Friday, 15 April 2011

Making Love To A Vampire With A Monkey On My Knee

Mr John Robert Parker Ravenscroft was more than slightly responsible for my tastes veering leftwards at some point in the early mid 1970s, opening my ears (well, ear actually, as this was in the days of monaural tranny radios listened to late at night under the covers so as not to attract parents' attention) to all sorts of strange sounds from Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt, Can, Krautrock, reggae, amonst many others, and especially the wildly veering Pachuco Cadaver that was the John Peel favourite, the quite fabulous and remarkable Captain Beefheart.

We miss you John...

So it's October 1976 and Peely starts playing a new single called New Rose by the alluringly monickered The Damned, a band I'd read about in The Bible...sorry, the NME, and was curious to hear what Nick Kent et al hailed as one of the front runners of a new scene that was aimed at the kids, a scene in which you didn't need an MA in music theory to be able to play in one of the bands, bands whose songs rarely went over three minutes long. I thought it was utter shite. Then JP played it again, followed by the b-side, a rumbustious mangling of The Beatles' Help! Hmmm, actually this New Rose thing is quite the time JP had played it for the third time I was sold....this is brilliant, I want it now!

At this point I have to make a confession. While I was utterly sold on the adrenaline rush of the new punk sounds, under cover of darkness and when I was sure no-one of my peer group could catch me out I was still playing dinosaur music, or prog rock as it was and is known. At school in the sixth form common room, where I was one of only three people into this new racket - it's great when you have a small clique that no-one else understands - the LPs of choice on the Dansette were still from the likes of Genesis, Yes, Rush, BoC, Floyd, etc. I tried not to tap my foot while in the company of the other two "punks"; the quotation marks because we were punk in name only I'm afraid, maybe with a few strategically placed safety pins in jacket lapels, it was a middle class Grammar School after all! A legacy bestowed by Peely that endures to this day is my catholic music taste, as I try not too get sucked in by genres as it places unneeded and unnecessary restrictions on all that wonderful music out there that you could be listening to, and it started then by liking prog and punk at one and the same time, which in those days was a heresy punishable by complete social rejection and mucho name calling.

I digress...throughout the later part of 1976 right through '77 and early '78 I devour anything punky and nascent post punky that comes up, from the mainstream Pistols, Clash, Stranglers, Buzzcocks, Damned (who were also the first punk band I saw live in '76, the Captain flinging bucket loads of horseshit everywhere - lovely) through to lesser and tiny tiny lights like The Table (the still wonderful Do The Standing Still), The Lurkers (lumpen prole punk, great live), The Fall, XTC, Siouxsie, Magazine (my fave post punk goth-prog band - yes I'm afraid they were definitely prog), This Heat, Ultravox!, Prag Vec, Scritti Politti (never bettered Skank Bloc Bologna), Gang Of Four (severe funk, so much so it hurt), Chrome, Television, Pere Ubu, Suicide, and all sorts of other weird shit, then I got distracted...

On November 20th 1978 I saw The Mighty Mighty (I'll brook no argument) Clash at De Montfort Hall, Leicester and a better gig I had not seen before, and even now it's still firmly in the number one spot. While liking their first album and the great singles that followed, it took a while before I took full notice of the politics, as I was too busy idiot dancing. However, and probably partly the result of agitprop drip feeding from The Bible, on top of the influence still lingering from an old school left wing Eng Lit teacher, by '78 I was fully politicised and took up any right-on cause with youthful gusto. This entailed being punched over a wall by an irate plod in Corby on an ANL march, later numerous RAR benefits, CND marches, I've still got the badges to prove it. Anyone who was around at the time must have had their heads buried in the mounting piles of uncollected rubbish if they attempt to deny that The Clash not only rode the zeitgeist, but practically were the zeitgeist. An added benefit was their visceral pumping rock'n'roll. which when they got it right felt like it could move mountains. You'd have to have both cloth ears and lead feet for it not to move you, and of course being the right age at the right time in the right place certainly helped! It felt at that point that music could indeed change the world, and with the help of various hotel room floors and some eye opening life lessons in sex'n'drugs'nrock'n'roll my two mates and I followed the band round the country for what seemed like ages but looking at a gig listing for that tour was actually no more than 10 days, during which time they played 9 gigs. Incidentally, the support act were The Slits, women the likes of which my previously innocent mind was not capable of imagining. They were a great laugh too.

From "The Bible"

The Clash 1978 - Kick Out The Jams Muthafuckas!

All I remember distinctly is ending up in Peterborough and getting a bus home. I also ended that lot with partially dyed green hair, which I seem to recall my girl with the pink hair (I'd need hypnotherapy to recall her name I'm afraid, as there was an awful LOT of jazz cigarette smoke in the air) dying it brown for me before I trooped off towards Peterborough bus station. God knows what my parents must have thought, but they never said much about it, much to their credit.

You can see why all the other bands back then seemed much of a muchness to me, with the notable exception of Magazine who showed that you could combine punk attitude with art rock stylings and get away with it. Unfortunately I don't think that The Clash's music has dated too well, with the notable exception of the genre defying London Calling, and indeed most bands of that era do not stand the test of time well, but then they were never intended to were they?

Right, where's that King Crimson album....

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