Sunday, November 30, 2008
What I like about this report is that it is based around a tape recording of the event, giving a real sense of what it sounded like - the crowd running under a bridge and wailing 'Wooo Wooo', chanting slogans and singing songs.
Extracts: 'Where are we? There's people dancing in the street here, the Police are trying to move them on'... 'Singing Dykes - We're abseiling, we're abseiling, down a washing line to the lords, we're abseiling, never failing, we're abseiling against the clause'... 'This is a violin woman, she's excellent she uses just her voice and works with the violin and drumbeat. It's kind of melodic, I think you'll like it (SCREECH SCREECH, WHINE, WAIL... PUT YOUR LAWS DOWN YOUR DRAWS, WE ARE GONNA STOP THE CLAUSE).
Friday, November 28, 2008
For the umpteenth time, the future of Notting Hill Carnival is under threat, with complaints from the police and the Conservative Council of the 'Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea' about the failure of organisers to get the festival closed down by night-time, among other things. From the London Evening Standard, 28 November 2008:
'The Notting Hill Carnival faces cancellation next year amid grave concerns over public safety. Council chiefs have threatened to withdraw their support for the annual street party unless organisers dramatically improve their preparations. They claim this year's event was let down by "profound organisational failure" and it is their duty to avoid the 2009 carnival being marred by similar chaos.
Among the key failings identified by Kensington and Chelsea council, which hosts the parade, was the failure to recruit stewards until just three weeks before the event leaving little time for training. This year's carnival, attended by about one million people, descended into a riot on its final night with a large mob pelting police with bottles and bricks, leaving more than 40 officers injured... '
Thursday, November 27, 2008
As the financial crisis deepens, perhaps so does people's focus on the financial districts of London and other cities. In London at least this is an area that many people never go to unless they work there and it can be quite ghostly at weekends when less people are around. So it's good to see some streetlife returning to the area that was once the heart of London life, not just banking. Further east at Canary Wharf there was also o a Halloween dancing on the grave of capitalism event with ghosts and witches (on the same day there was an anti-capitalist Zombie Walk in Amsterdam).
The place where people danced last week outside the Royal Exchange in London was where hundreds of (mainly) punky protestors were penned in by police during the March 1984 Stop the City 'Carnival Against War, Oppression and Destruction'. And in June 1999, thousands took part in the riotous Carnival Against Capital in the area, with music from large mobile sound systems, not just from ipods. More to come I am sure...
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Christoph Fringelli talked about ‘Hedonism and Revolution’ with particular reference to the movements of the late 1960s/early 1970s. His starting point was a critique of the dismal figure of the professional revolutionary proposed by Nechayev in the 19th century – the notion of a single-minded man with a mission and no emotions that influenced the practice of both some Bakuninist anarchists and Bolsheviks. The movements of the late 1960s by contrast initially combined political radicalism with a practice of pleasure – there was ‘cultural rupture hand in hand with political rupture’. In West Berlin in the late 1960s for instance there were at least 100 radical bars. Soon though there was a re-emergence of traditional political formations, with both the German SDS (Sozialistische Deutsche Studentenbund) and American SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) giving birth to orthodox Marxist-Leninist parties that became increasingly dismissive of the counter-culture.
Hans Christian Psaar (Unkultur) gave a talk entitled 'Kindertotenlieder for Rave Culture', taking issue with the way utopian visions of the party as temporary autonomous zone can disavow the labour that constitutes the basis for the party, ignoring questions such as who built the sound system, who is serving the drinks, who's working in the factory where the vehicles were made? Or, as I pondered later when I was helping Hans sweep up fag ends from the dancefloor at the end of the party, who cleans up afterwards?
Lauren Graber's 'Countervailing Forces: Electronic Music Countercultures and Subcultures', drew on the work of Sarah Chambers (Club Culture) and Arun Saldanha (Psychedelic White: Goa Trance and the Viscosity of Race) - both of whom criticise taking sub-cultural self-definitions as 'alternative' and 'underground' at face value. One of the questions posed by her discussion was whether the kind of music played in a scene affected its liberatory content - is a squat bar playing breakcore intrinsically more radical than the same place, with the same crowd, playing punk? Lauren defended noise and broken beats as a ‘radical practice’ to ‘get out of standardisation’, not surprizing given her affiliation with Darkmatter Soundsystem (Los Angeles). I agree with this as one strategy, but it's not the only one - experimental scenes can still generate their own rules, styles and fashions, while I'm sure we've all been in situations where the cheesiest pop track has soundracked the most exciting moment. Ultimately it's the social relations that develop between people around music and dancing that matter, rather than what tunes are playing - although I would still argue that some kinds of music have more potential than others.
Alexis Wolton talked about the history of UK pirate radio from the BBC’s first use of the term ‘pirate’ to describe Radio Luxemburg in 1933. He distinguished between an early wave of 1960s offshore pirates like Radio Caroline and Radio Invicta broadcasting from the North Sea, overtly political free radio (rare in the UK, best exemplified in Italy by Bologna’s Radio Alice in the 1970s) and the wave of dance music stations from the early 1990s using tower blocks to broadcast the tunes the official stations neglected and to create ‘a psychic space outside of the monopolies’. Along the way he mentioned various pioneers such as the 1970s/early 80s South London soul station Radio Jackie, and celebrated the continuing vibrancy of unofficial broadcasting - on the weekend before 71 pirate stations were broadcasting in London.
'Shaking the Foundations: Reggae soundsystems meet Big Ben British Values downtown' by John Eden (Uncarved/Woofah) was a freewheeling history of the impact of reggae sound system culture on the UK, tracing a line from the the first London sound system, started by Duke Vin when he moved from Jamaica in 1955 (with arguably the first sound system night being put on by him in the same year in Brixton town hall), through the tribulations of the 1970s (Notting Hill carnival riots, Misty/People Unite and the Southall anti-fascist clashes of 1979), to today's different scenes. Along the way he opposed the attempts of policy makers to create artificial integration by imposing 'national values' from above with the organic process of people coming together through music, dance, sex and drugs.
Stewart Home's Hallucination Generation talk explored some of the forgotten byways of the 1960s counter-culture, partly prompted by his investigations into the life of his mother, Julia Callan-Thompson, who was involved in the 1960s/70s hippy drug scene in Notting Hill. He referenced Terry Taylor, the author of a 1960 novel that seems to have been the first work of fiction in England to mention LSD - and in which incidentally, the hash-dealing/using mod narrator slags off the speed-using trad fans (see mod vs. trad). More generally, his talk caused me to reflect on how in 'counter cultures' defined at least partially by drugs, claims to freedom and autonomy are undercut by the fact that you are only ever a couple of steps away from a gangster with a gun and all kinds of nefarious business/criminal/security services activities.
Later the action moved downstairs to the dancefloor for a 'day of the dead' party, with a good crowd (200+) and dancing, drinking and chatting until well into the next day. There was no plan to recapitulate the historical dimension of the talks, but it kind of worked out that way. After The Wirebug (Dan Hekate) had warmed things up with some laptop noise action, DJ Controlled Weirdness really turned up the heat at around 4 am with a set that started out with House Nation, headed through piano break hardcore before moving into darker territory that finished with Soundproof's Bring the Lights Down. That set it up nicely for Blackmass Plastics, prolific producer of bass heavy breakbeats in all flavours with his own Thorn Industries and Dirty Needles labels, as well as Rag and Bone records and Combat Recordings.
DJ Kovert was next, an object lesson in how to play hard and very very fast but still keep people dancing - the track that really got people excited was Current Value's Faith with its 'heaven isn't heaven anymore' sample. Anybody can bang on some speedcore/broken beats/experimental noise that leaves people leaning against the walls and stroking their chins - the trick is to do so while teasing the dancing body's expectations of regularity, so that it teeters in suspension on the edge of giving up before being pulled back into motion. The effect is like being on the Waltzers at the fairground - where you seem to be heading at high speed in one direction but are suddenly spun round the other way at the same time.
Throughout the party, visuals were supplied by X-Tractor with projections including distorted images of Walter Benjamin, Marx, Bakunin, Gramsci and Louise Michel.
All in all the event couldn't really have gone any better. John Eden has written up his own report at Uncarved, and is also selling copies of the essential Datacide 10 for a mere £2.50 at his uncarved shop.
My first time in Berlin, it was a busy weekend so didn't do much sightseeing - but was pleased to see there was a Hannah Arendt street by the new Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe:
Saturday, November 15, 2008
In 1956, Johnny Booker (1934-2007) took over as manager of the Gyre and Gimble (sometimes known as 'the G's') and began to play music there with friends who became the nucleus of The Vipers, one of the foremost bands in the 1950s skiffle scene. They had a number of hit records, with Booker (recording as 'Johnny Martyn') as one of the singers). Other musicians hung out at the coffee house, including folk guitarist Davey Graham, Long John Baldry, Rod Stewart and soon-to-be English pop star Tommy Steele (as writer and fellow G's habitué Michael Moorcock recalls).
In the book The Map is not the Territory, artist and Situationist Ralph Rumney, recalls an encounter in the G&G with Steele that the latter would probably rather forget (he doesn't mention in his 'Bermondsey Boy' autobiography):
"There was a place called the Gyre and Gimble in a basement in Adams Street that one used to go in at night. and you'd buy a coffee and they'd let you nod off on the table. And Tommy Steele used to come in there and twang on his guitar and sing and make an awful racket, and all of us were just trying to have a quiet kip and we kept telling him to shut up and he wouldn't. And I had a very large friend at that time - Gerald, he was called - who was a bit of a thug...
Anyway, he came down one night - well, he used to come down every night - but he came down one night and Tommy Steele was twanging away as usual - Rock Island Line and skiffle - Rockin' with the Caveman - it was really tiresome. because he didn't have much of a repertoire in those days. And from the top of the stairs Gerald yelled out STOP THAT RACKET. and Tommy Steele didn't. So Gerald just put his hand on the banister, leapt over it. and landed on Tommy Steele, feet first. and cracked about four of his ribs, so he had to be taken to hospital. Which got us barred for about three days [laughs]. And we never saw Tommy Steele there again".
There's a more positive account at the excellent Classic Cafes: 'A dingy narrow doorway, with the name of the establishment in barely-legible swirly lettering, led down stairs which opened up into a very large basement area. The smoky dive had low crude wooden tables and chairs and the whole place had a rustic feel. A sort of menu was scrawled on one of the dark walls, but I had no appetite for eating there. Most of the customers looked as though they had not seen daylight for some time. The coffee however was very good and in generously large cups... Polly and I became regulars at the Gyre & Gimble and joined an informal group of pseudo-intellectuals who used to meet there on Sunday evenings. They had dubbed themselves The New Day Dadaists and in the spirit of Marcel Duchamp discussed ideas to mock the art establishment. They even got as far to putting out an advertisement for an exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite painting at a derelict house in Bloomsbury. Really radical'.
Certainly some interesting cross-cultural/counter-cultural traffic through this place, prompting questions about connections real or imagined: did anarchist Sci-Fi writer Moorcock know Rumney? Was the latter one of the 'New Day Dadaists'? Could history have taken a different turn so that Rod Stewart ended up with the Situationists in Paris in May 1968 instead of touring the States with the Jeff Beck Group?
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The following song, Khawuleza, was recorded for a Swedish TV programme in 1966 - she links it to black children in the townships watching the police turn up for a raid and calling Khawuleza Mama (Hurry Mama - i.e. 'don't let them get you').
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Not sure if the dance scene is in a real club or a studio - the music is by the John Barry Seven and the scene also features a young Oliver Reed dancing in a check shirt (about four minutes in):
The film was released in the US as 'Wild for Kicks', with the following trailer promising a 'vivid and shocking portrayal of modern youth who grow up too soon and live it up too fast' with 'beat girls and defiant boys':
Friday, November 07, 2008
Thursday, November 06, 2008
The call from Sheikh Karbalaie, aide of Ayatollah Sistani who is known as a moderate religious leader, has divided the local population, with many welcoming the sermons and others terming it an attempt to return to the "dark old days". During the former regime of Saddam Hussein, Iraq was known for its more secular lifestyle but after he was toppled in 2003 by invading US-led forces, local Shiite militias began enforcing a strict Islamic code of living. Attacks on shops selling music CDs, women's beauty products and dresses were common in Karbala as the militias, mainly loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, became the city's new moral police. Sameer, a shopkeeper who used to sell women's dresses, recalls how one day militiamen stormed his shop and ordered him to put a veil even on the dummy of a model. "At that time there was a woman in my shop and she asked the militiamen why they didn't go and veil dummies of male models in other shops," said Sameer, who gave only his first name'.
Source: AFP 26 October 2008
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
We have never seen anything like it before. The whole of Lisbon is out, the emotion beyond belief. All morning the radio has been calling for 'calm and dignity'... We stand at the corner of Alameda and try to absorb it all: the noise, the spirit, the joy surging out in floods, after half a century of being bottled up...
This is the day of the workers and all Lisbon is here... I could cry. Others are weeping already. All day we march, lost in different parts of a crowd half a million strong. Flowers, carnations everywhere. Along the way, people are offering water to demonstrators, from their windows...
Young workers are dancing to the music. Police cars go by, with demonstrators on top of them. A bus passes, the driver tooting his horn in rhythm with other noises. There's no telling where that vehicle will end up: it's going in the opposite direction to the destination written on the front. The emergency exits of all buses are open, flags protruding from every window. A group of youths pass, 'the Gringos of Samba' according to their banner. Their Latin-American music is very catching. More people begin to dance. A group of students pass shouting 'O Povo armado jamaissera vencido' (an armed people will never be defeated). People laugh at this subversive variation of the 'official' slogan. The whole thing is confusion. People are cheering anything and everything. Someone shouts 'Viva Spinola, viva o communismo'.
We go to the house of certain young singers whose songs had been banned.Their records, censored, were rarely played on the radio. Everyone is drinking. A singing session ensues, which after an hour moves back to Rossio. We stay there, sitting on the ground, until 3 am, singing, watching people jump into the icy cold fountain. Finally, exhausted, I decide to go home. I shall never forget that First of May. The noise, the noise, the noise is still ringing in my ears. The horns tooting in joy, the shouting, the slogans, the singing and dancing. The doors of revolution seem open again, after forty eight years of repression. In that single day everything was replaced in perspective. Nothing was god-given, all was man-made. People could see their misery and their problems in a historical setting. How can words describe 600,000 people demonstrating in a city of a million? Or the effect of carnations everywhere, in the barrels of rifles, on every tank and every ear, in the hands of troops and demonstrators alike?....
A week has passed, although it already feels like many months. Every hour has been lived to the full. It is already difficult to remember what thepapers looked like before, or what people had then said. Hadn't there always been a revolution?
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
'A secret warehouse party in Sydney’s Inner West was shut down by police early on Sunday morning, causing unhappy revelers to spill onto busy Parramatta Road, forcing its closure for around 90 minutes. Riot police and the dog squad were called to the party by concerned residents, and it’s estimated the illegal warehouse rave had between 1,000 and 1,500 party goers. The party was split over three floors of the abandoned Parramatta Road warehouse, but it was closed by authorities around 1am. Ravers on the building’s top floor are said to have showered police with bottles when asked to leave, and news reports indicate authorities are now on the hunt for the people responsible, as well as the event’s organisers'.
'I was at the party on Saturday night, standing directly behind decks on the drum n bass stage when the riot police invaded. The news reports state there was no damage to police vehicles or property, but what about the damage to the equipment caused by the over zealous police who stormed in and smashed both turntables and attempted to smash the mixer (about $5,000 worth of damage) and then they pushed and shoved and bashed everyone they could get their battons on. This was complete overkill and so unnecessary. there were no arrests on the night so clearly the "riotous partygoers" were non existant'.
England: 'Curfew order on man at rave' (Lynn News, 23 October 2008)
'A Swaffham man who went to a rave when a court had ordered him not to, now faces a curfew to keep him indoors seven days a week. [RW]... was caught by police on the record decks of an unlicensed music event at Gayton Thorpe in August, Lynn Magistrates heard on Tuesday.In April, a Norwich court had given him a two-year community order with a requirement he was “not to attend a rave or other unlicensed musical event”. [RW] admitted he had carried out an unauthorised licensable activity at Gayton Thorpe and accepted he was therefore in breach of the order.
... police became aware of the rave after a Gayton estate employee called them at midnight on Saturday, August 16, and said there were a number of cars and people gathering near his home... police found [RW] wearing headphones on the sound decks and he was arrested. Items taken by officers included 12 speakers, two generators, three turntables and five mixer-boxes. In a police interview, Walsh described the equipment as a “suicide rig” in that it was expected to be seized... The bench decided to revoke the original order and replace it with a new two-year order with a curfew, meaning [RW] will now have to stay at home from 8pm to 6am seven days a week for six months.
India: 'Police raid rave party' in Mumbai
'In one of the biggest police swoops in recent times, cops barged into a Juhu pub on Sunday night and picked up 240 youngsters on suspicion of 'doing drugs'. Nine of them, including an Israeli national, were arrested for peddling and distributing narcotic substances. The other 231 were made to undergo blood and urine tests and released on Monday afternoon after spending about 12 hours at the Azad Maidan police club' (Times of India, 7 October 2008)
'Blaring trance music, smoke-filled dance floors and stoned youngsters are no longer confined to just Goa or farmhouses in Mumbai's outskirts. Nightclubs and pubs in the city are fast becoming hotspots for rave parties. The busting of a rave party in Juhu is perhaps only the tip of the iceberg, say police officials. "Youngsters form a huge pie of the clientele. With higher disposable income and easy accessibility to high-end drugs, Mumbai is soon becoming popular," said a senior ANC official, requesting anonymity. Rave parties are characterised by high entrance fee, extensive drug use, chill rooms and even open sexual activities in some cases, said a senior officer from the Narcotics Control Bureau, Mumbai, on condition of anonymity. Apart from youngsters from affluent families, the upwardly-mobile people employed in BPOs and KPOs, film personalities, industrialists are also part of the clientele. "Attendance can range from 30 ravers in a small club of tens. While techno music and light shows are essential for raves, hard drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy and LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) have become an integral part of the rave culture," observed a senior cop.' (India Info, 7 October 2008 - KPO=Knowledge Processing Outsourcing, BPO= Business Process Outsourcing, i.e. IT, call centres etc.).
'The next time you get a whiff of a rave party in your neighbourhood or see a hippie-looking character trying to pass on drugs to youngsters, just dial a number and help the police.
The Anti Narcotics Cell (ANC) of the Mumbai police has introduced helplines for people to give information about suspected drug peddlers and about those consuming drugs. “We are aiming at maximum participation by people. We need their support to help us remove drug menace from our society,” said Vishwas Nangre Patil, deputy commissioner of police, ANC' (DNA Mumbai, 1 November 2008)
Monday, November 03, 2008
I've discussed the first songs in space by a man and a woman, but perhaps the honour should go to a dog whimpering in zero gravity. There have been quite a few Laika references in music - indeed there's both a Finnish band called Laika & The Cosmonauts and a UK band, Laika (who I once saw at the Venue in New Cross supporting, I think, Spirtitualized Electric Mainline).
The best of a number of songs referring to the dog is by Arcade Fire - not so much a song about the dog as one evoking the sadness of Laika being sent away to die as a metaphor for the fate of an errant brother ('Our mother should have just named you Laika! It's for your own good, It's for the neighborhood').
Sunday, November 02, 2008
There are some good websites and music blogs trying to document this eruption of 7 inch vinyl creativity. Most are seemingly compiled by people digitising their old records and scanning the sleeves (the latter are great social historical artifacts in their own right) and sometimes the vinyl itself in various glorious colours.
45 Revolutions is the blog linked to the bible for this kind of music - 45 Revolutions by Mario Panciera, an encyclopedia aiming to be the definitive guide to punk, mod, powerpop and new wave singles issued in the UK and Ireland from 1976 to 1979. The book itself is nearly 1200 pages long and covers 3000 singles.
Killed by Death Records covers a slightly broader time scale and demonstrates that the post-punk DIY single phenomenon was not limited to the UK, Ireland, America and Australia- the site includes lots of Swedish examples too.
Always Searching for Music has more of the same (but also some 1980s stuff) with a 1977 French example from Warm Gun.
Worthless Trash is good too, perhaps more power pop than punk-centred with stuff mainly from UK and Belgium.
Punk 77 is not a music blog with MP3 files, but does exactly what is say on the tin with lots of information about UK punk bands from 1976 to 1979.
You need to check these sites regularly, as music files are often only available for a limited period of time (though the pictures and text are still interesting on their own). Warning, this can be very addictive - I have spent the last week listening to 1977 classics from the likes of The Dils ('Class War' and 'I hate the rich'), The Nosebleeds ('Ain't been to no music school') and Some Chicken ('New Religion').