The Bob Marley ‘zine gets a write up in the NME, 10 November, 1984.
Dave Robins’ book We Hate Humans, was the first book to look at football hooligans seriously. Several chapters were ‘the yobs’ speaking for themselves. This review is from The New Internationalist, 138, August, 1984.
We hate humans
The raw energy of the young frightens the rest of society. Politicians advocate a return to family life. But what chance is there for teenagers, asks David Robins, ‘in families where adults behave like violent, unpredictable children’?
TO sociologists, they are ‘the culturally deprived’. To educationalists, ‘the disadvantaged’. The police call them ‘slag’. Frankie Rice and Vincent John are both 16 and live on a big council estate in North London.
Frankie: ‘At school there was stabbings in the playground. The teachers, they didn’t know what to do about it. And then you’ve got them new teachers comm’ in and they think they know it hut they don’t. It’s just what they read in books. When we was 13, 14, we used to just go into school, get signed on and then bunk off. It was a load of crap, school. All we did was fight and we could do that just as well outside. We would give the little kids a kickin’ when they came out of school, nick their money, and then go home. We used to do that every day
To Vincent, all this is a picnic compared to what goes on in his own home.
Vincent: ‘I come ‘ome one day and my bed was in the skip! Me step-dad done it. ‘E says it’s cos the bill (police) come round the house Friday lookin’ for me. ‘E just done ‘is nut and that were it. My real dad used to get drunk and hit my mum an sister. But when he weren’t drunk he were all right.’
In the evenings Frankie and Vincent team up in search of houses to crack.
‘First you ring the doorbell to see if anyone’s in, and if they answer you just leg it down the road.’ Or there is always the odd vehicle left unattended, to take and drive away; or failing that, to let down the tyres and scratch up the paintwork. On Saturday afternoons, ‘We all form up into one big mob and go and watch the football.’ The consequences are predictable.
What are the answers? Law’n’ order? Short, Sharp Shocks? Detention centres hold no fears: ‘more like a holiday camp’. Besides, they have long been under the watchful eye of the police and courts, not to mention the social services. (‘There’s a social worker living in my kitchen,’ says Vincent.) They expect to get ‘banged up’ some day. ‘Probably for someink I didn’t do,’ says Frankie wryly.
How about Mrs Thatcher’s ‘return to the traditional values of family life’ as a solution? Sounds good. doesn’t it? Not a chance, in families where adults behave like violent, unpredictable children and the little children, glued to the pop heroics of Bowie, Duran Duran, Grandmaster Funk and the rest, try to behave like sophisticated mini-adults.
And what of the old cliche, the working class path to self-advancement through education? To a 16-year-old working-class school leaver whose parents are on the dole and whose own chances of getting a job are slim, that’s getting to be a joke.
Some observers would argue that no social tinkering could really help people like Frankie and Vincent. Are they not all the inevitable products of a modern class-bound society? Images of rebel youth may have changed, become more despairing than in the days of hippies and student radicals, but then, the underlying social inequalities have sharpened since the Sixties. Young people have been more severely affected by the recession than any other group. According to figures supplied by the independent campaigning organisation Youth aid, the rate of unemployment among the under 25s in the UK is twice that of older people. About a quarter have been out of work for more than a year. And the picture is the same in most of the Western democracies. Unemployment in the OECD countries has grown from 10 million to over 32 million in the past decade – and 40 – 60 per cent of the jobless are under 26. Absurd as it is, young people are among the first to be consigned to the scrapheap.
It is all too easy, then, for teenagers like Frankie and Vincent to feel alienated, to believe they have no place in our culture. Kids like this are not just going through a phase of adolescent upheaval. Their symbols of violence and hopelessness mirror society’s unambiguous message to them: as unskilled labour they are superfluous to the needs of the economy; as people. ‘a social nuisance’. More often than not, they come from homes where nobody gives a damn.
We ignore the conflict at our peril. It isn’t going to go away when these teenagers (chronologically at least) become adults. Detention centres will merely be replaced by gaols, dole queues by longer ones. With this generation providing the parents of the next generation, the downward spiral of disaffection can only twist another turn into despair.
David Robins is the author of ‘We hate humans’
(Penguin paperback UK: £2.50 / AUS: $4.95 / NZ: $9.95).
Publication date: August 30, 1984.
One thing ranting, punk and reggae had in common was that they were a voice from those consigned to the bottom of society. In the 70s and 80s people were stuck in a dead end on the dole, come the 2010s poverty and lack of opportunity are seen as your fault and the poor are being harder and harder hit whilst the rich get tax breaks, the MPs get expenses for duck houses and town flats, whilst social housing for the likes of us goes down the toilet.
It was bad enough being on the dole in the early 80s, but at least we had a sense of community. It is exactly that which the politicians and media barons are trampling on today.
This poem is about watching old black and white war films, what me and my mates call ‘duffle coat films’, ones that usually feature Sam Kydd.
The Duffle Coat
Without work you while your hours as cheaply as possible;
sleep more than you should, try not to dream.
They’ll cut your money for it. Don’t go beyond the door,
it’ll only cost you money. The TV is a window that peers in.
Don’t look out: the life on the adverts, dramas, and soaps
is way beyond your means. Let the waves wash you under.
It gets so bad you envy the blokes on the black and white war films:
men with a sense of purpose, with a job to do.
When you sign on these days, there’s an electronic pad and pencil.
Electricity is a form of fire, this one sparked by despair.
Comedian Alexi Sayle has a distinct take on life. He’s one of the most poetic when it comes to language, well of a sort.
This insistent song came out in 1982 and when re-released in 1984 even bothered the top twenty. The tightly suited Alexi was gigging with plenty of bands and Ranters in support of many good causes, including the miners.
There’s a delightfully filthy version of the song, Part IV, that came out as a 12″. Sayle was doing a character called Mr Sweary, and sweary he was.
Tales of an Ancient Go-Go Girl is Joan Jobe Smith’s book about her life as a go-go dancer in 1960s Los Angeles. It’s an autobiography and scattered through it are several poems, this being one of ’em.
The Playgal Club owners had photos
of all us go-go girls
wallpapering the wall of their office:
8″ x 10″ glossies of all of us,
past and present, bending over
or turning around showing off
breasts or bottoms or our faces
marabou or leopard skin draped
across our boobs pooching over our top
all of us photgraphed
by a guy older than our fathers
who called himself the Silver Fox
and still wore a 1954 bowtie and crew cut
and fancied himself a hot lover man
a Hugh Hefner harem-keeper
instead of a dirty old man
rutting around shirtless
while he snapped our pictures
in his apartment taking hours
touching us here and there
wiping his bald head and bushy eyebrows
sweating from the hot lights and his libido
and it was rumoured that you
only got photos of yourself for yourself
if you went to bed with the Silver Fox although
all the girls denied it said What?
Me go to bed with that old fart?
Yet, Bunni, Wendi, Suzi Q and delilah
got portfolios, Barbie 50 8x10s
she sold for $50 each to her
boyfriends and sugar daddies
while all I ever got after coffee
at Denny’s with the Silver Fox
was one for me and one copy for the boss’s office
which they tacked near the trashcan
and every day during the 2 years
I worked at the Playgal Club I watched my face,
cleavage, smile and hairdo
become fly-specked, cigarette ash-dusty
beer-, coffee- and rain stained
as the strange wallpaper of myself
became a ruin in my own lifetime –
a squalid impertinence
of my inestimable unimportance.
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.