Vague 4

Vague #7
 
April 1980 Mikey Dread/Dread at the Controls – Revelation Rockers/Talisman
Animals and Men – Moskow – The Wait – Grandma Moses
The QT’s – Lemmy – Stiff Little Fingers – Plain Characters

 

Vague 4, the most local west country issue and the best produced, featured Mikey Dread of Dread at the Controls and Clash tour fame and Talisman formerly Revelation Rockers by our reggae correspondent Dread Andy Kelford from Ringwood; Animals and Men from Frome – featuring Nigel House who went on to Rough Trade shop fame, Moskow by Puddle, the QTs again including Frogg pictured with Lemmy of Motörhead, the Wait from Wales at Wincanton racecourse, Grandma Moses, Bath bands; Commercial Viability, 530 Boots, Skitzoid; Stiff Little Fingers and Plain Characters. By then the likes of Iggy and Sharon were only listening to reggae; Big Youth, Lee Perry, Mighty Diamonds, Dillinger, etc; at Nelson Road, the nearest thing we had to a blues club in Salisbury.

Mikey Dread/Dread at the Controls by Andy Kelford

Mikey Dread, radio DJ, singer, dubmaster and star of the recent Clash tour, seems to have fallen victim to the same problem that has ruined the Clash of late; namely CBS. Rumours have been circulating over the disappearance of Dread produced Clash product ‘Bank Robber’ which was set for release as their next single. It seems that CBS have ‘lost’ the tapes (probably not commercial enough for their bank manager). I hope the Clash have enough guts left to fight them until it gets released. Meanwhile there’s still plenty of Mikey’s own work circulating through more reasonable labels. Check out the new single ‘Rockers’ Delight’, a high point of the recent gigs, or better still the excellent ‘African Anthem’ album. As a producer, apart from the Clash single, he has been/will be working with Michael Israel, Earl Sixteen and (most important of all) Hugh Mundell. Mundell’s work for Augustus Pablo has already created some of the finest sounds on vinyl in recent years. So wait in drooling anticipation to see what heights he can reach with Mr Campbell at the controls.

Back on Mikey’s own album; from the opening moments of ‘Saturday Night Style’ you know that this album has to be something weird. Not the music for anyone of a nervous disposition. Nothing ordinary here, voices leaping out at you in a haze of echo, Bubbler’s synthesiser coming at you one moment like a vat of molten chocolate, the next birds chirping, then something like Zebedee on speed. All this over a solid Sly Dunbar/Robbie Shakespeare rhythm. On ‘Industrial Spy’ horns fade in and out of the mix to lull you into a false sense of security as the words’ riddim swing knock you off the edge of your seat. ‘Headline News’ has Bubbler making police siren noises, while on ‘Mikey Dread in Action’ things aren’t nearly as restrained. Maybe time to grab a couple of valium before side 2?

In ‘Resignation Dub’ we learn that ‘Mikey Dread come fe conquer’ amongst other gems over crashing drums and a weaving bass line. ‘Technical Selection’ finds an old standard rhythm (on ‘African Dub’ a few years back) like it’s never been heard before. ‘Comic Strip’ is just that. With ‘Pre-dawn Dub’ things start to get really eerie. Warped voices and distant screams, creaking doors, maybe goats bleating here and there, very wooden drum sounds. For the grand finale ‘Operator’s Choice’ things get really silly, almost total chaos at times, makes Lee Perry sound quite reserved. Musicians throughout include Sly and Robbie, Augustus Pablo, Ansel Collins and most of Jamaica’s finest. What more can I say but buy it.

Revelation Rockers/Talisman

Having established themselves as one of the hottest live reggae bands around, Revelation Rockers found themselves in need of a name change at the end of last year. This situation was brought about by the insistence of London lovers rock outfit Revelation (signed to the Burning Sounds label), who are said to have employed heavy tactics such as harassment of London club management to press home their point. So now the name is Talisman and the band are working solidly to re-establish themselves. Having recently blown Steel Pulse off stage in Birmingham, they seem to be succeeding. A single is to be recorded in the near future but it has been set back until they get a new keyboards player. Even with the absence of keyboards at their last Bournemouth gig they succeeded in producing a well solid set, harder than usual but none the less professional. At times the sound is very bluesy, particularly the lead guitar and sax, which gives a further dimension to their music – the kind of sound which leaves you with no choice but to dance.

Animals and Men: Futurist Manifesto

Uno, due, tre, quattro, Marinetti, Boccioni, Carra Balla, Palasechi, Marinetti, Boccioni, Carra Balla, Palasechi, Futurist Manifesto, Futurist Manifesto, War is the world’s only hygiene, energy and fearlessness, racing car the beauteous beast, hurl defiance at the stars.’ Another mysterious local band for you – Animals and Men. I know the name reeks of Ants rip-off dated punk, also they come from Somerset, so on the face of it they seem lacking in street credibility. The one thing I knew they did have going for them was that Puddle ex-Stalag 44 drummer and local hero was playing with them. March 15 Puddle brought the rest of Animals and Men over to the Ship one night… They are a very individual bunch leaning on the arty side except Puddle, they’ve renamed him Dean incidentally. Their lead singer Susan Wells does not fit into any Sioux, Styrene, etc look-alike slots, and within the confines of a noisy public bar they are very eloquent and gave us our best interview yet.

Firstly I query Ralph Mitchard, the guitarist and spokesman, about their choice of name: “The name came about 8 months ago, before the Ants’ John Peel session, it’s been a longstanding thing, we haven’t just jumped on the bandwagon. It was intended as a sort of tribute. We thought the imagery of the name suited our music and if we didn’t acknowledge the name somebody would. Anyway, we’re pretty influenced by the Ants and wanted to give them credit, because at that time they were not getting any press. We could have just masqueraded as another band not anything to do with them but we wanted to say we were on their side… We’re more like the old Ants, I like their music but a lot of things about them I don’t like.”

“We started about 10 months ago as a 3-piece, Geoff, Nigel and me, called Psychotic Reaction, that’s a song by Count 5, the 60s psychedelic punk band, good name, it started as a 60s punk orientated thing, influences; Elevators, Mysterons and so on, and American punk rock like the Dolls, Stooges, Voidoids. To a certain extent we bypassed the Pistols. We’ve only done 5 gigs, 2 in London, our bass player (Nigel House) lives in London, one in Frome and 2 in Bath… Our lyrics are more socially orientated, the Ants are more about themselves. We sing about situations rather than feelings – some political, some other things… The lyrics aren’t politically orientated they’re about real life situations… Individualism.” Puddle says he’s got socialist leanings and then goes off to have another game of Space Invaders.

Ralph continues: “We don’t sit down and aim to write a song seriously about a particular subject… Everybody writes the songs – we all contribute – no individuals take the credit.” On the new single: “It’s called ‘Car Crash Blues’.” Puddle: “It’s Siberian reggae.” Ralph: “Cars taken from a cynical viewpoint. A semi-humorous view of cars crashing, parodying the sexual implications of a car crashing.” On their first single ‘Don’t Misbehave in the New Age’: “It’s a tongue in cheek standard 1984 oppression nursery rhyme, very glib and pithy, it was brought across in a poppy way. It shouldn’t have been a single really. ‘New Age’ is more serious but we made it too jokey, even sing-along. People took it on face value. The object was to bring serious songs into a light-hearted aspect, like ‘Young Parisians’.

“It was recorded really cheap, about £20 at a 4-track studio in Porton. It’s got a really trashy production – only took one and a half hours to do. There’s mistakes on the B-side. We wanted the record company to re-record it but they had no intention of doing that. We had 1,000 pressed, all gone, no profit… We don’t have a lot of fun, we don’t enjoy playing.” Sue: “We do – well, I do – everybody else enjoys playing except for Ralph.” Ralph: “I enjoy it better than going to work. We’re not martyrs to any cause except Dean to his sexuality… We’ve lost about £500… We went to London to get the badges pressed and Adam came in shortly after we left. We wrote to him asking what he thought and he consequently replied saying he was honoured and that he liked the single; said it was a pure product, glorious, danceable with great promise, great vocalist, tight rhythm section…”

“We asked if we could support them and we were going to go on the gigs in the south but that’s all fallen through now. Perhaps it was not such a good idea. When we supported Toyah at Bath we had a very poor response, the audience was not interested in the support band… We were going to support Crass in Bath but that fell through. They had wanted to read our lyrics before agreeing that we could support them. But I think Crass are on the right track although I don’t entirely agree with the way they are doing it, whereas Toyah are just another showbiz rock band… The Psychedelic Furs, we’re more like them than the Ants. We’re not necessarily like them, just influenced by them and the Monochrome Set and the Pop Group.” Fave bands: Puddle – Punishment of Luxury, Nigel – the Doors, Sue – the Velvet Underground, Ralph – the Ants.

“I think the Pop Group are pretty commendable, not in the least bit boring. There’s nothing wrong with being naïve. It’s better to be naïve than cynical. I sympathise with them, I’m naïve, Adam’s naïve. If you’re cynical you lack enthusiasm. I think enthusiasm is connected with naivety. The Ants are naïve enthusiasts whereas the Banshees are tailor-made cynics made by the music press. The Ants and the Banshees are the 2 extremes… I’m more influenced by the cinema, by films and directors. I find early silent, 30s cinema interesting. They provide the inspiration to some of my songs. I like Warhol who was anti-art… I doubt if we’ll stay here, we’re not very popular in Frome, only a few people have shown any interest, most of them think we are arty posers, that’s not bad I suppose. If they don’t like us they can fuck off but we’ll probably fuck off instead.”

Moskow

Puddle of Animals and Men reported on their predecessors as hippest west country band: I met two of the members of Moskow in a murky corner of a café in deepest Warminster. Yes, even Dave Cole, the lead guitarist, turned up… He is one of the 2 original members left in the band. He tells me: “’The Man From Uncle’ was written about 2 years ago and we released it as a single because it was the most un-commercial. It first came out in January ’79 on our own Moscow label and sold about 2,000 in a month which wasn’t bad considering that’s all we had pressed. The song was played on John Peel a few times and had some good press reviews… We eventually signed to Rialto, not because of the money side of it but because of the publishing contract. Rialto then had us re-release ‘The Man From Uncle’.

“It didn’t make the Radio 1 ‘A’ play list but Kid Jensen played it on his evening show a few times. It was selling a hundred singles a day for a couple of months, but because of very little air-play and no publicity sales dropped… After the single crashed, and what with having young members in the band (bass player Trevor Valentine – who went on to the goth group the Bolshoi), tensions grew between the band and Rialto. That’s it really… They wanted us to be a stereotype band of pretty boys producing commercial garbage… We did a track called ‘Too Much Communication’ on the compilation LP ‘Avon Calling’ which I think sold about 4,000 copies and made several alternative charts. Apparently it was number 9 in the Californian charts… We have several local gigs lined up but the one at the London Blitz is the most important because the single is fairly popular up there, we’re told it gets played quite a lot…”

Grandma Moses

Meanwhile at the Mere rock history society in the Ship, Grandma Moses were brought before the Vague post-punk revolutionary tribunal: After reading Frank Stocker’s Percy Throw-up column, I went along to see local hippy band Grandma Moses, to get in on the start of the hippy revival. So now Vague has changed its name to Veg… We started the interview down the pub one night when one of them, Andy Cole, was playing. Grandma Moses are: Brad Bradbury – guitar/vocals, Andy Cole – lead vocals, Andy Golden – drums/vocals, George Hart – bass, Tom Thatcher – guitar/keyboards/vocals and Marion Birch – flute. Tom Thatcher does the honours: “We were originally formed in ’74, at that time we were under Ian Gillan’s wing and played quite a lot of gigs in and around Salisbury, but I’ve been playing in various bands for over 14 years. Me and George first got together in a band called Heap in ’67 in Salisbury, that was with Mike Wedgwood of Curved Air, Caravan, etc.

“George joined Second Hand and made an album called ‘Seventh Wave’, it was jazz rock, way ahead of its time, the keyboards were way ahead of Gary Numan. Then I had a band at college called the Gland Band. But getting back to Grandma Moses: the original Grandma Moses could be described as a poor man’s Yes, we played some gigs around London and Fareham, we were just a bunch of quite good musicians playing desperately complicated stuff, I think we were wrong in doing that, we had keyboards, synth, mandolin, etc. During this period Brad did a demo-tape at Gooseberry Studios in London, then we broke up for a while and Brad and I formed a trio called Wheeler. Then Grandma Moses reformed, we got back together by accident actually. We got Andy Golden back to jam with us and the band crawled back… Our best reunion gig was at the Cathedral Hotel in Salisbury, George played because the other guy couldn’t make it. It was a great success – so many people turned up there it was nearly a riot…”

The QTs

The QTs at the Griffin, Southampton reviewed by Iggy, with a picture of Frogg with Lemmy of Motörhead: Firstly, the Griffin is a big pub which would fit about 200 people. The place was mainly filled with old hippies, bikers and yobs. As the QTs were having a sound-check, which got the crowd going, me and Sharon went and got pissed. Some bloke who is a promoter in Southampton asked if the QTs have a good following, and of course I said yes (what lies) and now the next QTs gig in Southampton is on May 10, to be confirmed. At 9 the band start their set with ‘Something in the Air’, which is brilliant and should be a single, then they go on to ‘Chance It’, ‘Goldfish’ and so on. By this time there’s hippies pogoing everywhere, which surprised me. As they do ‘Plastic Men’, Colin bass starts kissing Mike vocals and Sharon tries to get a picture. Then comes ‘Savage in the City’ and the end of their set. After half an hour break, when everyone’s pissed out of their heads and it’s impossible to move, they scream away with ‘Over You’, and Mike has taken off his jacket, Frogg’s playing it cool and I take a picture. The crowd are really jumping about and some are pogoing on the tables as the QTs do ‘Naughty Thoughts’ and ‘Night Flight’. Then they finish their set with ‘All Cry Tomorrow’ and ‘England’. The crowd call for an encore but the equipment is going back into the van. As the pub closes some NME photographer wanted some pictures of the band. The gig tonight showed that the QTs are getting better all the time.

Dickie’s Gossip Column: Shock horror probe Kitchens split drama (again). Halfway through last month guitarist Sprogg (Andy Ford) left the band to replace Chris Walsh in the QTs. They will continue as a 3 piece with Duncan playing guitar until a suitable replacement is found. They recently supported the Martian Schoolgirls in London at Acklam Hall. The Crimmos have also split. Ray Sparrow’s run away with some woman, Nick Kemp guitar is temporarily jamming with the Kitchens, and Jez bass has joined the Blips along with ex-Shining Hearts Mike Buxton and Steve drums and guitar respectively. They will be supporting either the Only Ones or Hawkwind at Worthy Farm, Glastonbury. Identity Crisis and Kinetic NRG are still going, the latter being the best received at Vince’s knees up at Sarum 76. The Rising Sun and Cathedral Hotel have had bands regularly all month including the Blazers, Lesson, Program and a nondescript punk band who are best forgotten about. The Strawbs recently played at St Edmund’s Arts Centre, the first gig of their first tour for over 2 years. Their set consisted of mainly their new album and all previous hit singles. Everyone who went apparently enjoyed themselves, including local loony Ken Stretch who jammed on keyboards in the afternoon sound-check while nosing about.

The Kitchens/The Martian Schoolgirls/The Wait

The Kitchens and the Martian Schoolgirls at the Rising Sun previously unpublished review by Perry: “Well this is cosy isn’t it,” said Duncan, singer of the Kitchens as the band went into their first number. The small hall was almost empty with just a few people leaning against the bar, and others leaning against the walls in the shadows. The Kitchens started with ‘A Bomb’, a track which is also on their maxi-single. The last time I saw them was when they were a 3-piece band, since then Duncan has handed the bass playing over to new member Ruth Cross, while he concentrates on singing. The band have a lot style, with the energetic drummer providing a fast and exciting beat while guitarist Andy Ford played some excellent solos. Duncan is a very relaxed frontman, he takes a sip from his drink then casually walks up to the microphone to do a bit of singing. Ruth handles the bass playing very well, having only been with the band a couple of months she is not as confident as the other members, and stands quietly concentrating on the playing. The Kitchens played a very professional and exciting set and taking into account the high standard of their debut record they deserve to be a very successful band.

As the Kitchens ended their set I decided to wander the pubs in town and when I returned the Martian Schoolgirls were already into their set. They have been playing a lot in Salisbury lately, and everybody who had seen them said they were rubbish. So I thought I’d go and see them to find out for myself, especially as one of the guitarists was in Joe Strummer’s old band the 101’ers. The hall was full up now and I went through to the front of the crowd to see what the band were like. They consist of a drummer, bassist, 2 guitarists and a girl who danced around and sung lead and backing vocals. The only songs I remember were an old Diana Ross hit and the Martian Schoolgirls’ own single ‘Do It in the 80s’, all the songs were of the high energy rock type, and although I wouldn’t say they were rubbish, I don’t think I’d go out of my way to see them again, and of the 2 bands the Kitchens were far better than the Martian Schoolgirls.

March 27 The Wait and the Kitchens at Salisbury Tech College new common room review by Tom/Perry?: Complaints from people: (1) Photographer complained about bar prices and that the gig was a gathering of Salisbury punk society – It was an art college party and if art students don’t want to go to gigs put on for them it’s up to them. (2) People say there are no gigs in Salisbury – When there is something on they either don’t bother to go or don’t give the bands a chance. (3) A lot of people seemed to be disco fans and sulked during the bands then bopped away during the disco – If they want discos there are loads every week, but gigs by out of town bands are rare. (4) Poor attendance – certain people’s behaviour may mean no further gigs – a bum gig like this was just the chance some union members are looking for. Getting away from the apathetic Salisbury punters on to the gig review, we appear to have lost the gig review. But the Kitchens and the Wait were great, Salisbury was shit.

Better Badges/Fanzines

Better Badges was named after the beat Better Books shop on Charing Cross Road by Jolyon Mcfie, a former International Times editor and Pink Fairies tour manager, also associated with Syd Barrett, Hawkwind, Gong, the Pretty Things and Suzi Quatro, who reputedly hadn’t had a haircut since 1968. The Portobello Road underground press tradition continued in the 80s at number 286 (across the road from the site of the Frendz office), where Joly’s Better Badges printed and distributed punk fanzines. The premises had been the Bell Press, the office of Van Der Graf Generator, and acted as the mailing address of the Dread Broadcasting Corporation. Today 286 continues in a similar vein as the Portobello Artshop stationers/photocopiers.

After a macrobiotic revelation that badge making was the way forward for the underground movement, Joly started pressing up hippy badges like Hendrix Lives, IT, Legalise Cannabis and Pass It This Way, before making the punk rock leap to the Ramones and Anarchy in the UK. In the 70s, and some way into the 80s, people wore lapel badges to express their pop identity and street credibility. On the punk rock scene in some extreme cases of identity crisis blazers and leather jackets were covered in them. Big badges made it into punk but became associated with the watered-down new wave of Bob Geldof’s Boomtown Rats and Sting’s Police, and were superseded by small button badges.

Most of these were manufactured at 286 Portobello Road and sold from Portobello market extension stalls at punk gigs around London; at the Roundhouse, the Electric Ballroom, the Lyceum, Marquee, Music Machine, Hammersmith Odeon/Palais/Clarendon, etc; and beyond. Badge design developed from customised slogans, like the Sid Vicious modelled I’m A Mess, to specialised hip group names and logos. The badge chart leaders of 1980 were the pre-pop Adam and the Ants S&M series, the Basement 5 target, the Crass symbol, Killing Joke, Motörhead, PIL (Public Image Limited), RAF (Red Army Faction – the Baader-Meinhof gang), Two-tone, Dread at the Controls, Toxic Graffiti, Throbbing Gristle, Rock Against Thatcher, the Police (Sting’s group) and Clash Police (actual police in the 1976 Carnival riot charge that started outside 286).

As a sideline Better Badges utilised the Bell Press to print fanzines for the Rough Trade Fanzine Co-op distribution network. This operated on an anarcho-capitalist basis, where the remainder were sold back to the editors at cost-price (which can’t be fully explained here); thus encouraging and orchestrating the post-punk fanzine boom inspired by Sniffin’ Glue and Ripped & Torn. At its height in 1980 Sue Donne at the Rough Trade shop was receiving 12 new titles a week; most of which were taken on to be distributed around the nationwide network of record and book shops. Simon Dwyer, the editor of the leading post-punk fanzine REM/Rapid Eye Movement (that preceded REM the group), wrote in his Sounds fanzine round-up of how ‘dozens of Rough Trade’s mail-order generation dumped passive consumerism and rattled off reams of rubbish in a search for identity, purpose and fun. Every day another young editor staggers proudly under the Westway with a new bag of radical reading matter, making the 3 minute walk from one bright spark of the current explosion, Better Badges, to the other, Rough Trade.’

Parallels can be drawn between Thatcherite enterprise culture and the entrepreneurial pop ventures of such former fanzine editors as Paul Morley of the NME, ZTT and Newsnight Review (Manchester’s Outhear) and James Brown of Loaded (Leeds’ Attack on Bzag). But on the whole the fanzine scene was more about uncommercial punk DIY spirit than post-modern media scams. Other notable fanzine editors who went on to fame and fortune (or at least proper media jobs), rather than remaining in cult obscurity, include Shane MacGowan of the Pogues (Bondage), Morrissey of the Smiths (an early New York Dolls fanzine), Jon Savage (London’s Outrage), the NME’s Adrian Thrills (48 Thrills), Mike Scott of the Waterboys (Jungleland), Barbara Ellen of the Observer and Miki of Lush.

Like everything else on Portobello market, some fanzines, like Ripped & Torn/Kill Your Pet Puppy, Panache, Poser, Tales of Dayglo and Toxic Graffiti, had their 15 minutes then disappeared. While others, like Tony Fletcher’s Jamming (as in the Jam rather than Bob Marley), In The City, i-D and Viz, became proper magazines/comics and, in the case of the last 2, survived the old mainstream music press. At the top end of the Better Badges production range, i-D, though nominally a fanzine, was always destined to be the first Brit pop cult style mag. The first i-D models, in it’s real street culture fashion phase, were various poser Better Badges employees representing the early 80s style tribes; including Joly, Hamish of the Sex Beatles, Derek Harris (the Ted reggae expert who went on to Ignition T-shirt shop along Portobello), Scrubber (the legendary Mohican punkette), and the odd passing pop star like Boy George, Kirk Brandon of Theatre of Hate, Haysi Fantayzee and Ian Astbury of the Cult.

Scrubber’s i-D mode interview best summed up the times: “I can’t think what I want to do – I’m thick, be a badge pinner for Better Badges.” Fave music: Crass, Killing Joke, Angelic Upstarts. Hair: pink, black, white. “My mate Sarah cuts it for me and I dye it myself – it takes 30 minutes backcombing and hairspray, Boots Firm Hold. I like the anarchy of my job. I dislike the rain when I’m hitching, and it always does, and my hair goes flat.” Joly himself encapsulated the pop counter-culture paradox in The Face, musing: “Are we a crassly commercial cash-in or a living, breathing extension of culture? It was easier to sell an IT badge than a copy of the mag itself. There is an argument that people aren’t interested in the information itself, only in being seen to apparently have that knowledge.”

March Vague 3 finally came out. Ants ‘Cartrouble’ and Banshees ‘Happy House’ singles were released. Animals and Men, Moskow and Grandma Moses interviews. Jane’s 21st birthday. March 26 The Kitchens and the Wait at Salisbury Tech College Vague Promotions. ‘Atomic’ by Blondie and ‘Going Underground’ by the Jam were number 1. April Rough Trade trip. Bristol St Paul’s anti-police riots broke out. Vague 4 came out. April 15 Jean-Paul Sartre died. April 18 Zimbabwe gained independence. April 25 US helicopters crashed in attempt to free hostages in Iran. April 27 The Undertones interview at Bournemouth Winter Gardens. April 28 The Cure and the Passions interviews at Bournemouth Stateside. April 29 Alfred Hitchcock died. Grandma Moses at Barons Court.

 

Tom Vague
(Vague Publishing, 1980)
 
now out of print