The long awaited All The Madmen records launch gig promises performances by The Mob, Hagar The Womb, The Astronauts, Andy T and Kill Pretty at the Boston Arms, Tufnell Park, London on Friday 30th November starting at 7 pm.
Entry free of charge to All The Madmen records co op members. Possibly a co op members get together in the venue or nearby pre the gig opening to the public. This meeting is to be confirmed. Ticket details to general public can be purchased HERE .
Please help to support the bands and artists that have been released so far on this co operative run record label; Andy T’s debut CD release, a beautifully packaged work ‘At Tethers End’ has been on sale for several weeks now and the Kill Pretty single is very soon to follow. For those All The Madmen co operative members and also to the casual supporter who may still have a record player, please feel free to join the All The Madmen records Singles Club ensuring you get the limited edition coloured vinyl first pressings of all the 7″ singles that the label will be releasing. Singles Club members will receive the product several weeks before any other High Street shops and online stores getting any copies. Joining the Singles Club also works out cheaper than eventually buying all the singles separately!
Check out all the latest news and so forth at the website HERE.
Please come along to this All The Madmen records showcase. I am looking forward to it. The last time I witnessed The Mob was in Bristol earlier on this year in February. Since then the band have returned from gigs in Bradford and Hebdon Bridge, a tour of the east coast of America, a Prague date, a tour of the west coast of America and a date in Berlin with UK Decay! I missed them all…
I personally will not be recording the performances in Tufnell Park next Friday.
I have been organising audio recordings of The Mob and the support acts to place up on KYPP posts for free downloads since the debut comeback gig at Bristol in April 2011. That performance plus the other shows in 2011, Hoxton, Yeovil, Brixton and the second Bristol gig in February 2012 have all been recorded and archived on KYPP.
This special All The Madmen re-launch gig I intend to enjoy myself and pay closer attention to the bands rather than worrying about recordings. I might change my mind on the day though… But probably not as I am also taking the Bobbler along for her first Mob (and support acts) experience!
All the text below are old essays written by myself and Alistair many years ago. I thought I would place them all on this post for any one that maybe interested in reading them.
HISTORY OF ALL THE MADMEN RECORDS – 1978 – 1986
All The Madmen started off as a fanzine from Yeovil in Somerset, England, in early 1978. The name ‘All The Madmen’ was taken from one of the tracks off David Bowie’s album from 1972, ‘The Man Who Sold The World’. The fanzine was run initially by Geoff in collaboration with Mark, from one of the local bands at the time called The Mob. The fanzine also involved various local friends including Max, Wilf, Christine and Debs.
Towards the end of 1979 after returning from a tour of the UK and Holland supporting Here And Now, The Mob recorded their first studio tracks. Geoff decided to start up the label for the release of ‘Crying Again’ and ‘Youth’. Grant Showbiz, who had been behind the mixing desk during the tour, handled the production on these recordings at the Crypt in Stevenage. This would be the start of a relationship between Grant Showbiz and the various bands on the All The Madmen label which would continue for many years.
MOB01 – The ‘Crying Again / Youth’ 7″ was released in 1980 with the financial help of Max, and was the first record on the All The Madmen label. The local record shop in Yeovil called Acorn agreed to distribute it locally. Other sales went through mail order via the fanzine and at local gigs performed by the band. The address for all correspondence for the fanzine and the new label was Larkhill Road, Yeovil, which was where Geoff was living at the time. The sleeve was done by Wilf, a friend of Marks and Geoff, who would work quite closely with the label from then on. All The Mob’s releases on the label featured Wilf’s artwork. He also worked on product for other record labels including the artwork for The Mob’s ‘No Doves Fly Here’ 7″ released on Crass Records in 1981.
REV01 – 1980 continued with another release on the label by a Clevedon mod band, The Review – ‘England’s Glory / Greatest Show’ 7″. The Review was a band that was like the other mod revival bands of the day, but a cheaply recorded one, although the band were still very punchy. This record actually has ALL THE MADMEN printed labels on the disc, as opposed to the plain white labels of the previous All The Madmen release. On the sleeve it name checks The Mob, Wilf, Christine and Debs (Goodge) from Bikini Mutants (Debs was to become a founding member of My Bloody Valentine in the mid 1980’s). If anyone gets to hear this record, listen carefully to the intro of ..Greatest Show.. on the B-side, sounds very much like the first few bars of ‘Londons Callin’ by The Clash! Bear in mind that there is NO MAD01 catalogue numbers…MOB01 for The Mob and REV01 for The Review.
MAD02 – Later in 1980 the label released the explosive ‘Witchhunt / Shuffling Souls’ 7″ which really got The Mob’s name pushed out from their local tight knit community, and into the wider circle of punk bands and fanzine writers in the south of England. On the first pressing, the sleeve has the Larkhill Road, Yeovil address on. On the second pressing, the sleeve has the Seend, Wiltshire address…which takes us nicely to Andy Stratton (later of Null And Void) who shared this address in Seend with The Mob, at the time.
MAD03 – The single by Andy Stratton ‘I Don’t Know / Evil Minds’ 7″ came out in 1980. The drummer on this single was Graham, who was still a member of The Mob at the time. The single is an excellent punk pop affair, with the sound and feel of the Pete Fender and The Four Formulas 7″ called ‘Promises’ which was released on Poison Girl’s label Xntrix around the same time. Very Buzzcocks influenced. Pete Fender went on to record Andy Stratton’s band Null And Void later on in 1982. Mark and Curtis of The Mob decided to move to London late on in 1980, Graham opting to stay in Yeovil, the band tried out various drummers to work with them including Adie from Null And Void. Max and Geoff had also decided to stay West Country bound, so Mark was looking after the record label, loosely, at this time. All went a little quiet for the All The Madmen label for a short while, but the Mob released, in cassette form only, a recording done on a tape recorder in Brougham Road, Hackney with the new drummer Josef Porter from The Entire Cosmos and Zounds, entitled ‘Ching’ which was basic, but good enough to sell at gigs and through mailorder. Then ‘No Doves Fly Here’ 7″ was released on the Crass label in 1981, to huge acclaim.
MAD04 – This was the most adventurous project to date and was released in 1983. The album ‘Let The Tribe Increase’ by The Mob which originally came out in an reddish orange cover, with a poster, and displayed ‘borrowed’ artwork from Alternative TV’s second album on the front cover! The Mob had been based in London for a couple of years by now, so the address they were using was c/o Freedom Press bookshop in east London. All the members were living in squats and co-op housing in west and north London, so needed an address they could rely on, in case they were evicted from their homes. The album is absolutely essential listening, and had wonderful reviews from the music biz hacks, and more importantly from the followers and fanzine writers of the day. This album got to number 3 in the indie charts and was featured in all the weekly music papers. Josef played drums on this album, which was recorded at Spaceward studios in Cambridge.
MAD05 – The Astronauts second album (first for All The Madmen) ‘All Done By Mirrors’ was released in 1983. Their first album on Jon Barnett’s Bugle label was already an important product at the time. Jon Barnett was a free spirit who was hanging around with the band Here And Now, and squatting in west London. The Astronauts had played on the ‘Weird Tales’ tours in 1980, which also had bands like Zounds / The Mob / 012 / Androids Of Mu etc performing. The first Astronauts album ‘Peter Pan Hits The Suburbs’ was very good with astonishing artwork, but when All The Madmen released ‘All Done By Mirrors’, the resulting album was much tighter musically and is still probably the pinnacle of their long and varied experiences in the studios.
MAD06 – The Mob ‘The Mirror Breaks / Stay’ 7″ was released mid 1983, and is one of the prettier songs, musically, released by the band. After a European tour in late 1983, The Mob split up and Curtis and Josef immediately carried on playing with their new band Blyth Power, which included Neil from Faction on guitar. Josef had already been playing (a soon to be Blyth Power song) ‘Hurling Time’ live with The Mob towards the last few shows. Mark was disillusioned with London, and felt no need to continue writing and recording songs for The Mob. He went quietly into the countryside with the peace convoy and in the process started to raise a family.
MAD07 – This was the ‘Freaks Run Wild In The Disco’ 12″ by Flowers In The Dustbin, which was released in 1984 by Alistair, a contributing writer for ‘Kill Your Pet Puppy’ fanzine, who was now in charge of the label after Mark had left London. FITD were a very colourful band that shared some similarities with The Mob. The structure of some of the songs, well written personal and conscientious lyrics, and some of the time, a complete shambles live, but in a very colourful and positive way. This five track 12″ was a good debut for the band.
MAD08 – Later on in 1984 Alistair was involved in releasing the ‘Rape / Thank You’ 7″ by Zos Kia, a band run by John Gosling who was also with Psychic TV at the time. He had first recorded with Psychic TV on the single ‘Roman P’ earlier in 1984 which was released on the French Sordide Sentimental label. John stayed with Psychic TV for a couple more years, recording and playing on the sporadic live performances. John was living in the same street as Genesis P-Orridge in Beck Road, Hackney at the time. The All The Madmen label was now based in Brougham Road, Hackney, which was just around the corner to Beck Road. Brougham Road was a street with one side colourful co-op housing, colourful trucks and coaches. The other side of the road was a large housing estate. The tenants on the ‘colourful’ side had agreed with Hackney Council to live in these broken up houses while paying very little rent. Short term housing that was looked after and improved in time by the tenants, but for a better description just a row of ‘legal’ squats. Min who voices the Genesis P-Orridge / Alex Ferguson produced track ‘Rape’ was also involved in the ‘Kill Your Pet Puppy’ collective at this time. The words for ‘Rape’ half whispered, half screamed and very stark, was a chilling account of what she experienced being abused in Australia, when she was younger. Min went off to join the peace convoy and was not involved in any further recordings with the band. John Gosling continued with Psychic TV and Zos Kia for a while longer, and Zos Kia had some releases on Psychic TV’s own label Temple Records. The single for All The Madmen got decent reviews, and remains to this day, a very emotional track to listen to. It has a completely different sound and feel to the rest of the label’s output. Alistair at this point turned over the general running of the company to Rob Challice, a Brougham Road tenant, who used to play bass in the band Faction, and who also contributed to the ‘Enigma’ fanzine. Rob was generously assisted by Andy Morgan, and a little later on Sean ‘Gummidge’ Forbes, and a little later on still Mickey ‘Penguin’, who was upgraded to the official All The Madmen Records slave, which was previously Sean’s position!
MAD09 – Rob’s first release came out in 1985, the 12″ by Blyth Power entitled ‘Chevy Chase’, which was a success for the band and the label. As a three piece outfit the band had previously released ‘A Little Touch Of Harry In The Night’ a cassette on Rob’s own 96 Tapes label. The tracks on this cassette were recorded in the basement of 96 Brougham Road where All The Madmen had their small office. The 12″ though was recorded at Street Level studios with Grant Showbiz engineering. The band had expanded to a five piece a few months before the time of this recording; both new members were backing singers, Andy (the same Andy who was helping Rob at All The Madmen) and Sarah. These singers improved the band’s sound immensely, Blyth Power would continue in this line up until the end of 1986. The three piece version of the band was decent enough, but the five piece line up really were very popular at the time, and did very well. The band even got onto Radio One’s afternoon drive time show with the single ‘Ixion’, with an interview on the show with Josef (although by the time the interview was aired and the single released in 1987 the band that actually recorded the track did not exist). Blyth Power gigs at this time were always enthusiastic and sweaty. It seemed that the band was always performing somewhere live every night.
MAD10 – This product released in 1985 by the label, was Clair Obscure’s album ‘Pilgrims Progress’. The band was a French Gothic experimental / performance art band. If you could imagine Chrome partying with The Virgin Prunes while UK Decay mixed the drinks, then that would be a fair description! Not a bad live recording and quite different to the other albums on the label, but sold slowly in the UK, quite a lot of copies went out on export though, mainly to the U.S.A!
MAD11 – This was the third Astronauts album (second for All The Madmen) entitled ‘Soon’ which came out in 1986. This album was popular. One side there were new tracks (not quite as strong as the previous album’s, but still reasonable) and the second side were tracks taken from the early 7″ singles previously released on Jon Barnett’s Bugle label (The ‘Astronauts’ and ‘Pranksters In Revolt’) – These tracks were well out of print by 1986 so there was a fair amount of interest generated on this release, just on the reputation of these tracks on the B-side.
MAD12 – 1986 continued and All The Madmen were back on track with Blyth Power’s ‘Junction Signal / Bind Their Kings’ 7″ & 12″, another Grant Showbiz production. Both formats sold very well and the band continued to tour all over the place in the UK and Europe. A thousand numbered limited edition 7″ were produced along with the four track 12″.
MAD13 – Later on in 1986 the 12″ reissue of The Mob’s first single ‘Crying Again’ was released. The original and long deleted 7″ was still being requested in a lot of the letters being sent to the All The Madmen office, and also by interested gig goers at Blyth Power performances around the country. Because of the success of Blyth Power, and the fact that the Mob’s available back catalogue, ‘Witchhunt’ 7″ (in a non foldout cardboard sleeve on these later repress copies), ‘Let The Tribe Increase’ album (in a blue cover now) and ‘Mirror Breaks’ 7″ were all still shifting units even up to 1986, it was suggested by Rob that this was the right time to re-release these old track’s and add some decent live recordings for good measure. The plan was discussed, master tapes found, and Wilf contacted. Wilf completed his last piece of artwork for a Mob release. This release sold out quickly as expected.
MAD14 – The last release of 1986 was a band with the strange name of Thatcher On Acid and the product was the ‘Moondance’ 12″. A decent band hailing from Somerset who were squatting in South London, had a three piece line up, the guitarist with dreadlocks was the singer, more than a couple of Mob comparisons. The band stood up to the Mob ‘rip off’ tag, and became a very good outfit, which continued until the early 1990’s. The 12″ that was released was considered a bit flat and dated by the band at the time, but that is probably because the recordings were already about two years old by the time of the released 12″. Most of the public thought it was a good release at the time and it sold well. The release also had some great artwork by Wilf and Graeme Coles. The band played all over the place, a lot of shared gigs with Blyth Power and The Astronauts. In April 1987 the band even supported Conflict at Brixton Academy in front of 5000 screaming punkers who went on the rampage in the streets after the main performance by Conflict had finished. All The Madmen had a stall in the venue on that night, got to sell quite a lot of records and shirts. Thatcher On Acid went back to playing to 200 people in pubs and squatted venues after this gig!
The label left Brougham Road late on in 1986 and went to 97 Caledonian Road in Kings Cross, N1. Known as crucial corner, it was graffitied as such; All The Madmen’s office was above Better Badges and below Fuck Off records. Over the road was Rough Trade Distribution, which was quite handy, as their distribution network had been carrying and distributing All The Madmen stock since The Mob’s ‘Let The Tribe Increase’ album. Around the same time as the label moved to a new area, Josef from Blyth Power had told Neil and Curtis that their services would not be needed, come the New Year. Andy one of the vocalist’s was also leaving on his own accord. Therefore a new line up was found to tread the boards night after night from 1987 onwards. The new line up had Protag from The Instant Automations, and one of the organisers (with Grant Showbiz) of the bi-annual Meanwhile Gardens gigs in Westbourne Park, on bass (and more importantly, van!), old Mob and All The Madmen ally, Steve Corr from Yeovil on guitar, and Sian from The Lost Cherees as duel vocalist with Sarah, who remained from the original five piece line up. An album recorded with the original five piece line up was released after the split, got good reviews and sold well. The final original five piece Blyth Power gig was held at the Sir George Robey in Finsbury Park, London in December 1986 to a very large and emotionally friendly audience.
Brougham Road was eventually evicted from 1987 onwards to make way for ‘decent’ families as part of Hackney Council’s regeneration program. Some tenants just got in their trucks and moved away with the peace convoy, or ended up in Spain. Some others continued squatting in other areas, or found new co-op housing schemes to add there names to.
All The Madmen went on for about a year and a half until the spring of 1988, releasing the following titles: Blyth Power ‘Wicked Keepers’ album and ‘Ixion’ 7″ and 12″ / We are Going To Eat You ‘I Wish I Knew’ 12″ / The Astronauts ‘Seedy Side Of’ album / Dan ‘An Attitude Hits’ album / Thatcher On Acid ‘Curdled’ album / Hysteria Ward ‘From Breakfast To Madness’ cassette. Also released were a Mob and a Blyth Power pack with printed record envelopes, which held within; one 12″ record and two 7″ records for the Mob package. Then one 12″ record, one 7″ record, a t-shirt and badge in the Blyth Power package. These packages were mainly sold to customers abroad, who did not already have the available Mob and Blyth Power catalogue. Blyth Power with the new line up had several albums and 12″ records released on the Midnight Music label from late 1987 to 1991. I have only put in information from 1980 until the end of the Brougham Road stay in late 1986…All The Madmen at Caledonian Road would take a lot more time, so just going up to the last release on All The Madmen at the Brougham Road address.
Mickey ‘Penguin’ x
INTERVIEW WITH ALISTAIR LIVINGSTON REGARDING HIS DAYS WITH ALL THE MADMEN RECORDS CONDUCTED BY THE SADLY MISSED LANCE FROM CRINGER
What do you think was so important about The Mob?
The Mob were important for us because they were like a musical version of KYPP. In terms of wider importance it is difficult to say. The Mob were part of the scene and offered a creative alternative to the restrictions imposed by the identification of Crass with ‘anarcho-punk’.
Were there other bands as close to the collective as The Mob?
Probably not, but variously Blood And Roses, Hagar The Womb, Brigandage, The Turdburglars, The Barracudas, Zos Kia, Flowers In The Dustbin, Charge, The Associates, Rubella Ballet… it was a shifting mix of relationships between members of the collective and individual members of bands rather than between ‘the collective’ and ‘the groups’.
At the time, did you relate to much of the other anarcho bands?
Thinking about it, and with reference to 10. above, the question misunderstands the situation at the time (1979/ 85). What there was a punk version of the UK/ London late sixties / early seventies counter-culture where there were several thousand self-confessed punks, with a concentration in London. Within the counter-culture there was no clear boundary between ‘audience’ and ‘performers’, between fanzine writers and fanzine readers. I remember this most clearly from gigs when one group stopped playing they would get off the stage and return to the audience whilst the next group to play would step out of the audience and onto the stage (sometimes there wasn’t even a stage). The Kill Your Pet Puppy ‘collective’ were indistinguishable from the ‘punk collective’.
How would you describe the Centro Iberico to someone today?
The Centro Iberico was a place where the Do It Yourself ethic of punk prevailed, where anarchist theory was everyday practice. Where there was no boundary between audience and performers. This was challenging – there was no-one in charge so for something to happen (e.g. to build a stage and wire it up) those with enthusiasm to make it happen, had to enthuse enough others to get the job done. There was no ‘product of alienated labour’, no ‘spectacle’ to be ‘passively consumed’. The biggest challenge was how change attitudes – how to persuade alienated youth not to trash place and get them to realise they ‘owned’ it. It was a problem punks with a squatting background had faced many times before… The Centro Iberico was about what happens after the revolution. How do we find ways to move from destruction of the old world to the creation of a new one? I remember the experience as exhilarating and liberating – the closest equivalent being the atmosphere on Claremont Road in 1993/4 during the M11 Road Protest Campaign. See http://www.geocities.com/londondestruction/claremont.html for a bit of historic background
How did you get involved with All The Madmen?
My involvement began in the kitchen of Puppy Mansions, Westbere Road, West Hampstead, London in early 1983. Mark Wilson of the Mob was there and he mentioned the idea of the Mob making an album. At the time I was being trained as a ‘Project Engineer’ by the London Rubber Company (makers of Durex condoms) so I applied a bit of the theory I was learning to the problem – break down a project into small do-able units and cost/ time them. So Mark began scribbling down the costs etc. of making an album on a scrap of paper – cost of studio time, cost of mastering disc, cost of art work, printing costs, pressing costs – which he knew from The Mob producing their own records like Witch Hunt.
Mark then managed to get Rough Trade (who distributed The Mob’s singles and knew that their ‘No Doves Fly Here’ single on Crass’ label had been a best seller) interested. Rough Trade told Mark that if he could finance the recording costs, they would cover the other costs in return for a distribution deal.
Mark then got myself and others (Mick Lugworm for example) to contribute to the recording costs and The Mob went into the studio and made the record – Let the Tribe Increase. With the help of Tony D, Mick Mercer and other fanzine writers who were now writing for music papers (NME, Sounds, Melody Maker) and magazines like Zig Zag and Punk Lives, the album got rave reviews and sold well beyond expectations. This meant that by the end of 1983, The Mob had several thousands pounds held in credit by Rough Trade. Mark had the idea of using this money to put out records by other groups on their All The Madmen label and asked me to help manage the project. This I did, though it meant going from being paid £90 a week at London rubber to getting £15 a week …
Unfortunately, after releasing The Mirror Breaks as a single, The Mob then split up. None of the other groups (The Astronauts, Flowers In The Dustbin and Zos Kia) on the label were able to sell more than the 1000 copies of their records to break even… so the money slowly began to run out. See following questions for next part of this story.
Who were Clair Obscur and how did they wind up on the label?
What was the story with their live LP?
I can’t answer these questions, I had parted company with All The Madmen by the time they were on the label.
Who were Zos Kia and how did you know them?
Zos Kia were a Psychic TV spin off group and in their early days crossed over with Coil. Psychic TV (1981) in turn came out of Throbbing Gristle who were contemporary (1976) with punk. Genesis P Orridge of TG / PTV lived in Beck Road in Hackney and there was a strange cross-over between Brougham Road (a squatted street where Mark of the Mob and many others including briefly former Bader-Meinhof gang member Astrid Proll lived and with a link to the original hippy-traveller Ukrainian Mountain Troupe group) and TG / PTV…
Min was the direct link, she was ‘sort of’ a KYPP collective member, I first met her at a Mob gig at Parliament Hill Fields / Hampstead Heath in summer 1981- which was also our first encounter with The Mob themselves. Another link was through Mouse, who was briefly a member of PTV and a friend of Coil.
Anyhow, through the various overlaps and connections, Zos Kia put out their single Rape on All The Madmen.
What was the Rape 7″ about? I remember it being extremely shocking at the time.
The words of Rape were a graphic description by Min of when she was raped in the Australian outback whilst on a family holiday there. I am not sure how old she was at the time, about 14 I think. It was a traumatic experience. I cannot forget her describing it to me a couple of years before the record came out. She later told me she only listened to the record once. It was a personal exorcism. It is still intense and powerful, far more so than the ‘distanced’ explorations of extreme realities of other PTV or TG songs. After touring with Zos Kia, Min became a traveller and was at the Beanfield (Stonehenge Peace Convoy) police riot in 1985.
What were your main duties running the label?
I was the only employee / manager so had to do everything.. I did the marketing and promotion, kept the accounts and paid VAT, hung out at recording sessions, replied to fan letters, organised printing and pressing, liaised with Rough Trade / the Cartel ( co-operative distribution network). Boring stuff.
Did you enjoy running the label?
Yes I did. Way back in 1972, long before punk, I became a fan of Hawkwind (after hearing their single Silver Machine and In Search Of Space album). Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies were part of the late sixties/ early seventies UK counter-culture and I wanted to be part of that… but by 76/7 punk was the scene and I wanted to be part of that as well. Running All The Madmen in 1984 and being part of the Puppy Collective seemed to me to be the fulfilment of my teenage dreams… The Mob were like Hawkwind / Pink Fairies (or the Sex Pistols and Clash) and KYPP was like International Times and OZ or Sniffing Glue.
But then the reality was also a necessary disenchantment / disillusionment. Like the Gertrude Stein said about Los Angeles – ‘when you get there, there is no there there’. In theory I was ‘there’ at the heart of anarcho-punk, of the early eighties ‘post’ punk counter-culture … but it seemed strangely empty .
How did Rob Challice wind up running ATM? Why did you quit?
I did not quit, I was asked to leave by Joseph (with the support of Curtis) of The Mob who got annoyed when he asked Rough Trade for some Mob money and was told that I was the only person who had access to the funds. Which is fair enough, since no formal agreement about how money earned by The Mob via the deal with Rough Trade should be paid out had been worked out. They left a letter on my desk saying Rob Challice was now in charge of ATM. I took this as a dismissal / redundancy letter. The only thing which annoyed me about this was that it meant that the Anarcha And Poppy record never got released. I thought this was a brilliant piece of music which should have been released… which it now has been.
Between the KYPP, ATM, Centro Iberico, etc. what do you think was your main interest and your best memories of the times?
My main interest was Kill Your Pet Puppy. I thought it was brilliant then and I still do. I put it up there with sixties counter-culture magazines like International Times and OZ. Sod Crass and their idiot ilk, KYPP was the real thing, they were just background noise. KYPP was PUNK. ATM and the Centro Iberico were interesting asides to KYPP and to the evolution of punk and I am proud that I was part of them. But when it comes to punk as revolutionary, as visionary, as creativity, as ‘be realistic: demand the impossible’ – it was KYPP which demanded the impossible and delivered it as reality.
How do you reflect back on those days?
OH! pleasant exercise of hope and joy!
For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood
Upon our side, we who were strong in love!
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!–Oh! times,
In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways
Of custom, law, and statute, took at once
The attraction of a country in romance!
As Wordsworth described the French Revolution. Our Revolution was inspired by the French revolution of May 1968, by the Situationists, by the Surrealists, by the Doors, by the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, by Patti Smith, by David Bowie and Marc Bolan, by the Pink Fairies, by the Sex Pistols, by… The Mob, Blood And Roses, Charge, by Adam And The Ants, by punk… but not Crass…
How do you reflect back on that music scene?
Ooops, think I have answered this above. Zounds, Rubella Ballet, … Hagar The Womb, Look Mummy Clowns. But we also listened to the Human League and Soft Cell (well I did!) to Killing Joke and the Pop Group, to Siouxsie And The Banshees and the Psychedelic Furs, to Syd Barrett and the Misunderstood, Bow Wow Wow and the Slits, to Joy Division and New Order …. We were not bound to the constraints of ‘anarcho-punk’. We were anarchists, we were punks but the very act of such self-description destroyed the narrow boundaries of ‘anarcho-punk’ and liberated us to create a ‘music scene’ beyond the puritanical constraints of ‘anarcho-punk’ as defined by Crass and their clones.
ALISTAIR ON THE MOB, THEIR ALLIES, FRIENDS AND PLACES OF INTEREST
Subway surfing anarcho-goths.
Legend has it that when Tony D. First saw Jeremy Gluck of The Barracudas, he was carrying a surfboard down an escalator at Holborn tube station in 1978. The Barracudas were a surf-punk band, celebrating early sixties California in late seventies London. They even had a hit in (?) with I Want My Woody Back. Jeremy joined the Puppy Collective and wrote an article in praise of ‘stupid songs’ for KYPP 1 featuring Abba, Boney M, the Village People and Blondie.
Fast forward to early 1981 and the Puppy Collective are surfing the subway to see The Barracudas play rock n roll heaven, the legendary Hope and Anchor pub halfway down Upper Street, Islington. It was a venue I had never visited before. The pub was upstairs, the bands played downstairs in a tiny basement on a stage which must have been all of six inches high. It was hot and sticky. Sweat evaporated instantly and then condensed on the ceiling to fall back down like rain on the audience.
At some point in the evening’s proceedings, most of the Puppy Collective vanished, leaving only myself and Tony to re-create obscure dance moves from the Sixties as our tribute to The Barracudas.
Gay Punx and a Parallel Universe
The lost puppies returned a few days later, full of strange tales. They had apparently entered a parallel universe and found a lost tribe of gay punx living in a squatted corner shop in Islington. They even had the evidence to prove it. On closer inspection, the evidence was revealed to consist of an article about gay punks in Gay Noise magazine (swiftly cut up and returned for KYPP 4) and flyers for gigs at a squatted church on the Pentonville Road called “The Parallel Universe”. From here on in, any coherent linear narrative breaks down. All that remains are a jumble of dubious ‘recovered memories’.
The Mob on Parliament Hill
The gay punx/ Gay Noise was written by Pip. Pip lived at 51 Huntingdon Street in Islington, a former corner shop with its windows breeze blocked in. H Street as it was called for reasons which will become apparent later, was part of a punk squatting scene which had diverged from that of the Puppy Collective a few years earlier. It is all somewhat confusing, but from 1977 onwards, as more and more teenagers were drawn to London by punk, punk squats began to emerge as the squatting scene of a previous generation (i.e. Frestonia/ Freston Road W 11) decayed.
For a while, members of the Puppy Collective lived in a squat at Covent Garden. later they lived in a derelict fire station at Old Street, right on the edge of the City of London. After this squat was evicted, some occupied an abandoned hospital, St. Monica’s, in North London. Other punks moved to Campbell Buildings near Waterloo. Campbell Buildings gained a reputation as a ‘hell on earth’. As Bob Short of Blood and Roses put in an interview with Tony D published in Zig Zag magazine, “It was like boredom for weeks, then there would be a murder”.
What happened in 1981 was a re-connection between these divergent strands of punk. Pip invited the Puppy Collective over for a meal (vegetarian lasagne) and the next morning we trekked back across north London to search for magic mushrooms on Hampstead Heath. None were found. What we did find was The Mob playing a free gig in an adventure playground on Parliament Hill Fields.
Though we did not know it at the time, The Mob were to become inextricably entwined with the Kill Your Pet Puppy Collective and the Centro Iberico, with ‘anarcho-punk’ and the Black Sheep Housing Co-op and with our magickal mystery tour to Stone(d)henge and beyond. Through Min, who I met that afternoon, another series of connections emerged, leading from Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV and onto Zos Kia.
The Mob were west country punks. John Peel (of sacred memory) picked up and played their second single Witch Hunt, which is how we knew of them. “Still living with the English fear, waiting for the witch hunt dear”. Not sure when they moved up to London, but by 1982 they were mainstays of ‘the scene’. The connection with the Puppy Collective was briefly intimate (Tony’s sister Val ‘ I am not a Puppy’ and Mark Wilson were an item for a while). Plans for The Mob’s album Let The Tribe Increase were made on the back of a shopping list in the kitchen of Puppy Mansions. My contribution was to ask how much it would cost to make an album (such a quaint word these days). Mark jotted down some figures and then went to Rough Trade who offered to pay the pressing costs if he could raise the recording costs. Thanks to Crass, who had released their single No Doves Fly Here, The Mob were able to build on the strength of Witch Hunt to become, thanks to Let the Tribe Increase, a major influence on anarcho-punk.
Their very success became a problem, at least for main Mob person Mark Wilson. Inspired by an encounter with uber hippy travellers the Ukrainian Mountain Troupe, who had occupied an abandoned bus garage near Brougham Road in Hackney. Brougham Road was a row of squatted houses where ex Bader Meinhof person Astrid Proll briefly lived. Her sojourn there inspired a song by Nik Turner of Hawkwind fame. Mark bought a truck and made himself a tipi over the winter of 1983/4 whilst living at 103 Grosvenor Avenue, part of the Islington based anarcho-punk Black Sheep Housing Co-op. As Tom Vague would no doubt point out, members of the Angry Brigade had lived on the same street a decade earlier. Black Sheep’s anarcho-punk credentials were established by managing to acquire Andy Palmer of Crass as an active member. But on a point of information, the original inspiration for the Black Sheep Co-op came from anarcho-communist Andy Martin of The Apostles.
To cut this part of the saga short, by 1984, an idea first expressed by Mark P’s ATV / Here And Now tour of 1978, which took in a performance at Stonehenge Free Festival had become a reality. First a trickle, then a surge of the punk generation became ‘hippy travellers’, much to the discomfiture of tribal elders like John Pendragon.
Thelemic punk- Blood and Roses.
Back to 81. Clissold Park, Stoke Newington. One of London’s ‘lost rivers’ ran through here, down from Seven Sisters and on past Abney Park Cemetery, along part of Brooke Road, through the edge of Hackney Downs (with a ford on Mare Street) to the River Lea. I didn’t know that then.
What I did know was that Bob Short had been one of the Old Street fire station squatters and then the last survivor at Campbell Buildings. Now Bob had a band and they were to play on the outdoor stage at Clissold Park. I remember going with Puppy Collective, but not much more.
Did we end up back at Bayston Road ? Or not ?
Bob’s group evolved into Blood And Roses. The name came from a vampire film by Roger Vadim. Bob was and still is a movie buff. Thanks to Bob I saw Blade Runner and Assault on Precinct 13, Alien and ET. Blade Runner still haunts me, Alien still scares me. Blood And Roses created an evocative and powerful version of the theme to Assault On Precinct 13 for a John Peel session. Still got it on tape somewhere. Safely back in Australia, Bob is still making music and making movies. Just seen a couple. Makers of the Dead and a spoof Christian TV show. Makers of the Dead is a fascinating and brilliantly subversive re-writing of Bram Stoker’s Dracula set in present day Oz. The spoof religious TV show is perhaps more directly subversive and just happens to be side-splittingly hilarious.
“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, love is the law, love under will…” . The chorus of a Blood And Roses song, which is also they key mantra of Thelemic magickians, or followers of mad, bad and dangerous to know Edward Alexander (Aleister) Crowley to get tabloid. If The Mob were the dayside of anarcho-punk, Blood And Roses were the evil twin , the anarcho-goth nightside. Although The Mob and Blood And Roses occasionally played on the same bill, their worlds did not collide. They just overlapped a wee bit.
At the Centro Iberico for example. But that came later, so I will have to return to the Hope and Anchor. Discovering the Parallel Universe opened up fresh set of possibilities, allowed a movement away from straight venues, created opportunities for a punk underground to develop as an alternative to the overground represented by ‘oi!’ punk as promoted by Gary Bushell , then of Sounds, now of the Sun. But … it also meant a gradual retreat into an ideologically pure ghetto, a return to the pre-Grundy period when the Sex Pistols were an underground group playing to a self-selected elite of hip dudes and dudettes. It was a slow death, but it was a dying none the less.
Like all squats, the Parallel Universe was physically only ever a temporary space. A gang of ‘dossers’ hung out there and resented their space being taken over by a bunch of spotty punks. Eventually the church caught fire and lay derelict for years before being turned into trendy offices.
Bit of psychogeography – a famous Victorian clown ‘Grimaldi’ was buried in the attached graveyard which remains a place of pilgrimage for the clowning community.
Fortunately the Autonomy Centre set up post Persons Unknown trial with the help of Crass/ Poison Girls became our new church. The original idea (Andy Martin’s?) was just to have a few benefit gigs to pay the rent, but they turned into a regular Sunday feature over the winter of 81/2.
On John Eden’s website there is a whole chunk by Andy Martin about the Wapping Autonomy Centre, complete with lists of the bands who played. The Puppy Collectives contribution was to buy crates of cheap lager to sell alongside fanzines and anarchist literature in a back room.
Didn’t last though. According to Albert Meltzer’s online autobiog, the punks trashed the place and then the landlord threw everyone out. Which is true. What is also true is that the Autonomy Centre was never a viable economic proposition. There just weren’t enough straight anarchists around to keep it going without the punk gigs, but the punks gigs broke the lease agreement (no music, no alcohol)… echoes of similar sixties ventures. Except instead of Crass and the Poison Girls, places like the Indica bookshop were financed by the Beatles (see In the Sixties by Barry Miles : Jonathon Cape: 2002 or All Dressed Up by Jonathon Green).
Aside – Tom Vague has done an excellent job by creating a seamless narrative for West eleven/ Notting Hill which firmly puts ‘the sixties’ in a before and after context – see www.historytalk.com and numerous Vagues.
Centro Iberico 421a Harrow Road W9
Knit your own anarchy centre. It was an old school on the Harrow Road. Brick built circa 1900, similar to the one my kids later went to in Hackney and again in New Cross. Real Spanish anarchists lived there, some were veterans of 1936. There was a proper assembly hall with a stage on the first floor. We got the use of the ground floor and built a stage out of old cookers ( I had a photo, used in Punk Lives, of Tony hard at work building the stage). It was a bigger space than Wapping and its active life as Anarchy Centre lasted through into the summer of 1982. Still have a bright yellow double sided A 4 flyer Tony produced for it.
National tragedy 23 million people still employed!
The Autonomy Centre in Wapping has now officially closed after being largely unused in its year long existence- apart from the gigs there every Sunday from November to Feb 21st 9 till the landlord found out.
As the gigs were the centre’s only form of income it was inevitable it had to close (£680 rent every three months, next payment would have been made on March 22nd).
Around £700 was paid into the bank from concerts, another £50 used to repair the drum kit that was used almost every week and to buy materials and keep running the Centro Iberico. As this is written there is £89 in the kitty, but there is also a list of things that are needed quickly:
Microphones, chemical toilets (what people in caravans and things use) tape recorders, a plu board (not enough sockets in hall) paint / brushes to paint banners to decorate the place, food / tea / coffee that you eat and drink free each week (or pay a little for the food)…
This isn’t just a gig venue run by an elite clique of people. As we said in our last Sunday Supplement “A kick up the arse”, if you don’t put energy into the centre well all get pissed off and put none in ourselves and then where will you be? The Lyceum? The Clarendon? the 100 Club? Twice the cost, half the bands and bouncers = no fun. Thieves, no-one paying, no participation = no A centre. Its your centre, use it, don’t abuse it…etc.
When a new, permanent place is found that we can use during the daytime for more than just gigs, then these gigs now should have raised enough to pay for facilities and things that can be used by and for all. If you have any ideas about what should be there, come along early and discuss it.
Crass have shown interest in helping out but they don’t want to be used as a money source (the way Iris Mills and crew did in the setting up of the last place) – this place has to be financially independent…
£1 entry, doors open 4.30pm, first band on at 7pm, finish at 10.30pm
21st March 12 Cubic feet / Apostles / Lack of Knowledge / Replaceable Heads
28th March Rubella Ballet / Action Pact / Dead Man’s Shadow
4th April Subhumans / Organised Chaos / Locusts / Hagar The Womb
11th April EASTER -no trains? no bands? probably a free mind boggling weird and wonderful day
18th April Flux Of Pink Indians / Cold War / Screaming Babies
25th April The Mob / Bikini Mutants / D-Notice
Dotted around the text little Situ quotes “Authority is the Negation of Creativity”, “Dis-obey your jailers- Smash the Spectacle”, All power to the imagination / imagine no power”, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”
Anarcho-punk, anarcho-goth – and Crass had fuck all to do with it. Got a single recorded by Conflict there, but probably belongs to Tinsel. Got a tape with Blood and Roses going nova with Curse On You live at the Centro … and didn’t they play Sister Ray there once? The first Sunday there was nothing so we banged bits of wood and metal together and sang Patti Smith songs “We shall live again…”
It was the kind of atmosphere which the previous underground turned into legends – like Pink Floyd playing the IT launch party at the Roundhouse/ Hawkwind and Pink Fairies playing under the Westway… or the stuff of 76/77 punk mythology. But by 82 a few hundred crazy-coloured anarcho- gothic punks were? What? An invisible sub-sub culture and the whole scene has been re-written 1984 style as if it was Crass what done it.
But Crass were out in Epping, not there on the streets and in the squats. If anything, as their influence grew, the walls closed in. Or was it the politics? Re-election of Thatcher in 1983 and the unfolding consequences? Another angle is the failure of anarcho-punk to become class conscious and engage with real political struggles.
But I reckon the average age of anarcho-punks was about 17 – working class / middle class = parents. I worked in a factory all the way through the period – there was no point of contact between the worlds. Oh, apart from when the Black Sheep Housing Co-op made the front page of an outraged Evening Standard (thanks to my soundbite!) and into the Daily Mail…
“Was that your bunch Alistair? ” I was asked. My subsequent move from a bed-sit in Ilford to a Black Sheep house in Islington was met with incredulity.
“You don’t want to move there. I was brought up in Hoxton, bloody awful place full of darkies now, you want to move out to Romford like me” .
Or Epping, where my boss lived… “no niggers there”.
I sometimes wonder how many lefty politicos have ever actually worked in a factory.
More Anarchy Centres, Acid Houses and City Stopping
There were dozens. Even the Hope and Anchor got squatted. The Black Sheep managed to open up half a dozen in and around Islington and Mick (Luggy) was head-hunted to go and help open up Peace Centres in places like Leeds. Even Psychic TV played a gig in a briefly squatted synagogue – but by then the scene had mutated, with ex anarchos becoming born again Psychic Youths and some carrying on even furthur to become ‘hippy’ travellers.
The Mutoid Waste Company took to creating situations in squatted warehouses, which evolved into acid house parties and years later fused with the free festival scene which in turn inspired the Dongas of Twyford Down to start the road protest movement.
On a different tack, how about Stop the City? Dave Morris of London Greenpeace / Maclibel trial was instigator there, but a certain Pinki aided and abetted him. 29th September 1983 was first Stop the City… and the idea came around again through Reclaim the Streets in 1999 and is still live as in yearly G8 summit protests. Which is a very brief summary of a lot of things going on, but trolling through the internet, I have found enough links and connections to take it all back to the Parallel Universe in 1981. Sort of. Trouble is there is too damn much stuff. I haven’t even mentioned the Peace Convoy from Stonehenge Free Festival to Greenham Common in July 1982. It is like some weird inverted conspiracy theory in which everything connects – or at least it does if a bit of disbelief is suspended.
The Personal as Political
Not so sure about this, but some of it is public domain. All The Madmen, The Mob’s record company, funded by profits from Let the Tribe Increase, released a single called Rape by Zos Kia in 1984. It is a harrowing piece of music. It is a bleak and graphic description by the vocalist Min of her experience of being raped in the Australian outback on a family holiday whilst she was a young teenager. It is not easy listening.
I was ‘manager’ of All The Madmen at the time. I knew the story behind the song. Min had told me it a couple of years before. It had shocked me. To know that women are raped is one level of knowledge, is the stuff of hundreds of news stories, court cases and tabloid tales. But to hear a woman quietly describing her experience of a rape before breaking down in tears… it disturbed me, and confused me deeply and profoundly.
I could say nothing, do nothing. It was freezing cold in her room. We lay side by side in bed, fully clothed. The City of the Dead. All courage gone and paralysed.
There is no easy path back from such depths. Other voices echo the question “How could anyone do that to a young girl?”. It was not only Min’s experience. I heard then and have heard since many others. Not just in the city either. A school friend only recently recounted her experience of childhood sexual abuse here in this small rural town in the early sixties.
How deep was the politics of anarcho-punk? How shallow were the gothic-punk images of ‘the horror’?
But then… for Min at least, the Zos Kia single was an exorcism. She only listened to it once, it was enough. Maybe this one piece of music alone can stand as justification, as and end point. It came out of Genesis P Orridge’s Psychic TV experiment, but was also part of punk, ‘our’ punk.
Who are we now? We are the future, your future…. not in any obvious way, not like the sixties generation, or even like the 76/77 punk generation. Rather we have vanished into the world as if we had never been, yet (from what I can see) are still somehow shaping and shifting the world. Really? Of course not! We were just a bunch of mixed up kids having a bit of fun pretending to be situationist revolutionaries. Now we are all grown up and much more mature and sensible. Well, some of us are. Min is a Speech and Language Therapist. Can’t get much more sensible than that, can you? Tony is an all round family entertainer. Tom is a local historian. Not so sure about Bob though. And… well lets just wait and see what happens next.