Attila interviewed in 2021 about his autobiography ‘Heart On My Sleeve’.
John Cooper Clarke in Hulls New Youth zine, number 4, 1984.
Were you definitely a Punk, or did you just find it coming along at the right time for you?
“Yeah, I was already doing this sort of thing in the period immediately before Punk, but to an extent. Yeah, I suppose I was, plus I definitely altered my style to suit.”
You broke the ground for Poets, it must have taken a lot of guts?
“Yeah, it was a bit dangerous at times.”
But you made poets more acceptable for audiences at rock gigs ’cause there’s a new wave now; Attila, Swells, Swift Nick, Ginger John, etc. It’s easier now…
“Well that may be true, but I wouldn’t say it was easy!”
Has your book been selling well?
“Yeah, great. It’s sold out of the original print run and we’re well into the second set now.”
Is that suit you wear now the one you started with originally?
“(Laughs) No, not exactly. At first it was separate pairs of pants and trousers.”
Tim Dalton, (Spring St.) “First thing he asked me when he arrived tonight was, ‘What suit did I have on the last time I was in Hull’…!
John, “Well I’ve only got one with me you see and I wanted to know if it was the same one as last time. (Laughs) I mean if I don’t set a fuckin’ example, who will!!”
We noticed you hired a flashy car to get here tonight, are you making loads of money these days?
“I owe it all out! I owe my record company £36,000 and the travel agents, who’ve arranged the lat three tours, a few thousand as well!”
Are you bothered?
“Well you can’t take it seriously – I worry more about owing him (a friend) a fiver than I do the record comps… and travel agents.” His friend: “Fuckin’ right, yo should worry!”
Are they your bodyguards? (meaning his two friends)
The next few minutes are impossible ’cause his two bodyguard/managers keep singing “One step at a time, sweet Jesus…’!!!
I liked what you said on that programme recently, about you being a socialist in a capitalist world..?
“What you mean ‘I can’t be an Island of Socialism in a sea of Capitalism'”
That was it…
“Yeah, it’s right, y’see I am a Socialist but you can’t decide to live your socialist ideal on your own. It’s impossible. We have to keep going along with capitalism at the moment until we can change it. At the moment I make what I can… I have to, same as everyone. If you do live out your own little socialist ideal… you’ll be left with nothing and you’ll have changed nothing… you’ll just be a martyr, and I mean, a fuckin’ martyr’s no good to anyone (laughs). They’ll just say ‘Oh yeah, he was a nice bloke, but anyway he’s fuckin’ dead now!'”
Sounds reviews the Poetry Olympics album, 20 March, 1982. There’s a zine review of the same album here.
‘The Poetry Olympics’
(All Round Records) ***1/2
This is the album of the live event. No, not ‘The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball’ but ‘The Poetry Olympics’, an even trendier soiree which was held last year at The Young Vic.
This is the vinyl version of the massive poetry read-in which was supposed to take poetry out of the hands of the arty farties and give it to the likes of you and I, despite the fact that it provided said AF’s with enough material to fill several Sunday supplements with interminable diatribes at to how divine the whole thing was.
The reality of course, was that some of the show worked very well indeed while some fell arseways but happily only the former has made it onto record.
Cooper Clarke was the big crowd puller of the event, closely followed by Roger McGough whose Liverpudlian humour was evident, with poems reflecting on the joys of making love on the bus in the knowledge that the world is going to end at lunch time.
The two big names though, were happily upstaged by the punk faction in shapes of Seething Wells and Attila The Stockbroker whose ‘Russians In The DHSS’ muses hilariously on the two greatest threats to mankind – commie reds and Social Security scroungers, and the album is worth buying for the sake of these alone.
The use of acoustic guitar on Fran Landesman’s ‘White Nightmare’ sounded worryingly folksy and conjured up uncomfortable notions of maxi cheesecloth skirts and the Guardian Women’s Page but largely the album refutes such ethereal notions and is as unpretentious as a record of a poetry reading can be. It concerns itself with both the most frivolous and most serious aspects of modern poetry and is a brave attempt to take itself out of the realms of high art and into popular culture.
Michael Horovitz in Sounds, 13 March 1982, puts in a watercolour of a letter after an article on that years Poetry Olympics.
Comrade Paul Butterfield gets a mention, who was often at the Orient with his dad.
Bushell’s rampage with Attila the Stockbroker (Sounds February 27) sabotages the credibility of its promotion of Attila by being so scornful of everything and everyone else spat on in passing. Just seven examples for the record:-
1: To kill a few myths before rumour becomes ‘fact’: by Attila’s own definition of the ‘gig-crash’ – “jumping on stage uninvited and having a go, invariably half-cut”, he and Seething Wells most certainly did not “crash the Poetry Olympics at the Young Vic ‘for a crack'”.
If you ask Attila I’m sure, being an honest lad, he’ll confirm that the two of them (hitherto completely unknown to me) came up and asked if they could do a short spot. As this would be cutting into the advertised poets’ time, but not wishing to reject two apparently serious young contenders out of hand, I in turn asked McGough, Paul Weller & the rest, each of whom was gracious enough to agree.
2: It wasn’t “the blubber mountain Nuttall” over whom comrade Butterfield hurled his booze, but me. Since this anorexic seizure of the stage was merely prolonging the delay before my introduction of Bushell’s hero & mine, Attila (else why would I be presenting him at prime-time on my show?), it’s hard to see how Butterfield’s veritable gig-crash can be blown up to the stature of “the prole v-sign to the whole farcical event” Bushell’s account suggests.
And the yells of “Shame! Stinker! Lout! Off! Off!” he correctly reports came from “the offended portion of the crowd” who disliked the look of Butterfield or felt his contribution to be a crashing bore much as Bushell himself did most of the others. I found Pierre’s little vision of the Thames full of shit quite a laugh myself. But the argument against unscheduled additions is they rob the punters of their due from the performers they’ve actually come to hear.
3: Attila’s notion of busting “the gates of the Poetry Establishment with a pen in one hand and an axe in the other” is unworthy of him, and the last thing that’s going to fan “the smouldering embers of a working class poetry explosion” in Britain. The image of embers implies there’s been something of a conflagration – which there has. But if the pen is to prove mightier than Maggie’s iron-thatched farm, let alone the international capitalist military-industrial complex, it’ll be because the entrenched bully-boy Divide-&-Rule policies of the guvnors and owners are overwhelmed by the enduring power of the living ideas & voices of its opponents.
You can bet your life if it comes down to a clash of brawn, the axes that prevail will be those ground by yer ruling classes & swung by their hirelings, the brainwashed mercenaries worldwide. if the giant steps taken against that continuing direction by the likes of Joan Littlewood (Mother Courage of Stratford East), Tom Pickard, McGough, Patten, Weller & the rest are themselves assailed as The Enemy or The Establishment by would-be new wavers, the net result is surely that all true poetry & revolutionary aspiration gets that much more easily wiped out by the Tory Philistinism & economic demoralisation virtually all the oral poets are continuing to fight.
4: I chose the Young Vic & Stratford theatres for these Poetry Olympics shows exactly because they’re two of the most working class & multiracial (& least sectarian or class-ridden) venues in London. So far from representing a “bourgeois, snobby, out of touch… alien world of dirty looks” the Theatre Royal’s a deliberately community orientated anti-racist youth centre, built up over the years with the bare hands & heads of Littlewood, Brendan Behan, Shelagh Delaney, Frank Norman & loads more. This tradition of a people’s theatre was extended the night your reporter looked in & left again with his Bushell of prejudices intact – extended by Attila, but also by the black/alternative/racial/rock communicators James Berry, Jeff Nuttall, Adrian Mitchell, Pete Brown, Patrik Fitzgerald & several others.
5: OK, none of us is getting any younger, but for Bushell to assume that because a few of the above may be around their middle years, we’re necessarily also “middle-class, smug, self-satisfied, & stiflingly self-congratulatory” when he admits he only started to listen the fourth time he left the bar for the auditorium, to Butterfield and Attila, leaves him hoist by his own petard his presumed ‘radicalism’ too is gonna be ’emasculated’ if he pays attention to no-one but his mates. At risk to their self-approbation, he & his might pause to consider the possibility that to be a poet or revolutionary at 20 is to be 20, to be them at 40 is to be a poet & revolutionary – as Mitchell, Nuttall, Heathcote Williams (who didn’t get a hearing at Stratford cos of the time waste of all the aggro & interruptions) still turn out to be.
6: Bushell applauds Attila for standing at the mike “in leather jacket, football scarf & DMs, spouting forth about there here and now. If he’d been in the theatre for the others, as distinct from reacting against their clothes, he’d have been able to tell your paper what each of them read & sang about present day realities too. Why should a conformist of one kind mean more than any other – more than that it’s wearer’s mentality or desired public might be uniform – propaganda for proper geese? I wear cords cos they cost £2 on Portobello Road, whereas leather gear’s pricey these days, being chic, I’ve also written quite a lot of soccer poetry, but that doesn’t mean I wear soccer clothes to perform it in, or want to spout it to soccer fans only.
7: The Stockbroker’s claim that JCC made his forerunners “redundant in ’77” by showing that “poetry should be for the people and could be put across to anyone” is unhistorical to say the least. Coops drew on the spadework of the Beats & Dylan & Henri & all of us concerned (like Attila) with “making the audience part of it” – just as we ourselves had benefited from the pathfinding inroads of blues shouters & Dylan Thomas & the Russian revolutionary bards. No real poet is ever made redundant by any other – it’s what makes poetry more like music than say, machine-part assembly. Lennon’s Working Class Hero didn’t replace Ginsberg’s Howl any more than Elvis Costello does Presley. What’s real in art is always contemporary – though the mass of what’s contemporary is not, alas, always real.
Michael Horovitz, Poetry Olympics, Piedmont, Bisley, Stroud, Glos.
Attila the Stockbroker, Depeche Mode, The Meteors, The Birthday Party, Weekend, and Stiff Little Fingers in a show broadcast on February 28, 1983. The programme features performances filmed live at the Ace in Brixton during the making of Channel 4’s Whatever You Want.
Ranting poets in American punk mag Maximum RockNRoll, number 32, January 1986.
Attila follows up on an earlier SWells piece.