Monday, March 14, 2016

What did you do in the strike? A miners strike mix

It is now more than 30 years since the 1984-85 miners strike, the last great stand of what had once been seen as the most militant and powerful section of the working class in Britain. The dispute started in South Yorkshire in March 1984 with miners walking out in response to the announcement that Cortonwood pit was threatened with closure. The miners claimed that there was a Government and coal board plan to close down large parts of the industry, and the National Union of Mineworkers called a national strike.

The strike finished a year later in defeat. The miners’ claims that the industry was under threat were soon proved correct – the last deep mine in the UK closed last December. The full forces of the state were mobilised against the strike. New laws were passed, more than 11,000 arrests were made and almost 200 miners were imprisoned.

On the other side there was significant support for the strike, with miners support groups being set up across the country. On the music front there were many benefit gigs involving a wide spectrum from folk singers to punk bands, and as the strike progressed songs were written about it and records released. What follows is a mix I have put together of music related to the miners strike. It includes songs and tracks about the strike, mostly from the time of the dispute but in some cases looking back in its aftermath. The mix also includes some spoken word recollections from the strike, including my own of one particular day in Mansfield. It reflects the diversity of the musical output related to the strike, so does leap from industrial noise to acoustic ballads – and in some cases mixes the two together. The collision of Norma Waterson and Test Dept sounds great!

The mix is based on a set I played in March 2014 at an Agit Disco benefit night for Housmans bookshop, held at Surya, Pentonville Road, London N1. It included a selection of DJs most of whom had contributed to Stefan Szczelkun’s Agit Disco project/book on political music. The full line up included: Sian Addicott, Martin Dixon, John Eden, Marc Garrett, Nik Górecki, Caroline Heron, Stewart Home, Paul Jamrozy (Test Dept), Micheline Mason, Tracey Moberly, Luca Paci, Simon Poulter, Howard Slater, Andy T, Neil Transpontine. Tom Vague and Stefan Szczelkun. I chose to focus on music relating to the miners strike as the event took place in the week of the 30th anniversary of the start of the strike. This is not a recording of the live set, but a mix put together later reflecting what I played that night. If some of the sound quality is not great, hopefully it will stimulate you to search further...

Here's the full playlist with some details of the tracks:

00:00 Keresley Pit Women’s Support Group - You won’t find me on the picket line

From 7” EP ‘Amnesty – reinstate and set them free’ put out by Banner Theatre company in 1985

00: 21 South Wales Striking Miners Choir – Comrades in Arms

From the album Shoulder to Shoulder by Test Dept and South Wales Striking Miners Choir (1985)

01:19 – John Tams - Orgreave

From BBC Radio Ballads: The Ballad of The Miner's Strike (2010), including miners recalling  the Orgreave picket.

03:58 - Test Dept – Fuel to Fight

From the album Shoulder to Shoulder by Test Dept and South Wales Striking Miners Choir (1985)

04:32 – Norma Waterson – Coal not Dole

Song written by Kay Sutcliffe and originally recorded by Eve Bland for the album 'Which Side Are You On: Music For The Miners From The North East' (1985). The song has also been recorded by artists including The Happy End (1987), Chumbawamba (1992), The Oyster Band and Norma Waterson. The song’s popularity perhaps relates to its melancholy anticipation of the actual outcome of the strike – not a heroic victory but the desolation of closed mines and industrial ruins. Sutcliffe asked ‘What will become of this pit-yard, Where men once trampled faces hard?’, imagining a future of ‘tourists gazing round. Asking if men once worked here, Way beneath this pit-head gear’. Now all the pits have closed all that remains is the National Coal Mining Museum


07:46 - Dave Burns – Maerdy, Last Pit in the Rhondda

A song written by Dave Rogers of Birmingham-based Banner Theatre, it was recorded by Dave Burns for his album ‘Last pit in the Rhondda’ (1986), released with the backing of South Wales NUM with proceeds ‘to help miners sacked as a result of the 84/85 strike’. Like ‘Coal Not Dole’, the song’s image of the strike-imposed silence of the mine foreshadows its future: ‘There's mist down in the valley and the snow lies on the hill, No men walk through the empty street the pit lies quiet and still’

11:29 – Bourbonese Qualk – Blackout

From the compilation album Here we go: A celebration of the first year of the U.K Miner's Strike 1984-1985 (Sterile Records 1985), featuring bands associated with the industrial scene.

12:00 – Neil Transpontine – Mansfield Memories

My recollections of the violent end to a miners demonstration in May 1984

13:25 - Dick Gaughan – Ballad of 84
First performed at a benefit for sacked miners at Woodburn Miners Welfare Club in Dalkeith, Midlothian in 1985, this song recalls the strikers who died amidst the massive police operation:

‘Let's pause here to remember the men who gave their lives, Joe Green and David Jones were killed in fighting for their rights / But their courage and their sacrifice we never will forget / And we won't forget the reason, too, they met an early death / For the strikebreakers in uniforms were many thousand strong / And any picket who was in the way was battered to the ground / With police vans driving into them and truncheons on the head’
17:26 – The Enemy Within – Strike

The Enemy Within was John Deguid and Marek Kohn, produced by Adrian Sherwood and Keith LeBlanc with sampled speech from Arthur Scargill. Released on Rough Trade 1984 – insert sleeve included statement – ‘Play this record at six and support the miners' campaign to create a surge of demand for power at six o'clock every evening!’

19:18 Council Collective – Soul Deep

Paul Weller and Mick Talbot’s Style Council with guests including Motown singer Jimmy Ruffin, Dee C. Lee, Junior Giscombe, Dizzy Hites and Vaughan Toulouse: 'Getcha mining soul deep with a lesson in history, There's people fighting for their communities, Don't say their struggle does not involve you, If you're from the working class it's your struggle too'.

19:30 – Ann Scargill

Spoken word reflection on women joining the picket line by one of the founders of Women Against Pit Closures.

22:34 and 24:55 - Alan Sutcliffe

Excerpts from speech by Kent miner, taken from the album Shoulder to Shoulder by Test Dept and South Wales Striking Miners Choir (1985). Last April (2015) I went to a great Test Dept film/book launch at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton. Alan Sutcliffe was there in the audience and said a few words.

25:28 – Nocturnal Emissions - Bring power to its knees

This track was included on the compilation album Here we go: A celebration of the first year of the U.K. Miner's Strike 1984-1985 (Sterile Records 1985).  This version is from the 1985 album 'Songs of Love and Revolution'.

27:33 – Pulp – Last day of the miners strike

‘overhead the sound of horses' hooves, people fighting for their lives’. From the 2002 album ‘Hits’

31:54 - Chumbawamba – Fitzwilliam

From the compilation album ‘Dig This: A Tribute To The Great Strike’ (Forward Sounds International, 1985). 'Smiles for the cameras as the miners return,  They say no one has lost and no one has gained,  But wiser and stronger the people have changed,  And it won't be the same in Fitzwilliam again'.

34:23 – Banner Theatre song group - Amnesty

Includes spoken word by miners from Keresley Pit, Coventry. From 7” EP ‘Amnesty – reinstate and set them free’ put out by Banner Theatre company in 1985

38:50 - The Country Pickets - Daddy (what did you do in the strike)

From the album ‘Which side are you on ?’ (Which Side Records, 1985) – song written by Ewan MacColl, his version was included on a cassette he and Peggy Seeger put out in 1984. ‘Daddy what did you do in the strike’ on their Blackthorn records was 'a musical documentation of the 1984 miners strike' with 'profits to National Union of Mineworkers'.

42:35 - Style Council – A stone’s throw away

An internationalist response linking the miners strike with other struggles across the world at that time: 'For liberty there is a cost, it's broken skull and leather cosh, from the boys in uniform, now you know what side they're on... In Chile, In Poland, Johannesburg, South Yorkshire, A stone's throw away, now we're there'.

See also other posts about the miners strike:

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Re-appreciating Bob Marley after Marlon James

Reading Marlon James' brilliant 'A Brief History of Seven Killings' has led me into a re-appreciation of Bob Marley. Of course everybody loves Marley, but the very ubiquity of his image, from cans of drinks to posters on student stoners' bedroom walls, is part of the problem. Like The Beatles or The Clash it's hard to simply listen to the songs buried under decades of nostalgia and music industry marketing.

While reading the novel I went back and listened properly to Marley's output for the first time in years, starting with his early material. And yes a lot of it still sounds great! Reading about the political and social conditions of 1970s Jamaica in the novel, you can certainly understand the incendiary impact of songs like 'Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)' or 'Talkin' Blues' ('who's gonna stay at home when the freedom fighters are fighting?').

Bob Marley mural by Dale Grimshaw near to  Brockley station, South London. This was painted this year to replace a previous Marley mural that was demolished. Its painting was contentious locally. Marley had no particular connection to this place, but as with all Marley-related matters it's what he symbolises that many find significant - in this case a visual link to the area's African Caribbean recent history in a period when it is arguably become more white/middle class.

In some ways the novel is only tangentially about Marley, referred to as The Singer throughout. He rarely appears himself as a character, but he is a central focus for many of the other characters whose lives are shaped by their involvement, in various ways, in the shooting of Marley in December 1976. For James this incident is just a moment, albeit a key one, in a bigger geopolitical story that includes the Cold War and its impact on the political situation in Jamaica, polarised between two main parties and their related armed gangs, and subsequently the transformation of local gangsters into major players in the international drugs trade. All this and a lot more than seven killings.

But at one point James does reflect briefly on the wider significance of Marley as a global talisman for 'sufferahs' everywhere:

'Three girls from Kashmir sling on bass, guitar and drums, fresh faces brimming out of burkas, propped up and held together by a backdrop of the Singer streaked in red, green and gold stripes, thick like a pillars. They call themselves First Ray of Light, soul sisters to the Singer smiling with his rising sun. Out of a wrapped face comes a melody so fragile it almost vanishes in the air. But it lands on a drum that kicks the groove back up to where the song lingers, swells and soothes. Now the Singer is a balm to spread over broken countries. Soon, the men who kills girls issue a holy order and boys all over the valley vow to clean their guns, and stiffen their cocks, to hold down and take away. The Singer is support, but he cannot shield, and the band breaks away.

But in another city, another valley, another ghetto, another slum, another favela, another township, another intifada, another war, another birth, somebody is singing Redemption Song, as if the Singer wrote it for no other reason but for this sufferah to sing, shout, whisper, weep, bawl, and scream right here, right now'.

The 'Three girls from Kashmir' referred to here are the band Pragaash (whose name translates as first ray of light), who appeared briefly in December 2012 but gave up a few months later after the Grand Mufti in Kashmir issued a fatwa terming singing as un-Islamic and the band received online threats.

Pragaash perform in front of Marley backdrop

Monday, October 26, 2015

Magic Feet (1990s zine)

'Magic Feet' was a 1990s Nottingham-based dance music zine. Here's the front and back cover of the first issue from November 1994 promising 'hard house, ambient, electronic, acid, trance, techno, whatever you want to call it', and featuring Stefan Robbers, Innersphere and Warp/GTO charts.

The back page includes an article from the Brixton-based Freedom Network about the then ongoing campaign against the Criminal Justice Bill and its 'anti-rave' powers. A demonstration in London's Hyde Park in the previous month- on October 9th 1994 - had ended in clashes with the police and the article calls for witnesses to come forward. Forthcoming events mentioned include more Anti-CJB actions in Guildford, Barnstaple and elsewhere, the launch of the 'Taking Liberties' compilation (an anti-CJB LP featuring Test Dept, The Orb, Loop Guru and others) and a benefit for Squall magazine at Megatripolis - the alternative techno/trance club held in London on Thursday nights. I think I went to that night, anyway I remember seeing a film/talk about the Newbury road protest in the somewhat incongruous setting of a banging Thursday night in Heaven.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Datacide Book Launch at Housmans

This Friday (23 October) I will be saying a few words at the launch of the new Datacide book, Everything Else is Even More Ridiculous, which brings together the first 10 issues of the noise and politics zine published between 1997 and 2008. It takes place at Housmans bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 (round the corner from Kings Cross station).

Full details:

Datacide - the Magazine for Noise & Politics - presents the release of two new books with short talks by Datacide writers Stewart Home, Neil Transpontine and Christoph Fringeli

a decade of noise & politics – datacide issues 1-10

A major project in the works for quite some time, this is a complete reprint of the issues 1-10 of datacide, which originally appeared from 1997-2008. Titled “EVERYTHING ELSE IS EVEN MORE RIDICULOUS”, the 364 page volume collects unique material, most of which has been out of print for many years, charting a one-of-a-kind history of the counter-cultures associated with electronic music and free festivals.

“The free space of the party met the free space of the page and then you got a dynamism that encouraged expression and perversions and tangents because the covers held it together as a nomadic movement and you were convinced that music had catalysed it all and that music was somehow inherently political as it sidestepped rhetoric and dogma, and absented us from control addicts and the free space of the page was a kind of historic party, a kind of invisible college, a launching pad for driftage.” Flint Michigan


Almanac for Noise & Politics 2015

If you’re already familiar with datacide magazine and our related record label for extreme electronic music – Praxis – then you’re familiar with the efforts we’ve made over the last two decades to continually explore the intersections of radical politics and underground rave culture, experimental and extreme electronic music, moments of free spaces and momentary freak-outs and how these can be represented on the page and through the speakers. If not, this may be a good place to start. Either way, the Almanac for noise & politics 2015 contains a selection of articles and excerpts from various issues of datacide, as well as a peek into the activities of the Praxis label and its offshoots. 

This first edition is meant to be a brief introduction to the wide range of topics covered in datacide.
Articles include: Post-Media Operators by Howard Slater/Eddie Miller/Flint Michigan, No Stars here (track -1) by TechNET, A Loop Da Loop Era – Towards an (Anti-)history of Rave by Neil Transpontine, Radical Intersections by Christoph Fringeli, Vinyl Meltdown by Alexis Wolton, Plague in this Town by Matthew Hyland, Just Say Non – Nazism, Narcissism and Boyd Rice by, Interview with Christoph Fringeli/Praxis Records from Objection to Procedure, a new short story by Dan Hekate, as well as a commented catalogue. This is interspersed by new visual work by Matthieu Bourel, Lynx, Sansculotte, Tóng Zhi, and Zombieflesheater!
Full colour cover and 104 inside pages in A6 format!

Starts at 7.30 (till 9-ish) - Entry is £3 (redeemable towards any purchase in the bookshop)

Friday, September 04, 2015

Rico on Railton Road

Rico Rodriguez, the great Jamaican ska trombonist, has died this week at the age of 80. In the UK he's best known for his work with The Specials, including playing on 1981's Ghost Town. The record famously reached number one in the week of the July riots that swept the country  that year, and was actually recorded in the week of the first Brixton riot in April 1981 -  a precursor to the long hot summer that was to come. The song's lyrics seemed to have anticipated the uprisings with its lines 'This place, is coming like a ghost town, No job to be found in this country, Can't go on no more, The people getting angry'. Even the video seemed with hindsight to refer to rioting, with the band throwing stones - though into the Thames at Rotherhithe rather than at the police.

During the Brixton riot, The George - a pub with a racist reputation on the corner of Railton Road and Effra Parade  -was burnt down. A new pub, Mingles, was built to replace it and unlike its predecesor was predominantly an African-Caribbean bar. In the early 1990s, in between his Specials stint and his involvement with Jools Holland's band, Rico used to play down at Mingles. The place was just down the road from the 121 Centre which I frequented, and a few of us went down to Mingles a couple of times to see him play. It was no big deal, just a a band playing in the pub in a low key way, but what a band. To be honest I thought at the time Rico deserved a bigger venue, but there was a sweet irony in this Jamaican musician playing in that place given its history.

In a further ironic twist, a future Jamaican musician might not be able to play in a place like this - not because of racist door policies but because of the loss of venues as a result of more affluent residents moving into the area that was once known as the Front Line. Mingles became the Harmony Bar and then La Pearl, before closing. Antic - who run the Dogstar and various other London pubs - acquired the site (82 Railton Road SE24)  and applied for planning permission to develop it with flats above and a bar below. Local residents campaigned against it with a 2012 petition stating  that 'We strongly feel this site is no longer suitable to be used as a pub or entertainment venue, as the surrounding streets have become more residential and it is too close to these homes'.

Planning permission was refused and BrixtonBuzz reported a press release last year that crowed 'London based construction specialists Sorrel Construction Ltd, partner with Lambeth Council to breathe much needed life into a post-riot area... Sorrel Construction Limited have recently announced their latest project working closely with Lambeth Council to dramatically transform a damaged pub on Railton Road into a series of brand new luxury flats'.

Mingles later became the Harmony Bar before closing

Thursday, June 11, 2015

'Flappers as Anarchists' - sharp dressed radicals in Newcastle, 1914

'Flappers as Anarchists: delegates who do not look as though they used bombs'
'Anarchists are in conference at Newcastle-on-Tyne. The statement sounds very terrible and smacks of bombs and desperate deeds against society, but the delegates are in reality the mildest people imaginable. There are between thirty and forty of them, including three girls in the "flapper" stage. They dress like respectable Unionists or Liberals' (Daily Mirror, 14 April 1914)

(move over Peaky Blinders)

Monday, April 06, 2015

Geoff Dyer on Underground Culture in 1980s London and Now

The novelist Geoff Dyer wrote an article for the Observer this week entitled 'Underground culture isn’t dead – it’s just better hidden than it used to be' (5 April 2015):

'Looking back – and I’ll explain later how I came to be looking back – I realise how much of my social life in the 1980s was spent at “underground” events of one kind or another... In my teens, I’d been a devotee of magazines such as Frendz and Oz with their illegibly swirling psychedelic designs and still blurrier editorial agenda. These publications represented an (open) marriage between insurrectionary politics, prog rock, fashion (loons) and porno graphics. I was interested, mainly, in photographs of Hawkwind.

That may have been the golden age of the underground, but its spikier manifestations or descendants were part of the social landscape of London in the 1980s: the squatted cafe in Bonnington Square, Vauxhall, the Anarchist Centre at 121 Railton Road, Brixton, and, of course, the ubiquitous underground parties that later morphed into raves'.

Dyer's initial take is that all that is in the past - 'Maybe new variations of such things still exist in London and I’m too old and square to know about them but, broadly speaking, the counterculture has given way to an over-the-counter culture of cool cafes and pop-ups that lend a subversive slant to one’s retail experience'.

But attending an event in New York changes his mind -  'my visit... got me thinking about the long and nourishing role the underground has played in my life. It also made me realise how easy it is to fall into elegiac mode and how important it is to resist doing so. In different forms, in spite of everything, places like this will keep popping up, unbeknown to the middle-aged likes of... me. So, as a way of combining the urge to lament and the need to affirm, we’ll close with the final words from Larkin’s Show Saturday in High Windows.. “Let it always be there.”'

I generally agree with Dyer's position, even though I think the notion of 'the underground' itself has always involved a heavy dose of self-mythologisation. Of course I was most interested in him name checking places I used to hang out at too in the late 1980s/early 1990s - Bonnington Square cafe, scene of many Community Resistance Against the Poll Tax benefit nights, and the 121 Centre (which has been mentioned many times on this blog). Dyer lived in Brixton in the 1980s, I think slightly earlier than me, and his first novel - The Colour of Memory (1989) - is a fictionalised account of Brixton dole life in that period.

121 Railton Road, Brixton, in 1984/85
(photo from Kate Sharpley Library)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

'Mobs riot in West End' - London Poll Tax Riot press coverage 1990

'Mobs riot in West End' (Independent on Sunday, 1 April 1990)

'Central London experienced its worst riot this century yesterday as the biggest demonstration against the poll tax turned to violence. At least 113 people, including 45 police were injured... There were at least 300 arrests.... In the heart of London's West End, cars were overturned and set on fire, dozens of shop windows were smashed and their contents looted' 

'Tonight the anarchists are celebrating "Our Time"(Evening Standard, 2 April 1990)

One of a number of press reports seeking to blame the riots on 'Left wing activists who march beneath the black banner... For more than a decade a small and disparate grouping of punks, misfits, thugs, hardline politicos and animal liberationists have pledged a violent revolution. Under their black flag banners at the weekend they saw themselves firing the first shot'. 'Class War and its Brixton-based counterpart Black Flag' are mentioned the formed linked to squats in 'Hackney and Clapton' ('London's East End is still Class War's heartland'). Much of this is pure invention, such as the claim that rioters on the day carried 'small, easily concealed "mollies" - firebombs'. I don't recall any petrol bombs being thrown on this day.

'£20 if you join Army of Envy' (Today, April 2 1990)

Another ludicrous piece of misinformation - 'Agitators toured pubs offering £20 to anyone willing to join their army of envy'. Considering hundreds of thousands of people had made the effort to travel from all over the country to be there, it was hardly necessary to pay anybody else to join in!  The report itself says that 60 coaches came from Bristol, 40 from South Wales, 30 from Weymouth etc.

'Battle of Trafalgar: Burning with Hate the Fire Bombers Sabotage Symbols of Wealth' (Today, 2 April 1990)

The angle of this piece is that decent theatre goers were terrorised by the 'howling mob' - no doubt some were frightened by the scenes, but the riot did not include attacks on random members of the public. Tourists wandered around in the middle of it. Again there is the myth here of the 'fire bombers' - it is true that a small number of cars were set on fire, but not I believe with petrol bombs. Still the looting and rage against 'symbols of wealth' was real enough: 'the riot against the poll tax turned into open warfare against the wealthy and all the symbols of affluence... Garrards, the royal jewellers, was a favourite target. Thugs wearing punk clothes uprooted bins and hurled them against the windows. West End fashion shops were next in line. Some grabbed £400 suits from gents clothes shops while women dressed in rags robbed other stores'. 

The story does include the fantastic line 'The great English public is rioting, sir' reported as being said by a policeman in reply to an American tourist asking what was going on.

Note to clarify (3 April 2015): in the image above I have blurred out the faces, they are clearly shown in the original and indeed I believe that they were all subsequently arrested. The guy with the white t-shirt was jailed and the guy leaning in to the porsche was acquitted in a trial that made headlines because the judge dismissed police evidence as lies (I believe a policeman claimed to have witnessed it but couldn't have done because of his location). I decided to blur the faces because they are still recognisable from these photos today and for work or other reasons might not want people to know about what they may or may not have been up to in 1990.

See also:

1990 Trafalgar Square Memories;
Brixton poll tax demo (Transpontine)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Burns the Radical

Burns Night once more, the Scottish poet Robert Burns being born on this day in 1759. I have had my vegetarian haggis and a glass of Laphroaig...

Awa ye selfish, war'ly race,
Wha think that havins, sense, an' grace,
Ev'n love an' friendship should give place
To catch-the-plack!
I dinna like to see your face,
Nor hear your crack.

But ye whom social pleasure charms
Whose hearts the tide of kindness warms,
Who hold your being on the terms,
"Each aid the others,"
Come to my bowl, come to my arms,
My friends, my brothers!

'Friendship, in these poems, has a sacred quality. In one of his prose letters, Burns refers to the 'solemn league and covenant of friendship'... Burns' view of humanity's god-given sociability has political ramifications. It provides the basis for a strongly civic political ideology, an ideology rooted in the principle of duty to one's fellows... Burns and his correspondents (local poets and farmers, freethinkers and freemasons) are presented as an archetypal civic community: a society of equals, whose selfless cultivation of virtue, integrity and public spirit distinguishes them from the 'selfish, warly race' whose sole concern is with 'catch-the-plack'. In the classical republic, of course, it was the landed elite who formed the virtuous citizen class, while the disenfranchised poor took care of domestic 'economy' In Burns's epistolary republic, however, it is the poet's humble correspondents who devote their scanty leisure hours to public pursuits (learning, poetry, political discussion) while their supposed superiors - the 'cits' and 'lairds' - are wholly engrossed with money-grubbing' (Liam McIlvanney, Burns the Radical: Poetry and Politics in Late Eighteenth-century Scotland, Tuckwell, 2002) 

What tho’, like Commoners of air,
We wander out, we know not where,
But either house or hal’?
Yet Nature’s charms, the hills and woods,
The sweeping vales, and foaming floods,
Are free alike to all.

(advert from old book of my dads for '50 selected songs of Burns',
published by Mozart Allan, 84 Carlton Place, Glasgow)

See previously:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Save Denmark Street: 12 Bar Club Occupied

The famous 12 Bar Club in London's Denmark Street closed a couple of weeks ago, having been given notice to quit as part of a plan to 'redevelop' this area that threatens its status as the city's main area of music shops. Denmark Street, off Charing Cross Road, became known as Britain's 'tin pan alley' as the home of many songwriters and music publishers. The Sex Pistols once lived at no. 6, among numerous other musician connections (see history) Today it is famous for its musical instrument shops. 

All is not lost yet though. The 12 Bar Club was squatted on Monday, and those occupying it hope to use the building to help galvanise opposition to the increasingly homogenous corporate gentrification of the West End of London. 

I was down there today, friendly people so pop in and see them. They would welcome donations of sound equipment, furniture, sleeping bags etc (see notice in window). The are also launching an open mic night tomorrow night (Friday), so looks like the last song has not yet rung out in that venue where, among many others, Jeff Buckley, Joanna Newsom and Bert Jansch, have performed.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Anarchy on Eastenders

One of the highlights of Eastenders over Christmas was an episode where soap opera arch-villain Nick Cotton finds his old copy of The Sex Pistols 'Anarchy in the UK' in the attic of his long suffering mum, Dot. Later the bible-quoting Dot comes home to find Nick having sex with his ex in the front room - he quips 'you never did like the Sex Pistols, did you ma', as Johnny Rotten screams 'I wanna be anarchy' in the background. Earlier in the same episode, Cotton eats his breakfast to 'London Calling' by The Clash.

Let the record show that he had the 1977 French reissue of Anarchy in the UK, not the 1976 EMI original.

Nasty Nick Cotton has been in the series on and off since it started.This is him in 1986:

Actor John Altman, who plays Cotton, was previously a young mod in the 1979 movie 'Quadrophenia'

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Datacide 14

I probably should have mentioned by now that the latest issue of Datacide - the magazine for noise and politics - was published last October. Loads of good stuff, including an article by me on the 'Archaeology of the Radical Internet' about the early 1990s European Counter Network. Also material from Howard Slater, John Eden, Stewart Home, Controlled Weirdness, Dan Hekate, Nemeton, David Cecil, Hannah Lammin, Christoph Fringeli and more.

The full contents and some of the texts are online at Datacide, but you should really try and get hold of the 76 page printed version for the full effect.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The noise of history

'All around me there was an incredible rushing noise, which I knew was composed of shouting and screaming and firecrackers and stamping hoofs, but sounded to me like a great wind, like history'
(Hari Kunzru, My Revolutions, 2007)

Grosvenor Square, London, 1968

Kunzru's quote is from his novel of late 60s/early 70s radical politics, in which the narrator describes taking part in the anti-Vietnam War demonstration by the US Embassy in London's Grosvenor Square. But that exhilarating noise of history, the sound of the crowd in motion, has been heard in many times and places.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Nine Funerals of the Citizen King - Henry Cow

Henry Cow's 'Nine funerals of the Citizen King' is a track on their 1973 debut album 'Legend' and signalled the radical critique which they carried forward until breaking up five years later. The lyrics reference Lewis Carroll ('the Snark was a Boojum' from his poem 'The Hunting of the Snark'), Gertrude Stein ('a rose is a rose is a rose') and Shakespeare ('O, gentlemen, the time of life is short!...An if we live, we live to tread on kings', Henry IV, Part 1).

The latter was also quoted in Guy Debord's 'The Society of the Spectacle' (1967), and as the song refers to the 'spectacle of free' I wonder whether Henry Cow had been reading Debord. If so they were ahead of their time - the first English translation of 'The Society of the Spectacle' was made by Black & Red (Detroit) in 1970, but it was certainly not widely known. The line 'we'll work to live to buy the things we multiply, until they fill the ordered universe' could have come straight out of Debord, or even an Angry Brigade communique from the same period.

Nine funerals of the Citizen King

Down beneath the spectacle of free
No one ever let you see
The Citizen King
Ruling the fantastic architecture of the burning cities
Where we buy and sell...

That the Snark was a Boojum all can tell
But a rose is a rose is a rose
Said the Mama of Dada as long ago as 1919

You make arrangements with the guard
Halfway round the exercise yard
To sugar the pill
Disguising the enormous double-time the king pays to Wordsworth
More than you or I could reasonably forfeit the while...
Double-time the king pays to Wordsworth
More than you or I could reasonably buy...

If we live, we live to tread on dead kings
Or else we'll work to live to buy the things we multiply
Until they fill the ordered universe

Once upon a time my punky self would have dismissed this as 'prog'. But I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.

Oh and they played a benefit for Brixton Socialist Club in 1978.

Monday, December 15, 2014

1984 Chronicle of a Year Foretold: February

A chronology of events in the UK

See previously: 

Welcome to 1984 
January 1984

Wed 1 February – print unions and News International agree deal to resume printing of The Times; Sogat 82 calls off blacking of Radio Times on day BBC takes them to court – union members had refused to distribute Radio Times as part of a dispute with Maxwell’s British Printing and Communications Corporation over redundances – as  a result BBC switched printing to Hunter Print in the North East, but the boycott continued (GH 2/2)

2 February: Gilbert & Page factory at Colney Heath, Hertfordshire, which makes snares and pens, set on fire by animal liberationists (I.2)

3 February: official unemployed figures reach almost 3.2 million

3 February: National Coal Board announces closure of Bogside pit in Fife blaming flooding, ten days after announcing closure of  Polmaise colliery near Stirling blaiming geological conditions  - workers rejected both reasons for closure (GH 4 Feb)

3 Feb  - Shop stewards at Scott Lithgow shipyard on the Clyde reject plans for 2500 job losses as part of potential privatisation and takeover by Traflagar House

Monday 6 February: management issue redundancy notices to 3000 staff at the Highland Fabricators oil platform construction yard at Nigg on the Cromarty  Firth, blaming lack of orders for new platforms (GH 7.2)

Monday 6 February: police visit offices of Friends of the Earth investigating the leak of a Government document about nuclear dumping at sea (GH 7 Feb)

Monday 6 February: Government announces reduction in scale of planned cuts in housing benefit ‘to head of a rebellion on his own back benches’ but remains criticised by pensioners and child poverty organisations (GH 7 Feb)

Monday 6 February: ‘9 people arrested outside London High Court during Animal Liberation Front protest at delay of appeal sentence for Steve Boulding jailed for 15 months last June, for conspiracy to cause damage at lab using animals in experiments’ (I.2)

Tues. 7 February: striking workers sacked at Phillips Rubber Ltd in Manchester.

Wed. 8 February: court orders workers to end occupation of the Sovereign Explorer oil rig in the Firth of Clyde off Largs. The rig was built at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead, but was damaged in gales during sea test. The CL workers  wanted it to be brought back there for repairs, but the company insisted it be taken to a yard in France (GH 9 Feb)

Wed. 8 February: workers a Scotts Bakery, Aintree, Liverpool told they must end four week strike and accept 120 redundances or face the sack (GH 9 Feb)

Thurs. 9 February One day walk out at Scott Lithgow shipyard in response to threatened takeover and loss of 2000 jobs

Thurs. 9 February: Yuri Andropov, General Secretary of Soviet Communist Party (1982-84) dies.

Thurs 9 February: police seize documents from investigative journalist Duncan Campbell and search his house after he is involved in a bike accident (GH 16 Feb)

February 10 February: Michael Hickey roof top protest continuing at Gartree prison after 79 days, protesting innocence in Carl Bridgwater case

Monday 13 February: NUM meeting for delegates from Scottish pits in Edinburgh decides to postpone for a week decision about whether to stage indefinite strike against closure of Polmaise and Bogside colliery, pending a series of pithead meetings. 100 Polmaise miners lobbied the meeting for an all out strike, and some angrily shouted ‘sell out’ at the NUM Scottish leaders (GH 14 Feb)

Monday 13 February: life models at Glasgow and Edinburgh art colleges refuse to pose nude in campaign for better pay and conditions. At the latter, ‘Classes went ahead, and students produced drawings of the clothed models’ (GH 14 Feb)

Monday 13 February: 2500 railway workers stage a 24 hour strike, causing cancellation of at least 75% of trains in Strathclyde area. The unofficial strike organised by the Strathclyde NUR action committee was against plans for driver only trains and automated stations. It was criticised by the NUR leadership as well as management. In a separate dispute, 4000 bus workers went on strike for two hours in protest against planned closure of three bus garages in Glasgow (GH 14 Feb 84)

Tuesday 14 February: a man accused of being a police informer is found shot dead by the IRA near Crossmaglen (GH 15 Feb)

15 February: miners walk out at Seafield colliery in Fife in dispute relating to disciplining of miner; strike at Killoch in Ayrshire in response to management action over overtime ban (GH 16 Feb)

16 February: 17 year old William McDonald found hanged in his cell at Glenochil detention centre near Alloa, the 4th death there in 18 months (GH 17 Feb)

17 Feb: employment secretary Tom King hit by an egg during a protest by Cammell Laird shipyard workers on a visit ot Birkenhead in Merseyside (GH 18 Feb)

Strikers at Cammell Laird in 1984 - they were later dismissed and jailed for 30 days 

Mon. 20 February: strike by miners in Doncaster area following merger of Goldthorpe and Highgate collieries (workers from two pits were not paidbeing the same). Miners also walk out at Manvers Collliery in South Yorkshire in dispute over meal breaks, supported by strikes at six other local pits over the next week.

Mon. 20 February: 16 arrests in clashes between hunt saboteurs and police at harecoursing meeting in Altcar, Lancashire (I.2)

Mon. 20 February: four Greenham women jailed after refusing to pay fines (Insurrection 2)

Mon 20 February: NUM delegates meeting in Edinburgh votes against strike against closure of Polmaise, despite support fro strike by NUM president Mick McGahey (GH 21 Feb) . By this time rumours of hit list of pit closures were rife, but Scottish miners were reluctant to strike on their own.

Mon 20 Feb: strike by scenery makers and shifters at BBC (GH 21 Feb)

20 -23 February: sacked strikers occupy Phillips Rubber Ltd, Manchester

Tues. 21 February: two members of the IRA and  British Army soldier killed in a gun battle between an undercover BA unit and the IRA at Dunloy, County Antrim.

Tues. 21 February: 100 protestors invade the Lothian council chamber in Edinburgh in an attempt to stop the Tory/Alliance cuts budget (GH 22 Feb)

Tues. 21 February: Michael Hickey ends his roof top protest at Gartree, started last November

Wed 22 February: NCB chairman Ian MacGregor knocked to the ground after fence gives away during a  protest by  miners and his car tyres let down in a visit to Ellington colliery in Northumberland (GH  23 Feb)

Wed 22 February: workers vote to continue their week long strike over working conditions at the BP chemical plant in Grangemouth, Stirlingshire (GH 23 Feb)

Wed 22 February: steelworkers strike at Clydesdale Tube Works, Bellshill, Lanarkshire (GH 23 Feb)

Thurs 23 February: student day of action in support of higher grants in Scotland. At least 4000 march in Glasgow; in Dundee 60 students briefly occupy local education department offices (GH 24 Feb)

Thursday 23 Feb: two Greenham women say they are shot at after cutting through fence. An American patrol fired two shots after the women refused to lie face down. They are arrested but unhurt (GH 28 Feb). Government denied shots were fired.

Friday 24 Feb: British ariways cabin crews stage 24 hour lightning strike against 4% pay offer. Some wear 'I am a flying picket' bibs.

Friday 24 Feb: Thatcher's car is hit by an egg during a demonstration by 500 students as she visits Warwick University. A Conservative students meeting with Cecil Parkinson (Trade & Industry Secretary) at Essex University after 'students threw missiles at him and blocked his way' (GH 25 Feb)

Friday 24 Feb: Police and troops saturate the funeral of IRA volunteer Henry Hogan in Dunloy, shot dead earlier in the week. There are scuffles as police block the mourners path - supposedly to prevent IRA firing shots over the coffin (GH 25 Feb).

Sunday 26 Feb: Strike at BP chemicals plant in Grangemouth ends after 11 days with new agreement on working practices (GH 27 Feb)

Tuesday 28 Feb: TUC day of action in support of GCHQ workers - walk outs (mostly half day strikes)  at hospitals, DHSS offices, the Yarrow warship yard, newspapers (leading to halting of all Fleet Street papers), North Sea oil rig at Methil, car factories,. 40,000 march in London from the Embankment to Jubilee Gardens.(GH 29 Feb). GCHQ workers had been given to the end of February to renounce union membership in return for one off £1000 payment - most did. 40 asked to be transferred to other Government departments

Tuesday 28 Feb: animal rights activists in white protective suits and gas masks hand in letter to Ministry of Defence against animal testing at Porton Down Chemical Defence establishment (GH 29 Feb)

Wednesday 29 February: seven Americans begin a world peace walk with a vigil at the Holy Lock US nuclear submarine base, followed by a torchlit procession with supporters to Greenock. They aim to walk to Moscow to arrive on Hiroshima Day (GH 1 March)

Wednesday 29 February: violence involving England supporters in Paris following friendly between England and France

February: Five women go on hunger strike at Durham prison in protest at harsh conditions in Control Unit

Sources: Glasgow Herald (GH), Times (T), Red Rag (RR - a Reading radical paper), Socialist Opportunist (SO - a chronology published at the time); Insurrection (I- anarchist paper);

Meanwhile back in the UK pop charts, these were the top twenty singles in February 1984:

1. Relax - Frankie Goes To Hollywood
2. Radio Ga Ga- Queen
3. Girls just want to have fun - Cyndi Lauper
4. Break my stride - Matthew Wilder
5. Doctor doctor - Thompson Twins
6. That's living (alright) - Joe Fagin
7. Holiday  - Madonna
8. New moon on Monday - Duran Duran
9. (Feels like) Heaven - Fiction Factory
10. 99 Red balloons - Nena
11. My ever changing moods - Style Council
12. Here comes the rain again - Eurythmics
13. The killing moon - Echo & the Bunnymen
14. What difference does it make - Smiths
15. Somebody's watching me - Rockwell
16.Love theme from "The thorn birds"- Juan Martin
17. Wouldn't it be good - Nik Kershaw
18. Wonderland - Big Country
19. Michael Caine - Madness
20. Pipes of peace - Paul McCartney

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Athens Protest and Street Art - December 2014

Some pictures from Athens last weekend:

Demonstrators gather outside the university on 6 December, the 6th anniversary of the killing of 15 year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos by police. Thousands took to the streets to remember Alexis and to express solidarity with his friend Nikos Romanos,  on hunger strike in prison (the hunger strike has now ended).
Later there were clashes, with tear gas and petrol bombs (from BBC News)
Syrian refugees protesting at their camp in Syntagma Square, opposite the parliament building
'We faced death passing the sea, now we're sleeping at Greek streets'

Sunday December 7th - an art students banner on  protest outside Parliament against the setting of a new austerity budget
At least 5,000 (my estimate) took part in the Sunday evening protest
(image from here of a trade union contingent on demo)
Some street art from the Exarchia area:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

'Death from Excessive Dancing' - Bermondsey 1903

From: South London Press, 3 January 1903:

'The Fatal Thirteen -Death from excessive dancing

Dr Waldo held an inquest at the Southwark Coroner's Court on Wednesday on the body of Mary Ann Cocklin, aged 35 years, the wife of a Bermondsey labourer.

John Cocklin, the husband, stated that he and the deceased went to a Christmas party at the house of a relative on Christmas Day, and kept on dancing until after midnight. Deceased then lay down to rest, but awoke in a fright, screaming that three men were after her.

Dr Waldo: Had she been drinking any spirits?

Witness: No, sir, only port wine. We had nothing but port wine, any of us.

Dr Waldo: What happened when she came to herself again?

Witness: She went down stairs and resumed dancing to the music of an automated piano organ we had in the house. I next heard she was very ill, and that she had again gone to rest, but had turned giddy and fallen down the stairs.

Dr Waldo: How many?

Witness: The fatal 13.

Susan Poore, a neighbour, stated that she heard the deceased fall. She was taken to Guys Hospital, where she died the same day.

The medical evidence showed that death was due to fracture of the thigh caused by the fall, which was the result of giddiness produced by dancing. A verdict was returned accordingly'.