Tag Archives: Seething Wells

Redskins Revue

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.

Redskins Revue
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.

Jane Wilkes

Swells On Smack

Seething Wells reads into the heroin trade, NME, 9 November, 1985.

Heroin Thrills The Businessman
Big Deal – The Politics Of The Illicit Drugs Business
Various (Pluto £4.50)

This collection of essays varies greatly in style and presentation. A piece on women and addiction by Betsey Ettore is little more than series of dry statistics stuck together with dull lifeless prose whilst Drugs, Style And Money by Lee O’Bryan manages to make several interesting points about the changing social usage of heroin (now that is is no longer the exclusive preserve of the rich kid), despite being written in a sociological shorthand where empiricism and generalisation are clumsily combined. And fashion journalist Robert Elms is quoted as an expert on working-class youth culture.
It is in the chapters Serious Business by Roger Lewis and Love Seeds And Cash by Tim Maylon that the thick veil of humbug that surrounds Thatcher and Reagan’s ‘crusade’ against drugs is ripped away. The fact that Thatcher has sacked hundreds of customs officials is well known and the interest that the Drug Squad takes in cannabis users, presumably at the expense of investigations into heroin pushing, is part of street-lore and an accepted truth in most inner-city areas. Lewis and Maylon take a global view of the drugs industry and the level of hypocrisy attained by our wrinkled representatives is made all the more apparent.
The ‘heroin problem’ can be placed fairly and squarely on the good old British Empire which, in the shape of the British East India Company, flooded China with cheap opium in the 19th Century as part of its plan to dominate the Far East.
Today many more economies are totally reliant on the export of opium or finished heroin and many more still on the cultivation of marijuana (lumped together here simply because both substances are illegal in the West). It should be noted that marijuana is America’s second biggest cash crop whilst many Caribbean nations, notably Jamaica, would be bankrupt without the dope-hungry Yanks eager to blow all the ganga grown.
The US turns moral outrage not so much on its home-grown (sic) producers and users but uses it, quite cynically, to whip its smaller neighbours into line with its own expansionist foreign policy (where countries a thousand miles away and more are considered to be in the ‘backyard’). It should also be noted that several US backed terrorist and guerrilla movements – notably the Contras in Central America and the Afghan tribesmen – are funded by their involvement in the illicit drug trade (in the former case marijuana and in the latter heroin), and that involvement is actively encouraged by the CIA, although, ironically, US anti-drug agencies often spend millions of dollars attempting to persuade or force these very same people not to produce or handle the drugs. Consequently, very little actually gets done. It is simply not in the interest of US (and therefore British) foreign policy for these front line troops in “the war against Communism” to be deprived of such lucrative sources of income. And so, at a stroke, all Nancy Reagan’s damp-eyed posturings and all Thatcher’s blistering rhetoric about the horrors of the drug menace become just so much hot air. They don’t give a shit.
William Burroughs once described heroin as “the ideal product . . . the ideal merchandise”, and it is a point that has not gone unnoticed by that class of person who will sell anything – plutonium, rocket launchers, nerve gas – as long as they can be guaranteed a profit, those sleek entrepreneurial types that Mrs Thatcher once referred to as those special people”. Heroin is big business., megabucks, most of which are laundered through legitimate business fronts. Recent US investigations revealed that $2 million of Mafia heroin money was being laundered by respectable New York finance houses. One finance house squealed to its Family friends who were thus able to clear out before the net was tightened any further. Perhaps it would be unwise to ask how many of Reagan and Thatcher’s “entrepreneurial” friends are tainted with such money and what proportion of the filthy lucre ends up in the campaign chests of the Conservative and Republican parties?
As Charlie Marx said: “Capital eschews no profit . . . there is not a crime at which it will not a scruple, not a risk it will not run, even to the chance of its owner being hanged. If turbulence and strife will bring profit, it will freely encourage both.”

Steven Wells

The Voibals

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.”

Suspect Device

X Moore reviews Stiff Little Fingers in the NME, 10 April, 1982.

Mouldy Ol’ Fungus
Stiff Little Fingers

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.

The Revolution Failed.

X. Moore

Swells – Word

Seething Steven Wells reviews a hip hop album, and loves the Fresh Prince, in the NME, 5 December, 1987.

Word (Jive LP,cassette/CD)

First in a series of compilations aimed at the pockets of those unable to afford the six quid that the average 12 inch import will burn you. ‘Word’ is hop hop’s bargain basement.
Tracks here range from the sublime to the freaky. ‘The Bugging Animal Farm’ by Dynasty and Mimi is exactly what it says it is – a farmyard rap whilst jazzy Jeff’s ‘King Heroin’ is a real killer, an anti-droog rap that neither patronises nor preaches, no mean feat.
Old JJ really scores with ‘He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper’ where he teams up with Fresh Prince to produce probably the most skilful and erudite rap ever. Also worth buying Schoolly’s moronic ‘Parkside 5-2’ and The Classical It’s ‘Raps New Generation’, ‘Word’ is the ideal beginners guide to Rap.

Steven Wells

Olympus Has Fallen

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.

Trashed Sensibilities

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.
Ian thanks you for the invite. He would be there but for the fact we all get a day off on Labour Day – CB

Social Surrealism

Seething Wells in the NME, 8 September, 1984.

Here ’tis. the latest, hippest, foulest youth cult shock…
Susan Sez:

Forget Oi! Forget Anti-Pop. Forget Banging-Bits-Of-Of-Metal-Together-And-Wearing-Bob-Dylan-Hats. Meet SOCIAL SURREALISM.
In the space created by the so-called ‘generation gap’ has appeared a poisonous dwarf-child with no love of anything other than casual sex with the disabled and the preservation of its own spotty hide at the expense of all that is decent. The Social Surrealist is a plague. If society is an organism then the SS is a cancer which gnaws at the root of the cerebral cortex and pollutes the blood, sending great streams of foul yellow puss bubbling forth from the nostrils. (eh?-Ed.)
With their heads in the clouds of the Da-Daist angstorm and their feet firmly embedded in the bedrock of Bolshevik politics comes this new bred of angry young men and women. They are annoyed and just a little bit mental. They are on the dole and they read the Daily Mirror. Imagine that Joe Stalin smokes pot and lives in Bradford. Imagine that we face a musical form potent enough to at last free popular culture from the strait jacket of ‘niceness’. I wonder if you can?
So who are these people? I’ll tell you who they are. CO-CO THE DALEK from bleak industrial Hull – a conceptualist outfit consisting entirely of paraplegics who spit into sardine tins and suck unthawed frozen TV dinners. NUKE BUENOS AIRES

In Sickness And In Health

Seething Wells reviews the return of Alf Garnett in the NME, 14 September, 1985.

Wishy-washy liberal STEVEN WELLS considers the return of mild-mannered, shy, retiring Alf and Else.

Sitcoms which actually cause you to laugh rather than cringe, yawn or reach for the ‘off’ switch are rare and getting rarer.
Most of the current dross is dull, laboured and nice to the point of nausea. Writers seem unable to stretch their imaginations past the most basic double-entendres and the feeblest of plots. The typical ’80s sitcom character is a divorced professional in his late 30s living in a semi-detached cocktail cabinet with a pebble-dashed hatchback parked in the driveway.
This it is that American imports like Taxi, Barney Miller and Cheers have received so much undue praise. They may not be great comedy but at least you know that no-one’s going to crack a string of alleged jokes about the mortgage.
When I recently interviewed Mary Whitehouse she claimed that the present trough in TV comedy was the result of a purge of ‘permissive’ writers. I asked her what she would consider an example of good contemporary comedy. After a long pause she suggested The Good Life – a twee nicey-nice show that contains little roughage and has had all the nasty crusts removed. Such programmes convey a cloyingly safe middle-class world view – nothing is challenged, nothing threatened. It is the comedy of conformity.
One show that did attempt to confront rather than cuddle was Till Death Us Do Part. Johnny Speight’s scripting of working class Tory bigot Alf Garnett’s manic rantings were works of classic parody.
Though exaggerated in detail, Garnett was never a stereotype, neither could he be considered a hate figure. The frustration and contradictions of his character were all too real, his racism and fawning affection for the people who kept him in chains far too close to home for most people. He could have been my grandad.
Alf is back, as pathetic as ever, in the sequel In Sickness And In Heath. Gone is the Welfare State pampered Scouse Git who acted as a superb foil for Alf’s vitriolic assaults on sanity. Else is restricted to a wheelchair, increasing the pathos and giving Alf the excuse to launch into a series of cripple-bashing speeches. Indeed, the first episode made much of his resentment at Else’s disablement.
“That’s typical of your National Health Service innit? They gives you a wheelchair but they don;t give you anyone to push it.”
Racism was remarkably underplayed, given that it is for this particular vice that Garnett is most remembered. He uttered one “Sambo” and a couple of lines about the inability of Jewish bodies to accept transplanted organs from blacks. Tame stuff compared to some of the lines from earlier series.
Since the last Till Death. . . we have seen the rise of organised racism in the shape of the various neo-nazi parties who came close to becoming a real political force before the election of the Conservative government in 1979. Thatcher won the election with a campaign that included the “swamped by an alien culture” speech, which could have come straight from the mouth of Garnett – except that it wasn’t funny any more. The attitudes that Speight parodies have become enshrined in legislation.
It is going to be interesting to see how Alf has adapted to living in a post-Lewisham, post-Falklands UK. It will be interesting to see whether, after six years of Thatcher, we can still swallow raving reactionary bigots as figures of fun.
Only if the boot goes in a lot harder.