Sunday, 24 June 2007

Crass live; heavy, chaotic etc

Another of those bands whose genius shouldn't really need explaining is Crass. Some ultra-rare footage of them playing live has recently shown up here. The person responsible claims that "This is the only known live footage" of the band. That seems strange, but other posters seem to confirm that little if any footage of Britain's finest anarcho-punk band exists. Presumably they were too busy plotting the downfall of Western society to pose for the cameras too much.

The footage seems to have been taken from a 1979 BBC documentary, with this clip showing the band playing 'Do They Owe Us A Living', possibly at the Conway Hall in London.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Even My Font Is Heavy

Been listening to Venom again recently – a classic early British Heavy Metal act much beloved by the American thrash scene and the assorted Norwegian wack-jobs who burnt a load of churches down.

There's a great clip here. My favourite points from the video being a) that their drummer's kit has something in the region of 12 toms in it for the ultra long drum rolls, b)they don't headbang in time (too anarchic) and that c)EVEN THEIR FUCKING SUBTITLES ARE IN GOTHIC FONT!

Perhaps the final word should go to the poster of the video, who points out that there is "No need to explain Venom. If I have to, you neither deserve to live or watch this video."

Just go and buy some Venom, now.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Ripping Yarns

Here's a piece of mine that originally appeared in The Guardian last November looking at the links between pop music and criminality. It veers off strictly English crimes, but managing to get Peter Sutcliffe, Freddie Mills, Jack The Stripper, Denis Nilsen and Whitehouse into the same article in a Saturday newspaper isn't bad going. Original is here or you can read it below...

Ripping yarns

The Guardian, November 26 2006

"It's not often that you get to associate Peter Sutcliffe with a good joke, but his appearance as narrator of Luke Haines' new track, Leeds United, raises a black chuckle. Based on David Peace's quartet of Yorkshire Ripper-fixated novels, the song references Chapeltown, Kendo Nagasaki, Doris Stokes and World Of Sport, and opens with Sutcliffe breathily whispering "When I get home ... My wife will kill me."

This track is the latest collaboration between pop music and murder and a rare example of something interesting and intelligent coming out of the union. Tedious old Charles Manson has been referenced by everyone from Slipknot to The Flaming Lips. Ed Gein was immortalised by Slayer and Blind Melon, while John Wayne Gacy was the subject of a recent Sufjan Stevens song. "Power electronics" provocateurs Whitehouse dedicated their entire Right To Kill album to Denis Nilsen, while American gore metal band Macabre have recorded songs about over 50 different serial killers.

Musicians have always fancied themselves to share the outlaw spirit of those who cock a snook at the law by, say, chopping up a load of women. Clearly, this is bollocks; pop stars spend their lives Hoovering up drugs and wrecking hotel rooms. By contrast, most serial killers get a serious head injury at a young age and suffer from a psychiatric illness.

Whenever pop stars have actually been involved in ending someone's life it's been a squalidly underwhelming affair. Varg Vikernes of Norwegian black metal group Mayhem stabbed bandmate Euronymous to death over unpaid royalties. Philadelphia rapper Cool C shot a female police officer dead during a botched bank raid in 1996. Tortured Telstar producer Joe Meek shot his landlady (then himself) in a Holloway Road bedsit in 1967 while Mötley Crüe moron Vince Neil killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle when drink driving in 1984.

But what about the music serial killers and their followers themselves liked? The hoax tapes from The Yorkshire Ripper ended with Andrew Gold's mawkish Thank You For Being A Friend. "Railway Murderers" David Mulcahy and John Duffy would blast Michael Jackson's Thriller to get psyched up for an attack, while Denis Nilsen would play Laurie Anderson's O Superman after a killing (Den was more highbrow than the others). More prosaically, Richard Ramirez was a big fan of AC/DC's drone-slasher classic Night Prowler.

While a proximity to death can produce great work (Arcade Fire's Funeral and Led Zeppelin's Presence were both recorded in the shadow of bereavement and near-fatality), too much interest in the illegal version leads to adolescent heavy metal, dubious ballads or a Charles Manson solo record. And as someone who shelled out for The Love And Terror Cult as a macabre teenager, I can vouch for just how horrific that really is."

· Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop by Luke Haines is out now on Degenerate

Monday, 18 June 2007

From JA to UK

Supreme slice of downbeat militant British reggae from 1980. Apparently, Pablo Gad had been over to Jamaica, seen properly dirt poor people, before returning to England and effectively saying "Err, sorry, Steel Pulse - what the fuck are you complaining about?" Great early Eighties production, lacking in daft digital sound effects; halfway through he seems to get a bit bored of talking about poverty and just starts going on about smoking weed. Isn't that always the way?

Pablo Gad - Hard Times

It's also available on Pressure Sounds' excellent British Reggae compilation, Don't Call Us Immigrants.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

If you go down to the pub today...

The Tate Britain's current exhibition 'How We Are' (runs until September 22), rounds up fifty years of photography of British society. Probably the most unpleasant - and thoroughly EFTE - thing in there is a shot of the 'Burry Man'. This sinister fucker is covered in freshly cut 'burrs' (furry sticky bits off trees) on the first Friday in August and led around the streets of South Queensferry, Scotland, led into pubs and fed drinks. You could probably have a miscarriage just looking at this thing. Although it's a great shot of him in the grim Seventies pub...

More unpleasant provincial paganism here

(NB Scotland rather than England, I know, but at least the exhibition's in England...)

Monday, 11 June 2007

The Russians Are Coming (Part 2)

Following on from the previous post about a possible homophobic nuclear strike hitting the Medway, it's worth boning up on the government's original Protect And Survive advice. You never know - maybe some sandbags and a wooden lean-to will be enough to get you through a ten megaton nuclear blast.

Still, while nuclear parnoia might have blighted an entire generation at least it gave us the possibility that with all the men dead at 'the front' the women of the UK might have had to descend into a crazed mutant lesbian orgy to survive (possibly one involving growing extra breasts, and being really tall). It was either that or just eating a raw sheep like they had to in 'Threads'.

The Russians Are Coming

Spent the weekend in Kent, which is a pretty hardcore example of EFTE: breakfast in the back-from-brink-of-bankruptcy Little Chef, huddled on a stony beach, rented a horse off some gypsies etc. But the high point came on the way back when we stopped off in Strood and had lunch in The Riverside Tavern. This is basically a gay pub, which - despite being in the middle of a very run down industrial dock - has been converted into a sort of Balearic homo paradise (tropical palms, pet dogs, great food etc). Who'd have thought Kent would have had such a banging gay scene?

However, the pub's real selling point is that it overlooks a bit of the dock where somone has parked a decommissioned Russian nuclear submarine. Apparently it was bought a few years ago with the idea of turning it into a nightclub, but the killjoys at the council didn't think a rusting Cold War relic in the middle of an estuary with one fire escape was a safe place to house 200 munted clubbers. So now, it's just there looking ominous. Unless some crazed bigot buys it up and attempts to do away with Kent's gay scene in a nuclear strike, I can't see it going anywhere soon.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

LKJ predicted riot, got riot etc

Early eighties Linton Kwesi Johnson video; difficult to fathom why they bothered making this, as I can't think of anywhere that would have played it at the time - what with the video primarily consisting of policemen getting beaten up. Still, some rare footage of the Brixton riots, which somehow look all the creepier for being shot in the daytime, rather than the typical night shots you normally get. A good starting point for LKJ is his FORCES OF VICTORY album.

"It dread inna England", indeed.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Instant Depression

This is an LWT (London Weekend Television) ident from – I think – around 1987. The second I saw this, I was firmly back in the world of being 11 (a pretty boring age), when the weekend just seemed like an interminable gap of doing bugger all because you were too young to go out. And all the while were these crappy LWT idents, heralding another episode of compulsive gambling comedy drama'Big Deal' with Ray Brooks, yet more Play Your Cards Right with Bruce Forsyth, or another scary London Programme expose on Combat 18 (I'm sure it was Combat 18 every single week at one point).

Either way, this has just crushed me.

Out On The Floor

Some nice scraps of footage left over from the Northern Soul documentary called (I think) This Underground Movement.

Two observations: firstly, I can't see those bell bottoms ever making a comeback. Secondly, it's surprising how fruity a lot of the men look, given that everyone I know who's into Northern Soul tends more towards the 'not right in the head psycho' end of the cultural spectrum.

A good old fashioned bobby

Classic footage of a woman getting stomped out by a pack of police horses at the Poll Tax Riot in 1990. I remember seeing this particular clip at the time and being properly alarmed by it - although from what I understand, the woman was basically alright. As far as I know, horses will do pretty much anything other than tread on you, and you've got to expect a police horse to be better trained than some regular nag.

This clip, and that shot of a crusty ramming a scaffolding pole through a police car's window were the main news clips. I wonder if they ever caught that guy?

A very hot summer

Great archive footage of the crowd shot at the Rolling Stones gig at Knebworth in August 1976. The film stock seems to have held up pretty well in this example, so people don't look quite as gruesome and unhealthy as they usually do in this kind of stuff; interesting to note how the crowd were relatively smartening up as the Seventies passed its halfway point – loon pants and hedgemonkey beards are thin on the ground, although Confederate Flags hint at probably Hells Angel presence.

Still looks like a pretty depressing time though.

New David Peace book coming soon

David Peace's new book TOKYO YEAR ZERO has just arrived in proof copy, and is out in September published by Faber. This is the first book of his that has moved away from his native Yorkshire and after THE DAMNED UNITED'S slow-burn success last year should get much more attention than his previous books. As one of the few British writers currently writing or saying anything interesting, Peace deserves the exposure; if you haven't read him, he's on the same lines as James Elroy's fiction or Gordon Burn's non-fiction. There's a good piece by him here which should get you up to speed on his writing.

Scott King is better than most artists

You've probably seen Scott King's work without realising it – he's done some great covers for Suicide, The Pet Shop Boys, Morrissey etc and used to do all the great typographical work in Sleazenation when he was part of Crash – but his gallery work is well worth checking out. This is his modern classic based on a graphic representation of a Joy Division gig from 1980: and you can't get much more EFTE than that.

The First Post

This blog is all about the slightly grim, unpleasant seedy stuff that makes up the best in English culture. It'll roughly have a bias towards the Seventies and Eighties, but not exclusively.

Anyway, here's a classic bit of EFTE culture from New Year's Eve 1979. Difficult to imagine anything more thrilling than seeing Kenny Everett, Thin Lizzy and The Sex Pistols together, welcoming in 1980 in all its ominous glory. You can practically smell the rubbish piling up in the streets outside.

I like to think the conversation planning this issue went something like this:
"Ok. Why don't we have Kenny making a joke about everyone being on strike, and then some great video effects of him blowing up his bosses? Then Thin Lizzy and The Pistols can play, while the stage gets invaded by loads of fanny in suspenders, all the fatty Thames TV technicians who are off their heads on sherry and a black bloke in top hat and tails?"

It certainly knocks Jools Holland's bastard Hootenanny into a very large cocked hat.