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The Real Enemy

The Federation of Conservative Students, (very) right-wing toffs meet Seething Wells in the NME, 5 April, 1986.
The right were quick to shout loony left, but they had their own extremists too. These were the people that wore Hang Mandela t-shirts and put up posters mocking starving Asian children.

A Class On Class

Michael Horovitz gets into a tizzy over Blake Morrison writing about Tony Harrison, from the London Review of Books Vol. 4, Number 8, May 1982.

SIR: In what monkish cell has Blake Morrison been conducting his explorations into contemporary verse? He alleges, without telling your readers what they are, that ‘there are grounds for thinking Tony Harrison the first genuine working-class poet England has produced this century … Harrison seems to have the field to himself.’ This would be admissible only if you’d had your ear to the grounds of middle or upper-class literary coffee mills. Which is not to say that Harrison isn’t a genuine or working-class poet – nor that working-classness necessarily or always matters very much.

But since Morrison invokes these grounds, and a concern with thinking, let me commend the food for further thought on this subject to be found in plenty in the poetry of Attila the Stockbroker, Jim Burns, Aidan Cant, Anne Clark, John Cooper Clarke, Joolz Denby, Patrik Fitzgerald, Mark Hyatt, Roger McGough, Barry MacSweeney, Brian Patten, Tom Pickard, Tom Raworth, Alan Sillitoe and Seething Wells; and in the poems, as well as the songs, of pre and post-punk songwriter-singers, such as Syd Barrett, Pete Brown, Kevin Coyne, Ray Davies, Roy Harper, Richard Jobson, John Lennon and Paul Weller – amongst many, many others. None of them is haut bourgeois (indeed, most of them wouldn’t know, or want to know, what that means): but each is, or was, like Tony Harrison, in full possession of ‘first-hand knowledge of the material they deal in’.

Michael Horovitz
New Departures, Bisley, near Stroud

Blake Morrison writes: I have yet to see a Michael Horovitz letter (and I have seen many) which does not reel off at least a score of names which are said to prove the existence of some renaissance in contemporary British poetry. The names vary from week to week, but the ones cited here do little to persuade me that I was wrong in singling out Tony Harrison. For this is an issue of quality rather than quantity, and the ‘genuine working-class poet’ is, as I understand it, not only genuinely working-class but of genuine poetic stature. None of Horovitz’s candidates meets that requirement, not even what he calls the ‘pre and post-punk songwriter-singers’ (in what useful sense can the likes of Roy Harper and Syd Barrett be called pre-punk – this is rather like calling a Thirties poet a pre-Forties poet?). Like Horovitz, I don’t believe that ‘working-classness necessarily or always matters very much.’ But it does matter in Harrison’s case because it is the subject of Continuous. And if one is going to invoke class one should be accurate and not assume that all rock musicians are by definition working-class. John Lennon was brought up in a semi in a respectable neighbourhood, and punk has had more to do with bourgeois art schools than with working-class council estates.

Skint Video

The chaps reviewed live in the Melody Maker, 1 February, 1986.

Skint Video
Queen’s University, Belfast

Raw, bloody and most certainly uncooked comedy from two more men in baggy suits vying for your thick, sweet peals of laughter – this was the “Scum, Vitriol And The Slash Tour” (soon to join the Red Wedge Comedy Tour) and the barbarism began very much at home. With the audience utterly pliable within minutes and in the midst of a bitterly argued national constitutional national upheaval, the gags about the RUC, UDR, supergrasses and Paisley and “Burn Again” Seawright singing, “You Don’t Get Me I’m Part Of The Union”, lash out with absolutely no regard for personal safety.
In front of the most partisoan (prejudiced?) audience they’re going to be up against on the whole tour, the unmitigated moxie was unbelievable – no testing water, treading water or pissing about, just hit the bastards where it hurts most with Clones cyclone, comedy that could well leave unsightly bruises.
Foresaking the all-too-familiar alternative comedy routine of sinecure sitcom ‘n’ ads sends ups (not to mention appearing in the bloody things) and other largely incestuous media coverage, Skint Video instead pick on the much ignored Sixties style animating satirical principle of Radio 4’s “Week Ending” and go for broke . . . and to hell with the breaks.
As rock afficianados you’ll love The Jones’s impression: “I would go out tonight/But I couldn’t find a vegetable who cared”, The Kinks’ Sun City opus “Zola”, spewin’ up with a shockingly pin-sharp Bragg take-off and the dead pop stars rock ‘n’ roll call eg “…drive a purple mini/Into an oak tree” to the tune of “Ride A White Swan”.
As clued-up world watchers, the ice cool commentary on French defence hi-jinx, “Somewhere Under The Rainbow”, and the affecting “Cecil Don’t Take Your Love To Town” will send you back to your “Spitting Image” videos demanding even more excess.

Danny Adams

Clive Barker

Horror fiction had a spikey writer kicking arse in the 80s. Horror anthologies were a regular part of a 70s youth and Clive Barker’s short story collections Books Of Blood brought some freshness to the genre, or as he puts it “The poetry of holding a guy’s brains in your hand.”
Jamming!, number 34, November, 1985 interviews the lad himself.