Crass – Toxic Grafity Fanzine – 1979

First pressing of flexi

Second pressing of flexi

Crass – ‘Tribal Rival Rebel Revel’ flexi disc

This particular issue of Toxic Grafity is probably the most well known of the handful that were produced. It was also one of the best selling (of all fanzines, not just Toxic Grafity!) due to the free flexi disc of a (then) unreleased track by Crass being included.

It should be noted that Throbbing Gristle are also featured in this issue which was always a bonus for fanzines in the late 1970’s.

I am indebted to Toxic Grafity’s writer and editor, Mike Diboll for supplying the following information below on how this particular issue of Toxic Grafity got produced. All artwork on this post is from this issue of Toxic Grafity.

This edition of Toxic Grafity was put together while I was squatting in New Cross, south London and originally printed during late 1979, but it didn’t really get into folks homes until early 1980, when a substantial reprint was done. Originally 2,000 came off the presses, quite how many were eventually printed, I am not sure.


Joly from Better Badges (who also printed the first three KYPP’s fanzines, the last three were printed by Little ‘A’ Printers) used to always swing things so it seemed that I owed him lots of money (quite large sums for those days); I’m sure he may well have been diddling me, but that was my fault, because I was very naive in those days and thought that anything do with business, copyright etc, was bourgeois and reactionary, so perhaps I deserved it. Also, it must also be added that I was off my head a fair bit in those days, but of course so was Joly! Judging by the number of flexi’s that were sent to Better Badges, I suspect the actual print run was over 10,000, perhaps well over.


A year before the release of this particular issue of Toxic Grafity, in 1978, and also during 1979, there had been some really nasty rucks at Crass gigs at the Conway Hall in Red Lion Square in west central London. These rucks had mainly been fought between boneheads and bikers brought in by the SWP.


I can’t remember what the gigs were in aid of, but it was something the SWP had a hand in. The boneheads were used to pushing punks around, but got far more than they bargained for when taking on the bikers, some of whom were grown men in their 30s and 40s armed with bike chains, knives etc. After those experiences at there concerts Crass seemed to get a lot more edgy than they had been previously about sharing any sort of platform with members of the ‘hard’ left wing.

The lyrics to the Crass 7″ single ‘Bloody Revolutions’ is based on that feeling from the band around this time.


Basically it was the left wing causes that Crass would sometimes support, that seemed to aggravate the boneheads, and of course the boneheads would generally mill around the halls looking dangerous, and on occasions causing some real trouble.

Toxic Grafity didn’t really have those left wing associations, and (luckily) I also knew a few of the bonehead contingent quite well. I had always despised their ideology, but on a human level I was quite friendly with some of them. This I think helped diffuse things when Crass performed at the Toxic Grafity event staged at the Conway Hall late on in 1979.



It was not a violent night at all, which was obviously good news at the time considering the previous gigs at the Conway Hall. There were of course some minor problems, but those situations were quickly nipped in the bud by some friends of my family that had come to witness the gig.


The flexi disc followed on from the Toxic Grafity benefit gig, it was Penny’s idea, he bought it up one evening at Dial House, the Crass commune, way out in North Weald, Essex.


The original Toxic Grafity benefit was staged because of an incident late on in 1978 when I was pulled by the police in Soho, the seedier area of the west end of London. The police stopped me on one of those charges they used to pick punks and other ne’r-do-wells up on, the infamous SUS law. I had stopped off in Soho on my way back from a visit to Dial House, and had the artwork of an earlier Toxic Grafity on me. The police found this highly amusing, as you might imagine, destroyed the artwork, treated me a bit roughly, threatened me, and said that they’d put me on some sort of Special Branch terrorist watch list. Looking back on this as a 50 year-old I can see that this was almost certainly bullshit, but I took it seriously enough at the time!

As a result, Crass decided to help Toxic Grafity out (a previous issue had carried one of the first in-depth interviews with them), and the gig at the Conway Hall and the flexi disc followed on from that.  


The track on the flexi disc, was not one of Crass’ more in-depth or enigmatic tracks, rather it was what it says it is, a protest against violent political sectarianism screwing up the young. Of course I was extramely grateful never the less.

I’ve repudiated so much of what I used to believe in during those days in the late 1970’s, but the closing words for Crass’ ‘Bloody Revolutions’ track “but the truth of revolution, brother, is Year Zero” still appeals to the Burkeian in me!


Joly at Better Badges did the litho printing for the fanzine and sorted out the badges. Southern Studios took care of the flexi disc by Crass, but I can’t remember where they had it pressed, or how many exactly were manufactured. The Crass flexi discs were written in red for the original publication of Toxic Grafity, others were written in silver for subsequent issues of the fanzine.


Eventually there were five Toxic Grafity fanzines that were produced and sold from 1978 – 1981.


Toxic Grafity issue 6 and 7 were planned and in large part nearly prepared, but I became a father in March 1982 (I’m now a grandfather, twice), and ‘reality’ stepped in quite soon after so all those projects were cancelled.


The later Toxic Grafity’s, including the issue above, had dropped the whole band interview thing and had became more like an anarcho-punk agit-art magazine, similar to what Kill Your Pet Puppy would evolve into.


By 1983 I was doing a lot of dispatching and also a lot of ‘white van man’ work until sometime in 1989. While doing these small jobs, a friend of mine, Wayne Minor (from Brixton’s 121 Railton Road bookshop) and myself brought out one issue of “The Commonweal” which was a more mainstream anarchist publication in 1985.


In 1989 I entered university as a mature student.


I now live and work in the middle east.

To advertise this issue of Toxic Grafity, Crass arranged to press up a few hundred vinyl copies of the same version of ‘Rival Tribal Rebel Revel’ to give to record stores that were ordering the fanzine in bulk. This was so the shop had a ‘hard’ vinyl copy that the shop could play rather than play the flexi disc from the fanzine if any potential buyers wanted a snippet pre buying the product.

With thanks to Chris Low for supplying the personal letter from Mike to Chris

  1. Sam
    April 23, 2009 at 3:40 am

    It’s very nice Penguin but why is it there (I’m too lazy to read the page about St George).

  2. Sam
    April 23, 2009 at 3:46 am

    They were Aurora models that did the horror figures. Scariest were Dracula and The Mummy. The Airfix 1/24 scale Spitfire was like heaven when it came out. Sliding canopy, retractable wheels and a little motor that made the propellor go round. Then I had an argument with my older brother and he smashed it up with a broom.

  3. Mike D
    Mike D
    April 23, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Happy St. George’s Day, Sam!

    If you haven’t already read him, treat yourself to a read of the WW2 poet Keith Douglas, either his collected poems or his Desert War narrative “Alamein to Zem-Zem.” Like WW1 poet Wilfred Owen he was killed in France, aged 24. But apart from that he’s a very different poet.

    “I felt as positive as you did Mike up until 9/11 and the subsequent bad old days of the Bush years.”

    Interesting, my formative time in the US 1998-9, when I did a couple of semesters at the University of Cincinnati, and some archival work at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale; I used to go up to Chicago a lot, and down into the Upper South. Of course, that was before all this shit happened.

    I was over there just after 9/11, in December 2001 to January 2002, Cincinnati again, then down to New Orleans. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife. NO was weird because I was there between Christmas and New Year for the Modern Languages Association convention. Just about the whole of 18-30 NYC and New Jersey were there for a no-holds-barred, head-in-the-sand, pretend-it-hadn’t-happened drinking binge. Still, I’m glad I got to see NO before the deluge.

    Last time I was over, in NYC and Philadelphia in 2007, things seemed much better regarding the 9/11 fallout, with Ground Zero well established as another essential must-see on the tourist trail.

    “There’s a fine history of dissent and anti-authoritarianism (as we all know!) in our country that I miss.”

    As I know only too well! But am I turning into an old git, or is all that dying a death in the wet fart that passes for Britain today? If it is dying, it must be for the first time ever in British history that the people really did lose their spirit. But that’s the way it seems to be going, with mind-numbing consumer culture for the “haves”, and the soma of cheap, strong drugs and booze for the “have-nots”, and assenine, inane politics and telly for everyone.

    “I think on the whole, Americans are more generous of spirit and funnily enough less prone to violence than us.”

    Absolutely, it is this amazing generosity of spirit that draws be back time and time again to America, and I really do think that on the whole this generosity makes the Brits look petty, snidey, small-minded, and smart-arse.

    You dead right about the violence too. Of course nowadays Britain has done a sterling job in catching up with the USA in mindless inner-city ghetto gun-crime. But in both countries that sort of hassle is easy to avoid unless (a) you’re looking for it, (b) you’re part of it, (c) you very bad at reading Metro/Underground maps, or (d) you’ve got the street-suss of an inebriated limpet.

    The fact is that 90% of America is not at all like that, and what you’ve far more likely to find are neighbo(u)rly communities with a sense of community and civic pride, where people keep an eye on what’s going on, generally care for one an other ,and even, in some parts, leave their doors unlocked.

    In Britain, on the other hand, “‘oo r u screwin’ at cunt?” violence is endemic, especially on a Friday or Saturday night, when vast amounts of cheap alcohol rid people of what few inhibitions they have left. It’s like walking on egg shells: walk down almost any high street after dark one false move, word, or even look out of place could be your last. And it’s not just the inner-cities, but more or less everywhere now.

    Civic life America is so much better because of one simple thing: public drinking is forbidden everywhere (except the aptly named Bourbon Street in NO).

    My son Ben got some stick in an English park from some English kids one summer, “Oi, why are you talkin’ like an American?” I didn’t realise he did talk like that until these little yobs pointed it out, then it struck me that his English was at least as much American as it was English. This is because of the international school he goes to, where most of his mates are either American or Canadian, and most of the non-native speakers learned American English in private schools.

    He’s even in the Boy Scouts of America now, and he looks the part with his wide-brimmed campaign hat, khaki shirt, the Stars and Stripes on his arm, and all those big colourful badges that the Americans like to plaster all over their uniforms.

    He’s in the BSA because he’s a bit of an outdoor type, and the BSA is what there is Scout-wise out here in Bahrian (the Scout Troop is run by US embassy people and military types from the huge US naval base here).

    He had to swear an oath of alleigence to get in the Scouts, but since where all international out here they lety him do the “God, Queen and Country” Brit one. Since he’s joined his had a great time, and has learned to to all sorts of amazing things, and has great fun too since in the BSA the PC brigade has not exorcised out of Scouting all those quasi-military things thast boys of his age like so much.

    Still, the Americans’ lack of irony and deafness to double-entendre can be alarming. Packing up his kit bag for a long hike, the Scoutmaster asked Ben where his Vaseline was, adding in a loud voice in front of everyone and with a totally straight face “There’s a 1001 things a Scoutmaster can do with a tub of Vaseline”. I had to bite my bottom lip and pretend to sneeze in order to mask the laugh, “Biggus Dickus” style. But the Yanks added “Yeah, you can use it to light a fire!” “And to stop dirt entering into grazes”, &ct., &ct., &ct.

    Either that or the Yanks have a very highly developed sense of irony that we Brits just don’t get, but I doubt it somehow. “Irony” has for long been the language of London, to the extent that people usually say the opposite of what they actually mean, which gets irritating. I generalise, of course.

    “But I talk mainly of the Britain of 15 years ago when I moved over here. I see it in brief chunks every few years and mainly from behind a pleasant beery haze.”

    /wa ‘ana ka-maan/, “Me too!”

  4. Ian S
    Ian S
    April 23, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Ah glow-in-the-dark kits . . . there was a popular one of human skeleton too, meant to be educational. It was fiddly to put together.

    Airfix made those boxes of 1/72 scale soldiers, colour-coded for different nations. The Germans were blue-grey. The British were green and the Americans a darker green. The Japanese were mustard yellow. When you opened the box for the first time, there was a faint sweetish smell from the plastic.

    The boxes had vivid illustrations on them, snarling paratroopers chucking grenades about and so on, painted artwork of a now extinct style done by commercial artists.

    All the Americans I’ve met through work seem surprised at how much Londoners drink.

  5. Mike D
    Mike D
    April 23, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    That’s right, I’d forgotten, it was Aurora who did the horror movie kits, and the Mummy one was particularly good.

    Times move on, and my son has a gruesome collection of Aliens, Predators, Terminators, Batmen, Mothmen and various Star Wars thingies (never could see the point of Star Wars), but they’re not construction kits, and they don’t glow in the dark.

    I used to really like the spacecraft models. The Airfix Lunar Module was pretty limp-dick, but the Revell ones were really good, especially highly detailed ones of the Gemini craft.

    One of my favourites was a Revell Mercury Programme set. Never mind that the real Mercury programme consisted of a test pilot who had done something to his brain cells, and a tin can strapped to a plagarised V2, but at least it got an American into space after the Russians had got there first!

    But this kit was amazing: launch platform, rocket, capsule, gantries, launch command, support vehicles and all the rest of the gubins recreated in loving detail. I spent weeks lovingly painting it and putting it together, then one day I trod on in walking into my darkened bedroom. I reapired it, but it was never the same, and it was all but unobtainable in the UK.

    Of course the Space Race was all part of our youth too. The closest I get to homicidal is whan some pasty, foppy haired, baggy jeaned teen mumbles something in almost inaudible teen argot about the moon landings being faked. How is it that these sort of guys always seem to have amazing looking girlfiends? T’wernt like tha’ when I were a lad!

    I liked the 1:24 Spit too. But I found that in time the glue weakened and they cracked along the fuselage or the wings dropped off.

    There’s a model shop in Burgess Hill that’ll make up and paint kit models to order to a very high standard (not Airfix, they’ve gone bust), but even a small one will cost a few hundred quid, which isn’t that bad I suppose when you consider the amount of work. Can’t see that surviving the credit crunsh!

  6. Mike D
    Mike D
    April 23, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Ah glow-in-the-dark kits . . . there was a popular one of human skeleton too, meant to be educational. It was fiddly to put together.

    “Airfix made those boxes of 1/72 scale soldiers, colour-coded for different nations.”

    Tel me about it! I had legions of them, laid out across the floor. There were WW1 French, Germans and Tommys, and regular WW2 Brit and German infantry, the Desert Rats, the Afrika Corps, and the Parachute Regiment.

    “The British were green and the Americans a darker green.”

    The dark green ones were the US Marine Corps. . .

    “The Japanese were mustard yellow.”

    As they bloody well should be, sir!

    There were Roman legions too, and the French Foreign legions, but I couldn’t quite find a place for them in mygreat set-pice battles. . .

    “When you opened the box for the first time, there was a faint sweetish smell from the plastic.”

    Yes, yes, and the chemical whiff of Airfix glue and paints. . .pre-teenage kicks.

    See, what a war-like lot all you Crassy pacifists were! “Forming a stereotype indeed!

    The boxes had vivid illustrations on them, snarling paratroopers chucking grenades about and so on, painted artwork of a now extinct style done by commercial artists.

  7. Nic
    April 24, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    I’ve still got my ‘Forgotten Prisoner…’ kit upstairs in the record room…

    I just spent a very pleasant week in the Cotswolds drinking aforementioned English beers and visiting beautiful gardens…
    It’s easy to forget the lovely things about England (and Wales, Scotland and Ireland) – bring on the cheese-rolling, country pubs, village greens with stocks, folk rituals, Morris Men, Tiddly Winks, the 1960’s ‘Ploughman’s Lunch’, Long Barrows…

  8. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    April 24, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    I also have the ‘forgotten prisoner’. The only model that survived from the early 70’s. It is in a box around my mothers. All made up complete with spider, rat and extra arm chained to the wall. Bit gloomy to keep that one was I not?

  9. John No Last Name
    John No Last Name
    April 24, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Sorry I had to repost this as it made me laugh out loud

    “There’s a 1001 things a Scoutmaster can do with a tub of Vaseline”

    I guess we were a generation raised on “Are you being served” and “Carry on” Films.

    Now if only the scoutmaster was Kenneth Williams

  10. Mike D
    Mike D
    April 25, 2009 at 11:35 am

    “Sorry I had to repost this as it made me laugh out loud”

    Absolutely! This was at an event where the parents had been invited! As I said, I had to suck in my cheeks and bite them as all the earnest Yanks came out with helpful suggestions as to what exactly a scoutmaster could do with a tub of Vaseine!

    “I guess we were a generation raised on “Are you being served” and “Carry on” Films.”

    Definately. My wife is 18 years younger than me (she’s from Essex, BTW, lest anyone suppose I ordered her from a catalogue) collects this stuff on DVD because it’s “retro” (i.e. made before or shortly after she was born) and therefore “cool”. It just makes me feel bloody old, but I still find it hilarious.

    We’ve tried to get other non-Brit friends into it, but they just don’t get it. I don’t mean that the humour isn’t their style, I mean they literally don’t understand half the jokes. Odd, because I don’t have any problem in getting Yank, Aussie, even Arab humour.

    This is one reason I’m so hard on my old anarcho-days, especially the Crass days. The element of humour was almost totally excised from punk, although there had been no shortage of humour, irony, sarcasm, satire, call it what you will, in the early days of punk, and as much as we mocked “Society” or whatever, we also mocked ourselves.

    Anarcho somehow replaced all this with the humourless self-righteousness of the fanatic. This was sad. Even in the Dark Days of WW2 which we were dicusssing, Brit’s went about the grim task of killing and being killed with their capacity for humour, irony, self-depreciation &ct intact.

    The humourlessness of the anarcho’s was much like the black-shirted visionariness of our Wartime opponents, right down to the black shirts!

    Before anyone objects, I should state that it’s not as if I never shared a joke with any of them individually, I did so quite often (usually at the expense of Clash fans who hadn’t followed us over into our sect, or Joy Division “existentialists” who had the black gear but not the politics, or the Sham 69 and “Oi!” lot, to whom we felt smugly intellectually superior).

    However, as a corporate entity Crass especially was humourless, and encouraged an earnest humourlessness that is the mark of the fanatic.
    If you adopt a corporate identity (complete with corporate logo, &ct) you have to accept a corporate responsibility that goes with it — most other punk bands didn’t do this, they were merely a collection of individuals (like Thatcher’s idea of “society”).

    “Now if only the scoutmaster was Kenneth Williams”

    He wasn’t, he’s an affable overly-earnest Evangelical who is a jar-headed US intelligence officer in, I think, the USN. Thus his unintended double-entandres are all the more funny than Kenneth Williams’ knowing ones!

    He did Arabic at some military academy in the States, and he speaks it very well; although like most Yanks who’ve done foreign languages he can never shake the American accent and intonation!

  11. Mike D
    Mike D
    April 25, 2009 at 11:42 am

    “I just spent a very pleasant week in the Cotswolds drinking aforementioned English beers and visiting beautiful gardens…”

    Stop it! Stop it! You’re killing me! Still two whole months to go before I can sample such pleasures, but which time it will be 50C out here (it’s already about 35, midday), and even modest amounts of alcohol will turn me into a two-pot screamer! Wife and kids get back from a month in the UK tomorrow. Alright for some… I feel like the bloody Forgotten Prisoner, pretty soon I’ll be seeing luminous arms appear out of the walls!

  12. Sam
    April 27, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Funny you were in Cincinatti Mike. I was in Columbus, Ohio for 3 years when I first came over. The band I play in works this part of the world a lot. Ohio gets a bad rap but I really like it a lot. Great people on the whole.

  13. Mike D
    Mike D
    April 27, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    Oh-Hi-oh, Sam:

    I really enjoyed my time in Cincin: it had city vibes without being to big for its boots, and a thriving arts/gig/student/cafe/bar/gallary/restaurant scene that was serious and dedicated without being so saturated as to drift into deep pretentiousness and self-referentiality, as one might find in London, NYC, or Paris.

    Maybe Ohio personifies that dreadful cliche, “Middle America”: with it’s head in the Great Lakes, Ohio is deeply “Northern” in its history and attitudes; but with Kentucky less than an hour’s drive away Cincin has one foot in the Upper South, especially so far as food and mannerisms are concerned. Ohio as a state is too far west to be considered “East” in any meaningful sense, but not quite enough west to really be even “Mid West.” Ohio is also so so “middle class”, in the American sense of the term, which is quite different to how we understand “middle class” in the UK.

    So there you have it, perhaps Ohio is typically “Middle America”? Perhaps. but like all cliches and generalisations really it’s not quite true and Ohio is really typical only of itself.

    My first footfall in the Sates was actually Chicago, (an awesome city I really love), in late 1997; but the first place I actually did anything rather than be a glorified tourist was Cincin.

    One of the joys of the academic thing re America is that there are so many unis and uni-like institutions (3,000 or more, as against the UK’s 300) all over the country that you’re more likely to see experience in somewhere like Dayton, Columbus or Cincinatti than NYC, LA, Miami, SF, and all those places that figure so much on “telly” America (“Dayton Ink” anyone?).

    What foreigner coming to Britain could really claim to know “Britain” based on tourist London, the country’s most cosmopolitan and therefore atypical heart? For that matter, who could really claim to know the Gulf (the “Arabian Gulf” or the “Persian Gulf” depending on who you talk to), based on a tourist trip to Dubai? Most of it just ain’t like that!

    For this I am so grateful, as I feel it has given me an insight into the US that I never would have had if I had just been some tourist who went to the usual places and when back to blighted Blighty going on and on about “America”. As it happens, I’ve been to many of the “Usual places” Stateside, but having had residency in places as “ordinary” as Cinci and Carbondale has given me a different perspective on the place.

    Whatever, knee-jerk lefty Euro shit about “America” and what a dreadful place it is really makes me want to puke. Going there was part of what (very belatedly) brought me to my senses after years of delusion.

    I was born at 5 a.m. on 5th July (not “July 5th”!) 1959. I sometimes tease Yank friends that what with the UK-US time difference I was in fact born on July 4th, their time, and there for should skip the green card and go straight to dual citizenship. None of them ever buy it! Ho-hum.

    In a dark mood I mutter into my beer that those fries should indeed be “Freedom Fries”, since if it wasn’t for England being tied up in the Seven Years War with France in the 1770s Washington and the other leaders of the colonial slaveowners’ revolt would have ended up being hung drawn and quartered at Tyburn, like the leaders of the 1745 Scots uprising were.

    Only being ironic, mind, lest I blow my chances at a tenured job in the US; some of my best friends. . . .and all that! Really I love the place and for an “in love”year or so I rued the fact that I hadn’t been born American, or gone to the US (or NYC, to be more exact) at the height of punk.

    Then I came to my senses, and realised that being British was a thing to be proud of in itself, and that had I gone to NYC circa Sid It’d be highly unlikely that I’d be alive to tell the tale. London at that time was bad enough!

  14. Sam
    April 28, 2009 at 2:14 am

    I think Ohio is a great crossroads. It is considered northern down here in SW Virginia but I was playing music with people from W. VA and Kentucky whilst up there. Route 23 north was the road that took people from the Appalachians to the big cities of the north. The saying went “Reading, Writing and Route 23”. I met my wife in Columbus and moved to NYC, which was such a let down after living in Ohio. Nobody understood my feelings but after awhile it seemed like the same old city rat race again, complete with stuck up attitudes and meaningless stress. The sense of space in Ohio really changed my life as did the folks I met there.

    I’m glad I wasn’t born here however. Too much is made these days of the early punk scene in New York. I think London is where all the threads came together and it’s something to be proud of.

  15. bruce davies
    bruce davies
    June 17, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    It’s funny stumbling across this article as only the other day I was saying how fanzines like this influenced the exhibition I am running at an art gallery in Penzance – called ‘Extended Play!’ that uses vinyl records and the social scenes that spun off them, as a platform for creative play. I remember this issue very well and still have the flexi but mine has red writing. I was actually looking to find someone to press one for the exhibition which is how the trail led to here. I also have the wedding flexi that crass did and the clear vinyl falklands one. Treasures to be sure…

  16. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    June 17, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    “I was actually looking to find someone to press one for the exhibition which is how the trail led to here”.

    Do you actually need some copies for this exhibition? I have some spares that I could send you if you want.

  17. Graham Burnett
    Graham Burnett
    June 18, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    Hi Bruce – when is the exhibition running until? I may be in Penzance in September as I’m helping to run a permaculture course at Plan-It Earth at Sancreed just outside Penzance – maybe you know it?

  18. Mike Diboll
    Mike Diboll
    June 19, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Helloooo, is there anybody there?

  19. Jah Pork Pie
    Jah Pork Pie
    June 24, 2009 at 5:31 am

    Er, yeah. Hi Mike!

  20. Sam
    June 24, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Good afternoon.

  21. Mike Diboll
    Mike Diboll
    June 24, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Good eeeevening! It’s 21.15 here in Arabia, and 48C.

    Really good to hear from you Sam.

    I remember the elongated “goood eeevening” from one acidic night at 66a. It was from the intro to a Dr. Alimantado track just as we were coming up from the blotters.

    It seemed deeply meaningful at the time, as if he were talking to us fuckwits straight from JA. But beyond that I can’t remember shit, as is the nature of these “magic” moments.

    Anyhow, that’s enough of that. FYI, all you Puppy-ites out there, I’ll be on my summer vacation in the UK from 13th July to the 18th August. I’ll be staying near Brighton.

    If any of you fancy meeting up face-to-face for the first time in the best part of 30 year please let me know (I’ve still got to sell the idea to my wife, but there you go).



  22. Mike Diboll
    Mike Diboll
    June 24, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Oh yes, and to add insult to injury I turn 50 on 5th July.

    (I was born at 5.00 a.m. on one of the hottest days for yonks; given the time difference I sometimes try to blag my Yank friends that I was “born on the 4th July”, they never buy it).

    Please pray form me/crack open a can as I go through this particular ordeal. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, you know.

    40 was no probs, just another day. But my half-century. . . .? My life already, where did that go?

    BTW, from which august institution did Winston Thompson, aka Dr. Alimantado earn his doctorate? I need to know, he set me on the path to get letters after my name.

    Pardon my rambling, ambiet temperatures nearly half way to boiling point turn the best of us into two-pot screamers!


  23. Sam
    June 25, 2009 at 4:43 am

    Hello Mike. We may have gone to ‘Good evening’ but the the track in question starts; “Goooood day. You are in tune to [?] musical hi fi. The musical sound of Kingston Town that moves right around. Keep on moving y’aw.” Not listened to it for years so it’s words to that effect. I do remember his deep baritone emerging from your speakers on the night in question.
    Just read a biog of Ian Curtis (talking of your speakers). What a strange band JD were. I downloaded Unknown Pleasures from itunes. Much of it sounds strangely poppy these days. And his vocals are close to Sinatra crooning in parts. Transmission is great. There was such a trend for depression at the time. Very weird.

  24. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    June 25, 2009 at 9:24 am

    Swap Kingston Town for Clarendon Town and you got it just about right Sam, Unitone Skank was the title of the track, also Unitone belongs in the [?]. Where do you lot get your memories from? I can barely remember what happened last week nowadays!

  25. Sam
    June 25, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Another psychedelic reggae memory is skanking 5 stories up on some very dodgy scaffolding to Plant Up by Prince Far I in Amsterdam on mushrooms.

  26. Mike D
    Mike D
    June 25, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    Sam and Penguin,

    Your recall is amazing. I’ve just listened to my “Best Dressed Chicken in Town” CD, and it begins “Good day, you are in tune to Unitone sound hi-fi”, the place is indeed “Clarendon Town”, &ct. The track is indeed “Unitone Skank” (1976).

    My favourite track on this amazing album has to be “Poison Flour” (1975). I have a dark memory associated with the track “Plead I Cause” (1973). It uses the same rhythm track as “Poison Flour”, but is a dark, dark, track, responding I suppose the the communal violence that plagued JA then, and still plagues it now.

    The good Dr. calls down Jah’s curses upon those who that have hurt him and his loved ones in a true, blood curdling Old Testament style. I remember playing this, and dancing to it drunk and stoned the evening after some very nasty people who had done something very nasty to someone dear to me (about as nasty as its possible to do to someone).

    I danced, intoning the lyrics genuinely wanting Jah’s curse to fall on them too. During the old Bailey trail I’d had to endure the insults and attempts at intimidation of the accused’s friends and associates (there were four accused).

    A friend who had been with me through the trial was there that evening. Seeing me celebrate and call down further curses on these motherfuckers he said “They’ve been sent down, Mike. What more do you want?” Then I realised that he didn’t feel my pain, supportive as he had been, and that in a sense he was not, therefore, the sort of friend I’d thought him to be.

    But I’ve moved on from all that anger years ago, and now pray for the people who did this to… I really can’t say, for reasons of confidentiality. One should be careful what one asks and prays for. Within a year of his release five years later one was found dead in his car outside a Shoreditch nightclub, his brains blown out by a ’45.

    Nothing to do with me, of course. It had been a drugs deal thing with rival gangs. Heavy stuff.

    Yes, my speakers, Sam. I put JD’s “Closer” on my ICE on the way to work. Grim stuff here too. On the way back I had to put something more life-affirming on. I a chose a House compilation; I always drive well to House. But it’s amazing how much of 1990s electronic music JD anticipated, albeit in a darker idiom.

    Also amazing is the way in which the production values of JD’s stuff was sometimes a complete inversion of the predominant values of the late 1970s. So the guitar, and even sometimes the lead vocals, are way back in the mix, and humble rhythm instruments like the snare, high-hat and cymbal are right up front.

    On other tracks, IC’s vocals are up front, but how twisted and angst-riden he sounds. OK, so were lots of vocalists of that era. But with him there’s something different.

    Loads of art school bands picked up on early Bowie’s take on the Zietzscheian ubermench as Glam Fascist (“You gotta make way for the Homo Superior”). But nearly always they were arse-achingly tedious and pretentious.

    Curtis’ persona would want to be Homo Superior, but he knows it’s all shit and is torn inside, with a deeply baby like vulnerability. He attempts the macho vocalisation at the back of the throat “Hey, I’m here!” thing (Tony Hadley did something similar in ’80s yuppie persona on “Gold”).

    But power-croon as he might we know that Ian is weak existentially, fatally wounded in his being, and we know (as we knew at the time) what the outcome, the only outcome, would be. Just as we all knew (in a different musical context) what the outcome would be with Kurt Cobain, long before it actually happened.

    So grim, yes. Hence the House on the way back. Driving on highways in postmodern Arabia that would have been unthinkable when this 30 year old album was recorded (“Closer”, not the House), when driving a 4X4 would have been an necessity to get you through the desert, not a lifestyle option, in a modern SUV (my wife’s car, actually), that has the performance of an out-and-out sports car circa 1980.

  27. Sam
    June 25, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    I was never a fan at the time. It was just too dark but in hindsight they were definitely the band of the hour. The Pistols may have predicted the shape of things to come but JD really channelled the bleakness of 79 and 1980. It’s closer to art than music really. Still hard to listen to but refreshingly blunt and still without any concessions to mainstream taste.

  28. Mike Diboll
    Mike Diboll
    June 25, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    “It’s closer to art than music really.” Absolutely. Ditto what Sam said about the bleakness of ’79-’80.

    For the life of me, I can’t figure why Crass loomed so large in my life in those days.

    Still, as you say Sam, in the privacy (!?!) of 66a what came out of my speakers was JD, not Crass.

    I must read the IC biog. So glad the Hollywood biopic with Jude Law as Curtis never happened.

    Meanwhile what about poor old Dr. A? One of his lyrics comes to mind: “If you feel you have no reason for living / don’t determine my life, my life.”

  29. Mike Diboll
    Mike Diboll
    June 25, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    Three points to add:


    “Loads of art school bands picked up on early Bowie’s take on the Zietzscheian ubermench as Glam Fascist. . .”

    JD’s grey monochrome and matt black aesthetic was of course the rejection of glitter and glam, just as angsty-Ian was the antithesis of Ziggy and Aladdin Sane (Homo Suicide as opposed to Homo Superior).

    But the influence is there, early Bowie’s “Britain would benefit from a fascist ruler” is replaced by Auschwitz-derived “Joy Division”, and post-Ian by “New Order”. The bleakness of 1979 overtakes the glitz of ’73.


    “Ian is weak existentially, fatally wounded in his being. . .”

    I should add that the accusation of weakness is not a diss. Perhaps I should have written “Ian is weak and in pain existentially. . .”

    As maybe we all were, some of us that is; at least those of us who eventually ended up taking up the succour of the poppy, booze, and the retreat into the self.


    “. . .I can’t figure why Crass loomed so large in my life in those days.”

    Perhaps on reflection I can. Perhaps it was that amid the bleakness and the blackness Crass offered some sort of hope, and this is what appealed to me and fellow Crass-ites of the day (although we would never have admitted it at the time).

    Hope in the sense that some sort of positive political and existential alternative was being posited, however tangentially.

    Of course, this was a misplaced hope, and it is this misplacedness that makes Crass cult-like but Joy Division realistic, albeit in a very negative way.

    But the principle of hope drives us forward into our futures, our potentialities, as Ernst Bloch teaches us. So however much I might repudiate them on specifics, perhaps Crass pushed me forward to the person I am now.

    Whilst JD, despite their bleak existential realism, joined in the addicts’ chorus that used to say to me “fuck it, just go top yourself.”

    Either way, I’ve transcended both of them now. But the journey back into my past is fascinating.

    More fascinating still is the way in which my present self recreates my past on its own terms. And forgets the intro to “Unitone Skank”!

  30. Sam
    June 26, 2009 at 4:59 am

    The biog wasn’t that great but interesting nonetheless. Ian doesn’t come across as some larger than life personality before or during JD. It’s never resolved why he killed himself. He was having fits onstage towards the end which meant he’d probably have to quit performing. Then there was the other woman/recent father dilemma. Ah well…it wasn’t as if he was writing chirpy love songs before that.

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