Bastille Day Anarchy in the UK
All about Punk now, a visual account of the chaos we're heading to, the soundtrack of revolt, the art of discontent.
March 2018 reviews
Jubilee - Lyric Theatre Hammersmith
After the original film Jubilee by Derek Jarman was released 40 years ago comes a stage adaptation by Chris Goode. Jubilee played a major part in some people’s lives, Chris Goode amongst them who declared in the Q&A after the play that it was his favourite film. Its aesthetic, violence and energy certainly played a huge part in mine up to this day.
However, if the stage adaptation sticks to the film scenario, it is brought right up to date thanks to open references to the present political situation and the events which led to it. It also enlarges the scope of references via speeches about colonialism and political systems. The casting itself forces the audience to consider who are the “punks” today, the people on the fringe who are shaking the social order.
A black/ gay/transgender/disabled cast certainly helps to figure out that much. The role of Jordan is reprised by a black camp male actor dressed in a shabby pink Chanel suit, completed with pink high heels and pigtails. Bod is played by a deaf actress (Sophie Stone who was appearing on the same night in “Shetland” on BBC1) and Mad by a black girl. Refreshing and with the addition of street dancing, it paints a credible picture of contemporary Britain.
However, there’s a direct link with the original cast with the presence of Toyah herself in the role of Elizabeth I. She will later belt out a formidable “I Wanna Be Me” one of her original hits from her punky pop princess heydays, supported by crazed Spice Girls. The version is so wild and such a surprised it triggers a huge response from the audience. There’s also a soundtrack to the play with a mixture of punk classics, Tudor music and more. The setting is also very similar to the film, with plenty of graffiti, scaffolding and takes place in a squat.
The original stage version was first shown at the Manchester Royal Exchange. The audience was a mix of very middle-class people as well as Manchester punks. The show including very explicit sexual scenes and loads of nudity, half of the audience would walk out. The London audience is apparently more accepting and open, as that kind of incident doesn’t occur as much. There’s certainly plenty to be shocked at, but if you know the film you must expect that kind of material.
The show is two hours long with an interlude, it’s a wild, physical and exhilarating experience where creativity and violence collide, sex and death meet whilst history melts into chaos. One scene has been omitted though: when E I stumbles across the body of E II in a wasteland and steals the crown. A crucial oversight to my mind. Too scared to offend? It also brings the question of longevity: how comes a 40 year film about punk can still be so exciting? Will we have the same outlook on today’s youth in 40 years time? With the demise of rock music and the advent of technology, we may never see anything like that again.
January 2018 reviews
Shane Mc Gowan 60th Birthday - By Gerry Adams
National Concert Hall, Dublin - published19th January 2018
I have been a fan of Shane MacGowan for decades. His music is tremendous and his lyrics are poetic and insightful and wondrous. The Pogues were one of the best bands ever. Their musicality and the quality of their art is beautiful. And enduring.
On Monday evening Shane’s friends, family and fans celebrated his 60th birthday in the National Concert Hall in Dublin. It was an amazing evening. The NCH is a very unique venue with a layout and architecture more associated with a different, kind of music.
The audience was a mix of young and older. Some reliving their punk days of the 70s and 80s. And we were joined by President Michael D Higgins. There was an expectant atmosphere. People weren’t sure what to expect. This after all was about Shane MacGowan. Most people thought, and several performers said they never expected that he would see 30 never mind 60.
The line-up of musicians who took to the stage was impressive. I wanted to be there to honour Shane but I also knew we were in for a good night. Former Pogue members mixed with others, including the Waterboys Steve Wickham and the great Shannon Shannon. They were the house band.The first singer, American Jesse Malin, had the audience up on their feet at the first song. We rarely sat down for the next three hours.
There was dancing, singing, screams of joy, loud whistles and an exuberance and energy rarely seen at any concert. It was a boisterous come all ye as singer after singer blasted out their version of a Shane MacGowan song.
Cerys Matthews, of Catatonia, sang a moving version of The Broad Majestic Shannon which was dedicated to Dolores O’Riordan who died that day. Later Bono, who was joined on stage by Johnny Depp playing guitar, sang A Rainy Night in Soho which he ended with a chorus of The Cranberries’ Linger.
After a 20 minute intermission an unassuming Sinead O’Connor quietly walked out onto the stage. It took a few moments for the audience to realise who it was and then there was thunderous and sustained applause. Sinead then delivered a spectacular version of You’re the One to a hushed and spell bound audience. And when she was finished she curtsied and bowed and skipped off the stage.
Shane has never hidden his politics in his lyrics. Lisa O’Neill who has a powerful voice, joined Terry Woods of the Pogues to sing Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six. Most of Shane’s songs are about the underdog, the marginalised. He has a poets eye for words of love, betrayal, justice, rejection, redemption and the musicians ear for rhyme and lyrics and rhythm. His music has enriched our culture, broadened our sense of Irishness. Made us happy. And sad. Lifted us.
Clem Burke from Blondie, Damien Demspey, Camille O’Sullivan, Imedla May, Lankum, and Finbar Fury were among the chorus line providing song after song. The concert hall really went wild when Glen Hansard, John Sheahan of The Dubliners and Lisa O’Neill let loose with Fairytale of New York. It was a joyful, enthusiastic rendition of probably one of the best Shane MacGowan songs and one of the most popular Christmas songs ever, with Lisa O’Neill’s voice reminiscent of the late Kirsty MacColl.
At the end of the night Nick Cave sauntered onto the stage and begins singing Summer in Siam. And then out from the wings Shane MacGowan, the man of the moment, is pushed on to the stage in a wheelchair by Victoria to thunderous applause. Shane has been in a wheelchair since a fall two years ago. Victoria deserves a medal for minding him. Even before the wheelchair. Especially before the wheel chair.
With a glass of something in one hand and a mic in the other Shane joined Cave in finishing Summer in Siam. He also wished his audience a happy Christmas and New Year. Each time he lifted his glass to salute the audience he was wildly cheered. And then there was a spontaneous burst of Happy Birthday from the audience before Shane sang the Wild Mountain Thyme.
At the end Michael D came down onto the stage and presented Shane with a National Concert Hall Lifetime Achievement Award.
It was a mighty night. John Kelly was the Fear a Thigh. He did a great job. He knew as we all did that this was a very special gig. A raucous celebration of music, of one of our finest poets. A celebration of life, of the human spirt. I felt very lucky that I was there. I am still buzzing with the joy of it all and I will be for some time. The words of The Old Main Drag, A Pair of Brown Eyes, I’m a Free Born Man of the USA, A Rainy Night in Soho are spinning around in my brain.
‘And its lend me ten pounds,
I’ll buy you a drink
And mother wake me early in the morning.’
Thank you Shane MacGowan.
Gerry Adams 19 January 2018
November 2017 reviews
The Village Underground, Shoreditch, London
Nearly got lost, couldn’t find the place. The Village Underground is a great cavernous shell with ancient arches leading to the bar and various dark corners. Idles are standing at their stall, selling their wares and chatting to fans. They are as thrilled as us to be here.
First up on stage, Kite Base. It’s a female duo formed by Ayse Hassan, Savages’ bass player and Kendra Frost, on bass too, playing along with recorded backing tracks. Like Savages, they draw heavily on the sound of Joy Division/New Order. Despite Hassan’s dynamic presence on stage, I soon find them rather tedious. I don’t really get Frost’s sexy outfit, it jars with their stance and music.
I decide not to miss the opportunity to photograph Idles’ bass player Adam Devonshire at their stall. “The guitarist is much better looking”, gesturing at him. “I fancy the singer myself”, I reply. “We all do”, he goes.
Soon after it’s Life, a punk band from Hull, an altogether more attractive proposition. A protest poet from up North opens the set and spits his rant just like it was 1979 again. Because nothing has changed there since Thatcher has decided to lay waste the industrial fabric of the country.
Life launch into their set. “We’re from Hull, OOOOh, la, la” The singer is reminiscent of Jarvis Cocker’s mannerisms with added urgency. Life is punk alright and I’m glad they’re on tonight. I can’t remember a support band I’ve loved so much, good choice Idles. I even bought the CD, Popular Music that I highly recommend. Great lyrics with the sound of very early punk bands, before the barking and the clichés. “I’m a youth worker, you’ve got a have job, and I tell the kids: IT’S IN YOUR HANDS!” he yells before launching into the song. They get the reaction they deserve, the audience loves them. Like Idles, they don’t embarrass themselves with conventions attached to what punk has become. They are genuine in their approach and I find them refreshing, with great lyrics and attitude. Go and see them if you can. Buy their CD in any case, it’s got the Idles seal of approval.
The venue is sold-out. I actually was placed on a waiting list when the release of more tickets came my way two days earlier. It’s packed, mostly blokes and shock, for the first time ever, I see a long, long queue at the Gents and none at the Ladies. All the girls remark on it, amazing! I feel that Idles definitely have a positive impact on my life. Well done.
The backdrop of huge pink flowers behind their logo adorn the stage pointing to the genuine warmth and engaging attitude Idles like to portray despite their brutalist approach. Joe Talbot’s pain of losing his mum is palpable, but he will keep on saying thank you to the audience like a drowning man who has been rescued at the last minute: “Thank you so much. A year ago we were playing for 10 people and now here we are, the place is sold-out, we can’t believe it. Thank you”. We can’t believe it either, but the atmosphere is amazing. They play a number of new songs, for those who are interested to know where they’re going from their first groundbreaking album, along with the old ones. People respond to each chorus, gesturing accordingly to MOTHER FUCKER!! They pogo furiously and the band jump one after the other in the audience for a wild crowd surfing to complete the communion with their public. Soon it’s over, no encore. Well done! Come back to London soon, we already miss you.
Adam Devonshire of Idles
Life, a revelation from Hull
Idles indulging in a bit of crowdsurfing
October 2017 reviews
Basquiat at the Barbican
I didn’t book for this exhibition, the waiting time was two hours. Big mistake. Actually no because I spent an amazing time in the various workshops downstairs with activities inspired by Basquiat. There was a buzz around the place. Animated murals where people could add their own graffiti and collages, theatre, poetry, music and performances.
I went to a photography studio where you could choose various props made up of Perspex and cardboards painted à la Basquiat, set up your own scenery and a photograph would take your portrait and print it on the spot. Christmas card sorted!
Then I went to the mini zine making workshop. I walked straight into mayhem, a scene of complete chaos where a bunch of people were cutting magazines around a huge table and on the floor in a complete frenzy of creative activity. It looked like the scene of a film that had been sped up. I trod on a magazine page which said Power is Hungry, I picked it up and off I went. Piles of colour papers, glue, pens and scissors and people producing artwork with an energy and passion that you rarely experience anywhere these days, like a stream of consciousness.
It did remind me of those times when I used to edit my punk fanzines. It was fantastic, people were possessed. Basquiat’s work expresses the same transcendent voodoo-like energy, an electric, anarchic, palpable force that transports you through a creative transformative journey. I saw that right there, in people in that room. It was truly amazing. That confirmed what I already know, that we need charismatic leaders who inspire, who can bring the best out of people. It shows how art is crucial in developing the can-do attitude. We are all creatives with huge potential. All we need are instigators, not social media influencers. This day of activities was one day only. Sorry if you missed it.
Jean-Michel Basquiat was 27 when he died in 1988. A self-taught visionary who started spraying quizzical slogans on walls in derelict New York in the late 70’s he used to sign SAMO©. It is whilst acting as a painter in Downtown 81, a feature film shown here, that he started to paint on large canvas to use as props. The movie depicted the Post-Punk scene and included Debbie Harry. Music, art and fashion were intertwined and New York artists thrived in all disciplines. Basquiat formed his own band Gray, after Gray’s Anatomy an encyclopedia he would use as a source book for many of his painting.
This exhibition features all aspects of Basquiat’s inspiration and influences behind his paintings and collaborations, notably with Warhol and Haring. TV interviews, sourcebooks, photography, jazz, black history, all this material gives a fascinating insight into Basquiat’s creative process. Explosive, exciting, timeless, his art has a staying power that is a product of a time when a homeless, young, black man proclaimed himself king among the ruins of a bankrupt city.
If you can’t make it to the exhibition (until 28 January 2018) or can’t afford it (£12 - £16), watch the BBC programme Basquiat: From Rage to Riches which takes up all the themes of the exhibition and provides all the keys of Basquiat’s tumultuous life as an artist.
BOOM FOR REAL
Learn how to make your own mini zine here
September 2017 reviews
SHOUT! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock
- a film about Mick Rock by Mick Rock
If you don’t believe in synchronicity, meaningful coincidence, Mick Rock does and is a living proof of this deliberate act of divinity when it comes to explaining his predestinated name. He also talks about his mother and the phenomenon of projection. She projected him in Cambridge and when a wish is psychically charged, it happens. Mick Rock went to Cambridge as a result.
In Cambridge, Mick Rock studied Rimbaud, the original poète maudit and punk avant la lettre, who will become his main inspiration and will accompany the ups and downs of his peripatetic life, just like his hero. He will quote Rimbaud’s poems in perfect French throughout the film.
1967, the Summer of Love in Cambridge: think Syd Barrett, his pal whom he will photograph, film, share acid trips and pretty girls with. He will shoot Syd’s solo album cover, with the famously stripped floorboards, a complete haphazard affair. He will witness the progressive retreat of his friend from the music scene, and from the world altogether. Their friendship just drifted away until he didn’t hear from him anymore. He will publish a book of Syd Barrett photos in 2007 Psychedelic Renegades, persuading his old friend to autograph special editions.
He moves to London and becomes BIBA’s in-house photographer. More fabulous girls and fashion.
1972: the turning point, Glam Rock and his true golden years. He meets David Bowie who he sees morphing into Ziggy Stardust. Moving to New York he shoots covers for Lou Reed’s Transformer and Iggy’s Raw Power, sealing his reputation as an icon maker.
"I’m the Goebbels of peacetime”
Again, he lives and shares the lifestyle of whoever he shoots, living on coke in the shabby New York of the early 70’s, where the nightlife was immortalized by Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side. Of the latter he says:
“He was a great artist.
He was Baudelaire.
But he was a degenerate.”
1974: the premises of Punk when he hangs around the CBGBs and meets the Ramones and Debbie Harry for whom he’ll take fabulous pictures “She was even better looking than Marilyn”.
Punk happens but for those who inspired the movement, the event feels like a misunderstanding.
“It’s absolute shit. It’s stupid” – Lou Reed
“They were fucking ugly. I’m sorry, but I’m into prettier things” – Mick Rock
Fast forward to 1996, and it’s the inevitable heart attack brought on by years of coke abuse, wild nights and very little sleep. Broke and adrift, he finds himself in a hospital with a quadruple bypass. His old friends Andrew Loog Oldham and Alan Klein, respectively Stones’ and Beatles’ managers will foot the hospital bill: “They saved my life”.
2015: exhibition in New York, interview by Lou Reed himself.
“We’ve been absorbed by the establishment.
It’s a fucking joke”.
When asked what is the best invention of the 20th Century, people often come up with “the fridge” or “the PC”. To me it’s complete rubbish. After WWII and the Shoah, the true manifestation of the energy of death, rock ‘n roll is the best invention because it is the energy of life itself, sex, without which you cannot survive. Think about it. In Gematria, the number 18 symbolizes life. Keith Richards was born on 18th December. He embodies it, Mick Rock has captured it.
July 2017 reviews
"PUNK AND THE PISTOLS a film by Paul Tickell
About the film:
Terrific Arena documentary featuring Malcolm, John Lydon, Glen Matlock, Jordan and Jerry Nolan of the Dolls. Paul Tickell actually promised Julian Temple not to interview the others Pistols as the latter was planning to film The Filth And The Fury at some stage.
The doc was shown just once and here's why: Malcolm reveals the origins of the name Sex Pistols which in typical Malcolm fashion differs completely from what he says in the FATF where he says the word pistols was an analogy for young assassins.
Here he refers to a print of a young fully naked twelve-year-old boy holding a cigarette. he had found the picture in a paedophile magazine in Brixton and even made T-shirts from it; it is a fairly well-known T. Malcolm struck by the subversive effect it had on him, compared the tiny penis to a pistol, thus the name given to the band.
"You'd be strung by the next lamppost if you showed anything like that on TV these days", observed Tickell.
About Paul Tickell:
Born and brought up in Carlisle. After 5 years in a junior seminary in Shropshire training to be a priest, attended the University of East Anglia and Worcester College, Oxford. In 1977 moved to London and managed Kirk Brandon and The Pack, and worked for the music publisher Bryan Morrison. Early 80s became a free-lance journalist contributing to Melody Maker, NME, The Face, Time Out and Elle.
He's preparing a film about Malcolm McLaren in collaboration with Fred Vermorel about Malcolm McLaren's childhood. It will deal in particular with his grandmother Rose and her overwhelming influence on his life.
As Paul has studied religion, I asked him if he could see the parallel between Malcolm and Pontius Pilate. He did agree. Just to remind you that PP was born in Edinburg/McLaren is a Scottish name and that they both died in Switzerland. But the most compelling is their methods of creating and exploiting chaos. Sid died as a result in a shocking case of wilful neglect. When Jah Wobble published his own biography Memoirs of a Geezer, I went to a Q&A with Jon Savage where he expressed the darkest anger against McLaren/Westwood who pushed Sid to suicide by sending him books in prison on the very subject. Lydon is equally sanguine about the subject, declaring in TFATF that he'll never forgive these people. The fact that they printed the T-Shirt She's dead, I'm yours with Sid after Nancy's death tells you everything you need to know about Westwood in particular. I recommend you read Pilate's bio on Wikipedia and draw your own conclusions.
They both washed their hands of the whole thing.
"Sowing the seeds of discontent" - The Albatross, PIL/Lydon on McLaren
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A SHORT STORY ABOUT MUSIC ZINES
The LCC Zine Collection was started in 2009 by Leila Kassir, former LCC librarian, and has grown from a handful of titles to a substantial learning, teaching and research collection.
Active collecting and small to large-scale donations have seen the collection grow to over 4000 titles.
The collection contains music fanzines but also zines about feminism, films, football, politics, etc.
The collection can be accessed by contacting
Find them on Facebook: LCCLibraryCollection
What I thought:
As opposed to Punk fanzines that sought to create a community amongst fans of a growing movement, the new breed of zines are more personal and introvert, more like diaries rather than manifestoes. They reflect the writer's lives and interests as an individual rather than trying to gather crowds around a movement.
I still find fascinating that people want to create their own mouthpiece using traditional methods of publishing as opposed to blogs on the internet. Because you can keep them, pass them around and you have the freedom of format and design the web doesn't really allow.
On the other hand, they show how atomised our lives have become, with little chance of interviewing people who are well-known outside their own scene. The complete lack of passion for music as we used to live it, the closing down of small live venues and music outlets, the uniformization of youth and the take-over of the internet have made it very difficult to create and sell fanzines in the traditional way. It used to be a means to meet people but if physical contact is superseded by the digital because people just can't afford to meet anymore, that's putting pressure on small publications. So well done to those who are trying.
Personally, I can't be arsed anymore, but after years of Facebook non-sense where the dialogue has been reduced to banter and emojis, it is time to give it another go. I was reluctant at first because I like fanzines as physical objects, but I always loved writing so here I am again ... and this time it's free!
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