This is a strange album that came out in 1970. It was a weird concept album aimed at skinheads who were in fashion at the time. When I was a teenage skinhead myself we bought the album even though there was no reggae on it. What is of interest is there are some spoken sections by young lads that make it of interest in regard to spoken word.
The band Fresh were put together by manager Simon Napier-Bell, who later on was the manager of Wham!. There are a couple of Mick Jagger/Keith Richards songs on the album which has made it a sought after record.
There is some authenticity to the spoken sections, these being from real lads rather than the musicians. All in all it’s quite a strange concept album that throws a bit of light onto the social history of us boot boy types. Bob Gorman from the band Fresh said “Our development was rudely interrupted by these albums, and did not represent our style or music.”
Come the 1980s several borstal boys were ranting poets.
Mensi was singer with the Angelic Upstarts. They were one of the second wave of punk bands. Working class bands that hadn’t been to art school. The Upstarts had a strong political message, as this poem from Mensi demonstrates.
Ted Heath was the Tory PM from June 1970 to February 1974. His time as PM was full of strikes. Mensi had been a miner himself.
The Upstarts were a great live band and I gigged with them several times myself. They were popular with punks and skinheads and after gigs like that a poetry audience is a piece of piss.
You can find the poem on the Angelic Upstarts’ top drawer Two Million Voices album.
Little Brother was a poet from Bradford, Dave Stockell. He was known as one of the sharper ranters. Bradford was home to a thriving poetry scene in the early-mid 80s: Seething Wells, Ginger John lived there, Joolz and also Little Brother.
He did a split single (a 33 EP vinyl junkies!) with Seething Wells in 1982
There’s an audio of it on the link below, and here’s the poems –
I found this poem whilst research in Cecil Sharp House, see the previous blog entry on that https://standupandspit.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/cecil-sharp-house/
Ranting was ever angry poets on a soapbox.
In the 1895 book The Risings of the Luddites, the author, F. Peel states that Jeremiah Brandreth, the ‘Nottingham captain’ who led the rising of June 8th in 1817, wrote the following verse…
Every man his skill must try
He must turn out and not deny;
No bloody soldier he must dread
He must come out and fight for bread
The time has come you plainly see
When Government opposed must be!
Teething Wells was an oik who often gigged with the likes of Seething Wells, Attila the Stockbroker, Ginger John and Porky the Poet in the 80s. Most of these gigs were in between bands and sound systems or at ranting shows. After resting on his laurels he returned to poetry and started the poetry ‘zine Rising.
Here’s a rant he used to read in 1981 that is based on an anonymous IWW poem from 1917.
I love my flag, I do, I do,
that floats upon the breeze.
I also love my arms, my legs,
my feet, my toes, my knees.
One little shell might spoil them all
or give them such a twist,
they would be of no use to me
so I guess I won’t enlist.
I love my country, yes I do,
I hope our men do well.
Without their arms and legs and things
I think they’d look like hell.
Men with faces half shot off
are unfit to be kissed.
I’ve read in books, it spoils their looks
so I guess I won’t enlist.
I love our leaders, sure I do,
in a bunker underground.
When the atom bombs go off
they won’t hear a sound.
If we gave them rifles,
how long would they exist?
They’re not fighting. Why should I?
So I guess I won’t enlist.
Teething Wells at a miner’s strike benefit, the Burial played!, 1984
Attila and Seething Wells became the two big ranting names in the mid-80s. They gigged a lot, a hell of a lot. Attila also wrote in the music press as John Opposition and had a football column for a time. He really was a stockbroker pre-poetry.
He’s recoded a few albums, had books published and is still gigging far and wide, as well as doing a regular Morning Star column. He did the daddy of the ranting ‘zines Tirane Thrash.
His work is political with a large dash of humour.
Michael Smith was an inspiration to me. He was a dynamic performer and an engaging person. He gigged in England quite a bit and did a bit of TV here too. I love the start of this documentary where he’s chatting with Linton Kwesi Johnson and CLR James. Linton is a great poet too. His work has voiced the experience of many working class people in this country, especially those from the Caribbean. When I was a teenager one of my skinhead mates would recite Sonny’s Lettah perfectly. The Library in Dalston is named after CLR James. There used to be a run of reggae shops nearby where we’d go to get choons after getting records from Rupie Edwards on Ridley Road market.
I think this is a BBC documentary from 1982. Michael Smith was killed in 1983.
We’ll be doing an event on Michael Smith as part of the Stand Up and Spit project. I’m also hoping to interview a few people about the memories of him.