The top drawer Culture single reviewed in the NME, 20 May, 1978 by Cliff White.
Culture: Two Sevens Clash (Lightening) Messrs Reel and Spencer are best equipped to regale you with learned discourse about the social significance of this record; all I can offer is that it sounds great. If I was to delve any deeper I’d be bound to observe that Marcus Garvey’s prophesy about 1977 proved to be a lot further short of accurate than is admitted by Culture. However, ignore for a moment the whys and wherefores; just listen to the seductive rhythm, mellow harmonies, keen lead vocal and excellent production. Then flip it over and enjoy an equally attractive love song, “I’m Not Ashamed.” By rights Lightening should see bigger returns from this than they won from “Up Town Top Ranking” but somehow I don’t think the radio programmers of Britain will allow it. How much longer are you lot gonna sit on your backsides and be limited in your listening pleasures by a small clique of dumbos?
The Jam’s classic single reviewed by Danny Baker in the NME, 7 October, 1978.
The Jam: Down In The Tube Station At Midnight (Polydor)
Handsome! At last some rock singles after last week’s pitiful turnout against the ever-present, effervescent spears of Disco. Hardly any of the ‘soldiers’ of ’77 now have anything near a 100 per cent vinyl record of success but this band is the exception. This is THE JAM… “All Around The World”, “In The City”, “David Watts” and now (so soon!), a new screamer, incisive and tear-arse, tempered and taught.
Like “Wardour Street” it’s a shout against that cowardly scuttling creep, mob-handed random assault. Anyone who’s stood waiting for the last one – be it at Whitechapel or Wood Green – knows the tightening of the chest when that rabble of football froats starts howling in from the station stairs. You’re on your jack, and all the trains are going the other way.
“Hey boy, they shout, have you got any money?”
Poem from Final Solution, number 8, October 1980, a New Orleans fanzine.
As we walk the street at night
Feeling hate emanating fright
All the loved ones stop in cars
Seeing all our social scars
Hair messed up pants fit so tight
Feeling dead by dawn’s daylight
Was the party here nor there
Tell you now just wasn’t fair
Thought I had her in my pocket
Stuck my finger in the socket
Electrodes charged into my brain
After that I felt no pain
Another day of useless work
Getting home feel like a jerk
Making plans for next night’s show
Feeling pain and a nay bit low
Stick my finger in the socket
Now I’ve got her in my pocket
Band sounds fine in hot stage lights
Could be wrong But I think we’re right…
Ben Zephaniah’s album reviewed in Sounds, 25 June, 1983.
At the end of the TV play Tansey Lambert Is Dead OK?, while the mixed up borstal boy is croaking it from a snapped spine inflicted on him by NF slugs for speaking up on behalf of his black mate Geoffrey, a moral anecdote unfolds:
Geoffrey tells of an incident where a wino ponces some cash off him. ‘Ever seen slabs of meat hanging up in a butchers’ (or words to that effect)? ‘Well, this society is a machine and it’s turning us all into hamburgers.’
What has this got to do with Benjamin’s debut album? Nothing directly but it’s no accident that in the past year, those most involved in trying to dismantle the world’s human abattoirs via entertainment have been poets.
When you’re angry, an instinctive reaction is to shout down the shit – rant your rebellion. Benjamin can spit bile with the best of them. The thing about yelling your wants, hopes, fears and hates over a whole elpee is it can induce chronic earache in the listener. So why not harness that shiny beast, music, that everyone likes to pet at home?
This is exactly what Benjamin has done on this album. By forging the spirit (not delivery) of rant to a brooding and sometimes innovative reggae backbeat and percussive African inflections, he doesn’t undermine his words but underlines them.
The album opens with a poem liable to misinterpretation: ‘Rasta’, garnished by Anjie and Equa (aka the Sisters of Rant) chirping between the bass spaces and sax and marimba accents, finds Benjamin intoning: ‘A just Rasta talk to de people’.
Another artist insisting only his people have the key? That’s how I heard the track at first but Benjamin looks upon it as simply a celebration of his culture. And since he’s one of the most unblinkered dreads I’ve met, I believe him. Nonetheless, the ambiguity remains on vinyl.
‘Get High’, a sultry minor chord affair, laced with mournful flute, follows. On it, the poet illustrates the pointlessness of bloodshed by juxtaposing the results of hate with an invitation to cool out in spliff dom. Taken in isolation, the song’s sentiments would seem incredibly naive but, in spite of his pipe dream, Benjamin knows this and the rest of the album is wonderfully militant.
‘Dis Policeman Keeps On Kicking Me To Death’. with defiant lyrics like ‘Him can jail my body but him cannot jail my mind.’ and ’13 Dead’ (a remembrance of the New Cross fire) scuttle along lines laid by massed African drums.
The centrepiece of the album though, in terms of fusing words and music, has to be ‘South Africa’. The Sisters of Rant commenting “Illegal” at intervals. Benjamin constructs the most damning indictment of the racist regime I’ve heard since Scott-Heron’s ‘Johannesburg’.
“Don’t talk to dem, don’t be dem friend, no matter if you black or if you white, no apartheid,” warns the poet. Good advice, I reckon. What can you do? Stop buying SA goods for a start.
A flawed masterpiece, ‘Rasta’, captures Benjamin starting to evolve into a major force. His next album is going to be a monster. In the meantime, don’t be a hamburger, buy this record and it might inspire you to positive action.
Cheryl B, magnificent and much missed, reads in New York City, 26 January, 2010. Poems are: Reasons to Stop, When I Knew Everyone on Avenue A, My Girlfriend’s Band Had a Gig at a Lesbian Bar in a Strip Mall on Long Island, Relics Encountered on a Afternoon Walk. Cheryl read many times in London with Salena Godden, Roddy Lumsden, and myself, amongst many others. She was instrumental in getting British poets gigging in New York.
John Cooper Clarke talking punk with an academic in 2016. It was the 40th anniversary of punks first gob and the punks who were now lecturers made ample noise.
This particular discussion, Clarkey lets loose a few numbers, is from University of the Arts London.
Jamaican Reggae Strikes A Blow Against The National Front
One of the most disturbing features of the National Front’s rise to prominence in the last few years has been the ambivalent attitude shown towards this heinous gang of racists by the ethnic communities it most threatens.
It has been left (no pun intended) to what the West Indian World almost invariably refers to as “white liberals” or even “anarchist hooligans” to voice any real opposition to the rightist organisation’s questionable morality.
Despite the Front’s avowed rhetoric against all minority groups – a fact that circumcised NF sympathisers of Jewish descent living in Redbridge might consider – it remains the patriots’ concentrated deprecation of the Asian and West Indian communities that have proved the Front’s most effective propaganda piece.
Part of this minority group ambivalence might be seen simply in terms of fear of reprisals, “We’ve still got to live here afterwards, miss,” was how the black pupils of a teacher friend responded to her suggestion that they march in a recent demonstration against the Front.
But even this only amounts to a justification of a much larger consideration – which is that loyal servant of genocide, apathy! You know, the ability to lie down and take it which sent European Jewry to concentration camps like so many rock fans to a festival in the ’30s.
Happily, a wind of change seems to be blowing in this direction. You can hardly walk into a blues dance these days where a sound-system DJ isn’t sounding off against the NF, between offering the normal chants of glory to His Imperial Majesty; whilst British acts like Delroy Washington and Steel Pulse have been moved to similar denunciations of the Front in recent months.
And now a Jamaican reggae star, in the shape of toaster Dillinger, has come out of his apolitical closet… “Let war go and let love stay,” he pleads, “No matter whay they do, I mean no matter what they say, I-man still nah gwan run away, I would say … when I tell you ’bout the National Front – them a grunt. Beware of the National Front.”
This unambiguous indictment is to be found hidden in a Third World 12″ recording called “Stop In The Name Of Love”, featuring Delroy Wilson and Dillinger. Suitably apprehensive label-owner Count Shelley has played down the toaster’s sentiment by merely titling the tune “Rockers”.
Dillinger may be safely (!) back in Jamaica, but it would appear the good Count also “still has to live here afterwards”.
Your fearless Thrills correspondent shares no such apprehensions; in fact, your reporter’s immediate neighbours might testify its existence at sixty watts volume any Saturday morning around 3 am.
The best two quids’ worth o’ protest on the market.