Saturday, July 28, 2012

An Underground Dance, Greenwich 1846

Blackheath Cavern, also known as Jack Cade's Cavern, was a  series of caves under Blackheath Hill in Greenwich South East London (presumably still there but no longer accessible). In the mid-19th century it was used for social events, including 'For one night only' on 'Monday November 16th 1846' a 'Grand Bal Masque' -  'The effect of Music in the Cavern is truly wonderful'. The advert promised that the cavern was to be turned into 'A capacious ball room, capable of holding 1500 persons', with a  'powerful quadrille band' providing the music at this 'Carnival in the Bowels of the Earth' (West Kent Guardian, 7 November 1846).

The following month the same promoter, Mr Richard Fyffe, put on another Masquerade at the St Helena Tavern, a pleasure gardens in Lower Road, Rotherhithe. Seemingly the Blackheath event had not gone well due to 'bad ventilation and excessive crowed. At St Helena Tavern, a 'Fashionable Place of Amusement' there was to be 'a complete wardrobe, containing every requisite for those Ladies and Gentlemen who may wish to appear in Costume' (West Kent Guardian, 5 December 1846).

(Subterranean Greenwich blog originally posted these cuttings. Unfortunately that blog is currently down, as discussed here).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer rave madness

It's getting hot - time to take the fields and beaches people.

Wicklow (Ireland) - Herald.Ie 18 July 2012

Raves are regularly taking place on the outskirts of the capital, it has emerged.The illegal parties in remote rural and wooded areas in Wicklow have become commonplace despite efforts by gardai to stop them.The raves have been held in areas such as Devil's Glen and Mahermore Beach since 2001 and there have been several already this summer according to one organiser, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Gardai are working with locals to prevent these raves but are "playing catch-up" according to Rathnew councillor John Snell. "What you're trying to deal with now is social media. Word spreads so quickly that in more cases than not the event is over before the gardai get a handle on them."

He described the nature of the parties as "cloak and dagger kind of stuff...There aren't any posters for these events. Unless you're mixing in these circles, the normal public are not aware until some rural cottages hear the music and alert gardai."

One of Cllr Snell's key concerns was the danger of drug-taking in such remote areas. "There's no medical expertise at these raves. It's a recipe for disaster. It's only a matter of time before life is lost."

Rathdrum Councillor O'Shaughnessy wants tougher action against ravers."The Government needs to bring in stricter sanctions, maybe zero tolerance measures like high fines or custodial sentences," he said.

A rave organiser from the Roundhill area defended the events saying that licensing laws "are prehistoric..They go back to the ballroom days. Clubs here have to close at 2.30 or 3am whereas in Europe they are open until 6am. We are forced to take it into our own hands." He says ravers resent the bad name the Phoenix Park debacle has given them. "There has never been any trouble at these parties. The record speaks for itself, there have never been any assaults"

Dartmoor (England) - BBC 3 June 2012

A suspected illegal rave involving hundreds of people has been stopped on Dartmoor, police have said.
Police said more than 1,200 people and up to 500 cars gathered at Bellever Woods, near Postbridge.

Devon and Cornwall Police said they were called to the site, owned by the Forestry Commission, at about 00:30 BST.Police stopped the gathering and set up road bocks to prevent more people from attending.

A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said: "The land is owned by the Forestry Commission and no permission has been sought or granted by them to hold this rave."He added: "We're encouraging those there to leave, and we're certainly preventing any other people from attending."

Norfolk (England) - EDP 17 July 2012

Two vans containing audio equipment and mixing decks were also seized after officers were called to farmland off Yarmouth Road at about 12.35am.More than 200 people were found at the rave with about 60 vehicles, as officers worked to disrupt the event which was safely concluded by midday.

Seven men aged between 20 and 24 were arrested at the scene on suspicion of organising an unlicensed music event and were taken to Wymondham police investigation centre for questioning. One of the suspects was also arrested for taking a motor vehicle without the owners’ consent.

Three more people were arrested for offences relating to the incident. A 25-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of being unfit to drive through drugs while officers arrested a 22-year-old man on suspicion of criminal damage after a fence was damaged by a vehicle.

A 20-year-old woman was arrested in connection with assault after a man suffered minor injuries after being involved in a collision with a car.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

1980s Glasgow Haircuts

Somebody else can write the cultural history of how the punk look was gradually domesticated in mainstream hairdressing during the 1980s - for now I will just say 'great hair'! These examples all from Alan and Linda Stewart's Rainbow Room (and Rainbow Room Education) in Glasgow.

From Hairdressers Journal: '1986 Blonde Cropped

'Its Band Aid for your Easter Bonnet', Anne Simpson, Glasgow Herald, 23 April 1984)

From Hairdressers Journal: '1984 Punk Quiff'

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Music for Pleasure

Last week I had the opportunity to visit a rarely opened archive in South London. The basement of New Cross Learning (the volunteer-run library/community space in New Cross Road) holds the collection of the Lewisham Local History Society, an eclectic assortment of specifically local artifacts and general 'old things' assembled over the years with an aim of one day forming the basis of a museum collection. 

Naturally I was intrigued by some of the musical items, including this metal sign for the old 'Music for Pleasure' label. I spent some of my teenage wages from working in the library and Debenhams (like someone in a Belle & Sebastian song) on these budget LPs, often consisting of early material or live recordings from well known bands.  My favourite was 'Relics', a fantastic compilation of Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd.

The archive also include various bits of semi-obsolete technology stacked up on the shelves. Here's an Alba gramophone:

Most evocative for me was this Regentone valve radio, made in Romford at some point in the early 1950s. I remember as a child going to visit an elderly relative in the Forest of Dean and they had something similar.

I recall that I was fascinated by the dial with its list of exotic sounding places and stations. Looking at it now as an adult it still seems to embody a kind of utopian internationalist dream of the radio, the possibility of sitting in a room somewhere in post-war England and listening in to Marseilles, Bologna, Berlin or the USSR.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Soul and Hip-Hop Pirates 1984

Interesting short article on mid-1980s London pirate radio and hip-hop:

Soul pirate on the air waves

By Jaswinder Bancil (South London Press, 13 July 1984)

"Steve Devonne is, by his own admission, one of the major figures in London's hip-hop scene. As a regualr broadcaster on the soul pirate station Invicta, Steve was among the first to introduce scratch and mix sounds over the air waves in the capital.Most of the exposure given to this type of record has largely been confimed to clubs.

But hip-hop is not the only sound the 26-year-old DJ plays. His slot at the Maze club in Soho every Friday night is strictly soul. He explained, 'I'm still a soul and funk man, but I also believe I have a wide enough perspective to cover hip-hop. Already established soul artists like Herbie Hancock and Shannon are showing obvious hip-hop influences on their records. It's going to continue to have an effect on mainstream music'.

Born in Lambeth, but raised in Wandsworth, Steve has been a DJ for nearly ten years. He became involved in pirate radio because 'I was interested in broadcasting black music to London without having having to go through official channels'.

While Invicta is temporarily off the air, Steve will be broadcasting for rival station JFM (102.8 metres FM).

To date pirate stations have been the most abundant source of black music in the city. Having cottoned on to the popularity of these illegal stations among young people, the BBC have recently begun to feature more soul and reggae. But hip-hop remains largely ignored, despite its massive appeal.

Steve admitted, 'I'm one of the few people who have picked up on hip-hop. It is something that goes beyond the music - style, dress, language all count. Hip-hop goes back as far as James Brown in my opinion. It's attitude, a way of life'.

Steve Devonne will be at the Albany Empire on July 28 for our breakdown spectacular".

Radio Invicta was a pirate radio station that broadcast in London from 1970 to 1984, usually on VHF on 92.4 MHz. It slogan was "Soul over London" and it featured soul and disco. It started broadcasting from a bedroom in Mithcam, but is credited with being one of the first pirate stations to use the tops of  tower blocks (more here, including some recordings of old shows)

Here's some clops of Steve Devonne and others on Invicta from 1980:

And here's some J.F.M. from 1984:

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Free Pussy Riot

It's now been four months since Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Santsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were arrested and detained in Russia. Their alleged  'crime' was to perform an anti-Putin song with their punk band Pussy Riot in an unauthorised pop-up performance at a Moscow cathedral.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
Last week they started a hunger strike in protest at the authorities threatening to put them on trial at short notice without them having time to view the 'evidence' against them. Back in the Cold War, people locked up for expressing their political views in the USSR were hailed as heroic dissidents by Western leaders.  Now David Cameron sucks up to Putin while the latter locks up his opponents.

Putin is likely to come to London on a 'private visit' during the Olympics. I imagine that anybody trying to demonstrate against him will also find themselves behind bars.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Punk's Dead

'Punk's Dead' is a book of photographs by Simon Barker (Six), with an exhibition of some of the photos at Divus Temporary, 4 Wilkes Street, London E1 until July 7th.


'In 1976, when I moved into the St. James Hotel in London, I bought myself one of the cheapest pocket cameras available. Fully automatic, with no controls or settings, it just required a simple slot-in film cartridge. An idiot could use it - and I did. | I knew I did'nt want to be like other photographers, so I chose never to take a black and white photograph or focus the camera. Subconsciously I concentrated on the women and artists at the heart of what would later be known as 'punk' in London. 

Women such as JORDAN, SIOUXSIE, DEBBIE JUVENILE, TRACIE O'KEEFE, ARI UP, POLY STYRENE and NICO . Artists and writers such as MALCOLM MCLAREN, HELEN WELLINGTON-LLOYD aka HELEN OF TROY, BERTIE MARSHALL aka BERLIN and DEREK JARMAN. The book PUNK'S DEAD is a product of that camera and those times - my family album covering the years 1976 to 78. The photos you see in it were all unplanned, spur of the moment shots taken by myself for myself and, up until now, with never a thought given to publication. In over thirty years, they have only been seen by a handful of close friends. I used to think they weren't good enough to show people. Now I think they are almost too good'

Adam Ant

Derek Jarman with Derek Dunbar

Some great pictures, and also due recognition of some of the queer/arty underground links of that early London punk scene (e.g. Derek Jarman's Butlers Wharf parties), something largely passed over in the recent BBC punk nostalgiafest.