Monthly Archives: May 2014

Aggro Britain! – Seething Wells

The Fleet Street Shit Sheet neat little label-maker enables Joe and Mabel Smith to spot what-goes in the shadowy subterranean world of Subculture Cult Heroes and the Mindless Sheep who kiss the feet of the cocaine-consuming Tinsel-Neroes.
AGGRO BRITAINS! apathetic youth, A spineless, foppish group: – Gays and Communists, Anti-war feminists, long-haired punk-rocking drug-taking Anarchists, Papists and pissed-up young pagans. Half-brick lobbing, Commie-plotting Social misfits and Misfit socialists,
Inter-racial couples in public parks. The Sharks and the Jets get propositioned by lisping, effete randy dandies and trashed by KILLER SKINHEADS! who swarm in every inner-city brick-strewn street, amphetamine roller skates strapped to their over-size feet the scourge of the nation that’s gone to the dogs on its knees.
Dr Bob Martin’s cure for the flea-ridden Bulldog is the short-sharp-shock of two minutes in the dock and two years of sweating in a pox-ridden prison for all who exalt the revolting, craven, disgusting and unshaven FOLK DEVILS! who corrupt and disturb the minds of the young.
The Sun’s so-called journalists, quack sociologists and fascist hacks. AGGRO BRITAIN! in thirteen paragraphs. Broken noses get easy laughs from their Tit-greedy Bum-hungry highly intellectual audience of mindless Thatcher-voting zombies.
The Fleet Street Shit Sheet excretes cheap lies and The Sun cries
AGGRO BRITAIN (exclamation mark)
The only Aggro done
Is done by The Sun
To the minds of the kind of scummy prat
Who believe the crap
That the Fleet Street Shit Sheet feed them.

Seething Wells

Aggro Britain was a guide to the youth cults of Britain that appeared in the Daily Mirror.
aggro swells

Jimmy Fagg

Sitting in the pub in front of the Joanna, lank, stringy hair, crazy eyes and devilish smile: Jimmy Fagg was on old fashioned pub comedian with a sharp and biting wit. Those in the know would buy him a drink on entering the pub to spare themselves being savaged by his jokes.

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He was a regular fixture in many East End pubs in the 60s to the early 80s. He was often billed as Mad Jimmy Fagg. He had a weekend residency at the Imperial Crown in Bromley-by-Bow and was well known in pubs such as the Red Lion on Exmouth Market. Both these pubs, like Jimmy, are now sadly long gone.
Though not a poet he was a brilliant in your face comedian. Many of his songs came from music hall. There was a great mix of popular songs, jokes and ‘recitations’ in music hall and both punk and ranting kept a fair bit of the tradition of earthy, working class humour.

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He’d belt out songs like ‘What A Wonderful Fish The Sole Is’

What a wonderful fish the sole is
What a wonderful fish are soles
I must relate I am partial to plaice
When served on a dish as rissoles

What a wonderful fish the sole is
Like salmon they swim in shoals
But the sweetest of fish
When placed on a dish
Are soles, are soles, are soles.

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I Want To Go To Heaven For The Weekend was another song he’d belt out, songs that’d get the pub singing along drunkenly.
Ranters were often from the same working class culture and had the same in your face edge. The pub in the 70s and 80s was the focus of the community, this was before the TV and interweb isolated us. Handling rowdy crowds was part and parcel of your job. I’ve often advised young poets to get out and gig in pubs and with bands. Personally speaking, having come up through the ranks doing poems in pubs and gigs with the likes of the Angelic Upstarts, poetry audiences hold no fear for me at all.

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Jimmy Fagg in 1961

Jimmy Fagg learnt his craft as a musician in the Royal Marines. It was said he’d twice been up for mutiny. As unruly as ever.
In the 80s he was spotted by the young wave of comedians who made up The Comic Strip Presents and appeared in many of their TV comedies: The Bullshitters: South Atlantic Raiders: Part 2 Argie Bargie!, GLC: The Carnage Continues, Oxford, Spaghetti Hoops, Les Dogs, The Crying Game, Detectives on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown, Space Virgins from Planet Sex, Queen of the Wild Frontier. Although an older face than the likes of Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson and Peter Richardson he was often the most anarchic.

He also appeared in films, Eat The Rich being the one I remember best. Better yet he played a pub pianist in the early Channel 4 Isle of Dogs drama Prospects. He plays through a fight started by a character played by mate Perry Benson. Jimmy also appears in Minder, both made by the much missed Euston Films.

The Housewife’s Trial – The Big J

Your Honour, I’m only a poor housewife
And the one great joy in my boring life
Is to get my laundry white and clean
The light of my life is my washing machine
So this morning I had a terrible shock
‘Cos the dirt said hot but the label said not
With the stains on his undies and the dirt on his vest
They’ll never pass the window test
It really did come as a terrible fright
I’ll never get them bluey-white
My powder’s so crap I’m sure that it won’t
Shift those stubborn stains that ordinary non-biological powders don’t
Then all of a sudden, to allay my fears
A man in a long white coat appeared
He said ‘It’s new, it’s improved, it’s the best you can buy
It’s bloody amazing, why not give it a try?’
Then more appeared and very soon
Washing powder salesman filled up the room
But under all that pressure my patience SNAPPED
And in the soap powder advert, THE HOUSEWIFE STRIKES BACK!
I attacked ’em all with piano wire
Put their heads in the machine and their bodies in the drier
I grabbed ’em by the willies and pulled ’em through the mangle
I spun ’em and wrung ’em until they were strangled
Then I washed ’em and rinsed ’em a couple more times
Hung ’em by the bollocks from the washing line
I took ’em down and shook ’em to get rid of their crinkles
Put ’em on the ironing board and ironed out their wrinkles
I didn’t mean to kill ’em – it was out of frustration
I was sick of being subjected to their patronisation
So I stand accused Your Honour of this terrible offence
And the one thing I can say is – it was in self defence!

The Big J – from Wake Up, number 6, September 85
The Big J was a scooted riding poet who also edited the ‘zine Blaze.
I hope to be interviewing her about her days as a ranter and zinester and what she did next in the not too distant.

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The Oi of Sex

Review from New Youth ‘zine, issue 5, 1984

What can I say about this that Swells hasn’t already said in the NME. There again most of New Youths readers probably aren’t “NME people” which is largely read by middle class – trying to be young and hip lefties – called Trendy Wendy & Right on John. Anyway I like the NME (!) and as Swells outlined the idiosyncrasies’ of Oi are still apparent .. torn between their working class ISM and the sick, stupid, dense Sun-reading patriotism of some of their Neo-Nazi followers. Oi continues to appear mixed up. Especially when you read the ridiculous list on the cover entitled “Oi is..”
It’s sad that the thick Neolithic type skinheads latch onto Oi as there are so many intelligent skins around (see this fanzine) not least the ones on the album, Burial, from Scarborough, are excellent and don’t have shits for brains. These lads are sussed and the album’s worth buying for their two tracks alone. Prole’s ‘Never say Die’ also stands out as true socialism in music. As is usual of Nick Toczek, the Bradford poet, his contribution is hard-hitting, thoughtful and easy to understand. ‘Stiff With a Quiff’ is a portrait of the stereotypical slobbish husband, ruining the life of a woman, who he keeps chained to household chores by a label of “wife” while he pisses his own life against a wall.
probably the most important piece on this album (that’s why we reviewed it!) is by Hull’s very own ranter Swift Nick. How he had the audacity to contribute such a caustic, hard-hitting, honest rant as ‘The Sun’ on an Oi album invariably listened to by the very people he is attacking is both admirable and amusing. He completely rips the piss out of blinkered, macho, nationalism of some young thugs, tears into the “royal” family and in general ridicules the whole mentality of the Sun newspaper type population.
These tracks mentioned are the only reasons valid to buy this album (you may like some of the other tracks) but better still write to New Youth for a live recording of a Swift Nick performance, only £1 – good quality and great thought-provoking entertainment, EXCELLENT RANTS!
The accepted idea of right-wing, racist, thuggish Skins is being smashed by the excellent Skins with sense all over the country (like Burial) but Oi doesn’t do its best to help the cause, especially when the disgusting band named A.B.H. are given vinyl space.
front

New Youth was written by Swift Nick and was a popular ‘zine of the time. I didn’t think the album was that bad, and there are plenty of ranters on it: Little Dave as well as Jimmy Mack. Teething Wells, no less, co-wrote Jimmy Mack’s rant. There are some good songs from Cock Sparrer, who also attacked The Sun, and Dogsbody. All the Oi albums had a good showing from ranters on them. It’s funny now to see how such a vilified music subculture had so much poetry.
ABH were a band associated with the National Front. It pissed off a lot of people that they were on the album.

Roger McGough on The Liver Birds

The Liver Birds was a popular comedy series from the 70s. It was written by Carla Lane and centred on two Scouse sorts sharing a flat. Many lads my age have fond memories of Nerys Hughes.
Roger McGough was one of the Liverpool Poets popular in the 60s. By the late 70s/mid 80s he was part of what Ranting Verse was kicking against but at the same time Ranting wouldn’t have been what it was without antecedents like the Liverpool poets.
It’s notable that in 1972, when this clip is from going to a pub to see poetry was something normal for working class people to do, as reflected in The Liver Birds. The girls go to O’Connors Tavern where McGough reads from his collection After The Merrymaking.
The Liverpool poets were loathed by kids my age. I’ve been reading their Penguin collection The Mersey Sound whilst researching this blog and it’s much better than I remember. I think it was the trendy teachers making us read it that really put us off them. It’s worth remembering that in the 60s McGough, Patten and Henri were the punk poets. At school in the 60s it was groundbreaking that we’d get a Beatles song in a music lesson at school.
McGough’s band ‘The Scaffold’ sing the theme tune to the Liver Birds. The genius in The Scaffold for me though was John Gorman. He was a member of The Scaffold, as well as the Grimms who merged The Scaffold with the band Liverpool Scene along with Neil Innes and Viv Stanshall from the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. Even more importantly, Gorman was a regular fixture on Tiswas. Yes!
These days Roger McGough wears a hat.

John Hegley’s Band – The Popticians

In the 80s John gigged with his band The Popticians, and still infrequently does. This interview is from issue 8 of No Class ‘zine, 1983.

Popticians

Anyone who reads the London listings magazines must have noticed in the last couple of years the appearance of the Cabaret section, to accompany the cinema, theatre and music guides. The cabaret list regularly includes such acts as The Wild Girls, Dancing with the Dog, The Barnies, Left Wing Teds and The Joeys, and this is where you can find the Popticians too.

As part of the campaign to prevent the GLC being done away with, the CAST/ New Variety tour was sponsored by the threatened Council and as such brought these acts to many of London’s underused Town Hall stages. This tour doubtlessly gave many people their first taste of so-called ’Alternative’ Cabaret, myself included, and one of the acts I witnessed was the Popticians.
POPS

The Duran Duran of the cabaret world, only they’re not Tory’ is what City Limits said of them. They comprise Russ (previously part of The Chefs, as interviewed in No Class 2), Keith and Sue, as well as John Hegley, their leader, who also acts as compere at some of the cabarets they do. Together with their name and humorous songs these four individuals have done as much for myopia as Elvis Costello. As well as relentlessly performing the cabaret circuit, the group have released their first record, Mobile Home / Spare Pear, via their own label, Off The Kerb Records. Both songs were originally recorded on their session for John Peel’s radio programme:

John Peel came to a club we were playing at last year (1983) and quite liked what we did. Then we got a phone call from John Walters, asking us if we wanted to do a session.’
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NC: What instruments did you use for the session?

’We used an old acoustic guitar, Russ used his whole drum kit: he only uses the snare when we play live. Keith played clarinet: he now plays trumpet as well, and Sue used alto and baritone sax. She uses the alto mainly when the band play live.’

NC: What is Off The Kerb?

’The Off The Kerb Roadshow is a package of four performers: Roy Hutchins, who does noisy, energetic mime; John Hegley: poet; Podomofski, who is a Lithuanian comic, and the Popticians, with occasional appearances of their roadie, Eric. The Roadshow performs in colleges, art centres and cabarets all over the country.
’The single is taken off the John Peel session. To do this we had to become a record company to make it legal. Addison, who organises the Off The Kerb Roadshow, turned himself into a record company. The offers we had were terrible, that’s why we brought the single out on our own.’

NC: Do you prefer package type tours to ordinary gigs?

’It is much better to work in a package like the Off The Kerb Roadshow. We had all known each other from the cabaret / busking circuit, and liked each other’s work, and knew we could work well together. We’re now working on a much more integrated show. Hopefully it’ll be together for next year. We still do the ordinary gigs. We’ve got our own favourites like the Crown and Castle on Saturday nights in Dalston Junction, there’s always a good atmosphere.’

NC: When I saw the Popticians on the GLC tour they were desperately trying to get the audience to join in with the songs.

’Audience participation is a really important part in our show. Sometimes it takes a lot of hard work to get the audience loud enough, but it’s great when everyone gets into the swing of it. We also have a lot of hecklers at our shows, which keeps us on our toes.’
With humorous words to your songs, is the music secondary?
’We try to keep our music simple, without being boring. The lyrics are important, so when one person is singing the music quietens down so there is no battle with one voice and the horns. This started when we busked when you had to hear the vocals clearly with no amplification. Some of the cabarets we do are acoustic so we do have to be careful that the lyrics can be heard.’
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NC: Have you ever been on TV?

’We’ve been on a programme about street entertainers called Street Entertainers Festival, Pyjamarama and Jasper Carrott Show. We entered the 1983 street entertainers competition organised by Time Out. The whole competition was filmed and some of it shown on TV at Christmas.
’The producer from Pyjamarama saw us performing as part of the South Bank Splash that the National Theatre organise each year. He thought we were OK and asked us to be on the programme.
’The Jasper Carrott producers saw us performing at a cabaret called Bush Fires which happens every Friday in the pub next door to the BBC Theatre in Shepherds Bush, where they filmed Jasper Carrott.’

The Popticians’ John Peel Sessions