Sunday, September 30, 2007

Do they owe us a living?

Occasionally I pick up my mandolin (yes really) and sing. Earlier this year at the (now evicted) Camberwell Squat Centre, I played a few songs at a gig with PJ and Gaby and I Made This Mistake. I performed a version of Crass's Do they owe us a living , and even though I'd added a melody that isn't on the original song everyone was singing along by the time I'd got to the second chorus.

I thought I was being quite innovative, but not long after at the same venue I went to see Kleber Klaux, an Australian synth duo who did a version of the same song (pictured at this gig). Talking to them afterwards they mentioned that they'd played another gig where some people did an electro version of it. Then I came across another electronic version from San Franciso by The Soft Pink Truth. Finally, for now, I hear that Jeff Lewis, from New York, has recorded a whole album of Crass covers including Do they owe us a living?

I think we can say that this song is not only an anarcho-punk standard, but is on the way to becoming probably the only true anarcho-punk folk song, that is a song that is now known by many people who have never heard the original (recorded on 1978's Feeding of the 5000).
What I like about it is simply the sentiment of the title 'Do they owe us a living? Of course they do'. Some of the other lyrics I have always felt more ambivalent about. When I sang it, I must admit I changed 'Don't take any notice of what the public think,They're so hyped up with T.V., they just don't want to think' to 'we're so hyped up...', trying to defuse the holier than thou tone that was one of the weaknesses of anarcho-punk moralism.

Interesting interview at 3 am magazine with George Berger, author of book about Crass;
Expletive Undeleted also has a couple of good Crass posts; Green Galloway has loads.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dead by Dawn, Brixton, 1994-96

Dead by Dawn was a techno and speedcore club in Brixton, South London that ran from 26 February 1994 until 6 April 1996. In itself this was nothing particularly unusual – at the time it felt that every available social space was being taken over by record decks, speaker stacks and dancers, and in Brixton there was plenty of techno to be heard of various varieties. But Dead by Dawn was unique, and not just because its music was the hardest and fastest to be heard in London.

Dead by Dawn was only discovered by the mainstream dance music press after it had ceased. A Mixmag article by Tony Marcus on 'Hooligan Hardcore: the story of Gabber' (July 1997) stated that 'In London, the music is supported by the crustie scene or parties like last year's Dead by Dawn events, hosted by the Praxis label, conceptual events that were preceded by Mexican Revolutionary films or talks on topics like Lesbians in Modern Warfare'. Likewise it wasn't until September 1997 that The Face published an article by Jacques Peretti, 'Is this the most diabolical club in Britain', documenting the speedcore/noise scene: 'Like any embryonic scene, no one quite knows what to call it yet. But at the clubs where it's being played (Rampant, Sick and Twisted, Dead by Dawn, Acid Munchies) they're also calling it Black Noise, Titanic Noise, Hooligan Hardcore, Gabber Metal, Hellcore, Fuck-You-Hardcore or, my favourite, my a severed arm's length, Third World War' (the 'diabolical' club written about was incidentally Rampant at Club 414, also in Brixton).

Dead by Dawn is also (mis)name-checked in Simon Reynolds' book Energy Flash (1998): 'The anarcho-crusties belong to an underground London scene in which gabba serves as the militant sound of post-Criminal Justice Act anger. A key player in this London scene is an organisation called Praxis, who put out records, throw monthly Death by Dawn and publish the magazine Alien Underground'. All of these references contain some truth, but don't really convey the real flavour of the night. This is my attempt to do so.

121 Centre

Dead by Dawn took place on the first Saturday of the month at the 121 Centre, an anarchist squat centre at 121 Railton Road first occupied in 1981 (and finally evicted in 1999).

The Centre was essentially a three storey (plus cellar) Victorian end of terrace house. At the top was a print room and an office used by radical publications including Bad Attitude (a feminist paper) and Contraflow. Below that was a cafe space, decorated with graffiti art murals, and on the groundfloor there was a bookshop. Down a wooden staircase was a small damp basement used for gigs and parties.

The basement was where the decks and dancefloor were set up for Dead by Dawn, but the rest of the building was used too: 'Dead by Dawn has never been conceived as a normal club or party series: the combination of talks, discussions, videos, internet access, movies, an exhibition, stalls etc. with an electronic disturbance zone upstairs and the best underground DJs in the basement has made DbD totally unique and given it a special intensity and atmosphere' (Praxis Newsletter 7, October 1995).


The musical driving force behind DbD was Chrisoph Fringeli of Praxis records. The notion of praxis, of a critical practice informed by reflection and thought informed by action, was concretely expressed at Dead by Dawn with a programme of speakers and films before the party started. A key theme played with around Dead by Dawn was that of the Invisible College, a sense of kindred spirits operating in different spheres connecting with each other. Those invited to give talks were seen as operating on similar lines to Dead by Dawn. I particularly remember a talk by Sadie Plant, author of 'The Most Radical Gesture: the Situationist International in the Post-Modern Age'.

Of course, only a minority of those who came to party came to the earlier events, but I recall intense discussions going on throughout the night on staircases and in corners. The discussions continued in print (this was one of the last scenes before the internet really took off). Dead by Dawn was one of those places where a very high proportion of people present were also making music, writing about it or otherwise involved in some DIY publishing or activism. There was a whole scene of zines put out by people around it, including Praxis newsletter, Alien Underground, Fatuous Times, Technet and Turbulent Times. My modest contribution to this DIY publishing boom, other than a couple of short articles for Alien Underground, was The Battle for Hyde Park: Ruffians, Radicals and Ravers 1855 -1955, an attempt to put the movement against the anti-rave Criminal Justice Act in some kind of historical context . People who occasionally came to DbD from outside of London also put out zines, including the Cardiff-based Panacea and Sheffield's Autotoxicity.

The writing about music was in some ways an attempt to make sense of the intensities of places like DbD. If there was one source quoted more than any other if was Jacques Attali's 'Noise: the Political Economy of Music', in particular the statement that 'nothing essential happens in the absence of noise'. Other ideas in the mix included Deleuze & Guattari, the Situationists, ultra-leftism and William Burroughs (particularly ideas of control and de-conditioning partially filtered through Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth). As well as music there were various other projects brewing, such as the Association of Autonomous Astronauts.

The mob

All of the above might make it sound as if DbD was some kind of abstract, beard stroking affair. I'm pretty sure though that there was no facial hair on display, and I can certainly vouch for the fact that DbD was a real club, complete with smoke, sweat, drugs (definitely more of a speed than an ecstasy vibe), people copping off with each other and general messiness.

There were people who came from round London and beyond especially for the night, Brixton Euro-anarcho-squatters for whom 121 was their local (at the time there was a particular concentration of Italians in the area) and the usual random collection of passers-by looking for something to do with the pubs shut, including the odd dodgy geezer: UTR (Underground Techno Resistance) zine warned in August 1995: 'if you go to the Dead by Dawn parties watch out for the bastard hanging around passing off licorice as block on unsuspecting out of their heads party goers. We suggest if he tries it on you that you give him a good kicking. You don't need shit like that at a party'.

Some of the crowd might have fitted Simon Reynolds' description of 'Anarcho-Crusties' but the full-on brew crew tended to be less represented than at some of the larger squat parties in London at the time. Of course we were more civilised in Brixton than in Hackney, and anyway the music policy tended to scare away those looking for the comfort of the squat party staple of hard/acid techno (not that I was averse to some of that).

DbD was one point in a network of sound systems and squat parties stretching across Europe and beyond, through Teknivals, Reclaim the Streets parties and clubs. I remember talking to somebody one night who had just got back from Croatia and Bosnia with Desert Storm Sound System. They'd put on a New Year’s party (January '95) where British UN soldiers brought a load of beer from their base before being chased back to base by their head officer.

Hardcore is not a style

It is true that gabber was played at DbD, as were more black metal-tinged sounds - the black-hooded speedcore satanists Disciples of Belial played at the closing party (though it is not true as suggested here that Jason Mendonca of the Disciples was responsible for DbD - I believe he was more involved in another London club, VFM). But DbD was not defined by either of these genres - indeed what separated DbD from many of the other 'noise' clubs was an ongoing critique of all genre limitations: 'Hardcore is not a style... Hardcore is such a sonic weapon, but only as long as it doesn't play by the rules, not even its own rules (this is where Jungle, Gabber etc. fail). It could be anything that's not laid back, mind-numbing or otherwise reflecting, celebrating or complementing the status quo' (Praxis Newsletter 7, 1995).

This meant that DbD DJs played dark jungle for instance, as well as techno, gabber and speedcore, occasionally winding up purists in the process. Sometimes there were live PAs, for example by Digital Hardcore Recording's Berlin breakbeat merchants, Sonic Subjunkies.

Even with gabber it was possible to get into a kind of automatic trance setting - after all it was still essentially a 4:4 beat, albeit very fast. The experience of dancing at DbD was more like being on one of those fairground rides which fling you in one direction, then turn you upside down, and shoot off at a tangent with no predicable pattern.

A quick roll-call of some of the DJs - Christoph, Scud, Deviant, Jason (vfm), Controlled Weirdness, DJ Jackal, Torah, Stacey, DJ Meinhoff, Terroreyes, Deadly Buda, not forgetting VJ Nomex, responsible for much of the video action.

The last days

DbD quit while it was ahead. Praxis newsletter announced in October 1995: 'In order for this never to become a routine we have decided to limit the number of events to take place as DbD with this concept before we move on to new adventures - to another 5 parties after the re-launch of this newsletter on October 7th'. So it was that the last party took place in April 1996. There was some frustration that the baton was not taken up by others: 'What a relief to be rid of the stress - but six weeks later we start feeling bored already and start looking for new concepts. Why did no one take up the challenge to make this sort of underground party spread? Why was the last discussion avoided by those people who tried to give us shit about stopping the parties?' (Praxis newsletter 8, 1996). The latter article was accompanied by a 1938 quote from Roger Caillois: 'the festival is apt to end frenetically in an orgy, a nocturnal debauch of sound and movement, transformed in to rhythm and dance by the crudest instruments beating in time'.

There was no going back, but many of those who were there have continued to be involved in making music, DJing, writing and other interventions, including Christoph (still doing Praxis and sporadically publishing Datacide), Howard Slater, Jason Aphasic, John Eden and Matthew Fuller.

The final document was a Dead by Dawn double compilation album (Praxis 23, vinyl only) with tracks from Richie Anderson & Brandon Spivey, Sonic Subjunkies, Deadly Buda, Somatic Responses, DJ Delta 9, Controlled Weirdness, Torah, Aphasic, Shitness and The Jackal, plus recordings made at Dead by Dawn parties.

Some Dead by Dawn texts:

Dead by Dawn on 3rd December 1994 - Club Review by the Institute of Fatuous Research (published in Alien Underground 0.1, Spring 1995)

Dead by Dawn is a baptism of fire happening on the first Saturday of every month, organised in conjunction with elaborate astrological cycles. It is an open secret, an anonymous pool of power accessible to guileless travellers of multitudinous potentiality. A new rougher and tender realm and yet another sucker on the beautiful arms of that octopus of desire called the INVISIBLE COLLEGE.

Dead by Dawn is an all-night feast of fire consumption; a self-sustaining palace of pleasure. Aliens advance their individual investigations into involvement with MOB RULE, test-driving hectic notions against believing everything... but minds do burn out (perhaps the effect of swallowing too much dogma and listening to techno played in other clubs that has been made with tired and fatigued formulas) and on this occasion we were sorely disappointed to have to watch the spectacle of certain elements getting angry because some Dark Jungle was playing out. Did this so offend their techno tastebuds that they had to spout their pathetic invective against breakbeats?

Dead by Dawn fires up binary dilemmas, resulting in aphasic implosions of belief structures. All the declared origins for things, all the various shades of after-life theory, are majestically destroyed. The fragile skin between inner and outer space has been punctured; a celebration begins, of incompleteness, the dissolving of categories and the accumulation of ideas. This is a launch pad for a thousand missions into electronic disturbance zones. Nothing is sacred. Dead by Dawn is the realisation and suppression of popular music and attendant social conditions; techno reveals how we find our own uses for magical systems, alchemically transforming machines into play-things, and constantly re-mixing, re-connecting, and re-inventing ourselves. All of this was confirmed by the live PA that night from Berlin technodadaists Sonic Subjunkies.

Dead by Dawn fans its own flames; the key to its success is 'Mind Our Business', cultivating the MOB mentality. By outflanking the administrators of fear, Dead by Dawn gleefully contributes to the breakdown of society, as our contradictions disrupt the whole millennial regeneration of the Renaissance world-view, and the manipulation of reality for the purpose of reality. The whirligig of time speeds up and has its revenges. These digital hardnoises accelerate the displacement of hierarchy, they provide space/time travel to a classless society where there will be no plagues of crap music and stupid club-promoters, no ego-tripping pests and self-promoting bores, no extortionate prices and rip-offs, and where there will be unlimited free drugs, records, dancing and sex. WE ARE INVINCIBLE.

Dead by Dawn - a game of Noise and Politics (from Fatuous Times, issue 4)

"Well done, now you have captured the Seven Angels of Noise you may begin organising your Parties. Parties provide space for you to assemble Noises and begin Composing. But remember, with every Party you organise you take a risk, gambling on slavery or freedom - always avoid the Caricatures, such as Business Head, Drug Casualty and Career Opportunist; they will try to use you.

You must try to create Paradise City. You will need to invent the rules and codes for doing this as you go along. Your Compositions will provide you with new Relations and Meanings, use these as your guides.

The Forces of Restraint will try to stop your Parties. They will use the Four Hands of Power, Eavesdropping, Censorship, Recording and Surveillance, as weapons against you. The Four Hands can be used in various ways - strategies may include Law and Order Campaigns, Soft-Cop/Hard-Cop Routines, and Austerity Measures.

It is advisable to seek help and assistance at all times, to form alliances and collaborate with others.

Composing will allow you to learn the pleasures of doing something for the sake of doing it, without a need for financial reward.

Pleasure in being instead of having - this will make you stronger. Paradise City is made from Noise. Only you know this.

Good luck. Please press return button to continue this game.

Dead by Dawn: the 24th Party, flyer by John Eden at Turbulence, published in Praxis newsletter 8, 1996)

Down with intelligence!

Dance music is primarily functional in a way that no other music is. It should interact with the listener as directly as a fire alarm. Eliciting a response so immediate that it bypasses the conscious mind. If the rhythm isn’t replicated by nervous and muscular responses then it's time to change the record. If it doesn’t make your feet and legs move then you can fucking forget It. Heads down, smiles on. Go.

Bodies jammed together have no space for pretension. Technology is utilised to elicit a peculiarly 'primitive' response. No time to think, only time to keep up. The third mind of the dancefloor is fully occupied. No need for packaging. Our bodies don't care about record labels, music labels. Every man and every woman is a star here. The dancefloor is in another dimension to the coffee table. All of the body begs for a frequency to vibrate to, not just the ears.

The oxymoron of making "listening" techno is an insult. Music for consumers so passive that they don't even leave the sofa and move about. Voyeurs of a subculture that demands physical activity and secretions. The spectre of "Intelligent" jungle or techno. The removal from the party with all its smells, interactions, exhaustions and into a tidy category for the post-modern tourist.

"Don't go in there! There's people flailing their arms around and sweating!" Save us from a dance music that distances itself from the mob of whirling people we have come to love. There are no footnotes when the bass drum kicks in. No time for roles. Intelligence implies a certain sophistication, a superiority to the plebs that are prepared to make fools out of themselves in the name of Hedonism. We reject it.

Well that's my version - more contributions and comments welcome. Also I can't find copy I thought I had of the DbD album - anybody care to record a copy? See also More Dead by Dawn

Friday, September 28, 2007

Classic party scenes (1): Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) is a kind of even-more druggy The Monkees with breasts, in which a young female band (The Kelly Affair, later renamed The Carrie Nations) taste the decadent delights of Los Angeles only to be caught up in Manson-murder style slaughter.

It features a couple of classic party scenes, set at the mansion of Ronnie Barzall, a Phil Spector-like music manager. People dance energetically to a show by psychedelic band the Strawberry Alarm Clock . It's all gyrating hips, hands in the air, a smattering of semi-naked dancers amongst the swingers and groovy people, sex and drugs in beds and swimming pools in adjoining rooms. It's not a hippy crowd as such, more a mixture of freaks and suit-clad jet set. Best of all is the dialogue: "This is my happening and it freaks me out!", "In a scene like this you get a contact-high!" and the ultimate chat up line "you're a groovy boy, I'd like to strap you on some time".

There's also a bit where a woman on a chain says "What I see is beyond your dreaming", a line I immediately recognised as a sample and thanks to Dissensus now know to have been used on Roni Size's Mad Cat from the New Forms album (1997). Lots of trailers and clips from the film here.

Friday, September 21, 2007


In the later 1960s, the Stonewall Inn was one of the few gay bars in New York where the management allowed dancing: there was a jukebox pumping out Motown, but only when the police weren’t looking. If Lily Law or Betty Badge were spotted, a light came on to warn people to stop dancing or touching. Cops often called by checking ID and that everybody had the legally required three pieces of clothing 'appropriate to one’s gender'. In June 1969, the police raided again - Jayne County describes what happened:

Something happened in the summer of 1969 that changed my life, although it wasn't until years later that I recognised it anything terribly important. I was on my way to the Stonewall [Inn] one Friday night in June, and when I got to Sheridan Square there was a bit of a commotion in the street. One of the regulars came rushing over and told me that the police had raided the Stonewall, roughed up a lot of the queens, stuck them behind the bar and done sex searches on them to establish that they were men.

Miss Peaches and Miss Marcia, two of the mouthiest street queens in the Village, were really furious, and they'd run round to the front of the bar, shut the door, piled up trash against it and set fire to it while the cops were still in there. When I arrived there were scorch marks all over the door, and cop cars coming from all directions. Everyone was running around the Village going, 'They're raiding the Stonewall!' People began to gather and it grew and grew.

The queens got very vocal, and some of them started to pick things up and throw them at the police. At one point a police car came down Christopher Street, and five or six queens leapt on it and started jumping up and down on the roof, and the roof just caved in. More and more people arrived and started joining in.

Word was getting around. There were hundreds of people standing around wondering what to do. I was with a group of queens and we started walking up Christopher Street going, 'Gay power! Gay power! Gay power!' We walked all the way to 8th Avenue, and then we looked at each other and said, 'What do we do now?' So we turned around and walked all the way back down Christopher Street, still yelling, 'Gay power!' By the time we got back to the Stonewall there were hundreds more people there. They stopped the traffic. The buses couldn’t get through. People were screaming ‘Gay power!’ at the passengers on the buses. More fires were started.

At one point, we were on the corner of Sheridan Square, and we could see the police lining up along Greenwich Avenue with riot gear and shields and everything, so we all put our arms around each other and started dancing along singing, 'We are the Pixie Girls, we wear our hair in curls, we never play with toys, we'd rather play with boys,' to the tune of 'Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-de-Ay'. The policemen were laughing. In the end they cordoned the whole area off, and people were rioting there all night.

The riots went on for hours and hours and dispersed really late. The next night everybody just went down there and did it again. The bars were getting raided regularly, and people just got fed up. There was something in the air anyway; riots were happening a lot in America at that time - anti-Vietnam, anti-police, anti-whatever. If you were out and you heard something was happening, you'd say, 'Oh, let's go and be in the demonstration!'

The queens took the lead in the Stonewall Riots. They walked around in semi-drag with teased hair and false eyelashes on and they didn't give a shit what anybody thought about them. What did they have to lose? Absolutely fucking nothing. A lot of people were standing around as the Riots began wondering, '1 wonder if 1 should do this? It's going to be a big step for me, a big statement.' But for the queens it really wasn't. It was just an extension of the lives they were already living on the streets. Nowadays, the Stonewall Riots are regarded as the birth of gay liberation, but for me and the other street queens, it wasn’t such an amazingly important thing; we were already out there.

Source: Jayne County, Man Enough to be a Woman, Serpent’s Tail.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Nobody writes letters anymore, so outside of birthdays and Christmas I never receive anything worth opening in the post. But last week was the exception as the first issue of Woofah magazine landed on the doormat. Woofah is a new 'reggae - grime - dubstep' magazine edited by John Eden and Paul Meme, aiming to provide some intelligent coverage of scenes which just don't get enough written about them. Woofah combines high production values (glossy paper!) with some really good content. I particularly liked the interviews with Mark Iration (of Iration Steppas) and MC/thoughtist Lez Henry (author of the excellent What the deejay said).

These interviews made me reflect on how a feature of UK dance musics is the cross-pollination between genres in defiance of the efforts of various style border police to keep them separate, cf. Mark Iration's background in house music and bass'n'bleeps as well as dub. Also, how much of the history of these musics is largely undocumented - so much follows a familiar trajectory of central London and Manchester clubs. How about a history that was able to give credit where its due to places like Lewisham Boys Club (scene of some legendary reggae soundclashes) or the Checkpoint club in Bradford (where Mark Iration played house and bashment for the youth of
Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds)?

In a time when so much stuff is chucked on the web and skimmed rather than read, Woofah have taken a deliberate step back, arguing that some things have enough value to be worth stopping for a while and paying attenion to. So if you want to read it, you're going to have to get your hands on a copy.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Brick Lane Music Festival

A sunnyish Sunday afternoon in East London last weekend for the Brick Lane Music Festival, with lots of free music across local bars and clubs. On the way we saw Gilbert and George standing on their doorstep, and checked out the magnificent new Rough Trade store. Hundreds of people were sitting outside curry houses in Brick Lane eating their lunch. But the main event for us was Norman Jay at the Big Chill Bar.

He played a Good Times set of wall to wall anthems, from disco (Lamont Dozier - Back to my Roots, Tavares - Heaven Must be Missing an Angel), acid jazz (Young Disciples - Apparently Nothing), Salsoul (Loleatta Holloway - Runaway), Ska (Specials - Too Much Too Young) and the odd rave classic (Shut Up and Dance - I'm raving, I'm raving). The place was packed with people dancing from one end to the other.

Somewhere in an English prison there's an ex-member of the British National Party who planted a bomb in Brick Lane in 1999. He also attacked two of my other hangouts in London: Brixton town centre and Soho, where three people died in the Admiral Duncan - a gay pub in Old Compton Street. His choice of targets -an Asian area, an African-Caribbean area, and a gay area - testified to his vision of a white city purged of racial and sexual difference. No doubt a Jewish area would have been next, if he hadn't been caught. Dancing to Norman Jay was an all ages, straight/gay, multi-racial crowd, in itself a celebration of the real London that some neo-Nazis would love to blast out of existence, but will never succeed in doing.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Madonna, Britney and Hamas

Funny Marina Hyde article in The Guardian today about islamists and pop music.

In Schmoozing with Terrorists, published this week, journalist Aaron Klein conducts interviews with several jihadists, during which he asks their opinions on various celebrities. To summarise: holy warriors seem to have got pretty exercised about that kiss between Madonna and Britney Spears at the 2003 MTV video music awards...

Anyway, Abu Abdullah, a senior member of Hamas's military wing, has a strategy for handling the ladies. "At the beginning," he tells Klein, "we will try to convince Madonna and Britney Spears to follow Allah's way." Um ... dude, did you see this year's MTV awards? Britney can't even follow the backing track's way. The complex strands of the Qu'ran might be a stretch at this difficult stage in her journey. But Abdel-Al, a like-minded leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, concurs: "If these two prostitutes keep doing what they are doing, we of course will punish them. I will have the honour - I repeat, I will have the honour - to be the first one to cut off the heads of Madonna and Britney Spears." Can you technically be anything other than the first person to cut off someone's head? Whatever. He goes on to say that women such as Madonna "must be 80 times hit with a belt". I think I already saw that in the Express Yourself video.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Dance before the police come

USA, Harrisburg: party-goers jailed

The city of Harrisburg [Pennsylvania] violated the rights of the out-of-state residents cited for violating a parks ordinance in connection with last week’s McCormick’s Island Camp-out With the DJs, a civil rights attorney said Tuesday... At least 127 out-of-state people were cited by police for illegal assembly under an ordinance that requires a permit for any gathering of more than 20 people in a city park to listen to music or make speeches. Police said they discovered the party during while searching for Christian Yanez, 27, a city man who drowned trying to swim to the party in the middle of the night. The planned 48-hour party was cut short after Yanez’ body was found in the Susquehanna River around 9 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 2. Later that day, police began stopping partygoers as they came ashore on shuttle boats provided event organizers. After being searched and having their identification checked, state residents were told they would receive a citation in the mail and released. Those from out of state were handcuffed and shackled, then transported to police headquarters, where they were held for up to 12 hours awaiting arraignment by night court Judge Robert Jennings III. Jennings set their fines at $1,051, the maximum allowed under the ordinance, and sent those unable to pay the fine, or that amount as bail, to Dauphin County Prison (Patriot News, 11 September 2007).

Though almost all the revellers were eventually released by Monday, they were ‘strip searched, deloused and put into uniforms’ on arrival at Dauphin County Prison, a notoriously harsh and overcrowded US prison (In the Mix, 9 September 2007)

USA, New York: DJ arrested in gay club bust

The staff at Mr. Black, a gay dance club located on Broadway and Bleecker, spent Labor Day weekend in lockdown... Seventeen Mr. Black employees and patrons were arrested during a 4 a.m. Saturday-morning raid conducted by a small army of police—25 to 40 strong, according to one eyewitness (including a few undercovers in drag)—from the Manhattan South narcotics squad. On the morning of the raid, after police pushed past Connie Girl, who works at the door, they reportedly asked, "Who's the DJ?" When Scissor Sisters DJ Sammy Jo identified himself, he was cuffed. His friend Jean Von Baden, a DJ visiting from Denmark and in town on holiday, was also arrested...

Sonny Shirley, an employee, says in an e-mail: "I asked the officers outside why we are being arrested and was finally told, 'You don't have any rights, shut the fuck up.'" Several employees say they saw the cops high-fiving each other as they were cuffing club patrons and employees. "The officers were giving high fives to each other in the bar while we were standing with our hands up as some of our people were being taken away," says Ladyfag. "It was just insensitive and unnecessary." Roze Ibraheem, the head of Mr. Black's security, says that police at the station referred to transgendered doorgirl Connie Girl as "it" and "that" and that "other derogatory anti-gay statements were made." Ibraheem says that at the club, police told the crowd of about 115 people: "Sorry, homos, you're gonna have to find somewhere else to go hang out," and that one employee was referred to as a "fairy" in passing.

During booking, many of the employees were strip-searched and made to do the "cough and squat"... Mr. Black employees don't deny that drugs can get inside the club; but they do deny that they aid or abet it, and they say they certainly don't sell it. "Bad things can happen anywhere. We're a nightclub; we're not having high tea. There are people who do drugs and get drunk," says Ladyfag. "But this was like we were criminals. You just got the feeling like this is what it must have been like: We're gay and we're being attacked." (Village Voice, 11 September 2007).

England, Great Yarmouth: police station clash

The conflict between police and party goers escalates in the East of England as the crackdown on free parties continues (see previous posts):

Eight people have been charged after a police station in Norfolk came under siege at the weekend. Five of the eight revellers, who are believed to be predominantly male, have been released on bail pending further enquiries while the other two are still at Great Yarmouth police station, where the event took place.They are all due to appear at the town's magistrates' court on September 6. More than 100 people hurled beer cans, bottles, bricks and blocks of wood at officers and tried to storm Great Yarmouth police station in the early hours of Sunday morning. The angry confrontations were sparked after sound equipment destined for a rave on the town's Harfrey's industrial estate was seized. So far 44 of the ravers' cars have been seized for evidence and nearly 20 people have been arrested (Norwich Evening News, 20 August 2007)

Police last night warned that illegal raves will not be tolerated during the final bank holiday of the summer. Norfolk and Suffolk police chiefs issued a joint statement in a bid to prevent a repeat of Sunday's bloody confrontation, when ravers clashed with riot officers on an industrial estate in the town... At the height of last week's violence, more than 100 officers responded in riot gear and used CS spray to force out some 300 revellers who had barricaded themselves in a factory yard at Harfrey's industrial estate after the rave had been disrupted (EDP, 24 August 2007).

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Goth girl murdered

Thanks to the as usual spot-on Ian Bone for this reminder that in modern Britain people still get beaten up, and sometimes killed, for wearing different clothes or liking different music.

Sophie Lancaster, aged 20, was murdered in Lancaster for the crime of being a 'goth'. Her boyfriend is seriously injured.

Club Louise and Sombrero's - London 1976/77

One facet of early punk life in London (1976-77) was that there were no punk clubs, with the gap filled for some by lesbian and gay clubs - probably the only place where the first punks could go without being hassled. Most famous was Club Louise in Soho, where the teenage style terrorists of the so-called Bromley Contingent hung out - including Siouxise Sioux - as well as members of The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Slits. The place is described in Bertie Marshall's entertaining and acerbic memoir of the period Berlin Bromley (2006):

S.S. [Siouxsie Sioux] mentioned this exclusive little club in Soho that you had to be a member to get in and was populated by les­bians and the odd male lesbian watcher and a couple of well-known actors. We all went, led by S.S. through the streets of Soho to 61 Poland Street to a red painted door with gold plates. S.S. rang the bell and through a little peephole a voice said in lisping tones, "Are you members!" What, I wonder, did we look like through that little window; some night­mare WaIt Disney might have had! We got in. Sitting at a low desk in the entrance way was a very old lady with a pile of grey hair atop her head and long grey dress and grey fur coar- grey lady? Bits of diamonds here and there, she looked a thousand-years-old. "Ah, you must all become members, my dears," her accent was French. Three pounds bought us a little red and white member­ship card.

Michael the doorman was an American fag and Madame Louise's toy-boy. This was her club. We were all under twenty-one and looked it, but somehow they didn't care, we must have passed some test. Perhaps Louise wanted to attract a younger clientele? The small foyer led into a bar room, a large mirror ran along the back wall, very dim lighting so you could hardly see your reflection, long black leatherette sofa seating, small tables with red cloths on them, black chairs, red carpets.

It was empty except for a waiter we named 'Ballerina John', an Irish queen with really awful acne and long red hair that he kept flicking over one eye. John had been thrown out of dance school because of some sexual indis­cretion in the toilets. Ballerina John came over and took our orders-five vodka and oranges. And because of the licensing laws, it was required that we were served food-food was a few slices of anaemic-looking Spam and shrivelled gherkins on a paper plate.

S.S. had found this place on one of her jaunts with pre­tend-girlfriend Myra. Most of us kept looking at ourselves in the gloriously long and flattering mirrors. From our table we could see a spiral staircase going down. "I love these mirrors," S.S. purred. "What's down there?" I asked. "A dance floor," S.S. said, retouching her nose with her powder puff…

What did I wear to Louise's the first time? Old men's pyjama jacket with a silver grey tie over black ski pants and black plastic sandals and white fingerless gloves. S.S. in one of her fifties Swanky Modes dresses, (Swanky Modes was a shop in Camden run by two sis­ters, designers of vaguely fetish women's wear). S.S. was wearing a b/w polka dot 'Betty Boo' dress; she would do impersonations of the cartoon character now and then. We'd catch ourselves in the mirror, suck in our cheeks and pout like mad. Sipping our vodkas, we could hear strains of music, Diana Ross and the Supremes ... S.S. decided that we should all trot downstairs... a small dance floor sur­rounded by low tables with red cloths and mirrors around the walls. We sat at a table under the stairs.

There was a smoked-glass DJ booth, where a young dyke played Bowie then Marlene Dietrich ... around the room sat a couple of butch dykes with feathered haircuts and three-piece men's suits. S.S. pulled me onto the dance floor to Bryan Ferry's 'Let's Stick Together'. I followed her in a demented jive, swinging each other around and around, yelping and cooing. We'd suddenly stop mid-jive and turn and look at ourselves in the mirrors, as though fixing and freezing our features forever at sixteen. With the help of make-up and the dark lights of the club we looked perfect and glamor­ous… Louise's closed at 3 a.m., which meant getting the night bus home, a cab was too expensive.

Marshall also mentions that the Roxy in Neal Street, Covent Garden - the first punk club as such - has previously been 'Chagarama's, the trannie bar', and recalls that as punk exploded and Louise's became too popular, some of the scene decamped elsewhere:

We discovered another club. Sombrero's was on Ken­sington High Street and a very GAY Disco, owned by a pair of Spanish queens, it had a raised dance floor of multicoloured Perspex that resembled a boxing ring and had waiter service. A lot of Oriental and Middle Eastern queens went there, it was very faggy indeed, gold chains and sprayed hair, little leather clutch bags, rich older queens and their younger pickings. It was home in the early 1970s to the glam rock scene, Mr and Mrs Bowie.

One time Johnny Rotten was hero of the week down at Sombtero's, he intervened in a knife attack against one of the door staff, stopped the queen getting it in the gut, by kicking the assailant in the nuts! Rudy, a rotund and chirpy Spaniard was the DJ, he played 70s disco. My favourite story that he told, was one night Marianne Faithfull came down and went to his DJ booth on the look-out for free drinks; of course Rudy obliged. She repaid him by singing a drunken version of 'Little Bird'.

Update November 2022 : 

This post has received lots of attention over the years with some great anecdotes from former denizens of the Sombrero in particular recalling some of its fabulous characters (see comments below post). The main club night was called 'Yours or Mine'. It seems that David Bowie and Angie hung out there in early 1970s and it was here that they met  Freddie Burretti and his friend Daniella Parmar. Burretti went on to design some of David Bowie's signature looks while Parmar's short blonde crop haircut was adopted and popularised by Angie Bowie. Jagger, Boy George and Marilyn are mentioned too. To get round restrictive licensing laws the place served food to all customers under the more generous terms of a supper licence - though seemingly nobody in their right mind ate the ham and potato salad on offer.

In 1980s Adam and the Ants recorded the video for their hit single Antmusic there, as Adam recalled: 'we hired my old haunt, the tiny Sombrero club in Kensington, and filmed us 'performing' the song to a crowd who are reluctant at first to dance to it, but eventually get completely into the song and surround us on the under-lit dance floor' (Adam Ant, Stand and Deliver: my autobiography' (2008).

Adam and the Ants on the underlit dancefloor