Monthly Archives: August 2018

East End Theatre

Cultural snobbery is nothing new as this extract from Thomas W. Erle’s 1862 Letters From a Theatrical Scene Painter amply makes clear.

Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber

(at the Royal Britannia Theatre, Hoxton)

An evening at the Britannia during the run of The String of Pearls; or, The Barber Fiend of Fleet Street, was to sup full of horror. In the vulgar tongue of Hoxton and elsewhere, a full supper is called a “tightener”. The expression is coarse, no doubt, yet suggestive. Abominably so. Going to see The Barber Fiend was a tightener of horrors, like a visit to the small room at Madame Tussaud’s.
The proceedings on the stage, of a midnight assassin who finds his victim asleep, are inscrutable. he looks at him-starts-recolis-then turns to the audience, and in a whisper fraught with tremendous significance pits them in possessionof a circumstance which they have already had abundant opportunity of observing for themselves, namely, that “he sleeps!” he then proceeds to execute a series of brisk, but elaborate, manoeuvres about the stage, comprising a body of tactics sufficient to carry a small army through an ordinary campaign. I have never enjoyed the advantage of witnessing the perpetration of a murder off the stage, but it would seem to be unlikely that when such transcations take place ion real life they are attended by the complicated evolutions above described. They correspond in point of eccentricity to the funny things which some people do on receiving a letter whose contents they are dying to know. They contemplate it externally in every possible oint of view, and the aspect which it presents when held topsy turvy would appear to be a source to them of the most animated interest. It is subjected to a protracted course of manipulation, and in the process is done everything in the world to but read.
The consummation of a tragical situation at the R B is usually intensified by the tune of “I loves a drop of good beer”, played pensively. Objections might of course be made by tiresome rigorists to the adoption of so genial and festive an air as an accompaniment to proceedings partaking in no degree of a convivial spirit. But those who resort to a theatre in a mean and nasty spirit of petty captiousness are in no proper frame of mind for appreciating the pathetic and touching effects which the management has had an eye to. For my own part, I can concientiously affirm, in the beautiful kind of language used by speakers at public dinners, that on all these occasions “my emotions are of such a character as to be unlike anything which they do not resemble”.
It is desirable that the practice adopted by the Hoxton mothers of taking their babies to the theatre should be discontinued. The small miserables are brought out at the end of the evening with their feathers all rumpled, and their poor eyes all glazed and fishy like those of old debauchees. Their general effect, too, conveys the impression of their having been sat upon, and otherwise exposed to gross personal contumely.
In the Bigelow papers, some slaveholder or other talks of wishing to purchase “a low priced baby” to bring up. Some of these embryo members of the R B public could only, if offered for sale, be got off at a wretchedly low figure, as damaged articles. Besides, too, their own personal sufferings, they are very undesirable neighbours to sit by. For, in the first place, they are apt to be-well-I will forbear to press the details with unpleasant explicitness, and will therefore only say, in general terms-damp.
Very different from the condition of the poor babies is that of the youths in the gallery, who are gifted with a flow of exuberant animal spirits which find a safety-valve in shrill whistlings. . . .
Since the temperature up in their sixpenny heaven is so high (there was a fat little boy up there who I thought would have been melted and had to be taken home in a gallipot), they find it “cool and convanient” to sit without their coats. They envince, too, a noble independence of bearing and sentiment towards the swells in the body of the house (who are in this case the counter-skippers of Kingsland and Dalston) by turning their backs to the chandelier, and sitting along the gallery rail like a row of sparrows on a telegraph wire. In all this position they confront their friends in the back settlements, and exchange with them a light fussillade of badinage, principally couched in idiomatic expressions of remarkable vigour and terseness, which is sustained with much animation during the time that the curtain is down between the pieces.

Alienation

This poem comes from Retort, vol 3 number 2, Spring, 1946. Retort was a quarterly of social philosophy and the arts from New York. It was edited by Holley Cantine and Dachine Rainer. Rainer is buried in Highgate Cemetery, where her tombstone reads “Poet and Anarchist”.

Alienation
to Anais Nin

barbed and tombed the site remains a scattered pyramid
with metal images leading a procession thru the ruined graves.

beyond this sense of loss
untenable stacks of gravel screech and grate each wish,
stretch and multiply.

wide and smooth and strange for stone
more as tho seven ancient oceans loved and assuaged
our fright: historic time run out.

art is a place where homeless we come,
a perfect dream of man that shrinks the sky,
a monumental chaos bound to our previous selves.

emergence from the fetish with mended and rejecting power,
with huge fragments of a savage vision
within a focus to which all light withdraws.

Dachine Rainer

Hip Style

The look for the girls in Andy Bull’s Chesterfield mod zine Immediate Reaction from early 1986.

Hip Style

There are many different styls of dress for girls, such as psychedelic, 60s Mod and 80s Mod, the one which I’m going to divulge is in the 60s style.
The girls had quite a wide range, and wore a lot of the boy’s fashion, such as long collared shirts, mohair jumpers, and eventually Levi’s jeans, the 501s, which were bought in men’s sizes because they didn’t make them for ladies.
Also girls started having tailor-made hipsters, trousers and later on skirts. These were very unique in design, and had trimmings, like covered buttons, chains, different types of pockets and slits, and even belt bars at different widths. Checked hipsters were worn a lot, and are still easy to get hold of from second hand shops and markets. It would be easier than making a full pair of trousers, and if you wanted hipsters, just trim the waist off as low as you like, and maybe make slits at the bottom.
Skirts, also mainly checked, can be got hold of quite easily, and if you want a hipster skirt, just trim them again, as with the trousers, but a lot of the skirts had ‘kick’ pleats up the back and maybe a couple up the front, but this could look too much, so a combination of splits and pleats were and are used. Usually the length of the pleated skirt was below the knee.
To have something tailor-made is expnsive, so I should try and guide past it if I were you, unless you’ve got the money and made a design you know will look good.
Shoes are harder to get hold of, if you want originals, otherwise Rebina is your best bet. The trouble is most of them have ‘clog’ heels, so loafers from shops in your area can be O.K. and in a range of colours. Sneakers can sometimes be found on the market, or in local shops.
Coats can also be a problem in the winter. Suede and leather are the best, but are tricky to get hold of. Anoraks keep you warm and are easier to get hold of.
Any outfit can be changed by make up and jewellery, earrings beads, bangles and even belts, these can be obtained everywhere in town, so what are you waiting for, go put a smart sixties outfit together and drop the Cavern, it’s cheaper this way…..

Nicola S

Wrestling

This is from Burning Our Bridges which is a booklet put out in 1979 by two Adult Literacy classes at Brighton Polytechnic.
As Roland Barthes has it in his majestic essay The World of Wrestling, which is in his 1957 book Mythologies, ‘…wrestlers remain gods because they are, for a few moments, the key which opens Nature, the pure gesture which seperates Good from Evil, and unveils the form of a Justice which is at last intelligible.’

Wrestling

I love to see the wrestling at the Dome. Giant Haystack was on, and this Kung Fu kiddie. The audience decided who was going to fight who – and they picked the Kung Fu kiddie to fight Haystack. Haystack is 37 stone 10 lbs – I reckon the other one was 9 or 10 stone at the most. The bloke was chopping him, kicking him, in the stomach. It was unfair size for size – after Haystack posted him – slammed him against the corner – it was no contest really. He got counted out.
This other bloke came in and picked him up and then afterwards he pushed him and then the kiddie fell off his shoulders outside the ring and he had a back injury anyway. This other bloke retaliated and then punched Haystack 3 or 4 times, then bounced himself off the ropes and brought him down, and got a fall.
Then the ref said O.K. to have Haystack and this other bloke fight and Haystack didn’t want to know, stepped out of the ring and walked back to the changing room. That was it really. It was quitea good night out – I don’t go much, but my girl wanted to go so I took her down. She loves wrestling.

Cliff Smith

All Quiet

This, still topical, anti-war poem by David Ignatow was in Poetry, April, 1966 and also the 1967 anthology Where Is Vietnam?

All Quiet

How come nobody is being bombed today?
I want to know, being a citizen
of this country and a family man.
You can’t take my fate in your hands,
without informing me.
I can blow up a bomb or crush a skull-
whoever started this peace bit
without advising me
through a news leak
at which I could have voiced a protest,
running my whole family off a cliff.

David Ignatow

Computer-Game Pop

A great fact about Chris ‘Frank Sidebottom’ Sievey from Soundmaker, 4 June, 1983.

Hidden Rewards

The world’s first computer-game pop single is released by EMI Records (UK) on Tuesday May 31st.
The single by CHRIS SIEVEY, features a self-penned song – ‘Camouflage’ (EMI 5398) – on the A-side, while the B-side contains three of his computer programs. It will also be released on cassette on June 6th.
The program can be played through a Sinclair ZX81, which is the most popular home computer in the UK at the moment. There are currently 750,000 ZX81 owners in Britain and Sincair estimate the number is increasing by 40,000 per month (the ZX81 now retails at £39.95).
When you play the single’s B-side, all you will hear is a series of bleeps. However, by playing the B-side into a ZX81, the program will be loaded into the computer’s memory. Once the program has been loaded, you can play the A-side, and the lyrics to ‘Camouflage’ will be displayed on your TV set in sync with the song, along with varied graphics.
The B-side also contains two more of Chris’s programs, a 1k and 16k version of an amusement arcade-type video game called Flying Train – the ideal game for those who can’t decide whether they want to be an engine driver or an astronaut when they grow up.
Considering the cheapest computer-game is currently priced at around £5, CHRIS SIEVEY’S computer-game pop record, which sells for the price of a conventional single, could revolutionize the music and home-computer industries.

Boris Slutsky

This passage from Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s 1963 A Precocious Autobiography looks at prize culture.

A Stalin prize meant a lot: immediate and enormous reprints, photographs and enthusiastic articles in all the papers, appointment to some official post, a car off the waiting list, a flat, and possibly a dacha. So, many people didn’t care a damn whether the book that got them the prize was read or not, what they cared about was the prize. It would be wrong of me to accuse everyone of having such an attitude. Many authors wrote honestly, without an eye to the award, and got it nevertheless. But careerists were plenty.
And while the brouhaha over gold and silver medals was going on at the Writer’s Union, the splendid poet Boris Slutsky, who had managed to get only one poem published and that as far back as 1940, strode about the Moscow streets with his precise military step. Strange though it is, he was never more serene and confident than any of the nervous candidates for the prize.
Not that he had much reason to be calm. At the age of 35, he had still not been admitted to the Writer’s Union. He kept himself on what he earned by writing small items for the radio, and lived on cheap tinned food and coffee, in a tiny rented room – he had no flat. His desk drawers were stuffed with sad, bitter, grim poems, sometimes frightening like Baudelaire’s, typed and ready, but which it would have been absurd to offer to a publisher. Nevertheless Slutsky was serene. He was always surrounded by young poets and he gave them confidence in the future. Once, when I came to weep on his shirtfront because my best poems were turned down, he quietly pulled open the drawer of his desk and showed me the pile of manuscripts inside.
“I fought the war. I’m scored all over by bullets,” he said. “I didn’t fight in order to keep these poems in my desk. But everything will change. Our day will come. All we have to do is wait for that day and have something ready for it in our desks and in our hearts. D’you see?”
I saw.

Bad Brains In Britain

The Bad Brains did a blistering tour of Britain in 1983. Soundmaker, 21 May, 1983 reviews one of the gigs.

Bad Brains
Brannigans, Leeds

Sometimes being original, nay unique, can work against you. A black New York Rastafarian hardcore punk reggae band? You’ve got to be kidding me! Terrible memories of Pure Hell remain as a warning against facile cross-cultural fertilization of cultures, an insult to both Punk and black music.
On of the great things about the Sex Pistols was the bravado with which they mashed up their audience with the heaviest in dub before they went and played some of the most wonderful rockist white trash music to be played for years. Punk and reggae always went together, even if they were at opposite ends of the spectrum. It took 2-Tone to play music that truly stood midway between Punk and Reggae, but it did that by going BACK. Two steps forward, three steps back – great music.
It’s still possible to experience music that proves that all of these so-called “opposing” styles are merely marketing ploys, aids to help people who don’t have ears to choos the music they consume. That experience is THE BAD BRAINS. (Or is it Bad Brains – everything is in flux round here). What do you get?
You gt four black New Yorkers who know what they’re about, who play their instruments, who actually (in these jaded times) like what they play. They play punk songs, surreally short, which introduce instant chaos in front of the stage. Through these thrashes whines a guitar that screams, moans, cries, lush wild and heavy.
Is this the Small Faces circa 1966 or is this Jimi Hendrix? Is this Garageland thrash or Psychedelia? Are these obviously skillful musicians parodying the excesses of incompetent white tributes to R ‘n’ B or have they heard something in that – something they want to make themselves? I would argue the latter. The punk they play is too sharp, the explosions too lovingly honed and directed for this to be lazy satire. The singers gestures are magnificent, this is a man who has learnt from the source: anyone remember Iggy Pop?
The reggae they play – welcome respite from the adrenalin surges that surround it – is clipped, modern, militant. What Misty would sound like if they lost their woolliness, their community-centre safeness. The singer raps about the revolution (“You have to go to it – it will not come to you“) and racism, transfixing moral lessons that hark back to the revivalism of Jerry Lee Lewis, the apocalyptical poetry of Aretha’s dad (the Reverend CL Franklin), the challenge of the MC5.
The audience was stunned. So was I.

Arthur Pint