Barrie Sharpe (Sharpeye) talks to Eyeplug

Barrie Sharpe, is a born and bred Londoner whose energy, style and creativity in music, design, fashion and nightlife helped to shape the Metro cultural landscape from 1980s onwards. We caught up with ‘Sharpeye’ recently to see what he is up to.

01 What was your Childhood like?

I Have Nothing To Fear I Have Already Seen The Worst – Sometime in 1964 my mother was admitted into Goodmayes Mental Institution. My sister Beverley and I were placed in a Victorian style children’s home at Gallows Corner in Essex, “Harold Wood Hall”. It was not a pleasant place, devoid of any love or warmth and it holds many dark memories. I was 4 years old, not yet of school age and left alone to my own devices from 9am until my sister and the other kids returned at teatime. As I had no supervision I got up to all sorts of mischief and was often punished either with the cane or locked in a cupboard for a few hours. I shared a bedroom with three slightly older boys, twins and their elder sibling; the three brothers bullied me at night and made lots of loud noise whilst arguing and giggling. We were situated next to the girls’ dormitory and the girls always complained about the noise. Each morning the housemaster would come in and question us; the brothers always blamed the racket on me and I was beaten, sometimes quite severely. I told Mr. Gee and Matron, the joint heads of the home: “We will deal with it”. But they never did and the beatings got worse. I saw myself as having no value.

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02 What were your early formatative influences in terms of music?

1970 – By the age of 10 it was established that I couldn’t write, had poor reading skills and was not going to amount to much: but I had different ideas. I had discovered reggae, wore slick neat mohair tonic suits, Brutus Slim Fit shirts, Italian shoes and had cropped hair with a razored-in parting just like the Jamaican immigrants, “Rude Boys”, as they liked to call themselves. Yes I was a skinhead; I loved reggae music and it was Prince Buster (my favourite reggae artist) all day long. There were no politics; I was only 10 years old. The first skinheads I ever saw outside the electric store (where they sold the latest reggae imports) in Petticoat Lane were black and proud. Original skinheads were a cross between West Indian style and music mixed with British working class youth attitude, a great combination. Of course there were racist skinheads: this was 1970 so racism was part of British culture, having to put up with a new influx of different nationalities every ten years.

1971 – I was 11 years old, a Skinhead but becoming a suedehead (growing my hair) and living in a kid’s home where the accommodation was small cottages. For some reason I was living with three older black girls. One night they decided to take me to a local youth club dance. I heard “Get On The Good Foot” and “Make It Funky” by James Brown. “Oh my God”, my whole world was turned upside down. What was this music? I had never heard anything like this before, it was my first spiritual awakening and I have not looked back from this epiphany: I was born again. I changed my style, I had to learn to dance like the black kids and the girls enjoyed teaching me; this was my new path. James Brown had changed my life; my journey had now started.

03 What about films and books?

An Angel In A Red Polka Dot Dress – I was excited. My friend Marcia May was taking me to see the new Wattstax movie in Leicester Square. The main attraction was Rufus Thomas performing “The Funky Chicken”; it would be my first time seeing these various American soul artists in action. The movie was great, the music funky and the dancing, locking and popping absolutely mesmerising. Then there she was, the girl in the red polka dot dress doing the ”Breakdown” for 35 glorious seconds (the Breakdown was the latest dance move from the States); an angel with smooth black thighs, dress so short that you momentarily glimpsed her white panties, but most of all she danced like a funky dream. I have loved the girl in the red polka dot dress ever since that moment.

Although the relationship with my father was turbulent, it is now coming to pass that many of my perceptions are based upon his views. At 15 years old he gave me Malcolm X’s biography. He explained why he thought MLK and Gandhi were tools of government to appease the masses, by preaching peace and not revolution. When I played “Free Nelson Mandela” he talked to me of Steve Biko…


04 Where does your love of fashion and design stem from?

(Tim Runnicles – School Friend) School for me was a memorable experience, it was at the advent of comprehensive schools and our school became an amalgamation of two schools, one a grammar school in a good area, the other a secondary school in a not so good area. I hadn’t been fortunate enough to pass the eleven plus as only the highest twelve marked students got places at grammar schools and I came fourteenth. Therefore I was at the not so good school. I initially met Barrie when the schools started merging. Like many kids at that time I had witnessed the demise of the mod era and the advent of the skinhead era before getting to high school, and I was a fan of the music that went with it. My first memories of Barrie were in the upper corridor, of the not so good school, with his hand held cassette player blasting out reggae and funk music. Another memory was Barrie’s high-waist trousers in about 73-74. His trousers were wicked, I believe he had them custom made, mine were the more normal off-the-peg jobs. He wore them with crepe wedged soled shoes, which were very stylish and very expensive. As we went through school, fashions changed and Barrie was always at the forefront of the change.

Barrie Was Always The Innovator (Eugene Kuti – Teenage Friend) I spent a lot of my teenage years with Barrie, we were soul heads and sometimes reggae boys; we were big into the soul scene and loved every minute of it. I remember scouring old second-hand shops looking for clothes that went with that movement; we also used to have our trousers made to measure, the baggier and wider the better. Barrie was always the innovator when it came to fashion and I followed him. We used to hang out at the hippest record shops listening to all the latest imported tunes and buying what we could afford. We had three regular clubs that we frequented: The Lively Lady, The 100 Club and Crackers. There we would drop the latest dance moves. Good times that I will never forget.

Levi Kid – This was the time of hot summers and the heatwave of 1976 was the best summer of my life, but there was one embarrassing incident. It was Tuesday, a big night at the Ilford Palais which would attract the most stylish dancers from all over London. I was there, Levi’s 501 jeans and jacket, cowboy boots etc, I thought I was so cool considering most of the other kids were still in their Oxford Bags (baggy wide 1930s Gatsby style pants). I was leaning against the wall trying to impress three very attractive young ladies. I thought I was doing fine, cool, funny, stylish; when one of them said “Who are you, the fucking Levi kid”. They burst out laughing in unison and walked away sniggering, leaving me mortified.


05 In your teenage years what was Clubland like at that time?

1974 – I was hanging outside a pub in Leytonstone, where the DJ played some good funky music, The Plough And Harrow. There I met Frenchie (Eric French) and Kenny Burns, they managed to talk me into going to a little club that they knew of just around the corner, “The Lively Lady” (later renamed Jaws). It was above a pub named the Heathcoate Arms; a strange place in the middle of nowhere, but when I got inside I knew I had arrived: it was heaven. This was the funkiest place I have ever been. Besides Frenchie, Kenny and another kid named Ian Richards (he comes into the mix later) and myself, everyone was black. Fortunately I could dance and after a few visits was accepted; living in mixed culture kids’ homes had paid off. In my new environment I was around some of the coolest dancers, like Trevor Shakes (who became a big influence on me for style and musical taste) and Horace Carter-Allen (who would eventually become my best mate). I was exposed to seminal new music, great style, and brilliant dancers: I had all the tools I would need and I was ready to use them. I started frequenting many underground funk clubs with my schoolmates Eugene Kuti, Milton Henry and Chris Thomas, who had the biggest Afro you ever did see. The amazing thing was that so many like-minded people, from all over London, came to a small windowless, hot sweaty room, full of condensation, above a pub at the back end of Leytonstone.

The Hot Summer Of 1976 – I first went to the Lacy Lady on a Friday night with Maxine Cirillo, a real cool chick. She attended regularly and dressed appropriately in 1940s attire, a style started at the Goldmine in Canvey Island. The Goldmine club was too far away for me, I didn’t like to leave London, thus I was never a “Gold-miner”. I was already over the 40s style, although I still favoured my American Air-force Captain’s uniform and white canvas Naval officers shoes. That night I was doing 50s work-wear: Dee Cee denim overalls with Sebago penny loafers and chambray prison shirt, top button done up. I looked dapper with my crew cut hair almost shaved at the sides, longer on top with a side parting; I may have even had it slicked back with grease. No coat was needed; it was the summer of 1976. We queued to get in; a lot of the dudes were carrying Woodhouse or Stanley Adams carrier bags (the trendiest men’s clothing stores) and I would soon find out why. We paid the £1 admission fee, which also entitled us to “Chicken In The Basket” (something to do with nightclub licensing laws) and climbed the old wooden stairs to the dance floor. As we entered, the DJ, Chris Hill, was playing “Hard Work”, by John Handy; the rhythm was infectious. The strange thing was he was kinda singing, almost rapping over the record: I had never heard this done before. The atmosphere was electric and the people were “getting down”. I was hooked. We plotted up by the DJ box and started to get down with everybody else. Chris Hill dropped “Got To Get Your Own” by Reuben Wilson and the whole place just tore up. Man it was hot; there were no windows and no air conditioning. Upon attending the condensation soaked toilets I realised what the trendy carrier bags were all about. In the bathroom dudes were changing out of their wet sweaty clothing and putting on fresh dry trendy garms from their bags. I got it and I liked it; this was the club where I needed to be. I got talking to some cats that were checking me out, I had seen them many times at the Lively: Sammy Grearson and Tigga, two slick dressers and bad dancers. They were both wearing cowboy boots, straight leg Wrangler jeans and tight white T-shirts. I was impressed: this style was new to me. The next day I went to Ken’s Western Store in Manor Park for my cowboy boots then off to the Carnaby Street flea market to nick a pair of selvedge shrink to fit Levi’s 501s from The Westerner store. There were many different styles at the Lacy: the whole 1940s Glenn Miller Swing thing was going on; Stylers (cool stylish dressers); Soul Boys (wedge haircuts, white socks – a style which I could never get with); Rockers (dressed in Gabicci cardigans, Farah slacks, and Croc shoes – a reggae thing); and Punks. Back then they called themselves “Zoobies”; the first Punks I had ever seen, not the obvious style later recognised as Kings Road Punk. These guys, with cropped multi razor parting hair, were wearing Smiths carpenter jeans (the customised back pockets made from transparent plastic) or baggy Peglegs (pants that narrowed at the ankle) from Acme Attractions and fluffy mohair jumpers from Sex (Sex and Acme Attractions were two of the latest trendy Kings Road stores). The footwear was Brothel Creepers, as worn by Teddy Boys in the 1950s or plastic beach sandals. The girls were wearing black bin liners as dresses, mohair jumpers, tight pedal-pusher pants with pointed shoes or boots. Most of the girls wore safety pins as earrings and had cropped, spiky haircuts; some also had cat’s ears styled into their hair. They all danced crazy to the funky music, some were good. UK Punk Rock music had not yet been instigated: this style had nothing to do with the American Punk Rock. After the Lacy Lady Maxine and I went on to a Covent Garden club on Neal Street, Chaugeramas (or maybe by then it was called the Roxy). We loved it, the reggae music was provided by Don Letts who worked in Acme Attractions; later he would become a successful filmmaker. The audience was mixed, gay, straight, funky, trendy, but mainly Punk. A whole new world had opened up to me; we danced all night long.


06 Tell us about the notion of Groundbeat, the Rare Groove thing and the sounds from that period?

1984 – I was still in contact with Diana Brown; she was now the assistant of Rene Gelston, a top stylist at Vidal Sassoon (later to become the creator of Black Market Records). I would often make Diana cassette tapes of all my old music, which she would take to work. Rene was always interested in the music that I provided and inquired about me. Rene had secured Friday nights at London’s Wag Club (formerly The Whisky A Go Go) and he asked me to DJ along with Dave Dorrell. The night was called Black Market. Friday June 1st, I turned up with all my old 70s funk records and the night was an instant success. However I felt the music that Dave and I were playing was not compatible; I was a purist and the combination was not my vision. I convinced Rene to bring in my neighbour Lascelle (I named him as Lascelles Lascelle on the flyers). Dave Dorrell came into his own with the success of the Raw Club in 1985 and then went on to make big waves in the music industry. Lascelle and I became London’s premiere DJ’s. We didn’t only play 70s funk, we played all styles of good music, as long as it was loose and funky. If there was a fashion party we would be playing the music, whether it was a magazine launch, gallery opening or a Grace Jones party; everybody wanted us and we charged accordingly. On many occasions we played whilst on Acid (LSD). The thing is, back then acid was taboo; perhaps that was the excitement, we had to keep it on the down-low. We didn’t tell anyone and no one realised, I always thought we sounded great but maybe we didn’t. The problem I often had was that the records looked like they were warping in my hands and I’m sure I messed up the sound levels – way too much bass – but it seems looking back – a good time was had by all; especially me.



07 You got a deal with London Records offshoot FFRR and released ‘Blind Faith’ as Diana Brown & Barrie K Sharpe and went onto release the classic ‘The Masterplan’ single and a decent run of singles up to 1992’s ‘Eating Me Alive’ what are your key memories from that hectic period?

Masterplan 1989 – Diana Brown and myself signed a deal with a major record company and had the first Acid Jazz style hit with “Masterplan,” hitting high in the UK music charts and somewhere in the US charts. We shot an amazing video (with no help or finance from the record company) influenced by the Marvin Gaye record cover “I Want You” and directed by first time director Earle Sebastian (the guy I met in St Tropez). We recorded three more successful singles and an album, but I was not a team player and the record company was very unsupportive, thus I needed to step on and do my own thing.

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08 You open the first Duffer of St George store in 1985 in Portabello, prior to your music career as such, with Marco Cairns, Eddie Prendergast, and Clifford Bowen, tell us about how you got started?

1984 – I was now hanging out in the daytime with Eddie ”Trendy” Prendergast, Marco Cairns and there was also Cliff Bowen, but he had a real adults’ job in the leather industry down in Northampton. The three of us would cycle around London visiting charity stores. In those days one could buy a second-hand Burberry mac for £1 or a pair of Brogue shoes for 50p. We would pick up double-breasted blazers with military patches embroidered on the breast pocket, silk cravats, Crombie covert overcoats and two-tone loafers, the most beautiful quality clothing you could imagine; we all looked quite dapper. There was much demand for vintage clothing from those not in the know, so we started collecting the best of it; we soon realised the value of these garms.

I was DJ’ing at Blackmarket (The Wag Club) so I was getting maximum exposure in my natty attire. A good example of this was wearing my Baker Boy (1930s style eight piece cap) which I wore backwards like the old style film directors; people on the street would laugh at me: “Oi mate you got your hat on backwards”. We had these caps produced by a traditional cap maker S & V Caps on Hackney Road; we could never get enough caps to meet the demand. All three of us were on DHSS work benefits: The Enterprise Allowance Scheme. We were usually skint and we nicked as much gear as we bought. Cliff wanted to get involved with our daily shenanigans; he gave us £60 to finance our small enterprise giving us bigger and better ideas. I knew a few contacts in the army surplus game, friends of friends. We would jump into my Peugeot 304 Cabriolet, roof down and shoot off to Brighton or Southend visiting old army surplus stores; we accumulated a vast amount of desirable stock.

Fly Pitching – Cliff, Marco and I went surfing in Newquay that hot August; I had to get back to London early as I was DJ’ing that Friday night. On the Saturday, Eddie and I went to the Reggae Sunsplash at Crystal Palace Bowl: we had an amazing time. On Sunday we went down to Camden Market and it all came to me. The following Sunday Marco, Cliff, Eddie and I were fly pitching our wares outside a closed store on Camden High Street; we wrote out a moody (fake) receipt from the shop owner, which satisfied the police. We were in business and were very successful, going home with big smiles and pockets full of cash.

The Name – I have no idea who came up with the name but it wasn’t me. One of the many books in our combined collection was “Dean’s Premiere Book For Boys”, circa 1960. It was a kid’s adventure book with various stories. One of the stories was written by Richard Lyne: The “Duffer” Of St. George’s. I don’t know why this story came to our attention or why the name was chosen, I guess it was just random; The Duffer Of St. George was now the name of our new Portobello store. I couldn’t get my head around it then and I still can’t now, but Duffer was our name and it worked.

Not one of us had a clue what we were doing. Eddie had worked in Take Six (a very fashionable men’s clothing store in the early 70s) and Yves St. Laurent in Bond Street. Marco was good at graphics. Cliff had a limited knowledge of leather manufacturing. My passion was for style: buying and stealing the latest fashions then re-fitting them to my taste, something I had done since I was 10 years old. I lived and breathed fashion, music and clubs, nothing else mattered except the obvious: girls! .


09 What types of items were you drawn too and how did you assemble such a diverse range of styles to fit and synch into a new look?

See above!

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10 It was at that time that your ‘Cat in The Hat’ iconic Club night mushroomed in Leicester Square? You captured a very special buzz there?

The Cat In The Hat 1985 – I was not happy with the door policy at the Wag; I won’t go into detail but my friends could not always get in. We (The Duffers – Trendy, Marco, Cliff and myself) decided to open our own club night in Leicester Square: The Cat In The Hat. The basement club was small and dark with a low ceiling, held 200 people and was hot. At the new venue Lascelle and I really did our thing, if a record was to our liking it would be repeated many times in a row; the crowd was ecstatic. It was at The Cat In The Hat where we re-introduced to the world records such as “Across The Tracks” – Maceo and the Macks, “I Believe In Miracles” – The Jackson Sisters, “I Know You Got Soul” – Bobby Byrd, “Express Yourself” – Charles Wright, “Think About It – Lynne Collins” and most of the other tunes people were starting to recognise as Rare Groove. Lascelle and myself wholly instigated the whole Rare Groove scene, although many others claim it to be their own creation. We also had the pleasure of Paul “Trouble” Anderson playing with us at The Cat In The Hat. DJ’s such as Norman Jay, Trevor Nelson, the Soul II Soul Crew and many of our contemporaries frequented the club. Basically Lascelle and I were in the right place at the right time. Besides Trevor Shakes, our biggest influence, we had already heard DJ’s at the Wag, Beatroute and warehouse parties (Hector, Jay Strongman and Steve Lewis) dropping an offering of 70s funk in their sessions, but we played funk all night long and turned it into an art with a cult following.


 
11 What tracks stood out for you from that period?

The Truth – In 1974 I saw the Movie, “Come Back Charleston Blue”. For me the memorable part of the film was “Express Yourself Part II” performed by Charles Wright And The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. The one-minute of rhythm at the intro was mesmorising. I managed to find the album “You’re So Beautiful” with this track on it, but had great difficulty finding Part I – no one had ever heard of it. Eventually, in 1977, I found the “Express Yourself” LP in an obscure jazz store; even in its day this was a rare unknown track. 1984: I played “Express Yourself Part I” at Black-Market in the Wag Club. The rest is history: anyone else staking claim to this discovery is twisting the truth.

In 1984 Lascelle and I were trawling through boxes of vintage 7’’ records. Back then we could pick them up for 10p, they had not yet been called Rare Grooves, as they were so cheap we could buy as many as we wanted on a whim and throw the crap ones away. “I Believe In Miracles” was one of these records. Lascelle picked up a record by the Jackson Sisters, he had never heard it before but the name “Jackson Sisters” was appealing. The rest is history: anyone else staking claim to this discovery is fabricating the truth.

In 1985, Although neither Lascelle nor I owned “Across The Tracks” by Maceo & The Macks we were intensely dropping this heavy rhythm with great passion. It actually belonged to Horace who was DJ’ing at the Wag Club. I am not sure which one of us played it first, but we played it at least 10 times a night often three or four times in succession. This tune was celebrated by all with much excitement and soon became the record that epitomised the Rare Groove scene. The tune was soon bootlegged and eventually re-released, bringing this underground scene to the world’s attention, thus destroying the purity of its essence. The rest is history: anyone else staking claim to this discovery is distorting the truth.

Unorthodox Soundtrack (Femi “Fem” Williams – Clubber, DJ, Producer, Friend) Imagine a world without songs such as “Across The Tracks” by Maceo & The Macks, “Think About It” by Lyn Collins, Bobby Byrd’s “I Know You Got Soul”, the forceful funk of the JB’s, the quirky sweet arrangement of Foster Sylver’s “Misdemeanour”, or the chance to do it good to Charles Wright’s “Express Yourself”. That was my world prior to religiously frequenting Black Market at the WAG Friday nights circa ’84-’85. This was a place of sanctity and escape from the drudgery of Thatcher’s Britain despite a pretty rigorous colour bar, which was fully sanctioned, approved by Tommy (the seedy owner) and enforced by Winston’s security team. There was an international cross section of the coolest in the capital, a self-acclaimed church of style, with an unorthodox soundtrack. Barrie Sharpe at the pulpit with his fellow father of funk on the wheels, Lascelles Lascelle, preached a sermon that relayed loose funk, blackened disco and reggae with a reverential air of distinction. Way before Facebook and digital imagery we danced alongside Sade, Boy George, Run DMC, George Michael, Grace Jones, Paul Weller and host of A, B, etc list stars (note; no celebrities) against the funky backdrop provided by Barrie and Lascelle. Many bands and DJ’s were influenced by this time and I still have the sound of first time I heard the female James Brown and her significant other ringing in my ears. Forceful formidable funk ‘n soul that to this day I have the preachers to thank for.


 12 You eventually developed your own thing with ‘Sharpeye’ what was the driving force?

1995 January I’m Gone – With a more commercial product Duffer was starting to regain its foothold in the fashion market; by exploiting the brand DUFFER we had become a household name. Our new hoodie was everywhere: magazines, TV, celebrities, everyone was now sporting DUFFER across their chest. As successful as it was it was not for me. I didn’t feel part of this new branding, I was bored and wanted to design. We could no longer sell Duffer designs, just branded goods. Sadly I split up with my wife Hiywet and my personal life changed drastically, I needed to grow up and take responsibility for my son; my life style did not allow for this change so I was going to have to adapt. I left Duffer amicably, walked out on my record deal, left my band and cancelled my music tour sponsorship with Levi’s; my life changed forever.

13 What happened with the Duffer brand as it basically went global and off the scale? You sold up and moved on?
 
Duffer changed from being a street style and design concept into a commercial brand.

This smooth talking, suntanned, flash German tennis player was now my boss! Thomas was an idiot; he bought the company and then gave it back to us to run, Marco and I on design and Eddie in charge of the accounts. We had already proven that we needed management but Thomas knew better, what an idiot! I didn’t like Thomas at all and had no intention of staying in his employ for very long. I started planning my escape. Earlier in the year we had been commissioned to do a collection for a Japanese company, Ready Steady Go, but we spent the money and no collection was produced. No one had the guts to tell the client that we had spent all the money. As I no longer had any loyalty to Duffer I informed the Japanese agent of our indiscretion and offered to produce the collection for them myself under the name Sharpeye, my childhood nickname; I never missed a trick. Sharpeye with its fine attention to detail took off in Japan: the writing was on the wall.


14 ‘This Was Not Part Of The Masterplan’ is your first edition memoirs – where can folks grab a copy?

You can get a copy here folks!

15 What other projects have you got planned for ‘Sharpeye’ for the coming years?

Sharpeye now produces exclusive limited edition clothes and shoes / 1-in-TEN – Rude Boy enhanced 1930s style
!


16 What do you think about the current music scene in the UK and beyond?

Very few magic moments… check this out!


17 What about the Fashion Industry or ‘Street-Style’ of today?

I have no idea? I am not in the fashion industry…

18 What about a film to document your story?

A work in progress

19 What about the EU situation – in or out?

I perceive that we need a drastic shake up in the UK; I would prefer out. However, I think it would destroy British economy

20 Has the passing of time mellowed you? What would you say to an 18 year old Barrie if you could?

Forget that shit – They can’t hold you back…

Look beyond the beyond
Where the wind whips the sea
Where unicorns roam and shadows run free
There you may find the wizard you seek
Dancing on the edge of your dream…

Weblinks
www.sharpeye.uk.com
sharpeye-31-01-60.blogspot.co.uk
www.saatchionline.com/Sharpeye

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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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ArtsQ – Kristina

Kristina (Cristina Di Cesidio-Galli) was born in Rome, Italy, in 1965.

After discovering her artistic talent in her late twenties, started her career as watercolour painter, realizing landscapes and portraits with a classic style, but with a particular taste for bright, vivid colours and ‘photographic’ renditions.

After several collective exhibitions in Italy she moved to England, where she lived from 1998 to 2003. In London, she had the opportunity to experiment with new styles and painting techniques. Became a member of two associations of artists from the London area and Kent (Free Painters and Sculptors, The Bromley Art Society), with which exhibited her works in numerous exhibitions in central London and the borough of Bromley (Bromley and Beckenham).

Her many European exhibitions (Italy, Great Britain, France and Spain) have always been a great success. The constant search for the ‘new’ in her painting gained Kristina several fans, especially those involved with the international Mod-60s Scene, from which she took endless inspiration both for watercolors and acrylics on canvas.

Back in Rome in 2003, Kristina started a new series of acrylics on canvas, drawing characters from Sixties pop culture and cinema, often characterized by strong contrasts of color and references to fashion and psychedelic music from the latter half of the Sixties.

Her works are characterized by a strict attention to detail, from the “look” of the subjects represented to the objects and landscapes typical of a magical and unrepeatable age (clubs, accessories and interiors).

Several of Kristina’s works, both watercolours and acrylics, are in private collections in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany.

01. What were your early artistic influences?

Well, first of all, the Italian Futurism (basically ‘aeropittura’ – painting about air), without any link to politics or dictatorships of that age, because I liked the modernity of it, that groundbreaking appeal, all about velocity and dynamicism. For what concerns watercolours, Leopold Stolba was quite influential to my art, especially his abstract decorations. I tried to do the same kind of works using gouache, traditional “Marseille” soap and inks. Last but not least, French ‘Pointillisme’, especially Seurat and Signac and their absolutely unique way in which they use and deal with colours.

02. What sort of Art and themes do you gravitate towards generally?

I absolutely adore the Pre-Raphaelites, the whole Art Nouveau phenomenon, Pop and Op art, Edward Hopper, and also anything in regards to good photography, graphics and sculpture.

03. What have been the main inspirations in your working themes and style?

My main source of inspiration has always been Pop Art, and obviously the Sixties in every aspect (say, music, cinema, photography, graphics – you name it). I particularly enjoy portraying women. For some abstract watercolours I took inspiration from 50s modern jazz.

04. What about the different mediums and techniques that you use or employ? Do you use modern technology and if so how?

I usually work in two different ways. For the watercolour I’m very much on the classic side, but sometimes I do mix liquid inks and solid watercolours. I also work with acrylics, on canvas or canvassed boards, using the very same techinque (‘spolvero’, or ‘pouncing’) that has been used centuries ago by the fresco masters. I never used computers, nor other modern technologies for my art. I’m proud to say that I’m, an ‘old school’artist.

05. What other current Artists do you find appealing? Heroes and Zeroes?

At the moment, the artists I mostly rate the Italian Dave Guccione, who works on metal panels using rust as a painting medium, and the British street artist Banksy, with his ironic and provocative stencils. Zeroes? Well, Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst must be top of the range. A skull covered in diamonds is just plain kitschy crap, to me. I believe Art should be about emotions, both positive or negative, and the infamous undone bed from Tracey Emin just leaves me indifferent.

06. What can we expect to see from your current body of work right now?

I’m still focused on watercolours about 50s-60s actressess, models and singers. Unfortunately, last year I couldn’t work that much because I moved to Rimini from Rome, and had very little or no room where to paint. Yet, I started painting again few days ago in the new home.

07. Anything that you really hate and why?

I hate people, especially in Italy, when they say that “Pop Art isn’t part of Italian cultural heritage”. Sounds like 60 years of International mainstream art didn’t touch Italy at all. Another thing that really drives me mad is all those who ask me “Where did you study art?”, and after learned I’m self-taught, they just go “Oh, really?”, and I obviously answer them that a true talent doesn’t need academies to express itself.

08. What about Commissions and awkward clients?

Commissions? I only did a few, portraits, basically, and never had awkward clients. My main interest was all about exhibitions. I had a lot of exhibitions all over Europe: many times in London and the Bromley area, when I was living in UK, and Rome, Cannes, Gijòn!

09. Tell us what you are up to at the moment and where can we view your work etc?

Currently I’m working on new watercolours and graphics. My works can be seen on my facebook page HERE!

10. Your thoughts on the future and things that excite you beyond Art?

To me the future is now, as you have to enjoy life as much as it’s full of new things to do. What really excites me apart from Art, is Mod-60s music, cinema, photography, comics, vintage fashion and cats.

11. Have you met or worked with anyone interesting on your Artistic journey?

When I was in London, I joined two different Artists associations, the most important of them was the Free Painters and Sculptors, based in central London. I had many exhibitions with them, especially at the “Loggia Gallery” an “L” shaped art gallery in Buckingham Gate, SW1E, meeting British and International artists who started their artistic career back in the 50s and 60s, including one of the founders, Roy Rasmussen and sculptor Donald Wells, who told me many interesting things about London Art scene in the 60s.

12. What does the future hold in store for you and your work?

Well, to be quite honest, I expect the best of the best of the best. I’m a Mod girl, at the end of the day, and of course I want more!

Links: www.facebook.com/Kristina-pop-art

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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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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.

admin

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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A.N.T.Z by Johna Johnson

People Often ask me what it was like following Adam & the Antz before they went Poptastic here’s a snippet of life as a soldier ant pre pop time!

ADAM & THE ANTZ – Retford Porterhouse / Birmingham Digbeth Civic Hall – 13/14/79

I was really looking forward to this tour which started on a Friday night at Retford Porterhouse The Parizians tour finished in Feb and they had only played at the Lyceum in April since then.

On the day of the gig I arranged a lift from some punks from Leeds who’s names escape me now They lived in a some high rise flats in Hunslet or Beeston? It was a typical punk gaff back then. We swopped some Seditionaries clothes with each other I got a grey parachute shirt with a red sleeve of one of them I cant remember what I swopped it for though? After a beer or two, we set off to Retford, which was a typical little village in the middle of the Lincolnshire countryside. There was a row of shops that looked like any street in any town and then a village square at the bottom of the street with a couple of pubs. So we headed down there. There wasn’t much happening so we headed back up to the gig. The venue was in the middle of the row of shops on the right hand side. Then you went up two flights of stairs to get in. It was like a lot of clubs in towns and cities up and down the Country but it looked a little out of place in sleepy Retford. On the 1st floor was where they held the local disco where all the ‘Normal Normans’ would congregate to dance round their girlfriends’ handbags. As we walked in the venue I was quite surprised how modern it all looked. The stage was to the right as you walked in,  the bar to the left, I went round the corner to buy drinks and congregate. The dance floor was just in front of the stage. It was a decent sized venue. As soon as I walked in I saw all the familiar faces: Pete Vague, Duncan Grieg, Martin Pope, Jon Srobat, Spud , Kev Allison, Jerry Lamont and tons of others.

There were a few new faces on board from London as well (it was also the 1st time I met Dean Parko from Cleethorpes who as been a great friend ever since). It was one of these herbert’s that introduced me to the delights of glue sniffing. Money was tight so I didn’t have a lot of money for drinks and there was quite a while before the Antz came on so there I was in a toilet cubicle sniffing glue ‘a cheap punk rock off your head option’, after a while things started to get hazy then the next minute the toilet door was kicked in and there stood a menacing bouncer before me. I was in no shape to challenge him or even speak to him, so he just grabbed hold of me then dragged me right outside, telling me I was barred! That news shuck my me back in to reality, I was gutted but didn’t know what to do about it. People were coming out on my behalf to try get the bouncer to change his mind. I was pleading myself telling him I’d travelled from Bradford for this gig, that it was my favourite band. But he wouldn’t change his mind, so there I was sat on the steps of the Venue thoroughly pissed off.

Then Andy Warren the Antz bass player came out to see what I was doing outside – I told him what happened and he laughed. Then he went to have a word with the owner and the bouncer. Suddenly I was allowed back in. The bouncer said he was keeping his eye on me for the rest of the night. To say I was well behaved for the rest of the evening was an understatement, until the Antz came on, then I was down the front with everyone else as soon as the intro tape started playing Gary Glitters ‘hello I’m back again’ followed by Missa a Luba ‘Sanctus’ then Hanns Eielser’s fanfare! Adam had a new look.

Out went the Kabuki make-up, green army Mac, shirt and leather tie, and sash look, and now he had a camouflage face make-up, cowboy style shirt, leather trousers, black kilt and black sandals with white soles. The Retford gig was great, It felt so good to see the Antz again people were running around asking if I was going to Birmingham the day after? I was ment to go back to Bradford after the gig because funds were low then catch up with the tour in a couple of days but now I was like an addict needing his fix Of course I was going to Birmingham. I said good bye to the lads from Leeds then stood around with all the Antz lot that were stopping over night in the train station. As we were stood there all the locals from the Disco below piled out on to the street. They took one look then walked past. Then as they got to the bottom of the street they started on some Punk kid, who took a bad pasting. We all ran down to help then they shot off. Then the Ambulance turned up. Then everyone got some food and made their way to the train station . The waiting room was small but quite cosy. It had a old style fire blazing away, so everyone just settled down for the night until the morning when the train came.

Everyone was awake quite early and sat about chatting about what they thought of the gig the previous night, Adam’s n new look and what they thought the Birmingham gig would be like. After a while we all got on the platform to board the train to Birmingham. I was in a precarious position, as I hardly had any money, which meant I would have to bunk the train to Birmingham. You never worried about things like that then, things always worked out. I got within two stops of Birmingham before I was caught. This was mainly due to a combination of hiding in the toilets. I was caught coming out of the toilets and told the conductor he had just checked my ticket and was going back to my seat and moved in the direction he had come from re-affirming, I think? That he had checked all the people’s tickets from that end of the train. I finally got caught when I let my guard slip, thinking I had got away with it and fell asleep. The options were pay or get nicked, so I had to go round the train tapping 10p’s! All this and without a Mohawk hair cut as well! I managed to get quite a bit of money to pay the train fair and had a bit spare.

We arrived in Birmingham quite early so we hung around the Church near the Bull Ring, a famous Market in Birmingham. There were loads of Chinese tourists who came up to us and offered us money to take photos of us to show people back home. So that was more money in the coffers! We then went to walk around Brum and get something to eat. We came across this record shop that had a Italian and Portuguese copies of the Parizians single. They were hard to find for sure! I could only afford one of them, so I bought the Portuguese copy, thinking that would be the rarer, something I was to regret as I have only just found a Italian copy some 33 odd years later and it was a lot more expensive than in the shop in Birmingham! We went back to the others at the Church and decided to find a certain pub, where all the local punks went. After looking around for about an hour, we eventually found it, but it was empty. We had a drink then returned to the Civic Hall. Just in time to watch the band do their sound check. After I spoke to Mathew Ashman (RIP) and Andy Warren to make sure I was on the guest list and general chit chat.

My mate Gary O’Connell (RIP) turned up from Bradford. He asked how I was getting home the day after, as the Antz had a day off. I said I don’t know, he said we could get some Coach tickets. So we went across the road to the Bus Station and asked how much the Coach fair would be back to Bradford the next day. We then put that money in our back pockets for safety so as not to loose it.

I was starting to think this was going to be a great night. I had made a bit of money the gig was sorted out, bought a record, had the Coach fair home and had a bit of money left for a couple of beers. I was standing outside the gig talking with Pete Vague, Tom Vague and Gary and a large group of Punks turned up across the road. Then we realised it was more Antz crew who had come up from London. We felt great, there must have been about 100 of us now. We couldn’t wait for the gig to start and people were still turning up. Boxhead from Liverpool, Paul Wanless from Middlesbrough and another lad from Boro, a lad from Leeds, who’s name I can’t remember now.

Eventually the doors opened around 7.30. I got my name ticked off the quest list and made straight for the bar where everyone else was. I noticed that all the security were Hells Angels from Wolverhampton, which we thought was a bit strange, but we just ignored them. We all sat in the bar, it was like a private party as there where no Punks from brum there. Then this girl, I had seen at a couple of Antz gigs turned up. It also turned out she was from brum. She had turned up with another guy from Bradford. Barry Jepsom (who would later become the bass player for Southern Death Cult) She said we could stop at her house after the gig – things were just getting better. She told us that that the Skinheads had told the local brum Punks not to turn up because they were going to attack the London Antz crew, and anyone who was there was libel to get attacked if they were not Skinheads.

The Skinhead issue became the main talking point from then on. (The Antz crew were getting a bit of a reputation for being a bit handy in a fight as Antz gigs were sometimes quite violent, but the way people danced at the gigs visually looked violent to outsiders. It was like no other Punk gigs I ever went too. The Antz crew were not that bothered however ,as there had been many a scrap at gigs since they did the Parizians Tour and before at the London gigs. Punk gigs around this time were often starting to resemble football matches, without the Police to monitor the situation. Lots of people started touring round the Country following groups in fairly large numbers. Soon as you landed in another city the local hooligans would find out and mob up. Suddenly someone shouted ‘they’re here!’ We all rushed over to the window to look.

Outside, there were about 100 Skinheads walking down the middle of the main road, blocking all the traffic. They stopped outside the gig and started shouting abuse up at the Antz crew. The Ant’z crew returned the taunts. The Hells Angels wouldn’t let the skinheads in the gig, probably because they knew what was going to happen. Some of the Skinheads climbed up the drainpipes and climbed in through the windows, but were delt with immediately.

There seemed to be a break in proceedings so we concentrated on the gig itself, thinking that because the Skinheads couldn’t get in they had gone away! We were sat in the bar then the Gary Glitter song ‘Hello, Hello I ’m Back Again’, came on and every body started singing along. The Antz played this before every gig to let everyone know they were coming on stage. Along with Missa Luba’s ‘Sanctus’ and another track we knew as ‘the fanfare’ by Hans Eeisler.

The Antz hit the stage to the usual frenzy of delight. The atmosphere was electric. They were about to start singing their 4th song, ‘Animals and Men,’  when all of a sudden we heard this loud noise and turned round. To our amazement there were the Skinheads! They were spread out all across the hall with arms linked, goose stepping slowly towards us, as to box us in near the stage to make sure that know one could get past.

Adam started the intro 1- 2 -3 -4 to start the song and I noticed that the Skinheads leader had a Man Utd shirt on? So as they charged forward, I went straight for the guy with the Man Utd shirt on (being a Leeds fan he was an obvious target) I shoved these two Millwall Skinheads (who followed the Antz and were on our side) out of the way and whacked the Man Utd fan straight in the face! To my amazement this had no effect on him at all. He didn’t see who had hit him, so I jumped back out of the way and started helping out others who were getting attacked thinking I was a bit lucky there maybe? The fighting seemed to go on for what seemed ages. Adam was on stage saying ‘I’m sick of you lot, you travel all over the Country to see us and just end up fighting!’ Then he walked off the stage. The Hells Angels were attacking the Skinheads as well so, together we managed to get the Skinheads out and own the stairs and eventually out of the venue. They locked the doors.

We went back in the gig and Adam came back on the stage and the gig was finished in peace. The Antz were great as usual. With Adam being annoyed with what had happened earlier the music seemed to reflect Adams anger. They were loud, energetic, and aggressive. With everybody on a high on adrenaline from fighting the Skinheads ,everybody seemed to be dancing in a state of frenzy. They always danced like that, but even more so tonight. It was like some sort of testosterone ritual. It’s really hard to describe how people danced at Antz gigs – it’s got to be seen to be believed. The music seemed to transform people into potential ‘homicidal’ maniacs. I have seen people, who are placid in nature, turn into potential maniacs once the music starts. My mate Duncan showed some photos someone took of people dancing at an Antz show and they all looked like they were having a nervous breakdown!

To see the ants live was an unbelievable experience and no other Punk gig came close, including the Sex Pistols. The nearest atmosphere to an Antz gig was the Meteors, but then half the people at the Meteors gigs used to follow the Antz origanlly anyhow! At the end of the gig I went back stage to speak to the band. Adam was really pissed off, so I went back outside to sort our sleeping arrangements out.

I met up with Gary and Paul, then Barry came up and said that that girl from brum had changed her mind about us stopping at her house and that there had been a mix up, so we made our way outside. When we got out side there were loads of Police everywhere. We were told we would be getting a Police escort to the Train Station, as that was how most of the Antz crew had come up from London.

As the Police marched us back to the station the Skinheads tried to attack the front of the escort (It’s an old football hooligan tactic to get all the weaker ones in the middle of the escort, so you can protect the front and the back). Me, Gary, Popey and a few others went to the back of the escort as that’s the most vulnerable part of the escort, as the Police will protect the front but your more open to attack from the back, that’s if your attackers have any brains. So far the skinheads weren’t showing any. They continued to attack the front, and the Police kept them at bay. The Skinheads then split into two groups. They kept probing at the front of the escort, throwing bottles, but keeping their distance so they didn’t get nicked and to occupy the police. Eventually the Police had enough and charged the Skinheads down the road. Leaving us with no protection. Then those Skinheads who had split off earlier from the main group, came out of hiding and attacked us. We got all the people to the front that could look after them selves and the weaker ones at the back. There were about equal numbers and after a while we managed to get the upper hand.

It’s hard to describe a ‘free for all’ as you don’t have that time to be an observer. Your just trying not to get hurt and concentrating on protecting yourself.  The only thing I can remember is Popey picked up one of those circular metal road lamps and whacked this Skinhead over the head with it, leaving him lying in the middle of the road. This had a dramatic effect on the other Skinhead’s appetite to continue the fight and they then dragged there mate to safety. The police then realised (as usual) that they had been out flanked by the Skinheads. The Police quickly hearded us into a street, so as to make sure we were under their supervision again. At the end of the street we could see that an Ambulance had arrived to attend to the injured Skinhead that had been hit earlier. Everyone started cheering! The Police went over to see what was going on, and then the Inspector then came over to where we were and addressed us all. He asked if anyone knew anything about what had happened to the Skinhead. Someone shouted out ‘I think he tripped over his big mouth!’ and everyone started laughing. Then some said ‘why don’t you ask him… in a few days when he wakes up!’ Everyone started laughing again. Apparently he was in quite a bad way. We realised Popey could be in big trouble, so we hid him in the middle of the escort In case one of the Skinheads had seen him hit their mate and could point him out. The Skinheads had now lost their appitite for a close contact brawl but were still up for ambushing us with bricks and bottles all the way to the Station.

When we finally arrived at the Station the Police escorted everyone towards the the London train. We said goodbye to everyone as they got on the train, in two minutes the train had gone. All of a sudden we were stood in Birmingham train station on our own just me, Gary, Paul and the lad from Leeds, with nowhere to go and the Skinheads were still outside the station. We went up to the Police and told them the situation , thinking they might put us up in a Police cell for the night, but they just said in no uncertain terms that they didn’t care what happened to us, and that we shoudn’t have come to Birmingham anyhow. This was a standard reply by the Police to football fans that had been attacked on their patch.

With the Antz gig resembling a football match rather then a gig ,we were not surprised by their attitude. We walked to the end of the platform to return into the Station and we could see that the Skinheads were still in there. We realised that if the Skinheads got hold of us we would get one hell of a beating after what had happened to their mate. I didn’t fancy our chances either of trying to walk back into the Station itself. Luckily the Skinheads thought that everyone had got on the train to London so they were not particularly looking for us. We looked around and saw a little opening at the side of the Station and we saw that there were some Taxi’s parked there. So we made a dash for it , then one of the Skinheads spotted us and they started running towards us. We just managed to get into the Taxi. We jumped in. The Taxi driver got half way through the usual  ‘where to…?’ and we just said ‘anywhere!, just drive!’ The driver could just see all the Skinheads approaching the car and he said ‘are they after you?’ We rsponded ‘yes!’ So he set off as fast as he could foot right down, realising his car would get smashed to bits if they caught up to us!

We just about set off before they Skinheads got to u . We got to the end of the short road then realised that the traffic lights were on red. We looked behind us and the Skinheads had also seen that the traffic light were on red and set of in pursuit of us again. We sat there wondering what to do and praying that the traffic light would turn green. The Skinheads got to within a foot of the car then luckily the light turned green! The driver, who was as scared as us, just put his foot down and we were off again… phew! Everyone breathed out, including the driver. We drove of into the distance and we all started to relax. Our Taxi driver asked us what had happened and we told him we had been to see the Antz play. He exclaimed ‘all that trouble for a concert, what’s the world coming to?’ We all laughed! He asked us where we were going again. We said we had know where to go. He said that we can’t just drive round brum allnight which we knew deep down. We counted up all the money we had between us which came to £5. We just said we want to get out of brum centre and try find somewhere to sleep!

After a few suggestions we decided to go sleep under the Motorway Bridge. It was July so the weather was OK , and we had a duvet so it wasn’t that bad. We were just glad to have survived the night. The next day we all woke up with the early sunlight with a slight hangover and very hungry. We hadn’t eaten since the afternoon before. As we found our bearings we realised we were about 6 miles from the City Centre. We set off walking towards the Centre. We had no money left for food or a Bus fair back in to the Centre. It took us about an hour and a half to get back to the main Bus Station. We were really knackered, but relieved to get there. We sat down for a minute to get our breath back. Paul had his ticket for the coach back to Boro so he said farewell and left. The lad from Leeds had a train ticket so he departed to get his train. Me and Gary then went and queued to buy our tickets back to Bradford.

We got there and the queue was massive, eventually after what seemed a life time we got to the front of the queue. ‘Two tickets to Bradford please!’ Certainly! Then the women behind the till asked us for our money. We gave her our money and she said sorry but there’s not enough! We said we came and asked the price the day before. She said that the prices had gone up over night. We could have died right there! We stood in front of her looking unwashed and dishevelled, starving and hung over. We explained what had gone on the night before and that we had slept on the Motorway all night I also said if I could have one wish it was to get home. I started to think of walking all the way back to the Motorway and hitchin’ it home, I think at that point I just wanted to die!

Gary was sat on the floor at this point in despair and I was about to join him when the women behind the till said she would pay the difference for us. I think it was about 60p each. I said ‘I will return the money as soon as I got home!’ I don’t think she believed me, but she gave me her address. I was just glad she took pity on us or was it the thought of having to drag our bodies up from the floor so she could carry on serving customers? I didn’t care, I was going home. I think it is one of the only times I can say a was glad to be going back to Bradford. When I got back to Bradford I said goodbye to Gary and I went home and had a long beautiful sleep. The next day the first thing I did was send the women the money back. At tthe next Antz gig, I bumped into the girl from brum that was going to put us up. She asked why we didn’t come back to her house . We told her that Barry Jepsom had told us that you had changed your mind. She was angry and said she would have a go at him when she saw him again!

© Johna Johnson a big thanks to him for letting eyeplug.net share this on his behalf!

Johna Johnson

Johna Johnson is a writer and collector and well known face and much loved character on the UK Punk Scene. Having followed and worked with a lot of the leading bands from ‘back in the day’, he is currently working on a Compilation Book Project about his and others passion for the original Adam & The Antz (pre-pop) and is open to talks from Publishers and serious interested parties. Please feel free to get in touch using the links here below!

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Kirk Brandon by Richard ‘Jock’ Watson

jockRichard ‘Jock’ Watson started the infamous Limited Conspiracy Fanzine in his hometown of Glasgow in the early 80s at the tender age of 16 or 17. All these years later he has kindly offered to share selected pieces from it with Eyeplug and it’s readers, so that folks can re-discover what would otherwise be a lost culture of pre-internet, pre PC, tablet or Smart Phone Fanzine Culture, that was present in every outpost all over the UK and beyond. All of it driven with passion, obsession and alientation on often borrowed pennies, on stolen typewriters and moody photocopiers and a ‘DIY not EMI’ love for the bands of that time. Limited Conspiracy interviewed some pivotal and influential Artists, some of them sadly no longer with us. We pay tribute to the pioneers, grafters and innocence of this Fanzine era that has been all but lost to history.

Kirk Brandon from The Pack/Theatre of Hate had a newly formed band called Spear of Destiny with a new LP and sound, Richard ‘Jock’ Watson spoke to him in the early 1980s. © LC.

RW: Could you tell us about the New LP?

KB: The new LP is very round and it’s got a hole in the middle and it plays at 33rpm (Spoken in a very bad Scottish accent, si I instantly knew Mr Brandon was a joker at heart). But on with the show – No seriously! Actually it’s a very jolly little Album, nothing too depressing on it!

RW: What’s the difference between this and ‘The Grapes of Wrath?’

KB: It‘s played very well and it’s more me that it’s ever been. I’ve finally got it together and it sounds like what I’ve always wanted to hear, it’s what Theatre of Hate should really have sounded like.

RW: Do you still listen to the old Theatre of Hate records?

KB: I don’t sit around thinking about what I used to do, I just sit around and write new songs!

RW: Do you care about having hits?

KB: No I don’t care, we get really good numbers at our Gigs now, the people are coming and we’re on the way up again, so I have no complaints!

RW: You seem to be constantly Touring?

No we’re not, well not really, that a fallacy put forward again by the NME, their excuse to have a dig. We’ve not toured in a long time, we done 15 dates a while ago and now we’re doing these 10 dates and that’s it for a long time. Most people tour England at least a couple of times, but you don]t listen to the Papers and what they say – they are irrelevant, they don’t bother me in the slightest!

RW: What do you listen to in your spare time?

KB: I listen to Ska Music, I love Ska and Blue Beat. I also like Church Music, Robert Johnson of the Delta Blues as they call him, I also like Prison Music!

RW: The Ska thing does that include Two-Tone?

KB: Well yes as well as the original Blue Beat, but Two-Tone I really like!

RW: What is your connection with Boy George?

KB: Well I helped put his band together for him, Jon Moss and another friend of mine – I gave them some time and the rest is history really!

RW: Are you not sad that Culture Club has had all of that chart success and that you haven’t?

KB: No, I see it this way, I told them they would be big, the biggest thing in the world as far as ‘Pop Music’ is concerned. They didn’t believe me! But they got a lot more bottle than most of these people and actually think a lot, they are not cabbages you know!

RW:  So who is?

KB: Well a lot of people allow themselves to be.

RW: Do you mix with other ‘Pop Stars’?

KB: Well I don’t, but I go to The Palace (Camden Nightspot) because I know the DJ, Rusty Egan, he is a friend of mine. I steer clear of most Clubs that I went to years ago, because I meet a lot of cranks, there’s a lot of potential aggro, I know the management of The Palace, I have done for years, I used to go when it was called the Music Machine!

RW: Do you like Scotland?

KB: Yes, Glasgow is the best gig in the world, so many people say it, but I am saying it’s true. Glasgow is always a wonderful atmosphere, the audience are nice people, which makes a change.

RW: The last time you played in Ayr, there was a guy in the audience giving you stick. What was that all about?

KB: Yes it was some ignorant bloke in the audience, he was sort of maintaining that I had ‘sold out’ or something? So I had to point out that to even be in Ayr that night had cost a lot of money. As ‘TOH’ side of things progressed the debts and costs got bigger and bigger, I’m not whinging, and in the end it became crippling. So I folded the whole thing up, I had to do a deal with the Record Company otherwise it was all over. It costs money to do these places. I had to start Spear of Destiny, you see ‘TOH’ were maybe sometimes slightly innocent, they didn’t want to just get on and play music, maybe even their heads got a little big and they couldn’t be told! I dunno? (shrugs).

RW:  What about the future?

KB: We’ll I would like to produce bands, because we’ve done a lot, started off bands, we’re quite responsible and i think we have done quite a lot. Most of it we don’t talk about. I’ll carry on for a few more years or until such times as i can take it no further, just like TOH and The Pack and other bands that I have been in. But this thing is going to get big, so I’m told, because people enjoy listening to it, it’s not commercial, but it’s good!

RW: What’s your strongest track, Liberator?

KB: Its’s a good song and there are others that are a s good as it, it’s all good. I can’t differentiate because I write it all, so it]s up to you to decide what is good and what isn’t!

RW: What about the next S.O.D single?

KB: The Record Company are trying for ‘Young Men’.

RW: Do you have no say?

KB: Yes, but it’s such an involved Business and so much lying goes on. It’s impossible sometimes! I gave up working with the A&R department, we just go and play to people and make records for their enjoyment. Thtat’s all I was ever in it for, to entertain. There are other things of course, but this is what it’s about! I like the Studio, but I love playing live. I used to Tour 235 days a year, we Tour Europe but not America, well not yet. There was some talk of it, but I don’t know!

RW: Are you bothered by what people in the Audience say?

KB: No I’m not bothered myself, but it is a bit sad that the guy in Ayr did not want to understand. I suppose he will keep his hardcore mentality or whatever they call it these days. In a few years he will fill bitter that he has missed the boat somewhere as far as his own life is concerned. You can’t dwell on the past, never!

* Kirk Brandon is currently Touring with various Spear of Destiny/Theatre of Hate/The Pack sets, check out www.kirkbrandon.com for all latest info.

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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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