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Uncut Magazine’s…bullshit.

A few months ago I did an interview for “Uncut” magazine about the punk scene in Carlisle (see the post below). At the end of the interview I asked them to let me know when the article would be ready and if it was possible to have a rough copy posted to me. They said Ok they would do it.

Well I found out the article has been published in December’s issue 2017. I did not hear from them about the article, I heard from someone via this blog. Also I did not get any rough copy as promised.

It seems that some things don’t change. Remember all the bullshit back in the 80s, well some people have moved on from that and I guess some people have not. All we can do is learn and move on with it.

I learned (through my ethnomusicology research) it is good practice to support your “source material”. After all this is how you keep the interaction going.

I guess they feel it is OK to ignore the good will of the interviewees, or perhaps it is the hectic life style of the “Southern elite”? Perhaps the old ways have not changed, and the north and south divide is still dividing us… or perhaps it is just bullshit.

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The Red Aligatorz: a bass story

I recently got a mail from Ellie, the double bass player in the Red Aligatorz.

In preparation for the fourth coming reunion gig he sent me a photograph of his double bass. He had to “ assemble” his bass as it was in bits. This did not surprise me to much, Ellie’s double bass has had its fair share of scrapes.Ellie's Double bass

Once when we were heading back to play a gig in Carlisle after busking in Preston, the neck off his double bass decided to part company with its body. It was while it was strapped to the roof of his car speeding down the M6 motorway.

If you have read any of the pages in this blog you would have read that I prize the D.I.Y. ethic a lot, well true to form, surgery was performed on the bass that afternoon just prior to the gig. The neck of the double bass was drilled into and a 6inch bolt was inserted through the neck and body. The problem being that the bolt was too big and it stuck out from the neck by a good 2inches. The effect reminded me off a wooden Frankenstein! But it held strong, even when it was stood upon that night, thrown around and ‘slapped’.

With all this ‘slapping’ a bass string was broken occasionally, and although the band had a rule of taking guitar strings out of the busking money, this did not stretch as far as to a set of double bass strings that cost over £100. Ellie found out by buying some thick grade strimmer-wire from the Penrith D.I.Y. store it worked just fine, and costing pence instead of pounds.

It is not surprising that the double bass realized this was not rock and roll and therefore it decided to fight back. The bolt caused Ellie some problems one day when his hand got cut open via the bolt head, so Ellie decided to hacksaw the head off leaving a sharper edge to cut his hand upon at a later date! also the strimmer-wire cut into his fingers while he was energetically ‘slapping’ the strings and his fingers were shredded. Undaunted he taped up the flayed pieces of skin and carried on.

The cut fingers were also a problem even when using proper double bass strings, after gigs especially in London and Amsterdam, his face would be covered in blood due to the spray from his bloody fingers.

One day he told us about a man he had met in a pub who was an old blues and jazz double bass player, “piss on them” this man told Ellie “it makes the skin go hard” needless to say we made it a habit not to shake hands with Ellie or any jazz double bass players after that.

I am sure, true to form, Ellie’s bass will be fit and ready for the gig… I cannot say the same about my acoustic guitar..but that is another story.

Festive 50 (1978)

I was having a chat my mate Fib, about our favourite New Years musical play lists, of days gone by.

I remember in 1978; when I had been listening to punk throughout that year, I listened to John Peel’s (R.I.P) radio Christmas show. My ear was jammed to the radio, secreted beneath the bed covers, listening to his “Festive 50” late at night. His list of his favourite records before the Xmas period (was it Xmas eve or New Year’s Eve?) with a build up to the number 1 slot played before the year began again. This was my “musical window to the world” and a huge leap from Radio Luxembourg.

Besides hearing Punk music and New Age music being played; this was the first time I heard “Anarchy in the UK” in the number 1 slot, in the winter of 1978. I had read about the song before I heard it in the “Pistols File”; a black and white photographic documentation of the history of the Pistols and the early days of punk, told through the quills of journalists who saw them play.

There was a myth about the song even before I had heard it. The title was provocative in those days. The journalists discussed the meaning of it in the Pistols File, and through their writings the song became a myth, a slogan and a teenager’s ideology.

Typically, when I heard the song being played on John Peel’s radio programme. I did not connect it with the writings in the File! I heard this beautiful, gut wrenching, hormonal exciting, ore inspiring… piece of art and I never connected it to the journalistic writings of “Anarchy in the UK”.

In those days I taped the JP show on my radio cassette player (the same with the Sunday Countdown on radio 1) and it was not until the day after when listening to it again, that I connected the two as one; and I only made the connection after studying the lyrics on the recording.

In a way, the record made me like it independently, like there were 2 records out there with the same title. I admired the writing…the myth, and I liked the recording…the song.

“Anarchy in the UK” was number 1 on John Peels show for 3 years, but one year it was not. It had been replaced by Joy Division’s “Atmosphere” in 1981. I remember John saying “an end of an era” and it was. Looking back at those play lists is like looking through a historical document from a lost civilization, an archaeological artefact. It speaks of people.

An example of the 1978 Festive Fifty is here, a link is below to the original web site.

John Peel’s All Time Festive Fifty – 1978

1: “Anarchy in the UK” (Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, 1977) Virgin Records
2: “Complete Control” (7″ single, 1977) CBS
3: “God Save the Queen” (Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, 1977) Virgin Records
4: “Suspect Device” [single version] (7″ single, 1978) Rough Trade / Rigid Digits
5: “Shot by Both Sides” (Real Life, 1978) Virgin Records [version unconfirmed]
6: “Pretty Vacant” (Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, 1977) Virgin Records
7: “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais” (7″ single, 1978) CBS
8: “What Do I Get?” (7″ single, 1978) United Artists
9: “Public Image” (Public Image, 1978) Virgin Records
10: (7″ single, 1978) Sire
11: “Alternative Ulster” (Inflammable Material, 1979) Rough Trade
12: “Boredom” (Spiral Scratch EP, 1977) New Hormones
13: “New Rose” [single version] (7″ single, 1977) Stiff Records
14: “Stairway to Heaven” (IV, 1971) Atlantic
15: “White Riot” [album version] (The Clash, 1977) CBS
16: “”Heroes”” [album version] (“Heroes”, 1977) RCA
17: “Another Girl, Another Planet” (The Only Ones, 1978) Columbia
18: “Holidays in the Sun” (Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, 1977) Virgin Records
19: “Free Bird” [album version] ((pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd), 1974) MCA
20: “I Can’t Stand My Baby” [single version] (7″ single, 1977) Sensible Records
21: “Madame George” (Astral Weeks, 1968) Warner Bros. Records
22: “Hong Kong Garden” (7″ single, 1978) Polydor
23: “Police & Thieves” (The Clash, 1977) CBS
24: “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight” [single version] (7″ single, 1978) Polydor
25: “Watching the Detectives” (7″ single, 1977) Stiff Records
26: “Born to Run” (Born to Run, 1975) Columbia
27: “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” (7″ single, 1977) Stiff Records
28: “Sultans of Swing” [album version] (Dire Straits, 1978) Vertigo
29: “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” [parts I – V] (Wish You Were Here, 1975) Harvest
30: “Moving Away from the Pulsebeat” (Another Music in a Different Kitchen, 1978) United Artists
31: “Layla” [album version] (Layla and other assorted Love Songs, 1970) Polydor
32: “Hanging Around” (Rattus Norvegicus, 1977) United Artists
33: “No More Heroes” (No More Heroes, 1977) United Artists
34: “Helter Skelter” (The Scream, 1978) Polydor (however the version played is a clean radio promo, with rerecorded, not muted, vocals)
35: “Dancing the Night Away” [album version] (1, 1977) Virgin Records
36: “Like a Rolling Stone” (Highway 61 Revisited, 1965) Columbia
37: “Alison” (My Aim Is True, 1977) Stiff Records (played from the 7″ single)
38: “Overground” [album version] (The Scream, 1978) Polydor
39: “My Generation” (My Generation, 1965) Brunswick
40: “London Lady” (Rattus Norvegicus, 1977) United Artists
41: “Switch” (The Scream, 1978) Polydor
42: “Mirage” (The Scream, 1978) Polydor
43: “Jigsaw Feeling” (The Scream, 1978) Polydor
44: “In the City” (In the City, 1977) Polydor [version unconfirmed]
45: “E.M.I.” (Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, 1977) Virgin Records
46: “Desolation Row” (Highway 61 Revisited, 1965) Columbia
47: “Summertime Blues” [7″ version] (7″ single, 1978) Virgin Records
48: “Like a Hurricane” [album version] (American Stars ‘n Bars, 1977) Reprise
49: “Emerald” [live] (Live and Dangerous, 1978) Warner Bros. Records
50: “Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)” (The Scream, 1978) Polydor

To see the original web page and additional text, please refer to:
http://peel.wikia.com/wiki/1978_Festive_Fifty

Red Aligatorz Reunion

“I was hanging around the market street…” isn’t that how the Clash song goes, from “All the Young Punks”. Well, I was not hanging around Caldewgate (an area of Carlisle if you don’t know where that is) exactly, I was pushing my bicycle home in the rain, with 4 pints of milk strapped to it, when a car pulled up and inside was (a dry) Swanny.

He said that he had just spoken to Ellie, and that there could possibly be a Red Aligatorz reunion gig in March 2018. I say “possibly” as getting the Red Aligatorz in one room is a bit like herding cats. We are spread around the country, or in my case, countries.

But Swanny has been doing a DJ slot in the Old Fire Station venue once a month, and he says that he is thinking to combine the event with a gig of the Aligatorz, to play a few songs and to get people together.

He spoke with Ellie (double bass) and he will be up for doing it. Ellie was last seen somewhere south of Preston, and occasionally shows up at Rock-a-billy weekender’s. Wotto (drummer) is still around Carlisle and I will be around for sure until I decide to leave again…

The date quoted was March 10th Saturday. It would be nice to make it an event, not so much to hear the music again, but to all get together and have a “chin wag”. I hope to confirm the date later on.

76/77 UK Punk Stories wanted

A writer got in contact via my “Carlisle’s punk bands” blog, called Peter Watts. He is seeking info about punk bands outside of London during the years 1976/77, he asked for people to write to him with information about their experiences.
this is his email: petershepherdwatts@hotmail.com, and this is the blog he writes: http://greatwenlondon.wordpress.com.

Krautrock and Punk

Krautrock and Punk do not seem the obvious bedfellows, and when I do my research into punk in Carlisle this musical collaboration in the 80s are not obvious. The books that are out now delving into the early days of punk do not quote Krautrock as being one of the main influences in the UK in the 1970s; they often quote it as being home-grown, and dealing with social issues of the time; or the influences from across the Atlantic from the USA. Whether this is a social/political interpretation of today is another story, but I feel there is enough evidence to say that Krautrock influenced the early (London) punks from 1976 and therefore elsewhere in the UK including Carlisle.

How much of those German bands influenced local bands in and around Carlisle is perhaps not so evident compared to the rock guitar bands from London, but if we listen to Cumbrian bands like “The Dead” and “Kirsty and the Husbands”, we see evidence of the use of synthesizers or electronic keyboards, and there is at least a slight chain-of-events that can be traced back to European Krautrock from the 1975 or earlier.

My mate Fib has just played me Neu’s CD from 1975, especially the track “Hero” which has vocals that sound just like Johnny Rotten’s vocals on the early Sex Pistols tracks such as “I did You No Wrong”, The Bollocks album, as well as “No fun” his style is the style not so distant from Neu’s Hero’s track, in fact I had to give myself a nip to tell myself this was not Rotten singing. It has been documented in books that Lydon did listen to Neu and therefore Krautrock before he joined the Pistols, and it is clear (at least to me) that he used their style of singing in his own band.

Also if punk was influenced by the Pub-rock scene in and around London before 1976 then it is no stretch of the imagination to see the influence of the small local bands that were in contact with musicians; who came across from the continent via the underground music scene of the squats and communes, that were springing up in Germany and England. Feminism, Communism, Anarchism all belonged to some underground squat in the 1970s. And it is safe to say that those underground movements had its fair share of music connected to them.

Joe Strummer came from a diplomat family background therefore was involved within a political environment, and had lived in Europe; he must have known something about these German bands as he lived in London squats and toured the pub-rock venues in the mid 1970s. The Stranglers use of electric keyboards and long solos had a more European/Krautrock sound than most bands around at that time, as well as a French bass player who had his own musical European influences. One of the early gigs of the Pistols was in Paris, organized by McLaren who had been influenced by the student underground protests from the late 60s and the German underground scene was influenced by the French student protests.

The political underground theories of the 1970s were rife in “Commune 1 and 2” in Germany and experimental/rebellious music came directly from these communes. These German Communes had a political as well as a social element to them and they had contacts with the UK squats and communes. These influences came into London and influenced the squatters that eventually became the “Angry Brigade” a British equivalent of the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany. Music, politics and squatting went hand in hand.

The punk rock groups that came from the squats, pub rock scene and underground movements such as The Clash must have had some knowledge of what was going on in Germany at the time, and perhaps it is why one of the early tours of The Clash’s was in Germany. As they knew there was an audience that were politically sympathetic to what The clash were singing about.

What came after the 1st wave of punk is quite evident as Krautrock influenced the early bands that we know of The New Romantics and these British musicians who were listening to Krautrock in the early 70s used electronic music in the 80s.

Of course it is easier and cheaper to pick up an electric guitar in 1976 than it was to obtain a synthesizer! The rock scene at the time: the 3 minute song, 3 chord trick, lent itself to a rock and roll format, much more than to an experimental 8 minute piece of sounds and electrical frequencies of Krautrock; after all punk was against Prog-rock, even though most of the bands came from some sort of art school.

My point is to suggest that Krautrock had an influence on the early bands of punk that has not been propagated and perhaps should be looked at to give credit where credit is due.

Anarchist Jacket

I had a black and white copy of the The Sex Pistols File:

pistols

And in this one source of information available at the time on the group, there was a photo of the Anarchist shirt made by Vivienne Westwood and worn by Steve Jones.

anarchist-shirt

This shirt was amazing, and I decided to create my own. By using a workers jacket from my dad’s work place I started to add slogans and patches, which ment something to me at that time.

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My Anarchist Jacket

The jacket was cheap cotton, that the drivers of a local agricultural firm, used to deliver oil to the farmers. My dad got one for free. There was no lining, it was a basic single layer cotton jacket. It was not supposed to be fashionable or artistic, I did not take  a lot of time to “design” anything. The zips I bought at the local market or what were lying around the house, the studs were bought at the local market and  were more worn in leather jackets than soft cotton.

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Backside of Jacket

The back of the jacket was painted with emulsion, no fancy fabric paint ! The badges were bought from our local White Elephant shop, which I used to frequently go when I was walking the streets of Carlisle in the week days.

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Hidden Messages

The back of the jacket originally had text, and underneath the 3 diamond sign, there can still be seen the lyric/slogan from The Angelic Upstarts song, “Police Killed Liddle Towers“. I probably thought this too much of a target for our local police, who would not take it too kindly, so I painted over the text (but still faintly seen today) and painted the 3 diamond sign, as seen on the front of The Clash’s 2nd Song Bookclash-b-2

Also, on the back of the jacket (but also painted over) was text from the verse of the Sham 69’s song “Questions and Answers“. The text reads “As soon as we are born we are told what to say and do”. This was painted out and the name of my band at the time, “Frenzy” (see the page in this blog).

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Frenzy

I used to cut the stencil out from newspaper and spray-can over it… D.I.Y.

On the back of the jacket there was a badge with an inverted royal crest. In those days, if you turned a symbol upside down, it meant you were against it… I then sew the words “Freedom” above the crest… “Freedom from the royal family”.

The same idea was used for the nazi emblems. nazi  badges was turned upside down and sewn onto my sleeve. In the 1980s the national front was popular and by wearing such things it left you open to attacks, I was anti-fascist and I wrote about such topics in my songs.

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Independent British State

As The Sex Pistols had created an Anarchy shirt, I decided to put my political ideals onto this jacket. “I.B.S.” stood for the title of one of my songs (Independent British State) and below that “Federalism”. Through these 2 statements I tried to convey my wish for a break-up of the UK, into smaller, more ungovernable, counties. The same way the U.S.A. had federal states where laws for each state had precedence over another law in a different State, yet still have a loose federal law. I.B.S. was the equivalent. To break up the UK, not only in having a separate Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales; but dividing counties within those countries, and giving more control to the local governments and to the people within those counties. 

“Pravda” was one of the first songs I had written, it was a Russian word meaning “Truth”. The content of the song was similar to the Sex Pistols “Anarchy in the UK”.

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Red Army Faction / Rock Against Racism

The “RAF” symbol did not mean I was a supporter of the Royal Air Force ! but I wore it as it had the initials “R.A.F.” which meant “Red Army Faction” a political activist organization, and which was supported by Joe Strummer in the film Rude Boy. It also meant the musical/political movement “Rock Against Racism” which was popular in the 1980s to counter-react the growing right-wing elements in pop music.

The front of the jacket had “Rebel Red” again mimicking a Clash slogan and the 5 pointed Star, mimicking the symbols the anti-nazi internees were forced to wear in the ghettos (Jews, Homosexuals, Gypsies, Communists, Anarchists etc), I got this idea from the 1st Clash song book.

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R.A.F.

On the shoulder there was a R.A.F. regiment badge, symbolizing the dual meaning. There used to be a piece of text, written onto a square piece of cloth and was safety-pinned on to the shoulder. The text was taken from a few quotes of the Anarchist Mickael Bakuinin’s writing. 

This jacket if I remember correctly, was only worn twice. The first time it was worn to a gig at Carlisle’s Market Hall to see a punk band, possibly The Angelic Upstarts or Stiff Little Fingers, I can not really remember. The 2nd time was on a saturday afternoon: punks used to meet in the center of Carlisle and generally hang about. I remember having Bakuinin’s text pinned to my shoulder and people trying to read it… ! The afternoon past off ok, until it was time to walk home. A friend and I were walking past the cathedral and then we heard a voice behind us saying “you are running, aren’t you punks?” glancing behind we saw 2 Heavy Metal bikers coming after us, we did not hang around but ran for it. The problem was we had to run passed The Boardroom Pub which was the hangout for the biker gangs and Heavy Metal music lovers. As I mentioned above, these writings and slogans on ones jacket had reactions in the 1980s, it was a spark, and thats all was needed.

Back then a bike gang member had the “right” to go up to another Heavy Metal follower and demand his “cut-off” (his denim jacket), well they did not get mine !