Monthly Archives: December 2019

Porky: The End Of An Era

Porky the Poet gigging with the Style Council for his farewell gig at Hammersmith Odeon. The gig was pretty much the end of ranting poetry as we all got older and either gave up or moved onto different writing and performing. All the same, that’s one big gig. Seething Wells reviews for the NME, 5 December, 1987.

Porky The Poet
Style Council

Hammersmith Odean

The most charismatic of the ranters, Porky the Poet, spewed his last. That a flower of the poetic genre primarily obsessed with snot, bogies, shit, cold sick, and the herpes virus should end his career on stage with the Mr Sheen of Suburban Soul is a touch ironic. Tears pouring down his tubby cheeks, Porky, author of such arsesoul classics as ‘They’ve All Grown Up In The Beano’ and ‘Nobby Worked In An Office’, attempted to lead the crowd of indifferent souls dribels (I can’t find them anywhere!) into a rousing Cockney singalongaPorky before he was savagely hauled off-stage by two bouncers and a pantomime horse in brogues. Believe it, pop kids, this was the end of an era and this was the most exciting thing we’re gonna get all night!

Paul is a geeer. No problems. But he’s also the Consulate Kid – cool, white and cancerous elevator muak for the culturally constipated casual-clobber kiddies. He is-a-nice-person-in-pop-music and he has a history of threatening physical violence and discontinuing niceness with those critics who carp on about how crap The Style Council are. For these reasons I hesitate to tell you how crap The Style Council are. I mean – unbelievably crap for the brain spawn of a man who, from ‘Tube Station at Midnight’ onwards produced a string of megaIwannakickanazisheadin singles that ranks as the finest produced in Britpop’s Golden Age.
The new ‘mature’ Paul creates ‘dance’ music and sings about ‘lurve’. That’s not soppy or girly it’s just crass and cliched. Weller decided to become a ‘soul’ singer just as ‘soul’ went through the final stages in its transformation from the Elixir of Life to The Cancer of Pop (check out the charts, man! ‘Rock’ is not the problem anymore!!!)
Paul: Lurve!
DC Lee: Love!
Paul: Lurve!
DC Lee: Love!

The drummer told us that he loved us all and that we should “rock out to some hot Latin rhythms”. I really hate reviewers who go to a gig full of preconceptions and slag a band offend don’t even talk about the music. You really must excuse me, I’m just off to kick my own head in.

Steven Wells (available on CD)

The First Ice

The First Ice

In the telephone box the girl freezes,
her face is smeared with running tears
and lipstick, she huddles, peers
out from her chilly collar, aches –
blows upon her thin little paws –
icicle fingers! Earrings flash,.
Back – alone as she is, along
the long, lonely, icy lane.
The first ice. the first time, it was,
first ice crackling in phoned phrases –
the frozen track shines on her cheeks –
first ice on her insulted ears.

Andrey Voznesensky

Wigan Casino

Northern soul in New Society, 24 January, 1980 by Ian Walker.

The Wigan Aesthetic

Pink and blue fluorescent tubes, hung crudely from the ceiling, don’t make much impact on the darkness. But from up here in the balcony, where some come to sleep and some to drink coffee, it looks as if there are still about a hundred dancers down there, even though it is five in the morning.

They spin, jump, do the splits, crash forward or backward onto their hands, spin again like whirling dervishes in their baggy jeans and full skirts, clap in time to the music. The records are from the cities of the United States. The dancers are from all over the north of England. Most come here every Saturday night and Sunday morning for the Wigan Casino all-nighter, the mecca of northern soul.

“I used to dance,” says Mick, a cop from Liverpool. “Now it’s just a matter of listening.” He half closes his eyes, “So many soulful sounds.” Mick remembers the first all-nighters, in the early sixties at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, birthplace of northern soul. When that closed down he went to the Torch at Stoke, then the Va-Va at Bolton. He has been coming to Wigan most Saturday nights since September 1973 when the all-nighters started up at the Casino.

It is a problem, Mick says, trying to explain to mates that it is rare soul singles and not roulettes which are spun at the Casino: “You say there’s no gambling, then they say, ‘Oh, you go on the piss there, then?’ You say there’s no drink. Then they say, ‘Oh, you go fucking all the women then, eh?’ You say there’s none of that either. It’s an all-night dance club. They think we’re all mad.”

No booze, no sex and no fights either. “Say you got to a disco, bump into someone, you get beer all over your face,” says Biba, who travels down here from York. “Here it’s ‘Sorry pal. You all right’?” Mick nods. “You never get fights here, never,” he adds, with Scouse emphasis.

You get a lot of pill-popping, though: amphetamines to help the dancers make it through the night. The going rate for speed is £2 for three pills, presumably more than the skinheads asleep on the balcony floor could afford. “If one of us takes a week off everyone wants to know why,” says Mick, when he’s come back with the coffees. “It’s amazing, you know, the care that people have got for each other down here.” He insists on buying the coffees: it’s his scene, he is the host.

Set up on a bare wooden stage four foot above the dance floor are the DJ’s turntables. Dancers jump onstage to deliver requests on bits of paper. This is a “rare soul scene”: DJs and fans alike pride themselves on digging out obscure rhythm and blues singles that flopped Stateside, making them hits on the northern soul circuit. DJs have been known to pay up to £500 for rare singles (often one-off demo discs) and dancers travel hundreds of miles to hear them.

Backstage, behind the turntables, a man from Birmingham who has NORTHERN SOUL RULES OK tattooed on his arm, and who is here with his wife Joy, says, “The old crowd live for this place. We work all week for this.” Phil and Geoff, from Newton Aycliffe in County Durham, nod agreement. They have got 400-odd singles between them, at their flat. “But it’s not quantity, it’s quality isn’t it?” smiles Phil. “That’s it.”

Each record ends with a swarm of hands raised aloft clapping, showing appreciation. No one dances in a couple, and no one comes here to find a mate anyway, so there’s none of that buzz of chatting-up technique which fills the short silences between records at discos. None of those beer-swilling predators ogling from the sidelines, like there had been six hours previously at the Wigan branch of the northern nightclub chain, Tiffany’s, where I’d gone till the Casino opened its doors at 12.30 am.

At the Casino the DJs are judged by the quality of the records they play, not the slickness of their chat. And the place to shop for quality soul is over the Atlantic. Records that are rare (and expensive) in Britain can be picked up for next to nothing in America. Disc-jockey Dave Evison says that he enlisted the help of black cab drivers in taking him up to Harlem and the South Bronx when he went over to New York. He tells me an anecdote about a friend of his called Kev Roberts whose idol was an R & B artist called Eddie Foster. “Kev went over to America. One day in San Francisco he got into a cab and the driver of that cab was Eddie Foster. That’s the truth. A ten million to one chance.”

The black American: a soul brother to the young white English worker. It’s six in the morning and there’s still close on a hundred white Negroes of the frozen north down there on the floor dancing.

I go downstairs to a small room which is the hangout for hard-core fans and collectors. One lad is telling another he spent £600 on records last year. Everyone flicks through the racks of singles and soul fanzines set out on trestle tables. One fanzine, Soul Source, is edited by Chris Fletcher, a 23 year old ex-miner. He had an accident and “jacked it up,” picked up an offset litho machine cheap and taught himself how to use it.

“I understood the principles – one blanket to the next, water repels ink – and it was just trial and error. The first issue didn’t look good, but it was great at the time. We were jumping about, you know.”

A black drug dealer wearing a black velvet bow-tie with a black topcoat and white silk scarf, and followed by two women in skirts slit to the top of their thighs, makes his entrance into this backroom. The place becomes, for the first time tonight, tense.

People want speed, but this guy is not to be trusted. He has ripped off the all-nighters before and is insisting that just one man goes outside with the money to get the stuff off his hoodlums, who are outside in the car where anything could happen. Someone says this dealer is a pimp and a gangster, that his men use guns, and that he has been known to arrange for Black and Deckers to make holes in kneecaps. After much running around the pill-poppers decide not to risk it. The word goes out that the cops are outside and the dealer, the man, disappears out of a side door with his two whores. “The music, the people and the gear [amphetamines] – that’s why people come here” someone says by way of an explanation.

Sitting down clutching his singles purchases is Kevin Joss. He works as a turner in Newton Aycliffe. He is married, with a four year old baby. “Saturday afternoon I always play football, set off from home about seven . . . the worst thing is driving back the next day. It’s three and half to four hours, to get back at 12 or 1. Then it’s watching the football on telly, going to bed when it’s finished and getting up on Monday, if you can.”

Ian Bates, and engineer from Nottingham and introduced as a “real fan,” joins in the conversation. Kevin is saying that he once had to stop going to all-nighters. Ian screws up his face, “People say they aren’t coming down here any more, but I don’t know what I’d do . . . what else do people do? Just knock around and go down the pub and get pissed? That’s alright, but it’s better down here. I’ve got mates from all over the country and the music here’s the best in the country, in my opinion.” Ian gets £40 a week take-home. In 1979 he missed just two all-nighters.

In a couple of hours’ time the Wigan townsfolk will be eating their breakfast. Most of them want the Casino closed down. Ian Bates tells me that the Casino is owned by the council and if Labour had won the election it was going to be turned into a “multi-storey car park or office block or something.”

This desolate old Casino, just opposite the bingo hall, off the Wigan high street. What can you say? Remember the opening sequence of the film version of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning where Albert Finney says something like “I’m out to have a good time. That’s all there is to it. The rest is propaganda,” as chucks his towel at the lathe?

The Wigan Casino is one place in which soul fans can prove to themselves, and to others, that the working routine is just that: a clock which ticks in time to a production line. Stay up all night, dance till it hurts and what the hell?

It’s 7.30 in the morning and the fans are starting to collect their coats and say goodbyes. The last three records on the turntable, every Sunday morning, are Long after tonight is all over, Time’ll pass you by and I’m on my way. “When they play that for the last time, when it shuts down for good,” says Ian, “it’ll be brilliant.”

The yellow street lamps are on, but unnecessary in the early light. A red-eyed procession winds up the road, past the Lite Bite chippie and Terry’s Discount, towards Wigan Baths. They will be open at a quarter to nine, and you can get tea and toast there.

Ian Walker

For John Donne

From Alexander Trocchi’s 1972 collection Man At Leisure.

For John Donne
Master Metaphysical

Hear! this is what I
shall do to your body,
I shall play it as
a loved instrument
in touching it as deeps
touch you, my love
and gratify yr shyest intimations
of a perfect sexuality
in concrete terms
absorb at you
in me, round you
with all spring & grass
our bright and coloured panoply!
Hear this: I mould
the very matter of yr
body’s argument
a sweeter heroin
at yr crotch
to hard, my hot intent.
Take lips to suck
at short-haired places
still garlanded
with passion’s traces

(Just a moment till
I undo my braces)

Alexander Trocchi

Winter

This poem Irish writer John Millington Synge was published in The Women’s Dreadnought, 18 April, 1914.

Winter

With little money in a great city

There’s snow in every street
Where I go up and down,
And there’s no woman man or dog
That knows me in the town.

I know each shop, and all
These Jews and Russian Poles,
For I go walking night and noon
To spare my sack of coals.

J.M. Synge

The Character Of A Roundhead

This anonymous Royalist poem from 1641 dates from a year before the start of the English Civil Wars. The original Ranters were on the extremes of the Republicanism.

The Character of a Roundhead

What Creature’s this with his short hairs,
  His little band and huge long ears,
 That this new faith hath founded,
The Puritans were never such,
The Saints themselves, had ne’er so much,
 Oh, such a knave’s a Roundhead.

What’s he that doth the Bishops hate.
And count their Calling reprobate,
 Cause by the Pope propounded,
And saies a zealous Cobler’s better,
Then he that studieth every letter,
 Oh, such a knave’s a Roundhead.

What’s he that doth high Treason say,
As often as his yea and nay,
 And wish the King confounded,
And dare maintain that Master Pym ,
Is fitter for the Crown then him,
 Oh, such a rogue’s a Roundhead.

What’s he that if he chance to hear,
A piece of London’s Common-Prayer,
 Doth think his Conscience wounded.
And goes five miles to preach and pray,
And lyes with’s Sister by the way,
 Oh, such a rogue’s a Roundhead.

What’s he that met a holy Sister,
And in an Hay-cock gently kist her,
 Oh! then his zeal abounded,
Close underneath a shady willow,
Her Bible serv’d her for her pillow,
 And there they got a Roundhead.