Category Archives: Music

Punk Women

A punk writes in Spare Rib, number 97, August, 1980.

Punk Women

Dear Spare Rib
I am deeply shocked by Vivien Pixner’s letter ‘Punks are Nasty (SR 96). I am a punk, 24, experience of life – married six years, two children, just taken A levels, heavy experience with my parents… I don’t know why I should have to prove my validity as a woman. I’m stopping.
My “way of dressing”, and painting my face and hair is a visual expression of my rejection of how society (male dominated) dictates how women should look. So I am a visual joke, shocking others sometimes, though not purposely wanting to offend.
Punk women have a lot in common with the women’s movement. We (though I can’t speak for all) refuse to support a society that oppresses women, and we wish to give back to the people, those “ordinary women, leading ordinary lives”, the chance to live their lives as they choose.
I feel so angry. I feel like gobbing and cursing, but I won’t offend Vivian’s delicate sensibilities by using “gratuitous bad language”. Don’t “ordinary women” swear? Besides who are all these women? It seems that Vivian’s ‘ordinary’ is interchangeable with ‘normal’. Who’s ordinary, who’s normal? I find her assumptions offensive. Am I the only one?
My own husband is loving, liberal, ‘lets’ me do what I want, but…can’t rid himself of feeling that my freedom is a concession from him. I love him dearly, but he is a part of the male world and its values.
I would hate to see Spare Rib concede to a viewpoint which in Vivian’s words would include more “common sense” just in order to get a wider readership. It is quality not quantity of readership that would count. I don’t want to see you conform.
In defiance and sisterhood,
Edgware, Middlesex.


Skinhead Wankers

An upset punk writes to the NME, 18 February, 1978. The letters page was edited by Les Miserables of the Snivelling Shits.

I’m just writing to say I think Skins are the biggest wankers out. On the 28th of Jan ’78 I went up to the LSE to see Sham 69. When I arrived at Holborn tube station The Skins were hassling all the ol’ ladies and unsuspecting beings into corners and ‘phone boxes.
When (evenyually) everyone got in, everyone was fairly well behaved. Then downstairs, about 400 people broke down the doors and came charging up the stairs throwing bottles and cutting into people’s flesh with kitchen knives etc. – so eventually I left (without seeing the band).
I’d just like to say I think it’s a shame ‘cos Sham are a good band but I won’t go to see them again ‘cos I refuse to go through another charade with the Skins. I also heard a bunch of Skins saying if any of the Clash came to see Sham they’d give ’em a rough time ‘cos they thought “The Clash should have supported Sham, not the other way round” quoted an extremely large looking Skin, playing with a knife carelessly near my jugular vein.
I know you won’t print this letter ‘cos you never print anyone’s letter unless they mention the boring, beautiful, blonde Debbie Harry at least twice, but it really pisses me off when you can’t see a band ‘cos you’re not a Punk/Skin/Ted/Rasta.
London N10

We had the same trouble when they wouldn’t let in a guy ‘cos he had on a Beatle jacket. The management didn’t know we’d given up punk. Dunno why Jimmy Sham puts up with them skins, they should stick to Skrewdriver. – Les

Rock Against Sexism Gig

Spare Rib, number 86, September, 1979, reviews the first large gig for Rock Against Sexism.

Spoilsports, Delta Five and the Gang of Four played at Rock Against Sexism’s first big gig at London’s Electric Ballroom at the end of July. Punks were out in force for Gang of Four, an all-boy band from Leeds who’d approached RAS about doing the gig – “RAS is close to our hearts really cos a lot of our songs criticise the way love and romance are put across in songs”. Not only their lyrics are critical, but their sound, their stance – anti-romantic, tense, frenetic. I don’t think that driving energy has to be macho; it’s not like Mick Jagger’s undulating cockrock. The music is minimal, honed down with no messing around the edges.
From Delta Five the punky delivery is even more interesting as the singers are women. Their eyes stare, they don’t caress the audience. Their voices are unyielding – they yelp, leap, chant, then exploit the higher parts only women can reach. I also liked the way the members of the band swapped guitars and changed parts, though I couldn’t make out why one of the men kept prowling round the stage – feeling left out? The Gang of Four by contrast used the stage like a squash court, speeding from side to side.
But the big contrast of the night was between them and Spoilsports, six women playing funky music with a sax and full percussion – congas, tambourine. it’s an interesting idea to mix styles of music, but for me their slower, more laid-back sound jarred after the first two bands. A lof of the feminists who’d much prefer Spoilsports’ kind of music wouldn’t choose to go to a mixed event, and a lot of the punk supporters started drifting homewards, missing out on the jamboree jam at the the end – all three bands with Tom Robinson in the background and a Mekon or two. The gig cleared £500, split five ways between the bands, RAS and the National Abortion Campaign. Another big benefit for NAC is planned for the night before the TUC’s abortion demo – October 27. For details contact RAS, 121 Grandison Rd, London SW11 (01-272 7866)

Jill Nicholls

What Have We Got?

The Adverts and Sham 69 at the Roundhouse reviewed in the NME, 18 February, 1978.

Sham 69


Ugly scenes are nothing new to the hoards in their Number One crops who make it their business to check out Sham 69.
And once the “gig sold out” whispers began to travel through the crowd outside the Roundhouse last Sunday, a heavy night was in store.
First signs of trouble came with the sight of skinhead groups charging down Chalk Farm Road to roll some poor kid for his ticket. Another bunch tried – unsuccessfully – to ram their way in through the back door.
With the commotion outside and the Roundhouse door policy of letting people in one by one, the smiling, suited Boyfriends are already into their set by the time I’m in.
Maybe, like Roogalator for instance, they’re a band who will sound a lot better on record than they do live, but tonight it’s a struggle in the face of Nil Audience Reaction.
One or two things reminded me vaguely of Elvis Costello, but then little of real substance, and consequently nothing to write about them.
They weren’t even booed offstage or heckled.
In the meantime, between 50 and 100 of the “Skeenhead/We hate Punks” brigade pogo gleefully to some reggae in front of the stage.
It’s only when the Shams come on that things start to get reallt vicious, and the cowardly thugs start laying into individual innocents.
“Just enjoy it right. Otherwise you won’t get another chance to see us,” shouts singer Jimmy Pursey.
Naturally he freaks as the West Ham Northbank crew go totally crazy.
“For fuck’s sake, pack it in and just enjoy yourselves.”
But as the Upton Park beret boys merely move to the back of the hall to wreak further havoc it’s obvious that even Pursey can’t control them, and a lot of people leave.
“I’m sick of making speeces,” declares Pursey, now stripped down to the waist and looking more than ever like young Iggy.
“I don’t want to have to keep on saying stop fighting! If you don’t just enjoy the next song, then we’re fucking off.”
The threat seems to bring some semblance of order, but no doubt the GLC officials in the audience already have their minds made up. The merits of Sham 69’s music I’ve discussed elsewhere in this paper. Suffice to say here that they were easily the best band of the evening – a fact which makes some of these audience scenes all the more souring.
A mindless chant of “Sham – Sham – Sham” brings them back for encores of “George davis Is Innocent” and the inevitable “What Have We Got?”
An exceptionally long break ensures that everything has cooled down sufficiently for the bill-toppers The Adverts to play what turns out to be a lifeless, messy set to rapturous applause.
“Safety In Numbers” was all too appropriate a song for the evening, but The Adverts left me cold. Oh-so-bored Gaye Advert drags most songs down to a dirge with her plodding bass lines, while there’s too much of a tendancy to, er, intellectualize in the dull lyrics.
I leave before the encores, convinced of a growing Fascism in certain secors of the Great British Rock Audience. (The earlier violence seemed so pre-meditated that it beat the Dunstable riot of two weeks back).
On the whole, not a great night.

Adrian Thrills

The Rochester Castle

The Stoke Newington pub, now my local ‘Spoons, in the NME, 12 August, 1978.

£3,000 debt threatens London gig

One of London’s important pub-rock venues, The Rochester Castle, is threatened with closure unless the landlord can raise £3,000 in the next month.
Pat Bryon, tenant of this North London pub which has presented rock and punk nightly for the last two years, owes £3,000 to Charrington’s brewery.
To raise the money he is staging a series of benefit gigs during August.
Penetration and XTC, who made early London appearances at The Rochester, have agreed to appear. None of the band will collect a gig-fee.
“If all the bands turn up and everything goes well, we should be able to get the necessary money,” said Bryon.
Ironically, an original debt of £10,000 was amassed last year when the venue was losing £200 a week on live entertainment. Since then Bryon has cleared over half of it, but now he has been given an early September deadline for the remainder.
TRB, The Jam, Only Ones and The Boyfriends have all played The Rochester.
“It’s an important gig on the pub circuit,” explained Bryon, “because bands had to start here before they could get gigs at the Hope and Nashville. This pub came to be a proving ground.”
Dates so far confirmed include Sore Throat tonight (Thursday), The Sinceros (11), Dead Fingers Talk (12), Autographs (17), The Pleasers (18), Punishment Of Luxury (19), Jab Jab (20) and Skrewdriver (21). An admission of 50p 0r £1 will be charged.

Dub Me Crazy

The first of the Mad Professor’s Dub Me Crazy albums, and the first Ariwa album, reviewed in Black Echoes, 11 September, 1982.

Mad Professor: ‘Dub Me Crazy!!’ (Ariwa ARI 001LP)

Your Rights/My Rights; Freedom Chant; Ankoko; Dub Power; Zion/Tumble Down; Bucket Brigade; Psychologically Yours; South African Crossfire; Sweet Sweet Victory

The eccentric Mad Professor, better known as Neil Fraser, has completed his new studio in south east London and with the assembled talents of his Ariwa stable, and with the addition of other guest musicians from Battersea to Jamdown, has recorded a collage. ‘Dub Me Crazy!!’ is a bizarre, often uncontrolled journey through the Fraser concept of adventurous dub reggae.
It’s appeal depends largely upon how much dance and introspection people demand from their reggae. Do people want to rock all night to the heavy, heavy sounds or drop a sugar cube and rot in a mire of feedback, reverb, echo, tape-loops, discordant harmonies chaffing with misshapen and distorted guitars and keyboards? ‘Dub Me Crazy!!’ does possess the ability to move both mind and body although it is unquestionably aimed at the brain more than the feet.
You have to listen very carefully to Neil Fraser music, lest the little throwaway effects are missed, and to miss them would be a shame as this record’s strength is the sheer weight of effects the Mad Professor has crammed into it.
I doubt the talents performing herein had any concept of the bare-faced audacious wrecking spree Fraser would have with their performances.
Those so potentially offended are bassists Bernard and Deuce (of I&I), drummers Horsemouth, The General and Barrington Levin, keyboards Tony Benjamin and Junior Ebanks. Vocals, if they can be called so, come from the wonderful Ranking Ann and label chanteuse, Davina Stone.
If I had to choose I could be happy with ‘Your Rights/My Rights’, the mysterious ‘Freedom Chant’ and rusty cut and thrust of ‘Bucket Brigade’ that rolls into the soulful ‘Psychologically Yours’.
The sense of ‘Dub Me Crazy!!’ is no sense at all. Pass me a Phensic and check the turntable hasn’t given up the ghost.

Jon Futrell