Monthly Archives: June 2014

Molly Parkin

My dad loved Molly Parkin. When she’d be interviewed on a chat show we all had to be quiet. Molly was always charming, but she was always rude. Not crude, always pleasant but plain old sexual filth. Molly’s a woman that enjoys life. All of it. She’s a ‘you can do anything you want’ feminist, and knows how to cut a dash.
Whilst not exactly a ranter, she had done many poetry gigs, along with writing some steamy novels. She’s gigged with Joolz and done many shows for Michael Horowitz. Anyone who’s been banned from the BBC for swearing is fine by me.

Supermarket Stimulants

Just come back from doing the family shopping,
queueing and choosing and counter-hopping.
Finished up buying mackerel, a succulent fish,
new potatoes, some salad – the family’s wish.
Though I sound a dull housewife, I find shopping quite nice.
Just as well since it’s bloody well part of my life!
But – funny thing – when I shop
I will occasionally stop
to recall a blue film I once saw
in a discretely lit basement, behind the dark door
of a plush club in Mayfair. Far from being a bore
(as some of those films undoubtedly are),
this one left me horny, uneasily numb.
I found, without knowing, I was sucking my thumb!
Yet no reason was clear.
The film-plot was drear.
A suburban girl with sweet dimples
(and juvenile pimples)
was engaged to a sailor, poor thing.
The camera zoomed from his snapshot, the sea, and her ring.
So in less than five seconds we understood this.
The rest of the action was sexual bliss.
She didn’t get much, the film seemed to say,
not with being faithful and her fiancé away.
Between her job at the office and visiting Mum,
getting early to bed with a book and no fun.
And the weather was hot,
unlike herself, who was not.
But – in the very next shot,
leaving work on the dot,
we saw her shopping for supper
(which later ended up her!)
Long French loaf, liver sausage
(She’d not got the message).
Thick banana, big cucumber
– but we were getting her number!
We saw the same thoughts come to her
as they were dawning on us.
She raced home and stripped off with the minimum fuss.
And before we proclaimed the idea a winner,
the kid’s frustration was solved – her dinner was in her . . .

Hauling home my full bag,
though satisfied with the shag
I enjoy every night,
I sometimes think that I might
(If my man was a sailor at sea,
and I had dimples and pimples and the girl had been me)
have pursued the same line of attack.
As it is, getting back I just simply unpack
and prepare a nice meal
(though I may furtively feel).
The family’s need
is to enjoy a good feed.
For the moment we forget about me.

Molly Parkin

From Molly’s 1979 collection: Purple Passages.
I’m delighted that my copy is not only signed for me by Molly but also by her daughter and grand-daughter, all of whom are fabulous women.

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Seething Wells – Melody Maker 1982

Melody Maker October 23, 1982

Wells’ Farrago

Neutral territory for a provocative night out: Stephen Seething Wells had come from Leeds, I’d dashed from Manchester. We sit warily next to each other in Sheffield’s West Street Pub, delicately playing out the early jigsaw-fitting tedium of the “interview”.
Suddenly Wells drops his bottle of Pils on the table throws his cigarette in the ashtray and cuts through the curtain of predictable “petty chat”.
“What’s absolutely crucial,” he said, “is that you stress that what we’re after is doing for poetry what punk did for music – but making it stick.”
Two months earlier, I’d seen him ranting on stage and rather ungenerously dismissed him as a loud-mouthed bull, who was getting far too much medias exposure.
Offstage he still talks a lot – and fast – but also with articulate ease. Sometimes he is like a bull who’s seen red and can’t see that he might not be “right”, but generally he is admirably flexible – and refreshingly honest.
“Look, ‘poetry’ is a word like ‘art’: it doesn’t mean anything. What I am is an entertainer using the medium of rhyme. I’m not saying that some of the stuff traditionally classified as poetry isn’t worth reading – but 90 per cent of it is shit.
Wells shows me a copy of his Molotov Comics – a fiery assemblage of “rants” collected from “ranters” from all over Britain and produced by himself. “This is what it’s all about”, he gestures, proudly displaying pieces by Attila, Little Brother, himself and other new poets.
“It’s about getting poetry back to basics – simplifying it and making it more direct. Why write about ‘cosmic experiences’ when you can write about your own predicament – being on the dole and having no money spare, ever.
“For me, if something works and gets a reaction I don’t care what line-scheme it’s in: it’s worth doing. Then again, I reckon that one or two of my pieces would stand up to so-called ‘poetry’. And in terms of entertainment they would pan them!”
Stephen Wells became interested in the idea of “ranting” as opposed to “poetry reading” at the fag end of “punk”, when various punk bands that he’d tried to get off the ground had flopped with resounding regularity.
“Nineteen seventy seven was the time when, like a lot of other young people, I felt like reclaiming my culture. The idea of ‘honesty’ – so inherent within punk – appealed to me. Like it was no longer ‘hip’ to push hard drugs and music was the right of anyone – not just an elite group of ‘stars’.”
While he sips another bottle of Pils I get the inevitable next question out of the way. How big a help has John Cooper Clarke been in setting the ground for the “ranters”.
“I wouldn’t say that I was nothing like him,” he answers slowly. “But the fact that me and the others have appeared three years after him means that he wasn’t a direct influence. Personally, the Clash were my biggest influence.”
But didn’t he at least open the door for you?
“He was a catalyst, agreed, but his big failing was that he didn’t consolidate his groundwork and encourage others. He didn’t say ‘anybody can do this’ like the Pistols did for music.”
I suggest that Stephen Wells is perhaps a little too caught up in the idea of “the rebel” – that he himself is scoring off this dated theme.
“Shit! Rebellion is a complete waste of time! There’s just no point in being a rebel: you’ve got to become mainstream if you really want people to hear what you’ve got to say.
“But to become the mainstream you’ve got to make compromises. Talking to you is a compromise; bringing out a record is a compromise. The thing is to be honest about the compromises you so make.”
How honest are you, Stephen? Would you not accept that you’re “ranting” to make money?
“Course I’m doing it to make money – but I intend to use the money correctly – like by putting it back in the community/giving other ‘ranters’ a chance to voice their poems in print.”

Would “fame” be a cursory spin-off or necessary?
“Look, you can’t be pure, you know? If you’re pure you’re like Crass: you end up in a ghetto, isolated for the rest of your life. I’m not into ghetto politics – I’m into populism.”
He hasn’t yet added any musical accompaniment on stage, although his recent Peel session material did offer the occasional glimpse of what it could add/take away. “I don’t think it would be right at the moment but if it ever happens I’d like it to be nosiy.”
Most of the music he’s currently listening to is noisy – Newtown Neurotics, New Model Army, the Redskins – and, I tell him, depressingly mono-dimensional. “But it’s full of passion and relevancy,” he retorts. “It’s real music.”
He surprises me: “My favourite artist ever is Aretha Franklin – but my list wouldn’t include any of this white soul crap that’s so popular at the moment.
“I hate London’s attitude towards music,” he adds. “It’s soaked in the idea if ‘in’ one week, ‘out’ the next. But in terms of ‘new’ music, London’s way behind the rest of the country.
“The other week I was in London, ordering a pint in this pub. Next thing, there’s this bloke – ‘Where are you from, mate, I don’t recognise your accent?’ – ‘Bradford’, I tell him. ‘Where’s that?’ he asks. ‘Yorkshire’, I say.
“’Oh, is that north or south of the river?’”
When our laughter subsides, I suggest he’s set himself up as a political animal merely as an additional weapon of his “hard” image.
“No, I’m an active socialist. I believe that the state should be encouraging youth culture and that there should be things like public rehearsal rooms as encouragements.
“In what ways am I active? I go on picket lines. I was involved in the Bradford picket on the Day of Action. I get angry and protest through ranting.”
Is anger a big inspiration to your writing? “It’s the inspiration, yes. I’m bitter about many things. Undermining stereotypes is very important – DON’T be what The Sun tells you to be!”

Stephen talks topical for a few minutes: “I ain’t guilty about being white: I ain’t guilty about being male. Racism is only as important – no more, no less – as the class struggle.”
He considers the Falklands War: “Many people talked about it in the stereotype of ‘us versus the Argies’ – but shouldn’t we be talking about it in terms of life? Five thousand ordinary, working-class Argentinians got killed in that war, but that’s forgotten. It’s bloody sickening.”
How can you talk about destroying stereotypes, though, when you yourself are a walking stereotype: a “skinhead”?
“Look I shaved my hair off because it was wavy and looked crap and I wear combat trousers because I’ve got skinny legs and boots because I just can’t be bothered searching through a shop for shoes.”
So you’re a “skinhead” for convenience only? “No, I enjoy being one: I enjoy the aggression that you spark off and the attention you get when you walk into a place.
“But I’m not a stereo-typed skinhead who goes around council estates smashing things up. I mean, how many skinheads have got a father who is a managing director? How many skinheads read poetry on stage?”
Do you see yourself as a spokesman for a new generation? “NO, I’M NOT A SPOKESMAN FOR A NEW GENERATION! I’m just one part of a whole poetry movement, that’s here to stay.
“One of the reasons I’m in the SWP is to keep my feet on the ground. I’m seriously thinking of going back to work after a while because you can become distanced just writing poetry.”
So, at heart you’re only human? “Well, I wouldn’t say that at all . . .”

Frank Worrall

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Mark Lamarr Poem From 1985

This poem was published in the 1985 Faber and Faber anthology Hard Lines 2, edited by Ian Dury, Pete Townshend, Alan Bleasdale and Fanny Dubes. In the anthology Mark is known as Mark Jones. There’s also work from Attila, Planet Clare and a fabulous poem by Mason Abbott.

Last Poet Jalal Nuridden

The Verse Is Yet To Come
Sounds, September 29, 1984… by Chris Roberts

‘I heard somebody saying things are changin’, changin” said Alafia Pudim on the Last Poet’s debut album in 1970. He, thank God or whatever, hasn’t. Changed. Warm, wary, sincere and riveting – he mirrors the reality which preoccupies him.
The man recently took the Muslim name of Jalal Nuridden. He worked with the uniquely furious bullshit-shattering Last Poets through the early 70s and also committed some charismatic pieces to vinyl under the name of Lightnin’ Rod.
These include the 1973 streetlife classic ‘Hustlers Convention’. A track cut with Jimi Hendrix, ‘Doriella Du Funtaine’, was last month released for the first time on Celluloid Records, who intend, admirably, to re-release The Poets’ ‘This Is Madness’ album and ‘Hustlers Convention’ before the year is out; and who are also putting out ‘Mean Machine’, Jalal’s new single made with D St. and Bill Laswell, and a brand new Laswell-produced Poets effort.
These are material facts – the spirit in this individual story is one of immense courage, belief, and refusal to be told to shut up and take the easy option.
Jalal was politicised in prison in the 60s, being black and outspoken. That was pretty much how it worked.
“Niggers are scared of revolution, but niggers shouldn’t be scared of revolution, cos all revolution is change, an’ all niggers do is change. Niggers are very untogether people” – The Last Poets 1970.
What effect did you have? What was achieved?
“People were able to analyse what was happening with the environment and social conditions. We were able to articulate what the people were feeling. We acted as a valve to let off the steam of the pent-up anger that was building up in the ghettoes, as a result of the oppression that was bringing about material illness.
Oppression is like a sword over your head all the time, they never actually cut your throat, but they give you a li’l nick here ‘n’ there, Y’know? A li’l cut, a li’l slice. Russian roulette. So stress exists as a result of oppression, which is worse than slaughter.”
The Last Poets’ self-titled 1970 album makes me shudder. It is disturbing. Jamal in interview is only slightly less magnificently intense. More than once he asks me to turn the taper recorder off, to “keep things under my hat”. He speaks very quietly, sometimes he whispers. The light is fading and a thunderstorm is approaching.
He makes painful (for me) attempts to appear at ease, but he is distrustful (I think) of how qualified this white boy is to be so thoroughly on his side. Damn right – I must’ve been knee-high to a squashed grasshopper when Jalal first made his considerable presence felt. Jalal has fought through heavier shit than press interviews, but he knows an unavoidably phoney situation when he sniffs one.
Thankfully his current comeback is innately genuine. The single with D St. is venomous enough and the previous night I’d seen him present an honest, bristling, aware and unpretentious impromptu “jam session” rap in the unlikely setting of the Wag Club. It was his first public performance for two and a half years.
“I’ve played clubs before, but not with all the chit-chat. I’ve tended to get people’s undivided attention. But it wasn’t a bad thing, just a strange thing. As long as I got across, I’m pleased. We vibed on each other, that’s cool, it’s a love affair.”
A full quartet of Poets will tour Britain within six months. What’s sparked the revitalisation? What’s brought you back?
“I was in a state of… uh… industry-imposed retirement.”
Why?
“Why?”
Yes, why? (Oh Christ he doesn’t trust me…)
“Because I couldn’t get a recording contract.” (He trusts me.) “What it boils down to in America is, if you don’t have a hit record, you can’t get no work. Therefore nothin’ happened. I was just working on reputation.”

It’s annoying for an artist of Jamal’s vision to have to deal with this sort of soulless capitalism.
“It cramps my style. Show business is 75% business and 25% show.” Then he goes off on an inspired tangent.
At this point the tape recorder goes reluctantly off again while he plays me a preview track from the next album. I guess I’m not allowed to tell you it’s dynamite.
What are the new themes coming through? Are there new problems to fight against?
“No, nothin’s new. ‘Cept the breaking of more promises… they give money to the ghettoes but it all gets ripped off by secretaries in big offices; the people get junk. The promise gets replaced by ‘Sorry, you’ll have to wait’. The promise! Ha! The American Dream – two chickens in every pie, a car in every garage…”
Could it ever become reality?
Jalal gives me a look which says “come on now sonny, try harder.”
Is anything getting any better?
“Ah… it’s in the first stage of advanced terminal.”
Which is the crucial issue, whites over blacks or authority over everyone?
“Well it’s authorities manipulating the minds of the people, and that causes racism. The middle classes are used to manipulate the lower classes, and the upper classes manipulate both. There should be education not indoctrination. They should teach you how to make a living.”
What about the characters on ‘Hustlers Convention'(a classic film-like creation, on which, bizarrely enough, the backing was played by Kool & The Gang, who were then also loving on “the edge”) – are these desperate, optimistic, lowlifes products of indoctrination/oppression?
“They’ve rejected indoctrination. They’re out of work and going hustling. They don’t toe the line, they’re their own boss. To hustle means to move fast, to save y’ass. The real hustlers are the authorities who are rippin’ off billions from the unsuspectin’ millions”
Were you personally involved with that scene? “I got a cameo role, yeah.” (Which means – you bet.); “Y’get an education on the streets which ain’t conditioning; it’s reality.”

“Niggers play football, baseball an’ basketball while the white men are cuttin’ off their balls… niggers do a lot of shootin’, niggers shoot off at the mouth, niggers shoot dope in their arm… niggers would **** **** if it could be ******…” – The Last Poets 1970.
Are you advocating militancy? Or are you “simply” painting graphic pictures?
“Lets get into the etymology there, the phonetics, y’ know? Ant. Ant. Milit – ant. A military ant. But who’s got the army, who’s got the big guns? They got their finger on the button, they sellin’ war tickets. They turn it to their satisfaction. They make the hero look like the villain and the villain the hero. I’m not suggesting militancy; it’s awareness.
“We (The Poets) woke up out of a bad dream, a nightmare. They said – that’s not cool, you’re s’posed to act like fools. But we gonna act like wise men!”
I mention Jesse Jackson.
“Well… he got good intentions. Honest decent man. I don’t think he’ll win the game – if you get even close to winni’ the game they change the rules. They say ignorance is bliss. What you don’t know can’t hurt you. But it can kill you.”

“Niggers love commercials. Niggers loved to hear Malcom rap but they didn’t love Malcom.” – The Last Poets 1970

Jalal recons the people he’s working with now, like Grandmixer D St. and Laswell, share his concern, but the recent glut of popular rappers didn’t impress him at all.
“That depressed me. They came in on the middle of the picture, then they tried to surmise what’d gone on before, without actually seeing the whole. They tried to put it on rewind and start at the top. But they ended at the bottom.”
“Laswell is fantastic, every time. But the other kids were nappin’ when I was rappin’. D St, he said, ‘Jalal’s my pal, a master of his art form. I’m gonna work with him. He’s got roots. Why imitate it or plagiarise it when you can go right to the source?'”
I want to talk about poetry. As in poetry. But by now there is a slight mysterious tension in the room again. It is getting darker. Photos are only allowed to be taken from a set point somewhere over by the other wall.
“I’ve read Whitman, Hiawatha, etc. But we’ll get that another time.”
A false finish. Putting faith in the (sometime) effectiveness of a cliché, I say “Keep it up.” Jalal says, “Just you -” (he means – “A Human Being”) “- saying that makes me consider it an order.”
No doubt he means it. I trust him.
And then we hit an accidental coda.
The next Poets album?
“Everything that needs to be said will be said.”
How long will you go on saying it?
“The struggle is from the womb. It’s not a fad. You add an E and you got fade. This is home-made.”
Why aren’t you a household name in The States?
“The sort of reasons you don’t read about in the paper. The people love us. But from those in power there’s resistance, a sort of non-acceptance.”
Can they stop you?
“They’ll do one of five things. Y’have to turn the tape recorder off…”
The mystery is my story. His story is documentary/drama.

Last Poets

Research in Norwich

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Spent a couple of days in Norwich. Prof of Subculture Matthew Worley had some excellent material that’ll be added to the blog. Upcoming interviews, gig reviews and album reviews on Michael Smith, Clarkey, Last Poets, Seething Wells, Joolz, me (!), Little Brother, LKJ, the Poetry Olympics and more…

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Ranting at the Nation – Blaze

From Blaze, written by Janine Booth, 1984.

Ranting poetry is something that’s getting very important. It’s aim of “doing to poetry what punk did to music” is strengthened by it’s big advantage over music: the message can’t be ignored by the listener. Not that it’s all preaching – message goes hand-in-hand with humour and wit. It’s an entertainment medium that comes over much better live than in the studio, or on paper, as it’s the performance part that makes ranting poetry so special.
Seething Wells is the Bradford skinhead ranter who demonstrates that you don’t have to be a racist, fascist little bigot, just coz your hair’s not very long. One of his best is ‘Tetley Bittermen’, about pub ‘hard boys’.
Little Brother sees himself as a ‘social satirist’, and is probably best known for the brilliant ‘Don’t Mess With The Young Conservatives’.. “They’re very tough you know, if it ever came to fisticuffs, They’d match you blow for blow. They’d take off their stripey jackets, Roll up the sleeves of their shirts, And then quote Milton Friedman at you, And God, that hurts”
Joolz is the best-known female ranter, and most of her poems take the form f stories …of routine boredom, violence and video nasties …
Benjamin Zephaniah is a ‘dub ranter’ – his poems have the reggae beat that makes his live shows so popular. Don’t miss him on record either – his ‘Rasta’ album is brill.
Others that I’ve heard of, but don’t know much about include Gav T’Lad, Belinda Blanchard, Ginger John, Little Dave and Ranting Richie.

JB

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Joolz – Rock Garden 1983

Sounds June 18, 1983

Flaming Joolz and her friends, framed by the geometrical highlights of the recently refurbished, hi-tech Rock Garden, looked an odd sight. Out of place, out of sync, out of touch and out of wavelength with the beer-throwing, out on the town audience, they could only struggle to find any sort of common thinking ground.
Joolz found a couple of solitary punks to pick on: “What are you doing here? It’s a bit trendy, isn’t it?” It could have been a rhetorical question, although trendy was the wrong word to choose.
Surprisingly, Joolz is gentle. She doesn’t rant. She seethes calmly but with a satirical sting on the tip of her tongue. Her blows are aimed well beneath the belt but they have none of the ranters’ boring insistency. There are no endless rounds of sibilant, explosive, pugilistic alliteration; she finds the path to the pus softly, jovially even, but with vital ironic twists and turns. The razor cuts are quick, clean and philosophical.
A seeing eye, a vituperative lip, a sensitive heart, Joolz gives what she gets and refuses to suffer bigotry and blindness from anyone, whatever their shape, form or politics.
Experiences, opinions, friends, enemies – Joolz bases her poems on more personal encounters than the ranting bunch. They may be witty and wordwise but she rams home the point with her common sense, cynicism, humour and emotion. She dares to expose her hurts to puncture blinkered vision.
A short set. Four poems but an abundance of insight and grit. You sense the Northern inferiority complex, enforced by Southern superiority (of course) fighting back.
‘Oi For Art’ lambasts the Hampstead highstreet version of the Harlow skin as depicted in the play Oi For England, the old street-to-stage blockade.
Then comes a tale about Deborah which parodies the present black magic/tribal/occult/cosmic fascination which possesses the posi-crowd. Batcave-a-bozo.
But her best poem was the last one, ‘The Tetley Bittermen’, a stirring account of her encounter with the brutal, prejudiced attitudes of the Tetley drinking morons that frequent the pubs and streets in Yorkshire. One particular strain of a breed, you could say: ‘You punk, me 15-pint-a-night man and I can beat the shit out of you’. Warfare and worse.
As she describes the hatred in their eyes, the sterility in their minds, the alcohol in their red rubbery faces and their fear, their deep-seated fear of the unknown, I shake. I recognise the identikit. The last note is bitter and final: “Only those that are not the targets can feel sympathy for violent men.”
Joolz moves and means it

Rose Rouse

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