The anthology Apples and Snakes: Raw and Biting Cabaret Poetry reviewed in Jamming!, number 21, 1984.
Apples and Snakes: Raw and Biting Cabaret Poetry
(Pluto Press, £1.95)
Following the success of the Apples and Snakes cabaret comes this volume of representative work. ‘Here are the rants, raves, screams, and whispers that are the poetry of today’, proclaims the cover.
The intentions of A&S are creditable enough – a return to the idea of poetry as a means of mass communication/information, rather than safe entertainment for a smug elite – though ultimately they are playing to an equally narrow field as their reactionary precursors.
Take Attila the Stockbroker (please!) who reveals his bootboy mentality in ‘Contributory Negligence’ (concerning the beating up of a judge) – ‘He asked for it! He’s rich and snobbish/right wing, racist sexist too!’ Hardly endearing qualities, though merely a listing of traits he knows his ‘hip’ audience will despise, thus justifying his violence.
The original emphasis, it must be remembered, was on performance, and many of these pieces suffer as words on a page. The contributions from John Hegley – hilarious in his deadpan style – appear curious nonstarters in print.
Also, the poets tend to over-reach themselves, writing what they ‘ought’ to, rather than what they know. The most effective pieces come from deeply-felt emotions on a wide range of topics (those by Marsha Prescod, Rory McLeod, Fran Landesman, for example).
Otherwise we have little more than ‘grown -up’ nursery rhymes – the type of crude lavatory humour that typifies most ‘youth’ poetry, from Seething Wells and John Cooper Clarke through to Pat Condell. Politically there is little genuine concern here – were the country ever run by a humane government (a contradiction like ‘living corpse’, but bear with me) this bunch would be at a loss for subject matter.
What is advertised as ‘raw and biting’ is, at the end of the day, as toothless and ineffectual as its declared enemy.
More from Seething Wells’ John Peel Session 18th Nov, 1982.
Steven Wells reviews in the NME, 5 September, 1987.
Let’s face it, Aerosmith are pussies. This is the sort of stuff that won’t fool fans of True Metal for a minute. No, they’ll have their heads buried in Man ‘o’ Wars muscular sweat – and more fool them.
Aerosmith make great metal-pop liberally poisoned with the usual armadillo-down-the-trousers misogyny and suitably tailored to snare as many American musical virgins as possible. It is the music of compromise, as much a part of pop’s big, bland concenus as Mel & Kim or Five Star.
And if it can occasionally throw up something as superb as ‘Walk This Way’ there are those who would claim that it does so only at the expense of ‘street music’s’ life and vitality (ha!).
The difference is that these boys dress up as rockers and that they occasionally (ahem) rock. Apart from a few bummer tracks, this is an album of “superbly crafted” tunes (to get the pop people), followed up with a good ole rock binge to convince Aerosmith fans that they ain’t buying no faggot shit. If you screw yo ears and whack it up to 78 it could, almost (take lots of drugs as well), be Motorhead.
Aerosmith are not quite as good as The Monkees and almost as big as The Beatles.
‘What poets like Benjamin, Attila the Stockbroker, Seething Wells, John Cooper Clarke and Linton Kwesi Johnson have done is to demystify poetry and to make it relevant to those people who are likely to listen.’
Benjamin Zephaniah in a decent interview with Soundmaker, 22 January, 1983.
The first of the ranting poetry spoofs of Seething Wells by Ian McMillan from the NME, 23 April, 1983.
Rodger Mcarthy Mcarthy Mcdoodle
Ninth-generation pedigree poodle
Crufts Supreme Champion once
13 shields and 14 cups
Is vet’s-clinic-check-upped twice a week
‘Cos Mummy knows best
And Mummy knows
That whilst Rodger glows with canine health
Money won from Doggy Shows
Rodger’s worth his weight in gold
Rodger got RABID
Rodger went MAD
Sad to relate that man’s-best-mate
Turns nasty when the virus strikes
Come here Rodger!
Rodger bit of Mummy’s head.
This nautical pub was just off the Haymarket. As well as Apples and Snakes gigs, Billy Bragg also ran a night before he made it big. I was his keyboard stand on a few occasions.
There were some great line ups at Apples and Snakes in the early days, this flier from 1985 has Seething Wells, Levi Tafari, Little Brother, Porky the Poet, Nick Toczek, Surfin Dave, the Mad Kiwi Ranter and more.