Saturday, July 30, 2022

Disco Chart 1980

UK Disco Chart, Record Business, 25 February 1980. Interesting to see BPM displayed, 'Spacer' by Sheila & B Devotion one of the fastest at 135 BPM  - the French singer produced on this one by Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards (Chic).


Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Wildcat benefit at AMP, Covent Garden (1974) - with Charlie Gillett and members of Henry Cow

I am always interested in the social/cultural/musical life of radical scenes, here's a report of a London benefit night for the mid 1970s anarchist/libertarian left paper 'Wildcat' (no direct connection to 1980s ultra-left paper I believe). This report is from issue no.2 of the paper, October 1974. Sounds like an interesting line up including music from Lindsay Cooper and Fred Frith from Henry Cow with flautist Clive Bell, and DJing from Charlie Gillett and 'Pete's disco'. All this plus a performance from General Will, a radical theatre company that started out in Bradford and whose members included Brian Hibbard, later lead singer with the Flying Pickets.

The event took place at the Art Meeting Place, which I believe to have been at 48 Earlham Street, Covent Garden. It opened in 1974 and Cosey Fanni Tutti and Genesis P. Orridge were involved with it - indeed they first used the name Throbbing Gristle there. Cosey describes it in her book 'Art Sex Music' (2017):

'The shift in direction to COUM being mainly me and Gen also coincided with my leaving full-time work and connecting with other artists at the Art Meeting Place... AMP, as it was known, was set up by John Sharkey (along with others) in one of the buildings left vacant from the relocation of the Covent Garden fruit, veg and flower market. Other buildings had also been opportunistically acquired by activists for use as community centres and alternative arts spaces. AMP was a kind of Arts Lab that provided free facilities for artists across the spectrum - musicians, poets, film-makers - and was run by the artists themselves, with open meetings every week, exhibitions and performances. Me and Gen became regulars there, using their resources and trying out ideas in the available spaces-  as did Anish Kapoor, Carolee Schneemann, John Latham, David Medalla, David Toop and Susan Hiller among others.

Participating in the meetings was always interesting, watching people getting antsy with each other over art or politics, or art being a political act, feminism and Marxism. Some people had great ideas and ideals to uphold but there were time-wasters whose posturing made me angry and I got the sense that they didn't fully appreciate what an amazing thing AMP was'.

Flyer for 'Tracking' - performance and films by American artist Carolee Schneemann at the Artists Meeting Place in June 1974.

Saturday, July 09, 2022

Miners Strike Memories: Durham Miners Rally 1984

Technically there was no Durham Miners Gala in 1984 - instead on the day the Gala would normally take place there was a miners strike rally in the city. Many of the Gala elements were still present on Saturday July 14th 1984 - a parade through the town with banners from miners' union branches, marching brass bands and speeches at the Durham racecourse, with not a little drinking. The mood was angry, determined and at this point still hopeful just a few months into the strike.

This report is from the north east of England paper 'The Sunday Sun' (15 July 1984):

'Durham looked like a city under siege yesterday as town centre pubs stayed closed and shops shuttered. But the mass invasion of miners from all over the country to take part in the biggest protest  march in the pit dispute turned out to be fairly peaceful affair. Police kept a low profile and, despite  some rowdy behaviour by a young element, there were only three arrests for disorderly conduct and obstruction.

About 10,000 people took part In a march through the  city that replaced the traditional gala celebrations, cancelled by Durham Miners' Association in a cost-cutting move because of the dispute.

Banners were paraded by contingents from every  British coalfield, but pride of place at the head of the parade - led by Bearpark and Esh Colliery Band - was the Bearpark banner. The pit, the smallest in the Durham coalfield, closed for good in the early days of the strike because reserves were exhausted. Another banner that passed by to loud cheers was that of Cortonwood Lodge-  the pit whose threatened closure sparked off the strike.

Trouble flared briefly in Durham's market square when about 50 youths clashed with police after the rally. Bottles and beer cans were thrown and three arrests were made as extra police arrived  on the scene.

There was an amazing scene when a bronzed teenage girl ran across the square with the back of her black-and-white frock torn  away exposing her bare bottom. She was last seen running along the riverside'.

I don't remember the latter episode, which seems an odd thing to report in the paper. But I was there, drinking cider and gravitating towards the 'rowdy young element' scuffling with police as was my wont at the time. I recorded in my diary: 'We sat in the market square there were about 50 people there, mainly young miners. We sang anti-police songs, eventually the cops lost their sense of humour and moved in to arrest somebody. A fight ensued'. Apart from that my main memory is of the rally at the end. Peter Heathfield and Arthur Scargill from National Union of Mineworkers spoke, but when Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock came to the platform a lot of miners turned their back on him and headed out of the park rather than listen to him, disgusted by what they saw as the Labour leadership's half hearted support for the strike.

'A priest and some punks in debate after the speeches at the rally'

Following report is from The Miner (July 1984), the NUM's newspaper: 'Tens of thousands turned up to register a single, cast iron Geordie pledge on what is traditionally the Labour movements proudest day: The North East of England is rock solid and would only be content with a 101 per cent miners' victory in defence of jobs and communities'.

There's some very evocative uncut film footage from the day at the Yorkshire Film Archive  reminding me of some of the visual elements of the strike, not just banners but hats covered in badges and the ubiquitous yellow 'coal not dole stickers'. The sounds of the strike too, colliery brass bands and people chanting 'Maggie Maggie Maggie, Out Out Out!' and singing 'we shall not be moved'.

From the film: 'Whittle Miners Wives Support Group - Coal Not Dole'. Whittle Colliery in County Durham closed in 1987.

[post last updated 10/8/2022 with addition of report from 'The Miner']

See previously:

'Sound of police truncheon against body': David Peace's miners strike soundscape

Miners demo in Mansfield 1984

Miners support in Kent

The 'Here we go' chant

What did you do in the strike - my mix of music from the strike

Friday, July 08, 2022

Farewell Mark Astronaut

photo from Astronauts on facebook

Sad to hear of the death this week of Mark Astronaut (Mark Wilkins). I saw his band The Astronauts a number of times in the mid-1980s playing at anarcho-punk gigs, I believe for the first time at the Blockers Arms in Luton in February 1985 which I noted in my diary: 'really good, songs a bit like the early Bowie meets The Mob with a sense of humour, e.g. 'this one's about urban disintegration - it's also about darts'.  Also remember a gig in Mark's home town of Welwyn Garden City, again with Karma and Hertford indie-poppers The McTells and at various squat gigs in London. 

The Astronauts kept at it with various line ups from the later 1970s through to this year, to those in the know Mark was one of the great lost songwriters but they were perhaps too unique to fit in with any particular scene.  On the anarcho-punk scene for instance their folky melodies were a bit of an anomaly, though All the Madmen records did release their great 'It's All Done by Mirrors' album in 1983. 

image from discogs

Like many bands in that period they played various benefit gigs including one  with the Redskins for striking miners at  Welwyn's Woodhall Community Centre in 1984. Earlier in 1979, under the name Restricted Hours, they had contributed to a Stevenage Rock Against Racism EP

image from Discogs

Last year in November I went to one of my first post-Covid gigs at the New Cross Inn in SE London, to see another set of anarcho-punk survivors Zounds supported by Hagar the Womb. I saw a long haired figure with a covid mask on and immediately recognised Mark Astronaut who I hadn't seen for 30 years. He joined Zounds on stage for a guest vocal on You Can't Cheat Karma, and I chatted to him briefly afterwards before he headed off to get his train back to Welwyn. He told me that the Astronauts had some gigs coming up and that a book about him was coming out soon - I haven't got round to getting a copy yet of Survivors - 45 years of the Astronauts, but by all accounts its a great history not just of the band but of the punk/alternative scenes around his part of the world. 

Mark Astronaut with Zounds at New Cross Inn in November 2021

I went to see The Astronauts at Club 85 in Hitchin only a few weeks ago, playing with Blyth Power and Pog. They were great, nobody knew then that would be one of his last gigs. So long and thank you Peter Pan of the suburbs.

The Astronauts at Club 85 in Hitchin in May 2022


See also

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

London Makhnovist Centre squat in Fleet Street

A group of Ukrainian anarchist squatters have occupied their second building in London. The London Makhnovists Centre at 187 Fleet Street opened on 18th June 2022 with a fundraiser gig for victims of the war in Ukraine.

In a statement at their website the group say 'Make Solidarity Louder than Bombs. We occupy this property in protest against the war in Ukraine and those who profit from it.... We're going to gather around art, culture and dancing as a way to direct funding to refugee aid at the Ukrainian border'

Banners outside read 'Power breeds parasites, long live anarchy!' and #fucktorygarchs

In March the same group took over a London mansion  in Belgrave Square belonging to Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, and were evicted by riot police.

[Top four photos taken by me, Tuesday 28 June 2022, statement and bottom two photos from London Makhnovists website]

Saturday, July 02, 2022

Glastonbury CND Festival 1982

During the 1980s - starting in fact with the 1981 festival - Glastonbury was explicitly a festival for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Festival founder Michael Eavis was active in CND at this time, a movement in resurgence as a result of rising Cold War tensions. As he explained “1981 was the year I decided to join up with the CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament). I’d already been involved with them locally after somebody had found a secret bunker in the Mendip Hills which was guarded by soldiers with guns. Everyone was very worried about that; it was all top secret, but we wanted to know what was going on in our area, so we formed a local CND group in Shepton. Emily (Michael’s daughter) being born in 1979 also had a lot to do with me getting involved with the CND. I felt a great need to protect her, because she was so tiny. She really made me think, ‘I’m not going to let her get blown up by a cruise missile!’

The 1982 festival line up included Van Morrison, Jackson Browne, U2, Steel Pulse, Aswad and Judy Tzuke. The festival site was buzzed for a while by a hostile plane from the Tory-front organisation the Coalition for Peace through Security. Tories have never really got Glastonbury have they? Remember in 2015 when David Cameron said that he liked watching Glastonbury at TV at home 'in front of a warm fire' (in June!).

This report by Ross Bradshaw from Peace News, 9 July 1982, covers all the perennial delights and contradictions -  mud, commerce vs. mutual aid, worries about the crowd being too old


Fifty thousand people came, and £50,000 was raised for CND at the Glastonbury festival. What else can you say really... good time was had by all-wish you were there.

I was a bit nervous since it was 10 years since I last went to a rock festival, but the swamp-like consistency of the festival site helped strip away those inhibitions. You've just got to smile at strangers when every wellington-boot step is making a "gloop-gloop" sound in the mud.

Most of the crowd were 30ish; presumably the draw of Van Morrison, Jackson Browne and (the expected surprise appearance of) Roy Harper brought in the "ageing hippies against the bomb". Or maybe that's the normal festival crew.

Anyway, good music. But is it politics? Well squirming in the mud, then baking in the sun and the early morning queue for water does seem a long way from the CND committee meeting. And the sweet smell of marijuana smoke may not be as revolutionary as perhaps we first thought. Maybe we shouldn't really be shouting "More, more!" at the distant superstars on stage for them to come back for their planned encore. And in the market place the capitalists (albeit hip capitalists) were doing brisker business than the, stalls of Peace News, Freedom, and the alternative

But wait... the children's world with giant wooden ships, a castle, clowns, puppets, theatre and care-point all free.
And more theatre and free cinema for adults. And no police. Fifty thousand people and no police - or anyone else for that matter - to tell us what to do. Did standards fall, did a little bit of western-civilisation-as-we-know-it crumble?Thankfully, yes. Mutual aid, as it always does when people are left to themselves, put in an appearance. Food was  shared, people entertained themselves, lost children were found, stuck vans were pushed out of the mud and when it  as all over people gave each other lifts home. Order but no laws. No chaos, just some anarchy. Glastonbury is  D's biggest fundraiser, the Kremlin gold evidently having trouble getting through customs. Fortunately the Festival  people avoided the trap of feeding politics at their captive audience all the time. There were a few speakers (none of whom I heard), a CND tent (which was well supported), a few workshops and a variety of anti-nuclear films  including The War Game for those activists who can't go a weekend without seeing it. In general the politics/music  balance was fine.

Finally just a few words about the opposition. Presumably unable to find enough people to give out leaflets, the  Coalition for Peace through Security treated us to an air show. A plane trailing an anti-CND banner buzzed the site for an hour or two, rather like a nasty wasp that won't go away. I did hear the rumour that they were to be prosecuted for dangerous low flying, but it can't be true since these chaps woudn't break the law. Wonder what they'll do next year.

(old copy of Peace News found in the excellent 56a InfoShop archive)