The Ruts in Sounds, 16 June, 1979.
The Ruts Bleed For You
It was going so well too, that was the point. So everyone assumed it was part of the act. I must admit I was a bit surprised, having seen the Ruts a fair few times without witnessing so much as a sprained pinkie, but here we were halfway through their set in Exeter’s Routes Club and Malcom’s forehead is gushing blood like a miniaturist Jellystone Park geyser. So he thinks he’s Iggy Pop or what?
The Ruts were halfway through ‘It Was Cold’, a comparatively slow, atmospheric number, when Malcom starts banging his bonce on Dave Ruffy’s cymbals and then staggers back to the mike, the blood trickling freely down his face. He looked stunned but it ties in so well with the music it must be part of the act. Look, he’s spitting now – he’s alright.
The crowd respond and his dapper black dicky is suddenly sodden with spittle mixed with liberated corpuscles, the sickly blend drip-drip-dripping even onto those hampton-hugging blue jeans, while one of his braces dangles loosely by his left knee-cap. As the song ends he winds down towards the floor in perfect synch — see, told you it was part of the act — then springs to his feet and collapses again like the proverbial pole-axed
ferret, HEY, he is hurt, ain’t somebody gonna . …
Too many nurses kill the patient, so sensibly people leave him in the hands of closest to him. Manager Andy and a couple of Ruts rush him away by ambulance to the nearest hospital for what turns out to be a nine stitches job. Later Malcolm tells me he didn’t even know he was bleeding. He was that out of it — post-flu antibiotics and alcohol go together like Enoch and Idi — that he thought it was sweat.
Now you can scoff if you like but I believe him, not only ‘cos he was a little umm, strange afore t’gig but because the Ruts have got where they are by solid heads-down
no-nonsense hard work and publicity stunt jiggery-pokery at this vital stage of their career would do’em no good at all. . .
THE RUTS came together one easy summer day (hotsy-totsy) when the two sevens were rashly clashing to mucho musical amusement all round. They were Malcolm Owen (now 24) vocals, John Jennings (aka Vince Segs; now 23), bass, Dave Ruffy (now 25) drums, and old lag of the band guitarist Paul Fox (now 28).
None of them had particularly prestigious pedigrees. Foxy and Dave had previously, performed in a 9 piece local circuit outfit called Hit And Run, Segsy (the lowest of the low) was a H&R roadie and retired postman, while Malcy had left school at 15 for six months as a tool maker before slipping into fronting bands and related rock culture enterprises (wink, wink etc — Man Of World Ed).
In January this year (1979) Sounds chronicled their early history (modesty prevents me from telling ya I writ it, natch) which boiled down to 16 months of relentless gigging, a lot of that time in RAR-type enterprises round the West London suburbs with Southall based reggae band Misty (thus the Ruts are known as a Southall band even though Dave and Segs live in Forest Hill and Foxy resides in Northwood).
1979 has marked their rise from relative obscurity to a degree of national recognition with a Top Of The Pops slot in the near future I’d wager. In January their first single ‘In A Rut’ / ‘H Eyes’ came out on the People Unite Southall co-op label and reached no. 82 in the national chart, selling over 20,000 copies and paving the way for two Peel sessions, a Kid Jensen session, and a signing with Virgin in April.
Last week the band’s second single ‘Babylon’s Burning’ materialised and set off on its chart bound course with a Ruts elpee scheduled for July recording and September release. Seems like things couldn’t look brighter for the boys.
EXETER ROUTES club before the aforementioned ugly incident is no exception, with the eight numbers they manage to complete giving ample evidence of their scope and strength, from the full-frontal powerpunk assault of ‘Society’ through the relatively restrained menacing rock atmospherics of ‘Sus’ to the stabbing guitar and reggaematic feel of the newest number ‘Jan Wars’ written about April’s anti-Front incidents in
Southall (of which, more later).
Just for the crack I hang about for the endearingly atrocious Aunty Pus and a hugely enjoyable if chaotic account of cranked up really high punk vaudeville from the dear old Damned and then head back to the hotel with Virge the Snap and Dave, the Virgin chap. Cept the hotel makes Fawlty Towers appear to rank above Panorama in the sensibleness stakes.
First off there’s the “I heard that. Pardon?” porter, star of such exchanges as “Four cheese sandwiches.” “What sort of damages?”, and even worse a madcap acid casualty on crutches following everyone about in a most pecular manner demanding to know where the party was.
The party, if you can call it that, was eventually found in Malc and Segs room. Malc nursing his stitches and Segs telling of previous encounters with our resident Sandy Richardson, over assorted sandwiches and a modicum of lager while Virgin PR Dave in his red coat tried to organise nobbly knee contests (this ain’t Rutlins y’know).
Sad to say my dears your jolly journalist was not at his best tonight, suffering as I was from high temperatures and assorted viruses (all tagetha: ‘AHHHH’) and so pretty soon it was my bed rather than my cassette recorder that I was reaching for.
Such a nice bunch of lads the Ruts. Rather than wait to see how I was in the morning they had the dithering porter lead them into my bedroom for a 3 am raid. All I can recall is calling them all the see you next Tuesday’s in the world and waking up at nine with a lampshade on me head.
Over breakfast the wretched Vincent explained they’d been looking for his escaped woollen budgie Baama (a creature possessed of legendary powers far too obscene for family reading). I said arseholes and arranged to meet ’em back in London at 2.30 for (trumpets, flares etc) The Interview.
This was a mistake. When they eventually hit Covent Garden at 4.30 I was just nipping back from Daddy Kool’s. “Alright Garry” hollered Malcolm before collapsing in a crumpled heap of failed humanity outside the office doors, while Paul led the others in obscure boozing songs. A backseat littered with drained scrumpy bottles told me everything I needed to know.
Inside the office that luvable card Mensi of the Angelic Upstarts was waiting for me, so I had him sober them up sergeant-major style, and led the lot up to our luxury conference room where eager secretaries made detailed notes of our every word. And now dear reader, exclusively in Sounds, we present the Ruts And Mensi in THE CONFERENCE ROOM TAPES.
Hard-headed., no-nonsense interviewer: Tell us about the contract. Malcolm: “It’s the usual Virgin eight album deal. We’ve had a £25,000 advance for the album.”
Segs: “Cept we took it to a solicitor and cut it down from 26 pages to about 20 so we don’t have to ‘ave coloured vinyl, or 12 inch singles, or a designated producer if we don’t want him. We took loads of things out.”
And you’re doing the first album in July?
Malcolm: “Yeah. It’ll be most of our established set, all the original numbers from the early RAR gigs till now. We ‘ave got a lot of other stuff held back which we’re rehearsing as well, obviously there’ll be a new set very soon, but the album will be all the familiar stuff cept we’re gonna do em sooo well…”
Foxy: “Also on the reggae tracks we’re gonna bring some of Misty in. Misty’s guitarist and their singers. And the punkier tracks, the faster raw tracks, we’re gonna do in an eight track studio rather than go in a big studio.”
Malc: “Our producer Mick Glossop (Lurkers etc.) is great. I personally think he done really well on ‘Babylon’s Burning’, he knows how to get the best out of us. Fr’example on ‘Society’ he kept making Paul redo his guitar bit at the end. First he said ‘You trying for a job in Deep Purple?” then ‘I think you’re a bit of a sap’ then I think you’re a wanky guitarist’ and Paul’s gone mad. After about 8 takes he’s so wound up he’s wanted to hit Mick and he’s done such an aggressive solo . . .When he came out Mick goes ‘I love you’.
” Dave: “We’ll be producing the album with him, the Ruts and Mick Glossop together.”
Still ill interviewer: “So you think ‘In A Rut’s’ gonna chart then?
Mensi: “In A Rut, who the fuckin ell’s he? Fucking hell Bushell fucking jump out that fucking window will you, you’re fuckin’ daft. What were you fuckin’ doing last night?”
Malc: “I can see ‘Babylon’s Burning’ in the Top 40, and of course we’ll do Top Of The Pops. If you don’t do it you must have some sort of hangup about something. . .”
Dave: “The point is that’s all the majority of people see, where else are they gonna see us?”
Mensi: “We wanted (the Upstarts) wanted to do it and they wouldn’t let us on.”
SHIFTING the ground to last Saturday’s edition of Radio One’s ‘Rock On’; apart from Malcolm saying in Southall they used to think a racist was someone who runs fast, you made the point that you’re not a political band, you deal in observation.
Malc: “I’ve got no big political intentions…I just voted Labour to keep the Tories out. The observation, see, where I come from and where you come from we see the same things and what you see has to come out in your lyrics,”
Paul: “Like the RAR gigs. We don’t do that for any political reasons. People who are racialists are blockheads, they just don’t think right, and we’re just totally opposed to people who think in that stupid way. We’re for the right to be a human, to stand against apathy.”
Segs: “We do get a few NF skin’eads come to our gigs but Malcolm can handle them, a few at a time. They ‘ave a good time dancing to the reggae an’ that and they go ‘ome and think ‘”angabout” ‘Alf of ’em it don’t mean nuffin to. You see NF demonstrations and the coaches pull out and I’d swear it’s the same people get out every time. They go from town to town. There’s only a small number of ’em.”
Mensi: “Yeah but they’re a fuckin’ dangerous minority.”
Agreed. Let’s look at some of the things your songs are observing then. Like the new single.
Malc: “Everyone’s singing love songs again so I thought why not go ”BABYLON’S’ BURNING/ You’ll burn in the streets/ You’ll burn in your houses”. It’s a short, simple statement and it all leads to one word anxiety. Everyone’s anxious. Everyone’s worried.”
Seqs: “Again it’s just an observation. It don’t provide any remedies. All we can say is come along to our gigs and enjoy yourself.”
They all start singing; “D’you ever get the feel’ing someones watching you / sussing information about the things you do / watching you from some shitty spyhole / listening in on radio control / a media controlled by hate / you’ve been programmed far too late”.
It’s a big brother song everytime you get pulled up more goes down about you. They know so much about you . . .”
Paul: “And I tell you it’s gonna get worse now Maggie Thatcher’s in. The Tories are in government for five years right? In five years time its 1984. Five years to build up.”
Segs (out window): “BASSTARDDSS! BASTARRDDSS!”
The Ruts song ‘Jah Wars (Southall)’ looks at another angle or state oppression it was written after the anti-nazi clashes with the police when the NF held an election meeting in Southall last April during which the Special Patrol Group hospitalised Misty’s manager Clarence Baker and wrecked the People Unite headquarters (An Spg constable is currently being interrogated over the death of anti-nazi demonstrator Blair Peach).
Malc: “Again ‘Southall’ is observation. I got there that night and wrote down everything I saw. I know a guy died but I didn’t know him. But I know Clarence – he got smashed up really bad.”
Paul: “They smashed the People Unite place. 50 of them went in there with truncheons, shields, the lot and they beat up nurses, lawyers anyone who was in there.”
Malcolm: “They had pictures of Clarence and Chrissy — anyone they considered to be leaders — and they went straight for them and beat fuck out of ’em”
Paul: “There was an Old Bill beatin’ Chrissie who’s a white guy, right, and Buf one of our roadies said ‘Don’t ‘it ‘im he’s got kidney trouble.’ So they turned him over and kicked ‘im in the kidneys.Bastards. They’re inhuman Animals.”
Mensi: “Aye, and it’s gonna get worse. It’s gettin’, to the point where you’ve just got to make a stand against the bastards.”
All: “Yeah, right.”
So what’s the answer?
Paul: “The answer lies in humans. That’s the only answer.”
Dave: “Everyone who reads this has got to make a decision for themselves.”
Segs: “I’ll tell you what the answer ain’t. It ain’t the Socialist Workers Party. There ain’t a straight political answer …”
Malc: “It’s down to humans, individuals.”
Paul: “All we stand for is basic human rights, for everyone. Whatever their creed or colour.”
AND HERE endeth the major discussion as more scrumpy passed around and talk turned to the boys loud demands to say hello to Phil Lynott and their plans to launch their own label called Ruttoons if/when they get successful. So they can give bands a break like People Unite gave them. Then Mensi brought up the philosophical paucity of Public Image Limited as he’s wont to do, and that lead into loads of related topics.
So I made my excuses and hurried to my sickbed. Mensi apparently later kidnapped one of our messengers and stole her away to South Shields (see Jaws) while the Ruts drowned themselves in scrumpy and were put out with the milk bottles by the cleaners in the morning. And to think they’ll be on Top Of The Pops by the end of this month.
I ask you, is that any way for popstars to behave???