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Part 1 – Buffalo Bar – London – 29/08/13 – Silent Scream

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Part 1 – The Buffalo Bar, Highbury, London, N1 – 29/08/13

August 2013 – The month of much practising and some considerable movement for the newly resurrected band from, ahem, many many moons past, Part 1.

Both apprentices in the dark arts, Mark Ferelli and Jake Baker had the idea of resurrecting the band and therefore the bands legendary dark FX sound sometime earlier in 2013. Part 1’s original bassist Chris Pascoe was somehow removed from the coffin he was in at the time and agreed to be involved. Needing a drummer the band enlisted the help of the ever capable and much in demand Chris Low who has an impressive list of band membership under his belt spanning over three decades.

In August 2013, nine moons in, the band headed up to Blackpool to perform the afternoon ‘graveyard shift’ at the Rebellion Festival.

Prior to the performance and for reasons unknown to me (or forgotten about if I was ever told the story) Chris Pascoe placed his bass guitar back into the guitar case and wandered west (not literally west as he would have wandered into the sea surrounding Blackpool) to settle once more into the coffin he had been exhumed from just weeks previously. Possibly my memory is being unfair to me and it might be entirely possible that Chris Pascoe did not even make the journey north but either way his absence left the now three piece Part 1 performing, I assume, a treble heavy set in a large hall to the supporters that happened to turn up for the event.

I was not in attendance so can not comment further, although I am sure I would have been told of some of the, ahem, feedback heavy highlights of the event. I have probably just forgotten due to worms eating away at my brain.

A low key London performance had been organised at the Buffalo Bar around the time that whispers of the reformation performance due shortly at Rebellion were going around the much darker version of the ‘sowing circle’ within that scene.

The band apres Rebellion were in need of a bassist.

Chris Low via some form of black magick infected the idea of his flat mate David Barnett’s worthy abilities on a bass guitar, directly into the skulls of Mark and Jake.

David’s ancient parchment of a C.V regarding band membership and being in and around the music business was also mightily impressive.

I can only assume due to the urgency of the situation with suddenly becoming bass light extremely recently, and with a London performance placed into the collective diaries coming up very soon, that both skulls were happy to give David a chance.

Part 1 practised and then practised once more. After practising hard just twice, and with no doubt some form of blood sacrifice, Part 1 suddenly became a force to be reckoned with again with the addition of David. ‘Tomb’ was the only Part 1 track that David was unable to master due to the time limitations.

Eighteen moons after the Rebellion afternoon ‘graveyard shift’ performance, Part 1 turned up at the Buffalo Bar, a small subterranean cellar dungeon of sorts with a low ceiling and pillars that get in the way pretty much all the time. Part 1’s kind of place.

Darkness had descended and some old faces showed up from many many moons past. This humble scribe included. As the small subterranean cellar dungeon filled up a little, the support band came onto the stage.

“Hang on” this humble scribe ponders. “Why is Part 1’s head ghoul Mark Ferrelli plugging leads into his effects pedals?”

“What sort of madness is this?” I mutter to myself. I had literally just got a first pint of cider from the bar, already wide eyed and grinning with anticipation and it is barely 8.45pm. Chris Low gets behind the drums and a bassist and a vocalist appear as if by magick.

I ponder for a while why gigs are not like they used to be. I start to believe that if the ghost trains are running on time I should be back in my crypt by 10.15pm.

Thirty minutes of Part 1 were the perfect support for the main act who clambered onto stage after a short interval. The small subterranean cellar dungeon had been filling up a little more with younger supporters of Part 1, some from areas far from Highbury, some from countries far from England.

The main act on the night, Part 1 finished the night with an absolutely glorious noise. The dark Lords protecting the band from harm were finally appeased after thirty years of deafening silence from their apprentices.

Was this jape two sets for the price of one? More likely the jape was a practise run through of the Part 1 set early doors, to give the band the confidence to really push forward the second Part 1 set in a slightly altered order.

A great night out and this humble scribe finally escaped the madness and got back into my crypt around midnight, the witching hour. That’s better.

Part 1 has always held a special place in my heart, some cynics would state that maybe it was because I used to have several copies of the début 7″ single ‘Funeral Parade’ released in 1982 that has rose in price month by month during these last few years.

I did have three extra copies of this small sacred relic but I gave them away, so that kills that rumour stone dead.

It must have been something else?

Some cynics would state that maybe it was because Southern was carrying the Pusmort label and Southern Record Distributors (and therefore myself) handled the many boxes full of Part 1 mini L.P’s ‘Pictures Of Pain’ released in 1985 that has rose in price month by month during these last few years.

I did have two extra copies of this larger sacred relic but yet again I gave them away, so that kills that rumour stone dead.

Maybe it was just the dark sounds held within the grooves of those two slabs of vinyl. And the fact that at the time of those sacred relics being placed on this earth by dark forces beyond my comprehension, no other band sounded quite like Part 1, then or since.

Is this the reason why Part 1 has always held a special place in my heart?

Yes it is, Just that.

Part 1 since the resurrection have performed several times, this humble scribe being in attendance on several occasions. Part 1 performed in Paris earlier this year, and will be performing in Finland on the third moon of October as special guests of Silent Scream.

Details are below on the flyer and also on the website link in the Silent Scream section.

We have here uploaded on KYPP tonight a recording of the second set performed at the Buffalo Bar, courtesy of Chris Low. Many dark praises to Chris for sorting out the audio and to the original recording duo in the small subterranean cellar dungeon, Carla Boregas and Laura Del Vecchio from the Brazilian psychedelic gothic band Rakta.

Also many dark praises must go to Steph Hagar for the photograph of Part 1 on stage at the Buffalo Bar.

Finally many dark praises must go to Nick Hydra, who was ‘there’ in 1982 and is also still ‘there’ in 2014. It is Nick’s review of the Buffalo Bar performance that is written below.

The polaroid of Jake mesmerising the audience and the mugshots of just some of the great, the good, and the ghouls who were at the Buffalo Bar that dark August night last year, are from this humble scribes collection.

For more Part 1 information please check out the Facebook page HERE.

What’s in a name? Goth? Deathrock? Doomrock? Anarcho-punk? Post-punk? Part 1 have been called all these and more. The closest is probably Anarcho-punk, if only because they played most of their very rare gigs within that milieu.

At its vital, chaotically creative best, Anarcho-punk was a loose network of individuals following their own trajectory, like planets in orbit being pulled into each other’s gravitational fields, coming together and springing apart in a bewildering array of combinations and occasional collisions.

In the end what most people had in common was their unwillingness to fit in anywhere else. Anarcho-punk was where the malcontents and misfits found the space to be different in their own way.

Viewed in this way, Part 1 (like fellow travellers Flowers in the Dustbin, Blood & Roses, Hagar the Womb, the Mob and Amebix), by virtue of their very otherness are one of the best examples of Anarcho-punk you could hope to find. Although they are often linked with Rudimentary Peni due to a similarly off-kilter approach and the friendship between Part 1’s Mark F and Peni’s Nick Blinko, in the end they are only Part 1, alone in a field of one.

Surviving original members Mark F (Guitar) and Jake Baker (Vocals) are joined by the new rhythm section of Chris Low (drums) and David Barnett (bass) for their second gig in 30 years. Despite the band having become something of a cult in recent years, they wear this new found status lightly, and with a degree of self-depreciating humour, singer Jake referred at one point to their gigs being “like buses” (you wait ages for one, and then three come at once).

Of the two sets played tonight, the second was possibly the better, probably as a result of both the audience and band having loosened up slightly.

So, how to describe a Part 1 gig to the uninitiated? It was hypnotic; disturbing; challenging; uplifting. It was… a Part 1 gig. You can hear echoes of Metal Box era PIL, early Banshees and Killing Joke, as well a healthy dollop of UK Decay in the spiralling FX-heavy guitar, along with a whiff or Crisis and Six Minute War, especially in the bass-lines and vocal delivery, but that doesn’t really give you a flavour of the thing.

Given that they have only acquired a bass player in the last few weeks (having performed at the Rebellion festival without one) they were completely in control; creating a deft interplay between the tight rhythmic and melodic structures that weaved back and forth in an elegant symmetry, with the locked in rhythm section allowing Mark F to indulge in some serious FX pyrotechnics, sending shards of feedback shuddering and looping across the stage.

Existing as they did on the outer fringes of Anarcho-punk (itself having a problematic, fractured relationship to anything that could be considered ‘popular culture’), and belonging to no particular time frame, Part 1 have avoided the pitfall of many a re-formed band, that sense of being dated and irrelevant.

Rather like the long-buried Martian spaceship in Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit, they have lain dormant, waiting for us to rediscover them, and trigger the primeval impulses encoded in our DNA.

Although they were not visually dynamic, staying virtually static throughout, they held the attention with ease, creating a kind of vortex in which the unwary audience were held, almost mesmerised by the sonic barrage pulsating from the stage.

Highlights? A fantastic rendition of The Black Mass, a rare outing for the ultra-obscure Claws and Jake spitting out the final line of Hymn in amended form as they left the stage at the end of the second set…

“In the shadow of the cross, we still stand defiant!”

9/10

Nick Hydra

Part 1 are to be visiting Finland on the 3rd October and will be performing alongside Silent Scream. I believe the concert has been set up by Antti from Silent Scream who has supported and been inspired by the music of Part 1 for many many years now. Please search on the Silent Scream website HERE for updated details on this special night for Part 1 and Silent Scream in Finland. The two videos and the small essay on the sometimes tragic history of Silent Scream has been respectably removed from this website and placed onto KYPP. Thanks to Antti in advance.

From Varjo to Silent Scream

Two tragic deaths within a year. Not the easiest start for a new finnish goth/post-punk band Silent Scream.

The story goes back in 1996 when Antti Lautala and Henry Waldén formed a band called Varjo (a shadow in English). Varjo was influenced by Gothic rock, post-punk and ambient but it differed from other Gothic bands by the Finnish lyrics. At the beginning of the 21st century Varjo was the most successful Gothic band with Finnish lyrics.

After the third album there were changes in line-up but also a tragedy: ex-keyboard player disappeared and after a year and a half he was found dead. After those difficult times Varjo made new songs, supported New Model Army and was ready to record the fifth album.

Two weeks before the recordings guitarist Henry Waldén died in a fire accident and that ended the story of Varjo.

Four months after the funerals the trio recorded the last album “Viimeinen näytös” and it was released in January 2010 (Stupido Records)

After the recordings Antti, Matthew and Jukka decided to continue with a new band name and new songs. It was also natural to change the language and write lyrics in English. Silent Scream will go further to the core of post-punk with influences like Killing Joke, Joy Division, Amebix and Southern Death Cult.

The first Silent Scream album “In the Cinema” (Stupido Records) was released 2010 and the second one “Public Execution” (Stupido Records) 2012.

In 2013 Silent Scream and Murnaus Playhouse released a split album “Bones from the Backyard” (Gothic Music Records)

Antti Lautala

Dub Syndicate – ONU Sound Records – 1982

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Pounding Systems / Hi – Fi Gets A Pounding Part 1 & 2 / African Head Charge Don’t Care About Space Invader Machines Part 1 & 2 / Fringe On Top Dub

Humourless Journalist Works To Rules / 10K At 0VU – 60 HZ – Mind Boggles / Crucial Tony Tries To Rescue The Space Invaders / Hi – Fi Gets A Pounding Part 3 / Return To Stage One

Adrian Sherwood, one of the nicest fellows in the music business. His personal catalogue of audio delights engineered by his dubwise fingers and brain covers well over thirty years. Delightful dubs courtesy of the Dub Syndicate and assorted off shoots. Ear shattering industrial noisescapes from the likes of Mark Stewart And The Maffia and funky drum and funky bass from the likes of the different guises of Tackhead. The audio delights he has had a hand in bringing to the reggae enthusiasts turntables, Carib Gems and Hit And Run records, cover well over thirty five years!

Dub Syndicate’s ‘Pounding System’ album is an absolutely crucial release from the ONU records stable, a stable that holds many other crucial moments by various label mates stored within two sides of vinyl.

What I adore about dub albums whether British born or from Jamaica, the titles of the tracks are generally as mad as a bag of frogs due to minimum vocal breaks, so the producer / engineer makes up the titles as an aside. This albums track listing is no exception!

Fill your boots with some of the best (and actually most recognisable) riddims from the hands of Adrian Sherwood along side a cast of Eskimo, Eek A Boo, Lizard, Crucial Tony, Bubblers, Deadly Headley, Flesh, Mr Magoo and Bonjo I.

I have known Adrian Sherwood for over twenty five years and now and again still spend a small amount of time with him, will look forward to some more moments together at some very time soon I hope.

With massive gratitude to Gregory Mario Whitfield for the immense interview with Adrian from 2003.

Going into the legendary On-U studios is like a lesson in musical history for those that love UK and Jamaican roots reggae. I was welcomed at the door by Adrian, and ushered into a completely chaotic, yet calm and friendly atmosphere, with a lot of people getting on with their work in the studio. A large portrait of King Tubby in crisp white shirt, perfectly pressed suit trousers with a typically serious, dignified expression takes pride of place on the wall as an obvious sign of respect. Shrine like, it is placed high up on the studio wall and dominates the vibe of the room. Inspiration from the source. Dub science.

I notice more casual, smiling pictures of Bim Sherman and other On-U luminaries on the walls. The next thing I noticed were the piles of boxed master tapes everywhere. Little Roy, Junior Delgado, Dub Syndicate, Ghetto Priest. (I was sorely tempted to make a closer inspection!) The vibe was good, and I was looking forward to a good interview with this man whose work I had admired for many years, (since those early UK roots classics, the early Creation Rebel albums) and who had worked with so many of the JA and UK roots legends.

Adrian Sherwood. The man hardly needs an introduction here: To anyone who has followed roots and culture music closely, it is generally acknowledged that he has produced truly innovative, ground breaking UK roots music of the highest order since the late 70’s. He had uncompromisingly worked on with roots and dub, even when roots music was at its lowest ebb in the early 80’s and many people had moved on to early digital dancehall and slackness. A lot of people considered roots music a spent force, but Adrian had persevered with the form, working with artists he respected, and artists who still had a lot of originality to offer the reggae world, even though they were no longer considered “fashionable”.

Albums like ‘War Of Words’, ‘Revenge Of The Underdog’ and ‘Pounding System’ showcased UK roots and Jamaican roots artists still at the peak of their creativity. ‘Fit To Survive’ and ‘Devious Woman’ are considered by many to match the best of Bim’s JA output, and are unquestionably deep and atmospheric pieces of music.

I was invited into the kitchen, and was met by the sight of guitarist Skip McDonald, sitting quietly at the table, wearing a West African style hat, cup of tea in hand, looking particularly calm and thoughtful amongst the activity. An artist comfortable with himself.

A man with a gentle and peaceable presence, he greeted me and we started talking, mostly about his recent album, a dub deconstruction of blues music: Eerie Robert Johnson blues style echoey cut ups, with one drop drum rhythms and backward tape loops. Some tracks also feature beautiful vocals from Bim Sherman and Ghetto Priest, an atmospheric new vocalist I was to meet later.

Skip McDonald ‘Seek The Truth’ is the aptly named track which features Bim’s haunting vocals, backed by eerie slide guitar, unpredictably soaring around in the mix, the righteous vibes urged forward by a Bunny Lee “flying cymbals” style. Bim chants, stating his creed with righteous emotion, a relentless, simple and direct message: “Oh friend of mine, a lie is a whisper, the truth is a shout… seek the truth…” The message is replete with a shuddering echo, and what sounds like African chants, cut up and spliced into a weird refrain in the background, swooping in and out of the mix. The brittle percussion is so strangely engineered as to be at times, of unidentifiable origin. Harsh, moody, aggressive and melancholy by turns, it’s a fine, original piece of music.

The album ‘Hard Grind’ is obviously a work of love and dedication, a tribute to Skip’s respect for, and love of the blues. It has an overwhelming sense of the genuine, a work of integrity. ‘Hard Grind’ is an unusual record, a distinctly weird listening experience, and one I’d strongly recommend. A cut up dub funk blues experience, and definitely one for those of you that loved ground breaking records like Eno’s ‘My Life in a Bush of Ghosts’.
For someone that had worked with so many musical legends in the roots and culture and funk worlds, I was impressed that he was so modest and unassuming a character.

Excusing himself, Skip returned to the studio to work on some new rhythms with one of Adrian’s engineers, Nick Coplowe. Later I had a chance to speak with Nick, currently working on his own project, Mutant Hi-Fi. Clearly, there is a strong working relationship and understanding between him and Adrian. I asked how he met Adrian and what clinched it for him in getting the job. He looked at me directly, and put it very simply and succinctly: “Me and Adrian work well together and get on well, because we both have a common interest in noise.” He didn’t need to say any more…

It wasn’t easy getting Adrian to focus on the interview process, because he was doing so many things at once. Periodically, Skip would rush back in to the kitchen enthusiastically to ask what Adrian thought of some new sound he was working on, and Adrian would juggle ideas back and forth, striving to flesh out new ideas, adapting and innovating together.

At the same time, the phone was ringing constantly, people organising sound system sessions (sound system session with Adrian, Junior Delgado and Iration Steppers in Leeds was being put together, and Style Scott was in town, to play with Luciano) enquiring about record release and tour dates and so on. Crucial Tony and Eskimo Fox were due to lay down some tracks for Adrian, and Junglist Rasta Congo Natty had a meeting with Adrian a few days later. I kept on switching on my tape, only to be apologetically interrupted by Adrian, “I’m sorry, bear with me one minute…”

As if this wasn’t a busy enough scenario, Adrian was constantly trying to parry the mischievous playfulness of his daughters. They hurtled around the studio as Adrian prepared snacks for them and good naturedly did his best to organise some kind of afternoon schedule for them. It was a lovely summer’s day, and the garden, as I looked out of the window, looked peaceful and quiet compared with the mayhem in the studio.
Adrian comes across as someone who is completely down to earth: direct, sharp, smart, and it is clear that this is a man who is very determined and resolute. He has earned respect from his many years in the reggae world, and his work as an innovator. Ghetto Priest arrives and joins the work in the studio.

I take advantage of an ensuing period of relative calm to begin the interview, and I ask, what led Adrian to reggae in the first place. What started his journey that led to the On-U Sound experience?
When I was pretty young, I was heavily into soul music. I loved that, but I was really carried away by early reggae music and ska tunes. Those were pretty eccentric, freaky tunes, stuff like U Roy’s ‘Wear You To The Ball’… I was soaking up all that energy, even when I was at school, and when I heard reggae music at the local black clubs I went to, that was when I got really into it.

What was your next stage after your initial fascination with reggae I asked?

Well, I was still in my late teens when I started working for the Carib Gems label people… I was a junior director… I loved roots music, and the tunes we were putting out on that label, tracks like ‘Observe Life’ by Michael Rose, and ‘Babylon Won’t Sleep Tonight / Sleepers dub’ by Wayne Jarrett and the Righteous Flames were strong, strong tracks, they really were. Especially I loved the ‘Sleepers’ track. The Tubby’s version is a heavy dub. It’s sad, I don’t even have copies of those 45’s myself anymore. I wish I’d held on to my copies! You know of course we cut our own On-U version of ‘Observe Life’ with Creation Rebel on the rhythm, and Ari on the vocal, then there was a dub too.

Since you’d released so many good tunes on that label I asked, why don’t you collect them to release on a compilation? I think a lot of people would be really glad to hear them on one compilation.

I’d love to. I was so into those Carib Gems releases, but like a lot of those Hitrun label tunes, it’s a matter of ownership and copyright that prevents me. It’s a shame because there are a whole lot of unreleased tunes which just haven’t seen reissue because of ownership debates. A whole lot of those Creation Rebel Hit Run 12’s were very good, such as ‘Beware’. They deserve good reissue. I did collect a few of the best tracks from that time on an early On-U compilation with tracks like Carol Kalphat’s ‘African Land’ and some other Far I and Creation Rebel stuff. I don’t know how available that release is now, but it’s a solid collection. Another person from that time I’d like to work with again is Deadley Headley, who is another Jamaican artist who just hasn’t received the attention he truly deserves. It’s possible that I’d consider putting together a compilation of my tunes I did with him if there’s enough unreleased stuff in the On-U vaults: I’m not sure that I have enough unheard stuff though, but that would be nice, and it’d be good to get some more exposure for such a good artist.

When I had linked up with Don Letts, I ‘d asked about his experiences with Adrian and the early days of the On-U family. He remembered it this way: “Sure, we hung out with Adrian in those times. I still do see Adrian! I’ve known him for about twenty five years. The thing about Adrian was, you knew that the man always ran with a posse in them days! So if you met up with Adrian, they’d all be there too. Yes, man like Jah Whoosh, Prince Hammer would be there, Crucial Tony, Bonjo I, and Don Campbell too. And of course Prince Far I and Bim Sherman if they were in London at the time”.

I’d asked Don which records he’d liked from the early On-U stuff: “Of course the early African Head Charge music, which is pretty far out stuff. Extreme music. Of the later stuff, I think Skip McDonald’s dub blues fusion stuff is pretty interesting.”

Since Don Letts had around that time cut a tune with a vicious, threatening subsonic dub (with Jah Wobble and Keith Levene at the production desk) as the Electric Dread, I’d asked if he’d ever liked to have worked with Adrian in those days: “Yeah sure, of course I would, but I’m more a vibes man, a sound man. I’ve always DJ’ed and made films, that has always been my thing you know, I’m not really a musician.”

So in the light of my discussions with Don Letts on this subject, I was keen to know about Adrian’s experiences with John Lydon, as well as his very early days with Jah Wobble, Keith Levene, Ari Upp, and of course most importantly, Creation Rebel who were the backbone of all those early On-U tracks, and in my opinion haven’t really been given full credit for the outstanding original and innovative UK roots outfit they were at that time.

Keith Levene circa Creation Rebel. Ok, on the subject of Creation Rebel, who made a great body of roots music, then later let’s talk about those early days when I hung out with John Lydon, Jah Wobble, Ari and Keith Levene. We had an authentic, hard rhythm section in Creation Rebel, with good musicians, such as Crucial Tony, Lizard and Eskimo Fox, with Pablo on the melodica. I still work with Crucial Tony and Eskimo Fox now. They will be here in a few days to lay down some stuff for the new Little Roy music I’m working on, and Crucial did some stuff on the Little Roy Long Time album. Yeah, so in those days, we were always competing with the Jamaican bands of the time, always looking for a way to get the edge on them, it was a challenge for us, a hype thing too, to be different from the JA bands when they came over on tour to the U.K. and the way for us was with the drums… we really worked on getting a heavy, heavy rockers drumming style, but it had our own thing in there, our own distinctive contribution, our own hard edge to it. It wasn’t just a copy of the Jamaican drum sound, and I think in its own way, it was as good as what was happening in Jamaica at that time. Of course when we got Style enlisted that was it, a great step forward for us, because it united what was going on in the roots scene in UK with what was happening in Jamaica. And of course, linking up with Prince Far I was a great thing for me at that time because it opened up access and pathways to a whole pool of great Jamaican talent too.

Speaking of the whole early period of experimentation with Creation Rebel, Dub Syndicate and African Head Charge, including the contributions of Public Image members Jah Wobble and Keith Levene, Adrian remembers it this way:

Going back to the influence of punk days now, yeah, I knew John Lydon well, and it was through John that I got to know Keith Levene and Jah Wobble. I got to know John better after Sid had died. Ari Upp, Neneh Cherry, Junior and I, we all lived in a squat down Battersea way, and John Lydon was living with Nora [his future wife and Ari Upp's mum] round the corner. John Lydon used to visit us, and we all hung out together. John was just so hip you know, a lot of people really looked up to him at that time. John really knew his reggae, he loved his reggae. I can tell you that John Lydon really helped the progress of roots and culture in Britain at that time. It was around that time, not long after he’d been beaten up here in London that he went on to radio and played Dr Alimantado’s ‘Born for A Purpose’. Alimantado was immediately shot to cult status as a result! The lyric of that tune was relevant you know? “If you feel like you have no reason for living, don’t determine my life!” That was John’s reply to the idiots that had beaten him up. You should realise that it was John Lydon who suggested that I work with Keith Levene who I was really impressed by, and then through him I linked up with Jah Wobble, which was great for me at the time. I was so happy to work with Keith, because Keith just had such an original sound, and I knew I could translate that originality he had into a dub context, and it worked totally if you listen to those Creation Rebel and Singers and Players records. He also played guitar on some of those New Age Steppers sessions, and laid down bass as well on some tracks, which I don’t think he was ever credited for… So it was John Lydon who had the idea for me to work with his band, and I loved their sound and what they were doing.

Levene’s sparse guitar sound on Creation Rebel’s ‘Threat To Creation’ and the ‘War of Words’ albums, jagged and lonely, punctuated the melancholy and ethereal purity of Bim’s angelic voice… Without a ‘Love Like Yours/Devious Woman’ and its dubwise excursion is a work as powerful and compelling as Bim Sherman’s earlier Kingston releases.

On his tracks cut for Adrian and Creation Rebel, Keith Levene’s style is eerily reminiscent of Earl Chinna’s style on the ‘East of The River Nile’ album… (Check out the emptiness of the ‘East of the River Nile album, and specifically Chinna’s spiraling chord structures on Pablo’s Nature’s Dub, loosely held together by almost bleak echoing piano notes, falling like rain in a deserted space).

Then there is Bim’s meditative version of ‘Satta’, here going under the title of Ethos Design, and it is a design, the instruments acting as sculptural forms, existing in structures in which the silences are as vital as the drum-bass movements. It is an extraordinary work of linear sound deconstruction, the rhythm section building up, only to literally fall away, as the engineer gets deeper and deeper into separate drum tones, reducing the vibe to a heartbeat pulse… snares fall away, cymbals and high hat oscillate in bright spirals, only to be further reduced to a skeletal form, with Bim’s voice effortlessly present, floating over the surface as the song fades in to reflective silence…

Deadley Headley, (who contributed to Augustus Pablo’s Rockers label, notably the ‘Rockers meets King Tubby inna Firehouse’ album) cut his own melancholy horns version on the same Creation Rebel version of this rhythm, and the drum track was used to fine effect on a version of Bim Sherman’s ‘Revolution/ Resolution’: In the latter case, the drum track received brutal disassembly at the hands of Adrian, spinning the snare sounds backwards, then forwards in a spiral of noise, only to drop into the familiar Revolution bass vibration… uncompromising and aggressive. Also featured on ‘Threat To Creation’ are the severely underrated drum skills of Eskimo “Mus’come” Fox, and Bruce Smith, who went on to work as Lydon’s PIL drummer for four years: Listen to the version of Horace Andy’s Problems on the ‘Playgroup album’, (titled ‘Deep And Mintyful’) for some militant drum and percussion interplay, and you’ll see how underrated these drummers truly are.


What about working with Jah Wobble, I asked Adrian? Jah Wobble had in his early days, had a serious reputation as a hard man: an instinctive, natural bass player, but cantankerous into the bargain. In Jon Savage’s book England’s Dreaming, journalist Nick Kent describes the by now notorious time he was attacked with a bike chain by Sid Vicious at an early Pistols gig : “Sid immediately pulled this chain out. He made some remark he thought was insulting like: ‘I don’t like your trousers.’ The guy next to me immediately makes a motion towards Vicious and then pulls his knife out and he really wants to cut my face. Years later I find out his name is Wobble. This was a real speed freak, and this is when it got very unhealthy. I remember putting my hands up and not moving a muscle, and then Vicious tapped him on the shoulder and he disappeared immediately. It was all a set up: Vicious then had a clear aim, and got me with the bike chain.”

Wobble saw it somewhat differently though, as he told Jon Savage: “I used to get violent on a few occasions… The one with Nick Kent was not one of those. Kent was with some geezer who demanded that we step aside, they couldn’t see the band. I said ‘fuck off’ which was pretty standard. Sid wasn’t a rucker but he lashed him with a chain and then I had a go, but we were just mucking about. What I didn’t know then was if you set yourself up as a hardman, someone will come looking for you who’s harder than you are…” Again to Jon Savage, Wobble spoke of his friendship with John Lydon and Sid Vicious: “John and Sid were exactly what I was looking for when I was sixteen… all I knew then was that I desperately didn’t want to work. I was already an angry young man. I had images of being enclosed by council flats, feeling very claustrophobic.” Jon Savage comments on Wobble: “Only [Jah Wobble's] icy blue stare now betrays his past. During Punk, Wobble, Like Sid, resembled a random destruction machine, wound up and placed in the middle of an event to see what would occur. Today he speaks of his past as if of another life.”

I recounted these stories to Adrian, and I perceived a certain mischievous, conspiratorial expression cross his face, (memories perhaps?) but when he speaks, his love and respect for Wobble are only too obvious. He speaks of Wobble’s achievements with pride:

Wobble & Lydon, Me and Wobble go back a long way, and I love him. We’ve always been very close. It’s true, Wobble did have a problem with alcohol, but that’s all in the past now, and he’s long left that behind. I respect what he has become as a person and a musician, because he is an example of someone who has really achieved and built everything from his own efforts. You always hear people say, “Oh Wobble couldn’t play bass when Public Image started, and he just had a good, instinctive way with playing a heavy dub bass-line” well, that may have been true back then, but let me tell you, Wobble really can play now! He really understands his instrument; he is the original MR FAT BASS SOUND. That is Wobble for you. The last time I saw Wobble was at his wedding and he looked so happy. I’m proud of the stuff Wobble has done with me on those African Head Charge and Dub Syndicate records, and I love a lot of his solo stuff too. Some of his early tunes on the Betrayal album are really good.

I was very keen to know more about the African Head Charge albums as well. They were so prolific, eccentric and uncategorisable, yet no one had really spoken about them at any great length, so I was very eager to get Adrian’s insight in to these strange records. He spoke about them with obvious a sense of sincerity, but with a definite high spiritedness, representative of the obviously bizarre and downright eccentric sounds that Bonjo I et al had created all those years ago.

African Head ChargeI’ll be straight with you, a lot of those sounds we created on those records came out the consumption in large amounts of two very different drugs, speed and marijuana! You know, those African Head Charge records were a labour of love to me, and we didn’t really expect too many financial rewards. When you listen to a record like ‘Environmental Studies’, it’s clear that a sound like that might be intimidating to some people. Woven into the mix, you can hear car crashes, water flowing, bottles breaking. We used a lot of “found sounds” and many “environment sounds” from the studio down at Berry Street where it was recorded. It’s a long time since I’ve listened to that record, but who knows what sounds we put into that record, I think we even might have used water sounds from the toilets and humming vibrations from the boiler room! I haven’t listened to that record in a long time, for the simple reason that when I was working on the record, I listened to it repeatedly, day in, day out, so in my mind, its very much a part of that time… I’ll have to go back to it and listen to it again some time…

I mentioned that the Deadley Headley contributions are especially good on that album, to which Adrian wholeheartedly agreed. I also asked him about my favourite track from the ‘My Life In A Hole In The Ground’ album, the eerie and haunting ‘Far Away Chant’. It is such a strange piece of music, and I was inquisitive to know, where it had come from, deep in the On-U Sound psyche!

Yes, that’s a heavy track. If I remember rightly, it came out of the same sessions we had been working on with Prince Far I and the Dub Syndicate for the Cry Tuff album. There was a slow and hard track, ‘Plant Up’, with a classic, growling Far I chant about the herb… anyway, I wanted something even slower, more threatening, heavier, so I took similar sounding rhythm track, and slowed it right down, right down, making it ridiculously slow and heavy, and laid Far I’s anti nuclear chant over the top. You know, the film director David Lynch took that track, and slowed it down even further, which made it even more threatening, and used it in the film ‘Wild at Heart’ as part of his soundtrack which really pleased me. The mood of the scene he chose it for was pretty dark… I believe it was a ritual ceremony or sacrifice with Harry Dean Stanton.

I asked him specifically about a point in the middle of the aforementioned song, when it just simply stops, cuts off randomly for a few seconds, halfway through a vocal line, midway into a word, seemingly for no reason… before crashing back midway through the tune… It creates a pretty surreal effect! Adrian laughs at the memory…

As I said, they were pretty strange times when we recorded those albums, and random too sometimes! I can’t tell you about that part of the track! Who knows? Maybe I accidentally hit the pause button halfway through the track and we left it in the mix?

He isn’t joking either…

I went on to ask him if a he had received criticism from the reggae cognoscenti mafia in London at that time for his bizarre experimentation with roots music, and unconventional attitude to an often over orthodox form. (I remembered back in the late 70’s and early 80’s some roots purists turning their noses up and not buying certain tunes if they knew they had been recorded in Wood Green or Peckham, even if the dubs were as heavy and creative as what was coming out of Jamaica).

Yes, I did experience some of that, but I didn’t care. We always believed in those early On-U releases, and I felt some of them would have sounded incredible as futuristic film soundtracks. It’s true that some purists on the London scene dissed me for those records I was producing at the time. Perhaps it was the sheer unconventionality of the sound, the inability to be able to categorise such a threatening sound. I didn’t give a fuck about the luddite purists with their little reserves. Really, they didn’t matter to me. I just went on to expand my experiments, putting out hard dub records by Creation Rebel, featuring entire tracks made up of backward tape loops, industrial drills roaring, that kind of style. Anyway, what did the elitists matter to me? I remember going round to people’s houses to listen to tunes, and these guys would be covering up the label with their hands so you couldn’t see who it was by, or blanking out the title. What is that behaviour, you know? I was always very open about this music ‘cos I love it. I used to give away good rare tunes, help people get into the music and hear good tunes. I enjoyed promoting good roots artists, artists who deserved the exposure. I even knew some people who would be too intimidated to visit roots stores because they worried the vibe might be intimidating, but of course it isn’t like that at all.

Finally on the subject of African Head Charge: what about ‘Drastic Season’, I asked?

‘Drastic Season’. That was extreme. The stand out track for me is ‘Depth Charge’, with that slow, driving syndrum intro.
Seen. 20,000 leagues under the sea style! I always thought that was such a harsh record, and I loved that aspect of it, its uncompromising sound, its complete lack of concession to anything even remotely commercial. When listened to repeatedly there were some extraordinary rhythms at play here. A look at the track titles gives some indication of the bizarre listening experience lying in wait for the (believe me here) unprepared listener: African Hedgehog, ‘Snake in the Hole’, ‘I want Water’…

On some tracks, it sounded as if an array of animals had somehow been sucked into the wildness and primal coldness of the mix… croaking frogs, shrieking birds, massively distorted so as to be rendered unrecognisable, snakes hiss, and an assortment of other bizarre creatures make their presence felt… The overall result is disorienting, disturbing, but as a sonic assault, deeply pleasurable… It is the strangest collection of rhythms I’ve ever encountered, yet one of the most rewarding…

When discussing these African Head Charge works, Adrian’s expression is bright, concentrated, inspired. It is clear he loves talking about these old releases, taking pleasure in how disorienting and ground-breaking they were and still undoubtedly are, the mixture of menace and sheer euphoric spirit present in the records. Apparently not many press releases ever came out of the On-U Studios, but in the case of ‘Drastic Season’ one did emerge, and reading it back now is as extraordinary and baffling as the sounds on the disc proved to be:

“A mix of human, animal and machine sounds… check it if you are a dancer, a listener, a film maker, a computer programmer, a human or an animal. Special treats in store for steam locomotive enthusiasts and biologists. You’ve never heard such sounds in your life.”

Changing subject now, I asked Adrian what he felt had changed in people’s attitudes to buying reggae, or indeed any good music, since the late 70’s. He reflected a while then answered:

Is music too corporate and controlled now? … Well, in the past it was a whole ritual… the vinyl, the sleeve, the record label… you know, down the record shop on a Friday night, it pure ritual… was pure ritual… black guys, young white guys, sound men… all enjoying the thrill and pleasure of the ritual, buying the hardest 12″ disco, or spiritual 7″ with a heavy dub on the version… Now, it’s largely a different matter, more of a commodity, a lot of people with a disposable income, and besides, music isn’t viewed in the same precious kind of way, because so much is available now. This just wasn’t the case before. You really had to hunt around to find the kind of tunes you wanted, it was a whole different process. The mystique is taken out of record buying now in a way. Besides the commercial side, there is a whole cross pollination and interchange of ideas and influences going on, which just wasn’t in existence in the late 70’s or eighties, and that in a sense demystifies the uniqueness of what was once a specific “reggae sound” too. Many noises, vibrations, frequencies that were exclusive to reggae are now being used in Hip Hop and other styles too, so that has to be taken into account. Plus the influence isn’t only one-way: reggae too, is soaking up sounds and influences from other forms as well.

I went on to ask Adrian his view of the UK roots scene past and present, and UK so called “Nu Roots”:

UK has always had good roots music. I love what Neil Fraser has done over the years. I especially liked the tunes he put out by Aisha, Macka B and the good stuff he does these days with Mafia and Fluxy. Those are really good tunes. As for the UK Nu roots? Yeah, I like it too, it’s all good works, but I would say this, I feel they need to get away from concentrating exclusively on steppers rhythms, perhaps use vocalists more. They need to get out of limiting themselves to steppers. Having said that, it isn’t a criticism. I like what they do. So England has always had a good roots tradition, and besides that, it’s always had openness to a kind of avant garde thread in the dub world. I had a taste of that myself when I worked with Suns Of Arqa back in the late 70’s and early eighties with their weird cut ups and Islamic, Celtic and Persian influences which were way ahead of their time. They came to me and said “give us some rhythms!” I duly did so, and was impressed with what they did with them. So this openness has always been there in UK, love of hard music and willingness to experiment.

In a discussion of UK roots artists, it was inevitable that I ask him about Shaka. He answered with a sense of awe, respect and reverence.

Shaka? I’ve known Shaka for over 25 years. We are close. I’ve got his number, he’s got mine you know? I have ultimate respect for the man Jah Shaka. Shaka just loves his music! He’s a soul head and he knows his jazz too, deeply. Did you know that? Shaka just has his own thing altogether. Playing music for ten, twelve hours without a break, until he enters a trance like state, then he’s on God’s plane, following God’s plan.

What was his opinion about the current roots music coming out of Jamaica?

There is a lot of hard, tough music coming out of Jamaica right now. Astounding tunes. I especially like the Xterminator studio works, and the album MLK in Dub was a real groundbreaker. Then of course there’s people like Daweh Congo. Good music. There is a lot of good music out there to check out and follow. I think they are increasingly aware of an interest in dubwise styles over here in Europe, as well as an awareness of Europe’s interest in the noise factor.

(This interest in keeping up with the cutting edge of Jamaican innovation was certainly in evidence from the (literally) piles and piles of modern Jamaican roots and dancehall 45’s, neatly stacked in the studio, cupboards and corridors: Productions by new and hungry contenders, innovators out of Kingston such as Steven Stanley, Soljie, Bulby, Penthouse label, African Star and Xterminator music… Bass Research and development…)

Where did Adrian think was the main market in Europe right now for roots music?

France, without a doubt. People like Burning Spear and Israel Vibration are stars there in their own right, and why on earth shouldn’t they be? They do consistently good work and France rewards them accordingly, they get appreciated. This kind of thing just doesn’t happen in UK for roots artists.

What is Adrian’s opinion of the Junglist and drum and bass vibes, I wondered, especially since some of the drum ‘n’ bass artists I had recently interviewed had name checked On-U Sound as an influence?

When I hear Jungle and drum ‘n’ bass artists saying that On-U Sound influenced them, well I feel that’s very kind, because as Rasta philosophy tells it, “each one teach one”, and I was influenced by so many people too, so I’m glad this vibe is continuing.

Finally, I felt I had to ask him about the death of Bim Sherman. We had listened to his music for 25 years or so, but not many of us had any insight into the man himself. All we knew of him was his voice, with that uplifting, lonely and angelic character. Adrian looked somewhat dark and serious at the mention of Bim and it is obviously still a delicate point, since they had worked together for a long time.

Bim Sherman RIP. Did you hear ‘Miracle’? That says a lot about Bim. What can I say? Bim was a darling. I’m sorry for using that term, but I’m not sure which other word to use. He was a lovely human being, just a pleasure to work with, and I had been a huge fan of his, right from the early records. He was such a gentle person. Don’t get me wrong though, he could look after himself, and cuss with the best of them. Bim is not someone you would fuck around with. He could speak up for himself, stand up for himself.

Much later, I was to see Adrian’s diary entry for the period covering Bim’s illness and eventual death…

“It was to be my first proper tour as a live DJ… A few days prior to departure, Bim had fallen ill and was in hospital. I visited him at 11.30 the night before I left. It was to be the last time I’d see him alive. We got the news that he passed on the 17th while we were in Dijon. I returned home the next day. Skip McDonald and Bim had a very close friendship. Skip… was devastated… I was sad for Bim’s family, angry with people and everyone around felt empty…”

Gregory Mario Whitfield – 2003

Shameless KYPP advertising section

Friday, July 11th, 2014

FLOWERS IN THE DUSTBIN

Flowers In The Dustbin released a 12″ record on All The Madmen records in 1984 and a cassette only release on Rob Challice’s cassette label 96 Tapes again in 1984. Rob Challice would soon look after All The Madmen records after Alistair left in 1985. Flowers In The Dustbin then released a 7″ record on Mortahate records in 1985 and then yet another 7″ record for Cold Harbour records in 1986. This was the entire vinyl output of the band, and shortly afterwards Flowers In The Dustbin disbanded.

Whilst on Cold Harbour records the Flowers In The Dustbin recorded several tracks for release as an album. The record label went bust two years after the sessions and the release was never forthcoming. A very frustrating time for the band.

The release was never forthcoming until now twenty eight years later!

These ‘lost’ recordings are now given the respect they deserve via the Freaks Run Wild record label in America. Screen printed sleeves, booklets and a heavy vinyl. Only 500 copies produced.

Get the vinyl of the lost album, which I found out was mastered from my own original cassette in a roundabout way, from Inflammable Material for the UK and Europe and the wonderfully named Punk Vomit for the U.S.A

CYCLOBE

Ossian Brown, one of my oldest friends from my teenage years sent me not one, but two new ‘Sulphur’ 12″ singles.

One 12″ single in transparent vinyl, and one 12″ single in transparent red vinyl.

I love it when a surprise package ends up delivered at Penguin Towers!

The three tracks on this 12″ single are all separate soundtracks to three separate short Derek Jarman films and the record includes three inserts. The tracks on this record, to my ears, is heavily Coil influenced. That description might be doing Cyclobe a disservice as I might just be engaging in some lazy journalism, and I certainly rate the core duo of Cyclobe, Steven Thrower and Ossian Brown (both in fact ex members of Coil) as two of the most original and independent musicians out there at the moment.

Try to grab one of these different coloured vinyls (limited to 500 each colour) direct from Cyclobe.

LEE GIBSON

I received the new book by Lee Gibson, ex Brougham Road resident, writer / editor of Anathema fanzine and contributor / editor to many others.

Lee moved in the same circles as The Mob and the Kill Your Pet Puppy Collective for some years. Here in black and white print, throughout this 214 page A4 immense book are memories of Lees early years from 1976 all through to around 1986 (sped read a fair bit just for this description as it will take ages to read it all).

Lee takes the reader though countless Crass and Poison Girls gigs, some pretty rough nights along with various visits to both Crass and Poison Girls HQ’s. There seems to be dozens of pages relating to The Mob, Brougham Road and various houses that the Puppy Collective would be just about surviving in. Lots of squat horror stories, Stop The City run arounds, drug abuse, The Apostles, Crowley magick and plenty more.

As an added bonus some of Lees original interviews from his fanzines are carefully reprinted half way through this book, massive texts of the thoughts and feelings of The Fall, Crass, Poison Girls and Andy T from the very early 1980’s.

This book seems to be the real deal for anyone who may be interested in reading one persons account of the early anarchic punk culture which was an important and sometimes scary time for many. Absolutely insanely cheap at £8.50 – but having the quality of a £20 book it may be purchased if you are interested from Lulu Publishers.

ROBERT DELLAR

Robert Dellar was involved in a small way (along with Grant Matthews of Rudimentary Peni, a local band to Robert at that time) with the Wapping Autonomy Centre and the Centro Iberico. He edited several fanzines including Straight Up which gave a fair amount of space to The Apostles and The Astronauts. He loved / loves The Swell Maps and Subway Sect. A squatter of many years in many areas, he lived in Brighton for a while and now is back living in south east London, working with Southwark MIND and then Mad Pride. Work that continues to highlight mental illness and help people suffering from the illness.

Robert Dellars book publishing company Spare Change books have published many books including the original print of Nick Blinkos ‘Primal Screamer’ in 1995.

‘Gobbing, Pogoing And Gratuitous Bad Language’ and ‘Mad Pride: A Celebration Of Mad Culture’ were two books with essays, poetry and artwork from various contributors including Nick Blinko, Ted Curtis, Louise Challice, Stewart Home, Andy Martin and Dave Fanning of The Apostles and many more.

‘Seaton Point’ which also has different contributors to the book is actually the story of  the Hackney tower block of the same name and the youngsters experiances of the time. ‘Does for Tennents Super what Trainspotting did for heroin’ written on the rear of the book gives a clue to the delights hidden within the paper back cover.

Get the book from Fishpond and try to search out the other books still available on Spare Change books.

Below is a review of the book ‘Splitting In Two’ by David Russell.

In this book Robert Dellar traces his life journey from his childhood in a working class area of Watford, through Sussex University and the London squatting community, to the murky waters of mental health, as he describes it. Of special importance is the pioneering work Robert did in Hackney Hospital. Here he set up a Patients’ Council and Advocacy Department At the time of the hospital’s closure in the mid 90s, Robert organised some lively gigs described here in colourful detail. His journey then continues to Southwark MIND, (the first user run MIND group) – then on to Mad Pride – an organisation who through the gigs they put on linked mental health to rock and roll. Together with his friend Peter Shaughnessy they also turned mental health demonstrations into theatre.

The title of this book is also the title of a song by punk legends Alternative TV. They make several appearances here, as does Nikki Sudden and two Survivor Punk bands, The Ceramic Hobbs and Rudimentary Peni. Lesser known but equally talented artists like Dave Russell and The Astronauts also make a number of appearances here – as does Ronnie Corbett; he turns out to be a decent chap. While Mad Pride is associated with Punk Rock, a number of folk musicians and poets also took part in their gigs.

Some parts of this book deal with grim topics; there is also much tragedy described here. But a sense of humour runs through this book, and much compassion is shown. A little anarchy is also at play. The titles for a lot of the chapters come from songs. Many of the titles relating to the Punk and New Wave years. This period of time being of importance to Robert as it was when he produced many fanzines.

His fanzine influence would continue with the Southwark MIND newsletter. This was always an Inspiring magazine to read. Along with the different realities featured here, there are pieces of fiction but they fit in well. Some little known capitalist scandals are exposed like the exploitation carried out by the drug companies. Also charities like SANE (Schizophrenia A National Emergency) who, while appearing to be respectable do a lot to demonise people with that label. Also exposed is the reality of life for people who are diagnosed as Schizophrenic. A life of heavy medication, stigma, and locked wards.

This book is an enjoyable read. It is very entertaining. Robert’s journey has been an uphill struggle; it shows both his vulnerabilities and his strengths. But there have been proud achievements along the way. An example being the SANE demonstration Mad Pride organised in the late 1990s where Marjory Wallace came out to face her public. I have a lot of respect for the good work that Robert Dellar has done over the years.

MIKE DINES AND GREG BULL (WITH CONTRIBUTORS)

This project organised, edited and put together between Mike Dines and Greg Bull is another large tome from Lulu Publishers.

The book is in A4 format and has 156 pages printed in black and white with some great artwork by Jacky Smith held within as well as some decent quality flyers and photographs from the contributors of essays for the book.

The contributors include our own Alastair Puppy from Kill Your Pet Puppy fanzine and online blog, Robert Dellar (who is also on this KYPP post in his own right with the release of his latest book above), Greg Bull himself, Justine Butler (late of Welwyn Garden City but for decades now living in Bristol and now working on her vegan-ism blog HERE), Lucy Robertson from the university of Sussex and Robert Dellars collaborators from time to time, Ted Curtis, Martin Cooper and many more.

Each of the contributors essays, whether short or long, are an interesting blend of autobiography, fictional accounts and serious academic essays on 1980’s sub culture. The 1980’s, whether early or late, is the period that is relevant to this book.

The book is £8 direct from Lulu Publishers

 

Flux / Annie Anxiety / Tackhead Sound System / AR Kane / D&V – U.L.U London – 28/11/86

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

TAPE ONE SIDE ONE

TAPE ONE SIDE TWO

TAPE TWO SIDE ONE

TAPE TWO SIDE TWO

I was in attendance at this Flux gig. The first time witnessing Flux (Of Pink Indians) live on stage for two or three years. It was quite a change from the old militaristic Crass style Flux sound of 1982-1983 to a more 23 Skidoo style Flux sound in 1986. From that sound to this in just a few short years! I was already aware of ONU Sound, Tackhead Sound System and Adrian Sherwood and I was looking forward to attending this gig. It did not disappoint.

KYPP is indebted to Lee Oliver for the loan of the two C90 tapes that he recorded from a hand held cassette recorder from this One Little Indian / ONU Sound night at U.L.U in central London. He managed to cover just about all the audio from the night and the audio sounds very reasonable.

Lee has also kindly written some text regarding the night and his thoughts about Flux Of Pink Indians prior to the gig along with the Flux poster for this performance. A massive thanks to him for that.

Also a huge thank you to Martin Flux who also contributed a whole heap of interesting text to this KYPP post.

Thanks also to Graham Burnett who supplied the photographs of Flux and Annie Anxiety performing on the night. Both Flux flyers from the collection of Penguin!

1986 was a funny old year. In musical chronology it felt like a dramatic turning point. The dominance of UK created music was ending. I was opening up to the styles and influences from further afield. It seems crazy now but what was going on across the Atlantic seemed other- worldly. Even Europe was a distant influence.

As 1985 turned into 1986 the direction of flow was changing, especially in the ‘punk scene’. The emergence of hip hop alongside funk percussive styles, dub and even that old warhorse, metal, were permeating into bands’ developments.

The transition from Flux of Pink Indians to Flux was one of the most divergent and to my ears the most exciting development in that year.

The EP, ‘Taking A Liberty’, their previous release before ‘Uncarved Block’, was a howl of frustration. Musique Concrete re-imagined through the most extreme anarcho-punk. It felt like an ending, a full stop. There was nothing more to say.

I interviewed Flux for my fanzine at the time (long lost I’m afraid to say). It was at their place in Forest Hill. The living room was spacious with beautiful wooden floors and bookshelves heaving with books. A hessian sack with the corn stalk emblem used on the cover of the first Antisect LP hung above one of the sofas. Lu and Tim from Flux attempted to answer our quite possibly naïve teenage questions about the state of the world and where ‘punk was going’. I could sense their desire to experiment how their music was presented to open up to a wider audience, a frustration with preaching to the converted if you will. I left feeling a mixture of uncertainties and excitement about how they were going to achieve that.

The concert at the University of London on Friday 28th November 1986 showcased the new Flux sound of ‘Uncarved Block’. The supporting acts were a direct challenge to punk orthodoxy. The fragmented sound poetry collages of Annie Anxiety, the beat minimalism of D&V, abstract noise pop from A.R.Kane and the sound of the future, Tackhead Sound System, bringing their tour de force heavy duty dub funk.

The whole line-up seemed to be a premonition of the rhythmic beat of ‘rave culture’ that would explode across the strands of the undercurrents in the following two years. The free jazz record playing between acts (Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry ??) was another pointer to what was to come.

Finally Flux played. It wasn’t punk as such, loose funk rhythms, percussive interludes, space, lyrics chanted, hypnotic. Words about personal politics, The Tao of Pooh, re-evaluation.

I was under the impression this was the only time they performed as Flux, someone might be able to confirm or correct this. Anyway shortly after this night Flux disappeared forever. The conclusion I felt was that it was an eye opener, another step in my appreciation of different musical styles and strands.

For that alone ‘Uncarved Block’ is a masterpiece.

LEE OLIVER

The Flux performance at U.L.U was the only time myself and my older brother had been on stage together and the last. Paul Wilson was my older sibling by three years or so. He was a drummer and inspired me to follow the same path. Having a drum set around the family house in my formative years did not hurt either.

Paul was the original drummer for the Psychedelic Furs in 1977 until he was replaced by Vince Ely in 1978 or 1979 when my brother celebrated his wedding anniversary instead of being able to perform with the band at the Zig Zag club in Westbourne Park, west London. This gig was not insignificant as it was a music biz affair put on by C.B.S and the Psychedelic Furs were not yet signed, although very close to being so. Tracy Lee the then manager gave all the band a weeks notice of this important billing and Paul and his wife had already made plans for that night. Seeing as Pauls wife was already upset at Paul walking around with make up on, as was the image of the band at that time, he felt it proper to keep to the original arrangements for that week. The performance slot for Psychedelic Furs at the gig did not happen for this reason and my brother was ousted.

Life continued. Paul took a back seat and I eventually joined Flux Of Pink Indians after a succession of drummers left including Sid concentrating on Rubella Ballet and Bambi who went to join Discharge (or did he leave Discharge to join Flux Of Pink Indians?).

In 1982 Flux Of Pink Indians performed all over the country as main support for Crass alongside D.I.R.T and Annie Anxiety. During this treks across the country we met many other bands including D&V.

Andy Leach the drummer for D&V stepped onto the stage as the Flux Of Pink Indians drummer one night in Birmingham Digbeth Hall (or some Civic Hall of some kind) when some kindly skinheads with an iron bar decided to try to crack my head open. Thanks to him for that. I recovered to eventually return this kind of favour for D.I.R.T at the squatted Zig Zag club gig when Fox walked off the stage mid set for some reason. He never returned to D.I.R.T. I also drummed in Iceland for Crass of all bands when Penny was left in North Weald with a perforated ear drum. Penny and I had the same militaristic drumming style so I fitted that Crass set quiet well.

As a member of Flux Of Pink Indians I was involved in the making of the ‘Strive To Survive’ album in 1982. This record along with the follow up ‘Fucking Cunts’ in 1984 were both recorded at Southern Studios and during both those sessions we would meet Adrian Sherwood doing his work there with his ONU Sound artists. Little did we know that a few years later Adrian Sherwood would be engineering recordings for Flux Of Pink Indians!

Fast forward to 1986.

Derek had given up the Spiderleg record label and had started a more progressive label called One Little Indian alongside Tim another member of Flux Of Pink Indians. Derek had also had a falling out with John Loder at Southern Studios. AR Kane was one of the first bands to record for One Little Indian records. I played drums for the band on a few tracks later on, but for this first release the band had a drum machine. Adrian Sherwood was sitting pretty in the public with endless purely wonderful releases from his label ONU Sound. Mark Stewart And The Maffia, Tackhead and African Headcharge. Bonjo I and Style Scott were part of this ONU set up.

Derek decided that Flux Of Pink Indians should record for his new record label, but also the band name should change as well as the sound of the band. We all agreed to this as far as I can remember. We had not performed live or recorded anything since 1984. Things were pretty slow.

Colin, Derek, Tim, Lu and myself struggled with different sounds, and while the ideas were formed we had some input from Ray Shulman of the progressive band Gentle Giant. His effect on the band should not be underestimated. He bought a mad violin sound to the table and the trumpet. Bonjo I also came to the same table, as did Adrian Sherwood.

We started recording ‘Uncarved Block’ with Adrian Sherwood at Berry Street studios. The recording sessions as far as I remember was turning out well. There was one time when Adrian had an important meeting to collect ‘something for the weekend’ and left Derek in the engineers chair for some of Bonjo I’s percussion recording. Adrian had made a career in dealing with Rastafarian musicians. Derek however had not. Derek recorded the material that Bonjo I was only practicing and not recording the material that Bonjo I thought was to be recorded. Bonjo I was speaking in very thick Jamaican patois and Derek struggled to understand a lot of it. I was in the control room and Derek was asking me what was said, generally to a shoulder shrug. This whole episode was frustrating to Bonjo I and he was getting quite angry. He stood up and took out a large knife entering the control room with what we both thought at the time, some menace. He got a mango out of a ruck sack and started to cut it up. Worry over. Adrian came back eventually wide eyed and sorted out any unusable material we had created with Bonjo I!

Another memory that sticks in my mind was when a few days after I had completed my drum parts, Derek played me the tape and there seemed to be another drum going throughout the tracks. This sounded unusual. I asked what that was, Derek replied Style Scott came in and did a few sessions with Adrian! I knew nothing at the time and remember feeling a little let down as I could have completed a separate drum track easily enough. However with hindsight shortly afterwards I realised having someone like Style Scott on a Flux record engineered by Adrian Sherwood at Berry Street is not a bad look at all!

We had the recordings in the can and the record was released on One Little Indian records prior to the performance at U.L.U in November so interested punters would know what kind of sound Flux were going to showcase.

Come the time of the gig we all got to the venue early as there was a lot of sound checking to do. Not just bass, guitars and drums.

The night was organised as a One Little Indian / Tackhead Sound System night. Adrian Sherwood was on the mixing desk all night. Our old friends Annie Anxiety and D&V were both set to perform to mainly backing tracks. AR Kane who were new to me, were also on the bill. They had a drum machine to add to the mix.

Flux had two drummers as mentioned above, both siblings, not myself and Style Scott like the studio recordings.
Flux had Bonjo I to fit into the mix.
Flux had vocals, bass and guitars.
Flux had violin and trumpet courtesy of Ray Shulman.
Flux also has a scaffold pole filled up with metallic things that made a racket when wacked with a drum stick. Fire extinguishers, pot and pans.

Adrian took care in making sure all this was at the correct level in the mix. He also had to mix the Tackhead Sound System along with various MC’s and so forth.

Adrian was a busy guy on the night, and needed a little speed to keep him going….

I watched all the bands / artists on the night as far as I can remember.

D&V, my old friends also had many backing tracks and played a blinder. Several years previously D&V would have had a problem with the crowds when supporting Crass and other bands of that ilk. Happily I remember that they got a decent reception.

AR Kane were sublime, and as mentioned earlier I eventually drummed for them on a few tracks that were eventually released.

Annie Anxiety smoked and drunk half a bottle of spirits to calm her nerves prior to getting on the stage “OK ready for the fucking show now boys” she stated loudly. A blinding set from her to a receptive audience for a change. Back in the late 1970’s and early 1980s appearing numerous times alongside Crass she would not always get a decent reception.

All the bands / artists on the bill went onto to release records for One Little Indian as far as I am aware.

Adrian Sherwood held all the differing sounds on the night nice and tight and after every performance the Tackhead Sound System would get a positive reception. This was not incidental music between bands; this was part of the performance. It was loud I remember that.

Flux went on with all the extra musicians and completely enjoyed the night. I think the audience did to from what I remember seeing. I do not remember doing an encore, not due to the band not feeling appreciated but due to just performing ‘Uncarved Block’. Once all those tracks that appeared on the record were completed the band left the stage. Flux were not going to come back on to perform ‘Tube Disasters’ or anything like that!

After the performance I stayed for the rest of the Tackhead Sound System. Bonjo I wanted paying in cash for the nights work which took the band by surprise. He had just been released from detention due to some misdemeanour which if I remember rightly might have been a violent misdemeanour so we thought it better not to argue with him. We had to get some cash double quick to pay Bonjo I off and when we scraped some money together he disappeared!

Sometime after this U.L.U performance we went to Europe to try the new set out there.

A wrong move was not to take Adrian Sherwood, my brother Paul, Bonjo I or Ray. We thought we could cover the new set as a five piece (back to Flux Of Pink Indians not the nine piece Flux). At the Paradiso in Amsterdam we not only sounded hollow and bombed, but the audience were also disappointed as an rap artist who was expected to perform on the same night had not turned up to perform for the gig. Added to this everyone was expecting the Adrian Sherwood Tackhead style night. Flux were a very poor second! Ditto the above for Hague in Holland and Antwerp in Belgium…
Not a great little European jaunt, but the U.L.U performance in my mind was one of the best gigs I performed in.

Flux played one more time in 1991 at the Dome in Tufnell Park alongside Hotalacio Sound System which was Colins version of the Tackhead Sound System. I remember that this gig was packed, but again it was not the same as the U.L.U performance. Adrian Sherwood, Bonjo I and Ray really made that performance, and indeed the record (along with Style Scott) stand the test of time.

MARTIN FLUX

Alternative TV – Noiseville Records – 1986

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Victory / Repulsion

You Never Know

Today is a sad day. The day that all of us here at KYPP found out about the passing of Martin Neish A.K.A Protag. This KYPP post is dedicated to Protag as well as the hundreds (thousands probably) of people that knew Protag and have been saddened by his passing.

Protag was was the most gentle of souls and would never rise to any sort of panic when all around him other folk were tearing their hair out! He was also one of the hardest working drivers, roadies, P.A operators that I knew. Working the venues that he was most associated with, a smile on his face seemingly present at all times. His performances with the bands he was associated with, spanning almost three decades, were also rock solid with whatever instrument he happened to be asked to play, depending on whatever band he was in at the time!

Tonight I have uploaded an pretty damn good Alternative TV 12″ from 1986 released on the Noiseville record label, a record that Protag was involved with.. Previously in 1985, Noiseville records had released ‘The End Of Fun’, another 12″ by Alternative TV but with Karl Blake involved rather than Protag.

The photographs below, from my collection, are from an Alternative TV performance at the Finsbury Park Sir George Robey sometime in 1986 and one of Protag on the mixing desk from a Meanwhile Gardens all dayer in the summer, mid 1980’s.

The Alternative TV text below is from Wikki, and if anyone is interested in listening to the earlier Alternative TV records then there is a dedicated KYPP post HERE to view and access the audio.

For anyone that might be interested in hearing some other recorded work that Protag was involved with, accessible on previous KYPP posts, they may be found as below.

Instant Automatons may be heard HERE and the first Blyth Power recording with Protag on the bass duties from early 1987 may be heard HERE

R.I.P Protag. You were very special and very kind to a much younger Penguin.

Alternative TV were formed by Mark Perry, the founding editor of Sniffin’ Glue punk fanzine, with Alex Fergusson. Early rehearsals took place at Throbbing Gristle’s Industrial Records studio with Genesis P-Orridge on drums. The band’s first live appearance was in Nottingham supporting The Adverts.

The band’s debut on record was ‘Love Lies Limp’, a free flexi disc issued with the final edition of Perry’s Sniffin’ Glue fanzine. For their first two singles Perry and Fergusson were accompanied by drummer John Towe (ex-Generation X) and Tyrone Thomas on bass; Towe later left to join The Rage and was replaced by Chris Bennett. This line-up was the most straightforwardly punk version of ATV, although they combined short fast songs with extended pieces such as ‘Alternatives to NATO’, in which Perry read an anarchist political text and envisaged the possibility of a Soviet invasion of Britain. Shortly afterwards they released the ‘How Much Longer’/’You Bastard’  7″ in December 1977. The A-side was a pointed critique of punk style: “How much longer will people wear/Nazi armbands and dye their hair?”.

At the end of 1977, Perry sacked his chief collaborator and co-writer Fergusson. The latter went on to form the short-lived Cash Pussies and, a few years later, Psychic TV along with Genesis P-Orridge. Tyrone Thomas switched to guitar, later replaced by Kim Turner, while Dennis Burns joined on bass. A dub-influenced single, ‘Life After Life’, was released, followed by the band’s debut album, The Image Has Cracked, both featuring Jools Holland guesting on piano.

By the end of 1978, only Perry and Burns remained from the previous line-up, although ATV used additional musicians live and in the studio. The band’s second album ‘Vibing Up the Senile Man’ (Part One) saw the band take a more explicitly experimental direction, which alienated both the music press and audiences. A recording of one gig which ended in a violent stage invasion can be heard on the cassette-only release ‘Scars on Sunday’. A live LP was released, documenting their tour with commune-dwelling progressive band, Here and Now, marking the band’s further movement away from the punk/new wave scene. A final single ‘The Force Is Blind’ featured Anno from Here and Now on additional vocals.

Alternative TV soon evolved into the avant-garde project, The Good Missionaries (taking the name from a track on the ‘Vibing’ album), releasing one album, ‘Fire From Heaven’ in 1979. Perry released a solo album ‘Snappy Turns’ the following year, and joined the experimental duo The Door and the Window on their debut album ‘Detailed Twang’ before he, Burns and Fergusson briefly reformed Alternative TV along with former members of Fergusson’s Cash Pussies in 1981. The reconstituted ATV released one album ‘Strange Kicks’ a venture into light pop songs unlike any of their previous work, produced by Richard Mazda.

From 1981 to 1982 Perry had a new project, The Reflections, a band with Nag from The Door and the Window, Karl Blake (of The Lemon Kittens) and Grant Showbiz, among others. They produced an album ‘Slugs and Toads’ and a single ‘4 Countries’ before disintegrating.

Perry reformed ATV in 1985. This line up started with Karl Blake, Steve Cannell and Allison Philips. Martin ‘Protag’ Neish and then Clive Giblin featured later on guitar and ATV released further records ‘Welcome To The End Of Fun’, ‘Sex / Love’, ‘My Baby’s Laughing’ and the ‘Peep Show’ album.

Another line-up followed with James Kyllo along with Mark Perry and Steve Cannell which lead to the releases of ‘Sol’ and the ‘Dragon Love’ album.

Words from Protag and from others about Protag.

I am in hospital with widespread cancer of the liver, spleen, spine etc. These are secondary cancers. Until they discover the primary cancer (it’s been eluding the experts for over a week) they can’t specify a treatment plan. However, from what they’ve already said… and due to other complicating factors, almost certainly whatever plan is indicated will not be suitable in my scenario; and plan B will come into operation which is to send me home with a McMillan nurse and a lot of painkillers. As such I may only be lucid for a week or two from now. I call it the Indignitas Clinic. Not as far away as Switzerland, and no air travel required.

Protag – February 5th

All our collective thoughts go out to Protag who is suffering from cancer and is at this moment in the Bradford Royal Infirmary. Protag was a fixture at many events and venues throughout The Mob’s original lifespan (up to the end of 1983) as well as other All The Madmen bands of that era. Protag was often found behind the sound desk at events like the summer Meanwhile Gardens gigs, the Islington Rosebery Avenue Peace Centre, the Homerton Blue House as well as helping out at the other earlier autonomy centres. Protag was a member of the Instant Automatons in the late 1970’s as well as being a member of Alternative TV, Blyth Power and then Zounds from the mid 1980’s to the early 1990’s. Protag drove bands around (seemingly all year long) and helped with setting up equipment for bands at the many gigs he was in charge of the sound desk. Blyth Power’s first public release, the cassette ‘A Little Touch Of Harry In The Night’ released on All The Madmen records then head honcho, Rob Challice’s 96 Tapes imprint was recorded with Protag at the sound desk at Brougham Road in Hackney. It was Protag’s Meanwhile Gardens tapes that contained tracks that were placed onto the ‘B’ side of The Mob’s ‘Crying Again’ 12″ re-release that came out on All The Madmen records in 1986. Protag still helps bands and venues to this day! Protag is a particularly pleasant man whom The Mob and All The Madmen records would like to send many positive thoughts to at this time. If anyone that knows Protag would like his personal email address then please private message this Mob / ATM FB page and we will share that information with you. Please private message if you knew Protag. I am sure he will be pleased with receiving messages of support at this time from folk that shared experiences with him throughout his dealings with bands and venues for several decades. Positive thoughts are needed at this time. Thank you for reading.

Posted up on The Mob / All The Madmen records Facebook page 7th February by Mickey ‘Penguin’

It’s with the deepest sadness that I learned today of the passing of Protag. He was my best friend at school and my partner in crime when we were taking our first faltering steps together into the weird world of the “music biz”. It was an honour to have known and worked with him in the past, and I’m so glad we made the journey down to Bradford last weekend to see him (and, without fully realising it, to say goodbye). Martin’s integrity, his warm personality and his wonderful dry wit always shone like a beacon in a dark, cold world. Now that light has gone out, and the world seems a darker, colder place without him. R.I.P.

Mark Lancaster – Instant Automatons

He walked it like he talked it……. So pleased we saw each other in December and talked last week R.I.P Protag.

Grant Showbiz – Street Level Studios

So sorry to hear the news of Protag’s passing. In my 35 plus years in this business he was one of the kindest and most genuine people that I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Protag was a bloody good guitarist and soundman as well. My condolences go to all his friends & family.

Mark Perry – Alternative TV

For all those years spent inside the horse, love and respect at journey’s end.

Joseph Porter – Blyth Power

Protag played bass in Zounds from 2003 to 2006. He died today at 9.15 on 18th Feb 2014. He was an amazing person who was associated with the band from the earliest days. He was selflessly devoted to Bradford’s 1 in 12 Club to which he gave much energy, care and love. I could go on and on about how brilliant, interesting, original and funny Protag was but there will be time for that later. Protag played and organised Blyth Power for years and also played with ATV. Words can’t express how much we will miss him. Love to all.

Steve Lake – Zounds

Flack – Practice Cassette Tape – 1981

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Flack practice tape – 1981

Indebted to the honourable Chris Low for the loan of this cassette tape uploaded tonight, to Andy Martin for the text and to Tod Hanson for the photographs. Expect a right royal racket with some crazy bass playing. All glorious material though!

Tod and Martin of Flack, Southend

Martha Moscow and Martin of Flack, Southend

FLACK – used to rehearse in my attic at 109 Foulden Road, Stoke Newington, London – on a 1960s drum kit and amplifiers provided by Pete, Julian and Dan of The Apostles.

Martha Moscow on bass guitar, playing the smallest bass guitar I have ever seen.

Martin Black on guitar (no, not the Martin Black who later called himself Napoleon of Hackney Hell Crew fame, that’s a different and decidedly more grubby but equally entertaining story).

Tod Unctious on vocals, no, that’s from Father Ted, sorry. Tod Hanson on vocals.

Paul Gubb a.k.a. Mag on drums.

I remember Mag was 13 at the time and beyond doubt the most technically competent musician in the band, but then I’m not a drummer so I’m probably talking utter twaddle, it wouldn’t be the first time, I hear you cry, but then I’m allowed a certain degree of artistic license as I’m a renaissance man and I also have a complete set of P G Tips picture card albums from the very first one in 1954 right up to the Olympics Greats from 1993. Flack never recorded anything in a professional studio which is a shame, these tracks were recorded live on a cassette recorder at 109 Foulden Road. However, at least Tod achieved a degree of success later with his technically superb artistic skills. I lived with Martha in Islington for a few months when she had departed Flack to look after her baby son. Mitch took over bass duties and the difference in sound and style became profoundly dramatic on the tracks ‘Drained’ and ‘The Workers’ despite the extreme limitations of the recording process. Mitch went onto join Hagar The Womb and conquered the world (or west Hampstead at least) but whatever happened to Mag?

Andy Martin – The Apostles

Lee Perry – Lion Of Judah Records – 1978

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Soul Fire / Throw Some Water In / Evil Tongues / Curly Locks / Ghetto Sidewalk

Favourite Dish / Free Up The Weed / Big Neck Police / Mr D.J Man / Roast Fish And Cornbread

Easing the KYPP browers into the new year with the first Lee Perry vocal album that was released in 1978 on Lee Perry’s own ‘Lion Of Judah’ imprint. This record is really rather good and gets a spin at least once a year right up here at the top of Penguin Towers, normally illegally loud and bass heavy!

I ripped off all the text from the All Music site, the New York based ‘Village Voice’ magazine and the rather ‘seasonal’ essay on the South Park Road Gun Court in Kingston, Jamaica was lifted from Da Wikki.

The photographs of Lee Perry and the Gun Court as well as the adverts for handing in your guns, were all scanned from one of the best books on the subject of reggae music and the general vibe of Jamaica, ‘Babylon On A Thin Wire’ which was published in 1976 and which has sadly been out of print for several decades now. A similar read to ‘Babylon On A Thin Wire’, and by the same writer, Michael Thomas and again with Adrian Boot photographs, is the book ‘Jah Revenge’ from 1978 which is also out of print as far as I know, and which also has been for decades. If you are interested in this subject then I would strongly recommend both these books assuming you can find them somewhere!

From us all here at KYPP online, we are all hoping that all the KYPP browsers worldwide will be safe, well, and have a pleasant and productive year ahead.

‘Roast Fish, Collie Weed And Cornbread’ was Lee Perry’s twentieth album, counting his sets, compilations, and full-length dub discs. Amazingly though, it was the first album Perry exclusively dedicated to his own vocal numbers. That, however, was not necessarily a strong selling point, as even his most devoted fans admit that Perry the singer is no equal to Perry the producer. And thankfully the set doesn’t open with his out of tune cover of Junior Byles’ sublime ‘Curly Locks’!

Knock out that track though, and you’re left with one of the most awe-inspiring albums of the decade, and even with that track, the album is still a masterpiece. It’s an extremely eclectic set, both thematically and musically, but without appearing flighty or unfocused.

There are wonderfully light-hearted moments, like the spectacularly dread title track, a song so heavy you expect Babylon to quake in the backing gladiator’s wake. But all the thick atmosphere, stalking rhythm, and ominous melody merely set the table for Perry to serve up and lavishly proclaim his favourite dish. Brilliant.

Equally entertaining is ‘Throw Some Water In’ as Perry equates proper auto maintenance to caring for one’s own body, a cheerful lesson on the importance of exercise and diet set to a vivacious reggae backing. It’s unclear if “Yu Squeeze My Panhandle” is meant to be humorous, although Perry’s pleading to the DJ to play his record is so over the top pitiful, one can’t imagine it’s anything but tongue in cheek, and all set to a slow, scorcher of a rhythm layered with percussion and weird effects.

A question mark also hovers around the intent of ‘Evil Tongues’ whose lyrics slip from condemning hypocrites down into the depths of paranoia. Unfortunately future events proved the lyrics all too prophetic in reflecting Perry’s slide into an emotional maelstrom. But so phenomenal is the claustrophobic production, it was still difficult to imagine that he was losing his way. In the cultural realm, ‘Big Neck Police’ revived Perry’s earlier single ‘Dreadlocks in Moonlight’ with additional percussion, searing sax solos, and female backing vocalists, creating a number that not only equalled the original, but bettered it. ‘Free Up the Weed’ was an impassioned, well-reasoned plea for legalization, while ‘Ghetto Sidewalk’ requested light for the sufferers.

The latter was a little overly ambitious musically, as Perry attempted to blend jazzy sax, studio effects and percussion, and a sturdy, tribal-tinged rhythm. Much more effective was ‘Soul Fire’ which layered instruments, effects, percussion, his own double-tracked vocals, and a mooing cow into a heady piece that defies categorization, but is laced with funk, soul, and the sound of classic Studio One.

And as highly experimental as many of the tracks are, the rhythms throughout are particularly inspired, with the productions equally intriguing, unlike many of Perry’s earlier excursions out to the musical fringe, these numbers are eminently entertaining and downright infectious, boasting strong melodies and, dare one say it, great vocals. This record was an extraordinary set.

JO-ANN GREENE – All Music

What makes Scratch so good is his distortion of the reggae mise-en-scene. In a basically conservative genre, producer Perry’s anti-science science of intuition and quick hands injects chance, humour, and disaster without ever really leaving the pop song behind.

Those who look to Perry’s shit talking for a cosmology will get burned; those who dismiss his output because of his shit talking will miss the aurora borealis of reggae.

‘Roast Fish Collie Weed & Corn Bread’ for example, one of the few records credited solely to Perry as artist and probably my favourite, pits house band rhythms against Perry’s pixie-dust percussion and mixing-desk abuse, over which Scratch narrates like a homeless Martha Stewart on how to stay healthy, how many lights are broken on his block etc. His microphone skills on any of his records are easily proto rap, his dub styling’s (like Jah Lion playing dominoes louder than Max Romeo’s singing on Norman ) are closer to John Cage than King Tubby.

‘Roast Fish Collie Weed & Corn Bread’ was all recorded at Black Ark with only a four-track 1/4-inch Teac reel-to-reel, 16-trackn Soundcraft board, Mutron phaser, and Roland Space Echo. Perry bouncing tracks together to create 16-track thickness, albeit with considerable signal degradation and tape hiss, Perry bubbled more than a Greenwich Village pavement in July and was guided by voices that could actually sing.

SASHA FRERE-JONES – Village Voice

In the early 1970s, Jamaica experienced a rise in violence associated with criminal gangs and political polarization between supporters of the People’s National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party. After a rash of killings of lawyers and businessmen in 1974, the government of Michael Manley attempted to restore order by granting broad new law enforcement powers in the Suppression of Crime Act and the Gun Court Act. The Suppression of Crime Act allowed the police and the military to work together in a novel way to disarm the people: soldiers sealed off entire neighbourhoods, and policemen systematically searched the houses inside for weapons without requiring a warrant. The goal was to expedite and improve enforcement of the 1967 Firearms Act, which imposed licensing requirements on ownership and possession of guns and ammunition, and prohibited automatic weapons entirely. Firearm licences in Jamaica require a background check, inspection and payment of a yearly fee, and can make legal gun ownership difficult for ordinary citizens. The new judicial procedures of the Gun Court Act were designed to ensure that firearms violations would be tried quickly and harshly punished.

Prime Minister Michael Manley expressed his determination to take stronger action against firearms, predicting that “It will be a long war. No country can win a war against crime overnight, but we shall win. By the time we have finished with them, Jamaican gunmen will be sorry they ever heard of a thing called a gun.” In order to win this war, Manley believed it necessary to fully disarm the public: “There is no place in this society for the gun, now or ever.”

The Gun Court Act and the Suppression of Crime Act were passed in special simultaneous sessions of the Senate and House of Representatives, and immediately signed into law by Governor-General Florizel Glasspole on April 1, 1974. The new court had several extraordinary features. Most trials were to be conducted in camera, without a jury and closed to the public and the press, in order to avoid problems of intimidation of witnesses and jurors. There was no provision for bail, either pre-trial or during appeal, since all defendants were considered dangerous. Most offences carried a single, mandatory sentence: indefinite imprisonment with hard labour. A convicted offender could be released only upon special decision of the Governor-General, advised by an appointed review board.

The unusual features of the Gun Court have faced legal challenges, some of which have forced amendment of the Gun Court Act. The case Hinds et al. v. the Queen was an early test case for the new court. Four men, Moses Hinds, Henry Martin, Elkanah Hutchinson, and Samuel Thomas, had been arrested and convicted by the Gun Court in 1974 for possession of firearms and ammunition without a licence. They appealed their sentences to Jamaica’s highest appellate court, the Court of Appeals, which initially declined to hear the case. However, they were allowed to apply to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, which agreed to review the legality of the Gun Court system.

The Constitution of Jamaica reserves certain serious crimes to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and its divisions. The Gun Court Act had established the Full Court division, with Resident Magistrates presiding, to try major firearms offences. The Privy Council held that this provision of the Act improperly encroached on the jurisdiction reserved for the Supreme Court, and that the Full Court division was therefore unconstitutional. This fault was remedied in 1976 by replacing the Full Court division with a new High Court division, presided over by a single Supreme Court justice. The Privy Council also found that the institution of an appointed review board to determine the length of sentences was contrary to the doctrine of separation of powers fundamental to the Westminster system of government. According to this principle, sentencing in each particular case is a function of the judiciary, and cannot be assigned to any other body. The 1976 amendment eliminated the review board entirely, leaving life imprisonment without review as the only possible sentence.

Another case, Trevor Stone v. the Queen, challenged the denial of jury trial for most gun offences. It was argued that trial by jury is a fundamental and constitutional right guaranteed by tradition in English common law. The Jamaican Court of Appeals rejected this argument in a decision written by Court President Ira DeCordova Rowe in 1980. The court noted that the written Constitution adopted by Jamaica upon independence guaranteed certain rights to criminal defendants, but omitted trial by jury. This case confirmed the Gun Court’s power to try all non-capital cases before judges alone.

The case of Herbert Bell v. Director of Public Prosecutions, concerning the right to a speedy trial, reached the Privy Council in 1983. The defendant had been held awaiting trial for several years, but the state ultimately failed to present any evidence or witnesses. When he was again arrested on the same firearms charges, he filed suit arguing that the Gun Court had violated his constitutional rights through unreasonable delay. The Privy Council agreed, ruling that even when prevailing local standards were taken into account, Bell’s trial had been excessively delayed through no fault of his own.

The Gun Court Amendment Act of 1983 allowed Resident Magistrates to grant pre-trial bail, and to decide whether to keep firearms cases in the Resident Magistrate’s Court or to send them to the High Court division of the Gun Court. Judges were given the power to set sentences other than life imprisonment. Cases involving defendants under 14 years old were directed to juvenile courts, instead of being heard by the ordinary Gun Court, and many young convicts serving indefinite sentences were released.

The Gun Court has faced criticism on several fronts, most notably for its departure from traditional practices, for its large backlog of cases, and for the continuing escalation in gun violence since its institution.

At the time of the 1976 amendments to the Act, the Jamaican Bar Association protested against the lack of jury trials and the harsh mandatory sentences. According to a report in the Virgin Islands Daily News, the Association’s Bar Council objected to the possibility that children as young as 12 could be imprisoned for life, without release or appeal, for small offences such as being found with used ammunition. The abrogation of jury trial has also been criticized by attorney and law professor David Rowe, the son of the Appeals Court justice who wrote the decision in the Stone case upholding the practice. Rowe argues that the common-law right to a jury trial is implied in the Constitutional provision for “a fair hearing within a reasonable time, by an independent and impartial court established by law,” concluding that the Constitution had been “shorn of its most potent and ancient safeguard, trial by jury.”

Kenny Morris / Dorothee LaLanne – Temple Records – 1987

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

La Main Morte

Testament D’Auguste Rodin

A release from 1987 on the Temple Records imprint. A poetic collaboration between musician Kenny Morris and the radical 1970’s writer Dorothée Lalanne, which works out very well. The two sound-scapes on each side of this 12″ record, are both soundtracks for the two films ‘La Main Morte’ and ‘Chapter Of Faults’. The winter solstice information has been gently removed from the whitegoddess website whilst a large moon hovers above Penguin Towers. The text on Kenny Morris has mainly been stolen from Wikki during the same moon’s orbit. The photograph below of Siouxsie and Kenny Morris lovingly scan from Simon Barker’s A.K.A Berlin’s book ‘Punks Dead’.

Kenny Morris was the first studio drummer of Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Morris attended St Ignatius College, Enfield, where he became a friend of future collaborator and film director John Maybury. Morris then attended Barnet College of Further Education. He also studied Fine Art and Film-making at North East London Polytechnic. He was attending Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts when he joined the band.

He was a member of Siouxsie and the Banshees from January 1977 until September 1979. He played on the albums ‘The Scream’ and ‘Join Hands’. He also co-composed the hit single ‘Hong Kong Garden’.

While the band sold out venues in London in early 1978, they still had problems getting the right recording contract that could give them “complete artistic control”. Polydor finally offered this guarantee and signed them in June. Their first single, ‘Hong Kong Garden’, featuring a xylophone motif, reached the Top Ten in the UK shortly after. In its review, the NME hailed it as “a bright, vivid narrative, something like snapshots from the window of a speeding Japanese train, power charged by the most original, intoxicating guitar playing I heard in a long, long time.”

The band released their debut album, ‘The Scream’, in November 1978. Nick Kent of NME said of the record: “the band sounds like some unique hybrid of the Velvet Underground mated with much of the ingenuity of Tago Mago-era Can, if any parallel can be drawn.” At the end of the article, he added this remark: “Certainly, the traditional three-piece sound has never been used in a more unorthodox fashion with such stunning results.”

The Banshees’ second album, ‘Join Hands’, was released in 1979 and included a version of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. In Melody Maker  Jon Savage described ‘Poppy Day’ as “a short, powerful evocation of the Great War graveyards” and Record Mirror described the whole record as “a dangerous and volatile work”. The Banshees embarked on a major tour to promote the album. A few dates into the tour in September, Morris and McKay left an in-store signing after an argument and quit the band. In need of replacements to fulfil tour dates, the Banshees’ manager called drummer Budgie, formerly with The Slits, and asked him to audition. Budgie was hired, but Siouxsie and Severin had no success auditioning guitarists. Robert Smith of The Cure offered his services in case they couldn’t find a guitarist (his group were already the support band on the tour), so the band held him to it after seeing too many “rock virtuosos”. The tour resumed in September and after the last concert, Smith returned to The Cure.

Almost a decade after leaving the Banshees, Morris worked as a drummer with Helen Terry and other musicians for live stage sets. He made the film and soundtrack ‘La Main Morte’, with narration by Dorothy Lalanne and music by Morris, John Maybury and Jean-Michelle Baudry. The EP released on Temple Records is the original sound track to the two short movies filmed by Kenny Morris. The first one titled ‘La Main Morte’ and the second one ‘Chapter Of Faults’ (where the artwork comes from). These are two tracks of spoken word, one written and read in English by French writer Dorothée Lalanne, and the other written by 19th century French sculptor Auguste Rodin and read in French by Dorothée Lalanne.

Yule: Winter Solstice – Dec 21st/22nd

The origin of the word Yule, has several suggested origins from the Old English word, geõla, the Old Norse word jõl, a pagan festival celebrated at the winter solstice, or the Anglo-Saxon word for the festival of the Winter Solstice, ‘Iul’ meaning ‘wheel’. In old almanacs Yule was represented by the symbol of a wheel, conveying the idea of the year turning like a wheel, The Great Wheel of the Zodiac, The Wheel of Life. The spokes of the wheel, were the old festivals of the year, the solstices and equinoxes.

The winter solstice, the rebirth of the Sun, is an important turning point, as it marks the shortest day, when the hours of daylight are at their least. It is also the start of the increase in the hours of daylight, until the Summer Solstice, when darkness becomes ascendant once more.

Cycle of the Year

Yule is deeply rooted in the cycle of the year, it is the seed time of year, the longest night and the shortest day, where the Goddess once again becomes the Great Mother and gives birth to the new Sun King. In a poetic sense it is on this the longest night of the winter, ‘the dark night of our souls’, that there springs the new spark of hope, the Sacred Fire, the Light of the World, the Coel Coeth.

Fire festivals, celebrating the rebirth of the Sun, held on the Winter’s Solstice can be found throughout the ancient world. The Roman festival of Saturnalia was held on the winter solstice, boughs of evergreen trees and bushes would decorate the house, gifts where exchanged and normal business was suspended. The Persian Mithraists held December 25th as sacred to the birth of their Sun God, Mithras, and celebrated it as a victory of light over darkness. In Sweden, December 13th was sacred to the Goddess Lucina, Shining One, and was a celebration of the return of the light. On Yule itself, around the 21st, bonfires were lit to honour Odin and Thor.

The festival was already closely associated with the birth of older Pagan gods like Oedipus, Theseus, Hercules, Perseus, Jason, Dionysus, Apollo, Mithra, Horus and even Arthur with a cycle of birth, death and resurrection that is also very close to that of Jesus. It can hardly be a coincidence that the Christians, also used this time of year for the birth of Christ, mystically linking him with the Sun.

That Yule is another fire festival, should come as no surprise, however unlike the more public outdoor festival of the summer solstice, Yule lends itself to a more private and domestic celebration. Yet like its midsummer counterpart, is strongly associated with fertility and the continuation of life. Here the Goddess is in her dark aspect, as ‘She Who Cuts The Thread’ or ‘Our Lady in Darkness’, calling back the Sun God. Yet, at the same time, she is in the process of giving birth to Son-Lover who will re-fertilise her and the earth, bringing back light and warmth to the world.

Steve Corr / Idiot Strength – 1982 / 1986

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

Indebted to Steve Corr of Idiot Strength, one of my favourite bands on the mid 1980’s, who jotted down some notes for me to place onto this KYPP post.

Wasting Your Time

Caroline

These two songs are the first things I ever recorded and apparently ‘Wasting Your Time’ was played by John Peel.

The tracks were recorded in my bedroom by a guy who had a four track cassette porta studio back in 1982 when I was just 19 and slightly mad.

The drums truly are a suitcase and those thick white plastic water containers, one of which was sellotaped to an upturned biscuit tin with nails on to act as a snare.

The song ‘Caroline’ was a piss take of those country & western bands that take forever to introduce the song and the band, and bored me to tears at the time. For those who might be wondering the crowd applause is taken from a live 10CC album at the Hollywood Bowl and not from the Chard folk club on a Wednesday night. I was persuaded to record as everyone at the folk club seemed to love it.

The tracks were for a compilation album amusingly called ‘Chardbusters’ and were a collection of musicians who played what was known as the Chard folk club.

There was a pub in Chard called the Victoria that had what was home to this folk club every Wednesday. Anyone could play and so I used to play there frequently for about two years from 1980 to 1982.

Little Shane from Children Of Revolution (C.O.R) records used to go to this club a lot. I remember once getting annoyed that no one was listening and Shane had his back to me so I started singing about him and it may even have been that ‘Caroline’ was originally about Shane although I don’t imagine it would have been a love song!

I didn’t really want ‘Caroline’ to be on the album but everyone persuaded me and in the end I gave in to popular demand.

‘Wasting Your Time’ is one of the first songs I wrote. We have played it live recently but I find it too boring but if you listen to the end of ‘Tobacco In The Butter’ you’ll notice that’s it goes into ‘Wasting Your Time’ and we used to join the two together live which I liked.

Tobacco In The Butter / Rather Nice Pheasant / Idiot Strength / Anything At All / Some Day

Idiot Strength formed in Bristol in 1984 playing sporadic gigs in various squats and venues around Bristol.

The original line up in the above picture was Mathew Brett on drums (now sadly deceased), Giles Coe on Bass and myself, Steve Corr on vocals and guitar.

Idiot Strength moved to London in 1986 where they carried on in the same sporadic half arsed kind of way they’d started, performing at squats and festivals in the capital frequently.

The above tracks were taken from a demo recorded in Walthamstow during the latter months of 1986 with Sian ex Lost Cherries and just about to join the second incarnation of Blyth Power on backing vocals.

I think the tracks were originally going to be released as a split album with Wat Tyler.

I then became guitarist with Blyth Power in their second incarnation from 1987 – 1990 which kind of side lined Idiot Strength a little due to the heavy touring and recording commitments that Blyth Power had in those days.

Mathew Brett left to go travelling and was replaced by Andy Tuck who had previously played with Thatcher On Acid and later with Schwartzeneggar. Matt was soon followed by Giles, who also went travelling, and who was then replaced by Chaz formerly of Flowers in the Dustbin.

The band continued in much the same manner.

Chaz left after a year or so and was replaced by Bob Butler who was also a member of Thatcher On Acid  and Schwartzeneggar and now playing with Steve Ignorant.

All three members of this later incarnation came originally from Yeovil and the surrounding area.

During their time in London time they had various lead guitarists, the last of whom and perhaps the best was Dan who had previously played and sang with Blind Mole Rat. We recorded about a dozen songs in a small studio in New Cross in the summer of 1996.

Sadly the band never got to release anything the band recorded and stuttered to a halt in 1996.

In 2012 Idiot Strength reformed to support the newly reformed Mob at the Bristol Fleece in April. We performed alongside Rubella Ballet and Zounds. All of the bands on the night celebrating the debut performance of the original line up of The Mob. This was not the first time I had supported The Mob. During the times when The Mob were still based in the west country our paths would cross now and again in youth clubs and church halls.

Since then Idiot Strength have performed several other gigs organised by the All The Madmen collective and The Mob, and have again got a different line up since the April 2012 performance.

STEVE CORR

UK Decay – Corpus Christi Records – 1982

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Werewolf

Jerusalem / Rising From The Dead / Testament

On this Halloween morning, I have uploaded my favourite UK Decay single, the last single released in the bands original lifetime, and the only record released on extended play 12″ vinyl format. Just as well it was a 12″ vinyl as the tracks on the record last for over twenty minutes, ‘Werewolf’ alone is over ten minutes long. The band disbanded after this 12″ single, but left the public with a fine legacy that is still loved up to this present day. The album ‘For Madmen Only’ and this 12″ single were both recorded at Southern Studios under the sonic guidance of John Loder’s ears… Perhaps that is why these records are the pinnacle of the bands recorded output in my opinion.

The text below has been scavenged from Wikki and the ukdecay.co.uk site by wolves.

UK Decay was born out of the ashes of another Luton band called The Resiztors, who had formed in 1978. The Resiztors’ lineup consisted of guitarist Steve “Abbo” Abbot, drummer Steven David Harle, bassist Martin “Segovia” Smith and vocalists Ricky Smith and Paul Wilson. After Wilson’s departure in the spring of 1979, the remaining three band members changed their name to UK Decay and released the ‘Split Single’ 7″ EP in partnership with fellow local band Pneumania, on their own Plastic Records label. The EP featured two tracks from each band, with UK Decay contributing “UK Decay” and “Car Crash”. ‘Split Single’ sold extremely well, mainly thanks to a damning review in the NME by Danny Baker and Charles Shaar Murray. At the same time, some UK Decay members produced their own monthly fanzine The Suss and ran their own punk record and clothes shop called Matrix. Guitarist Steve Spon was soon recruited from Pneumania, allowing Abbo to concentrate on front man duties.

The next release for Plastic Records was UK Decay’s ‘The Black Cat’ four-song EP, issued in early 1980. It hovered in the UK Indie Chart for 15 months. Alex Howe from Fresh Records offered to license the first two singles, and signed UK Decay to the label. The first official release for Fresh was the single ‘For My Country’, issued in September 1980. ‘For My Country’ received airplay from John Peel (for whom they would record two sessions) and spent eight months in the indie chart, reaching No. 13. The single was promoted by a major UK tour with hardcore punk band Dead Kennedys. By 1981, two further singles had also been released, ‘Unexpected Guest’ and ‘Sexual’. The former achieved the band’s highest indie chart placing of No. 4, and paved the way for UK Decay’s debut album, ‘For Madmen Only’, released by Fresh in December 1981. The album had taken a year to gestate, due to delays caused by a time-consuming US tour and a frustrating search for a new permanent bass player. When original bassist Smith left, Lorraine “Lol” Turvey from The Statics stood in for some UK dates and an early 1981 European tour. For the US jaunt and subsequent UK tours in spring 1981, Creetin K-OS (of US punks Social Unrest) stood in. Following that stint, K-OS returned home and Eddie “Twiggy” Branch from Northampton joined on bass, just in time to finish the album. During this period, Abbo jokingly referred to the band’s sound as “goth” in a Sounds interview, helping to immortalize the beginning of the gothic rock movement, although UK Decay considered themselves a punk band first and foremost.

In early 1982, Fresh Records collapsed, and UK Decay were caught up in the ensuing management buyout by what would become Jungle Records. With the help of John Loder and Southern Studios, they managed to buy up the rights to their back catalogue and set up their own label, UK Decay Records. Loder also introduced them to Penny Rimbaud from Crass, which resulted in the ‘Rising From The Dread’ 12″ EP (featuring the 10-minute epic “Werewolf”) being issued on Crass’ Corpus Christi label in August 1982. However, despite a strong showing in the independent charts and an ever-expanding fan base, the five years of continuous touring took their toll and UK Decay split up in December 1982. Posthumous cassette-only live album ‘A Night For Celebration’ was released during the summer of 1983.

UK DECAY ‘Rising From The Dread’ (Corpus Christi) – Sounds music paper – 1982

The most extreme record in the pile, and despite/because of the hostile reactions it’s garnered in the office, a positive effective stab at daring to be different. The first minute or so of ‘Werewolf’ consists of unsettling subhuman growls and sound effects – a perfect setting for Decay’s rousing, invigorating music which is beginning to draw on a deep, almost mystical strength that places them at a point almost equi-distant between the Fall and U2, if that can be imagined, lusting after a supreme physical and mental peak. Decay are sorely misunderstood (as much by a large section of their fans as by blinkered detractors) but vocalist Abbo is predestined to be much more influential soon. I shall interview him and put him on the cover of sounds, but for now, this record has the spirit of Kurt Vonnegut.

UK DECAY ORBITUARY – Tom Vague for Vague fanzine – 1982

At the moment they have left a void. It wasn’t fair that the new breed were reaping rewards for what Decay had done, when they weren’t getting rewarded. In a way they were merely being accepted. ‘Good old Decay, The Eagles of the South’ and all that crap. Good luck to them I say.

It seems funny they’ve gone after ‘Werewolf’ put them worlds ahead. Perhaps they didn’t like the thought of missing a Vague obituary. They wanted to see it, silly bastards that they are.

When Decay sang ‘Testament’; the world reeled When they split it fell in half. When Abbo briefly outlined future plans my brain seized up. I didn’t know what to expect. That’s quite good really – he’s a funny man.

With intelligence and inspiration Decay helped so many bands but that, an important matter on its own, is trifling in the thought waves when you consider the impact of their music. Our emotional soundtracks are seldom this pointy and deep. I mean Abbo waffles on about books a lot, but he’s a decent chap, what, what?

For once no mourning exists. Spon’s guitar will feature in his new band. Abbo, Eddie and Steve (with a new man) go on. That exuberance continues, so what’s all this, Tom, that I’m supposed to rite?

I do say of the Decay reign that their importance was inside us all. We felt what they were doing, we recognised it and appreciated the integrity that went with everything they did. In a way they’ve done more than just about anybody but …it’s weird when you think about it all. It’s impossible to reflect. They’re all still here.

(I tore my trousers the other day. Perhaps I’m a positive punk?

Halloween history and traditions

Halloween, celebrated each year on October 31, is a mix of ancient Celtic practices, Catholic and Roman religious rituals and European folk traditions that blended together over time to create the holiday we know today. Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity and life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. Halloween has long been thought of as a day when the dead can return to the earth, and ancient Celts would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off these roaming ghosts. The Celtic holiday of Samhain, the Catholic Hallowmas period of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day and the Roman festival of Feralia all influenced the modern holiday of Halloween. In the 19th century, Halloween began to lose its religious connotation, becoming a more secular community-based children’s holiday. Although the superstitions and beliefs surrounding Halloween may have evolved over the years, as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, people can still look forward to parades, costumes and sweet treats to usher in the winter season.

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.

The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.

During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.

The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints’ Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints’, All Saints’, and All Souls’, were called Hallowmas.

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. For these friendly spirits, they set places at the dinner table, left treats on doorsteps and along the side of the road and lit candles to help loved ones find their way back to the spirit world.

Today’s Halloween ghosts are often depicted as more fearsome and malevolent, and our customs and superstitions are scarier too. We avoid crossing paths with black cats, afraid that they might bring us bad luck. This idea has its roots in the Middle Ages, when many people believed that witches avoided detection by turning themselves into cats. We try not to walk under ladders for the same reason. This superstition may have come from the ancient Egyptians, who believed that triangles were sacred; it also may have something to do with the fact that walking under a leaning ladder tends to be fairly unsafe. And around Halloween, especially, we try to avoid breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks in the road or spilling salt.

But what about the Halloween traditions and beliefs that today’s trick-or-treaters have forgotten all about? Many of these obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead. In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday, with luck, by next Halloween, be married.

In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it. In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl’s future husband. (In some versions of this legend, confusingly, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last.) Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night, she would dream about her future husband. Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water; and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands’ faces.

Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry; at others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle.

Another day with connections to Halloween is Guy Fawkes Day, celebrated on November 5. Guy Fawkes was a Roman Catholic who planned to blow up the Protestant House of Parliament on November 5, 1606; luckily for the House, he was apprehended and executed. Afterwards, the anniversary of the day was celebrated by building straw effigies, entreating passersby for “a penny for the Guy”, and finally burning “the Guys” in bonfires.

All the period photographs of Halloween children and adults that are displayed on this post are courtesy of the Ossian Brown book ‘Haunted Air’. Ossian has collated dozens of astonishing photographs for this charming and luxurious felt covered hardback book.

All the photographs were taken in the United States Of America between the late 19th and the mid 20th century.

I would like to thank Ossian for sending me two signed copies of this beautiful book, one which went straight up to Sheffield towards the eager hands of my younger brother who knew Ossian, as I did also, in the mid 1980s.

Ossian is a member of Cyclobe as well as working in collaboration with David Tibet’s Current 93.

Haunted Air is available now ISBN 9780224089708 published by Jonathan Cape with a forward passage by David Lynch and Geoff Cox.


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