Vague 12

Vague #7
July 1982 Tales from the Blank Generation – UK Decay – Danse Society – Killing Joke
Theatre of Hate – Adam and the Ants retrospective – Nuclear War
Falklands War – Viz Comics – Lovable Spiky Tops


‘This is more a symptom than a fanzine. As a review of the would-be street credible music scene Vague is irritating, affected and superficial, but as an unwitting expose of the kind of parasite Tom Vague is, it is sometimes fascinating. Tom Vague spends a very small proportion of his lengthy articles writing about the gigs or records he purports to be reviewing. The rest is a sort of disjointed autobiography, with special attention to how drunk he got, whether he could con a free ticket/record/handout, the violence he always seems to stay out of, toadying to the in stars whilst badmouthing the out ones… The clever title/cover design lead you to expect some wit, but Vague is mostly humourless – the only laughs come from some cartoons that turn out to be cribbed from a Newcastle fanzine called Viz.’ Sheep Worrying

The cover artwork of Vague 12 was a pop-Situationist detournement/homage to Club International’s Vogue spoof Vague cover, ‘magazines we’d like to see on the bookstands in ’79’, featuring a picture of the porn star Fiona Richmond by Fanny – not Che Guevara’s girlfriend Tania as some thought. This issue examined the positive-punk v negative-punk struggle embodied in the early 80s groups, UK Decay, Killing Joke, Theatre of Hate, Bauhaus and Danse Society, before the dark forces of Goth and U2 won out. There was also Johnny Waller on the decline of the music press, Pete Scott on nuclear war, anti-patriotic Falklands war jokes, more Viz and Perry Lovable Spiky Tops cartoons, Love and Romance, and Christmas on Earth.

Mere Pseud Mag Editorial

Just as you thought it was safe to go back to the toilet again, the Bible is back. With Thatcher’s popularity rising as we try to re-conquer the world, America looking set to self-destruct, MPs voting on bringing back hanging, Johnny Thunders making a comeback, it looks like another long hot summer, but Vague is back on the case again with even more pointless, slanderous lies, wildly inaccurate info and self-indulgent crap. This time it’s a totally new concept, no crap about pop stars, only one proper interview, crap record reviews, boring pointless photos, no new cults, no humour, no style, no page numbers because that’s too stereotyped – how about that for being subversive? We’re not into writing – we’re into chaos.

I only just managed to get this together before my enthusiasm for music and life in general ran out completely. After all, there’s plenty of things to keep me depressed like: Stroud, Aust Services, Killing Joke splitting, Rolling Stones touring, Kid Creole, Paul Morley, hippies, the coming of the Anti-Christ, when they find Strummer, soundchecks, those lovable spiky tops, hippies again… The only things that cheer me up, and they’re mainly nostalgic, are: Julie Burchill, Hunter S Thompson, Douglas Adams, Viz, Firestarter by Stephen King, Malcolm McLaren, Jean-Paul Sartre, Boxhead, ‘Temptation’, the Gymslips, John Smith’s, Annie St John, Minder, Monty Python, John Snow, Perry’s cartoons… Right, I’m really pissed off with this crap now. Don’t believe in this ruin. Don’t take anything seriously. The truth is only known by Vagrants.

UK Decay: Positive Punk

UK Decay have often been mistaken for a Garry Bushell band (retro punk group). The publicity they get on the backs of leather jackets hasn’t helped. That’s usually good enough reason for me to give a band a good slagging, but the lead singer Abbo was an old Ants fan and names can be misleading. I remember being impressed by them at last year’s Futurama. Then at the start of this year you just couldn’t get away from them as they played with Killing Joke and Theatre of Hate. March 31 So we went round to the Marquee to see what they had to say for themselves. We dig Abbo out from amongst his mutant punk followers. He’s easy to spot. His beaming smile and enthusiastic eyes stand out in the murky depths of the Marquee. Before long he’s grabbed Spon and Eddie and we’re sitting in the bar over a cassette recorder.

Abbo’s responses to our predictable questions and comparisons were: “The name was instigated about 3 years ago from the song ‘UK Decay’ that became our first single. ‘UK Decay’ isn’t so much a dig at the UK in decline, no hope type job. It’s more an optimistic use of the word in the decadent sense. UK Decadence – putting forward something different musically and idealistically. The name just stuck. It’s the decadence of the UK. The youth in this country are the most contemporary and forward thinking in the world. I don’t mean that in a bigoted, conceited sense, but in a musical sense the revolution happened here in the mid-70s. It’s now spreading worldwide. Kids everywhere are faced with the same problems, basically the same outlook on life. Music in the punk sense has had a lot to do with this awareness…

“I’m totally against the Pistols’ nihilism, the ‘No Future’ thing was just hopeless. I’d like to think in a more optimistic sense… We’ve got no future man – glue, pissed, drugs. It’s escapism… I think my role in the music scene was a lot more to do with the Ants or the Banshees. They sent off some wave of positive thinking that I’d never seen before… It’s like the Crass position at the moment. I’m totally in favour of their ideals but they’re limiting themselves by carrying on that style of music. They’re limiting the possibilities of their idealism. They are there as an idealistic band to put forward opinions, rather than as a musical entity. If they really want to change the world, they shouldn’t alienate themselves with their minimalist music…

“Loads of people have compared us to the Ants, but not musically or idealistically. A lot of people come to our gigs and we’re riding high in the independent charts but you can’t read about us in the music press. You just can’t find anything out about the band and that’s what makes it a cult… I think we have such a cross-section at our gigs. I think it’s great. It’s fair enough preaching to the converted. But bands like Linx are singing political songs in the funky disco media, that doesn’t usually put over any political ideas. It’s usually totally escapist. That’s going to an audience that wouldn’t normally think about it. Then I get a bit confused and I look at Linx and I look at Crass and I think who’s doing the better job…

“The trouble is, between here and Birmingham there’s only 2 bands really, us and Bauhaus, and Play Dead maybe, they’ve got the same problems. I don’t dislike the comparisons but I see Bauhaus as a contrived band with pre-planned ideas. We like to think we’re different to that. We did dabble in the occult and that at first but we didn’t want to play on it like Killing Joke because it was a bit corny and heavy metalish. But having said that, I am interested in writing lyrics about the unexplained side of life… There are songs that are connected like ‘Dresden’ and ‘For My Country’, sort of anti-patriotism… I’d like to think as a band we’re judged on our music. Politics are there but I don’t want to put them in the forefront and use the band as a political vehicle…

“Politics of life…We have got a few songs about sexual hang-ups and sexual progression. The Ants did really over play the leather fetishism, ‘Bathroom Function’ and all those things. Fair enough, I’ve got a few sexual vices… but I don’t feel the necessity to sing about them. It’s self indulgent, although the Ants did do it very well… But, as I said, I’m influenced by everything. We do live, we don’t just sit at home. We go to gigs 4 nights a week and you see so many different situations and different things happening. I have trouble talking to old school friends, who work all week and only go out at weekends. It’s a different world and it sounds like I’m boasting all the time. I’m influenced by a lot of literature, Hermann Hesse, Nietzsche, Brecht, Mephisto, the film. I’m basically stimulated by so many ideas. I don’t walk around with my eyes shut like a lot of people…”

Killing Joke: Negative Punk

‘If Killing Joke weren’t a band, they’d be dead.’ Julie Burchill. We’ve got a good excuse for not doing the long awaited Killing Joke interview but nonetheless a good excuse for featuring them. Unbeknown to us when we went to Hammersmith Palais to check them out in February, we were witnessing their last proper gig before Jaz stormed off to Iceland to sit out Armageddon. The music press really took the brunt of the Killing Joke. About a month after Jaz pissed off, Sounds ‘exclusively’ announced that said Joker had gone to Peru, mistaking Peyr, the band he was working with in Iceland, for the country. But the news that occult enthusiast Jaz thought that Maggie Thatcher was the Anti-Christ and Ronald Wilson Reagan amounts to 666, the number of the Beast, has been verified and the end is only 20 months away, isn’t so funny considering the present circumstances.

I’m normally sceptical but if you’ve read your Revelations, it all fits – the forces coming from each side of the ocean and destroying the world and all that. Peyr or Theyr (Thaw)’s manager Gudni Agnarsson told NME: “We just know there will be disasters, both natural disasters and human acts. So we want it to withstand the last wave. After that, we know a new age is coming.” Jaz told NME: “Just fuck off, right.” Peyr, who might have impressed you recently on Peel, are not your ordinary rock group. Apparently they’ve been experimenting with electro-magnetic waves and claim to be able to psychically control their audiences. So, that looks like the end of the Killing Joke in its present form, for the time being – vague or what? What we’re left with is ‘Revelations’. So did complacency kill the cat? Not by the sound of it. The sound of it is by top Kraut producer Conny Plank.

Jaz’s vocals are noticeably clearer but gone is the ‘What’s This For?’ noise disco and a lot of the sardonic humour of the second album. ‘Revelations’ kicks off with ‘The Hum’, which lulls you into a false sense of security then with wicked ambiguity introduces the next or last instalment of the Killing Joke. ‘Empire Song’ is probably not their best single although it’s great live. The album isn’t funny. It is a collection of dark nursery rhymes; ‘Have a Nice Day’, ‘We Have Joy’, the bombastic chant ‘Land of Milk and Honey’; all delivered with the same chilling certainty. Killing Joke aren’t very nice at all. They are malicious in a lovable sort of way. ‘Revelations’ is the best album they’ve done. If you don’t think so on the first couple of plays, keep at it and I’m sure it’ll get through to you eventually.

Killing Joke dabble in the occult but not in the comic heavy metal Satanic way. I think the theme of the album is about a race that used to live on Earth, but they got so decadent the gods expelled them. We took their place on the condition that we behave ourselves. The first race are still about, waiting for us to blow it, then they can take over the Earth once again. This is a belief held by the likes of Ozzy Osbourne. The Pandys are coming… Well, I’m off to Iceland, only a few months to go. Someone better tell all those Sounds journalists in Peru that NME made it all up because they couldn’t find any interesting stories. Have a nice day.

Theatre of Hate: Westworld tour despatches amended

Iggy the speeding Dutchman (Vague founding editor) was working with Theatre of Hate taking photos and was going to interview them but he’s too busy suing everyone. Then Neil from Durham was going to do it but didn’t, so I’ve had to knock something out myself. Anyway, this is Vague. Vagrants don’t want to know about pop stars’ boring lives, they want to know how pissed Tom Vague got and how long it’s been since he last had a portion. I did see Theatre of Hate quite early on, about a year and half ago supporting Classix Nouveaux at the Lyceum. There had been a lot of fuss about them around London but I wasn’t that impressed. They came across to me as an updated version of Generation X, but you could see that they had something. The Lyceum gig was a preview of the 2002 Revue tour which showcased Classix Nouveaux, Theatre of Hate, Shock, Naked Lunch, etc. This tour ironically established Theatre, the only punk band on the bill, whilst leaving Classix and the rest in relative obscurity.

It was around this time that the number of exaggerated Mac Curtis haircuts increased around London and Theatre of Hate indirectly started the punkabilly cult, which consisted of disillusioned young Ants fans and reformed punky types, largely Londoners. Suddenly everyone started to look like Kirk Brandon. I was impressed by their unpretentious sound and they really seemed like they meant it, maaan. Theatre continued to build up their following on a couple of tours and released a steady stream of singles; ‘Rebel Without a Brain’, ‘Original Sin’, ‘Legion’, ‘Nero’, and the ‘He Who Dares Wins’ live cassette. All of these releases started with the Clash, threw away all the thrills, cut it down to the basics, made Joe Strummer 10 years younger, and stuck on a sax. The highlights of ’81 for Theatre were the 2 Futurama festivals which they conquered with only Bauhaus and Bow-wow-wow in contention. At Stafford everybody had come to see them it seemed. The Bingley Hall erupted as they hit the stage and even from my vantage point, way up in the balcony bar, you could see that they had grown up into rock stars.

At the start of ’82 they went into the studio with Mick Jones, experimenting with Ennio Morricone western guitar riffs and incorporating more rockabilly, and then on to Top of the Pops. ‘Do You Believe in the Westworld?’ was a ray of hope in the tortuous mediocrity of the MOR charts of ’82 and the best thing to be seen on Top of the Pops since the Pistols. Then came the debut album proper ‘Westworld’ and tour to promote it. Extensive press coverage followed including Paul Morley’s subjective appraisal of Brandon’s ears. The album doesn’t capture Theatre of Hate live at all. Apparently it’s the 4th take and mellowed down somewhat from the original. I like it nonetheless, there’s some interesting bits on it. Listening to it at time of writing, really it’s just a 2nd division ‘Sandinista’ but I suppose it’s the best debut album in a while. In a lot of ways Theatre strive to be original, constructive, fun and a lot of other good things but they require a certain amount of hero-worship.

March 8 Bristol Locarno: I made the epic journey to Bristol solo, hung around at Revolver and various caffs until the Hatchet opened, and then sat alone with a solitary pint, overhearing tales of the last Theatre tour and skinhead trouble at Weston. When I were lad, on first Ants tour, we’d get killed every night by thousands of skinheads and then hells angels would trample on our graves – if we were lucky. Duly hustled my way in and ligged around for awhile, meeting former acquaintance Julie who was going out with Woody from the Meteors, the rockabilly support group. I was expecting them to be something like the Cramps but they were more like the Lurkers or Johnny Moped. Theatre of Hate hit the stage to the Thunderbirds theme (I think) and ecstatic applause. From the balcony, their stomping young rebel stance was almost convincing. They were what the Clash should/would be if they were young again.

July 7 Michael Fagan got into the Queen’s bedroom at Buckingham Palace. July 11 Italy won the World Cup in Spain. July 16-18 The first WOMAD festival at Shepton Mallet. Flux of Pink Indians at Bath Centre 69. Vague 12 came out. July 30 Paragon drugs and vodka bust. July 31 Banshees at the Elephant Fayre. August UK Decay interview in Zigzag. August 2 The Clash at Bristol Locarno. August 28 Vague XI v Warminster football game. September 10 Roxy Music in Brussels. September 11/12 Futurama 4 at Deeside Leisure Centre featuring Southern Death Cult etc.


Tom Vague
(Vague Publishing, 1982)
now out of print