There follows a selection of tracks chosen by the band members of UNIT from most of the CDs that are available to purchase. Details to follow on how and where to purchase them from. Also there are some texts written by the recent members of UNIT which will also make this a very large and informative post, which you may prefer to print out rather than reading via a computer screen!
I have witnessed UNIT several times now and they are worth supporting, photographs (above) taken from a relaxed performance at Housmans Bookshop in December 2007 taken by myself. Let’s get started…enjoy.
UNTIED AND UNITED VOL 1:
DARE TO BE DIFFERENT:
ROCK IN OPPOSITION VOL 1:
ROCK IN OPPOSITION VOL 2:
ROCK IN OPPOSITION VOL 3:
ROCK IN OPPOSITION VOL 4:
Discography / Bibliography
01) Blow It Up, Burn It Down, Kick It Till It Breaks. 1983
02) Rising From The Ashes. 1984
03) The Curse Of The Creature. 1984
04) The Giving Of Love Costs Nothing. 1985
05) Smash The Spectacle! 1985
06) Death To Wacky Pop! 1986
07) Anathema (unreleased). 1987
08) No Faith, No Fear. 1988
01) Punk Obituary. 1985
02) The Lives & Times Of The Apostles. 1986
03) The Acts Of The Apostles. 1986
04) How Much Longer? 1987
05) Equinox Screams. 1987
06) The Other Operation. 1988
07) Manifesto (unreleased). 1988
08) Hymn To Pan. 1989
Most of this material is available in digital format from BBP, BOX 45404, LONDON SE26 6WJ.
Between the end of The Apostles and the start of UNIT, I devoted most of the decade to creating and producing the magazine SMILE. This ran for 27 issues from 1991 to 2002. Initially inspired by the art and Dada magazine of the same name founded by Stewart Home, it soon found its own identity thanks to the hard work contributed by the Smile Collective: Lucy Williams, Keith Mallinson and Rob Colson. Most of these issues are now available on-line as internet downloads – somewhere.
01) Cameo For Earth. 1995
02) Paradigm. 1996
03) Love Song. 1997
04) Richard Dawkins Is Together With Us! 1998
05) Giai Phong. 2000
01) Relationships. 1994
02) All New Pugilistic Styles. 1997
01) Kampfbereit. 1996
02) We Are Your Gods. 1999 (includes 2nd 7″, 3rd 7″ and 2nd 12″)
03) Sons Of The Dragon. 2001 (includes 5th 7″)
04) Fire & Ice. 2002
05) Untied & United: Volume 1. 2002 (includes 4th 7″)
06) Dare To Be Different. 2003
07) School Farm Bungalow. 2004
08) Rock In Opposition: Phase 1. 2005
09) Rock In Opposition: Phase 2 (Double CD). 2006
10) Untied & United: Volume 2. 2007
11) Rock In Opposition: Phase 3. 2007
12) Rock In Opposition: Phase 4. 2008
13) Class War (Double CD). 2008
14) Untied & United: Volume 3. 2009
15) Untied & United: Volume 4. 2009 (includes 1st 7″ and 1st 12″)
Most of the CDs are available from UJ at www.unit-united.co.uk.
UNIT – A BRIEF HISTORY
UNIT is currently a trio of musicians, artists and film makers who consist of Luc Tran (that’s me), UJ and Andy Martin. We’ve just released our 13th CD but the spine on it says it’s our 10th album. No, I haven’t quite sussed that out yet either. I don’t like all the music we’ve done – but I can’t think of a single track that isn’t interesting or unusual.
The first phase of our career saw Lawrence Burton, Nathan Coles and Peter Williams join forces with Andy Martin and Dave Fanning, both of whom had previously been in an unsuccessful performance art group called The Apostles in the 1980s. The intention was not only to venture into the avant garde territory that Andy and Dave had investigated during the early years of the 1990s but also to record again, properly and with professional production values, nearly all the works previously committed to old fashioned vinyl by The Apostles. However, much of the decade was spent producing Smile magazine with music definitely taking a subservient role at this time.
From 1994 to 1997, UNIT released their records under the name Academy 23 to avoid confusion with a fairly successful German avant garde group who were also called UNIT. This outfit disbanded early in 1997 so we reverted to our original name with the 7″ EP Richard Dawkins Is Together With Us. After 2000, we elected to concentrate mainly on writing, performing and recording new music in as many different styles and genres as we could manage, given the technical limitations of certain group members. Our only tenuous link with the previous format of the group (and The Apostles before that) was our deliberate hostility toward capitalism and the commercial music industry and our support for Class War, the paper and the idea.
Most people understandably think of UNIT as ‘that group with all the Chinese lads in it’ but this only applies to the second phase of our career which commenced in 1999 when Ngo Achoi, Lang Kin Tung and Gieng San Man joined Andy Martin and Dave Fanning to form what was really a new group. It is this group with which most people are familiar, thanks to the tireless promotion and distribution of our work undertaken first by Achoi and then by UJ, who set up our e-mail account and website. When ‘Sons Of The Dragon’ was released it heralded our intention to put Chinese people on the independent music map. We wanted to prove to the world there was more to us than cooking and kung fu. Rap music had Jin Au Yeung in America and LMF in Hong Kong but in the sphere of pop music, the avant garde and punk rock, the demographic remained resolutely white…so we decided to change all that, despite the open hostility directed at us by certain people in the UK such as Fracture, Idwal Fissure and Head Wound who clearly didn’t want a bunch of Chinkies spoiling their scene.
Two other group members deserve a shout out: Chinese guitarist and vocalist Garlen Lo and Vietnamese saxophonist Thanh Trung Nguyen. Garlen stayed for just over a year but left the group because he wanted to play only twee little pop songs – nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s not what we’re about. Trung, like Garlen, comes from a wealthy background and so, also like Garlen, found our struggle to save up enough money to pay for studio time and release CDs, inexplicable and strange. His musical origins are in jazz, especially the big band jazz of the 1930s – very odd for a 16 year old! He managed to stay with us long enough to appear on all four Rock In Opposition albums and he played at most of our prestigious concerts in 2006 and 2007 but his parents objected to him being in a pop group and they most definitely objected to Andy (many people do) so by the end of 2007 we became a trio.
If it had not been for Hackney Chinese Youth Club in Ellingfort Road (which, sadly, closed in 2006), UNIT would not exist, at least not in its present state. That was where I met UJ and Andy and that was how I came to join UNIT as a drummer and keyboard player. Garlen Lo is in fact the only member of UNIT who doesn’t originate from HCYC. The famous Birmingham poet Andy Nunn introduced us to the Kill Your Pet Puppy chat room. Through that I discovered the history behind the UK punk scene and I learned about the whole Crass / Class War divide, the miners strike, Margaret Thatcher, Greenham Common, the Poll Tax riots and all the rest of it. To think there was a time when people my age used to go on demonstrations and start riots when the government gave us shabby treatment. Now we just turn on our laptops, plug in our I-pods and download another programme to keep us amused.
Mick Penguin has kindly made some of our tracks available free for all you lucky people. The albums from Sons Of The Dragon onwards are all available from us for around £5 each. All the earlier stuff that’s currently deleted is soon going to be reissued on CD. Meanwhile, you can check out much of this gear thanks to the work Mick has contributed. A friend of mine, Linda Hong, also calls me ‘Penguin’. This is probably significant.
When a boring pop group is interviewed by an equally boring music journalist, one of the most boring questions that can be asked is ‘What groups have influenced you?’ The real purpose served by this question is to persuade the outfit to mention to list a few (preferably trendy) names that can provide cultural signifiers by which the readers may identify the musicians. For example, The Creeping Nobodies cite The Velvet Underground (yawn), the Jesus & Mary Chain (yawn) and Blur (yawn) as being among their three major influences. For me, I would make damned sure I avoided such a group like the plague. The trouble is, for all I know, such a group may actually perform and record music that is both original and interesting, despite their wretched taste in music.
UNIT are a typical example here. If someone asked Luc, UJ and I to each name our 3 favourite groups or artists then the names you’d arrive at would be (perhaps) Shocking Lemon (Japanese power pop), LMF (Chinese gangsta rap) and Tze Ting Fung (Chinese pop singer) – Luc; Rage Against The Machine (American alternative rock) Opeth (Swedish heavy metal) and Dream Theatre (American progressive rock) – UJ; Manowar (American heavy metal), Shocking Lemon, Peter Brötzmann (German free jazz) – me. But we also listen to Henry Cow, Graham Bond, AMM, Egg, Skrewdriver, Jethro Tull, Sun Ra and Hellbastard. Anyone who purchased an album by UNIT in the hope that the music and lyrics would reveal any similarities to any of the people listed above would be bitterly disappointed. There are three reasons why our music sounds so unlike that of any other group.
1 Myself and Luc don’t listen to music very often so we never find ourselves unduly burdened by a head full of tunes written by someone else.
2 Most of the music to which UJ listens is so alien to what we could or would write and play ourselves that the possibility of a direct influence is negligible.
3 The primary influences on us originate from the disciplines of cinema and literature rather than music.
4 Every member of UNIT has always agreed, without exception, to adopt one of my perennial mottos: “you will never achieve creative fulfilment by emulating the work of others.” This means we deliberately inhibit, whenever possible, the invasion of external musical influences into our group.
I was once in a rather wretched little pop group with pretensions vastly in excess of its abilities but since we were all young teenagers at the time I shall pretend that is a valid excuse and hope anyway that most people have forgiven us our trespasses against the good name of music. I left that silly little band in 1989 and entered the rave scene with a level of enthusiasm that was inversely proportional to the amount of intelligence required to pursue such an activity. The music business – especially the punk music business – had left a sour taste in my mouth and the brazen hedonism of the rave scene was a welcome relief from all the pompous bollocks that so many third rate punk bands spewed out during the previous decade.
Throughout the 1990s I continued to write music and essays but the desire not to surrender, the belief in my own ability and the motivation to continue upon my own difficult creative route originated from a literary source, not a musical one. The poetry and prose of Andy Nunn, the Birmingham Bard, may not be familiar to all readers of this essay if you are reading this in Britain. However, if you live in France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway or Finland, you will probably have heard of and probably read at least some of the works of this notoriously difficult but ultimately rewarding writer.
The French avant garde arts magazine Nouvelles Parade (now sadly defunct) was the first professional publication to feature reviews of our music and literature in its pages. It also featured the work of Andy Nunn, printed always in English with excellent translations into French (by Jean Pierre Duval) next to each poem or prose piece. By the late 1990s nobody wanted to know UNIT. Our music was highly unfashionable and our work was regarded with contempt by the establishment. It did occur to me – briefly – to pack it all in and do something different. Then I read the revised version of Cosmography (part one of The Silent Colossus) by Andy Nunn. This in turn inspired me to revisit what I used to regard as the bleak, grim, relentless despair of Second Desert (part two of The Silent Colossus). Upon this second study I realised that what I was reading was a work of monumental profundity, a universe captured in two pages. I knew then that everything mattered because nothing matters.
I realise that last sentence sounds like something written by a teenage philosophy student who’s been at the crème de menthe. Well, I stand by it. I even defend it, because that is precisely what occurred to me after I’d read this superlative work a second time. I knew that if I stopped writing music and essays then I would be guilty of cowardice in the face of the enemy. I would also deny myself the right to self expression in media that had always proved satisfactory and convincing in the past. Both Andy Nunn and I are from poor, working class families. People of our social status are not supposed to like avant garde classical music and the poetry of T S Eliot and Ezra Pound. We’re supposed to listen to Oasis and read The Sun. Had Andy been born in, say, Bedfordshire – had his father been a local councillor or management consultant – had he gone to Ampleforth School instead of some secondary modern hell hole – his poems would already have been anthologised by Faber & Faber and be discussed on Radio 3.
Where is the Eden we lost in God,
the great utopia damned by ideology?
Walk away from this grand charade,
this craven unconscious collective,
this mesmerising spectacle,
and I will show you a graveyard of megalomania;
I will show you the desert in the heart of humanity.
This extract from The Covered Room (part three of The Silent Colossus) is a pithy summation of the futility in the search by mankind for any kind of deity, idol or saviour. After World War 1 we lost our belief in the God of Christianity and not before time; it is just wretched that so many millions of innocent young men had to die horribly in order for us all too see sense and logic. After World War 2 we lost our belief in the god of national socialism although again a further 6 million innocent people had to die horribly. (Is that not a tautology? Can we death ever not be horrible? Perhaps, if you suffer in agony from an incurable disease.) After 1968 we lost our belief in the god of peace and love acquired through psychedelic drugs. After 1977 we should have lost our belief in the god of punk rock as means to achieve social change except that for many teenagers, the truth was too unpleasant to tolerate so, heaven help us, they found Crass and the ‘anarcho-punk’ scene. They worshipped at a new altar, shrouded by black rags, spellbound by empty gestures and the rhetoric of crisis, where any suspicion of deviance
from the holy tenets was vilified with just the same obsessive fanatical zeal as that displayed by any contemporary mad mullah of Islamic fundamentalism. When (for example) Pigs For Slaughter and Kill Your Pet Puppy dared to add class anger, humour and colour to the proposed revolution, their creators were ostracised and treated with foam flecked rage by people who simply had to convince themselves that they were RIGHT and everyone else was WRONG. That is how it must always be when you worship any god.
Most other people, whose creativity was greeted with 2 decades of being ignored and ostracised, would have long since given up and grown old before their time in some dreadful marriage and mortgage routine in a dead end job they despised. That would have been the easy way out. Andy chose the difficult route, the turbulent route, the triumphant route – victory in obscurity! This is no mere antimony for surely it is better to be victorious in obscurity than defeated in eminence. In other words, any arse hole can be an empty headed celebrity but only a rare individual can be a genius, especially a genius forced to work in a wasteland.
It is far easier to make a name for yourself in music than in literature – even a third rate composer can usually write at least one memorable tune that people will remember, especially if it is recorded by a pop group. A third rate writer has no such refuge – he / she must cultivate their craft and strive toward excellence yet even then there is no guarantee of a reward. You can’t hum the latest poem or novel by a writer while you’re stacking shelves in Tesco. This is also partly why there are very many more pop groups than poets. I can still remember (despite my strident attempts to forget) many of those abysmal punk fanzines of the 1980s with their soul searching ‘poems’ – God help me, rarely was so much drivel printed by so many in the name of self expression. Most of the ‘music’ churned out by the related bands was equally dire but, with a powerful studio production and an impressive record cover, this wasn’t so immediately apparent – you could tap your foot, pogo or wallow in a drug addled haze to it so its true lack of merit was not so immediately apparent. In literature you have nowhere to hide.
There is a series of live music and poetry events in the West Midlands called ‘Open Mic’ which allows anyone and everyone the opportunity to make their music and read their literary works to audiences throughout the north west. For reasons that still remain unknown, Andy Nunn has been denied access to this forum. His work is evidently not acceptable to the politically correct chattering wretches who run this concern, even though you’ll never find swear words, sexual filth or racially offensive material in any of his poems. No, what you will find is an ability to stare unblinking straight into the gaping maw of the abyss – perhaps there is too much reality in his work and the organisers consider it too frightening and disturbing for the delicate sensibilities of the average Friday night audience?
En passant, if the poetry of Andy Nunn is so excellent, why have we never set any of his texts to music? Because, unlike mere lyrics, all his poems and prose provide their own sound-tracks; they would be trivialised or spoiled if they were set to the music of other people, even people as empathetic to his words as ourselves. I once attempted (in 2002) to set Second Desert to music – I failed – of course – how could I ever succeed? That I even tried to set this magnificent text to music proves that at the time I still had not completely understood the poem. If I had then I would never have attempted such a futile exercise.
In UNIT we recently released our 10th official album (or 12th if you include 2 collections of compilation tracks and unreleased pieces from earlier studio sessions). It is arguable that most of this would never have been achieved had not the poetry and prose of Andy Nunn provided us with the impetus to strive toward excellence and use as our motto: no surrender!
Andy Martin, December 2008.
In 1984, a music group called The Apostles (in which I played a minor role) was interviewed by Garry Bushell, a journalist for a sordid little fashion magazine called Sounds. I had earlier made a wager with one of the other band members that I could have us interviewed by one of their journalists before the end of the year. I wrote letters to their letters page; I sent them a copy of one of our records with a letter designed to appeal what I believed to be the main obsessions of the main journalists who contributed to the paper. To cut a long story short, I won the wager, collected my £5 and we made complete fools of ourselves on page 7 of this paltry publication. After that, I realised I had committed one of the few major errors of my career and I promised myself that never again would I be interviewed by any commercial newspaper or media channel. If this seems an extreme, if not monastic attitude, consider how the press and media actually operate.
Older readers – those of my age – may remember that infamous photograph of Leah Betts on a hospital bed with plastic tubes up her nose in various newspapers during the early 1990s, small pictures of her parents underneath looking understandably distraught. Ms Betts was a teenage girl who allegedly died in hospital as a result of taking an ecstasy tablet at a rave party. The press vengefully fulminated against these drug peddling thugs who epitomised the rave scene. In reality, ‘these drug peddling thugs’ were usually other teenagers who were simply fortunate enough to obtain a decent supply of E’s on a certain night.
Your parents or grandparents may remember shock horror stories of a similar nature with regard to mods versus rockers, hippies versus skinheads and punks versus just about everyone. In each case various youth subcultures are subjected to a media campaign that virtually amounts to persecution, an attitude the media bag justifies by its alleged defence of the decency of the general public. (Note: this is the same decent general public who voted in Thatcher and then Blair for no less than three terms each with the result that in just 29 years, Great Britain has now become a virtual police state.) All this adheres to an organised and quite deliberate formula constructed by the media as a means by which to increase newspaper sales and maintain television viewer ratings. This disgusting apparatus of cynicism devoted purely to profit and prestige originated in the 1950s.
The 1950s – Teddy Boys
During the decade that followed the end of world war two, Great Britain endured many turbulent changes to its character, its industry and its people. Food rationing ended, petrol rationing ended and televisions became sufficiently affordable that most people could possess them by 1960. In fact it was the royal coronation in 1953 that consolidated the advent of television as a nationally accepted adjunct to the wireless and the cinema. (By the end of the next decade, it would reign with such supremacy that it would supplant both the radio and the cinema in importance, but that’s a later story.) Then in 1958 the Windrush travelled from the West Indies to dock in Liverpool and unload the first major wave of immigrants into the country.
Two further changes are important here. The abolition of conscription was supported by many military leaders since it implied that only those young men who really wanted to join the armed forces would apply and therefore the strength, quality and integrity of the army, navy and air force would be significantly improved as a result. As the nation gradually but steadfastly rebuilt its infrastructure after the devastating bomber raids of the war, there were plenty of jobs in the construction industry. A consequence of both these factors was that the nation witnessed teenagers with money to spend and time to fill. London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and most of all Coventry were pockmarked by bomb craters and wrecked buildings – an appropriately prescient landscape on which the first real youth subculture could display its rituals. Teddy Boys (the name derived from the long Edwardian coats favoured by the young men) swiftly made a reputation for themselves as violent louts who loitered around cafes, carried flick knives and ripped up the seats in cinemas. Their music was rock and roll, a harmless, insipid dilution of rhythm and blues, neutered and sanitised for the white market since the kind of music created by those black boys in Yankee-land was still too raw and strange for most British youths to comprehend. That said, they did accept the more popular elements like Little Richard, Fats Domino and Chuck Berry.
To the newspapers, the radio and the television editors and executives, this new youth trend was a marvel. Reports of the phenomenon, when printed accurately, provided a slight increase in sales and viewer ratings but when their behaviour was exaggerated and embellished, profits went through the roof. The media machine thus enjoyed its very first venture into the creation of a moral panic. Their methods were clumsy and naïve but since the population was still recovering from the war and trying to keep pace with all the other changes happening in the country, nobody realised this at the time. As the cold war between Russia and America developed and the commencement of the space age was heralded on October 14th 1957 with the launch of Sputnik 1, the Teddy Boy phenomenon became old fashioned and irrelevant.
The 1960s – Mods & Rockers
The early 1960s witnessed an increase in financial security, a decrease in unemployment and a greater sophistication among the teenagers of Britain as they soaked up the latest trends and fashions imported from America, in particular the beatnik movement and the less commercial form of black rhythm and blues. After the initial excitement of the Liverpool beat music scene, heralded by The Beatles, British teenagers graduated to the London R&B scene epitomised by The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Small Faces, The Kinks, Manfred Man and The Graham Bond Organisation. The term ‘mod’ was derived from a fashion magazine of the period in which new trendy clothes were modelled by Cathy McGowan – and a new youth subculture was born. The emphasis was upon looking sharp and taking pride in your appearance. If Mods worshipped a character from Greek mythology, it would be Narcissus. In short, it was a movement with nothing to say but it looked well smart while doing so.
This period also marked the advent of another media invented term: the generation gap. Newspaper writers were encouraged to propagate the idea that teenagers and parents were inevitably alienated from each other by the generation gap, portrayed as an abyss over which no bridge could be built. Anyone who sat and used their brain for more than 3 minutes soon realised that the notion was quite preposterous, of course, but for a while the notion convinced many people among the lower orders that this mysterious generation gap did indeed exist and was another ‘sign of the times’ (another media concoction), like drugs, long hair and a lack of respect for authority.
The Rockers were motorcycle enthusiasts who can be regarded as the prototypes for what became the Hells Angels by the end of the decade. Their uniform was primarily black leather and their music harked back to the old days of rock and roll. They rode BSA and Triumph motorcycles, generally of well over 100cc engine capacity. The Mods disdained such brute power – they preferred Italian made Vespas and Lambrettas adorned with many badges and mirrors so that these 50cc scooters puttered along like so many metallic peacocks. Some of the more adventurous young men even took to wearing eye make-up. The response from the rockers was predictable: utter disdain and contempt. I can empathise entirely – had I been born 15 years earlier, I would definitely have been a rocker!
The 1970s – Hippies & Skinheads
The cold war appeared to grow decidedly hot as the war monger John Kennedy was assassinated, American troops invaded Vietnam and Mao Tse Tung declared a cultural revolution in 1966. There were riots in France in 1968. Violent demonstrations against the invasion of Vietnam spread across Europe. (As a poignant digression, we should note that virtually every demonstration against the invasion of Vietnam held in Europe voiced a protest in defence of the Vietnamese against the incursion of American militarism, such that rarely was any direct sympathy expressed for the American soldiers themselves; the mass rallies in America were held to demand the return of the American troops, not because they wished an end to the slaughter of innocent Vietnamese people but because they believed it was grossly unjust that so many American soldiers should be maimed and killed in a futile war.) Militant black rights activist Malcolm X had already been murdered at a public meeting in 1965; the pacifist Christian civil rights activist Martin Luther King was then assassinated in 1968. A group of militant socialist students called The Red Army Faction in Germany kidnapped and executed war criminal Aldo Moro. A similar group called The Angry Brigade set of bombs and machine gun attacks on the streets of Britain, their targets (in which nobody was ever killed) being police chiefs, the police computer, fashion boutiques and the Miss World competition, among others. Suddenly the world was no longer a safe place in which to live.
The advent of skinheads toward the end of the decade represents one of the more curious phenomena in British youth subculture. Unlike the teddy boys and hippies, the skinheads were not only of British invention but they could hardly have originated from any other country. The uniform – savagely short hair, union shirts, ill fitting trousers held up with braces and big boots – was such a dramatic change from the prevailing freak mode of dress that many parents initially welcomed its adherents. In fact, hippies and skinheads both owe their genesis to the evolution of mods. The more cerebral and generally middle class mods mutated into hippies while their intellectually challenged and primarily working class brethren devolved into skinheads. Note: that is a profoundly sweeping generalisation and there were plenty of exceptions. We must avoid the cliché that working class = dim, middle class = bright, after all.
The media were initially uncertain how to tackle skinheads. That they were a new youth subculture indicated a probable source of sales revenue for the newspapers but here were young people (mainly men) who were clean, smart, sported short hair, generally refused illicit drugs, claimed to be patriotic and they despised hippies. If you omit the words ‘clean’ and ‘smart’, what you have there is an accurate description of the majority of British men, then and now. The Daily Express and the Daily Mail (predictably) greeted skinheads with considerable approbation, primarily as a means to pursue further attacks against hippies.
Ben Sherman shirts, narrow cut two-tone suits and Chelsea boots were common appurtenances to mod attire. These clothes were always expensive and one advantage of the stripped down skinhead uniform is that it doesn’t demand such an excessive slice taken out of the wage packet at the end of the week. The hair was generally kept fairly short for mods until the mid sixties when everyone and their father started to acquire sideburns, moustaches and ears covered by hair. (Even some politicians, attempting to be trendy and fashionable, would grow their hair a little longer than was previously acceptable – although typically they only latched onto this idea during the early seventies, i.e. 5 years late.) In 1969 when the first skinheads appeared, Ben Sherman shirts were in evidence but the ‘smart skinhead’ look, complete with sheepskin coat, was not common until the end of the year, no doubt prompted by the girls who became impatient with their boys looking too much like escaped psychiatric patients for their tastes.
The adoption of music performed almost exclusively by black musicians remains a curious aspect of the cult. Mods were passionate about American soul, true, but only a small number of them had much time for blue beat, ska and its more famous progeny, reggae. For two or three years, reggae became the musical standard for skinheads, some of whom sported razor cuts (thin lines shaved along the scalp where a parting would normally be), a fashion directly stolen from West Indian youths known as rude boys. This is the prime difference between the first wave of skinheads (1969-1971) and the revival (1980-1985). In 1982 the band Skrewdriver released a 12″ single called Back With A Bang, an anthem written to celebrate the skinhead revival in all its dubious glory. At this time, perhaps in response to the increasingly arcane sentiments expressed by punks, skinheads adopted their own form of fashion and music, known as ‘Oi’. This was ‘their’ cult – only, it wasn’t. The term ‘Oi’ was invented by a third rate, middle class music journalist called Garry Bushell who wrote for a second rate pop music magazine called Sounds which was to music magazines what The Sun is to national newspapers. By 1983 there was an impressive stable of white nationalist bands to provide the soundtrack to the skinhead pantomime: Brutal Attack, The Afflicted, Combat 84 and Skrewdriver being the most obvious examples. For the record, The 4 Skins and The Last Resort were never ‘white nationalist’ groups per se although most of the band members of both groups would express sympathy with such sentiments.
The mods’ use of the union flag (erroneously called the union jack by the press – actually our national flag is only called this when flying from a ship) was quickly discarded by the hippies who generally regarded any symbol of national pride with contempt. This decidedly unpatriotic attitude was completely logical for a nation of young people who lived in a country run by a government who regarded America as its older brother and that older brother was busy terrorising innocent farmers and peasants in Vietnam. However, the skinheads (also known as ‘bovver boys’ at this time) adopted the symbol in a more strident manner. For some, it was merely a shroud behind which stood a swastika. That said, it was not until the second wave of skinheads appeared during the early 1980s that the astringently fascist elements of the cult became de rigeuer. When I was at school, we were shown a recording of a BBC television ‘play for today’ starring Michael Robbins as the father of a teenager who becomes a skinhead. There is an excellent verbal exchange in which the father, after close scrutiny of his son dressed in his regalia for the first time, remarks ‘Look at the state of you. How much did all that clobber cost? Anyway, I don’t know why you bothered – you should’ve joined the army, son, they’d give you all that for free.’
This was a most perceptive statement by the writer since every aspect of the uniform is indicative of the old fashioned working class combined with signs of servitude: the shaved hair equates with prisoners, with mental asylums and the armed forces. The union shirt with its lack of a collar and the ill fitting trousers held up by braces are straight out of so many paintings by Lowry – when you went to work for your master in the fields or the factories, you didn’t wear your collar; that was reserved for your Sunday best when you went to church and offered prayers to God that you were still alive and able to eke out a wretched existence on whatever pittance you were paid for your labour each week. The steel toe capped boots were a further necessity for men who worked in fields and factories where heavy gear was shifted and damage to the feet was best avoided by such protective footwear. So to summarise, skinheads were a parody of the old fashioned British working class and further they were the epitome of right wing reactionary values advocated by people frightened of change and progress. For this reason, skinheads were far more acceptable to many ordinary people in Britain than hippies with their left wing, revolutionary beliefs and outlandish attire.
The hippies derive their name from a beatnik slang word – hip – as in ‘being hip to what’s going on’. However, the people the press called ‘hippies’ never used the term to describe themselves. Their chosen epithet was ‘freaks’. During the latter days of the mods, experimentation with drugs had become frequent. Their enthusiasm for amphetamines (such as blues and purple hearts) had gradually been supplanted by a new appreciation of hallucinogenic substances imported from America, the most ubiquitous being LSD. As this crazy substance acquired ever more consumers, mods began to mutate into freaks – the hair became longer, the trousers more flared, the clothes more colourful, the music more bizarre. However, LSD alone was only a contributor, not a prime mover. The treatment of Irish nationalists by the British state and the brutal horror inflicted on innocent Vietnamese people by the American military were regarded by students around the world as typical symptoms of capitalism. Capitalists were conservative, grey suited middle class middle aged supporters of military regimes and the oppression of minority groups – indeed these properties were essential in order for vast profits to be accrued by their exponents. You don’t become wealthy by being decent.
The second half of the decade witnessed the oil crisis and the collapse of the nation as a result of a weak government that allowed itself to be bullied by Marxist rat-bags who infested the unions. With a dramatic increase in both unemployment and homelessness, coupled with power cuts and the three-day working week, the star struck mysticism of the hippies quickly became not only irrelevant to the majority of working class youth but also actually rather offensive. The sudden eruption of punk rock in 1976 was inevitable since it was a vituperative response to a subculture that had long ceased to represent the issues that affected working class young people. The irony is that the hippie movement gradually evolved from the beatniks who were disaffected middle class intellectuals from bourgeois families; the culture was therefore organic and derived largely from the people it represented. However, punk rock was completely fabricated by fashion designers like Vivian Westwood and art school philistines like Malcolm McLaren whose cynical manipulation of public malcontent was clever but callous and utterly self serving. Such people had far more in common with Tories than terrorists. Therefore, punk could never seriously represent ordinary working class youth despite its pretence at doing just that – a pretence that was alarmingly successful for a couple of years.
The 1980s – Punks
For the media, the 1980s could have been very tedious if youth subcultures were their only source of horror stories. This is because there were no genuinely new subcultures available for them to create a foundation upon which to construct a new moral panic. Punks still existed but they had become serious, grim and boring; the skinhead revival offered nothing of much interest apart from their allegiance to neo-nazi political groups but even that was hardly new. An early newspaper editorial (from the Daily Express) spent three paragraphs fulminating against punks with a stream of sarcasm, verbal vitriol and outright bigotry; it then concluded that a small gang of football hooligans could ‘see off’ these punks any day of the week. The implication here was that football hooligans were more socially acceptable (at least to the editors of the Daily Express) than punks – a bizarre conceit when we read how the same newspaper called for every public sanction possible from conscription to permanent incarceration for these same football hooligans. When confronted with the media we soon learn that this years foes are next years friends and vice versa.
For anyone over 30 years of age, the 1980s will be associated indelibly with riots, civil disorder, the promotion of war, the protection of privilege and the brutal oppression of homeless people by draconian laws against the use of empty property. The unions were finally crushed. The miners were robbed of their right to protect their livelihood and the true face of parliament was revealed as the false veneer of democracy melted under the medusa glare of the tin pot lady. Since newspaper editors and media moguls accrued profits from the system of government that prevailed in Britain at this time, it was evidently in their interest to support it and therefore to attack any individual or group who voiced protest or criticism. Certain intelligent elements within the punk scene (despite the apparent contradiction in terms implied by that choice of words) combined with articulate representatives of the protest movement (such as Class War) offered a cogent critique to the bellicose warmongering of the Thatcher regime and increasing numbers of the public began to take notice. This was quite unacceptable to the government so where ever police truncheons failed, the printed word and the moving image were invoked – with considerable success.
This was achieved not by attacking the punks directly but by suggesting that whenever ordinary people instigated or participated in civil rebellion against the more disgusting examples of state violence, in reality the true instigators were anarchists and punks, that it was the participation of these criminal elements that were actually responsible for the burnt, smoking vehicles, looted chain stores and injured policemen. Before the end of the decade, the words ‘punk’, ‘anarchist’ and ‘criminal’ had become as interchangeable as ‘robber’, ‘thief’ and ‘bailiff’. Through newspapers, television and radio, the population were told that the ordinary British public would never riot and behave so dreadfully, that these incidents were merely provoked by punks, anarchists and other criminal elements. So the ‘problem’ was defined as anarchist punks set on causing trouble purely for the hell of it with people like Ian Bone as their spokesperson. Ian Bone was chastised in a banner headline by the Daily Mail as ‘the most evil man in Britain’.
This is interesting since a decade earlier, Tom O’Carroll (the leader of the Paedophile Information Exchange, a perfectly legal body set up to represent and provide a discussion forum for paedophiles) was greeted one morning with his photograph in the News Of The World over a banner headline that read ‘the most evil man in Britain’. I am unusually fortunate to have met both these gentlemen. Mr O’Carroll was neither a child molester nor an active paedophile – but those facts did not induce people to purchase newspapers so the News Of The World opted for a more engaging epithet with which to entice public interest. Mr Bone certainly hates inherited wealth and unbridled privilege, especially when people endowed with those qualities use their position to maintain the poverty of ordinary people – but then so do plenty of honest clergymen (and such people do exist, difficult though that be to believe).
The cause was simplified as greed and selfishness on behalf of these ‘criminal elements’ – this coming from people (newspaper editors and media moguls) who are themselves the epitome of greed and selfishness. Once again the key participants (Crass, Ian Bone, Class War, Ronan Bennett, Iris Mills and so on) were stigmatised. By this time many of the leader writers began to believe their own fairy tales and their calls for government action became perfectly hysterical. A response from the authorities was ultimately provoked when in the infamous ‘battle of the bean field’ near Stonehenge a large crowd of unarmed and peaceful freaks, punks and travellers were physically assaulted by heavily armed police thugs which resulted in dozens of innocent people being hospitalised while not one policeman was ever indicted. The socialists predictably blamed the government for this outrage – we blamed the true guilty party, namely the newspapers and the media.
The 1990s – Ravers
By the 1990s the media bag pattern had become so familiar that we, with the advent of the Internet to assist us, had become rather too knowledgeable and too sophisticated for the process to function quite so smoothly. Since the ravers did not seek enemies or confrontation with other subcults, the media were not able to fabricate the youth wars of previous decades. However, being bad losers, they resorted to another tried and tested means of assault upon our culture: fear and the family with drugs as the pivot upon which this ridiculous edifice teetered. The press and the police were often initially supportive or at least articulated mild commendation in their reports of early raves. They expressed an appreciation of the scarcity of alcohol, the absence of violence and the significant number of different ethnic minorities included among the clubbers. However, reports of this nature do not sell many newspapers or increase television viewer ratings. So, rather than tell the truth, the media searched for a scapegoat – and, thanks to our perennial desire to alter our state of consciousness, they found one and it was a beauty: ecstasy.
When Leah Betts took an ecstasy pill at a private party in the early 1990s, the media machine enjoyed a field day; they loved every moment of it. There was never any genuine sympathy for the poor parents. Each tear shed by her mother was another tick in a profit margin box for a newspaper and the newscasters of each channel drooled over the luxury of being able to express their meticulously contrived outrage. Richard Branson, the pathetic loser and failed human being who has relentlessly tried, without success, to convince us all that money is all you need in order to have a decent life, went public with his call for a ban on ‘acid parties’, not because he cared one iota about what young people actually did at raves but because he sought to identify himself as a respectable pillar of the establishment in order to encourage confidence among shareholders for Virgin Airlines and Virgin Railways, the two ailing, failing companies he desperately wished to save from extinction.
Would this media campaign have been so successful had Leah Betts not been female, young, pretty and white? Of course not – the media machine has always thrived upon the depiction of innocent pretty young white women as victims in its pages. This is not merely editorial laziness; it is an expression of the lurid perversion exhibited by typical editors and producers who tend to be white, male, fat, middle class, middle aged and unhappily married. Strong, independent women who refuse to be victims are not the kind of people the media machine ever finds particularly interesting unless there is a drug scandal or lesbian angle they can exploit. Meanwhile, the problem remained: the media machine has always found it expedient to nurture perceived differences between youth subcultures and actually invent differences should none originally exist. Thus the ravers, bereft of an opposing gang, were subjected to the only other means by which the media could attack it: direct assaults upon every aspect of their lifestyles, complete with fallacious ‘facts’ quite blatantly fabricated in order to incite public consternation and resentment.
The Public Order Act of 1994 presented us with the very first utterly blatant example of social control in the manner of national socialism, that is where no attempt was made to disguise the fact. This was a law that deliberately tried to prevent people from holding their own parties on their own premises with their own money. Even more impertinently, it actually tried to define a musical form in order then to criminalize it. Thus we had foisted upon us these strange Daily Mail definitions of rave music concocted by the State that were designed to provide boundaries beyond which our cultural expression was not allowed to stray. In Germany in the 1930s, jazz was outlawed as degenerate Negro music and banned; the 1990s British government of John Major tried to outlaw rave music in precisely the same manner. That it failed is a credit to our ability not only to merely break the law but to disregard it entirely. Besides, there was too much money to be made from it in the new clubs where diluted electronic sonic doodles often replaced the genuine article but by that time (i.e. the late 1990s) most younger clubbers either couldn’t tell the difference or no longer cared anyway.
So exactly how does this ‘disgusting apparatus’ function? It operates in accordance with 5 distinct stages.
1) Identify A Problem. With mods and rockers, the problem was the extreme violence of inter-gang fights at seaside resorts. That this was vastly exaggerated (and occasionally even invented) was ignored at the time so it was able to became normal practise for all newspapers, radio and television news programmes. With skinheads the problem was defined as physical assaults on innocent spectators at football matches. With hippies the problems were drug abuse, unacceptable political activity and laziness. With ravers, the problem was almost exclusively drugs with occasional emphasis on noise and antisocial behaviour.
2) Simplify The Causes. The media machine generally seeks to hide or at least disguise the real reasons behind antisocial behaviour, especially if these reasons provide any justification for it or are likely to induce public sympathy for the recipients of the media scrutiny. Therefore, any cause that may motivate a form of behaviour will be reduced to its most basic component, even if this process results in an account that is so inaccurate and unfair as to verge on fiction. This even applies to miscreants outside youth subcultures. For example in the recent industrial action taken by postmen, most newspapers reduced the cause of their strike to mere greed: they claimed the postal union demanded more money, when virtually every complaint by the postmen was actually based on gross ill treatment of ordinary workers by supervisors and managers with unfair work practises and draconian restrictions on what should be basic employee rights.
3) Stigmatise The Key Participants. In any youth subculture a spokesperson is identified, even if that spokesman actually has only a tenuous connection with the tribe concerned. For example, when the Daily Mail (and other papers) chose to identify Ian Bone as the prime exponent of the riots and civil disorder that spread throughout Britain, he was portrayed as leading the punks who, being younger and gullible, followed him with blind obedience. Anyone who has ever met Mr Bone will soon realise that he has never been a punk, has never been directly involved in the punk movement and certainly has never set himself up as a leader of anything. Indeed, on the few occasions when people have attempted to follow him as an icon of anarchism, he has been rigorous in dissuading erstwhile fans from such behaviour – he is an anarchist, after all, and a highly intelligent and articulate one. The media soon dropped their interest in him once they realised he was too decent and sensible a person to serve their purpose. The American media managed to use Charles Manson as the epitome of the hippie movement in order to discredit it, even though Manson had never been a hippie – in Britain the press tried (ultimately in vain) to find a similar character with which to discredit the punk scene and the anarchist movement.
4) Organise A Media Campaign For ‘Action’. Whether it be mods and rockers battling on the beaches, hippies and police trading truncheons and flowers on the streets or Class War punks hurling bricks at boaters in the Henley Regatta, the media never fails to find an excuse to call for government action on a problem that usually does not even exist except inside the imaginations of newspaper editors and television producers. Many media moguls entertain the notion that they possess sufficient power to persuade members of parliament to act on their behalf, irrespective of whether or not such an action would be beneficial to the general public. Occasionally, governments do indeed act, but we can be certain such actions are always for the benefit of the parliamentary members involved rather than to appease any mere media monkey.
5) Provoke A Response From The Authorities. In the early 1990s the nation witnessed how it was possible for the media to induce the government to respond to a problem that did not actually exist – and the result was a crowd of hospitalised men, women and children whose only ‘crime’ was to travel around the country in caravans rather than live in tower blocks. For the newspapers, television and radio this was marvellous, of course, because after calling for action against these ‘ravers’ (who were also called ‘punks’, ‘hippies’ or ‘travellers’, depending on the mood or age of the writer), they could then claim the police had acted like nazi thugs and encourage public sympathy for these poor freaks etc.
The lesson here is simple: the media can never, ever be your ally. They cannot even be trusted to be loyal to their own supporters. This is the primary reason why we have always, but always, resisted any offer to be interviewed by the establishment press or media.
Andy Martin © 2008.
The Apostles – From Analogue To Digital In 5 Days Flat.
After nearly 12 years of being pestered, cajoled and badgered by what now amounts to literally dozens of disparate demented souls, I have finally (with extreme reluctance and considerable foreboding) agreed to the release of works by The Apostles on CD. Chris Low (formerly of The Apostles, Oi Polloi and The Parkinsons) was the first character to succeed in breaking the embargo. I sanctioned his release of the 1st and 5th singles, plus selections from the 2nd and 3rd singles, primarily because, since he plays on most of these tracks, he can submit a justifiable claim to them and at least a larger and younger public can hear these pieces for the first time. Then, buoyed by this unexpected success, Stephen Parsons of BBP managed to persuade me to allow the rest of the back catalogue to be transferred into the digital domain.
To this day, myself and Chris Low disagree vehemently on the value of The Apostles. I expressed personal doubts about the artistic validity of the group even when I was a member but after I left the group and had the time to review their recorded oeuvre, I realised that I had spent nearly 8 years in a band writing often finely crafted pop songs, rock anthems and avant garde works only to have them performed with utter ineptitude, ruined by a total lack of any studio production and then finally crushed into oblivion by trying to cram twice as much music on each record as was technically possible. The result: 7 singles and 7 albums of noisome garbage that was a waste of the vinyl and paper used to produce them. Anyone who has been unfortunate enough to have heard these records will find it impossible to disagree with what I have stated.
The Apostles were a crap band and that’s all there is to it. Chris said in an e-mail to me that for me to make such a statement is the same as saying ‘you are an idiot’ to anyone who likes any of those recordings. This is simply not true. There are a few people who actually enjoy some of these recordings besides Chris himself but why do they enjoy them? I suggest it is due to their memories of what was happening in their lives and in the country at the time those records were made. When we performed live concerts, we were frequently far superior in both sound and technical prowess to what we produced on record so perhaps these people harbour fond memories of such concerts and therefore listen to the records with minds influenced by such memories. I submit that if I played any track from any of these records to any teenager, they would either laugh with bewilderment or cringe with embarrassment that anyone could have had the sheer audacity to commit such atrocious sonic nonsense to vinyl.
So why do I find it necessary to make such a strident (if not savage) critique of the recorded oeuvre of The Apostles? There is a simple but important reason: many of you reading this (actually, most of you reading this) will never even have heard of The Apostles, let alone encountered any of their music. If you are familiar with our music in UNIT it will be plainly evident that we are careful to ensure our works are performed to the best of ability and given the most professional production we can afford. If you enjoy much of our music, you might want to investigate the work of The Apostles to find out what some of the UNIT members were involved in prior to their work in the current group. Other people may be fans of Hellbastard and want to discover what Scruff was doing while he was in The Apostles. You could therefore be forgiven to expect The Apostles to sound similar to Hellbastard or UNIT or at least exhibit an equivalent degree of performance and production standards. Some of you may decide to spend your money on purchasing some of these CDs. Fair enough – but it is absolutely essential that you are not cheated or conned. I resent it when I purchase a DVD or a CD and find the contents to be of less quality than I was led to expect. Also, out of respect to Chris Low and Stephen Parsons (the two brave souls responsible for these CD re-issues) and also to all previous members of The Apostles, I owe it to all potential purchasers to offer the following five disclaimers so you can be aware in advance precisely what you are buying.
1) None of the original master tapes exist for these records so they have been transferred onto CD from mint condition copies of the original vinyl records. For certain tracks that were never issued on vinyl, tracks have been transferred from the best quality audio cassettes available. All these recordings have been loaded into our computer and had as many of the pops, clicks and crackles removed as possible. (No matter how excellent the quality of an original record may be, there will always be surface noise because vinyl records are horrible, cumbersome, noisy things that should no longer exist in a world that has penicillin.) Tape hiss has been either omitted entirely or at least reduced to an acceptable level. The sound envelope (bass, middle and treble) has been improved to compensate for the limitations inherent in the vinyl and cassette mediums – these were all that were available to musicians during the 1980s before digital technology evolved to liberate us from the tyranny of vinyl and tape. So while every attempt has been made by myself and Luc Tran to bring these old recordings up to an acceptable standard, these recordings will not be comparable in quality to that which you have come to expect from UNIT.
2) Because we were all young teenagers when The Apostles started to release records and because many of us were impatient to record our music, many of these records were made before we had attained any degree of proficiency on our instruments. In our naïveté we were simply not aware how inept and clumsy were our attempts to perform music that was often beyond our limited abilities. Despite the evidence that may appear to be to the contrary, I can vouch for the fact that we really did try our hardest to sing and play these works to the very best of our abilities. However, that said, the results are often unintentionally humorous and frequently embarrassing. This is all the more irritating because so many of these records contain fine pieces of music with often incisive, witty lyrics. Fortunately most of these works have since been recorded properly by UNIT with the performances and production they deserve.
3) As the main vocalist in the group I must accept 100% of the blame for the truly abysmal singing. It is therefore fortunate that we encouraged other band members to sing on some tracks (Dave Fanning and Malcolm Lewty in particular) while at other times we wrote a fair number of purely instrumental works. I was under the impression (erroneously) that my cultured accent with its slight Scots burr would be unacceptable to our audience so I adopted a thoroughly contrived and utterly ludicrous south London accent for most of the pieces on which I appear. That this was actually dishonest – lying to our audience – never even occurred to me at the time. The result is a collection of records that would only be slightly more absurd had they been sung by Peter Sellers in his Inspector Clousseau voice. Actually, they’d probably sound better!
4) When most people attend our concerts and purchase our CDs, as far as they are aware UNIT is a group with people of equal status – with UJ nominally regarded as a band leader since he is responsible for setting up our e-mail account, website, my space page and addressing most of the correspondence. Once people become aware of my earlier career, this a danger that UNIT will be seen as ‘my latest project’ whereupon UJ and Luc are immediately relegated to secondary status. For this reason, more than any of the others stated above, I have stringently resisted all attempts at persuading me to sanction digital releases of Apostles recordings.
5) We did not want anyone to assume that we were trying to capitalise on the reputation of a group I was in 2 decades ago in order to generate interest in UNIT; any esteem we accrued from our work must be due entirely to UNIT on its own merits. However, because both UJ and Luc have expressed an interest in these old recordings themselves and because, after 13 CDs, over 50 concerts and numerous plays on 3 different radio stations, UNIT has established itself as a group that warrants attention for its own work, I have finally relented and grudgingly allowed people to make available again these dreadful old recordings.
So, by all means investigate these old recordings if any of you are genuinely interested in what Dave and I were doing in our musical careers when we were 16 or if you want to discover what was happening in the avant garde and post-punk scene of the 1980s. However, bear in mind these 3 disclaimers before you make any purchase – never let it be said that we tried to cash in by promoting the sale of rubbish.
The definitive version of Apostles contained just 4 people: myself (vocals), Malcolm Lewty (guitar, vocals), Dave Fanning (bass guitar, guitar, vocals) and Chris Wiltshire (drums). This is the group that stayed together the longest, released the most records and played the most concerts. It is this format of the group most people remember. However, this is unfortunate because it means that Chris Low, the drummer prior to Mr Wiltshire, rarely receives the credit for his work that he deserves. Worse still, nearly all the music recorded by the final version of the group (with Sean Stokes and Colin Murrell) remained unreleased and therefore unheard by the public even though much of this was actually far superior to anything previously recorded by the group. This is another reason I finally relented and sanctioned the CD re-issues.
In spite of all I have written above, there are some genuinely high calibre tracks (usually those on which I do not appear as a performer), especially those written by Dave Fanning, which alone justify the purchase of any of these CDs. The singles are generally dreadful but there are a few pieces which just about manage to deserve digital resurrection. The 1st, 2nd and 5th singles are absolutely wretched and deserve to be locked in Room 101 for eternity and a day. On Blind Discrimination Chris Low makes his vocal debut with his first lyric for the group; Stumped and The Creature, both by Dave are still enjoyable now, despite the clumsy production. All 3 tracks are from the 3rd single.
From the infamous 4th single Rock Against Communism deserves merit simply because it is one of the few Apostles tracks given a decent performance and even the production is not quite as dreadful as usual. For the 6th single we were joined by 3 members of a pop group called The Joy Of Living and one track, The Wasteland, does not make me wince with shame when I hear it. The final single is unique in that both tracks are worth saving. Pork Pies is a cracker, an instrumental by Dave on which he makes his debut on violin while In The Name Of Science, despite my wretched singing, still sounds exciting with a production that sounds almost acceptable.
The 1st LP contains Breaking Barriers (my now famous poem here set to the original music written by Dave Fanning), Thrive Alive Jive (one of the very rare occasions when a piece contained music written by myself and Dave) and 62 Brougham Road, which despite my atrocious singing still manages to survive the test of time. The 2nd LP features Run For It and House Of Horror, two of the finest rock anthems Dave has ever written, as well as his slightly ponderous but generally excellent 15 minute opus The Voyage.
The 3rd LP features the vocal debut of Malcolm ‘Scruff’ Lewty (later of Hellbastard fame) on Social Scum and Heavy Metal, two fine examples of the heavy rock style favoured by both Scruff and Dave, with interesting lyrics. The 4th LP contains some bizarre but memorable moments. Faith is my own homage to 1980s pop duo Eyeless In Gaza and is still enjoyable now. Fragments remains a highly atmospheric adventure despite my histrionic vocal delivery. Our versions of two Alternative TV numbers, Release The Natives and Fellow Sufferer, complete the collection of tracks from this album that don’t deserve to languish in oblivion. There are also some serviceable items that were rejected from the 3rd and 4th albums (for reasons known only to God) that appeared later on a split album with Statement on one side and The Apostles on the other. We covered another Alternative TV work, an instrumental called Red, on which Dave and Scruff actually improve on the original. The pure unadulterated pop of A Love That’s Died, a Tony McPhee song, features some excellent drumming from Chris Wiltshire while A World We Never Made, a 4 part 11 minute epic written mainly by myself (Dave wrote part 2) still moves me now, despite the poor playing and amateur production.
It is ironic (yet somehow typical for The Apostles) that much of our best work was never released to the general public. When Scruff left the group to join Hellbastard on a full time basis and Chris Wiltshire left to take up full time higher education, we were joined for the fag end of our career by Sean Stokes and Colin Murrell, who previously had spent 2 years recording and touring as The Demolition Company. We recorded what was intended to be a double album but by this time nobody wanted anything to do with us; this was not due to our music but because we had been totally ostracised by a scene whose exponents sought to remain safe, secure and satisfied with their cliché ridden indulgences. Here we ventured into territory we had begun to explore on the 4th album, i.e. avant garde and non-rock music. Stephen Parsons of BBP bravely stood by the group and released most of these recordings on audio cassette but they were generally ignored. Well over half the works recorded at these sessions in 1987 are worthy of issue to the public and I am therefore pleased that these pieces are finally being made available in digital format.
Undaunted by the hate mail we received and the abuse we encountered from punks at our concerts, we recorded a further album, primarily of lyrics and music by early 1970s group Third World War, in an attempt to justify our return to rock music as a genre. The exercise was fun, the playing was of a higher standard than previously and the production wasn’t too bad either. On most of these tracks I even began to sing in my own accent but this was because I had already decided to leave the group (unknown to the others) and frankly I didn’t care anymore. Again, this album was never released; again, Stephen Parsons released it on audio cassette and again, nobody bought it! When I finally left the group in February 1989 it was like being released from prison…and I thought being in a pop group was supposed to be fun.
So, the CDs have been released in this fashion:
The Singles (Volume 1) – this is released by Chris Low and contains the 1st single, most of the 2nd single, some the 3rd single, all of the 5th single plus most of the extra tracks recorded during the sessions for these records. It has been professionally re-mastered from chrome cassettes taken from the original tapes.
The Singles (Volume 2) – released by BBP, this contains the 3rd single, the 4th single, the 6th single, the 7th single, all the tracks from an unreleased single…basically all the tracks released as singles that have been omitted from the previous CD. It has been professionally re-mastered from chrome cassettes taken from the original tapes and from mint condition original vinyl records.
Punk Obituary – the 1st LP, released by BBP. This album was nearly an hour long which meant that, even though many of the tracks are quiet, gentle pieces, it still sounded like a transistor radio even when played on music reproduction systems designed by NASA. It has been professionally re-mastered from mint condition original vinyl records.
The Lives & Times Of The Apostles – the 2nd LP, released by BBP. This album was also nearly an hour long but since nearly all the tracks were loud and heavy, the sound quality was truly wretched. It has been professionally re-mastered from mint condition original vinyl records.
The Acts Of The Apostles – the 3rd LP, released as BBP. This contains the album plus 4 extra tracks recorded for inclusion on it but omitted because even we realised that trying to squeeze 36 minutes per side of an album really wasn’t going to work. It has been professionally re-mastered from chrome cassettes taken from the original tapes and from mint condition original vinyl records.
How Much Longer – the 4th LP, released by BBP. This contains the original album plus 4 extra tracks recorded for inclusion on it but omitted for the same reason as before. It has been professionally re-mastered from chrome cassettes taken from the original tapes and from mint condition original vinyl records.
Eine Antwort / Une Réponse – the unreleased double album, released by BBP. It has been professionally re-mastered from chrome cassettes taken from the original tapes.
Manifesto – the unreleased album from 1988, released by BBP. It has been professionally re-mastered from chrome cassettes taken from the original tapes and contains additional tracks from these sessions previously believed lost.
Sleeve notes, where appropriate, have been provided either by myself or by Luc Tran (who, not even born when most of this music was recorded, is able to offer an objective response to the contents) together with reproductions of the original albums covers and other artwork that has withstood the ravages of time.
The CDs will be available from BBP, BOX 45404, LONDON SE26 6WJ.
Of the various temporary musicians who stepped in at short notice to help us out while full time band members were indisposed, I have no idea what became of Simon Parrish, Martin Ryan, Patrick Poole, Sharon Joy, Julie Joy, Yvette Joy and Iain Archibald. Dan MacKintyre, Julian Portinari and Pete Bynghall were the original members of The Apostles before Dave and I joined. I have no idea where they are now. Chris Low became a highly successful rave / techno DJ for a while before he joined 3 Portuguese musicians in order to inflict The Parkinsons on us all, for better or worse! Chris Wiltshire obtained his degree at university then we lost contact with him. Colin Murrell became a music teacher and music therapist (I think). God knows what happened to Sean Stokes – I hope he achieved success and happiness because he deserves it. Dave Fanning stayed with me to form UNIT and remained in the group up until 2006 when we had yet another of our frequent fights and finally parted company in less than amicable terms. That said, it remains an inalienable fact that without me, The Apostles would have continued to exist regardless but without Dave, that group would have collapsed within a matter of weeks. Anyway, he is now a fully qualified martial arts teacher and has a beautiful daughter, Harriet. Malcolm Lewty (a.k.a. Scruff) remains the one really successful lad ever to have been in The Apostles – he made a significant impact with Hellbastard, formed a succession of equally impressive groups afterwards (Nero Circus, King Fuel, Sidewinder, Heavy Water and Moodhoover) before forming a new version of Hellbastard who released a superb album in 2008 to prove none of the old magic has been lost. We have remained in regular contact with Chris Low and Scruff. Indeed, Scruff actually sings and plays as a guest performer on many of the tracks of our album ‘Class War’ that was recorded and released in 2008.
Andy Martin © 2008