Author Archives: teethingwells

Boots, Braces And Books

Garry Johnson’s book The Story of Oi – A View From The Dead-End Of The Street , and Chris Ryan’s Skinheads reviewed in Sounds, 3 April, 1982.

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February

Yuli Daniel wrote these poems in a Moscow prison while he was under investigation and on trial. They were published in his book Prison Poems in 1971.

February

Outside my window the day is radiant
The sky shows spring and is child-painted blue;
It seems I have no reason to expect
Comfort or hope of help apart from this.

Evil is quite forgotten. Only yesterday
It howled and crucified our souls.
And so, dear girls, and so it’s time for me
To look through the window as you would look into a mirror.

Now the grey wool of the snow is unravelled
And outside the window great drops dangle like ear-rings.
A few more days and you’ll all be prettier
With shining eyes and kerchiefs round your shoulders.

A few more days, then no more sleep at night,
You’ll dream uncurbed, put off your daily tasks.
Outside, the years will rush into reverse
Drawing the breath away from everyone.

(And then the clatter of the wheels will stop,
I’ll pack my satchel and get off at a tiny station.
I’ll scent the beauty a thousand miles away,
And then I’ll smile all envious and grudging.)

The spring will pierce you through and through
With its words, coarse ones as well as tender.
Well, dear girls, it’s time, it’s really time
For you to shed your sorrows and your furs.

Yuli Daniel
22 February, 1966

The Sadeian Woman

The ever interesting Angela Carter reviewed in Spare Rib, No. 82, May, 1979.

The Sadeian Woman
by Angela Carter
(Virago £1.95;
hardback £5.95)

We say pornography degrades women. We shun pornography and hide from it – fearing perhaps the eroticism of our own degradation? But Angela Carter, fearless and outrageous as she is in her fiction, forces us to look closer and overcome our disgust to learn what we can.
Yes, pornography is reactionary, “reinforcing the false universals of sexual archetypes”, but can pornography be the servant of women? This is Angela Carter’s thesis: “Since sexuality is as much a social fact as it is a human one, it will therefore change its nature according to changes in social conditions. If we could restore the context of the world to the embraces of these shadows then, perhaps, we could utilize their activities to obtain a fresh perception of the world and in some sense transform it.”
So she leads us on a vivid and grotesque journey through de Sade’s nasty works of sexual violence and with the tools of history, psychoanalysis and theology she exposes not only a mirror to sexual experience but a metaphor for the social and economic world: “the sexual act in pornography exists as a metaphor for what other people can do to one another …”
In tracing de Sade’s work, she analyses the contrary lives of the sisters Justine and Juliette, the first a still-familiar image of sentimentality “always the prey and never the hunter … whose innocence is her own excuse for her object status”.
And then Juliette, a monster of rational self-interest and a creation of Sade the revolutionary: she is a woman with power whose sexuality is totally divorced from reproduction and whose behaviour shows that to be a sexual aggressor is not a function of gender. But both sisters are inextricably caught in the same trap: Sade sees no escape from the relation of master and victim, there is no mutual pleasure.
It is a vivid book and intellectually diverse but like a brilliant firework display, glimpses of the landscape flicker and disappear and I found that I was confused and not convinced. It was fascinating to see the ideas which lie beneath her stories but I missed the thread of narrative which imposes a form on her fiction.

Katherine Gieve

All The Skinhead Girls I Ever Went Out With

All the Skinhead Girls I Ever Went Out With

Were tougher
than me,
had to be.
Most could shut
a pub to silence.
All could talk
‘til the Monopoly
boot came home.
The blue of
Levi jackets
and jeans
echoed
india ink
tattoos.
Their eyes
the same green
as the liquor
gracing their
double double.
On Saturday night
I heard ‘Ali Baba’
and I wanted
my dream last
night last night.
Her monkey boots
scraping my shin,
the stick
of cinema carpet
as the adverts
finish
and the action begins.

Tim Wells

Working Men’s Clubs

There’s not many poets these days that gig in them, but this passage from Bill Maynard’s 1975 autobiography The Yo-Yo Man will give you an idea of what Working Men’s Clubs were like and why they were great places to learn your craft.

Accompanists had a very parochial attitude. I was told an amusing story about a club pianist which I believe, because similar incidents have happened to me. W.M.C performers usually hand out sheet music, which anyone can buy over the counter, but professional entertainers have a proper manuscript, written in ink and usually set out in band parts. Apparently this singer handed a manuscript to a Northern Club pianist, who took one look and said he couldn’t play it. “Why not?,” asked the pro. “It’s London music,” said the pianist.
The stories about entertaining in W.M.C’s are legion, like the one my dear friend, the late Dickie Valentine told me. He had been engaged at one club at a thousand pounds for the week, and when he arrived his contract and cheque were pinned up on the notice board. Naturally irate, he approached the club secretary and asked for an explanation. “We had to do it,” came the reply, “If I didn’t put up how much you were getting, nobody would believe me. They’d think I was fiddling.”
Some of the club officials paid absolutely no attention to the feelings of the performers. I often suffered the embarrassment of being paid out, in pound notes on the club bar, in front of about two thousand people.
Concert secretaries usually write the various acts in chalk on a board in the club hallway. I heard of a comic who was particularly successful at one club, and was asked to return for a New Year’s Eve show. “I shall want more money,” said the comic. “No chance, you’re on our maximum now,” he was told, “but what I’ll do is to guarantee that your name will be on the board in three different colours of chalk.”
Neville King, a ventriloquist, who uses an old man dummy, told me that once after his act, he asked the concert secretary what he thought of it. “Champion, lad,” he replied, “but I know this room. Next time … GET THAT DUMMY A BIT NEARER THE MIKE.” They sound like gags I know, but having worked so many clubs, and having so many incredible things said and done to me, I feel inclined to believe them.

Hex

The Poison Girls’ album Hex reviewed in Spare Rib, Number 89, December, 1979.

Hex
Posion Girls
(Small Wonder)

Poison Girls are a mixed band (four men and one woman) who don’t conform to any stereotyped roles. Most of the band live communally, confronting and challenging how women and men develop together. They play strong, varied, inventive music, having evolved from both punk and theatre.
“It would be inaccurate to define us as feminist” they say, but Hex has a strong influence, that neither feminists nor anti-sexist men can ignore. Although most of their lyrics are written from a woman’s viewpoint, they are not alienating to men. Notable tracks include..
Is it safe to go shopping?
Leave the kids outside the toilet?
Water dripping on the carpet;
Is it time to have a crisis?
Hit the baby – stop it screaming.
Can you stand it if I touch you?

… from an intense ‘Crisis’, and in ‘Bremen Song’ the music stops to remind you of the holocaust where … we burn, sisters, burn.
And if you want to bop, listen to ‘Idealogically Unsound’ … know what you want, but can’t quite live it? Or there’s a wonderful song for all the (punk) mothers who are rejecting the normal stereotypes, ‘Jump Mama Jump’ – you can have a good pogo to that one. ‘Under the Doctor’ is about the common situation of a mother cracking up under the strain, who doesn’t want to be controlled by drugs and psychiatrists. ‘Reality Attack’ is about so-called ‘insanity’.
It’s difficult to describe their music, and they deny the labels. They play at a lot of live gigs, and benefits, so not only is this record a definite must in every feminist collection … go and see them too!

Cynthia Siza
Stefanie Petticoat

Hex is available for £2.10 plus 45p p&p, from Small Wonder, 162 Hoe Street, London E17 (01 520 5036)