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?
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
£15 from: The venue – The Tufnell Park DomeHEREor Gig BoxHERE
Formed in Dublin in 1981, Paranoid Visions quickly allied themselves to the anarcho punk fraternity of the second wave of punk rock in the early 80′s. Heavily influenced by the Crass ethic of DIY music, the band formed their own F.O.A.D label and licensed their records to All The Madmen, home of the Mob, Thatcher on Acid, Blyth Power and the Astronauts.
Paranoid Visons played gigs and toured with the likes of Poison Girls, DIRT, Blyth Power, Subhumans and The Instigators. In the early 90′s they played with bands like Snuff, the Macc Ladds and Manic Street Preachers before calling it a day in 1992. Despite their disbanding, the 90′s saw Paranoid Visions becoming the biggest punk band Ireland had ever produced, featuring on several TV shows, newspapers and being offered numerous record deals from Major labels. In 1996 they reformed to play support on some dates for the Sex Pistols Filthy Lucre tour. In 2001 they reformed again and played with the Damned, The Dickies and at the Wasted Festival in Morecombe. While these reunions were always designed to be short lived, with the 2005 reunion, formed in support of the re-release of their back catalogue, it was decided to continue the momentum.
March 2007 saw the release of the album “40 Shades Of Gangreen”, the first new material for sixteen years. The run up to this release saw the band playing dates with bands such as The Levellers, The Damned and Sonic Boom Six as well as dozens of UK and Ireland headline slots.
Since 2007 the band has been consistently gathering momentum, with a fixed line-up, to include regular gigs in Ireland, UK, USA and Europe (with bands suck as The Lurkers, Subhumans, GBH and Goldblade), Rebellion and Punx Picnic, the release of ‘The Treasure From The Wasteland EP’ (2008), singles ‘I Am The One – 1970s EP’ and ‘Strobelight And Torture’ (2009), album ‘Beware Of The God’ (2009), plus a series of ‘Hate From The Cities’ and ‘Live In Fibbers’ compilations. There have been several appearances including two feature films (’3Crosses’ and ‘Little Foxes’), the Podge & Rodge Show for RTE Television, and radio sessions for Phantom and 2FM. This has all been supported with much national press coverage and includes extensive interviews with State Magazine, Hot Press and The Big Cheese.
2010 saw the release of a retrospective, ‘Black Operations In The Red Mist’, which garnered universal praise in countries such as Germany, Japan, USA and Holland.
2011 started with a bang with the announcement of the bands first trip to the USA for three highly successful headline shows and the release of the “Der Election EP” which became the first Irish punk record to hit the national charts in 30 years, debuting at number six, one place above Take That and one behind JLS and Tiny Tempah!!!! The band are currently completing their new album, entitled “Hail Tsunmami” for release in 2012 on Overground Records / FOAD. The album will be preceded by a single in November on FOAD (CD) of Outsider Artist (featuring TV Smith) / Control (featuring The Shend) / Prophet For The Lost (featuring The Blame) and 6 live bonus tracks. A 7″ version on Inflammable Material / FOAD will be released at the same time as a limited edition.
On November 19th the the band will support Steve Ignorant at his Last (ever) Supper show at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London.
2012 saw the release of the bands most critically acclaimed and commercially succesful album to date “escape from the austerity complex”
2013 sees the released of the “up the anti” EP, via scarred for life records and two releases where the band are joined by Crass’s Steve Ignorant: “Join the Dots EP” (7″) on All The Madmen records and the album “when…?” on Overground records.
The new Steve Ignorant with Paranoid Visions 7″ single on wonderful white vinyl is now available from the All The Madmen singles club HERE
The Mob’s first 7″ single for thirty years, pretty in pink vinyl is now available from the All The Madmen singles club HERE
My ‘review’ on The Mob / All The Madmen Facebook page of the tracks that would become this record from May 2013 below.
It has been around thirty years since the last record was released by The Mob. The audio of two new tracks were sent down the wire to Penguin Towers last night and have now been mulled over in enough depth, after repeated plays, for me to confirm that this single, soon to be released on All The Madmen records, is going to be a stonewall classic. My preferred track is ‘Nothing You’ve Got I Want’. A gentle song of innocence and hope that rolls along like a river until the epic crescendo. ‘Rise Up’ is a track that has been performed live by The Mob for several months now. Studio wise it is a hard hitting bass driven track with some nifty drum / percussion work from Graham Fallows.
The Mob in 2013 still have the integrity that shone through like a blinding light during the early 1980′s. These two new tracks show this integrity in abundance. To get the new single by The Mob and the other releases on All The Madmen records please browse the website; please join the singles club to get all the records in gorgeous coloured vinyl…! Please remember All The Madmen records is a co-operative and all monies gained goes straight back into funding new projects. P.S: ‘Nothing You’ve Got I Want’ has a very special person performing on the track. This person was around The Mob literally at the very start of the band… A beautiful track indeed.
Following on from Joseph Porter’s rollicking good read ‘From Genesis To Revolutions’ which was a factual account of Joseph’s growing up in the west country and eventually highlighting his subsequent joining of Zounds and the adventures thereafter, we get ‘Full Circle’ which is a ‘fictional’ critique of the anarcho punk scene in the early 1980′s with all names changed to protect the great mass of black clothed warriors of the day, some events fictionalised did in fact happen.
Joseph Porters ‘From Genesis To Revolutions’ book was placed up to KYPP a year and a bit ago now and that post may be viewed HERE
What? Another fucking book about the anarchist-punk scene in the 1980s? Well…sort of… This is about all the people and places I knew then but one step removed. From an emotional standpoint it’s a much more accurate picture of what I thought and felt at the time, and that’s why it’s more important to me than ‘Genesis’ which was just a means of raising some money towards the Blyth Power recording! As a piece of narcissistic self-obsession it’s more accessible than ‘The Bricklayers Arms’. It’s now available priced £10 via Blyth Power HERE
Steve Lake from Zounds wonderfully entertaining book on his life with Zounds including all the lyrics to the all the tracks Zounds recorded along with some nice photographs of Brougham Road courtesy of yours truly!
This is part Steve’s autobiography, part band history and part insiders story of the 1980′s UK anarcho punk scene.
The band were formed around the nucleus of Steve Lake from Reading, Berkshire and evolved from a number of jamming sessions with other musicians and friends in Oxford, taking in influences from the Velvet Underground to the Sex Pistols. The band began performing gigs in 1977/78 with a line-up of Steve Lake (Vocals/Bass), Steve Burch (Guitar) and Jimmy Lacey (Drums), adding Nick Godwin (guitar) at their second gig – adopting the name ‘Zounds’, chosen from a dictionary by Burch. Soon, Burch left the group and was replaced by Lawrence Wood. After this the band slowly became more politicized owing to troubles with police and unfolding events of the cold war, and became more and more involved with free festivals, alongside The Mob, with whom they developed a close association.
The band met up with fellow anarchists Crass when, legend has it, their van broke down on the road. They made their way to nearby Dial House, where Crass were based, who helped them with repairs. The two bands became friends, and although musically very divergent, they shared many common political views. After undergoing several line-up changes Zounds shortly afterwards released their first EP, Can’t Cheat Karma, on the Crass Records label (although drummer Joseph was replaced for the recording by a session drummer) in 1981. The EP featured possibly their most well-known track “Subvert”, a call to arms against the grind of daily life. The release of this EP and association with Crass led to an increase in the band’s profile in the embryonic Anarcho-punk scene, touring with both Crass and the Poison Girls, as well as performing several squat gigs in West Berlin.
The band released their first album The Curse of Zounds on Rough Trade Records in 1981, recording and mixing the LP within five days. The cover art, by anarchist artist Clifford Harper, featured a painting of fire fighters apparently trying to put out a blaze at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. However, the picture continued onto the back cover, which showed that in fact they are spraying the fire with petrol, thus feeding it. The band released three more singles on Rough Trade, Demystification (a psychedelia-influenced track backed with “Great White Hunter”), Dancing and More Trouble Coming Every Day, as well Le Vache Qui Rit (initially intended for a split EP with The Mob for an anti-draft benefit in Belgium).
The band split up in late 1982, Steve Lake disaffected with the Anarchist music scene in general and the band worn out from touring. Bass player and vocalist Steve Lake and guitarist Laurence Wood continued to work together for a while as The World Service with original Zounds member Nick Godwin, whilst drummer Josef Porta went on to join the The Mob and later Blyth Power. Lake continued work as a solo artist recording two albums with Nick Godwin and Brian Pugsley.
Official re-mastered reissue of their excellent tape on the All The Madmen Record label from 1986-1987. Often overlooked due to its rarity, but long deserving of a quality reissue. Stunning female vocals over melancholy, yet catchy Gothic punk backing. Not unsurprisingly what one might get after these peace punks listed a magazine ad saying they were looking for band members, who “must be a fan of The Cure, Wire, and The Associates”. For fans of The Mob, Part 1, UK Decay, Blood and Roses etc.
Limited to only 500 copies, with the first 100 mail-order editions on coloured vinyl containing a bonus disc of rough mixes, compilation tracks, and live recordings.
Sometimes, just sometimes, placing rare records, cassettes and live performance audio along with writing interesting articles relevant to that particular post on Kill Your Pet Puppy can be a bit of a chore! Not on this post though…
All the work on this post has been done by various kindly souls to give this particular Penguin a rest. Gerard conducted, recorded and digitalised the interview with our Lord and Master Tony D which was then gently placed on my lap via a kindly email. Gerard also wrote the text to go with his part of this post. Someone else unknown to me took the photograph of Tony D and Gerard on the Brighton seafront.
Crumblestiltskin Gee AKA Dave Also then used snippets of the Gerard / Tony D chat on his radio broadcast on KAOS Radio Austin mixed in with lots of decent period music some of which might have been taken from this blog you are reading now. This radio broadcast may be listened to here;
After this show was broadcast I was asked if I wanted to place it onto KYPP. I told him no problem and “perhaps he could write some background on the radio station just to fill up the post a tad”. While Crumblestiltskin Gee was sourcing information to go along with this KYPP post another radio broadcast, this time dedicated to All The Madmen Records was aired.
A few days ago I received what I had originally asked Crumblestiltskin Gee for “perhaps he could write some background on the radio station just to fill up the post a tad”.
To my amazement Crumblestiltskin Gee not only sent me all the radio broadcasts he has been involved with and which would be relevant to this KYPP blog, including a broadcast all the way back in February 2013 which I was not aware of -ELUDING THE LENGTHENED SHADOW: No Doves Fly Here He also wrote reams on the history of free radio in the U.S.A along with reams of information on the current radio station he is involved with. KAOS Radio Austin.
Along with sending texts on the history and the workings of KAOS Radio Austin we have photographs, Youtube videos and interviews with some of the other KAOS Radio Austin DJ’s and other general agitators involved in the radio station!
Crumblestiltskin Gee even done the layout for his part, meaning with just a little effort on my side I could basically cut and paste the whole thing onto this post!
Not really a lot for me to do really save bolt all the bits together and write this introduction.
Massive thanks to Gerard and to Crumblestiltskin Gee for all the effort placed into making this KYPP post wonderful.
More details of what bands appear and who is interviewed on the Crumblestiltskin Gee’s radio broadcasts mentioned above may be read at the foot of this KYPP post along with the relevant links to those radio broadcasts.
Though this text is written in a heatwave, it’s easy to forget that spring got cancelled this year, replaced by a winter that went on forever and seemed like it was never going to stop. Even when the Wicked Witch died, Narnia continued.
It was, then, a relief to see the sun making it’s first appearance of the year as I waited on Brighton station for the appearance of Tony Drayton – the man behind the fanzines Kill Your Pet Puppy and previously Ripped & Torn.
I’d just finished a series of spoken word commentaries with Chas, the bassist from Flowers in the Dustbin, going through all our songs, and been pleased with the results. Now my idea was simple enough – I wanted to interview a series of people who were something to do with Flowers in the Dustbin, however tangentially and had an interesting tale to tell. Then I was going to put them all on the FITD website as some kind of weird FITD radio type series.
Why? Well, I guess what I wanted to get to the heart of is what we (punks) all think about stuff these days – how do we reflect on the politics and the attitudes of our youth, particularly in the context of middle-age and all that brings with it.
How the culture has grown up (or perhaps if).
So first up was Tony, now strolling through the ticket barrier with the usual friendly smile and mischievous intent. We decamp to the Prince George pub in Trafalgar Street for food and beer. It’s still morning. And we’re not eighteen any more.
The plan is to walk back to my flat and do the interview there. Which is a shame because by the time we hit the second pub (the Barley Mow in Kemptown), the interview has been prematurely born and Tony is pouring out anecdotes that are keeping the bar staff transfixed as well as yours truly. Like recalling a squat night sat squeezed between Boy George and “Mad Donna” and wondering if that was actually the girl who became Madonna… probably not but stranger things have happened and punk did (as I believe someone once pointed out) live in the strangest places.
A trip to the off license and we finally get back to the flat. By now the interview has a life of it’s own, and all my big questions on the profundity of post-punk maturity get delayed as we sink into some (I hope…) fascinating reminiscences regarding, in order:
Lilly Allen and Tony’s tummy & piracy & bootlegging
Festivals are the future
Virtual meet ups n- diary of a badman – the way the net unites
Gerard ex Flowers In The Dustbin
A FORESHORTENED HISTORY OF PIRATE RADIO IN AUSTIN, TEXAS
Illustration by Crumblestiltskin Gee
The Roaring 60′s- We Love The Pirates
THE AFTERMATH OF THE GOLDEN AGE OF WIRELESS: WHAT TESLA, EDISON, & THE RADIO HOBBYISTS COULD NOT FORESEE
In 1907, an angry United State Navy began complaining to the press about the use of wireless radio transmission by amateurs that resulted in the disruption of Naval communications. At this stage in history, there was no problem with anybody experimenting with radio broadcast as a hobby. As the issues began to escalate, however, President William Howard Taft introduced the “Act to Regulate Radio Communication” in 1912. Under the new law, people could still experiment with radio broadcast but they were assigned their own frequency spectrum that was overseen by a federal agency called the Federal Radio Commission, which was later replaced by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC was responsible for assigning frequencies to would-be radio stations and ensuring that acceptable content was broadcast on the air.
It was in 1924, a New York radio station called WHN was accused of being an “outlaw station” by American Telephone & Telegraph Company (AT&T) for violating trade licenses because the station was selling airtime to companies other than AT&T. Although, AT&T won the case, the provisions were never officially enforced by the government as public opinion steered toward the radio station. This experience led some stations to set up shop outside of American borders so that they could advertise whatever they wanted without being tied down to these regulations. “Border blaster” XERF from Mexico was one of these radio stations that had all English broadcasting without being tied down by the fetters of licensing agreements dictated by the US Government. Other radio stations, such as RXKR, preferred to use offshore broadcasting to get around the legalities of broadcasting on-land without the required licensing to do so; although, this endeavor was mostly put together to fool US tourists who were traveling to Panama.
KPFA, Berkeley was the beginnings of community radio in the US in 1949. The idea of community radio was a welcome relief to a lot of radio listeners as it had an emphasis on local issues and helped break down the barrier between broadcaster and listener through “phone-in” type broadcasts. However, the application process was heavy on red tape and some stations found that it would take up to 10 years before airing their first broadcast. Even though public funding had been made available for the creation of community radio stations, people started looking at doing broadcasts without a license in order to avoid the regulatory framework and shortage of frequencies. The newer regulations were strangling true expressions of self-management and community control, particularly with promoting the idea of “bigger is better.”
By the time 1978 rolled around, the FCC stopped granting licenses to stations with transmitters emitting less than 100 watts, thus making the broadcast of radio shows by hobbyists illegal. Well, sort of… The lack of a clear cut law regarding the broadcast of stations that were less than 100 watts created the illusion that you could get in trouble with the FCC but generally there was a lot of bark with no real bite. This helped pave the way for large corporations to have dibs on the remaining frequencies so that they would remain available mostly for commercial use. The upside to this ruling, however, was that this led to the creation of most college-radio stations. This increased the hankering for unlicensed broadcast by those who wanted to do things a different way.
MICRO-POWER BROADCASTING IN THE USA
Illustration by Sean Vile
During the ’80s, there was an outfit that called itself ACE (the Association of Clandestine Radio Enthusiasts), which helped further cement the resolve of those who were interested in following pirate radio broadcasts throughout the nation. However, the biggest influence on the Free Radio Movement in the United States was the creation of what became known as Black Liberation Radio in 1986 by Mbanna and Dia Kantako. Most of the initial programming consisted of telephone interviews with victims of police beatings in the Springfield,Illinois area, interviews with Noam Chomsky, as well as a mix of reggae, hip-hop, and other African-based music with a political view. The station was put together as a response to community radio stations censoring oppositional elements within their programming in order to maintain their licensing status at the government level. Kantako’s stance on micro power broadcasting was as follows, “I would like to see lots of little stations come on the air all over the country so you could drive out of one signal right into another. If you had a gap, you could run a tape until the next one came into range. I’m not interested in big megawatt stations. When you get too big, you get what you got now in America which is basically a homogenized mix of nothing, a bunch of mindless garbage which keeps the people operating in a mindless state. We think that the more community-based these things become, the more the community can put demands on the operators of these stations to serve the needs of that community.” When asked about challenging the FCC’s shutdown of the radio station by allying himself with the National Lawyer’s Guild, he responded, “Anything the government gives you, they can take away . .. Don’t no government give you freedom of speech. Don’t no government own the air … How the hell we gonna argue with them about their laws? That is insanity. We’ve already tried that for 500 years. I don’t give a shit about their laws. Now this is what I call real revolution. You’re exposing the system so the people can’t have faith in it no more.”
FCC Raid on Mbanna Kantako
With the empty space created by the shutdown of Kantako’s radio station, came a new project out of Berkeley- Free Radio Berkeley started by Stephen Dunifer in 1993. When finally brought up on charges in 1995 and 1997, Federal Judge Claudia Wilken refused to grant the FCC an injunction against the station citing Dunifer’s assertion that the FCC had violated Dunifer’s constitutional right to free speech. He said this about the case: “As an anarchist and a Wobbly, I don’t have any faith in the system, but we take our battles where we find them. It was the FCC who took us to court, not us taking them to court. Thanks to members of the National Lawyers Guild’s Committee on Democratic Communications, we were able to bring off a victory of sorts in that arena that’s held so far. Actually, an historical precedent was set on that fateful date of January 20th, 1995 when we appeared in court with the FCC. The FCC thought it was a slam dunk operation. They had this attorney out from D.C. who was real full of himself. He was possessed of the opinion that he was coming out to clean up Dodge City, and it was going to be a cakewalk. Well, within five minutes of that court proceeding beginning, it became rather apparent that he was not going to get what he wanted. He spouted off about it, saying that if I was allowed to continue broadcasting there would be chaos and anarchy on the air waves.
I said to myself, ‘Well, we already got chaos, what we need is a lot more anarchy.’ I’m distinguishing those two things because people tend to try to equate anarchy with chaos, violence and general dysfunctionality. What we really have is chaos in the society. Chaos comes from the Greek for gaping mouth. Our society has a broadcast media propaganda machine, made up of corporate and government thought control operations, which creates an insatiable hunger in people for whatever is the newest goody or commodity. It’s an insatiable hunger that can never be fulfilled by the means which they offer to you, and that’s the whole intent and purpose of it. It’s like a McDonald’s meal. It fits the propaganda of what your taste buds have been accustomed to, but it in no way provides for the nutritional requirements of your body. Your body is always left hungry because it’s not getting the balanced amount of nutrients it really requires to function in a healthy manner. So therefore you have these perpetual cravings for more, and that’s what this whole system is about. That to me is a chaotic system because it is a gaping mouth system; a gaping mouth that is always demanding to be fed more and more shit.”
The same year that the Federal Judge made these rulings was when Ron Sakolsky’s book Seizing The Airwaves was published. In the introduction to his book, he writes the following:
“Unlike conventional radio (which in a U.S. context means commercial, public or, increasingly, community), what Guattari called “popular free radio” does not seek to impose programming on targeted segments of a mass audience using marketing criteria. Instead, it aims at changing the professionally mediated relationship between listener and speaker, and even challenging the listener/speaker dichotomy itself. In one sense, then, it is an expansion upon Bertolt Brecht’s 1927 proposal for democratization of radio which called for the apparatus of radio to be changed over from distribution to communication, making it possible to transmit as well as receive. From an Autonomist perspective, Italian radio would be opened up to non-professionals and the hierarchical one way flow of messages would be replaced with egalitarian multiple flows. This new arrangement stood in marked contrast to the authoritarian approach to radio as a vehicle for the shaping of opinion either by the dominant culture or by an oppositional political party. In the latter case, Guattari was going beyond Brecht in concerning himself with the potentialities of radio for creating new spaces for freedom, self-management (autogestion) and the immediate fulfillment of desire rather than merely disseminating the party line and/or mobilizing supporters in the traditional leftist manner.
Beyond Italy, the resulting free radio movement surfaced not only in Japan as previously noted, but was in evidence throughout Europe in the Seventies and Eighties playing itself out on the airwaves in a plethora of pirate radio stations that erupted in the Netherlands (e.g. Vrije Keizer Radio), West Germany (e.g. Radio Dreyecklantf), Spain (e.g. Radio Luna), Denmark (e.g. Radio Sokkelantf), France (e.g. Radio Libertaire), Belgium (e.g. Radio Air Libre), and the United Kingdom (e.g. Radio Arthur). Today, some of these pirate stations continue to exist, while others have been legalized and hence re-stratified, still others have disappeared. Yet new ones have been born all across the planet in the flames of the Nineties. Circling somewhere in the aether remains the vision of nomadic radio pirates whose transmitters navigate the air waves liberating them on behalf of the voiceless, marginalized and downtrodden and viewing those waves as treasures in themselves which have unjustly been confiscated and debased by the rich and mighty; a touchstone image for current free radio activists throughout the world.
This analogy, of course, brings up the controversy that surrounds the term “pirate” in micro-power radio circles. Personally, I have never objected to the term pirate. When they asked Willie Sutton why he robbed banks, his reply was, ‘That’s where the money is.” Wobbly folksinger Utah Phillips says his mother used to call bank robbers “class heroes,” and Queen Latifah seems to agree. Now since I do not believe that the money that has been privately accumulated by banks is any more the result of an equitable distribution of wealth than that the oligopoly over the airwaves that presently reigns is a fair distribution of a public resource, I would contend that the term radio pirate as it is commonly used is a positive poetic metaphor relating to the redistribution of resources between the haves and have nots. Sure, the naive vision of piracy is often simplistically based on an image of heroic swashbuckling romanticism, but the history of piracy is itself very complex. Those called pirates have ranged from despicable slave traders and imperial guns-for-hire to radical adventurers and utopian visionaries.
Are radio pirates plundering and hijacking the airwaves from their rightful state and corporate owners, or are they better conceived of as state-free rebels using culture jamming tactics to challenge the power of the media monopoly and the authority granted by government’s normalizing regulations which have created a new interlocking system of enclosure, not merely on land, but in the air itself? Whether called pirate radio, micro-power radio, low watt radio, liberation radio or free radio; collectively we constitute a movement that has the capability of bridging the gap between the social and individualist strains of anarchist theory and practice, and offering a libertarian alternative to both corporate and state controlled radio that has an even broader appeal.
Michel Foucault’s strategic advice on “living counter to all forms of fascism” prizes “mobile arrangements over systems” (Foucault in Delueze and Guattari, 1983, p XIII), and brings to mind the image of Stephen Dunifer beginning his then clandestine broadcasts with a mobile radio unit in his backpack in the Berkeley hills or that of Mbanna Kantako defiantly vowing to run his Springfield, Illinois radio station off of a bicycle, if necessary, should he be busted by the FCC. These radio activists have in turn inspired countless others in their wake so that presently a virtual free radio stampede is underway as new micro-power stations go on the air every day. A stampede can be envisioned as mobility called into being by spontaneous action. “Every animal knows, and humans are no exception, that when there is a stampede you must join in or get out of the way. Try to stop it, and you will be crushed.” (Doe, 1996, p 181). Join the Great Radio Stampede!”
In the same tome, Stephen Dunifer writes in his foreword, “And now, good citizen, the next chapter in this fable is up to you. How will you write it? Will you take part in this movement to democratize not only the airwaves but all means of communication? It does not take much in the way of resources to put a community voice on the air. In fact, the cost can be kept to $1000 or less. Are you satisfied with format and formula radio? Does the media reflect the diversity of your community? Do you believe in the First Amendment and the right to tell the truth? Why not consider putting a micro-power FM radio station on the air in your community? Technical advice and equipment are offered by Free Radio Berkeley while legal support and expertise is provided by the National Lawyers Guild’s Committee on Democratic Communications.”
Zapatistas setting up pirate radio station may be viewedHERE
Stephen Dunifer; photo by James Radke
Dunifer was prompting people to participate in the process of democratizing the airwaves. It’s even rumored that he had a hand in assisting the Zapatistas in Chiapas with putting together their own pirate radio station, although this has never been proven conclusive. Two years later, several groups formed within the state of Texas to heed his call to action.
ENTER: FREE RADIO AUSTIN
Til Chamkis, Reckless, and John Siebold; photo by Jana Birchum
There were conversations amongst many who were involved with an Anarchist Reading Group that used to meet in 1996 about the possibilities of making a pirate radio station happen in east Austin. Three years later, the plan was borne into fruition.
Ritchie L (photo not approved for this article): Free Radio Austin existed from about 1999-2001. Free Radio Austin was an anarchist collective, consensus-run station that broadcasted on 97.1 FM out of three different locations during that time period. I believe it was the first pirate station in Austin. I helped a bit with setting up both Free Radio Austin and KAOS. I even did a show on KAOS for a little bit after Free Radio Austin was repeatedly shut down.
Naw Dude; photo by Patrusk
Doug (singer for Naw Dude, Bath Salts, and various other projects): Free Radio Austin was once based out of an old house that I used to live in.
Big Justin of Buzzcrusher & Bob-O Fuentes of Blunt Force Trauma
Big Justin (singer for Buzzcrusher): Free Radio Austin was a pretty important movement at that time but I just had a show; there were others way more involved than me.
The following is taken from an article about Free Radio Austin that was published in the Austin Chronicle in June of 2001:
In the early days of microradio, the FCC was at a loss on how to deal with rogue stations. Clearly, the stations were unlicensed, which made them illegal. However, microradio supporters pointed out that at less than 100 watts there was no license the stations could have applied for, which left them in a legal limbo. A bewildered FCC levied massive fines on the stations, but rarely attempted to collect. With the backing of the courts, the FCC resisted making First Amendment cases out of microradio shutdowns, by relying on two entirely dry and technical arguments against microradio.
The first is interference. Broadcast equipment not tested and certified by the FCC and not operated by professionals, the FCC says, may not make clean transmissions. Radio signals may bleed over onto nearby frequencies, interrupting the broadcast of other stations or disturbing ambulance signals, police broadcasts, and air traffic control transmissions.
Secondly, the radio bandwidth is only so wide. Since a finite number of the waves travelling through space will carry a radio signal, there are fewer frequencies than there are would-be broadcasters. Historically, the Supreme Court has upheld the limited bandwidth argument to the tune that “because it cannot be used by all, some who wish to use it must be denied.”
Yet those with the money to own and operate a 10,000- or 50,000-watt station rarely fall in the category of those who must be denied. And in recent years, the rich have gotten much richer. Ever since the passage of the Communications Act of 1934, the limit on the number of stations a company can own within a single listening area — once severely limited — has risen steadily. The 1996 Telecommunications Act lifted limits on the number of radio and TV stations a single company can own, and allowed ownership of multiple radio stations within a single city.
Reckless; photo by Jana Birchum
Free Radio Austin, like most micro stations, doesn’t dispute either of the FCC arguments directly. They just don’t feel that the arguments are sufficient to shut them down. “We realize that a regulatory body needs to be there,” Reckless, a former broadcaster at Radio Free Santa Cruz and backbone and a founder of Free Radio Austin, told Judge Sam Sparks of the Western District court at Free Radio’s hearing last November 13. “It is a finite spectrum, and we just feel that we deserve some of it.”
As for interference — never mind that a 100-watt station interferes with a 50,000-watt station like a jackrabbit interferes with an 18-wheeler — most micro stations say they are scrupulous about keeping their transmitters tuned and using filters and compressor limiters, all of which are supposed to reduce interference. At the hearing, an FCC agent admitted that Free Radio’s equipment had never been bench tested by the agency to see whether it could have caused interference. And only one complaint had ever been lodged against Free Radio Austin — by Austin residents who claimed it interfered with their reception of KGEL 97.1 in Fort Worth.
When microradio cases do make it into the courtroom, judges tend to shut the stations down without flourish. When broadcasters and supporters have tried to bring free speech issues into the cases, judges have shrugged. However the law ought to be written, broadcasters were clearly in violation of it the way it is written now. To change the law would require a lengthy round of appeals for which few microradio operators have the time, the money, or the lawyers.
The station broadcast at only about 70 watts, enough to be heard reliably around central East Austin — on a good day, some say, as far away as Bastrop. A lot of the programming was music, and a lot of it was political commentary. Some of it was cranks ranting late at night, or awkward poetry readings. The music tended toward the obscure and the politics toward the radical, but ultimately what broadcast at the 97.1 MHz frequency was up to Free Radio’s 100 or so programmers — cab drivers and waiters, Vietnam veterans and teenagers.
Free Radio got their first visit from the FCC in June of 1999. Agent Loyd Perry came to the door of the East Austin home where the station was housed. Perry identified himself, informed the broadcaster on the air at the time that the station was in violation of federal regulations. He asked for the station’s transmitter. The broadcaster, young and scared, handed it over. End of round one.
By the end of the summer, Free Radio was back on the air in a new location, and by the following February, the FCC knew it. A “secret broadcast” is something of a contradiction in terms, and Free Radio Austin was never very good at keeping a low profile. Around town they were an open secret; their stickers were on the bathroom walls, supporters wore Free Radio Austin T-shirts in the street. Perry read about them in the Chronicle and looked them up on Web sites devoted to “pirate” radio stations.
Throughout the spring and summer, the FCC sent out warning letters by certified mail, which station operators refused to sign for. Three times in March and once in August, (according to his deposition for a seizure warrant), Perry drove to Austin from the FCC’s Houston enforcement office and spent the day tracking the errant radio signal. He used a van equipped with an electronic tracking device, but his backup method worked just as well: in the phone book, he cross-checked the refusal signature on the returned letters with the phone number the station gave out as its call-in number. 2939 East 14th Street. On October 10, just a few days before the Fortune 500 conference blew into town, Free Radio was busted. The FCC showed up at the station, this time with several agents and accompanied by APD officers and federal marshals. A broadcaster put out a call to all listeners to come and defend their station. A crowd of 40 or 50 showed up to watch a private construction crew dismantle the broadcasting tower, but there was not much anyone could do. It was all over pretty fast.
FCC contractor begins dismantling the broadcast tower of Free Radio Austin; photo courtesy of Free Radio Austin
Seventy-two hours later, from the garden shed of another East Austin home, Free Radio Austin was back on the air. The final bust came less than a month later, on November 6.
“We were expecting something to happen, obviously,” says Til Chamkis, who was broadcasting at the time of the November bust. “We were on guard, but there had been a pretty good rain and the studio had gotten wet inside, so we had the doors open to air it out. I wasn’t that long into my show, and up the driveway comes a horde of Austin police, FCC, a federal marshal, so I closed the doors and they proceeded to go through the motions of kicking them in.
“I kept asking them to show me their search warrant; that was all I was asking for. Eventually they went around and broke a window, and that’s when I opened the door — and then they shut us down.”
Shutdown of Free Radio Austin
In truth, Free Radio was not really trying very hard not to be shut down. To some of the programmers, their hour or two on the air each week may have been the only point, but to the organizers, the shutdown was a move in a larger game. This was “illegal direct action”: civil disobedience, after a fashion, aimed at the FCC, at the government that tenures them, and at Big Media and the corporations that own it. If your direct action doesn’t make anyone angry enough to retaliate, to take you to court where you have a shot at changing the law, then it hasn’t counted. So they got shut down. It was part of the deal.
Within a week, the FCC filed suit against Free Radio Austin — or rather, as the brief reads, the United States of America filed suit against Reckless, Chamkis, and John Seibold — the three people they could firmly associate with the operation of the station. Chamkis they caught on the air. Seibold’s name was on the lease of the property that housed Free Radio’s third and final studio. And Reckless — well, she was implicated four or five times over. The suit also names as defendants “any and all John and Mary Does found operating an unlicensed station on 97.1 MHz.”
From the back steps, Reckless points out a concrete slab about 2 feet by 2 feet. The empty rusted housing in the center used to anchor the radio tower. The hole the FCC dug to find the transmitter is full of rainwater. This, the site of the second bust, is also her house. “Microradio is a vital first step in having any type of solidarity in the community,” she says. “We live in a time when people don’t know who their neighbors are, don’t really know what the issues are.
“The whole sound bite thing that commercial media does — it really does reduce your critical thinking skills. What’s going on in Iraq, for instance — there’s no way you can understand that in 15 minutes. That’s a three-hour discussion. Nobody on TV or radio has three-hour discussions except for microradio stations and community radio stations that care about these things — that will go so far as to break the law to get these things on the air.”
She sighs with impatience. “It’s not a big deal, it’s really not. We just want to talk to each other.”
The hearing on November 13 was short. While the FCC presented no positive proof that other local radio stations had experienced interference from Free Radio Austin’s transmission, and while Sparks said broadcasters had “the best of intentions at heart,” there was no doubt that they had been on the air without a license. The letter of the law was unquestionably broken. Responding to the FCC’s claims of urgency and “irreparable harm,” Sparks granted temporary injunctions against Reckless, Seibold, and Chamkis. A court date was tentatively set for the following spring and the three started looking for a lawyer.
On February 5, their day in court was abruptly curtailed. The FCC asked for and received a summary judgement — the kind of judgment you get when you contest your traffic ticket but skip your court date. It turned out no one from the station had filed a claim to the court against the broadcast equipment seized in the first bust. After 10 days, the seizure became final and the equipment was forfeited. Tacked onto the end of the forfeiture papers — seemingly as an afterthought — was a permanent injunction against the three defendants.
Within the statute of limitations, a summary judgment is fairly easy to overturn, but still without a lawyer, and with their confidence on the wane, Chamkis, Seibold, and Reckless sent a letter to the FCC in May. The letter announced their intention to accept the permanent injunctions and asked the FCC to drop further legal proceedings. Early in June, the FCC agreed.
“I know everybody gets shut down,” Reckless says, “And what I really wanted to do was fight the case and win — at least for our district — the right to communicate. But I don’t think any of us knew how much time and money and support you need to fight a federal case like this.”
Besides time and money, there was the concern that the names of other Free Radio programmers would be dragged out during a trial. With its dangling “John and Mary Doe” clause, the case was conveniently ready to swallow any additional broadcasters or operators the FCC could identify. At the hearing, U.S. Assistant District Attorney Britannia Hobbs asked Reckless to provide names and numbers of other broadcasters. When Reckless said she knew most of them by first names only, Hobbs asked her to turn and point them out in the crowd of supporters packing the courtroom. Reckless refused, as did Seibold. Sparks upheld the refusal for the purposes of the hearing, but pointed out that such a refusal during a trial would amount to contempt of court.
“There was no way any of us was going to narc,” Seibold says. But scrapping the court case to protect programmers’ names went beyond a sense of honor among thieves. If any of those programmers have a shot at returning to the air, it now depends on their names staying secret.
While Free Radio Austin was jousting with the enforcement bureau of the FCC, the agency’s administrative offices were in a huddle with Congress, engaged in rule-making that would permit the licensure of Low Power FM (LPFM) stations — low-wattage stations operated by nonprofit groups. While microradio advocates have several bones to pick with the LPFM licenses, at the moment they are the last, best hope for microradio operators who want to return to the air. There is one big stumbling block: LPFM licensing requirements automatically bar anyone who has participated in the operation of an unlicensed station. Any Free Radio programmer whose name came out in court would be out of the running immediately.
Around Austin, if you are in the right place and listening to the right people, you still run across former listeners and old programmers still awaiting Free Radio Austin’s imminent return — if not next week, then maybe the week after that. If you tell them it’s not coming soon, if ever, they’re incredulous.
At the former home of Free Radio itself, the sun is shining, but the back yard is a sea of mud. One of the blank, towering warehouses that dot East Austin rises over the yard, with its back turned squarely to us. On the steps, Reckless sits smoking.
“To win a war, you need to be able to shoot, move, and communicate,” she says. “Even if you can’t shoot or move, if you can communicate, you can still win, and so they want that totally crushed. A lot of people think I’m way radical for seeing it in this way, but we’re not the ones who started this war. It’s unfortunate, but I really do believe that they look at it that way.”
“When a government goes to take over another country, the first thing they take over is the airwaves, because that’s how you control the public mind. Now the corporations in this country have taken over the airwaves. How impossibly dangerous could that be in a quote-unquote ‘free society’?”
She stubs her cigarette out against the steps.
“We do this direct action — radio — because it is nonviolent. We know that the government knows how to deal with violence — that’s what they do. That’s what they put their unlimited resources into. But, all right, we tried to be nonviolent — what is the next thing if this doesn’t work?”
KAOS RADIO AUSTIN: AN ORAL HISTORY
Original KAOS Radio Austin logo; provided by KAOS Radio Austin
Stig Stench (of Stench Radio): I love KAOS! They were a big influence on me!!
Bianca Oblivion (KAOS Radio Austin- photo not approved for this article): Inspired by Free Radio Austin and saddened by its loss, I decided to start a station at my house, with the purpose of giving creative control to DJs and supporting the local punk/metal scene. I spent a few months studying electronics, getting a ham license, and assembling a transmitter kit and antenna. Once that was accomplished, there were many people eager to help. Members of the bands “Fuck Work” and “S’bitch” lived in the neighborhood and hosted a keg party to raise funds- just a bunch of punk rockers passing the hat. Someone else from the neighborhood donated a rooftop mount for the antenna and we were ready to go. On Dec 28, 2001, we got the antenna raised and started broadcasting.
The antenna; photo provided by KAOS Radio Austin
I just wanted a music station, mostly because too much talk drives me crazy. And, yeah, it was supposed to be a punk and metal station but there was too much pressure for other things. Within the first year there was Smooth and Demented’s bluegrass and outlaw country show, which featured a lot of live bands coming in the studio. Also, there just weren’t enough punk and metal DJs that wanted to dedicate themselves long term to doing shows. Time slots needed to be filled. Ultimately I decided that the station should belong to the people who were dedicated enough to do shows- no matter what kind of music they play. Later, I found that I, too, prefer a variety of music.
Scott Horton; photo source unknown
There was one political show from the beginning. Scott Horton was very popular on Free Radio Austin and he helped put up the antenna, so I let him do his libertarian thing, since so many people involved in the project wanted to make an exception for him. He has since moved on to more high profile projects. The organization of the project was very different. Free Radio Austin did the weekly consensus meeting, which I don’t find very effective. There is always endless debate and time-wasting and- despite all the safeguards- the people with the strongest personalities still end up in charge. Also, it’s hard to find a time that everyone can attend; it’s unfair when decisions are made when people can’t be there. Ultimately I made the calls but if you try to take people someplace they don’t want to go, you lose your ability to lead. So, when there was something to be decided, like what to do with benefit money, I would go out to the studio and chat with the DJs during the shows. It was slow, since it took a whole week to get with everybody, and sometimes it took a second week to get with everyone with objections or changes in plans. Still, in the end, it would usually be clear what to do. There was very little that needed to be decided, really. It was mostly fund-raising stuff and when we needed new equipment, it was pretty apparent to everyone.
The original KAOS Radio Austin DJs; courtesy of KAOS Radio Austin
For the first few years we only broadcast at night and on the weekend, which made it inconvenient for the FCC to come after us. It also helped that the conspiracy station was their number one priority. Whenever one of their transmitters went down, someone would call us and we would turn ours off. They can’t do anything if the transmitter isn’t on when they arrive. During times of intense heat, we would choose random days of the week to broadcast so it would be impossible to plan a raid against us.
El Demento & Errouneous O’Shaughnessy; courtesy of El Demento
El Demento (of The Smooth & Demented Show): The first live in-studio performance we ever had on The Smooth & Demented Show was just because some friends in a string band wanted to play on the radio. We bought a single cardioid microphone and had the band all stand around it. That worked well and was a method harvested through necessity rather than to uphold or replicate an “old-time” style recording ethic. One microphone was just all we had to work with. In the early days of KAOS, as an unfunded pirate radio station that rejects advertising, our equipment left something to be desired. Everything was donated and therefore only partially functional forcing us to get the best sound we could from very limited equipment. We started with bands that could play acoustically and who were not getting mainstream radio attention. Some of the first of those bands were early incarnations of groups like the White Ghost Shivers and South Austin Jug Band who would later become established hallmarks on the Austin music scene.
El Demento’s equipment; provided by the DJ
As time went on, more diverse acts wanted to be involved with a local pirate radio station and reach an internet audience at the same time. We started to include electric- or amplified-driven bands and would simply mic the amps to get a raw and authentic sound. This method sounded great and sounded real. Every live session is presented in basic and unfettered fidelity with no overdubs or remixing. No marketing. No gimmicks. Just real music. In our time, The Smooth & Demented Show has been been graced with giving radio voice to amazing talent from bands like Black-Eyed Vermillion, Scott H Biram, 357 String Band, Bob Wayne, Sons Of Perdition, Joe Buck, Elliott Brood, Jim White, Lucky Tubb, and Old 97’s member Murry Hammond ….as well as scores more. The artists we recorded for KAOS Radio Austin enjoy and appreciate the freedom from commercialism or censorship we provides. Each episode is archived for free download or streaming HERE and each artist who plays Smooth & Demented is archived with each song tracked out for free download HERE.
There are hundreds of KAOS radio sessions we offer for download this way.
KAOS helped prove that pirate radio was still an effective way to diversify modern terrestrial broadcasting in order to provide commercial-free, quality radio for the benefit of the community; all while maintaining a leaderless, NO-profit media organization possessing no true central power structure for the last 11 years.
DJ MOFO; photo provided by the DJ
DJ MOFO: Played some gigs at Headhunters Tiki Bar somewhere on Red River St. in Austin and Houston talked about playing on a pirate radio station called KAOS RADIO AUSTIN. The opinionated dick that I am had to get involved with that shit. There was a circle of friends that would trade what is good new, old, odd or indifferent amongst ourselves. So, I came out of the KAOS studio in S. Austin and was positive that I needed to be involved in this stinking pile of old beer, overflowing ashtrays and just enough equipment required to pump out hardcore slabs of Punk and Metal music.
After a few weeks of playing on the Saturday Night Drunk Club, Bianca asked if I’d like my own show which was fortuitous since I’d already started putting together mixes for this amazing opportunity that felt as though it had just dropped in my lap. Imagine…for the first time to have the ability to reach an audience of random fodder and drop every 12” slab of vinyl you’ve needed to hit them all for years with. Now I was told to keep it heavy and hard in the Punk and Metal vein but that was only held to for a brief few weeks when Bianca said it’d be cool to play anything, even Rap music. Floodgates breach and the music flowed out in an alcohol-fueled, drug-driven intensity that one rarely dreams of.
So, I get my own show, which of course, bring on the periphery of friends like DJ Information, DJ McPickleshittz and Dr. Horace Gravy. It was a welcome diversion of our outlet of music that we really wanted and needed to express the emotion that we all have within ourselves and our overt intensity of push. I’d spend days and nights to put together songs and mixes that the intensity was like cramming too many midgets in a smart car. After a space and time extended itself we were able to relax and be one with the energy that is KAOS RADIO AUSTIN.
There was this entertaining cast of characters that fill the space, all of whom were necessary to truly entertain and be the character that the station needed. It was fun to have Houston smoke me out and laugh as I rambled on about music and any other fancy that was not on topic. Yeah, it’s good to just let it go and play your records and be the truth that you are. It’s that moment in time when you make the decision that this is the time, place and time to give ‘em all that they need. So, you make time to play everything you want in order to express that pent up supply that finally has the outlet of entertainment pleasure.
There are those that listen to their past shows and others that just move on. The egotist that I am forces me to listen again and again to make the next performances better, or maybe just for ego. Does it matter, not when you have the airwaves blasting the fucking music you have always wanted to drop on an unsuspecting public. They’ve tuned in and deserve every intense note, phrase, song, LP and sometimes they recognize the content to fulfil their needs as well as your emotional release. Love it, hate it, we rocked you to your knees and even if you could only hear the FM at the top of hills, lose it at the bottom, we were there and we still are driving the future of internet radio.
Inside the KAOS Radio Austin studio; courtesy of KAOS Radio Austin
I’d try to show up 30 minutes before my show to get the somewhat empty beers off the equipment, empty every conceivable ashtray of their stank of butts and see what assholes were there. I wish I could say there are clear memories but it was a time of restlessness and…how should I say this gently, hmmm, consuming every mind-altering substance we could get our hands on. It was years later that I actually played a show sober. This shouldn’t detract or put a connotation on the timeline because this was just us. I’m certain everyone else was following better judgement than us… There were many wonderful people that flowed through and we felt privileged to engage with them and their musical choices. An open interpretation to music and personalities was helpful to really enjoy the edge of Austin music. You know who you were, are, and will be.
KAOS Radio Austin studio; courtesy of KAOS Radio Austin
Bianca Oblivion: I used to be known as the “Beer Princess”. I have taken on the moniker “Bianca Oblivion” since I moved away from Austin. I miss the central studio very much. It was hectic, like throwing a party at my house every day, but I was able to stay connected with the people in the project. Now there are people I haven’t even met doing shows. Also, it was like the ultimate adult clubhouse. There was always plenty of weed and booze and good times. Folks ran into friends they hadn’t seen in years. Couples met there for the first time. And even a few minor celebrities like Oderus Urungus and the Dwarves dropped in. King Coffee of the Butthole Surfers did a few shows and I can’t tell you how many bands played there or were interviewed on the air. Ultimately I ran into financial problems and I had to sell my house. I had a rental place for a while, but that didn’t work out for me either. So around 2006, I moved out to the country to some land owned by my family. Since there was no more studio we had to start doing the home broadcast or uploaded podcast thing.
The FCC knows all about me and about KAOS. They sent me a letter. They also closed down our last transmitter which went on for some time after I left, broadcasting our internet stream. You can check out the video, if you like HERE.
A few other DJs with KAOS Radio Austin:
Oliver Sheppard (Radio Schizo music blog, podcast, & radio show; writer for Souciant and Cvlt Nation websites; DJ for No Doves Fly Here, Funeral Parade, Atrocity Exhibition, & Convergence) & The Furnacedoor (your host on Sunken Lantern’s Waltz, and DJ for Funeral Parade)
The Furnacedoor: The Sunken Lantern’s Waltz is a six-hour behemoth webcast inspired by the now defunct No Doves Fly Here anarcho/goth DJ night that existed from Autumn 2011 to Summer 2012 in Austin, Texas. Curated by your host, The Furnacedoor, it is primarily a punk- and post-punk-centric broadcast but is considered open format and has had many special one-off and regularly recurring specialty episodes that have focused on genres as diverse as 60s garage punk, kraut rock, neo-folk, power electronics and doom metal.
Crumbelina and Crumblestiltskin; private collection
Crumblestiltskin Gee: My introduction to political activism was through the music released on Crass Records and going to workshops at the local housing co-operatives in Austin, Texas in 1984. I was 16 at the time and there was a serious movement to address the clandestine war that the US government was waging against the Sandinistas in Central America. As the years passed, I found myself being involved with people and groups who were addressing the issues of animal liberation, ending the war in the Persian Gulf, boycotts and protests to end apartheid, as well as addressing gentrification, participating in the Anarchist Gathering that occurred in San Francisco, and being involved in union organizing.
I formed an anarcho-punk band called Political Pollution in 1986 but quickly abandoned the idea. Shortly thereafter, the allure of cooperative living grabbed me and I moved into the vegetarian co-op known as the House of Commons, having only recently left in 2009 after a house fire. A few years before this sudden move, I discovered the world of music blogs while working a boring, mundane computer job.
The blogs that grabbed me were Strange Reaction, 7-Inch Punk, and Green Galloway- with Kill Your Pet Puppy coming into existence a bit later. After downloading my fill of the fine musical wares these blogs offered, it suddenly dawned on me that I, too, could create a music blog so I quickly worked out how I was going to make it happen and created the (now defunct) music blog Kamikaze Conniptions. I linked to numerous other blogs through this endeavor and eventually became friends with Oliver Sheppard (Radio Schizo), Kalashnikov Collective in Italy, and Alistair Livingston.
I put together a new band- arYAWN- and arranged a small tour of Europe with the contacts I’d made through music blogging. With arYAWN winding to a close, Crumbelina and I started working on a new occultish/experimental/dark wave project titled A Child’s Garden Of Lightning but then the Occupy Movement happened.
At around the same time, a local anarcho/death rock event called No Doves Fly Here had been created by Oliver Sheppard and Cutter Twowheels. This event brought a great number of people together and spawned The Furncacedoor’s Sunken Lantern’s Waltz radio show on KAOS Radio Austin, which led to the creation of the first radio show I was actively involved with on a regular basis called The Tyranny of Beauty. Although, the show had a powerful beginning, it quickly turned into “Occupy Radio” and lost sight of the direction Crumbelina and I had intended to take it.
We put the project to rest and began focusing on our individual approaches to radio broadcast; this was what eventually led to the creation of the radio shows In The Greylight, It’s This Way, Eluding The Lengthened Shadow, Funnel Of Love, and To Express The Inexpressible. I’ve experimented with doing live DJ events such as Reality Asylum, which was intended to bring together other anarcho-types (bands, distros, book publishers, record labels, activist groups) at a fairly new community space called Infest. Although, attendance at these events was low, it DID open the door for the local feminist community to begin using the Infest space for regular meetings to address current state legislation that is attacking women’s health clinics across the entire state.
An aural journey into the world of the Free Festivals & the New Age Travelers scenes in Britain during the ’70s and ’80s. Interviews with various members of THE WALLYS, the NEW AGE TRAVELERS, UBI DWYER, and MARK WILSON. Musical flashbacks provided by HAWKWIND, HERE & NOW, GONG, DAVID BOWIE, THE MOB, THE FALL, SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES, THE SLITS, ALTERNATIVE TV, THE POP GROUP, FLUX OF PINK INDIANS, CRASS, THE APOSTLES, THE REVIEW, and HYSTERIA WARD. Includes a discussion about the re-launch of ALL THE MADMEN RECORDS. Compiled and produced by Crumblestiltskin Gee.
Musical tribute to the KILL YOUR PET PUPPY collective, fanzine, and website! Featuring an interesting conversation between TONY D and GERARD EVANS about the history of RIPPED AND TORN and KILL YOUR PET PUPPY fanzines. Includes music by CRASS, BRIGANDAGE, HYSTERIA WARD, BLOOD AND ROSES, RITUAL, THE MOB, THIS BITTER LESSON, BIKINI MUTANTS, ADAM AND THE ANTZ, MEDICAL MELODIES, BUZZCOCKS, APF BRIGADE, POISON GIRLS, THE MEKONS, THE LURKERS, DELTA 5, SLAUGHTER & THE DOGS, MANAGING DIRECTORS, THE CLASH, THE SHAPES, SEX PISTOLS, ALIEN KULTURE, THE BARRACUDAS, DR FEELGOOD, KINGDOM COME & ARTHUR BROWN, and X-RAY SPEX. Compiled and produced by Crumblestiltskin Gee.
Join an audio adventure into the musical might of ALL THE MADMEN RECORDS- past AND present! Includes interviews about ALL THE MADMEN RECORDS with STEVE CORR, STEVE LAKE, MARK WILSON, RUTH ELIAS, MARK WILSON, ANDY T, KAREN AMSDEN, and CHRIS KNOWLES. Includes the music of THE MOB, ANDY T, HAGAR THE WOMB, KILL PRETTY, ASTRONAUTS, FLOWERS IN THE DUSTBIN, THE REVIEW, HYSTERIA WARD, BLYTH POWER, IDIOT STRENGTH, HAMBURGER ALL-STARS, WE ARE GOING TO EAT YOU, THATCHER ON ACID, CLAIR OBSCUR, ZOS KIA, and ANDY STRATTON. Compiled and produced by Crumblestiltskin Gee.
Musical hangover from THE MOB’s record release gig last week. Included will be tracks from new releases on ALL THE MADMEN RECORDS, bands that THE MOB have played gigs with (both past and present), as well as other projects that were put together during the same time period.
Uploaded today is the re-released 12″ vinyl by Nightmares In Wax that was originally released as a 7″ single on the Inevitable record label in 1979.
I was originally attracted to the sleeve artwork when I purchased this 12″ vinyl in the Ugly Child record shop in Hoe Street Walthamstow, east London around its release in 1985. Ugly Child Records was in the same location that Small Wonder Records had been only a couple of years previously.
The Dead Or Alive angle did not bother me at the time as I was blissfully unaware that there was a Dead Or Alive angle! After repeated plays and asking around whether anyone had heard this 12″ single I finally found out that there was an angle. I think it was my friend Simon, who is now known as Ossian that alerted me to the history of this record, unearthing to me the Dead Or Alive links. By that time though I was not particularly bothered as I liked this record on it’s own merits.
Although this KYPP post ‘celebrates’ Nightmares In Wax from Liverpool I have also placed up two essays written by Ted Polehemus and Steve Strange about the Covent Garden Blitz Club circa 1979 – 1980. I have no idea if Nightmares In Wax performed at the Blitz Club or whether Rusty Egan played the 1979 version of this record for the punters in the Blitz Club disco to dance along to. But I figured it might just fit otherwise I would not really know where else to place these Blitz Club essays on KYPP which highlights another part of London’s subculture in the late 1970′s early 1980′s. I do not think I actually own any ‘Blitz Club’ style records or cassettes apart from Roxy Music or Bowie of course (David Bowie’s video of the 1980 single ‘Ashes To Ashes’ had a handful of Blitz Kids prominently featured on it) and possibly B Movie, a band I really liked at the time!
“Oh I am a young man fascinated by my profile in my mirror….”
Pete Burns’ innovative style and creativity may have been in his genes. His mother, Eva, hailed originally from Austria and, according to Smash Hits magazine, learned her way around Liverpool by marking buildings with chalk for use as landmarks. She seemed to understand when Pete was having trouble in school because of his own uniqueness, and persuaded the authorities to let her educate him at home.
Born August 5, 1959, to Frank and Eva Burns in Port Sunlight, near Liverpool, Peter Jozzeppi Burns was, by his own admission, a solitary child. He preferred drawing and painting to playing with other kids. When he neared adolescence, he gave up the pens and paintbrushes in favour of powder and panstick, and began experimenting with his own appearance. His gift for self-beautification did not sit well with his schoolmates or teachers, who reacted with derision.
“I dropped out of school,” Pete recalled later, “because it got to be too dangerous for somebody who looked a little different. At that time, I was experimenting with hair dyes and stuff like that and I was going to a particularly macho-oriented school and causing too much controversy.”
In retrospect, dropping out of school was a career move for Pete.
Liverpool in the Sixties and Seventies was a place of high dreams and low employment. Inspired by the Beatles’ phenomenal success, a lot of young people formed music bands to escape low wages or the dole. Pete initially took a string of casual, dead-end jobs, but at age eighteen found work at Probe Records. Probe Records illustrious clientèle included Ian McCullough (Echo And The Bunnymen) and Julian Cope (the Teardrop Explodes). Pete Wylie, of the Mighty Wah! was a fellow shop worker at Probe. Surrounded daily by so much musical creativity, (and even MORE ambition), it was only a matter of time before Pete himself was bitten by the performing bug.
On November 4, 1977, an androgynous, amateurish new band opened for Sham 69 at Liverpool’s famous Eric’s Club. They called themselves the Mystery Girls, after a song by the New York Dolls. Regulars howled when they recognized Pete on vocals, backed up by Pete Wylie and Julian Cope. The three unlikely queens for the night bounced and bungled their way through a slew of cover versions and a few originals, and then vanished into posterity. The Mystery Girls were a one-night stand for all involved, and Pete did not perform again publicly for a year.
Then, in February 1979, he formed Nightmares In Wax. The inspiration for this new project was a stolen keyboard that they had to do something with, and Pete described their aim as to be the worst group in history. “We were pure rubbish,” he said, “performing one-note songs for ten minutes.” Regardless, Nightmares In Wax did slowly gain a following, mainly comprising “real loony’s” as the singer himself described them. Despite this self-denigrating philosophy and continual line-up changes, Nightmares In Wax were asked to record some tracks for Inevitable Records, run by the Eric’s Club manager, Pete Fulwell. The band’s line up still hadn’t solidified. Burns was joined at the session by his former Mystery Girls’ compatriot, drummer Phil Hurst, keyboardist Martin Healy, bassist Walter Ogden, and guitarist Mick Reid. The ensuing EP ‘Birth of a Nation’ opened with ‘Black Leather’, a roaring homage to homosexual leatherclad bikers and musically a tribute to Iggy Pop’s ‘Sister Midnight’. The song also contained a hint of things to come, when halfway through, the group suddenly broke into K.C. And The Sunshine Band’s ‘That’s The Way’ subsequently revived by Burns for Dead Or Alive’s first hit single.
The EP was released in February 1980 and sold respectably, but ‘Black Leather’ was frowned on by the distributors as sexist, although Pete saw it as merely an offshoot of his dark humour.
The line up had already splintered. Bassist Ogden was first to go, replaced by a new member named Ambrose, who subsequently followed his predecessor into Hollycaust, an early incarnation of Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Reid, left too, and filling in the now considerable gaps were ex-Upsets Sue James, the singularly named Mitch, and music veteran Joe Musker, formerly drummer with Merseybeat legends the Fourmost. Nightmares In Wax now continued to exist more as a concept than as a functioning band; still, in May 1980, the group was offered a local radio session. There, without warning and mere minutes before recording began, Burns decided to change the group’s name to Dead Or Alive. This, he claimed, was because he didn’t want to be associated with the arty bands now permeating the Liverpool scene: Echo And The Bunnymen, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Dalek I Love You, and so forth. Nightmares In Wax was dead, Dead Or Alive was born, and Pete Burn’s rise to stardom was now beginning in earnest.
Dead Or Alive’s début single for Inevitable record ‘I’m Falling’ was released in May 1980, and separated them even further from their peers. It was a new sound, something more spontaneous, melodramatic, and macabrely funny than anything else being recorded at the time. It drew attention to the band and more gigs resulted, including a spot on Granada TV’s arts programme Celebration.
The Granada TV appearance featured Dead Or Alive in a smokey studio set, performing ‘Flowers’ (the B-side to ‘I’m Falling’). Pete’s black hair had been crimped to an electric frizz, he wore a nose ring that touched his lip, and his make-up and clothes were garish. Some viewers reacted violently; the father of the band’s bass player Sue James declared that “he should be shot!” Pete responded to the outcry with calm egotism; “I look like whatever I want to look like. I can’t be different or I’ll be unhappy”.
In August 1980, he married hairdresser Lynne Cortlett, who had been a customer at Probe Records. “I was immediately attracted to Pete” Lynne said later. “He was as outrageous as I was and we both had so much in common.” She laughed when recalling her parents’ reaction to the match. “At first (they) thought Pete was just a gay friend of mine. They thought he was sweet and nice. But they didn’t like it when they found out we were serious. My dad always wanted a son-in-law he could watch football games with.”
By 1980, Pete was a cause celebre in Liverpool. His innovative clothing, make-up, and hairstyles aroused the envy of less creative associates and the wrath of everyone else. People jumped out of cars wanting to hit him, and occasionally an old lady would thump him with her handbag. Pete’s razor wit, which later was a cornerstone in his celebrity, came into being out of necessity. “After all,” he explained later, “when you’ve got a gang of boys surrounding you with Stanley blade knives, you learn to be witty pretty fast.”
Once upon a time – say last year – the world was populated by Normals and Punks. It was all very straightforward. Now, however, things have returned to a healthy state of confusion. Post-Punk is a term which some have grasped at in order to get a handle on this present situation. It sounds good, it’s obviously true but it’s also rather like calling the Renaissance the post-Medieval Period.
Consider a typical post-Punk night in the Electro-Disko at Blitz, a wine bar in Covent Garden which revels in the low-tech decor of war-time austerity. On the dance floor a teen-age girl dressed like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is dancing with a boy in a jet-black plastic space suit with such baggy trousers that a couple of spacemen and a good-sized alien could live happily inside them. His hair is slicked back Valentino-style and hers is neatly permed. The music is German electronic pop with J G Ballard-ish lyrics about life in a crashed car. Their dancing style is jitterbug step but it is executed with the efficiency of robots.
They are not smiling. No one is – especially not Mr Steve Strange who is furtively glancing out the door to decide who’s got the style and can enter, and who will be doomed to wait outside.
Watching Strange scan the crowd it’s difficult to believe that, like St Peter, he was once a mere mortal.
Back in the primordial period Before Punk, Steve Strange was called something else and lived a frustrated life in South Wales. With the advent of punkdom Steve became less frustrated but Stranger and moved to London where he, like countless others, found the elbow room for experimenting in style and music. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the great punk ice age set in with rigid uniforms and fixed attitudes. Individual style was put down as “posing” and Steve and friends took the hint and left the fold.
They started hanging out in a soul club in Soho called Billy’s. Eventually they asked the boss if they could run a ‘David Bowie Night’ every Tuesday. It was a great success, and there in lay its demise. The management let in hordes of unstylish types who had heard about it from the gossip columns and who thought it would be cheaper than going to the zoo. Hideous photographers came in bus loads from the tabloids. It was horrible! One week the whole crowd switched to Blitz which offered Steve control of the door and the last that was heard of Billy’s was that true-blue punks had moved in and preached anarchy by busting up the toilets.
At Blitz the ‘Bowie Night’ label was dropped, but his influence continues to linger on. It was, of course, Bowie who had insisted on giving style equal billing with music – something which the punks, like the hippies before them, have now come to see a anathema. This tradition has been carried on in Steve Strange’s own band Visage, on the genetic (soon to be christened ‘New Romantic) label, and the postures, dance ability and even what you choose to drink. This gives not only a post-punk, but actually an anti-Punk tone to the proceedings. It comes as quite a shock to discover that the vast majority of these kids sipping their cocktails and taking care not to mess their hairdos were once pogoing punks throwing beer at each other. This is the flipside.
Some of this crowd are New Mods, but to reduce this pot-pourri of extravagant styles to that of any other easy label is a mistake. Except for dressing in a stereotyped punk or hippy style anything goes – as long as it’s extreme. Steve and his crowd are attempting to tap our image resources. They’re digging into Top Hat and Barbarella, Thunderbirds and Stingray, Modesty Blaise and Dan Dare, not to mention of Fredericks’ of Hollywood catalogues and re-vamped versions of classic outfits of Mods, Teddy-boys and even cowboys (no Indian yet ). They are a tribe without a name and even if I could think of one, I’d hope to keep it to myself.
With or without a name, however, they are being noticed. Gossip columnists have pointed them out, established fashion designers like Zandra Rhodes and the Howies are checking them out and music moguls wait to hear them out. But meanwhile Steve Strange peers out of the window looking upon those who would enter his post-punk kingdom of heaven and hell. Many knock, few enter. He maintains that even Mick Jagger had to queue up, pass inspection and pay his money if he wanted to gain access. Like Steve Rubell of New York’s Studio 54, Steve Strange knows that the secret of his impresario’s craft is to judge a book by its cover.
TED POLEHEMUS – THE OTHER SOCIAL PAGE – TATLER MAGAZINE 1979
On 6, February, 1979, ‘Bowie Night’ moved to a much bigger club on the other side of Covent Garden. Blitz was a wine bar on Great Queen Street, near Holborn Tube Station, decorated with images of World War Two, such as murals of St. Paul’s Cathedral under fire and war planes flying overhead. The ‘Bowie Night’ name was soon dropped as the club developed a unique identity of its own. Every Tuesday, 350 of the most creative, individualistic young people in London would cram into the club. Many were ex-punks, fed up with a scene that had burnt brightly, but all too quickly turned in on itself. Others were young fashion students from the nearby St. Martin’s College on Charing Cross Road turning the place into a personal catwalk.
Queues were soon forming around the block again, and I was busy all night on the door. I had lots of enemies by trying to make the club look good. Barely a night would go by when I wasn’t spat at least once. An evening would not be complete without someone threatening to punch me out.
The club was a platform for new talent. Apart from the fashion crowd, there was journalist Robert Elms, who wrote about the scene, and photographers Gabor Scott and David Johnson who recorded the visuals for posterity. Ben Kelly, who went on to design the Hacienda in Manchester, was part of the crowd. The brilliant thing was that everyone involved had a role.
George was in the cloakroom in his white-faced kabuki made-up and kimono, Rusty, in his fifties suits, played the records, and I was on the door in my high hair and high heels, carrying a silver-topped cane. I only every tried DJ’ing once, on a night when I tried to set up a kind of cafe society, playing Shirley Bassey, Dusty Springfield, Frank Sinatra and escalator background music. But I only dabbled, because I was always needed on the door. I didn’t trust anyone else to do the door until one day a Blitz regular called Rosemary Turner asked if she could do it. She watched me to learn my techniques and then she was ready to do it herself.
My door policy was always very strict. Membership was two pounds, entry was one pound and everyone had to pay even the regular faces and the people who would become Spandau Ballet. If people didn’t want to pay, and thought they were above it, I’d say “who the fuck are you?”
Look back at the pictures of Blitz or the documentaries and you’d think it was a poseur’s paradise, the home of the beautiful people, but it wasn’t always like that. People were often either speeding or drunk, or both. There was plenty of glamour, but it was also very debauched. There was always someone falling over. The men were always in the ladies toilets putting their make-up on because it had the best mirrors. Sometimes you’d walk into the toilets and the scent of hairspray would almost knock you out. But one thing you can say about Blitz is that there were no barriers. The women didn’t feel threatened at all by men using their toilets.
Gradually the media started to pick up on the success of blitz. Boy George was becoming known in his own right, but I was the one who was initially singled out and courted by the press because of my striking appearance, and because I was one with the power to allow people in.
Everything was going well at Blitz, George and I were being seen at parties, and a day later it would be in a gossip column as the national newspapers tried to give a name to the movement. The Face and i-D had started and they were reporting on the scene as well, dubbing it the ‘Cult With No Name’, ‘The Blitz Kids’ and the ‘Now Crowd’.
Pick up the Evening Standard, and there was my stark, white face, scarlet lipstick, jet black, spiky hair 12 inches high, steamed and crimped with steel steamers, staring out at you. We didn’t get any coverage in the NME or Melody Maker because that sort of paper liked to think that they had discovered you, make you their darlings, build you up, and then knock you down. We didn’t care; we were making it without their support, having gone straight into the mainstream.
It was just my luck that a quite drunk Mick Jagger turned up at the door with his entourage. It has always been said that I held a mirror up to his wrinkly face, as I did with a lot of potential customers, and said, “would you let yourself in? “ Although I did refuse entry to people who didn’t have the right look, sadly that’s not what happened at all. I explained “we were over capacity what what would the fire officer say” to Mick’s friends, who were more sober. Meanwhile Mick was getting annoyed, saying, “Don’t you know who I am?” I tried to be polite and his friends tried to calm him down as he went off in search of night life elsewhere. But it just happened that a tabloid journalist was there at the time. By the following day, the story had to out, with typical press embellishment, and the legend of Blitz being the ultra-exclusive club for the new young elite was established.
Uploaded tonight is the very first radio interview with members of The Mob after the band had reformed late on in 2010 ready for The Mob’s first performance in April 2011.
The radio interview was conducted on The Mob’s very first overseas visit (since the reformation) in a small studio in the Greek capital of Athens on February 17th 2012.
Around a week prior to The Mob’s visit to Greece troubles occurred on the streets of Athens.
On the 10th February 2012 Greece had just hours to approve a plan to save another three hundred and fifty million Euros or face defaulting on its debt and being booted out of the single currency.
As rioters clashed with police in Athens over fresh austerity measures, including cuts to the minimum wage, EU leaders from the other sixteen Eurozone states asked Greece to make the extra savings and pass the cuts through a restive parliament – or it would not receive a hundred and thirty billion euro bailout.
The Greek coalition Government had to approve the draft bill and face ‘life under the German jackboot’ otherwise it would default on its debt costing the nation its place in the Eurozone.
Meanwhile, up to seven thousand protesters of all ages took to the streets some throwing petrol bombs and rocks at riot police who responded with tear gas.
Youths in hoods and gas masks used sledgehammers to smash marble paving slabs in the capital’s main Syntagma Square and hurled the debris at police.
On the streets of Greece, the mood was grim, after two years of severe income losses, repeated tax hikes and retirement age increases that failed to signally improve the country’s finances. Unemployment is at a record high of twenty one per cent – with more than a million people out of work – while the economy was in its fifth year of recession.
Timing is everything, and it was during this flashpoint and the volatile repercussions the week afterwards that the members of The Mob were to perform at gigs, firstly in Thessaloniki on February 15th, followed by two performances in Athens on February 17th & 18th both promoted by Six D.O.G.S.
Prior to the first Athens gig all the members of The Mob were interviewed on the Red Leftside Radio station in Athens.
The members of the band discuss various issues with the hosts of the show in a seemingly nice relaxing way. The band members also introduce songs by The Mob throughout the radio broadcast.
Being set and broadcast in Greece an interpreter was present to translate what one of the hosts had asked and what one of the band members had answered so you will hear some Greek all through the interview. Also you will hear various jingles and I think the odd advert in Greek!
I have had the audio of this eighty minute interview with The Mob ever since it was actually broadcast on that February day from Athens in 2012. Everything is in there, nothing taken out (including the jingles etc).
It has taken an age to place up on KYPP as I had completely forgot I had the audio on my hard drive!
Sometime next week I am placing up two radio broadcast links courtesy of the KAOS radio station in Texas. Last week the radio station broadcast a two hour special on Kill Your Pet Puppy, followed a day or two later by a two hour special on All The Madmen records. I am awaiting some history of the KAOS radio set-up to be written out by the host of those two special broadcasts, Dave Also, prior to placing these two links up onto KYPP.
It was these two recent radio broadcasts that I listened to last week that reminded me that I still had the audio of this Greek radio broadcast!
Anyway, even if the Greek radio broadcast is over a year and a half late it is still worthy of a listen.
The Greek radio broadcast is split up into four twenty minute chunks.
Since this first overseas trip to Greece The Mob have been performing in many other countries including some of the states in America, Canada, Spain, France, Poland, Ireland and Italy amongst several others that I can not remember at present!
The photographs of members of The Mob relaxing in Athens are courtesy of Tess Wilson, the photographs of the buildings are from Mark Wilsons collection. Finally the live photographs of The Mob in Athens are courtesy of A Katsarou. Thank you to those kindly folk in advance.
Exactly thirty seven years ago tonight, a Monday night, Michelle was waiting in a queue to witness the two day punk festival held at the 100 Club in Oxford Street in the centre of London. Below are written memories of that night and of the era. The text immediately below is written by Michelle herself and the text below Michelle’s was written by Caroline Coon for a review of the festival which was published in Melody Maker a week or two after the punk festival had taken place.
The two photographs of Michelle in the ‘leopard skin’ jacket at the front of the queue for the event are courtesy of the Caroline Coon collection. All the photographs of the bands at the actual festival were taken by, and are part of Michelle’s collection. Also the photograph of Michelle in 1976 that heads this post and the photo booth shots from 1977 to 1979 are from Michelle’s collection. Thank you to her for letting KYPP use them.
Fast forward a handful of years from those nights in September 1976 and Michelle would front the band Brigandage and live amongst the Puppy Collective in and around the squats of Hampstead. Michelle’s band, Brigandage, was a firm favourite of the Puppy Collective and to a much younger Penguin.
Previous to forming Brigandage in 1979, Michelle was in the band V.D.U that put out one 7″ single ‘Don’t Cry For Me’ on Thin Sliced records. Sadly I do not own this artefact but if and when I do I will place it up on KYPP.
You may hear Brigandage in all there glorious pomp on two previous KYPP posts HERE and HERE.
Michelle is still involved in the scene in no small way after all these years. She has never really been away. Brigandage have not reformed (although that might be nice at some point in the future). What Michelle has been doing for several years now is to create lovingly screen printed replicas of some of the original Seditionaries stock, original stock long gone now. Michelle also creates her own clothing inspired by the Seditionaries brand from 1977 which are equally beautiful and well made for both men and for women.
For more information on her business Sexy Hooligans you may follow this link HERE.
Six examples from the huge range of Sexy Hooligan clothing may be viewed below the 100 club punk festival post.
Please support Sexy Hooligans if you can, and no there is not a free shirt in it for me!
My boyfriend Bruno and I were a little different at school in that we loved Roxy Music. I think we loved them more than Bowie although we saw him on the 1976 ‘Thin White Duke’ tour. We loved Lou Reed and the Velvets and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Bruno had a massive record collection for the time. We just liked things that weren’t long hair and flares and dull like Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Genesis. This made us odd at school.
He read the Melody Maker and when we were about 15 we started going to gigs, even rock and roll gigs. It was fun but there was a feeling in the air that something was about to happen, about to explode. Then one day we read about a band called Eddie And the Hot Rods and they sounded exciting. We did not make it to the gig, we had tickets for Doctors Of Madness instead. Then it happened: Sex Pistols front page of the Melody Maker. The fight from the stage of the Nashville club in Kensington. That was it, straight up to London to see them perform. They seemed so exciting, out of the ordinary. They looked like us, were young. They did not have long hair it was short like ours.
People do not realise how absolutely boring and tedious Britain was in the early 1970’s, how the sixties dreams of revolution had died and left a vacuum. Also it was a lot easier for me to get to gigs because I lived in a suburb of London.
The atmosphere at the 100 Club punk festival was electric. We had seen Sex Pistols several times before, and The Clash. They had five members then, Keith Levine was the third guitarist for a while.
Dreadful bands like The Suburban Studs used to support them. They were dreadful. We nearly walked out before Sex Pistols came on! They brought a pigs head out on stage, so you see people were already trying to latch on to this new feeling of punk shock but getting it dreadfully wrong.
It was an incredible two nights but it was marred by the glass throwing incident which Sid, then the drummer of Souxsie And The Banshees (or Suzy And The Banshees at that festival) got blamed for. My cousin and I got small bits of glass showering over our face but it was a friend I’d met at Blitz, Cherry (I think that was her name) who got glass in her eye. It blinded her in one eye and I think she was and wanted to continue to be, an artist. The incident put paid to that. Obviously the atmosphere changed suddenly. There was blood, screaming, crying and ambulances and police. It calmed down after she was taken away but everybody started to leave. Souixsie stood on the stairs and asked people to stay and support The Buzzcocks. Bruno and myself could not as we needed to get the last train back to the suburbs. Should have stayed to see them, as it was Howard Devoto’s band at that time.
All I can say about seeing Sex Pistols was that the first time Johnny stepped onto the stage I practically fell to my knees, it was like a life changing religious experience. Here was someone who understood what I was feeling inside. I now longer felt alone. We were individuals shoulder to shoulder with other individuals. Not some mindless gang but a group of people who had finally found their way to a home.
Michelle Brigandage / Sexy Hooligans
100 CLUB PUNK FESTIVAL 1976
Monday, September 20th: The Sex Pistols, the Clash, Subway Sect, Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Tuesday, September 21st: The Damned, Chris Spedding and the Vibrators, the Buzzcocks, and Stinky Toys (from France).
The first mass exposure of Punk Rock to the music press and record industry. On the second day, after an accident in which Dave Vanium’s friend lost her eye, Sid Vicious was arrested. When I tried to find out why, I too was arrested. During most of Chris Spedding’s set I was in the police station with Sid but I was released (and later given an absolute discharge) in time to see the festival end.
Monday September 20th
Nothing quite so collectively out of context as last Monday’s queue outside the 100 Club has gathered on Oxford Street for nearly a decade. When the Hari Krishna chanters stopped rush-hour traffic in their saffron robes and bald heads and started pinging finger cymbals, there was no denying that the hippie era had arrived.
The six-hundred strong line which straggled across two blocks waiting for the Punk Rock Festival to start was again indisputable evidence that a new decade in rock is about to begin.
Two eighteen-year-olds from Salisbury were at the head of the queue. ‘I’ve been waiting for something to identify with,’ says Gareth enthusiastically. ‘There’s been nothing for years. I just want to be involved, really.’
Michelle and Bruno are both sixteen. Their hair is short and neat. Their attire, shirts and ties, ‘leopard skin’ jackets, stilleto heels, pointed toes and dramatic make-up, is echoed down the line – in various home-made and inventive variations.
‘They’re the best bands around,’ says Michelle, who’s a seasoned fan already. ‘They’re playing the music of the people.’
Over the last eight months, a generation of rock fans has been developing an extraordinary sense of belonging together. Excited by the blast of direct energy in the music of the bands playing on the Punk Rock Festival bill, they are creating a new cultural identity for themselves. They have their own clothes, language, ‘in’ jokes and fanzines. There is a healthy comradeship and competitiveness in equal doses. The established bands share their equipment and rehearsal space, and most of the established musicians are encouraging friends to form bands of their own. Apart from the thirty musicians actually playing in the Festival, the audience itself is seething with new talent.
Tim, Pete, George and Bill – all seventeen – are from North London and Southend. ‘We listen to everything from Weather Report to MC5,’ says school boy Tim. ‘But we come here to pick up tips. Our band’s called “1919 Ulterior Motive Five” ’cause there’s four of us, see.’
Johnny Moped is there looking to find musicians for his band The Morons. Chaotic Bass is on the loose. Fat Steve of the Babes says he’s rehearsing. Fourteen year old Rodger Bullen, Rat Scabies’ protégé, has just joined Eater.
The creative buzz and exciting feel that something is ‘happening’ is infectious. There is a continual stream of criticism and rude abuse poured over each other’s favourite enterprise, but having and giving back that kind of attention is part of the fun. ‘Do It Yourself’ could be the motto down at the 100 Club. Everyone wants to get in on the act. Everyone can.
The Subway Sect. It’s their first-ever gig. There’s Vic Godard (19) and Paul Myers (bass). Paul Smith (18) has played for five weeks and Robert Miller (lead guitar) for three months. They are familiar faces, having been in the audience at many Pistols gigs. It’s been tough for them to find rehearsal rooms, but after a weekend at the Clash’s spacious studio, their set is debut ready.
They stalk purposefully on stage and without looking at the audience start a lengthy, foot-finding, tuning-type warm-up. Already they look like they belong together.
‘We’re the, er, Subway,’ pause ‘Sect’ pronounces Vic, turning at last to the audience.
The Clash planned to let Siouxsie and the Banshees use their equipment at the 100 Club festival, but when their manager, Bernard Rhodes, saw Siouxsie wearing a swastika arm band (which she refused to remove), they withdrew their consent. Why?
‘I felt she wasn’t aware of what she was letting herself in for’ said Bernard. ‘Our equipment is very distinctive we’ve painted it luminous pink. If she used it, we too would be associated with the swastika. I felt she was mucking about with a loaded gun and we didn’t want to have anything to do with it.
‘The whole swastika thing is quite funny really. When I was working with Malcolm he went up North and came back with a whole load of bits and pieces with swastikas on them which someone had given him. Eventually Siouxsie wore one of the shirts, more because it was there than anything else. She said that as a symbol of shock, the swastika was the only thing around. I don’t think she thought very much about it. As a symbol, or an emblem it was a random choice. A bad accident. A bit of a red herring. But the Clash are into specifics, not red herrings. If we’re going to use emblems, then they should be nearer the mark. People can do what they want. But we don’t think the swastika means anything relevant to us.”
Siouxsie and the Banshees. It’s never the same at a Pistols’ gig nowadays if what is known as the ‘Bromley Contingent’ isn’t there. This inseparable unit are Steve (21), Bill (22), Simon (19) – he sells hot-dogs off a mobile stand during the day raspberry-haired Debbie and Siouxsie herself.
They first heard the Pistols at their local Tech in January, and they’ve been faithful followers ever since. They made the trip to Paris in a ropey old car to see their heroes’ first overseas performance, and Siouxsie, shocking in her semi-nudity, got punched on the nose.
She is nothing if not magnificent. Her short hair, which she sweeps in great waves over her head, is streaked with red, like flames. She’ll wear black plastic non-existent bras, one mesh and one rubber stocking, suspender belts (various), all covered by a polka-dotted, transparent plastic mac. Over the weeks the Bromley Contingent’s continuous parade of inventive dress (it’s rarely the same two weeks running) has set the fashion. It was only a matter of time before they took their street theatre to the stage.
Apart from Siouxsie, membership of the band was not settled until the day before the festival. Everyone thought, though, that they’d carry out their much advertised plan to sing ‘Goldfinger’. It was not to be. At the last moment, in an orgy of rock iconoclasm they decided on The Lords Prayer spiced up with ‘the most ridiculous rock songs ever written’.
Two-tone Steve (his hair is black on top, white at the sides) was on a bass he picked up for the first time the night before. Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten’s friend, and inventor of the pogo dance, was on drums. He had one rehearsal. A mature gent called Marco was lead guitarist.
The prayer begins. It’s a wild improvisation, a public jam, a bizarre stage fantasy acted out for real. The sound is what you’d expect from, er, novices. But Sid, with miraculous command, starts his minimal thud and doesn’t fluctuate the beat from start to finish of the, er, set. Against this rough corrugation of sound, Siouxsie, with the grace of a redeemed ghoul, rifles the senses with an unnerving, screaching recitative. ‘Twist and Shout’ and ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ creep into the act. Sid flickers a smile, Marco, his guitar feeding back, rolls up his sleeves, and Two-tone Steve two-tones.
The audience, enjoying the band’s nerve and audacity, eggs them on, gets bored, has a laugh then wonders how much more it can take. Twenty minutes later, on a nod from Marco, Sid just stops. The enthusiastic cheering is a just recognition of their success. If the punk rock scene has anything to offer, it’s the opportunity for anyone to get up and experience the reality of their wildest stage-struck dreams. The bar-flies are horrified.
‘God, it was awful’ says Howard Thompson, an A&R man from Island. But Siouxsie is not interested in contracts.
‘The ending was a mistake,’ she says. ‘I thought we’d go on until they pulled us off.’
The Clash. ‘They’re Great!’ shouts a bespectacled youth half way through this band’s set. ‘I used to listen to Yes and Genesis.’ At last, after three months intensive rehearsals and three gigs, the Clash hit close to top form. We see a glimpse of their very considerable potential.
They have reduced their line-up. Rhythm guitarist Keith Levene is off forming a new band. This has left Joe Strummer (lead vocals and guitar), Mick Jones (lead guitar), and Paul Simonon (bass), more room to move. And this they do, powering through their first number, ‘White Riot’. The audience is instantly approving. The band is fast, tough and lyrical, and they’ve mastered the way of dovetailing Joe’s mellow approach with Mick’s spikey aggression. They blaze through ‘London’s Burning’ with raging intensity. Terry Chimes (drums) uses the opportunity to undercut his solid bass drum surge with candescent splashes over the high hat. They play eleven of their eighteen songs including ‘I’m So Bored with the USA’, ‘Protex Blue’ (with Mick on lead vocals), ‘Deny’, and ‘Janie Jones’. They end the set with ‘1977’.
Later, I ask Paul Simonon, who has played bass for only six months, how he feels about the set. ‘I’ve got to get better. I’m never content. I know I can do a lot with the bass. Most of them stand still like John Entwistle. I want to move around and give the audience a good time. And give myself a good time too.’
Joe Strummer, who’s last band was the now-fabled 101′ers, has played with very experienced musicians. What was it like playing with someone like Paul who’s learning as he goes? ‘It’s really great,’ he says. ‘When a musician knows all his oats it gets boring. It’s not exciting for them and they start playing for playing’s sake and the emotion disappears. It’s really exciting playing with Paul because there are no rules. My guitar style is really rudimentary and Mick’s is great, so the combination is really interesting.’
The Sex Pistols. The atmosphere in the club is feverishly high pitched. This is the band everyone’s been waiting for. Not everyone, however, is happy about the Pistols’ growing success and notoriety. The private party is over. The band is public property. It had to happen. But with mixed feelings the band’s throbbing nucleus of fans are holding their breath as their champions start a steady climb to the ethereal reaches of stardom and rock immortality. Will the businessmen spoil them?, is the anxious question.
Already the band has changed – especially Johnny Rotten and Steve Jones. Once Rotten would poke his pretty mug into any camera lens and leer. Now he’s likely to sweep his arms across his face with an Ava Gardner gesture of exclusivity.
Jones, once the brooding loner unsure of his sex appeal, is now exuding a magnetic confidence which guarantees a screen of exotic women around him. Glen Matlock and Paul Cook, perhaps because they’ve been less ‘visible’, have yet to zip into their rock star mantles. They will, once their partnership – Glen’s driving fluid bass lines and Paul’s billowing drum storm – is recognised as the superb bed-rock of taut rhythmic structures it is.
The band’s fanatical following is growing fast. Fans follow them all over the country from gig to gig. They are the unquestioned stars of the Punk Rock Festival and as they step on stage they are greeted with lung bursting cheers.
‘We’ve got another Underground at last,’ shouts an ecstatic youth, ‘I’ve waited seven years for this.’
Over the nine months that the Pistols have played together, Rotten has developed his stage presence beyond the realms even his most ardent fans imagined possible. He is still prying open the nether reaches of his personality and presenting audiences with yet another dark fragment from his psyche. Once he moved over the stage squirming and jiggering around like a spinderly, geigercounter needle measuring radio activity. Rarely was he motionless. Lately, he rarely moves. He can be quite sickeningly still. This deathly, morgue-like stance sets skin crawling, and his lyrics are as suffocating as the world they describe.
He wears a bondage suit for the festival. It’s a black affair, dangling with zips, chains, safety pins and crucifixes. He is bound around the chest and knees, a confinement symbolising the urban reality he sees around him.
The set begins. The band hit their instruments in unison. It’s the fanfare intro to ‘Anarchy in the U.K’. SMASH – and their instantly identifiable, careering, evisceral splurge sears the air. The fans go wild. Johnny strains at his jump-suit prison. He breaks loose and burns into ‘I Wanna Be Me’. The crowd sprawls at his feet, a struggling heap of excited bodies.
‘Alright,’ says Johnny calmly disengaging his feet from the melee, ‘all off the stage, chuckies…’
The photographers fight for better shots, the pogo dancers leap above the crowd, sweat pours and the crush rolls forward and back from the stage like a tidal wave.
The band, lifted by the positive vibes, delivers pin-perfect versions of ‘Seventeen’, ‘I’m a Lazy Sod’, ‘New York’, ‘Pushin’ and A Shovin’’ – the fans call out for ‘Sub-Mission’ – ‘next number’ drawls Johnny. It’s the Monkees’ ‘Stepping Stone’. Then ‘I Love You’, their cynical anthem to suburbia.
Steve breaks open, flinging his guitar diagonally across his chest and slicing up his fret, he leads the band with power and imagination through a breathless one hour and fifteen minutes of thunderous rock ‘n’ roll. They play ‘Sub-Mission’, ‘Liar’ – a favourite with the audience – ‘No Feelings’, ‘Substitute’, ‘Pretty Vacant’ and they finish the set with ‘Problems’ and ‘No Fun’. They are called back for a triumphant encore.
The Sex Pistols were terrific. Compulsively physical. Frightening in their teenage vision of world disintegration. And refreshing in their musical directness and technical virtuosity. Whether their music will make the Top 20 or not is irrelevant. They’re doing it for a new generation of rock fans who think they’re fantastic.
Tuesday, September 21st
The audience on the second night of the festival is conspicuously longer haired and more denim clad. The atmosphere is competitive still but without the reigning kings there’s not the same buzz.
Stinky Toys. Ellie (20), the Stinky Toys’ singer, has calmed down. The night before, when she realised there was no time for the band to play, she’d made a not-too-successful prima-donna exit – kick, push, tut-tut at tables as she ran out into Oxford Street where, it is said, she was saved from wounding herself under a bus.
Her band is very French, i.e. very, very serious. They’ve frowned for two days and they frown even more when, after three very short numbers, including ‘Under My Thumb’ they get nil reaction from the crowd. There’s Bruno Carone (lead guitar), Jacno (rhythm), Oswald (bass), and Harve on drums. They play completely out of tune even though they spend minutes between numbers ‘tuning-up’.
Ellie’s voice, a high pitched whine, has 90% of the older male population diving back to the bar. And yet? Well, even though she sings in English and not one of the words from songs like ‘Pe Pe Gestapo’ or ‘Kill The Pain’ are intelligible, she has presence. You have to watch her. As the band liven-up with petulant anger at the impassive crowd, Ellie, frisking her blond hair out of beautiful blue eyes, does a frenzied dance before the mike. If only the rest of the band didn’t give the impression they want to get off the stage as fast as they can.
Which singers, I ask Ellie, before she dashes off after the set to catch the last train to Paris, have influenced her most? ‘Brenda Lee,’ she says ‘and Glenda Jackson…’ Umm.
The Damned. There’s something very special about this band. They’ve come a long way fast from the night, three months ago, when they played their first gig at the Nashville. Not that they actually played together that night. Each one of them did his own number in a private daze. Out of time, out of key, the cacophony was terrible enough to be great. The band took to the stage like famished maggots to an over-ripe cheese. They are all born performers, without a shred of inhibition. They are more voluptuous, both musically and physically, than the Pistols, and less classically musical than the Clash. But, with these two bands they are the third key-stone to emerge and they are holding up a corner of the canopy loosely covering the punk rock scene.
Rat Scabies is already being tagged a nubile John Bonham. He drums as solid as an express train. Ray Burns, whose lips always glisten with Woolworth’s best pearly pink Tu lipstick, plays bass as if he were Marc Bolan on lead guitar. He’s articulate and sensitive but he chooses to fool everyone with a front as benevolently mad as a village idiot’s. Bryan James (lead guitar), the band’s ‘elder’, is likely to look up from his guitar, catch Rat and Ray acting out their star trips, and crack up with spontaneous laughter.
Their lead singer, Dave Vanium (he gave up his daytime job as a grave-digger last week), looks as if he’s immaculately risen from Dracula’s crypt. On stage he hisses like an angry bat. And, for one so new to the game, he can keep a show going through appalling obstacles.
As they steam blissfully through ‘Neat, Neat, Neat’ and their soon-to-be-released single ‘New Rose’, the sound is atrocious. Vanium’s mike keeps crackling and cutting out, but the show goes on with the minimum of fuss.
Half way through ‘Fan Club’ they take off, pile-driving and crazy fierce, with Bryan pounding the coagulation with a fine treble texture. They are having fun but after their non-revivalist version of the Beatles’ ‘Help!’ the music staggers to a halt.
‘Who’s come here tonight to listen to music?’ challenges Rat as he spars with his drum-sticks on Ray’s bass. It is always difficult for Rat to keep sitting at his drum kit for more than a few numbers at a time. Bryan, meanwhile, has broken a string. After ten minutes the roadie still hasn’t fixed it. Chaos on stage. The show starts again.
‘We’re sorry to sound just like the last band,’ leers Dave, ‘but we can’t help it,’ and he rips into the Stooges’ ‘1970’. He leaps and scrabbles at the torrid air and flinging back his glossy black head he spits out lyrics in a style which is developing into a show-stopper.
Suddenly he jumps into the audience. O.K. that’s par for the course. But when he gets back up on stage again he screams with a conviction which transcends a stage act, ‘Someone has just hit one very near and dear to me’. The show goes on, but Dave is on the verge of freaking.
Minutes later three people appear at the back of the club. There is no commotion but they are bleeding. The atmosphere chills perceptibly. Onto the stage leaps Mr. Hunter, the club’s manager. ‘If there’s any more glasses thrown,’ he yells, ‘you’ll all have to go home.’ The show starts again for ‘So Messed Up’, the last number. The band screams through it, black and moody, slamming out the last riffs before they make a dash to the dressing-room. Dave, whose girl-friend was one of the injured people, heads straight for the street in time to sit in the ambulance as it heads for hospital.
A glass lobbed at the stage, hit a pillar, shattered and sprayed the audience instead.
Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols’ manager, tries to buy a drink and is refused because the barman doesn’t want any more missiles flying through the air.
‘Why don’t you serve drinks in plastic cups,’ asked Malcolm.
‘Who do you think we are!’ is the reply. ‘We’re civilized down here.’
The Vibrators – and Chris Spedding. The show goes on. The first time the Vibrators, John Ellis (lead guitar), Knox (lead vocals) and Jon Edwards (drums) played at the 100 Club, their manager-cum-bassist, Pat Collins, told me, ‘We don’t really go along with the Punk Rock thing, but it’s the fashion isn’t it?’ Since then they’ve cut off their long hair. However, they still play very few original numbers. They’re a punchy little R&B outfit. And since Chris Spedding hasn’t managed to form a band they are the ideal bunch for him. He wants to play it safe. They know all the old classics.
Their first number (Spedding joins them later) is a bluesy carnage of ‘I Saw You Standing There’. Then they spew into ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’.
By this time, policemen, plain clothes and in uniform, are mingling with the audience. Everyone feels uncomfortable. People have been hurt quietly. There wasn’t a fight, and nobody knows exactly what happened.
Suddenly, with no more impact than a moving dark blue flash, five uniformed police surround a figure by the bar. He looks surprised. Blank. He’s guided to the exit and arrested. It’s Sid Vicious, Siouxsie and the Banshees’ drummer.
The Vibrators play on. Spedding joins them. He’s dressed in black from head to foot and his eyes are like coalholes in his white face. He humps into ‘Motorbikin’’. Ray Burns, who’s standing at the side of the stage, can resist no longer. Up to the mikes he leaps. They are turned off until he reaches the other side of the stage. Spedding’s cool. Ray sings the choruses and the audience seeing that Spedding is trying to slip away cheer him back again. They all mash into ‘Great Balls Of Fire’ and for good measure – with half the audience groaning ‘boring’, ‘old’, and the others leaping about – they wring life into ‘Let’s Twist Again’. Well, they did it! In the dressing room, dripping with sweat, Spedding is actually grinning. He enjoyed himself.
The Buzzcocks. This Manchester band was formed less than two months ago. The front line – Howard Devoto (vocals). Peter Shelley, who plays a chopped-in-half, second-hand ‘Starway’ and Steve Diggle (bass) are pint-sized. Howard, who doesn’t speak to the audience much – has just dyed his mousey hair orange. All the band’s energy implodes around John Maher’s drum kit. But like sparrows in a sand bath, they throw up a gritty cloud of sound. Through numbers like ‘Breakdown’, ‘Orgasm Addict’, ‘Boredom’ and ‘Oh Shit’, their sound is quaintly compact. But their approach, though very energetic is unnecessarily defensive and calculating. Devoto insists that he is only in a rock band ‘temporarily’ and his self-conscious lack of commitmentcomes across. He doesn’t laugh much and he hates being on stage.
The festival ends with the Buzzcocks fluttering into the audience and Peter Shelley’s guitar still on stage feeding back. It pounds out a gut-wrenching lub dub, lub dud like the no-feeling sound of a robot’s heartbeat.
It was a bitter-sweet two days. There was a fine display of inventive music, plenty of hope, a lot of fun, and revived spirits. The star bands gave their best, and the newcomers were very entertaining. But, echoing the black spots in almost all festivals this summer, someone was badly hurt by an alcohol container.
Thus the optimism of this otherwise milestone event was undercut with sadness. Nobody wants to see the fiery, aggressive energy in the music diminished. But, promoters, increasingly eager to book punk-rock bands, must take a few elementary precautions (like plastic mugs) to protect their very young audience. It’s the only sensible way to present their scene.
Caroline Coon – Melody Maker – 2 October 1976
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