Monthly Archives: September 2018

Disco Rhymes

This poem comes from Ahdri’s 1985 collection Speshal Rikwes that was published in Toronto, Canada.

Back In ’78

Some were punking
down in the city
even up in the sticks
others were funking
out in the suburbs
getting down/and around
to a black/black sound
Back in ’78

Matching red eyes
to cheekbones
mascara tint to skin/tone
sweeping coat
to weather the cold
long skirts and heels
to thrill his soul

Red-wined lips/yellow-nicked
by two
forgetful snow
on ruined hairdo
carefully preened
for the club circuit routine
Back in ’78

“Dinkel’s” style backing up
“Le Tube”/with slick/slick chicks
and cool/I mean/real cool dudes
while “Checkers” checked
into the money scene
the studio swung
with real live queens
doing the club circuit routine
Back in ’78

you had to ‘hustle’
or else ‘freak out’
cause “K.C. & his “Boys”
had lost their clout
but they were stll about/
they were still about

And “Le Chic”
had their pick
of the good/good times/
disco rhymes:
good times and rhymes
fast food and wine
(two glass at a time)
Back in ’78

Drive in our car
stop at every bar
punked and funked
eat a lot of junk/
eat and sleep
with nothing to reap
Back in ’78
every morning
get up late
stopped from school
broke all the rules
never knew them
just who were the fools
cause the year went by
my, how time flies!?!
no warning/no sign
Oooops ’79
too much liming/rhyming

disco/ver/ed too late
not to play with fate

back in ’78

Ahdri Zhina Mandiela

The Notsensibles

The Notsensibles from Burnley profiled in The Wool City Rocker, June-July, 1980.

They’ve brought out two singles ‘Death to Disco’ & ‘(I’m in love with) Margaret Thatcher’, both on their own Redball Records label. The second of these went to no.5 in the Sounds alternative charts. I’m told that they’ve also got an album now out that’s called ‘Instant Classics’.
A fun & slightly anarchic band with a rough & raw sound, they’ve not had an easy time finding venues in their area that’ll accept them. Several of their early gigs were prematurely terminated by management at the venues. Through The Collective they have helped to build up an active scene in the Burnley/Nelson/Colne area.
The band & The Collective had sizeable write-ups in The Guardian & The Artful Reporter last January & the band has regularly had good coverage in some of the national music papers – notably Sounds.
Having worked hard over the past two years in what was a very low-profile local rock scene, they’ve built up a solid following, but are still short of gigs outside their home county. They’re currently trying to line up some Yorks. bookings & should be over here in the autumn. If recent reviews are anything to go by, they should be worth catching.

Verbal Riddim

‘What poets like Benjamin, Attila the Stockbroker, Seething Wells, John Cooper Clarke and Linton Kwesi Johnson have done is to demystify poetry and to make it relevant to those people who are likely to listen.’
Benjamin Zephaniah in a decent interview with Soundmaker, 22 January, 1983.

Gorky The Poet

This poem by Gorky appeared in the first issue of Emma Goldman’s magazine Mother Earth in 1906.
Gorky was a poet that Stalin liked, Gorky’s coffin was carried by both Stalin and Molotov.

The Song of the Storm-Finch
By Maxim Gorky

THE strong wind is gathering the storm-clouds together
Above the gray plain of the ocean so wide.
The storm-finch, the bird that resembles dark lightning,
Between clouds and ocean is soaring with pride.

Now skimming the waves with his wings, and now shooting
Up, arrow-like, into the dark clouds on high,
The storm-finch is clamoring loudly and shrilly;
The clouds can hear joy in the bird’s fearless cry.

In that cry is the yearning, the thirst for the tempest,
And anger’s hot might in its wild notes is heard;
The keen fire of passion, the faith in sure triumph–
All these the clouds hear in the voice of the bird . . . . .

The storm-wind is howling, the thunder is roaring;
With flame blue and lambent the cloud-masses glow
O’er the fathomless ocean; it catches the lightnings,
And quenches them deep in its whirlpool below.

Like serpents of fire in the dark ocean writhing,
The lightnings reflected there quiver and shake
As into the blackness they vanish forever.
The tempest! Now quickly the tempest will break!

The storm-finch soars fearless and proud ‘mid the lightnings,
Above the wild waves that the roaring winds fret;
And what is the prophet of victory saying?
“Oh, let the storm burst! Fiercer yet-fiercer yet!”

From “Songs of Russia,” translated by Alice Stone Blackwell.


Discrimination and Popular Culture was one of those fabulous blue covered Pelican socal science paperbacks. It was first published in 1964 and a second edition came out in 1973. It contained several essays by various authors on topics such as Televsion and Radio, Pop Music, and this still pertinent, perhaps even more so today, section comes from Graham Martin’s essay on The Press.

The unscrupulous paper says: ‘this is a true picture of the world – ignore other versions as false, irrelevant, or boring.’ Nothing is easier than to couple this message, daily dramatized in the whole typographical and verbal structure of the paper, with hearty declarations about freedom of comment. Unrelated to a world of events in which both reader and opinion have a significant role, this freedom is meaningless. In this context, opinions are never ‘relevant’, ‘convincng’, ‘well or badly supported’, but ‘fearless’, ‘provocative’, ‘challenging’, which, havng nothing to do with action, they can well afford to be.
The real key to the political influence of such papers lies neither in the opinions they propagate, nor in the attitudes which, in their preoccupation with ‘human interest’, they endorse or actively feed. It lies in the implication that without their colourful intervention there is no meaningful relationship between the events which they dramatize and the readers for whom the show goes on. In this respect, their ‘style’ has a hidden content. It speaks for readers whom it takes to be politically disenfranchised, for whom the news of polical events is not about a world in which they feel they can meaningfully act. This is the more subtle form of political manipulation since it imposes on the reader an assumption of which he remains unaware. It also makes it easer to speak on his behalf. It is, in sum, the modern way of ‘forming and supplying the opinions of the people’.
Between the illigitimate politics of the ‘populars’ and the newspaper whose primary function is to ‘entertain’, there are certain differences. If the political manipulator entertains, this is always less for its own sake than as a tacit bribe to the reader for allowng himself now and agan to be violently jerked in a definite political direction. But when ‘entertainment’ (i.e. profit) is the goal, political material is both reduced in quantity, and subordinate in place. Typographical devices often submerge what there is into other material; or seperate it off altogether from the major interests of sport, gossip, and crime. In the tabloid presentation, ‘entertainment’ assimilates everythng into a fictional melodrama. Symbolized in the paper’s ‘personality’, the reader becomes the hero of an endless tale, subjecting the world of ‘them’ (i.e. everything whch the rhetoric cannot reduce) to magcal defeats and rejections. What the defenders of the tabloid manner seem incapable of understanding is that theirs is not ‘just a way of puttng it’ – a real victory for the newspaper’s political role under unrewardng circumstances. Whatever the nobly-educative intentions of the speaker, if this is his idiom then the effective content of his message shrinks and coarsens accordingly. Few issues, at any level, can survive this. Is it not better in this situation to abandon the pretence at anything resembling the political role, and admit to the guiding assumption that the audience in question fnds the world of serious politics meaningless because it has no direct continuous participation? In effect, of course, precisely this admission gets made when apologists answer crtics by denying the relevance of extensive political reporting to the audience. On the other hand, with issues that engage the direct interest of the owner the ‘tabloid’ handling becomes indistinguishable from that of the political manipulator.


This passage is from Roger Mills 1978 Centerprise book A Comprehensive Education. It covers 1965 to 1975 and his time at Effingham Road School, which he left in 1971. He was part of Hackney Writers’ Workshop and Basement Writers in Stepney.


Almost overnight it seemed teenagers everywhere were going bald. Kids who for the past three years had been chastized for their long flowing locks were turning up to school with their hair so closely cropped that you could see their skulls. They were chastized for this as well.
They had a completely new style of clothes too. Heavy brown boots, sometimes steel toed, sta-press trousers and Jeans with turn ups. Their shirts were button-collared Ben Shermans with braces, regulation red, and maybe a Cromby jacket. It was an ugly fashion, the perfect camouflage for the brick streets they lived in. It was a style so frighteningly close to army uniform that it made you wonder if the people were right who said all kids really wanted was a spell in the army.
The skinheads were attacking on all fronts.

Breaktime. Friday. Under the stairs.
The dirt stained coffee machine rumbled, belched and threw out a splash of coffee. had the cup been released from it’s hatch it would have been Keyhole Kate’s. ‘Blow this,’ said Kate under his breath but undaunted tried again and was rewarded with a cup of black coffee, half full.
A mob of skinheads had been watching the performance and clapped politely. ‘Thank Gawd for that,’ said their leader. ‘I bin getting awful thirsty over ‘ere.’ All the boys leaned away and walked sowly up to Kate.
‘Be a good kid and give us yer drink will yer?’ he said. ‘I’m gasping.’
‘Why should I?’ said Kate. ‘I paid for it, didn’t I?’
”Cause I wan’ it, that’s why you should give it to me. The other reason being that if you don’t I shall punch your ‘ead in.’
Another boy in the group moved impatiently about on his feet. ‘Come on Dave, don’t let’s stay ‘ere, you dunno who’ll come down the stairs.’
‘Shut up Rick,’ said the leader. ‘I’ll give you some bovver an’ all if you don’t.’ He did not look away from Kate’s face, just kept ‘screwing’ him.
Keyhole Kate, braver than he had a right to be, raised the cup to his lips and took a sip. The skinhead’s face erupted, teeth bared, cheeks bloated like a toad and forehead coming down like a landslide. A fist was held up to Kate’s face and almost immediately turned into a solid index finger. Very slowly he pointed the plump finger at his own head. It was a moon shaped object with a fat piggy face behind it. His rusty hair was barely visible, like lonely tufts of grass on a muddy football pitch
‘You see this?’ he said grabbing Kate’s shirt with the other hand, ‘you see this, it means something y’know. It means something.’
There was a real anger in the skinhead. Real violence. It was all so logical, the Long Arm Law. This boy was a skinhead, skinheads are tough and therefore Kate must surrender his cup. Kate, shaking now, handed it over and the skinhead drunk it down in one before he let go of Kate.
”Ere come on. Leave ‘im alone Dave. He is in a year above us after all. Let’s go for a smoke behind the bikesheds.’ The boys half pulled, half followed the affronted skinhead to the bikesheds.
Kate wiped the sweat from his forehead and adjusted his shirt front. Surely the most patient of them all, he decided on just one more try at getting a cup of coffee. A coin appeared in his hand and he fed it into the machine. The machine gulped, laughed, mumbled and once again threw the cupless coffee into its full swill dish.

Roger Mills