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From Adam and the Ants to Zounds and back again, Eyeplug’s punk pages offer fresh prespective on the well-forked annals of punk rock, presenting classic purveyors of the form alongside those snotty young rotters of today.

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Boo Eyeplug acts as webmaster/designer for the Eyeplug site. Not the most social of creatures and with several personality issues, and rather exotic, eccentric tastes for obscure ‘cultish’ stuff which makes his ramblings seem even more sweetly abstract and often annoying.

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June 5, 2015 By : Category : Punk 0 Comment

Action Time Vision – Scenester Reviews

A Story of UK Independent Punk 1976-1979 (4 CD Set)

(CRCDBOX27)

Diamond blades and abrasive discs?

Whether taking issue with every conceivable aspect of their upbringing, proposing radical political solutions, or just raising merry hell in their local scout hut, punk cannot be relegated to the side-lines of the musical past. This comprehensive collection over four CDs, taking in famous and not so famous names alike, and with lavish sleeve notes, is a must-have for anyone with a serious interest in early British punk.

Crashing through the door, the first UK punk single, The Damned’s ‘New Rose’, a growling, leader-straining Rottweiler of a tune that set the standard for sheer, unbridled power. Eater’s ‘Outside View’ has all the shouty, snotty vocals, nodding dog basslines and sheet-metal guitars that were the signature style of most punk bands, but with the surprising addition of phasing on the guitars. It is surely Eater’s finest hour. The Radiators from Space’s ‘Television Screen’ weathers well; a great, classic rock and roll riff with cheery, slightly comic lyrics on the inevitabilities of life. The Cortinas’ punk-by-numbers ‘Fascist Dictator’ still has plenty of punch and some nifty guitar work, but it’s The Drones who get the prize for ‘Lookalikes’, a hard, driving rejection of the idiot conformity within-and without-the punk movement. The Lurkers’ ‘Shadow’, a lo-fi chugger with a fear-response guitar shriek is a solid piece of stalking punk, nicely balanced by The Rezillos spinning, riffing ‘I Can’t Stand My Baby’; Fay Fife’s parodic 60’s trash pop vocals shrieking brilliantly over it all.

999’s ‘I’m Alive’ has enough crotch level guitar and snot-nosed vocal to make it a punk classic, and the sheer excitement of the riff makes it one of the finest on offer here. Johnny Moped’s barking cockney voice injects an element of humour into ‘No-One’, it’s hard, churning riff delivered stony-faced by his capable band. Sham 69’s ‘I Don’t Wanna’ has a thundering riff, but only hints at the greatness that would invade the cosy family friendly culture on BBC’s Top of the Pops. Puncture’s ‘Mucky Pup’ will be recalled with affection by those who felt that punk was way too serious in its early days, as will The Snivelling Shits ‘Terminal Stupid’, a slack, neo-psychedelic confection with Teen/B-Movie imagery. Say what you like, punks could write great titles.

The Vacants’ ‘Worthless Trash’ may be identikit punk, but that echoing, barking vocal and buzzsaw guitar perfectly encapsulates the sound of the period. The Zeros ‘Hungry’ shows a Stooges-infused, more positive side to punk. Maniacs’ joyous racket, Chelsea 77, could have been released in the post punk days, and would probably have got more attention, then. The ringing guitars and full throated, gutter vocal, enriched with stuttering, is an absolute classic. The Outsiders ‘One to Infinity’ has more going on than is immediately apparent and repays repeated listening.

The Killjoys’ ‘Johnny Won’t Get To Heaven’ is a slice of pure, angry confrontation, with Kevin Rowland in his first band, delivering a hoarse, aggressive vocal that is perfect for the style. The magnificently named Johnny and the Self Abusers throw a mean left hook in ‘Saints and Sinners’, while The Unwanted’s ‘Withdrawal’ and The Pigs ‘Youthanasia’ feel more like the speedy, stereotypical punk of the time. The Wasps’ ‘Teenage Treats’ leans towards the power pop that would follow punk later in the decade, and Lockjaw’s ‘Radio Call Sign’ hints at jerky post punk a little before the style was ready.

Neon Hearts squall-like ‘Venus Eccentric’ brings in that rarely used instrument in punk bands, the saxophone, but to little memorable effect. Further proof that punks had a sense of humour, is the Jerks’ ‘Get Your Woofing Dog off me’, but The Panik’s shouty, disgruntled vocals of ‘Modern Politics’ takes us back to punk-a-like territory. Some Chicken’s ‘New Religion’ has all the muddy guitar riffing and complaint rock vocals you would expect, but does little to light the fires at this distance in time.

The Carpettes ‘Radio Wunderbar’ is a pleasing, power pop racket; with The Flys’ singalong ‘Love and a Molotov Cocktail’ may be the best chorus, here. Only the meanest, most curmudgeonly critic would grumble about the inclusion of the Albertos Y Los Trios Paranoias’ gloriously funny ‘Gobbing on Life’. Our first CD closes on a high, with The Only Ones off-kilter, yet beautifully melodic ‘Lovers of Today’ and Suspects’ screaming guitar-infused ‘Nothing to Declare’, playing live at The Vortex.

CD2 opens with the fondly remembered, cross-riff laden Swell Maps’ ‘Read about Seymour’, and passes on to original punk poet Patrik Fitzgerald’s whimsical ‘Safety Pin Stuck In My Heart’. A cracking demo of the Boys’ ‘No Leaders’ opens with harmonics you don’t expect and the great fuzzy guitars you do. The Stoats’ irresistibly cute ‘Office Girl’ proved even punks could be sweet, followed closely by Acme Sewage Co’s riffy but stereotypical ‘I Don’t Need You’. V2’s ‘Speed Freak’, opening with the ever popular air raid siren, launches itself headlong into an insistent guitar hook and stentorian vocal, without distinguishing itself much. Bazoomis’ ‘Give It All to Me’ has more going for it than the average effort, and with a chorus they did well not to put into the title. Raped’s ‘Moving Target’ is more of the same grumble-heavy rock, as is Big G’s ‘I Hate The Whole Human Race’, albeit with a killer guitar churn and a great, music hall chorus.

The thundering battery that opens Subs ‘Gimme Your Heart’ promises and delivers much, and Tubeway Army’s ‘That’s Too Bad’ has none of the icy electronica of their more famous incarnation, but nevertheless a nimble bassline and some neat guitar wash to complement Gary Numan’s signature whine. It’s up to Xtraverts’ ‘Blank Generation’ to inject some bile into the proceedings, but is neutralised by the power pop music hall humour of Fruit Eating Bears’ ‘Door in My Face’. Front’s ‘System’ offers up some excellent twangy guitar and vocals more reminiscent of the early 70’s than the year it’s credited to.

The brilliantly named Satan’s Rats’ ‘You Make Me Sick’ is a standard workout peppered with a clanging guitar solo, but it’s the mighty Stiff Little Fingers who shine here, with the barnstorming ‘Suspect Device’. Menace’s ‘GLC’ takes us back to standard punk shout-a-long, enriched with a chorus that would win them no airplay. The Dyaks’ ‘Gutter Kids’ chiming guitars and homeboy charm has a lot going for it, and Skids obviously hit upon their signature sound early with ‘Reasons’. It has another fine guitar solo in a musical style often blamed wrongly for being totally unmusical. Rudi’s hard to resist ‘Big Time’ fires on all four cylinders from the start, a totally satisfying single.

If your bag happens to be crazed, shouty nonsense, then The Art Attacks ‘I Am A Dalek’ will do for you, Bears’ ‘On Me’ offers a winding bass riff and shouted, soaring vocal that lingers in the mind long after even one listen. O Level‘s ‘Pseudo Punk’ is a standard punker-than-thou slanging match, contrasting with The Members’ ode to the loneliness that characterises many big cities, ‘Solitary Confinement’, because hey, punks can be sensitive too. Nipple Erectors ‘King of the Bop’ is a shambling, bragging rock ‘n’ roll affair, and all the better for it. The Angelic Upstarts ‘The Murder of Liddle Towers’ is perhaps the angriest of all punk singles, the incendiary vocal shredding the air over wild backing, with a truly nerve-jangling interlude. Our second CD closes with Mean Streets’ music hall bop, ‘Bunch of Stiffs’, an indication that, for all the supposed antagonism between punk and rock ‘n’ roll, the two cults remained close cousins.

ATV open the third CD with ‘Action Time Vision’, after which this compilation is named, an elevating song with an insistent repeat riff and Mark Perry’s strangely affecting voice making it a stand out track. Social Security’s ‘I Don’t Want My Heart To Rule My Head’ has more a classic 60’s punk feel to it, all descending chords and yelping vocals. The Tights’ ‘Bad Hearts’ has the feel of a well-produced routine workout, as does Riff Raff’s ‘Cosmonaut’. The Dole’s ‘New Wave Love’ is a breath of fresh air, a little bit of jaunty keyboard in with the buzzing guitars, and with a cheeky lyric. The raw, unprocessed Joy Division perform a V-U inspired ‘Failures’, as muddy and lo-fi as they wanted to be, and as if by way of complete contrast, Leyton Buzzards slap down a punk by numbers ’19 and Mad’. These men would, within a couple of years, be singing ‘Ay y Ay Ay Moosey’ in shiny suits. Demon Preacher lay aside the black Eucharist to treat us to an uninspired girl-baiting ‘Little Miss Perfect’, followed by the much more listener friendly ‘Just another Teenage Rebel’, a danceable slice of near-surf by The Outcasts.

In amongst all this dumb furore, there were some well-read souls who would wield a scalpel to the zeitgeist. By the pricking of my thumbs, it’s The Fall, and their full frontal attack on abusive mental hospital staff, ‘Pyscho Mafia’. This song sounds as powerful, as uncompromising and as far-removed from the general run of pop music as it did then. Chelsea’s ‘Urban Kids’ is one of their less distinguished sides, but no matter, Protex’s ‘Don’t Ring Me Up’ has plenty of classic punk riffs and a tune that would cheer up a manic depressive. The Cravats’ shambling ‘Gordon’ has a neo-psychedelic charm not lost on this reviewer, with the punk by numbers football chant ‘England 77’ by Horrorcomic in hot pursuit.

UK Subs do what they do best with ‘C.I.D.’, a hard, driving warning to those in search of vicarious thrills. Spizzoil’s ‘6000 Crazy’ sets the tone for veteran punk Spizz’s many incarnations, an avant-garde guitar-pounder strangely reminiscent of ‘Do The Strand’. Brighton’s The Dodgems ‘I Don’t Care’ (full version, as threatened) has all the humour that some folk felt punk lacked. The Users can’t resist a good driving riff, with ‘Kicks in Style’, with Peter and the Test Tube Babies helpfully keeping us up to date with the news in ‘Elvis Is Dead’. The Ruts’ magnificent ‘In a Rut’ takes pride of place on this third CD, its tough love message particularly poignant considering the tragic fate of singer Malcolm Owen.

The amusingly named Disco Zombies’ ‘Drums over London’ is a good example of why only some bands can get away with titles like this. The quirky Nicky & The Dots ‘Never Been So Stuck’ reminds us why punk was a broader church than it was ever given credit for. The Shapes childish chugger ‘Wot’s For Lunch Mum?’ (Not B***s Again) perhaps beggars the reply ‘Sh*t With Sugar On’. No Way’s hard, shrieking, grinding ‘Breaking Point’ is a standout, followed by a cheeky Joy Division-like secret track. The Wall’s reggae tinged ‘New Way’ has a lot going for it, and our third CD closes with The Hollywood Brats’ guitar-mangling, shouty madness, ‘Sick on You’, taking punk to its inevitable conclusion.

With our hearts in our mouths, we pass on to CD4, opening with the mighty Adam and the Ants, swaggering their way to fame and fortune with ‘Zerox’, albeit in different directions. If anyone out there can tell whether Notsensibles’ ‘Death to Disco’ is for or against that popular style of music, please let me know. The Vice Creems’ rough-as-robbery ‘Danger Love’ is a delight to the ears, and at least primes you for the macabre horror comic strip of Murder the Disturbed’s ‘DNA’. Speaking of comics, The Cockney Rejects’ ‘Flares and Slippers’ would bring a smile to the face of the worst type of misery guts. Psykik Volts’ knew more about music than they’re letting on, in their classically-inspired march, ‘Totally Useless’.

The Molesters get five points for the band name and a three for effort with their ‘The End of Civilization’, a capable dirge that bears up to repeated listening. The Newtown Neurotics take us back to basic, snotty punk with ‘Hypocrite’, and nothing wrong with that. Pure Hell’s unnecessary cover of ‘These Boots Are Made for Walking’ adds little more than a speed riff to the old 60’s chestnut. Fire Exit’s ‘Timewall’ shows us a richer colour palette than the standard punk thrash of the period, and a flashy guitar solo to boot. The Pack’s ‘King of Kings’ shows the fury and promise which would later transform into Theatre of Hate. Steroid Kiddies’ ‘Dumb Dumb’ has welcome elements of 60’s punk buoying it up, and English Subtitles ‘Time Tunnel’ takes us in a definite post punk direction with its melancholic guitar and military beat.

The Proles’ ‘Soft Ground’ also leans toward a neo-psychedelia, underpinned by standard punk guitar, and The Adicts urgent, slicing guitar figure and shocked vocal on ‘Easy Way Out’ once again elicits the fear response, to great effect. The Dark’s ‘My Friends’ has no such sepulchral corners, a fun love song to that drug of the nation, television. The magnificently named Woody & The Splinters’ rather ruin it by making a record, in this case, the busy but ultimately uninteresting ‘I Must Be Mad’. A similar fate awaits Victim’s childhood joke, ‘Why Are Fire Engines Red’. The X-Certs’ ‘Anthem’ approaches country picking but loses itself in its desire to go somewhere fast. F-X’s ‘Slag’ is more fun than you might expect, and the sound effects and stage cockney voices propel punk into the music hall it surely had some vestigial roots in.

The Rivals’ ‘Future Rights’ moody Who-like opening pays dividends, a great marching beat that raises itself head and shoulders above the usual output of the times. Silent Noise’s ‘I’ve Been Hurt (So Many Times Before) can’t quite decide whether to sound like the Mancunian love-lorn band of legend, or the West London spikies, but I’ll not hold it against them. Vice Squad’s screaming tirade, ‘Nothing’ is a fair example of the ‘Don’t Mend What Isn’t Broken’ school of thought, and The Prefects ‘Things in General’ takes the prize for the most disinterested title, and song, in the whole collection. The Licks’ ‘1970’s Have Been Made in Hong Kong’ couldn’t possibly live up to its eloquent title, as its staccato punk stodge proves.

It’s left up to Fatal Microbes to deliver the chilling parable ‘Violence Grows’ and Poison Girls’ searing attack on Big Pharma and its handmaiden, psychiatry, in ‘Under The Doctor’, to close this eclectic, varied and above all, honest collection of sounds from the first punk era. From a snotty, teenage craze to viable all-ages lifestyle in just a few years, punk regularly thumps its sweaty fist on the table, to remind us that not only is it still very much alive, but it’s got no time for the likes of you. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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December 3, 2016 By : Category : Front page Music Punk Reviews Tags:, ,
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Andrew Matheson (The Hollywood Brats) Interview

The Hollywood Brats: Probably the best band you never heard of…

I got a few questions about The Hollywood Brats and your new book but we do not have to follow the script, we can just see where the conversation leads us.

AM: ‘Scripts are rubbish, let’s just trot, let’s go crazy. I am at the Dorchester actually having a little bit of a bash for The Hollywood Brats as the album came out last week and a paperback version of the book came out yesterday, so we have been knocking them back so please forgive me if we go off base here.’

So it’s an album and a book launch?

AM: ‘Indeed and it’s sponsored by Grey Goose so we have had a few vodka’s here. Oh by the way if you want a nice Vodka go for Grey Goose.’

Firstly, I would just like to talk about your memoir ‘Sick On You’, which is your failed attempt to turn The Hollywood Brats into rock n roll stars. It is a hilarious read and it has been almost impossible to put the book down. Did you find writing the book difficult?

AM: ‘It was not difficult to write at all the whole story is insane it was completely bonkers. I mostly worked from diaries, Brady (Euan Brady, Brats guitarist) and yours truly kept meticulous diaries although I did have to amend them somewhat as they were a bit salacious.’

What was you inspiration for starting a band in the first place? In the book, you talk with great humour about your hatred for music that was around in the early 1970’s. It would be fair to assume that this was one of your inspirations for starting a band?

AM: ‘Exactly, hatred is one of the purest emotions and I still have banks of it I really do. I absolutely detested music at that time, it was denim, it was old, bald guys, it was drum solos, guitar solos that went on forever and played by people who could barely play and it was bloody gongs, do you remember gongs? That music drove me nuts and still drives me nuts to this day and something had to be done and I thought I was the man to do it’.

Speaking of ‘gongs’, a man who did occasionally play one was Keith Moon and apparently he delivered a tray of drinks to you and the band after a gig at the Speakeasy?

AM: ‘Yes he did and he was a really lovely man and also a bit of a champion for us in the ensuing weeks until he forgot who we were, (laughs) but he was very nice to us and what a gentleman too and he was one of my heroes – and what a brilliant drummer.’

The Brats were originally called The Queen and you hit Freddie Mercury at The Marquee over band naming rights.

AM: ‘You hit Freddie Mercury you are going to have your knuckles scarred by those teeth right? Actually, I just gave him a backhand and I was just trying to swat him away as one would with a Middle Eastern fly. It wasn’t anything you can consider a fight let me tell you.

I want to talk a little about the debut album, which was recorded at Olympic Studios.

AM: ‘What a fabulous studio that was probably the best studio ever and probably is to this day, the types of characters that were there when we were recording was astounding too, The Eagles, David Bowie, The Bee Gees, Donovan.

Didn’t David Bowie walk in during one of your recording sessions and said he loved one of your songs. I think the song was ‘Nightmare’?

AM: ‘Yeah, Bowie did come in and he also let us listen to what he was doing at the time and it was the brilliant ‘Rebel Rebel’, (Hums the guitar riff) brilliant riff and then he came in and heard what we were doing, because that was the norm at Olympic, you know you could just wander around and listen to what each other were doing etc. Bowie liked what we were doing, he nodded his head like mad and tapped his stack-heeled toes and said ‘luv it! luv it!’. He was a lovely man and a low-key gentleman as well.’

The album did not get released at the time. How did you feel about that?

AM: ‘I immediately looked for a razor blade to slit my wrists (laughs) and not finding one. It was heartbreaking because I knew we had delivered something. But alas timing is everything and to quote from the Bible (not that I read one) is that ‘to everything, there is a season’.

It has been argued that the album is a Proto-Punk classic and listening to it now it has not aged a day.

AM: We delivered what we wanted to deliver and that is a good thing but nobody at the time wanted it at all. Everybody hated us and the closest we came to a deal was with Bell Records or some such idiotic label like that, who had people like David Cassidy on it and then they heard the Brats and told us they did not want anybody who sounds like that on their label. That was just the prevailing attitude at the time.’

Well the album was delivered with attitude and it is a dirty gritty in your face record and it could be argued that it was an influence on Punk Rock.

AM: ‘There was no Punk Rock when we actually made it and we recorded it in a vacuum. Everything was so vacuous at the time and all we knew was that everything needed to be shaken-up, grabbed by the lapels and driven mad. I mean you did not want your parents or your older brothers liking what you were into too. Rock n Roll had gone off the beam at that time, so we were trying to address that core problem’.

I would just like to return to the book, which has been critically acclaimed. Are you flattered by the positive response to your memoir?

AM: ‘I am very happy about it and people have said such nice things about it. It is a bit difficult for me to answer this question but yes I am very pleased at the way it has been received. It has warmed the cockles of my soul let’s put it that way.’

Well it is an incredibly funny book and it has the humour of Spinal Tap except The Hollywood Brats were so much poorer.

AM: ‘(Laughs) so you have a sense of humour? I like that’.

I hate to mention this but I would argue that too many comparisons have been made between yourselves and the New York Dolls. It is clear from the book that any musical or aesthetic comparison was a coincidence only.

AM: ‘It makes good sense to mention it and it is just one of those bloody weird things that happens in this world. When we first saw their picture in the NME, we were aghast as they were doing a similar thing to what we were doing. I respect the New York Dolls, but we wiped the floor with them musically’.

You were given a copy of the Dolls debut album and you were not that impressed by what you heard.

AM: ‘No, not at all because we had built them up in our minds so much and we were like, oh my God how can there be another one of us? When we heard their music we wiped our brows and went phew. We didn’t dislike the Dolls or anything like that, but we thought this was serious competition until we dropped the needle on the record.’

Cherry Red Records have recently reissued the album with a bonus disc of previously unreleased material, and after four decades since the album was recorded do you think The Hollywood Brats are finally getting their dues?

AM: ‘Well I don’t think there are any dues. You do what you do and you just put it out there and the devil takes the high most. You put something out in the marketplace and let the marketplace decide and if they were not ready then but ready now, so be it. I am not bothered in the slightest by the way, I am having fun and what is happening now has engendered loads of new opportunities for me. I am having a blast. For God’s sake I am at the Dorchester having a party and if you want Vodka then make it Grey Goose.’

I have heard a rumour that the BBC is making a documentary?

AM: ‘They are and I am being filmed right now as we speak’.

Really? Are you involved behind the scenes? What part are you playing in its production?

AM: ‘I am the boss of everything that is being recorded by the BBC except your show. You’re the boss of that.’

You recently appeared at Glastonbury. How did that go?

AM: ‘Glastonbury was absolutely amazing. I had never been before and it was utterly amazing, the people were fantastic and it was as muddy as I had been told it would be.’

How did a dapper man like yourself deal with all that mud?

AM: ‘They told me I would have to wear wellies. Can you imagine me wearing willies? I told them no chance and I managed to get to the stage looking immaculate.’

So you were there to promote the book?

AM: ‘Yes I was applauded on and applauded and cheered off and they gave me drinks throughout the talk, and that is how I judge the standard of how things are going (laughs).’

Finally, I have heard that the Brats have reformed. Can we expect a tour soon?

AM: ‘You know what? I read that in Mojo recently and I thought is that right? I better get singing or something. We have had offers from all around the globe and who knows. We are all alive and well and we all have our own hair, which is essential for me and if you’re going to reform and one of us were bald I wouldn’t allow it. To answer your question yes I think it might happen and you will be the first to know.’ ‘Oh and by the way, if your’re thinking of having a Vodka then try Grey Goose’.

GRAB YOUR COPY HERE


Longjohns recent Hollywood Brats LP review is below

In 1971 an 18-year-old Andrew Matheson arrived in London with just a guitar, a few quid and a head full of ideas about forming the perfect Rock n Roll band. Matheson drew up a five-point list that these band members would have to adhere to and the rules were simple. You had to “think like a star’’, have great hair (preferably straight hair), must be slender, young, and absolutely no facial hair and above all no girlfriends.

Matheson found his kindred spirits in the shape of Norwegian Stein Groven (Casino Steel), Euan Brady, Wayne Manor and Lou Sparks. These members would form the nucleus of The Hollywood Brats and Matheson’s attempts to turn these disparate bunch of Brats into bone-fide rock stars failed abysmally, and this glorious failure is told in hilarious detail in his recent memoir, Sick On You: The Disastrous Story of Britain’s Great Lost Punk Band.

The Hollywood Brats also recorded what might be considered one of the first British Proto-Punk albums of the 1970s, and it has been re-mastered and re-packaged by Cherry Red Records as a vital 2-CD set, which includes their one and only long player, plus a bonus disc of  “Brats Miscellany’’, featuring, rarities, a few cover versions and a number of tracks that were muted for a second album. The set also includes detailed liner notes with written contributions from Matheson and Casino Steel.

As this album suggests The Hollywood Brats should have carved out a niche for themselves, but the tale of the Brats really is a tale of starvation, struggle, comedic bad timing and bad luck. Whatever momentum The Brats were starting to build-up was then quickly thwarted, when Matheson opened up the NME one morning in 1972 and what looked back at him was a band that were the total mirror image of themselves.

The New York Dolls were another tough Rock n Roll band with an equal amount of androgynous glamour, but they had the added bonus of having a record deal, a publicity machine and (sadly for the Brats) a tour booked for the U.K.  The comparisons visually and musically are obvious, and although both bands ploughed a similar musical furrow it is a mere coincidence only as Matheson explained that he had never heard of the Dolls until he picked up the NME on that fateful day in 1972.

The Hollywood Brats debut album is played fast and loud and has the swaggering attitude of the Rolling Stones and T-Rex thrown in for good measure.  However, the Brats were amplified just that little bit louder, and took the gender-bending pretensions of Glam that little bit further by smearing themselves in “Cleopatra Eye Liner’’ and “Cherry Blaze Outdoor Girl Lipstick’’. One can only imagine Matheson preening on stage in his glam rags, puckering up his ruby red lips to sing The Crystals classic “Then He Kissed Me’’ (featured here) to the baying violent mobs that frequently attended their live shows.

It would be too easy to get side-tracked by the doomed failure of The Hollywood Brats but two things should be remembered. Firstly they looked great and steered well clear of food encrusted facial hair, “upper lip fringes’’ and the dirty denim, which was so prevalent in the 1970s. Secondly, they recorded a lean, mean, muscular album that had songs that were full of bravado, wit and spades full of nihilism.

The album never saw the light of day in the U.K but was subsequently released in Norway before Cherry Red Records happened across a copy of this ultra rare album in 1978. It is largely thanks to them and Matheson’s brilliant memoir that The Hollywood Brats have not been confined to the dustbin of musical history. Although the album may not be an out and out classic there are still a handful of great songs on it, plus it has the added bonus of being played by glamorous lady boys draped in feather boas and dripping in lipstick, mascara and red nail varnish.

The album has attitude and it sounds lean, raw, and dirty and as Matheson explains in his memoir he was “driven by the purest of all emotions, which was hatred’’. Matheson made no attempt to hide his complete disdain for music that he considered was full of it’s own self-importance and he argued that “music needed to be grabbed by the lapels and shaken up’’.

Matheson steered these London ‘belles’ away from standard boring guitar noodling and dull drum solos and the ubiquitous Prog Rock pretensions that were so prevalent at the time. Instead The Brats aimed for something much more visceral, efficient, tough and above all sexy and provocative, but sadly for the Brats no one at the time was listening.

Listening to the album will probably draw the listener to the conclusion that The Hollywood Brats sound like a hybrid of the Stones and the New York Dolls. However, the album should be taken on it’s own merit, and there are a handful of great tracks, including album opener, Chez Maximes, Nightmare, Courtesan, Zurich 17, and Tumble With Me, which are all Glam rockers, have tough guitar riffs and sound equally trashy and vicious.

However, the album has the one stone cold classic and it is the hate-filled closing song Sick On You.  The vitriol poured out by Matheson towards a girl he no longer loves is delivered with such snarling venom and when he spits the opening words “you wanna know what it’s like condemned to live with you, it’s some kind of suicide, some phase that I went through’’, the moniker “Proto Punks’’ may indeed be fully justified.

There is definitely a correlation between The Hollywood Brats debut album and Matheson’s memoir that they are almost mutually dependent on each other, and should be enjoyed together. This album has the swagger and attitude you would associate with the Brats Glam Rock peers but, has the added impetus of rage and frustration thrown in for good measure. The Hollywood Brats were condemned to failure and obscurity but their combustible anger filled music would inadvertently manifest itself in Punk Rock, so perhaps we should be thankful for small mercies.

BUY IT HERE VIA CHERRY RED

Long John

Charming Chap and a new sharp force for Eyeplug, being a toppermost writer with a keen appreciation for things of quality and distinction. A well known face on the London ‘Mod’ Scene but with an open mind and heart. Got a strange interest in Pirates? One to watch out for!

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July 26, 2016 By : Category : Articles Features Front page Garage Glam Interviews Music Punk Rock Tags:, , , ,
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Scenester LP Reviews January 2016

Eater

eater

The Album (Anagram Records CDPunk143)

Among the many punk originals, Eater had something on their side which few others had; youth. Drummer Dee Generate was just fourteen years old, the rest not much older, when they first played live, and went on to be supported by such luminaries as The Damned and Johnny Moped.

Eater did not go on to have the stellar careers that some of the originals did, and split in 1979 after just one LP and five singles. This compilation CD has the lot, and some live tracks to boot. Opinion was divided about the young band at the time, some feeling they were standard punk fayre, some pumping them up as the true voice of the movement. However you feel about this rough ‘n’ ready artefact, at least you’ll be spared the sanitisation of remixes and remasters.

From the word go, ‘The Album’ is a primitive affair, the no-frills plicking guitar and threatening voice on ‘You’, an early challenge. ‘Public Toys’ takes on a more energetic, rangy riff, with a ringing guitar that might just have picked up a few stray fans from the Buzzcocks camp.

‘Room for One’s hard, fast, pub-rock opening, bursting into strident rock ‘n’ roll is an early standout track, in a surprisingly reflective relationship song. It’s not long before the boys are back into basic punk chug along mode, however, with ‘Lock It Up’, one which holds hints of the aforementioned stage-sharing Mancunian band.

Their totally scuzzy cover of ‘Sweet Jane’ gives the song a harder, faster treatment than might be expected from such a youthful bunch, and fails to please this reviewer, but their cover of Alice Cooper’s ‘Eighteen’ (retitled here ‘Fifteen’) encapsulates the adolescent frustration in its primal riff and does not neglect Alice’s schlock-horror overtones.

‘I Don’t Need It’s snarling delivery and dual note start-up, masks a bit of a departure, construction wise, later in the song, with a (gasp!) guitar solo being smuggled in. ’Anne’ continues the trad r ‘n’ r theme, with a decidedly Chuck Berry style riff that proves that Eater were no line-toers in the punk universe.

The nasty, fuzzy riff, heavy breathing and resentful vocal tones of ‘Get Raped’ would have won few prizes for sensitivity then, let alone today, but only make this listener wonder what future generations will make of late 90’s, early noughties rappers and their own particular attitudes.

The predictably basic ‘Space Dreamin’ holds no surprises, despite the interesting title, and the too-fast cover of ‘Queen Bitch’, which also pays scant regard to key or atmosphere is another that should possibly have been worked on more.

‘My Business’ fine opening riff, rising tune and better than usual lyrics is a strong contender for best track, but followed, disastrously, by their cover of ‘Waiting For The Man,’ its opening, a baby’s toy squawk, and its ending a sudden death playoff that comes as a merciful release. ‘My Business’ fine opening riff, rising tune and better than usual lyrics is a strong contender for best track, but followed, disastrously, by their cover of ‘Waiting For The Man,’ its opening, a baby’s toy squawk, and its ending a sudden death playoff that comes as a merciful release.

‘No More’ shows the band back on form in this driving riff, with its classic punk two-note guitar solo, and ‘No Brains’ comes on like a totally demented Beach Boys parody, achieved by a roaring vocal, ringing guitars, speeding up to a more conventional delivery later on.

The LP closes with the jokey, join-in of ‘Luv and Piece’, starting out as a Velvets-lite, turning into a wild rant.

‘The Singles Plus’ takes us on a more concentrated study of the period, the snotty urgency of ‘Outside View’ and the pointed threat of its close cousin, ‘You’ as good an opening duo as any.

‘Thinking of the USA’s churning, psyche-like riff and sneering lyrics ironically typifies punk singles of the period, and the slight echo on ‘Space Dreamin’ improves it no end.

‘Michael’s Monetary System’ leans once more into psyche-territory, albeit one inhabited by a cockney Syd Barrett with a world weary view, tempered by a no-frills cover of ‘Jeepster’, falling firmly into the ‘shouldn’t have bothered’ camp.

The live tracks, ‘Debutante’s Ball’, tightly riffed and with a typically angry vocal, is a lost gem, and together with ‘No More’, deserve a place on the punk curriculum. The slicing guitars of ‘Thinking of the USA’ complement the vocal perfectly, and the MC5 – a-like ‘Holland’ careers about like a runaway car.

‘What She Wants She Gets’ has a great 70’s riff and singalong chorus that raises it above much of the rest of the collection, and ‘Reach For The Sky’ continues the lively, rising theme, pointing toward a post-punk career path for these boys, which did not, in the event, pan out.

‘Typewriter Babies’ pitches a descending riff with great positive upturns and scathing lyrics, and ‘Point of View’s opening maelstrom of hard, driving guitars suggest that Eater may have been born a little too late for their strong, early 70’s rock leanings.

‘I Don’t Need it’ takes us back to basic punk scowling, (but it is very good punk scowling), and ends with a shaking, thumping ‘Fifteen’.

Punk’s present day mainstream status was unthinkable in those far off days of the late 70s, when the trappings of the style were enough to get you beaten up by your local Neanderthals, but it does the soul good to recall what early punk sounded like, in all its flaws as well as its glories. BUY HERE!

Colin Blunstone

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Planes & Never Even Thought (Cherry Red CDMRED665)

Available for the first time on CD courtesy of Cherry Red Records, Colin Blunstone’s fourth and fifth solo LPs, originally recorded for Elton John’s Rocket Records, surfaced in 1976 and 1978. The John/Taupin connection doesn’t end there, as the unbeatable song writing team’s ‘Planes’ is the title track of the first mentioned LP. There are plenty of self-penned numbers here, however.

‘Planes’

The soft rock and country sound of mainstream mid-70’s is very evident here, with ‘Beautiful You’, its country feel fleshed out with brass and drum, and its robust beat giving a country/soul tinge to this piece of whimsy.

Title track ‘Planes’ is easily the best track here, a gentle swinger with subtle orchestration, light touch keyboard and sensitive singing by Colin, and small wonder it became a single.

‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ starts with a tense note, contrasting with the lyrics, a gentle roller with a little slide guitar, slightly reminiscent of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Dead Flowers’.

‘Ain’t It Funny’s piano backing reinforces the wry humour of this give-and-take meditation on happiness.

Dennis Wilson and Mike Love’s maudlin ‘Only With You’ is an interesting choice of cover from ‘Holland’, and benefits from the lush orchestration.

‘I Can Almost See The Light’ is another high spot, a good soft rocker with tweaked guitar sound, and a rousing chorus.

‘Good Guys Don’t Always Win’ continues the jaunty soft rock theme, this time with a hint of soul in a very free and easy treatment.

The Kiki Dee classic ‘Loving and Free’ is given a subtle string and guitar treatment and Colin’s voice handles the song well, if a little hastily delivered.

Colin’s own ‘Dancing In the Dark’s private sort of love song is wistful and nothing profound, and ultimately fails to engage.

‘It’s Hard to Say’ has flute and guitar to evoke the right atmosphere in this song of relationship breakup.

‘(Care of) Cell 44’ is a welcome return to a bouncier sort of tune with a more carefree atmosphere, and some great harmony backing that show Colin’s voice at its best.

‘Tell Me How’s galloping, plucky guitar and ‘50-‘s style harmonies make for an insubstantial closing track.

‘Never Even Thought’

‘Never Even Thought’ opens with a lightweight but nevertheless pleasing soft rock number, ‘I’ll Never Forget You’, with some good, soaring verses.

‘Lovelight’s gentle guitar arpeggio and high, bright guitar notes lay out a strolling number with a sweet finish.

‘Ain’t It Funny’s initial solemnity gives way to relaxed chords, a lush string backing and a plaintive vocal from Colin.

‘Who’s That Knocking ?’ has a ‘30’s shuffle figure to it, a sweet sax break and some ‘gurly’ vocals, but all a little insubstantial for this listener.

Title track ‘Never Even Thought’s gentle love song, with a good vocal, a light touch guitar and slightly ominous piano chords gives in to a maelstrom in the middle, leading to a surprising funky break that makes the backing far better than the actual song.

‘Touch And Go’s supper club vibe does Colin’s sensitive vocal no favours.

‘You Are The Way For Me’ is far better than its predecessor, with its exciting, bouncing beat, good chorus and lead out.

‘Photograph’ sees us back in late night club territory, all lush piano and organ, with some deft guitar/piano interplay, but the effect is largely wasted on this lightweight song.

‘Do Magnolia Do’s pumping, military beat and soulful organ work is a fine closing track, but it’s doubtful whether anyone would still be listening, after the paucity of engaging tracks on offer here. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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January 4, 2016 By : Category : Front page Music Punk Reviews Rock Tags:, , , ,
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The Runaways – Scenester Reviews

The Runaways (Cherry Red Records CDMRED 237)

Girl groups are nothing new, and this was also true back in the mid-70’s, when a gang of teenagers kicked their way through the walls of the male-dominated music industry and staked their claim to rock immortality. Managed by the notorious Kim Fowley, equal parts Svengali, hustler and guide, Cherie Currie, Lita Ford, Jackie Fox, Joan Jett and Sandy West strapped on their guitars and took the boys on at their own game. Numerous line-up changes followed in their brief career, but it’s the first US LP our friends at Cherry Red have reissued here, and it’s this CD reissue I’ll confine my comments to.

The girls hit the ground running with ‘Cherry Bomb’, a lurking, threatening rocker that refuses to take ‘no’ for an answer, turning from a slow tease in the first three verse lines, to the haggard screech of a crone in the last. Ecstatic moans punctuate the song, ending on a glorious, Sweet-style metallic echo.

The hard, aggressive blues opening to ‘You Drive Me Wild’ leads into a straight ahead rock ‘n’ roller penned by Joan Jett, full of one-on-one sexual promise, an alternating riff and spiced up with plenty of yelping vocals and more and more ecstatic moans.

The glam racket of ‘Is It Day or Night?’ is another winner, from the pen of Kim Fowley, portraying the low-life ennui in the aftermath of a night – or a lifetime – spent pursuing life’s more hazardous pleasures. With lyrics like ‘Novocaine Lips’ and some great, crashing false endings, what other decade could this song have come from?

Proving that the basic rock riff always holds good, ‘Thunder’ takes us on a classic journey through love, drawing on age-old imagery of natures’ indomitable powers, held together with an insistent bass riff and Cherie’s voice handling the melody well.

Mention 70’s sleaze and the blue mask of Lou Reed makes its spectral appearance on the studio wall. The Runaways’ fine take on Lou’s eternal ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’ has some surprisingly funky elements thrown in for good measure, nice bass runs, cowbells and some dry-throated screams to take it far enough away from the original to make it a true cover version, and not the usual obligatory tribute.

Cherie’s voice is loaded with suggestion in ‘Lovers’, a demanding, teasing song from Jett and Fowley, with a kiss-off that demands a reply.

Lou seems to have been implanted into the band’s DNA, if ‘American Nights’ is anything to go by. A distant relative of ‘Sweet Jane’, with fuzzy guitars proving a nice touch, in a characteristic song of youthful, dangerous adventure.

The basic two-note riff and Joplin-style shriek which opens ‘Blackmail’ gets your attention without any effort. A hard and nasty fuzz guitar solo in a song as literal as it is effective, Cherie’s voice ranges from a rough growl to a hacking cough as she spells out the terrible fate her former lover will face.

The Rolling Stones’ style opening riff of ‘Secrets’ sets the scene well, a tale of deceit and double lives with a whiff of the forbidden about the relationship. The feedback lead out is subtly handled, and a first on the LP.

A great, chugging bass line and a nasty/sexy voice opens The Runaways’ ‘Dead End Justice’. Basically a 1950’s style female juvenile delinquent film script, set to high-octane 1970’s rock music, with lyrics as hard as cheap nails; it’s the perfect (getaway) vehicle. Even the imaginary film title hides in the lyrics, ’Dead End Kids In The Danger Zone’ as our teen protagonists go from teasing the boys in their skin tight jeans and provoking fights, all in one brew and pharma-fuelled night. The inevitable come-uppance lands the pair in jail, at the tender mercies of police, wardens and other prisoners. Our girls plot their escape their voices a low whisper, but… Well, I’ll let you guess the rest if you’re too mean, or too snobbish, or just too plain dull to buy the LP. It’s a magnificent way to end, full of the 70’s ambitious stage-stylings, youthful swagger and later, the desperate nostalgia for an era they were too young to remember, and the girls bring it off brilliantly for the age it was minted in.

GRAB YOUR COPY HERE

Scenester

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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September 29, 2015 By : Category : Front page Garage Glam Music Picks Punk Reviews Rock Tags:, , , , ,
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The Incredibly Strange Music Box: LP Review

The Incredibly Strange Music Box: 60 Songs from The Cramps’ Crazy Collection (Righteous Psalm 23 85D)

CRAMPS CRAZY COLLECTION

Anyone picking up this monster compilation has probably already guessed that legendary schlock horror rockers The Cramps didn’t get their chops from listening to Eagles LPs. Come to think of it, they probably didn’t learn their licks here either, but the inspiration behind their scuzzy 60’s rock ‘n’ roll formula lurks in the bit stream of this double CD.

First up, one of the more familiar names of Rock n Roll history, Mickey & Sylvia treat us to their jittery, battle of the sexes washboard shuffle, ‘No Good Lover’. The Collins Kids’ innocent-sounding name leads us into a false sense of security, ready for their licentious ‘Whistlebait’, with a strangulated boy (or is it a girl?) vocal. Skip Manning’s basic Elvis grunt is enriched with fine distorted guitar on ‘Ham ‘n‘ Eggs’, a slightly comical take on the ‘We go together like…’ simile beloved of songwriters.

Smokey Joe’s Fats Waller-like croak provides a suitable voice for the crazy jungle rhythm of   ‘Signifying Monkey’, a ditty that’s less than the sum of its parts, although easily the best song title here. In our more sensitive age, we would probably baulk at ‘Stutterin’ Cindy’s mockery, but it’s easy to guess why Lux Interior would have liked this Charlie Feathers song.  The familiar scrape of plectrum on steel guitar string signals the appearance of the great Bo Diddley, in a steady rocker, ‘Congo’, with a heady infusion of exotic jungle atmosphere.

The hurtling comedy of The Aladdins’ harmony piece, ‘Munch’ comes on like an even dumber ‘Give Me Back My Bubble-gum’, and with a crazy sax break cranking it higher. The sax is downright salacious on Joe Dodo’s ‘Groovy’,  but we get a chance to cool our heels and our ardour in Jim Backus & Friend’s ‘Delicious!’, a sort of guffawing, Stateside take on Champagne Charlie furnished with an equally bibulous female companion. Sticking with the inebriate theme, we get a fairly standard country whine, ‘Here I Am Drunk Again’, from Clyde Beavers.

Sparkle Moore’s ‘Skull and Crossbones’ has our tough gal giving her man a good ticking off, and how easy it is to imagine the young Poison Ivy Rorschach hearing this little gem and filing it away under ‘Personal Style’. Rusty Draper’s stammering vocal on the banjo-driven country stomp ‘Tongue Tied over You’ might have been a little too much for the age it was minted in, but has its moments. Charlie Ryan & The Timberline Riders’ ‘Hot Rod Guitar’ is a steady roller with nimble fretwork, but there’s not much here to elevate it above the usual fare.

The Sheiks’ ‘Baghdad Rock’ instro is an obvious Cramps favourite, with its ‘The Walk’ style beat and weird, haunting horn. The Duals’ stormy ‘Lovers Satellite’ has a crystal clear guitar solo to clean the eardrums out, and The Invaders ‘Shock Treatment’ comes on like a lost Jo Meek track, all ghostly calls over a standard surf backing. Freddie & The Hitch Hikers’ ‘Sinners’ makes good use of a not-so-heavenly chorus, in this sermon-infused chugger. It would be nothing but a low swindle to leave out ‘Tequila’, and it’s ‘The Three Suns’ take which does the honours here.

A solid hint of menace and some icy-cool guitar work in The Ventures’ ‘Green Onions’, followed by a Billy Fury-like moody vocal performance from Gary Warren, in ‘Midnight Rain’, a memory song with a whispering chorus that provides two high spots in a row on this first disc. A genuine, murmuring blues with brooding guitar, in the form of Kenyon Hopkins’ ‘Let Me Out’, takes us deftly into a crazy rocker with heavily distorted guitar and primitive lyrics in ‘Hot and Cold’ by Marvin Rainwater.

Hank and the Electras’ ‘Get Lost Baby’ is a tepid little number, in spite of its great title, but redemption is on the way with The Bikinis’ ‘Crazy Vibrations’ a rattlesnake-like sound, with tinkling piano behind and a snaky, pumping sax with deep twangy bass fattening up the beat. Those of you with a taste for low-end comedy will love Jerry Neal’s ‘I Hates Rabbits’, but we’re soon into the truly inspired ‘Twistin’ In The Jungle’, Buddy Bow’s near-horror movie soundtrack with its bonkers bongos and brass.

James and Septette’s ’‘Congo Elegy’ comes on like a perverse Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett out-take, with a mambo struggling to get out of the piece, and desperate, salacious lyrics. A standard Bill Haley-o-like beat for ‘Tarzan’ from Glen Reeves & His Rock-Billys, and to end this disc, two songs entitled ‘Voodoo Doll’. The Interiors (dig that name…) piece is an R ‘n’ B chugger and Glenda and Glen’s has an unnerving female vocal and random raindrop sound in the bass that does the job the more effectively of the two. (Heard that name before somewhere, too.)

The innocent sounding Buddy Holly-ish performance of ‘Straight Skirt’ by Gene Summers that opens the second CD belies the rather lecherous subject matter. The Ventures are in fine form in ‘Bumble Bee Twist’, picking their way precisely through a ‘Man of Mystery’ style riff. The Romans’ ‘Uh Huh’ is every bit as primitive as the title suggests a crazy piece of exotica, chugging guitars and exclaiming sax. Art Wood’s hillbilly hiccupping on ‘My Jib’ is a little too stereotypical to satisfy. The fast, jazzy rock ‘n’ roll and sax craziness of Sil Austin in ‘Fallout’ is far more pleasing to the ear.

Charlie Feathers’ ‘Wild Wild Party’ shuffle has its moments, as does Gene Simmons and the Rebels’ ‘Twixteen’, an Eddie Cochrane-a-like treatment of a tale of perilously young sexual allure. Martin Denny’s ‘Misirlou’ uses creepy woodwind and drum brushes hissing their snakeish rhythm in a very different take on the classic tune.

The Forbidden Five show us why they’re called so, with their bongos, animal noises and weird Eastern/Western rhythms in ‘RFD Rangoon’,  and continuing with the Eastern stylings, Preston Love and Orchestra serve up a tasty slice of exotica in ‘Ali Baba’s Boogie’. The Bambinos’ ‘Algiers’ is another entry in the downright disturbing category, and Marvin Rainwater’s distorted echo sounds like it was produced with some species of elastic band, on his bizarre ‘Boo Hoo’. Dick Penner’s ‘Cindy Lou’s slightly mocking guitar notes and sinister twang perfectly suit this borderline suggestive song. Skip Manning’s ‘Devil Blues’ is more big band than bottleneck, with its ‘behave or face the consequences’ message.

The Red Callender Sextet offer up more exotica in ‘Voodoo’, and Garry and Larry’s hard driven ‘Garlic Bread’ is by way of total contrast.

Moving into the Red Zone, The Blenders’ ‘Don’t F*ck Around With Love deliver the doo-wop  song sweetly, making the profanity all the more of a surprise, but The Empallos’ ‘Hi Cups’ mighty sax creep is true instro-salaciousness.  The Midnighters’ rock ‘n’ roller ‘Sexy Ways’ fully lives up to its name.

‘Gumbo’ by Shades of Rhythm has a loose, crazy feel, and The Voxpoppers ‘The Last Drag’ has a screechy-voiced treatment with the faint air of Fats Domino about it. Roland Janes’ ‘Guitarville’ has the fabulous spacey twangy bass and subtle, tapping drums of a surf classic. The Ventures’ ‘Ginchy’s faintly Neo-Classical high-note guitar workout pleases, and Spot Barnett’s loud, brash, Rock ‘n’ Blues ‘Sweetmeats’ is enlivened by a wavering sax. For my money, the standout track here is ‘Young William & The Jamaicans’ urgent, echoed ‘Limbo Drum Part 1’. Ike Turner Orchestra’s ‘Cuban Get Away’ seems a little too far removed from Ike to be all his work. Our CD selection closes with Bobby Rhines and the Rogues’ call-and-response  festival, ‘Port Zibee Part II’ and Tommy Mercer and the McBrides’ ‘Volcano Rock’, a left-field rock ‘n’ roller with enough sound effects to make even Joe Meek blush.

What’d’ya mean, you’ve got ‘em all?

GRAB  A COPY HERE

Scenester

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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July 20, 2015 By : Category : Cult Front page Music Picks Punk Reviews RnB Rockabilly Tags:, , ,
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The Membranes LP Review and Interview

The Dark Matter/Dark Energy – The Membranes
(Cherry Red Records CDBRED 661)

membranes_300x300

Re-formed, ready for action, and in a distinctly spiritual mood, The Membranes present their first LP since 1989. Taking on the ultimate in weighty subject material, ‘Dark Matter/Dark Energy’ conjures up avalanches of sound, strangulated voices from the pit, yet, this band being one of the class of ’77, avoids sounding like hippie indulgence.

Opening with a burst of descending horror film chords and screaming guitars, coming on like Joy Division with added Gregorian chants and explosions, the guitars rise beautifully in ‘The Universe Explodes Into A Million Photons Of Pure White Light’.

‘Do The Supernova’ evokes a desert landscape, as the compressed bass guitar kicks in, in a ‘three to get ready’ style riff. A bracing interlude of distant drums and whooping/shouting vocals lead into an ever descending aeroplane rhythm. The exclamatory ‘21st Century Man’ takes us on a well-worn path of pounding, staccato drums and anguished Frank Booth-like voice, delivering a mundane lyric that ironically fits well into this spiritual song cycle.

‘Money Is Dust’s pedestrian drum and bass beat, clattering sticks, high-picked guitar notes and a touch of Wah-Wah moodily expresses its bitter sentiment, offering one of the CD’s more disturbing 1984-like lyrics, ‘Dance to the rhythm of eternal war’. ‘The Multiverse Suite’s wash of pizzicato strings, rattling cymbal strokes, phasing and whistling are a highly atmospheric backdrop to John Robb’s awesome Dark Matter monologue.

‘Space Junk’s lumbering, compressed bass comes in like a juggernaut as the guitar chops and slices, the drawling vocal taking us into a bullying funk stomp that doesn’t let up. ‘Dark Matter’s nervous piano figure and guitar plucking make for a prog-like Eastern style atmosphere, as an astronaut’s message plays over.

‘If You Enter The Arena, You Got To Deal With The Lions’ riff with choppy, scratchy guitars and a fast, shouty rap offers no end to its relentless assault. The trippy, ‘In The Graveyard’ with its wavering bird call noises, bass and rimshot, getting ever louder, as the voice, angry and shouty as ever, builds a rather trippy atmosphere for a song so named, ending in a restrained feedback fadeout.

‘Hail To The Lovers’ is a misfit in its rock conventionality, but the rising chords please well enough. ‘Magic Eye (To See The Sky)’s hurdy-gurdy churn opening fits well with the declamatory voice, building a rich, Eastern style rhythm that gently peters out. ‘5776 (The Breathing Song)’s urgent, stabbing strings and spacey panting support an electronic voice that has more than a hint of humour about it.

‘Dark Energy’s nimble bass intro becomes more beaty and rangy to the point of emulating surf stylings, the meandering notes above it delivering a pleasing track that could fit anywhere. Our closing track, ‘The Hum Of The Universe’ has leading light John Robb expounding his personal view of the universe, leading into a stuttering guitar riff, punctuated with sudden, crashing squalls.

If you have some misgivings about the idea of a punk concept album, you’re missing out on some thunderous, invigorating music on this powerful return to the studio by The Membranes.

The Mighty Scenester a.k.a Alex Eyeplug recently caught up with John Robb to speak more about the Membranes and life…

01. Do you remember the first single and first album you bought? What were they, why did you like them, and do you still like them?

The first singles I ever had were from my next door neighbour’s daughter who was older than us – it was lots of stuff from the sixties like Beatles EPs and loads of others which was smashed to smithereens like seven years olds would – I still remember hurling them around against the wall – it was thrilling – in  many ways, perhaps, the definition of all my musical career since then!

The ones we kept, like the Beatles, were because their hair looked good on the picture sleeves and then when we listened to records when we were 8 years old they sounded magical.

The other one we kept was David John And The Mood – a band from Preston – not sure why we kept that one but it sounded great – we had no idea who he was but it sounded fab and is now worth a fortune!

Bought? Cmoon by Wings and Solid Gold Easy Action by TRex – at the time buying a  TRex single was scary – it was considered girls music by the playground mafia! So I had to be sneaky with that one – I still have it to this day – Buying Cmoon was me hoping that it was the Beatles who had come back to save us all and who had seemed to have split a century before and not two years before… also it’s a great bouncing pop record and with TRex because everything about it – from the riff to the vocals to the sound to Marc’s hair was magical – it still is…

02. Do you collect records CDs etc., or do you exchange/give away/sell them when you’re no longer interested in them? Why do you think you do that?

I collect music but I don’t care about the format, I just want the songs – streaming is perfect for me – I move around a lot and I love headphones – I want to get immersed in the music, lost in its world – I never go off things and love everything I have ever loved which is not very practical but that’s the way it is. I can listen to the Glitter Band with the same sort of excitement as I would listen to Swans…

03. Do you feel that the resurgence of the vinyl disc is welcome, or not? Why?

They are the ultimate pop artefact – especially the seven inch single – perfection. The ultimate collectors piece. They are like antiques now in the way that a grandfather clock looks better than a digital wrist watch but it’s maybe not as practical and they both tell the same time! I still have loads of vinyl but can’t take it away with me! I understand why people love vinyl and why some younger people are thrilled with it – it gives a sense of authenticity and arguably sounds better depending on your system and your room and your ears! But ultimately the piece of music itself is the most important thing.

04. The strands of your career are varied, taking in writing and performing music, journalism, writing and public speaking. Why do you think this is? Or do you prefer one over the others, and if so, which one?

I see them as different aspects of the same thing really – get up in the morning fuck about with my hair and then deal with all the stuff coming at me – playing/writing/talking about music are all expressing music but the best thing is creating music out of thin air – grabbing the psychic electricity out of the ether – that’s the genuine magic and then playing the stuff live with people understanding what you are trying to play and say and making that connection – the communal moment. Public speaking can be thrilling – especially speaking with no safety plan and no safety net – that’s a real buzz and you get to explore the dusty corners of your mind and see what’s in there…

05. How much does the ‘effort vs reward’ equation matter to you?

Means nothing. Of course you have to work hard to be creative and get yourself listened to in a room full of shouting people but it doesn’t mean you deserve anything either money or sympathy!

06. ‘The North Will Rise Again’; how much was this a labour of love, and how much a necessity?

It was a labour of love and it needed to be done – I was trying to capture the lost voices like I did in my oral history of Punk book – the narrative of so much pop culture is edited to fit the agendas of the people telling it but sometimes the less so called ‘cool people’ are as important and their stories make the whole story more interesting. Maybe all this writing is a mixture of love and necessity – an insane need to document the chaos – maybe music is the same – whilst celebrating and embracing the chaos.

07. Staying with Manchester, do you think that the successive waves of bands the city has produced could have happened anywhere, or not? If not, what do you think it is about the city which produced these bands?

Most cities have their own characteristic.  It could even be a mythology that people in the city create for themselves and may not even be true but is celebrated any way. I often wonder if Manchester is now, like London, too big to be defined by anything but then in the past in many ways it was beyond definition. In post-punk the Fall, Smiths and New Order were hardly the same but there was a common attitude that linked them. Manchester had so many factors – early access to Punk, Tony Wilson’s So It Goes show, a local media, a sense of purpose and people driving the scene along and then some of the true great poets like Curtis/Smith and Moz and many others an also a wilful ‘fuck you’ attitude and an almost insane self belief.

08. What do you think of nostalgia, generally; good or bad? Why?

In the internet age everything is nostalgia. Instant nostalgia at the click of  a finger. You play a gig, come off stage and the gig is on youtube which makes it Instant nostalgia – it’s just that nostalgia is moving faster and faster! as Buzzcocks once sung – ‘nostalgia for an age yet to come…’ all culture is now current. Elvis is as new as Fat White Family. it’s all happening at the same time. The internet created and destroyed nostalgia at the same time and I love the past, present and the future all at the same time.

09. What would you say is the enduring legacy of Punk? Why?

There are many and they are complex – all the way from mohican Punks still in love with the music to the rebuilding of the whole of Manchester’s city centre – it affected a few people in such powerful ways that they took its energy and attitude and made their own version of it. It affected me powerfully but would I call myself a Punk? Would it actually be Punk to call yourself Punk and would I want my life and my actions dictated by a scene of people in London in 1976 whose music I loved but don’t want dictating to me how to behave and create! No way! We were always far too awakward for that! We had our own agenda, even our own madness to deal with.

10. What was behind the decision to re-form The Membranes?

Simple – My Bloody Valentine – who used to support us – asked us to play All Tomorrows Parties – which sounded like a great idea. It was a chance to revisit the idea of the Membranes – the freedom and the gig went really well.  We did a clutch of other gigs at the time like Istanbul but I didn’t want to be  a heritage act tending our mini overgrown cultural garden so I chucked away nearly all the old songs and made this new album – it should have been commercial suicide but it seems like everybody loves it.

11. The Membranes new CD is concerned with the nature of the universe. What led you and the band to write about this subject?

There was a meeting at a TEDx talk. I was talking Punk Rock DIY and I met Joe Incandela from CERN who explained the universe to me over dinner – specifically the idea that the ‘more we find out the less we know…’ the deep mystery of the universe and the specific mysteries of dark matter and dark energy matched by mood, which was both melancholic and also full of total wonder and I thought that would make an amazing album backdrop and open up a true mind blowing vista – a space to sing about life and love and sex and death and then in the middle of the album my father died which put the whole thing into very sharp focus. The idea of birth, life and death which ends with everything returning to the universe with the last track on the album – the tracks actually roughly run in order of life – starts with birth of the universe and ends with the universe and my father and then the rest of us in a sense turning into dust… I just love that idea and that image!

12. The CD seems to hint at a spiritual side to you. Do you have one? Please describe.

In a sense yes but when I met Joe from CERN we talked about this and the idea that the universe ends by fragmenting into a endless glowing particles of white light – and I said that’s like a heaven idea and he agreed – there is something deeply spiritual about the universe and its wonders but it is beyond religion but I feel that rush of wonder looking at the Sun and nature even in the middle of a busy city – that’s my spirituality although I also love Churches, Temples and Mosques and that sense of the profound.

13. Do you listen to current chart-based pop music? If so, what do you think of it, generally? Which artists do you like, and why?

The charts don’t mean the same as they did when I grew up – the charts are now just another micro scene – huge bands don’t always chart – the ‘pop pickers’ list is not a barometer of pop culture any more. Saying that there is some wonderful pop music that is brilliantly put together – even the acts that people don’t like like Kanye West make great pop music. Also it’s all pop music – from heavy duty drone rock to a soppy ballad – we are all embraced by the generous arms of pop.

14. Are there any genres of music you dislike? Which ones and why?

I like bits of everything – it could be a bass line here or a vocal there or a rhythm – after the sad death of Chris Squire from Yes I even found 2 of their albums that I liked – Fragile especially – amazing bass sound – I hated the Punk orthodoxy – that idea that you were meant to like certain music and hate other types – trouble was I couldn’t get my head around Yes at the time but I finally found a way into a fragemnt of their catalogue… I have no fear of any music – I will find a way!

15. Do you watch television? What sort of TV shows do you watch?

It hums away in the background and very little of it goes in. I love nature programmes from spring-watch to documentaries on packs of monkeys on the Ethiopian highlands , I love space programmes and all the factual stuff. Celebrity culture is for everyone else really.

16. What aspects of modern life turn you off? Why?

I hate the insanity of religious fanatics of all different religions, I hate the corporate greed and I hate the rudeness of people and anonymous internet bickering. All the bad stuff is coming true but so is all the good stuff.

17. If you could dis-invent something, what would it be? Why?

Dis-invent what a great word! I could say guns or weapons but then my father would not have done his part in shooting down V2 rockets in the war to keep the cities safe and ultimately help defeat Adolf Hitler – I think you have to deal with what comes… right now robots and AI look useful, but in century they could be a disaster, the internet is fucking brilliant and a total disaster all at the same time. Ultimately the inventions are fine it’s what we do with them that is the problem!

18. What advice would you give your seventeen year old self?

The tragedy and the genius of rock ‘n’ roll could well be that you remain that person forever…

19. Any shows, dates or other things that you wish to plug?

Best to join our facebook page: facebook.com/themembranes. We have a London gig at the 100 Club on Sat Aug 29th 2015 which will be celebration of the brilliant reaction to the album with Evil Blizzard and Je Suis Crabbi – it’s a great bill and will be a great night…

20. Can you tell us a joke please?

Why did the Camel have two humps?
Because it had emerged from the black hole…

Thanks to JOHN ROBB
Boss of leading music website: louderthanwar.com
Lead vox/lead bass with influential Post-Punk band Membranes: facebook.com/themembranes
Lead singer of Goldblade: goldblade.com

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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July 3, 2015 By : Category : Eyeplugs Features Front page Music Punk Reviews Tags:, , , ,
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The Only Ones (Peter Perret): Book Review by Colin Bryce

A brief Eyeplug Interview with Nina Antonia

Eyeplug: Congratulations on having the One and Only book back out again. I was wondering how many times a month you got asked where someone could get a copy of the One and Only before it finally came to being re-released?

Nina: I was getting at least two requests a month which might not sound much but people have been asking where they could get reasonably priced copies from for at least a decade. One of the issues was that ‘The One & Only’ was being sold through specialist dealers at ridiculous prices and it didn’t seem right that people were paying £50 upwards for a copy, one guy on ABE books had it listed for £190! It’s outrageous, I heard from a woman on Facebook who told me she’d been working two jobs so she could afford a copy. I love books but they really shouldn’t just be the province of the wealthy or the specialist collector.

Eyeplug: I’ve noticed a couple of very recent photos of you with Peter. He looks so much healthier than when the Only Ones got back together a few years back.

Nina: If you’ve read the last chapter of the newly revised book then you will understand why, as Peter is now totally drug free, a huge achievement after so many years. His creative energy has returned and it shows. He’s been back in the studio and there are some UK gigs lined up as well for this year. We are also going to be doing an ‘In Conversation’ as part of the Louder Than Words literary and music festival on July 15th, in the Elgar Room of the Albert Hall, after which Peter will also be performing some songs.

Eyeplug: Anything coming up you feel free to talk about?

Nina: It’s been a pretty busy year so far but one of the highlights was co-writing a song with Neal X, formerly of Sigue Sigue Sputnik. I originally met Neal via Johnny Thunders and Tony James many years ago. Neal’s got a great new band together called The Montecristos and he asked me if I’d like to help with the lyrics on one particular track, ‘Born to Rock n’ Roll’ which is the title of the album (available through Easy Action) the song has had some radio play and hopefully we’ll be doing some more stuff together. I’m also permanently on call for the proposed Johnny Thunders bio-pic based on the authorized biography ‘In Cold Blood’ which is in the pre-production phase. These things take a while – but progress is being made!!

THE BOOK REVIEW

Nina Antonia: The One and Only – Peter Perrett, Homme Fatale
(Thin Man Press)

The 2015 updated and revised version of Nina Antonia’s extraordinary The One and Only is finally here! Of all the great rock’n’roll biographies this is indeed one of the very best. It is both wonderfully written and diligently researched by Ms. Antonia. Nina’s close ties with the Perrett family, the Only Ones band themselves and various members of their camp, enables her to closely and most eloquently define the important relationships, health struggles and old-fashioned rock’n’roll debauchery of Mr. Perrett and those closest to him. Not only has Perrett spent some considerable time in the drug wilderness and crafted some of the greatest rock’n’roll that is still cherished the world over but he has been able to finally emerge from the mists and shadows of his addictions-led lifestyle. Damaged a bit to be sure, but determined to enjoy his creativity, his family and to be able to provide us fans again some memorable musical times courtesy his unique lyrical vision and sound. This fresh off the press edition features a 2015 Epilogue, a brand new interview with Peter Perrett dated February 2015, and some re-named and revised chapters.

The One and Only has been out of print for well over a decade now with used copies in high demand Thin Man Press wisely saw to get it back on the street and into the hands of the fans of the legendary Only Ones front man Peter Perrett and the Only Ones band themselves. Many thanks for that!

Antonia’s previous works include; the definitive Johnny Thunders bio In Cold Blood, Too Much Too Soon which chronicles the rise and fall of the New York Dolls, The Prettiest Star which focuses on the glam-era coulda/shoulda been artist Brett Smiley and Nina’s own thoughts and feelings during those glittering days. All of which are well worth investigating further. (ISBN-10: 0993014119)

Web Links

GRAB A COPY HERE

Nina Antonia Info

 

 

Colin -Mohair Sweets- Bryce

One of Canada’s late 70’s “punk” rock crowd and from 1997 to 2007 the fellow behind Mohair Sweets print and webzine. Currently passes the time by playing the odd gig or two, shaking his head, wringing his hands and pondering whether or not the tape vaults of the legendary Pirates are really exhausted.

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June 5, 2015 By : Category : Cult Culture Eyeplugs Front page Interviews Literature Punk Reviews Tags:, , , , , , ,
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Brian James: LP Review by Colin Bryce

Brian James: The Guitar That Dripped Blood (Easy Action)

Brian James’ distinctive guitar tone, riff-craft and sonic song-writing style is on full alert here on this new one from Easy Action. Ten top tracks that echo the Damned, Stooges and James’ own previous solo classics (Tanz Der Youth, Brains etc) and that push this one hard. James doesn’t handle all the lead vocals here though – it makes little or no sense to me that James would have anyone other than himself sing. His charismatic drawl is everything that these songs need. Guest vocalist Adam Becvar (4 tunes) sounds similar enough to be unnecessary and but different enough to want to hear James back taking the lead. This is a rough and ready release and guest guitarist Cheetah Chrome grinds it out with James on ‘Becoming a Nuisance’ just to add that little bit more Stoogey-grind so beloved by both guitarists. (10 tracks.)

GRAB A COPY HERE!

Web Links
easyaction.co.uk

 
 

 

Colin -Mohair Sweets- Bryce

One of Canada’s late 70’s “punk” rock crowd and from 1997 to 2007 the fellow behind Mohair Sweets print and webzine. Currently passes the time by playing the odd gig or two, shaking his head, wringing his hands and pondering whether or not the tape vaults of the legendary Pirates are really exhausted.

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June 5, 2015 By : Category : Eyeplugs Front page Garage Music Picks Post-punk Punk Reviews Tags:, , , ,
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Adam and the Ants 1977-79 – Nick Sweeney

I’ve just finished reading Adam Ant’s autobiography Stand and Deliver. It was very readable, if a bit repetitive at times; it’s horribly honest. It goes into Adam’s music, influences, early and family life, sex addiction, rootlessness – he bought several houses in several different places and was unable to face living in any of them for long, often returning to his tiny London flat – and loneliness, even as one of the most popular entertainers in the world. It also details his quest to get some acting roles that would match his success in pop music, his depression, his mental illness, and finally his several disorderly conduct arrests and sectioning in recent years. It ends on a relatively positive note. Adam is now back doing the circuit of small-to-medium gigs – the results are all over YouTube – and the odd (and often rather combative) interview in between living, until we hear differently, a quiet life.

Reading the book has prompted me to revisit my one-time love of Adam Ant’s music, though it never really died out. I was a fan of Adam and the Ants in the late 1970s, before his rise to phenomenal fame in 1980, in which he really did see off all the competition. I first saw the band on a bill at Soho’s Vortex Club in mid-1977, supporting my other fave band of the time, Siouxsie and the Banshees. I was blown away by the energy of the performance, and the manic, dangerous edge it brought to the atmosphere. The first line-up I saw featured Adam singing and playing guitar occasionally, Andy Warren on bass (a thin, gaunt figure described in Ants publicity as being called Winkle and Watson, for some reason), the handsome Dave Barbe on drums and a guy called Johnny Bivouac on guitar. What was it about Johnny Bivuouac I didn’t like? His hair was all wrong, I thought, sort of freeze-dried-looking, and he wore a cap-sleeved t-shirt, which was so sort of pre-punk disco. Was I shallow, or what? (Yes, I was.) Great guitar player, though.

Adam was beautiful, no other word for it. His hair wasn’t very punk, either, all Romany curls, and at least one of his eyes was often slathered in eyeliner – or he wore clear-framed National Health specs – his lips lipsticked black. He looked like a hyperactive mannequin, a crazed escapee from the Commedia dell-Arte – you know, Pierrot, Harlequin, medieval Italian Punch and Judy show. He was a New Romantic a few years before the movement he would later despise came into being. But I guess what made him beautiful, ultimately, was his sense of don’t-give-a-fuck-ness: that is always something fantastic to behold. On a more basic level, I also loved his skanky leather trousers, his strappy boots from Sex, or Seditionaries, as Westwood and McLaren had rechristened the shop, loved his bare torso when he got half his kit off, with its tattoos, scratches and bruises, its hint of puppy fat at one gig, his ribs showing starkly at the next.

A friend made a recording of this line-up from a gig at Oxford Street’s 100 Club, a ton-weight cassette player secreted round his waist, and the recording came out brilliantly; I was able to learn all the songs, obsessively working them out on my guitar in the right keys, finding, often to my dismay, that they weren’t always in the keys guitarists like – lazy ones, as I was then; Deutscher Girls started on D flat, FFS, a chord I’d barely heard of. My respect for Johnny Bivouac increased. This was to be important to me a year or so later, when Johnny left (or was dumped, actually – Adam already had a history of getting rid of band members on a whim, though I didn’t know that at the time) and, after seeing an ad in Melody Maker, just by chance, after an hour of getting over it I went to audition as a replacement. Because I’d been listening to the tape, I was able to turn up and just play the tunes. Adam asked me, “Do you know B-Side Baby?” and I went straight into the guitar intro as he was about to recite the chords, and also led the band into that Db chord starting their ode to mädchen-in-uniform Deutscher Girls. They were impressed. But they were more impressed by 17-year-old Matthew Ashman, who got the job instead of me, so there I went, back into obscurity for a few decades… Was I too ugly, too spotty, not punk enough – was my Rickenbacker guitar just not cool enough? But both Andy Warren on bass and first Ant guitarist Mark the Kid Ryan bashed Rickenbackers. Was it my hair, then, not enough gel, or too much? Or was I just a bit too porky for the stripey teeshirt I wore to the audition? (Not everybody can get away with horizontal stripes, but it was very similar to the one I now wear sometimes in the Trans-Siberian March Band.) No, none of those things, I hope. It was Matthew Ashman; he was pure class on a guitar, pure rock n roll, and I just wasn’t.

With the phenomenally talented Matthew, the Ants went on to a different phase, and a whole load of different songs, that culminated in the album, out on independent Do-It Records, Dirk Wears White Sox. None of the songs they played at the early gigs made their way onto that album; they only turned up later on bootlegs, or were revamped occasionally on slicked-up versions on the b-sides of some of the hit singles, once Adam was a star. Those early songs featured themes of S&M, sex in general, murder and Nazis, basically, though there was the rather sweet Send a Letter to Jordan (about Adam’s obsessive letter-writing to one Pamela Rooke, who worked in Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s King’s Road shop Sex), a cover of Perry Como’s Catch a Falling Star and the gentle French music hall pastiche of Young Parisians. Deutscher Girls, Nietzsche Baby and Dirk Wears White Sox (which ghosted only as a title on the Do-It album) all worked through fetishised pictures of Nazism; they poked fun at it, though this wasn’t always clear to the music press, who dismissed the Ants as a Nazi band at one point, despite their having a black drummer in Dave Barbe, and Adam being a descendant of British Roma. Il Duce described Mussolini as a ‘fatty fasciste – they call him the fat boy’ and had a derisory chorus of Santa Lucia in the middle of it, so it was sometimes difficult for Antpeople (as Adam dubbed us fans) to see how it could be taken as anything other than black comedy. The S&M songs included Beat My Guest, Whip in My Valise, Ligotage, You’re So Physical and Bathroom Function. There were other tunes, such as the subtle, slow Song for Ruth Ellis, which had the hook ‘Violence in Hampstead’, and a frenetic tune just called Hampstead, ‘a place for fairs and not for revolution  – you’re deprived of being deprived’. There was Lou, known to fans as Andy Warhol Video from one of the few coherent lines in the chorus, a song about Lou Reed, the verses of which were screeched out by band manager at the time, Jordan – that same Pamela Rooke, from McLaren and Westwood’s Sex/Seditionaries boutique, and a big face on the early punk scene. There was also the comic, smutty Juanito the Bandito – ‘he’d even make love to a dog’ – and the rather grim Light Up a Beacon on a Puerto Rican, which dealt with racism, albeit in a rather repugnant and aggressive manner. A lot of people also missed the pure music hall-type humour of songs like Friends, basically a list of claimed friendship with famous people from all eras punchlined with the line ‘If I come on the night, can I get in free?’

In Derek Jarman’s film Jubilee, along with Deutscher Girls (shown briefly, on a background TV), the full version of the Ants’ gig-opening tune Plastic Surgery features. The film was a bit of a mess, but was worth seeing for this sequence alone, in which Adam threw himself into the performance with such zest that he dislocated his knee.

I must add that I think the tunes on Dirk Wears White Sox, with Matthew Ashman on guitar, are pretty good – I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t like them at all. Animals and Men is surely the only tune ever written about Italian Futurism; Car Trouble Part 1 and Family of Noise arrived at punk-funk-disco years before the Red Hot Chillis. The Day I Met God (and was impressed ‘at the size of His knob’ – tch, really, Adam) is a sublime piece of on-the-road observation: ‘We was coming back in the van, from Milan, and I saw God, right there’. Like you do. Catholic Day, again, is a first, as far as I know, a song about JFK’s assassination, his ‘sporty young hairstyle’, his brain falling on Jackie’s knee on that day in Dallas. Never Trust a Man with Egg on His Face is a menacing piece of sci-fi. All good. But not the Ants I’d known, followed, recorded, learned, looked forward to. Serious twenty-something post-punk types like me, with our floppy fringes and long overcoats,  and a bit up ourselves, were a pretty fucking hard-to-please bunch, I guess.

A lot of the early tunes are now available to hear on YouTube, accompanied mostly by still pictures, and often from dodgy live recordings, and consequently they’re a bit scrunchy, but they give a real flavour of the barrage of sound, and the innovative, and often chaotic, nature of early Ants performance, at a time when most 1977 bands were trying to be secondhand Sex Pistols, and intoning crap tunes about boredom, or being boringly ‘political, maaan’, in bad imitations of the Clash. Adam and his Ants were never as rock n roll as the Pistols, were never as doctrinaire as the Clash, were not as precious as the Banshees, nor as arty as Wire – I thought the Ants got it exactly right in having a decent mix of all those different elements.

Andy Warren went on to join The Monochrome Set – one of my favourite bands from the same period – while Dave Barbe and Matthew Ashman were stolen by the scheming Malcolm McLaren to back the 14 year-old Annabella Lu Win in his new project Bow Wow Wow. Adam had paid McLaren a grand for advice on the next phase of his career – “Do cowboys, Adam,” mockney Malkie said out of the corner of his mouth, “do Indians, mate, do pirates, swash your buckle, bit of flash, bit of brash, become a prince charming…” – so Adam didn’t come too badly out of the deal in the end.

Bow Wow Wow ploughed a similar furrow, sporting Vivienne Westwood’s new off-the-peg pirate look, with Dave Barbe stripped of his sharp and punky name and restored to Dave Barbarossa – the legendary Redbeard the Pirate. They played Burundi drums and Duane Eddy guitars, speedy fifteen-fingered basslines, tunes about corsairs and other planets, the Eiffel Tower as a phallic symbol. They released an album on a cassette, had Annabella photographed in the nude. They were great, but never quite the business, despite being talented, photogenic, controversial and newsworthy. What went wrong with them? For the mass market, the formula just didn’t work as well as Adam’s: he had it, and they didn’t.

Adam hooked up with Marco Pirroni, another man with a great pedigree on the punk scene, who’d been there from the beginning, wearing the shirts, playing the guitar, po-faced and workmanlike, canny enough to tell the shite from the shine. Marco was (and still is) a rare talent, and the best thing that happened to Adam – I’m sorry to hear they don’t talk anymore these days. I didn’t mind some of the tunes they had massive hits with – I liked some of the Kings of the Wild Frontier album, resigned myself to be exasperated and then amused to see that the line ‘Dirk Wears White Socks’ had gone from an entire song about comedy Nazis and slapstick Berlin decadence in 1977, to the somewhat meaningless (to all but original Antpeople, who were still rather mystified by it) title of a 1979 album, to an even more cryptic line in the chorus of an unmemorable 1980 non-tune, the weak Don’t Be Square be There.  By the time Adam was standing and delivering and doing the Prince Charming two-step with Diana Dors, shaking hands with royalty and appearing on Jim’ll Fix It I thought it had all become a bit too cartoony. (In fact, several children’s mags did indeed feature cartoons in which Adam was the hero, totally messing up my metaphor here.) I can see that he never would have made it with the early tunes – Princess Margaret and her sis probably wouldn’t have tapped their feet along to any tune that went ‘Tie me up and beat me with a stick, beat me, beat me’ – and that Adam did what he had to do to become the world-famous song and dance man he craved to be, and turned into. I’m glad he made it, glad he became a name and a face, a look and a haircut and a style of his own: I’m glad he ‘sold out’ – as we Antpeople sniped for an inordinately long while – and got the fame he deserved for the hard work he put in. He paid a massive price for it in the end, unfortunately. I’m also glad his hidden legacy of early tunes is now around and available though, just as it ever was, you need to seek it out, though I’m too much of an ole fart these days to want to listen to the songs TOO often.

Many thanks too our guest writer: Nick Sweeney is a talented published Author and member of The Trans-Siberian March Band © 2015.

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Boo Eyeplug acts as webmaster/designer for the Eyeplug site. Not the most social of creatures and with several personality issues, and rather exotic, eccentric tastes for obscure ‘cultish’ stuff which makes his ramblings seem even more sweetly abstract and often annoying.

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March 18, 2015 By : Category : Articles Eyeplugs Features Front page Icons Punk Tags:, , ,
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