I’m not one to discriminate against everything from years gone by, but something is happening now that overshadows all the poetry that has been before, and I feel you should know about it. A look back at the ups and downs of Ranting verse since the last issue.
Attila’s LP arrived, and bloody good it was too, followed by Benjamin Zephaniah’s LP, which I’ve yet to hear. Live appearances increased, particularly on the fringe cabaret circuit. The Ranters Revenge held in Wapping was apparently a success, and there were rumours of a live LP of the event. The ‘Apples and Snakes’ events at the ‘Roebuck’, Tottenham Court Rd. livened up many a Saturday night, and provided a stage for a wide variety of new talent. Some Ranters appeared on the ‘Cast Variety’ shows… and the word spread nation wide to attract new performers and followers. The Poetry Olympics were bad as every body told me they would be. A tent in Blackheath was the venue for this years celebration of middle class self indulgence. Jill Neville and Heathcote Williams offered us some relief from the rambling corpses and a spark of spontaneity was provided by Ginger John, Rowena Tosh, and yours truly… the whole shambles was rounded off by a great performance by Benjamin Zephaniah. This was followed by Glastonbury… mentioned elsewhere… which was in turn followed by the Seething Wells ‘Radical Bingo’ event. A week of fringe cabaret, Ranting, and the ‘odd’ band, at the oh-so-posh I.C.A. hosted by the Bradford Baldy himself. The idea was good, the venue was NAFF!! Quite apart from the 95p a pint, the place had a stifled, trendy, snobby, middle class atmosphere that was more suited to the Poetry Olympics, and S.Wells looked far from comfortable as a stand up comedian. Attila joined the mass exodus from Cherry Red, describing the director, Ian McNae as an “evil capitalist bastard”. (Hopefully this means I won’t be receiving any more of their awful records) Benjamin Zephaniah did countless benefit appearances, and not before time rose to fame through the pages of Sounds, Black Echoes and New Socialist!! As well as an hour long documentary that I felt was a bit of a let down. Most of the ranters made various appearances on TV. and radio, (with S.Wells unfairly criticising all other fanzines) ‘Voice from the Streets’ journalist Val Hennessy wrote a patronising article on Attila in New Society, and wrongly credited the Cool Notes Posse with such long dead clichés as “Where it’s at” Then she matched that rubbish with even more with an Observer Magazine article on the Mersey Beat poets, see cutting else where. Some mindless cretins put a dampener on the whole thing by their moronic attacks on Swells at Little Brother at the Ace. Lone Ranters/Poets make easy targets for those without the guts to get up and voice THEIR opinions in a similar manner. This incident was later to be overshadowed by the murder of Jamaican poet Michael Smith and DJ. Prince Far I, no doubt at the hands of like minded wankers. This shows the risk that SOME Jamaican artists take in speaking out against injustice. “He who knows it feels it”.. a tragic loss to the world. Molotov Comics is still going strong, no sign of scouse ‘zine ‘Another Day Another Word’, Attila has promised us a ‘zine of his own. Joolz Denby will be releasing a 3 track 12” on Abstract produced by Jah Wobble. ‘Cast’ and ‘Apples and Snakes’ are still going strong, and more TV appearances are expected soon. But what of the future… ??
Well a lot more Ranters, Poets, and general ‘Verbal Artists’ have emerged, Swift Nick, Bet Lynch, Ginger John, Little Dave, Dino, Stephen Schuurmann, Pat Condell, Pete Campbell, Rantin’ Ritchie, Sandy Gort, and no doubt many more that I’m yet to hear about. But there is still room for more, so if you’re handy with a pen, can string a couple of lines together, and feel that YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY… GO TO IT.. This is too important a chance to be lost. Hopefully the trouble at the Ace won’t deter anybody from having a go, and won’t drive people to performing exclusively to students and cabaret audiences who tend to be more docile. The power of words can reach people and cut through barriers that music can rarely achieve. In years to come you will regret not having seen these modern day bards, or better still joining them… so now’s your chance… make the most of it while it’s still there.
Richard Edwards, Cool Notes #7, 1983
Cool Notes was a crucial ‘zine for Ranters. It brought together poetry, politics and Northern Soul. Richard ‘Cool Notes’ Edwards was a Ranter himself and he’s the one bloke that everyone asks after when old Ranters meet.