-festival was Phun City held in 1970. Stonehenge became the most well known and Castlemorton in 1992 was ( I think) pretty much last.

At this point I was going to say that the reason there is not much on punk in the book is because punk was an anti-acid subculture. That punk was a counter-counterculture in which, to quote the Clash, that ‘hate and war’ rather than ‘love and peace’ was the reality/ currency punk had to deal with ‘today’.

I even had a quick look through the index to Jon Savage’s England’s Dreaming (1991) and found not a trace of acid nor LSD. But then I realised the index had no entries for any drugs at all. The book then fell open at page 187 … and there was John Lydon talking about going to Louise’s (a Soho lesbian club) in 1976. ‘ We used to take acid at Louise’s. It heightens the enjoyment’ …

So acid was there right at the beginning of punk. Which means that the argument that I was going to make – that it was only after becoming entangled with the acid orientated free-festival/ traveller culture that punk subculture became part of the counterculture- doesn’t work.

On the other hand, the fact that a neat distinction between acid- taking hippies and acid- rejecting punks can’t be made is significant. What Albion Dreaming re-emphasises is that the sixties ‘revolution in the head’ had a profound impact on society. Briefly, it seemed that the imagination really had seized power and that it was realistic to demand the impossible. What drove this revolution was the potential of LSD to radically restructure perceptions of reality. The acid revolutionaries had a vision of a new world in their hearts and minds and were determined to realise their vision in the everyday world. Despite the best attempts by the forces of reactionary conservatism to force the genie back in its bottle, thanks to the acid inspired counter culture we still live in a more open and liberal society.

Albion Dreaming can therefore be read as struggle between open and closed minds. It can also be read as a struggle between idealists and realists. In this reading, punk emerged at/ out of the ‘come down’ from the counterculture’s collective acid trip. Punk’s scepticism towards the hippie counterculture was not a conservative reaction, nor (as the Lydon quote above shows) was it because punks didn’t do acid. Rather, it was a reality check.

Since Albion Dreaming is a history of LSD in Britain rather than a history of the counterculture, it would be wrong to criticise the book for failing to engage with punk. Yet, perhaps because of its scepticism of ’psychedelic dreams’, punk was able to renew and revive the counterculture as a culture of resistance through the eighties – for example the Stop the City protests of 1983/4- and on to the present where ’anarchist punks’ are still the folk devils blamed by the media for sparking trouble at demonstrations.

Or did all the acid at free-festivals turn punks into hippies? Maybe. But compared to the first wave of visionaries who thought acid would start a new religion, the hippies who travelled the free-festival circuit were pretty punk already.

AL Puppy

Punk as counterculture

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force… The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar… as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, [they] rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch.

Karl Marx 1845 The German Ideology

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01b.htm

I thought I’d throw the Marx quote in to illustrate how tricky it could get if I follow Gerard’s suggestion (see his comment on previous post below) that I should write a book. I spent 18 months sweating over a 50 000 word academic thesis on a suitably obscure historical incident and got conditioned to the style and the footnotes and bibliography, sources and references. So a book could end up pretty indigestible.

In the meantime here are some thoughts on punk as counterculture. One starting point is the ongoing global economic crisis. This could be capitalism’s final crisis, sparking a wave of revolutionary actions. Or it could be the beginning of a long recession which will create mass unemployment and force wages down far enough to ensure capital once more prevails over labour…

Complicating this crisis are two new factors. One is global climate change and the other is peak oil. Both are fiercely argued over because of their implications. These are the need for a global to shift to a low / no growth economy which is not based on burning fossil fuels. The problem with taking any steps in that direction is that capitalism requires continuous growth – usually measured as gross domestic product – at a minimum of 3% per year… every year for ever and ever. Without this continual growth, there is no point in re-investing capital in the economy because over time you would end up with less capital than you started with – due to loss of value through machines wearing out, buildings needing maintenance and such like.

For a proper explanation try David Harvey’s book the Enigma of Capital £8.99 from Housmans

So we really could be getting close to the end of the (capitalist) world as we know it. So it would seem sensible and rational to start planning for what will happen next. Lots of people are and have been doing so for a long time. But – so long as the ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class – the capitalist class in our era- the ideas cannot get turned into actions. It would mean the ruling class planning their own downfall, making themselves and the whole social/ economic system they rely on for their power, redundant. Which is impossible for them to imagine so nothing new happens or can happen.

Wearing my woolly Green hat, I know that back in the early seventies there was a branch of the counterculture which ’talked about windmills and psychedelic dreams’ [Crass, General Bacardi]. There was more than talk, people tried to built their own wind generators and even attempted to a company- Lucas Aerospace- to adopt such alternative / radical technologies. For a brief moment, sparked by the 1974 oil crisis the ideas almost became mainstream. [The 1975-78 Good Life tv sit- com was a popular culture response to this.]

Although it was mainly a rural phenomenon, there was an urban dimension which involved the reclaiming and transformation for community use of buildings (through squatting / housing associations) and also derelict spaces. Meanwhile Gardens, established in 1976, is an example which should be familiar to readers of KYPP. The radical technology movement had a strong DIY ethic, which included how to guides to setting up your own pirate radio station.

There was also a global dimension. For years, until I passed it on to some folk living in a tipi in the back garden of a squat in Lewisham, I had a copy of Victor Papanek’s book Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change. The book included a description of a transistor radio, made from ordinary metal food cans and powered by a burning candle, that was designed to actually be produced cheaply in developing countries. Papanek also came up with an innovative method for dispersing seeds and fertilizer for reforestation in difficult-to-access land.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Papanek

While parts of the Radical Technologists’ vision led on to the Ecology Party, later Green Party, some of the DIY aspects were adopted and adapted by punk. Which is where things get tricky.

A central part of punk’s self-definition was that it marked a distinct and definite break with the immediate past – with the preceding hippy generation. ’I hate Pink Floyd’ as one well-known punk said on his t-shirt. Musically, punk’s short sharp statements could not be confused with prog rock’s 20 minute meanderings. Punk was a revolution, and 1976 was Year Zero.

As a music and style based sub-culture, punk was new and different and nothing like what had happened before. It was also, on the same grounds, dead by the end of 1977, to be replaced by something now called ’post-punk’. Such journalistic definings of punk are the first draft of history. Second and later drafts of history are also available. Just like 1984, history is always being re-written.

But who is writing the history? Usually it is the victors who get to (re)write histories, recuperating the past so it always conforms to the (ruling) ideology of the present. Ah, but what if the ruling ideology is bankrupt and about to be consigned to the dustbin of history? What if all that is seemingly so solid is about to melt into air? Well, then the countercultural historian can reconstruct an other version of what really happened. Not ‘the’ version, just one amongst many other possible versions.

Such a countercultural approach might look for continuities rather than breaks. It might see punk as part of rather than apart from a turbulent undercurrent of idealist / materialist opposition to the material ideas of the ruling class. This would involve recognising a process of constant/continual challenging and questioning of the ruling ideology, the ruling class. So long as the ruling ideology can keep fracturing and fragmenting and suppressing these challenges, they can never achieve the crucial breakthrough to become the ‘thought’ or ‘consciousness‘, of a revolutionary class.

Through divide and rule -through the Brew Crew strategy- every challenge gets defined as isolated and unique, as a one-off. To get beyond this victor’s version of history, we have to step back and see the bigger picture. [Edward Thompson’s The History of the English Working Class is useful tool for learning how to do this.] Applying this countercultural approach to the history of the counterculture itself – as Ken Goffman did with his Counterculture Through the Ages, 2004 – punk ceases to be an isolated fragment of resistance to the ruling ideas of the age, but becomes a particular instance or moment of the counterculture.

So punk drew on / defined itself against, the range of oppositional strategies available at the time to create a ’new’ set of oppositional strategies which then became available to/ were recycled back into – the ongoing counterculture.

It may appear that the counterculture has more recently died or otherwise ceased to exist / resist. It hasn’t. Its apparent absence from the present is a sign of the immanent demise of the ruling ideology. So profound is the crisis of the dominant culture that it can no longer effectively function as the ruling ideology – it is now splintering and fragmenting and so can no longer write the history of what is happening right here and right now.

To live outside the law you must be honest

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Just woken up at 4 20 am by the early morning light, still close enough to the solstice so not much darkness. Usually I would try to get back to sleep, but Nic asked me a question on Facebook about the Brew Crew which has burrowed its way down into the depths and re-emerged as a dream about people fighting at a gig which has woken me up.

Half- asleep it seemed to make sense but now half-awake in the greyness of dawn mist, it is more difficult. I think the answer to Nic’s question is ‘To live outside the law you must be honest’…Mick (Luggy) came up with it when we – the (Kill Your Pet) Puppy Collective- were looking for vaguely situationist style slogans to print on stickers to stick on bus stops or to send people who wrote in asking for ‘info’.

It is a Bob Dylan quote, but along with Mark (Mob)’s description of anarchy as being about trusting people, it summed up our approach to living outside of society. You could say that put us in the same political space as Margaret Thatcher and her ’there is no such thing as society’ – but she then said ’there are only individuals and families’. But what we were trying to do was find an alternative between the (often intolerable / abusive) constraints of family life and extreme isolation as individuals surviving in a city.

Punk was not an answer. As originally constructed by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm Mclaren, punk was a reaction to and rejection of the collectivist values of the preceding counterculture and its failure to turn dreams of an alternative society into reality. But as punk was propagated as a moral panic and punks became folk-devils, it attracted thousands of alienated teenagers to London. While many soon returned home, for others the enforced individuality of being homeless in a hostile environment led them to squatting. It was a steep learning curve and the pressure of survival forged connections with the pre-existing squatting scene. Some of these connections e.g. between the Clash and the big west London squats – had been there from the beginning. Others developed organically as punk squatters had to learn the same skills as hippy squatters.

By the beginning of the eighties squatting had become part of the punk subculture in London. At the same time punk was emerging and developing, the free-festival and travelling subculture was also emerging and developing. The Windsor Free Festivals which began in 1972 and ended, after violent police actions in 1974, were a major influence and inspired the Stonehenge Free Festivals which ended in similar circumstances 11 years later. While rock music festivals influenced Windsor, over in East Anglia folk-music and the tradition of medieval fairs inspired a different type of free-festival, more of a Green gathering than a rock music event.

Although the distinction between a small free-festival and a large fair eventually became blurred, their different origins meant there was always a tension between fairs and free-festivals. While the tensions came to a head in the mid-eighties and involved punk as a scapegoat, they had their origins in the early seventies and divisions within the sixties counterculture. As the optimism of the sixties counterculture began to fade there was a ‘back to the land’ movement’ which involved attempts to set up rural communes and adopt a more self-sufficient and ecologically sustainable lifestyle. The East Anglian fairs came out of this movement, but there were communes and back-to-the landers scattered across the countryside – including Wales and even south-west Scotland where a commune (now a housing co-op) was set up in 1972.

Others within the counterculture stayed in the cities, especially London, and became active squatters and/or engaged with the feminist and gay liberation movements. The Angry Brigade were the most dramatic manifestation of the post-sixties urban counterculture. Apart from the free-festivals, groups like Hawkwind, the Pink Fairies and the Edgar Broughton Band frequently played benefit gigs for political causes and also free gigs underneath the Westway or on Parliament Hill Fields. John Robb [Punk Rock an Oral History, 2006] quotes Brian James, Rat Scabies, Captain Sensible and Mick Jones as going to and being influenced by these events. International Times, which was started in 1966, revived itself in the seventies and reported on punk. If the 1976 /Year Zero version of punk history is demystified, what emerges is an aspect of punk which was the next-generation of the seventies urban counterculture, urban guerrillas with guitars instead of guns.

According to Brig Oubridge [in George McKay, Senseless Acts of Beauty, 1996], 1976 was also the year the convoy was born- as a means of moving from one site to another from May through to September. Don Aitken lists the festivals and fairs – May Hill in May, Horeshoe Pass, Stonehenge, Ashton Court, Inglestone Common, Cantlin Stone, Deeply Vale, Meigan Fair and various in East Anglia and finally the Psilocybin Fair in Wales in September.

Before 1976, people had started using trucks and old buses to get to and stay in at the Windsor Free Festivals. But it was only once there were enough festivals to go to that the idea of swapping squatting for full time travelling could take off. It was a gradual process and required learning a new set of skills, although previous experience of squatting no doubt helped. Since the idea of travelling round festivals was contemporary with punk, it was first adopted by members of the pre-punk counterculture who had been teenagers in the late sixties and were now in their mid-twenties or older.

Most of the festivals and fairs listed by Don where not very well known, but as Stonehenge festival got bigger, it became a media spectacle, introducing thousands of people to the travelling scene, including punks. These punks confused their elders. ‘When I first saw punks at Stonehenge, I thought they were aliens’ I was once told. But by the time of the last Stonehenge festival in 1984, some of the punks has already become travellers. Looking back in 1989, John Pendragon told me that it was the influx of punks onto the travelling scene which ’destroyed it’.

Yet in 1982, too early for the punks to be blamed, an alternative community newspaper from Waveney in Suffolk was worrying about the impact of the ‘Peace Convoy’ on the fairs of East Anglia and how far the tolerance and openness of such alternative gatherings could be extended. A year later a different reality intruded, with a ’picnic not a fair’ to be held at the Lakenheath Peace Camp. McKay [1996, 42- 44] links the two together, pointing out that to blame the Peace Convoy for the demise of the Albion Fairs is to confuse symptom with cause. Brig Oxbridge’s 1976 convoy became the Peace Convoy when a group (including KYPP’s Tony D) moved from the Stonehenge festival to Greenham Common Peace Camp in June 82. In contrast to 1976, in 1982, ‘ everything vaguely or coherently alternative was more difficult to achieve under Thatcher [and] became more extreme in its response.’

Given the political climate – with mass riots in 1981 and the miners strike, mass arrests at Nostell Priory, eviction of Molesworth peace camp and battle of the Beanfield – even if no punks had become travellers, John Pendragon would still have been affected by the culture of repression.

To get back to Nic’s original question about the Brew Crew. Part of the answer is in George McKay’s summary of the Albion Fairs / Peace Convoy conflict-

If the Peace Convoy turned up at green fair, its members would intimidate punters out of money, rip other fair goers and organisers off, squat the land a month after everyone else had left and when they did go, leave burnt out cars and piles of rubbish behind…soon the Peace Convoy put people off holding fairs altogether. [1996, 43]

So behaviour attributed to the ‘Convoy’ in 1982 was attributed to the ‘Brew Crew’ a few years later, and (at least by John Pendragon) blamed on the influx of punks to the travelling scene. A few years later again, when there were mass raves similar problems arose.

By way of a conclusion, the Dylan quote is useful. Where ever you have a group of people ‘living outside the law’ the problem of self-policing arises. Where such an alternative society is even vaguely anarchist in its form, there is a real difficulty of adaptation. Without obvious signs of external authority, an attitude of ’I will do what the fuck I want’ can emerge which is often destructive. Given time, so long as there are no underlying mental health difficulties, a form of mutual self-respect emerges – the honesty of the Dylan quote. With honesty comes trust and a sense of solidarity. Which is fine a for relatively small group working / living together for long enough to become self-organising. But when the there are suddenly thousands of people at a free festival, or hundreds deciding to become anarcho-punks or travellers – it gets much much harder.

In late summer 1985 I was at a gathering to discuss the future of Stonehenge festival. There was a lot of discussion about how the festival could become self-policing, how to create a minimal order out of the chaos. In 1975 the feat was managed with the semi-official Watchfield free festival – see

http://www.ukrockfestivals.com/watchfieldfestival-menu.html

But in 1985 there was no way the Conservative government would adopt an idea used by a Labour government ten years earlier. Instead they id their best to make life as hard as possible for ’new age travellers’ and conflicts over Stonehenge became a annual event for many years afterwards.

Finally – in the early nineties there was a re-radicalisation of travelling and squatting through the road-protest movement- with large scale squatting on the M11 protest and ‘new age travellers’ active at Twyford Down. One of the travellers (who called themselves the Donga tribe) was Donga Alex and George McKay quotes her complaining about the protest being plagued by ’young people on dodgy chemicals who leave their rubbish and literally crap everywhere’… At Claremont Road (a row of squatted houses on the route of the M11) the protestors practiced some self-policing – evicting a group of ‘lunch-outs’ from the street…

Al Puppy


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