Monday, May 28, 2012

NME Guide to Rock & Roll London (1978): Reggae

The New Musical Express Guide to Rock & Roll London was a cut out and keep booklet given away with the NME in ealry 1978 - my copy is not dated, but it advertises a forthcoming event coming up at Easter 1978.

I'm going to scan it and put some of it up over the next few weeks, starting with this guide to reggae venues and shops in the capital at that time. The listed venues include Dougie's Hideaway Club in Archway N18, Club Noreik in Seven Sisters Road N15 and the Bouncing Ball Club (43 Peckham High Street SE15), the latter offering 'Good Bar, plus hot Jamaica patties. Spacious club with congenial atmosphere, featuring top-line JA and UK reggae acts, plus some soul. Admiral Ken Sounds'.

Reggae record shops included Hawkeye in Harlesden, Daddy Kool (Tottenham Court Road), M&D (36a Dalston Lane E8), Greensleeves (Shepherds Bush), Dub Vendor (Clapham Junction market - which survived in the area until last year), Third World Records (113 Stoke Newington Road N16) and Tops Record Shop (120 Acre Lane, SW2) - 'Front Line rock at Tops, the leading South London dub stop stockists of all current reggae releases, plus R&B and doo-wop albums, soul imports, and a fortnightly shipment of JA pre, specialising in Techniques (JA) and Clintones (US) productions'.

See also:

NME Guide to Rock & Roll London 1978: Gay Clubs
NME Guide to Rock & Roll London 1978: Disco

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Carnivals under threat

While huge amounts of  money are being pumped into the top down spectacle of the Olympics, England's long established culture of African-Caribbean led community carnivals is under threat from a mixture of funding cuts and increasingly restrictive policing and licensing constraints.

The St Pauls Carnival in Bristol has taken place every year but one since 1967, with 90,000 taking part last year. But there will be no Carnival in 2012, with the organisers saying that they do not have the funds to organise the event and comply with the regulations.

Now Lee Jasper has highlighted that Notting Hill Carnival, the biggest in Europe, may not happen. The authorities seem happy to allow it to drift into being cancelled with the organisation responsible for it in recent years not functioning and local Councils making little or no effort to encourage any replacement. As Jasper says: 'The history of the Notting Hill Carnival and the reason for its existence are firmly rooted in the ideals of freedom, unity and community empowerment.  Sadly, much of the language and debate from Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster councils and the Police largely focuses on how the event should be ‘contained’.If the authorities, through a combination of stealth, political and economic destabilization, forced resignations and using austerity and the Olympics as their pretext are able to effectively close down Carnival, the nation and London will be the poorer for it'.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Malcolm X and Lindy Hop

Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on this day, 19th May 1925.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, written by him with Alex Haley, was published shortly after his assassination in 1965. Much of the book concerns his involvement with, and later break from the Nation of Islam. But the earlier part of the book contains some fascinating memories of nightlife in Boston and New York in the early 1940s.

In Boston, Malcolm worked as a shoeshine boy at the Roseland Ballroom and was clearly a big fan of the music played there. He talks approvingly of seeing Peggy Lee, Benny Gordman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and many others, and recalled the fierce dancing competitions:

'"Showtime" people would start hollering about the last hour of the dance. Then a couple of dozen really wild couples would stay on the floor, the girls changing to low-white sneakers. The band now would really be blasting, and all the other dancers would form a clapping, shouting circle to watch that wild competition as it began, covering only a quarter or so of the ballroom floor. The band, the spectators and the dancers would be making the Roseland Ballroom feel like a big rocking ship. The spotlight would be turning, pink, yellow, green, and blue, picking up the couples lindy-hopping as if they had gone mad'.

Before long, he was a zoot suit wearing dancer himself (and indeed had progressed from shining the musicians' shoes to dealing them 'reefers'), and describes with evident relish lindy-hopping to Duke Ellington: 'Laura's feet were flying: I had her in the air, down, sideways, around: backwards, up again, down, whirling... Laura inspired me to drive to new heights. Her hair was all over her face, it was running sweat, and I couldn't believe her strength. The crowd was shouting and stomping'.

Still for all its liberation, nightlife was completely racialized. At the Roseland, some white dancers attended the black dances, but no black people were allowed to dance at the white dances, even if the music was provided by black musicians. Moving to New York, black Harlem had been catering since the 1920s for wealthier whites looking for thrills but not genuine social equality. I was surprised to read the word 'hippies'' dates back to that period: 'A few of the white men around Harlem, younger ones whom we called 'hippies', acted more Negro than Negroes. This particular one talked more 'hip' than we did'.

During the war, resentment against racist treatment grew. 'During World War II, Mayor LaGuardia officially closed the Savoy Ballroom. Harlem said the real reason was to stop Negroes from dancing with white women. Harlem said no one dragged the white women in there'.  In his recent biography, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (2011), Manning Marable provides some background:

'Since its grand opening in 1926, the Savoy, located on Lenox Avenue between 140th and 141st streets, had quickly become the most significant cultural institution of Harlem. The great ballroom contained two large bandstands, richly carpeted lounges, and mirrored walls. During its heyday, about seven hundred thousand customers visited each year... In a period when downtown hotels and dancehalls still remained racially segregated, the Savoy was the centre for interracial dancing and entertainment. On April 22nd 1943, the Savoy was padlocked by the NYPD, on the grounds that servicemen had been solicited by prostitutes there. New York City's Bureau of Social Hygiene cited evidence that, over a nine-month period,  164 individuals has "met the source of their [venereal] diseases at the Savoy Ballroom". These alleged cases all came from armed services or coast guard personnel. Bureau officials offered absolutely no explanation as to how they had determined that the servicemen contracted diseases specifically from Savoy hookers... The Savoy remained closed throughout the summer of 1943' (it reopened in October).

During the period of the closure there there was a major riot in Harlem on 1 August 1943 after a black soldier was shot by a white policeman. 6 people died and 600 were arrested.

Marable reveals an interesting detail that Malcolm does not mention in the Autobiography - that under the stage name Jack Carlton, he performed as a bar entertainer at the Lobster Pond nightclub on 42nd street in 1944, dancing and sometimes playing the drums on stage.

Sadly it was another ballroom, the Audobon in Harlem, where Malcolm was murdered in February 1965 as he rose to speak at a public meeting there.

There's a great recreation of the Lindy Hop scene at the Roseland Ballroom in Spike Lee's film Malcolm X (1992).

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lisa Lopes: Ten Years Gone

Just realized that Lisa Lopes is ten years gone, killed in car crash in Honduras on 25 April 2002. That kind of thing makes you feel old. If you don't know about the importance of Lisa and TLC, just go over to youtube and listen. Some bands have to be seen and heard rather than written about to appreciate why they matter. But hey 'B-Girl feminism' (coined by Vibe magazine in a 1994 article about them) was a pretty cool term.

'TLC fires it up. Burning up the charts, burning down the house... TLC's sweet sounds, Day-Glo threads, and condom accessories led the first wave of B-girl feminism' (Vibe magazine, November 1994)

Sunday, May 06, 2012

We are Luton

The racist idiots of the English Defence League held a demonstration in Luton yesterday, on the day they announced that they were joining up with the British Freedom Party - another extreme right wing outfit led by ex-British National Party activists. 

Around 1,000 people joined the anti-EDL 'We are Luton' demonstration from the town's Wardown Park (I didn't see the EDL, but Luton on Sunday reports that they had a around 500).

The police mounted a huge operation to keep the two demonstrations apart, with metal barriers to prevent the 'We are Luton' march getting into the town centre. There was a brief flurry of action here, where the police deployed their horses to stop an attempted break out of the police cordon:

Good to see Leviticus sound system at the start of 'We are Luton', playing some Bob Marley as usual! Leviticus is a successor to the Exodus Collective who famously put on massive free parties and festivals in Luton and surrounding area in the 1990s and early 2000s:  'The Leviticus (formerly Exodus) Collective are a Luton based Sound System and Social Movement who see ‘Leaving Babylon’ as re-building our community on the principles of oneness, sharing and co-operation, instead of those of greed, competition and hoarding which underpin the ‘Babylon System’. So we re-claim disused lands and properties in our town to create our own tribal dances, free festivals, workplaces and homes...building an alternative ‘way of life’ right here in Luton'. 

Luton is generally portrayed in the media as a town dominated by the racist EDL on the one hand, and hardcore islamists on the other, but obviously most people have no time for either of these tiny factions. Leviticus offer a different vision of  'Revo-luton'. I went to one of their dances last year at the Carnival Arts Centre in Luton, with reggae in one room and drum'n'bass in the other - and a crowd with White UK, African-Caribbean and Asian people partying together. Over the years Exodus/Leviticus have mobilised many more people in Luton than the EDL have ever managed.

See Malatesta and Inayat's Corner for report of EDL antics in Luton yesterday.