The Redskins did a month of Sundays ay the Mean Fiddler in 1986 with a great mix of turns. Great gigs they were too. This review is from the NME, 12 July, 1986. The Housemartins sneak in as Fish City Five.
Harlesden Mean Fiddler
Young, girted and bald was the aim. On the revue’s second night the result was a combination of two, but never all three. Buster Bloodvessel came close. That rotund rascal of drollery, with a little help from his friends, rip-roared his immense proportions through ‘Monster Mash’. ‘My Boy Lollipop’ and more. The Troubleshooters, perverse in the presence of dogma, saw Debbie (Dolly Mixture) don a monstrous wig for their camped-up journeys through the Abba and Madonna songbooks. Seething Wells spouted furiously in a scathing attack on the life and times of Laura Ashley. Why her you may ask. Why indeed? A true contender if only he’d had a haircut.
Wendy May’s sizzling Locomotion sounds kept all alive and kicking, in striking contrast to Lol Coxhill, whose 15 minute homage to Jnr Walker rated as a wonder-cure for insomnia!
Not forgetting the mighty mouth on the loudhailer who led the Redskins through their stomping favourites, ‘Kick Over The Statues’ et al. And a well splendid night was rounded off with some accapella combo by the name of Fish City Five. In fact there was only four of them. , but their harmonies weren’t half bad, especially on some ditty called ‘Happy Hour’ which sounded sort of familiar. One of them launched himself into a ranting preach about Jesus, Karl Marx and himself in the same bed (with clean sheets, of course)! What a strange bunch. Perhaps they’ll be famous one day.
Maybe it was the rumour that Paul Weller was to appear, or perhaps Tom Watt (chump Lofty from East Enders), that drove the hordes on mass to Harlesden for this Artists Against Apartheid benefit on the fourth night. With its Brechtian overtones, the climax of the Redskins revue proved a resounding success.
Angus and Toby from Test Dept. swapped their metal objects for bagpipes and calmed a packed frustrated crowd, unable to move to Stuart Cosgrove’s and Steve Caesar’s fast and furious vinyl funk. The Redskins began their set of covers with ‘Levi Stubbs’ Tears’, and were closely followed by the man Bragg himself. He soon had the audience whipped up a storm with ‘Chile Your Waters’, and ‘A13’, for which he was accompanied by stalwart Wiggy.
And the grand finale, ‘Winds Of Change’, as performed by the Redskins, Dammers, Bragg and others, baldly established the common bond.
X Moore reviews Dig The New Breed in the NME, 4 December, 1982.
Long March Of The Mods
The Jam Dig The New Breed (Supreme Beat) TAKE NO HEROES! Some moments are to be treasured forever. This morning I bought the new Jam single, a precious copy, the last in the rack…walk home, pump-breathing icy air, new packet of 10 Woodbines in a back pocket, jumpy feeling in the stomach, fingers tight around the paper bag – for the moment, the dearest possession in the world – aw, you can tell how crucial a new record is by how long it takes to open the front door…And this the last single by the most VITAL of bands. Looking back…it is the rise and rise of The Jam that is, more than anything else, a towering beacon of hope ‘gainst the present gloomy musical backdrop. The Jam first emerged in livelier times. ‘Midst all the phlegm-ridden rebellion, The Jam stood quietly by in mohair suits and Paul Weller claimed the Queen was “the best diplomat we’ve got” (“she works harder than what you or I do or the rest of the country”) and signed off by mentioning come the Election, they’d be voting Conservative. The Jam were less than zero. What is INSPIRING is that The Jam have progressed so much and changed attitudes so visibly. Weller has shifted massively, away from the early casual youth anthems that pinpointed the division as young v. old, t’wards songs that deal with far greater ogres, far greater issues – an issue as great as ‘class’. The point is this – a change in attitudes is HOPE. And if you sneer at hope, you sneer at progress. And that’s CONSERVATISM. Meantimes, The Jam have split and left us with the hippest of anthems, ‘Dig The New Breed’ – an album that frames all those nights of fire and accelerated passions. 14 tracks that chart The Jam’s heady progress and stress their solid loyalties. The difference between The Jam and all the hopeless pop ephemenalities is the difference between a (red) harrington and an anorak. The Jam have STYLE and SIGNIFICANCE. ‘Dig The New Breed’ is a sharp package. ‘Course, there’s a dozen other soul anthems that should be on here and sometimes Pete Wilson’s production damps the fire and smoothes The Jam’s abrasive live edge too much. But it marks a powerful legacy. And The Jam’s last legacy is some testament, some challenge – mebbe the last authentic mod record. If you come searching for clues to Weller’s next musical station, better that you search elsewhere – ‘Beat Surrenders” B sides or Tyrone Davis’ finest moment, ‘Can I Change My Mind’…or a hundred other soaring soul singles. ‘Dig The New Breed’ is a missive from The Jam, as they were, as they will be remembered, and a call for other bands to follow. I only hope that the Neurotics, Redskins, New Model Army and others can meet the challenge. Everybody treasures crucial moments, I remember The Jam playing on the Right To Work March at the beginning of this year, the week that ‘A Town Called Malice’ went to No. 1 – that magnificent, frightening split-second when Weller, guitar hand rushing, twisted into the mike to spit out the first verse of ‘Malice’. Crystal. ‘Dig The New Breed’ frames many such sublime moments. hard and fast. There will be greater moments, sure, but for the while, this one is great enough. Sublime sound, sublime vision – The Jam were the best. TAKE INSPIRATION!
Fallout from a (pretty good!) feature on poets the previous week in Sounds, 5 February, 1983. 80s pub action aside, they all had a lot in common.
Oi – The Backlash
Big Gal Johnson not too impressed with Swellsy’s comments on him in last week’s poetry spectacular. In a strongly worded response Johnson claimed that Swells was “the main contributor to the SWP spermbank for militant lesbians” and a poxy bastard – somebody ought to put him in a hole next to Karl Marx at Highgate cemetery.” Gal went on to accuse Swells and his pal X. Moore of being “closet rebels” and Moore’s band the Redskins of sounding “like Crass on tuinol.”
X Moore reviews Stiff Little Fingers in the NME, 10 April, 1982.
Mouldy Ol’ Fungus Stiff Little Fingers Barking
The Revolution Betrayed
Last time I saw Stiff Little Fingers was down the front at the Electric ballroom at the end of their first British tour. Four or five years ago they were supported by Essential Logic and Robert Rental and The Normal – a storming gig of harsh extremes where SLF were a desperate clash of guitars, where Essential Logic were a smart break from X Ray Spex and Rental and Miller were canned or ignored.
Now Daniel Miller plays confident host to Depeche Mode, Lora Logic’s charming the jazzateers and SLF are still here: a Solidarnosc Benefit in Barking, out in the wilds of Essex, and if Swells is supporting this must be the sharp end. SLF start with a PA pumping a military signature (I think it’s the theme from ‘Dambusters’ but I lost me Geoff Love ‘Movie Themes’ album four or five years ago) and drift onstage with the spotlights playing flashing sweeps above the audience’s heads. Enter the heroes, ‘Clash ’81 Tour’ stylee: “We’re Stuff Liddle Fungus!” I hang around at the back and stomp and drink to ‘Tin Soldiers’ while the Fungus gang throw V-signs. Those were the highlights. No, I lie: seeing one of the backline roadies herald the return of the silly encore with a gold lame performance of ‘I Love You Love Me’, hairy jacket, glitter chest and all that jazz, taking over the stage to throw Gaz Glitter stares and bunches of daffodils at the audience on his last night with the band. This wasn’t a gig at the sharp end, this was a great band softening up, four winners playing losers, a night when the setful of castrated rock songs, with just the briefest interruptions to mention that this was a benefit, only made the appearance of a half-hearted ‘Alternative Ulster’ (if it wasn’t in your top twenty, you won’t be on mine, mate), slotted in at the end after the roadie’s final fling, seem all the sadder. ‘Fly The Flag’ and ‘Gotta Getaway’ got me headbutting pogoers down the front but SLF used to make me crash and slam all night. ‘Tin Soldiers’ and ‘Listen To Your Heart’ shook me a bit, for a while, the short buzz of weak blues, but only cos they sounded like old days. Fingers on the TRB tour. Me and them should junk nostalgia and remember the reasons not the legend. The reasons SLF are worth remembering line up this way: noise that shook, vocals that hurt your throat, lyrics that (not content with warbling “It’s gonna happen”) were specific and cut. SLF can pull back: ‘Silver Lining’ pinched some sense into daytime radio, Dolphin’s put some hammer back into the rhythm and they’ve still got Jake’s voice, still a power, still the business, a protest in itself. But as they are, SLF have played it wrong, to end up here, tonight, the beaten heroes playing a benefit for Solidarity, the beaten heroes. Jeez, only jerks want to end up magnificent in defeat – that’s two revolutions lost: Punk, which was always hopeless, and Poland, which seemed to have everything and got sod all. Winning means taking risks and SLF don’t take enough, they get beat and seem happy with complacent music, no spark, no punk, no dissent. And like Warren Beatty said for Jack Reed: “Cut our dissent and you cut out the revolution. The revolution is dissent.”
Fingers didn’t lose cos they got stamped on, stamped out, betrayed – but because they ballsed up, toned down, forgot dissent … because they no longer have the strength. This gig was soft – it sure wasn’t ‘Suspect Device’ at Carnival 2, when SLF let rip and won and after that who gave a toss if Sham had bottled out. This gig was a long way from the sharp end. Don’t kid yerself.
X Moore compares Aswad and Third World in the NME, 10 April, 1982.
The Tuff v Duff Debate ASWAD A New Chapter Of Dub (Island) THIRD WORLD You’ve Got The Power (CBS)
Third World’s album cover sees all six of da boize grinning in triplicate on the front, a cinematic-sized wedge of credits on the back and lilac-coloured inner sleeve. The usual cack. Aswad’s album front depicts marching lions, gargoyle werewolves growling in dark gauche, pulling a prophet-laden redgreen an’ gold chariot. The regulation naff-religious equivalent of a Mills and Boon cover. Haile predictable. Cack artwork identifies the product – take your partners in the Tiff v. Duff debate. Third World start with ‘Try Jah Love’, a Stevie Wonder song that says: “We’re beautiful and you’re beautiful too, baby” and just manages to stay right side of pleasant. One down and the rest of the album is Beverly Hills reggae ‘n’ futon funk – black liberal music with a guilty conscience, caught half way between patio bar-b-cue and high street revolutionary. Third World should go all the way and become Stevie Wonder’s backing group, which is what they do best, or else stop kidding themselves if they think they’re sly reggae missionaries, taking rebel music into the charts on the back of a disco beat. The song that knocked all the ‘tryers’ into the trash-can of pop oblivion, the only reggae number one I can remember, was as tuff as a Bolshevik. Althea & Donna’s pop gem ‘Up Town Top Ranking’ made no concessions either to the menopausal Manilow ‘n’ Spumanti set or the nauseous bigots of the reggae scene. It tripped up the charts, a hammer in the head that said rebel music must be castrated before it’s ready for white schmuck consumption, and jerked a defiant two digits at the moron macho rasta-stud brigade along the way. Third World’s crass attempt at crossover was recorded in Los Angeles, mixed in LA and Burbank California and mastered at Precision Lacquer – you must have got the sound fixed in your mind… you know: schmaltz, schlooze, schlurp, snooze… Californication. At least Barry White had some meat to his music; Third World flirt with all things chartable chic and still manage to achieve the near impossible of finding nothing with substance. Scattered in the messy musical tissue are even more desperate steals. ‘Jah Love’, side one, tangles with the lead line from ‘Hotel California’, half-inches vocals from ‘Off The Wall’ and gets nowhere near Michael Jackson or ‘Fingertips’-era Stevie Wonder. The other side finds itself caught up in Max Bygraves ‘Deck Of Cards’ with ‘I Wake Up Cryin”, a wet liberal’s wet dream about screwing that never dares say ‘fuck’. ;Zwept, if you’re going to dribble on about sex ten at least talk honest and squalid like Throbbing Gristle’s ‘Something Came Over Me’. Listening to Third World trying to make it big and hit it off with the hip mortgaged middle-class is like turning the pages of a wallpaper catalogue full of bad designs … First they try War, then they try Boz Scaggs, then try Clint Eastwood … forget it, try Prince Far I’s ‘Throwaway Your Gun’ (a real winner) or … … Aswad’s ‘New Chapter’, which I’d almost forgotten about amongst all the Third World press releases and ‘Let Falklands Be Falkland’ gushy crap from CBS. To be straight, tosh, this is the best reggae album I can remember without looking through me record collection. ‘New Chapter’ starts magnificently, a real power, with that bass riff and marching drums. LION. ‘New Chapter’ is built like a tank, true, but sounds too sharp to be anything other than uplifting – Aswad, lyrically silenced in dub, are never dumb. Always well clear of passivity, their music has more challenge coming through an earphone than Third World could muster through a sound system. Songs only hint at other tunes, capture the energy of ‘Junkie Ship’, ‘Voodoo Chile’, ‘How Much Longer’ … any number of good ‘uns, and remind me to play more militant reggae next week. ‘Flikaflame’ and ‘Truth’ (slipping and squawking) keep side one tough, snare tight, bass proud and mix taut, while outside Sunday afternoon lazes in the sun. ‘Bammie Blow’ sees Bammie Rose himself add some light relief with relaxed sax interruptions but I don’t want to be relieved, I want to hear the drums snap and feel the rhythm drive … ‘Tuffest’ finishes the side with jogging snare and crooning horns. Tuff style. Side two keeps turning the screw, and riding the rhythms with sound-experimentation. The only thing that would soften the drive is thankfully absent; Aswad’s biblical babble is ultimately as harmless and hopeless as the cautious discontent of Third World’s lyrics but Aswad win out cos they don’t print their ideology on the sleeve insert. (Dub stays super-hard cos it isn’t burdened with naff lyrics). Listen, blind trust in the inevitable righting of wrongs is too lazy – revolution has to be organised and built for and, anyroad, redemption was always a conservative fixation. Be honest, ‘Back to Africa’ is turning your back on responsibility, junking reality, the easy fantasy (political fetishism) but at least Aswad’s protest poses a threat and gets up the right rich bigot noses.
After a stinging review of the Poetry Olympics album Michael Horovitz, Attila, and Swells respond in the NME, 10 April, 1982. Chris Bohn edited the letters page that week.
Ian Penman’s alleged assessment of the first Poetry Olympics LP begins … etc., etc. Michael Horovitz, Poetry Olympics, Bisley. If you really need yet another Horovitz screed, you can get the rest from Horovitz direct, c/o The Departures, Piedmont, Bisley, Nr, Stroud.
Let’s start with the subject. I repudiate all academic or cliquish “album reviewers” of ‘Poetry Olympics’ review who don’t take the trouble to get their facts right. If I’m a “skinhead” then Ian Penman is a hard hitting, sensitive and informed street level rock journalist, read and respected by thousands of working (and other) class kids all over the country. As for “turning language into a dogmatising ideological struggle” – what an excellent description of the sub-active scribblings of the narcissistic nib person and his friend. Go and “write” for the Henley-On-Thames Gazette, Penman – you won’t annoy so many real people then, and you’ll love the regatta cocktail set, they’ve just your cup of tea. And they like Blue Rondo. Otherwise I might ask X. Moore to use you as toilet paper. Attila The Stockbroker, RAMP (Ranters Against Morley and Penman). Is that “real” as in “clogs” or “estate”? Either way your ideal real seems more caricature than verisimilitude – CB. Don’t listen to them, they’re all sissies – Ian Deadline Midnight Penman
Dear Ian, your review of the Poetry Olympics LP was valid, if a little mis/un informed and negative. You hit on its main failings. “Real” poetry should have soul. I want to get the same tingle in the willy from a poem that Aretha Franklin or Wilson Pickett give, but we got a long way to go yet. Kevin Rowlands and Kevin Turvey (RIP) were/are getting there. The limitations (self-imposed) have just got to be cracked in the right way. The LP isn’t the goods, nor the EP. If your piece wasn’t just a journalistic/careerist exercise then get down to the Lea Centre, Lea Green for the Rant Against Relics Outing on May 1. Swells. Ian thanks you for the invite. He would be there but for the fact we all get a day off on Labour Day – CB
The rather good Northern Oi band get a review in the NME, 27 April, 1985.
Last Rough Cause Darlington Arts Centre The arts centre is too often a peripheral ghetto of nice middle-class aspiration. A vast modern shoebox shunned by the majority of the citizens it was built to serve. It will feature genuine Northumbrian folk music and the Liverpool poets on the same bill as lectures on the relevance of morality in the modern soap opera – delivered by bearded back street boy made good, Alternative Playwright Adrian Prohlierthanthou. And the poor deprived hordes will boycott the event in favour of Ale-houses, bingo, and the box. All credit then to Darlington which risks its arm in the direction of local bands, One thin one, one fat one and an inbetween one on drums. Last Rough Cause field a democratically weighted version of the tried and trusted Angry Young Stripling formula viz. The Jam, Redskins, Three Johns, New Model Army and the Neurotics. Subjects of the songs trotted very neatly over the ground clearly marked as fit to tread for those johnny-gob-lately punk-rocker type bands more influenced by John Selwyn Strummer’s flabby rhetoric than Joshua Rotten’s artful dodginess – The Dole, Violence, Alienation, Borstal, Getting Glued Up and so on and so on … The tunes, and tunes there were in plenty, shone all the more for being saddled with such ropey lyrics. Big, beefy constructs dripping with real gravy and reeking with the power chord-assisted stink of adolescent sexual frustration. If ever in Darlington – well worth a visit. Chuck Grimshaw
The manager of The Redskins, Adrian Collins has just been fined £200 and bound over for two years for announcing (whilst drunk) “Here comes Maggie Thatcher’s Boot Boys” as a mounted bobbie loomed near at the York v. Arsenal match. This was deemed to be akin to inciting as riot. For the same fine and sentence he could probably have forced three pensioners to drink poodle’s blood and beaten them up and killed an entire cricket team. He will be appealing (if you don’t think he’s appealing enough as it is)…
Anti-Social Workers reviewed in Sounds, 26 May, 1984.
Anti-Social Workers LSE
Don’t let the moniker put you off, negative they’re not. An ASW set is one hell of a punk reggae party mix of thinking fun. The fab four, three blokes and one girl, groove about the stage with dance steps borrowed from Bananarama and toast over reggae backing tapes in a way that recalls the Fun Boy Three. Girl singer Paula looks very French and stunning, Tim the Skin looks so innocent you’d think butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, Mark is a Simon Le Bon lookalike, while Paul’s the real live wire natural frontman and the angriest of the combo. They’re four complete individuals whose diverse personalities combine in a totally complementary manner that makes for a compelling rant ‘n’ rap attack. With songs about race, class, laughs, and underdogs winning, ASW are the whoopee cushion of political protest, while their Mad Professor backings recall a heavier mixture of 2-Tone and classic Trojan. Jerry Dammers would make an ideal producer for their next vinyl outing. At the moment ASW are where it’s at. Along with Billy Bragg, the Redskins, Billy Mayell and The Farm, they’re in the frontline pushing a message of hope and survival. They’re not dogmatists cos they crack their faces too often for that. And they ain’t poseurs, cos they move too well. They’re an iron fist behind a beery grin. I’d prefer to see them playing with a band rather than singing to backing tapes, though I suppose it’s all good training for Top Of The Pops.