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


Frederick Williams

The Old Railway Station (Hackney)

Old mother aging
They repeatedly try to dress
You up to make you look strong,

But your age still shows,
Quite regularly you are deserted
Although passerby,
Mainly juveniles ask you to
Convey messages
Like vote National Front,
Who needs Niggers, Jews out, Wogs out,
John woz here,
Bob loves Claire,
And when the rain came
It seeped through your roof
Old mother, I imagined you
In your Prime.

Then they march on you in the morning,
They march on you at night,
All day long, one two, one two
And by midnight you are all alone,

And as the weather changes
Th winds came it rattles you,
Cold, cold water seeping down your posts
You seemed as if you’d given up the Ghost.

Old mother, wood, iron, stone
I watch you suffer
But I’ve heard no groans.

So when you’ve finally come down
Whether by hand or raging storm
I’ll remember you not as dead,
But that you’ve changed your form.

Frederick Williams

Frederick Williams is a Jamaican poet who came to England when he was 17. He gigged a lot with his poetry and this poem is from his 1981 collection Me Memba Wen.

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 Goths Were Being Baptized

This poem is by Soviet poet Evgeny Vinokurov. He was born in 1925 and was the commander of an artillery unit in World War II. He was first published in 1948.

‘The Goths were being baptized…’

The Goths were being baptized.
They looked doomed
Going into the stream up to their shoulders ….
But up above their heads their own swords loomed;
Their fists were unbaptized to all beholders.
Humility should have its limits too,
Whatever ‘meek Commandment’ comes along …
And I should like to keep my fists in view.
I shall be kind. But let it be strong.

Evgeny Vinokurov

Alex Comfort

Alex Comfort is best known as the author of The Joy of Sex, 1972.
This poem is from Retort, Vol 4, Number 1, Autumn 1947. Retort was an anarchist journal produced in Bearsville, New York from 1942-1951.

The moon fills up its hollow bowl of milk
bodies grow blue like pebbles in a stream
and light falls like a wind in summer stripping
girls into statues, showing their round limbs
moving but frozen under the atery cloths
tonight I watch her mask move into sleep
her breathing like a bee on a wood’s floor
coming and going, to and from the light

She is my field, and in her furrows run
my ways like rain, and the crops of her shadows
are pools, are a wild sea. And she has mountains
stranger than feathers, hard as fishes. There
fall in her hollows shadows of orchard bees
that follow the moon’s circle like a tide
grassy nets that move on the dropped apples.

Body, white continent
on all whose beaches break the seas of years
this is the surf they say the dying hear.
We are both islands, and our grassy edge
creeps inwards, like the healing of a wound.
And the windy edge is time, a limitless water,
a white sea lying restless as a hand

where no rock rests the gull, and no tree stands,
ever, forever – moving, lifeless, alone.

Alex Comfort