Fairly typical benefit gig reviewed in the NME, 21 May, 1983. The fabulous Dolly Mixture, ranting’s own Benjamin Zephaniah, the lovely Damned, and more.
Damned, Dolly Mixture, Benjamin Zephaniah, A Popular History of Signs
Such a strange assortment could only mean a benefit gig. Artists For Animals was the cause, and a well filled Greyhound (how apt) gawped at The Animals Film on video during lulls in the action. Mildly surreal, but there was much to enjoy.
A Popular History Of Signs hail from North London, but this trio’s spiritual home is located even closer to the Pole. APHOS play atmospheric yet dramatically charged music of a style usually associated with Yorkshire and the North West. The gang Of Four’s agit-prop is welded to the Factory sound, but APHOS transcend their evident influences to resonantly addictive effect.
Benjamin Zephaniah has allowed himself to be adopted as a token by righteous whites hungry for the sound of suffering in Babylon. Feted by the first few rows of upturned, all-whte faces at events like tonight’s, he’s selling himself short, not least artistically. His poetic rhythms are strong and lilting, hence lending themselves naturally to a song. Linton Kwesi Johnson realised his potential by switching from band to maestro – remember the power of ‘Sonny’s Lettah’? Benjamin Zephaniah should be doing the same with ‘Margaret Thatcher’.
Captain Sensible officiated throughout, and with earnest bashfulness demonstrated his commitment to animal rights by reading out some of his poetry on the subject. William Blake he ain’t. Then reverting to his more familiar self, he introduced his protegees Dolly Mixture, who immediately warmed up a hitherto low-key affair.
Rachel and Debsie are singing very well these days, and though Hester’s drums lack finesse, their all-round performance sparkled with enthusiasm. With their polka-dot party dresses and eagerness to please, Dolly Mixture are quaintly and ingenuously English, and their ’60s teenbeat-style set drew me even further back to childhood’s untroubled fun.
Finally The Damned came on to play ‘Smash It Up’, a latterday ‘Hokey Cokey’ reminding us that although they’re pretty dodgy elsewhere, they’ve always been a good pub act.
From the NME, 22/29 December, 1984
Phoney Clash Mania!
A sad night. For all Joe Strummer’s renewed vigour and Smiley Culture’s wit and wordage, this was one of the worst rock shows your reviewer has witnessed in ages.
From the same South London stable as Asher Senator, Smiley Culture is the prince of the new wave of fast-patter deejays, delivering his raps in double-quick time and with tongue-twisting diction. Remember the days when reggae was supposed to be laid back? Smiley don’t and his “lyrics of quantity” spout from that grinning mouth at an alleged rate of 195 words a minute.
Backed only by a tape of some looping dubwise rhythms, the man in the tam and the sky-blue tracksuit slam-bammed his way through ‘Police Officer’ and ‘Cockney Translation’, the latter now embellished with Yankee-style abridgements, but his impact was severely dampened by an overdose of mid-song balderdash.
Stoned exhortations of “Everybody say Clash” and sermons on the joys of sweet sensimelia only punctured the pace and timbre of Smiley’s double-time talkovers. In the course of half-a-dozen toasts, there was simply too much twaddle and not enough serious talk.
Under the banner Arthur Scargill’s Christmas Party and in front of a backdrop depicting the bleak post-industrial silhouettes of a dying mining town, Strummer’s three new apprentices struck up the stark opening chords of ‘One More Time’ and it immediately felt good to know that The Clash were back.
Drawing liberally from a catalogue that now stretches back eight years, The Clash play for close on two hours but there is little coherence or crispness to their set. Compared to, say, The Redskins scampering through ‘Unionise’ or ‘Lean On Me’ in Hammersmith only a week earlier, Strummer and company dilute much of their political force by their fanciful and romanticised imagery.
And judging by their reception afforded the speech of a striking miner before their set – gobbed at, splattered in beer and eventually subjected to the indignity of having his papers torn up by a marauding punk who had forced his way on stage – any political points being made by The Clash are lost on certain sections of their audience.
The absurdness of regurgitating 1977’s sermon in 1984 aside, some of the new songs previewed on the last tour – ‘This Is England’ and ‘Are You Ready’ – promise better once they have been captured, litigation permitting, on vinyl.
But on stage, The Clash at the moment are a case of an excess of energy at best being misdirected and at worst going to waste. Like a rabbit caught in a snare, the more they kick the more entangled they seem to become.
It’s time they quit holding out and drew another breath.
Sounds 24 January, 1981, brings us the discussion from Oi The Debate. Cockney Rejects, 4 Skins, and Angelic Upstarts all chip in their two penneth.
One of the better US punk bands and their relationship to Rastafari in the NME, 4 June, 1983.
Attila’s original handwritten draft of the first of his Russians! poems.
The X-rated soul singer in the NME, 17 March, 1984.
From NME, 15 August, 1981