Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Next 30 Day Song Challenge - day 30

Day 30 - The song with the best video. Ever. 

Last day of the challenge.

And, as that's the case, I thought I would go with something unusual. Is this the best music video ever? Probably not, and technically it's not even a music video. Add to that, I don't even know the music being played in the video. Sounds hipsterish. Craft Spells or someone like that. However, it is my favourite video at the moment, and sometimes that's enough.

I found the video -  a wedding video, no less -  via a link on Facebook. Kudos to that original linker who's name currently escapes me, and I understand that he or she posted the link in response to that Portland marriage proposal video that was in everyone's inbox a month back. This video could be cheesy as hell, but it just works:

GREG & MEL from tony benna on Vimeo.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Next 30 Day Song Challenge - day 29

Day 29 - A song from a film soundtrack

I was going to go with a Michael Nyman piece from Michael Winterbottom's 'Wonderland' for this challenge, but I'll save that for another day.

Instead, it has to be Kristen Vigard singing Costello/Bacharach's 'God Give Me Strength' from Allison Anders 1996 film 'Grace of My Heart', and for the following reasons:

  • Probably my favourite Costello song of all time. Just pips out 'I Want You', 'London's Brilliant Parade', 'Shipbuilding' (spoiled by too many shite cover versions) and 'Alison'.
  • Discovered this song - and the film - in the good old fashioned way*. Late night, half asleep, flicking through channels 'cos you're bored and there's nothing's on and you stumble across a film you've never heard of before, looks half interesting, so you stop flicking for a few minutes and then this scene pops up and your eyes and ears pop out. It's only months later that you discover that Illena Douglas doesn't have the voice of an angel, but in fact that she's miming to Kristen Vigard's vocals. Costello's version isn't half-bad either.
  • Either the first or second song I ever downloaded from the t'internet. I can't remember if it was this or 'Love Grenade' by The Cavedogs.  Both great songs that should be heard by more people. The world would be a better place.

good old fashioned way* - I miss those days of stumbling across an unknown film late night on the telly. We're all so overloaded these days that there's little or no surprises out there. Everything comes via a tweet or a shared message on your facebook wall. Honorable mention to these two other great films also discovered in the same half-assed fashion as 'Grace of My Heart'.

The people's PR by Ian Walker (New Society 14 May 1981)

Today's Ian Walker article dates from May '81 and is a report from the TUC's People March for Jobs, which was a march from Liverpool to London in protest against then rising unemployment in Britain. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, I guess. I was hoping a google search would reveal some good links that would provide more info and history on the march and its background, but to no avail. However, I did find some marvelous pictures of the march instead. Check them out here, here and here. The first link leads you to a selection of Martin Jenkinson pictures, who was the official photographer of the march. Sadly, my internet search reveals that he just passed away this past month. More info on this interesting man is provided at the following link.
The people's PR

It is a protest march 1981-style, a PR procession with the thematic logo on the green banner up front repeated on the green anoraks of the marchers behind.

We are waiting for the late-risers, still shifting their rucksacks from the gym of Salford technical college to the two trucks loading up outside. We move off towards Manchester at just gone eleven, after the march leader, who looks like a scoutmaster in his army surplus jumper, has offered up three cheers for the overnight hosts.

Four hundred symbols of the two and a half million unemployed walk out, on day five of the march, past squares of rubble and medium-rise council blocks and a building labelled Co-op Funeral Services.

"What's that?" says one of the marchers.

"Don't know. Socialist burials I suppose."

Two old women standing by a zebra crossing put down their shopping to clap the marchers, who return the compliment. A punk behind me in the march says he hopes there's a riot or something, sometime, to liven things up.

The sun is out. Paul has tied his anorak round his waist. He is 16, from Halewood, and was in town with his mother when he saw the march come through on May Day. His mother said how nice it would have been if Paul could have been on it. When he got home, he started packing. "She nearly died," Paul says. But she couldn't stop him.

He arrived without credentials, without sponsorship from a union, but somehow managed to join up - got given the papers and the T-shirt and the anorak. Paul only left school six weeks ago. "My feet are killing me. New boots. Apart from that, it's been great."

A small crowd has gathered on the edge of Salford. Showing above the well-wishers is a red banner which says that 6,553 are unemployed in the borough. More ritual chants of "Maggie, Maggie, Maggie (out, out, out)" as the march stops for a quickie speech from Stan Orme, the MP for Salford West. Paul is telling me that the marchers are given ten or 20 fags a day.

" . . . And a return to full employment. Thank you very much." Stan Orme has finished. The march crosses the border into Manchester. Phil, who finally got sponsored by NALGO, is one of the Socialist Workers' Party contingent here. He says that a short time before the march was due to start, the TUC had still had only 70 applications. And so they came to the SWP, veterans of the Right to Work marches, for help. The march has, it seems, depended on the local contacts of the SWP, the Workers' Revolutionary Party and the Labour Party Young Socialists.

Phil studied philosophy for three years at the North London poly, then dropped out before taking his finals. He thinks Nietzsche is under-rated.

Because the march is ahead of time, it stops at a T-junction, over the road from a pub called the Jollies, for 20 minutes. A couple of marchers fall asleep on the pavement. A Scouser, an electrician who works in the Barbican during the week and goes home at weekends, says his union sent him up because they thought the employed should be solid with the unemployed. He stays at the Barbican YMCA.

"You can only get digs in the Barbican YMCA if you work in the City," he says. "And you can only work in the City if you're in the upper classes. So I said I was a dentist. My mate said he was an electrician. He didn't get in."

First reception in Manchester is in a pedestrian precinct. A delegation of old age pensioners hold up a DIGNITY IN RETIREMENT banner. The marchers, as always, return the applause and recite a few more Maggie chants. Local worthies queue up to speak into a megaphone which isn't powerful enough to reach more than 50 or so marchers clustered round the front of the steps in this square, which is planted with young trees.

"Some of you may well belong to churches," begins the Bishop of Manchester, hopefully.

Walking to Manchester town hall, I talk to a young woman who also did a stint (two years) at a polytechnic before jacking it in. She thinks the stewards, many of them Communist Party members, are sexist and authoritarian. She has thrown away her green anorak in disgust. There are only 30 women officially on this march, and they aren't allowed to walk at the front. The final straw for her was this morning when she was told that she could only wear her black PVC armband, in honour of Bobby Sands, underneath her anorak.

The right to lurk
Up the street named after John Dalton, the man who defined colour blindness, past Rational House, the march shuffles up the steps of Manchester town hall.

"We're marching for the right to lurk," says a punk in dirty red jeans, dog collar round his neck. "Brilliant place to lurk," he adds, taking in his gothic surrounds: the high arches and the stained-glass windows, the tableaux celebrating famous Mancunians.

More speeches and more statistics: there is 14.5 per cent unemployment in Manchester, and 40 per cent of the workless are under 25. A rep for the Bishop (who had to go catch a train) says, to loud applause, that he was on the Jarrow march. He then spoils it a bit by saying he wasn't on it for that long, and he didn't walk that far.

I sit on a table watching the marchers eating their pork pies and baps. A man who used to work at Dunlop in Speke, before it closed down, sits down beside me. He's been on the dole two years, hasn't been able to take his wife and two children away on holiday for three years.

At 3 pm, the march moves off to the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, where everyone is being put up in the building named after Barnes Wallis, inventor of the bouncing bomb. I talk to a pensioner, who went to live in Llangollen after he retired. He used to be a building worker. Why did he come on the march?

"Because I recollect the thirties and those terrible things," he says.

There is a vigil for Bobby Sands in the town at 4.30, and a delegation is going down. About 30 of us troop out, checked at the revolving doors by a steward who makes sure no one is wearing their People's March anorak.

I walk down to Piccadilly Gardens with a man in a brown donkey jacket. From Liverpool, he says he's self-educated working class. "Least I was working class. Now I'm one of the outs. If you know what I mean."

Standing in the rain outside Chelsea Girl, the black PVC armband protesters chant, "Bobby Sands was murdered. Political status now,"and hand out yellow roneo'd leaflets to the people rushing for buses. Some passers-by look angry. Most just look confused. The rain gets harder and, after an hour, the protesters file back to UMIST.

Over at the New Century Hall in the CWS building, there is a People's March entertainment organised by War on Want. The Houghton Weavers do a medley of protest numbers, including We shall overcome and Blowing in the wind, followed by a song written specially for the march, entitled, We want work. Gerald Kaufman, MP for Manchester Ardwick, joins in the conga round a huge dance-floor.

"All the way from Moss Side," says the compere, with just a soupcon of racism, introducing the steel band, Tropical Heatwave. When they've finished their set the bass guitarist, Ken, walks to the back of the hall to talk to a girlfriend. She says that he wasn't up there for long.

"Yeah. Get it over nice and quick," says Ken. "Then you don't have so much work to do. Who wants work?  . . .  Well, this lot do."

Next morning at nine, some people are still fast asleep in their bags at Barnes Wallis. Plates of beans and fried-eggs lie around half-eaten.

Today is a rest day. Most are taking it easy. But the politicos are splitting up into delegations, taking their message to the factory gates. I join a group of twelve going out to an occupation at Holman Michell lead works in St Helens.

Men stand above the barbed wire they have stretched across the blue gates of Holman Michell. The marchers, all wearing their anoraks on this expedition, are let through the door and invited into the canteen for a cup of tea.

Ron Dickson, pouring out the tea, says they occupied the factory on 22 April, after management announced they were making 15 redundancies. And now all 28 of the occupation force have been sacked. Ron says they've got nothing to lose. He adds that he has had 18 weeks off sick in the last nine months because of high lead levels in his blood.

Ray Harper, a fitter, says he thinks it's good that the marchers have come along this morning. "Great. It gives you a lift. Been a fortnight now. You tend to flag a bit." The men here do 16 hours a day, on average, at the occupation. A bell rings. Ray looks at his watch. It's 11.45. "That's for dinner-time."

One of Ray's son is leaving school at Whitsun. "There's nothing for him," he says. "He's applied for at least 15 jobs that I know of. He's studying now for his exams and that. I tell him they're important. But he says to me, "What's the point, when there's nothing when I leave?'"

An unemployed boilermaker on the march, Dave Huyton, joins in our conversation. He says that the idea of the march is to stir people from their television sets. Ray says he is a Tony Benn supporter. Dave is in the middle of the usual spiel about the People's March being above politics, when we're all summoned outside for the pictures.

The four photographers want the workers and marchers lined up by the blue gates, underneath the barbed wire. "Can we get a couple of placards?" one of the photographers asks. The placards are fetched. One says: "Fighting to save jobs. Fighting to save St Helens." Another" "Enter here and walk back in time/" They get propped up. A few fists point skywards.

The pictures done, the marchers file out the gates towards their orange Transit. One more routine Maggie-out chant, and it is on to the picket line at nearby United Glass. Everyone says goodbye with clenched fists.
14 May 1981

Needle in a Haystack by Ernesto Mallo (Bitter Lemon Press 2006)

The military man studies the policeman in silence, his fists tightly clenched on the desk. He lets out a sigh and reclines in his seat.

You see, Lascano, you're an estimable guy, a smart cop. But there some things you just don't seem to get. Like what? Oh never mind, I'm not going to start explaining now. Just stop messing around with this case and forget about this piece of shit Jew. You've a lot more to lose than gain from it. Really? Look, I'll make you an offer. Come and work for me. I'll improve your rank and salary. But first take a nice long holiday with that girlfriend you've got kept at home. I'd prefer to stick where I am. Not accepting what I'm offering you would be very stupid, and I don't think you're stupid. So stop messing about, Lascano, and do as you're told. It'll suit you. I'll have to think about it. You think about it . . . but not for too long. You wouldn't happen to be a lefty, would you? A lefty? No, I try to abide by rights in everything I do. That sort of sarcasm is going to be your downfall one day. I want an answer by tomorrow. Tell Jorge and I'll contact you. All right, anything else? You can go. Thanks, good day.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Decoy Bride (2011)

The Next 30 Day Song Challenge - day 28

Day 28 - Your favourite song from the 90s

Favourite song from the '90s? You kidding me? I don't have a scooby.

Give me 72 hours, plug me into Rocklist and give me access to a Spotify account and I could maybe come up with a top 30 but, unfortunately, the nineties - and the noughties for that matter -  don't instantaneously throw up tracks and memories like the seventies and eighties do. I'm sure it's an arrested development thing and, now that I think about it, any decade that can throw up garbage like Arrested Development perhaps doesn't deserve the distinction of having a favourite song.

Off the top of my head, I could pick any one of 10 or 13 tracks for this challenge but I'll stick with this 1993 classic from Stereolab. Like a lot of great songs from that era - The Cavedogs 'Love Grenade'/Blur's 'Girls and Boys'/ Pulp's 'Lipgloss'/Portishead's 'Sour Times' - I first heard it on Mark Radcliffe's evening show, and I had the good sense at the time to tape the show. Played it to death until I was able to pick a copy of it up on the Jenny Ondioline CD.

I don't think the performance from The Word does it full justice so, if intrigued, check the original version below:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Next 30 Day Song Challenge - day 27

Day 27 - A song where the title isn't mentioned in the lyrics

I was going to cheat on this challenge, and a quick google search threw up such great songs as Blur's 'Song 2' and Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' but at the last moment I suddenly remembered this everything and the kitchen sink classic from Dexys:

I never knew it was their debut single, and I've no idea why the video suddenly cuts off just as Kev's is about to go into full overdrive rant mode but I do know that the next time I'm drunk I'll use it as a perfect excuse to recreate that dance of his. The kids will love it.


It appears that 1989 was a good year for books.

Off Side by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán (Melville International Crime 1989)

'Are you suggesting that we're going to start seeing irrational motiveless killings, like in the United States?'

'Why not? We already have psychiatrists and private detectives, so I don't see why we can't have mad murderers too. And here it could be even worse, because at least in the USA they still put up an appearance of believing in God. They go to church on Sundays, and feel themselves part of a chosen people. But you don't have that in Spain. Religion of any kind, whether political or otherwise, has disappeared. The only thing that we have left, by way of communion of the saints, is nationalism.'

'Is that what makes you a nationalist?'

'It's the most gratifying thing that a person can be, and the least concrete, particularly if you are, as I am, a non-independentist nationalist. Politics is a curious thing in Catalonia. We have a situation where power is shared between socialists who don't believe in socialism, and nationalists who don't believe in national independence. The whole thing's ripe for lone operators to take over, and when you look at the likes of young Camps O'Shea, the prospect becomes even more alarming. That man has no conscience, no epic memory, no life-project other than going out and winning, without even knowing what he wants to win at, or whom he wants to beat.'

'And how are we supposed to deal with these lone killers?'

'Arrest them while they've still got their guns in their holsters, or if they've got them out, shoot them before they get the chance to shoot first.'

'And what if they manage to do their killing?'

'Turn up for the funeral.'

'You're a big man in this city. Big men in big cities get there because they have more information at their fingertips than the rest of the population.'

'I gather you're implying that I haven't told you everything I know. Don't be naive. I know that you have to buy people and I know whom to buy. And that's the extent of it.'

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Next 30 Day Song Challenge - day 26

Day 26 - Your favourite song by a group

I think today's challenge is a bit confusing, to be honest. Am I being asked to pick my favourite song that happens to have been performed by a group, or is just a case of picking your favourite song by a random group?

For the sake of variety I'm going for the latter suggestion. I'm then going to immediately contradict myself by plumping for a jingly-jangly song from the eighties. Step forward Brisbane's finest, The Go-Betweens, with 'Right Here'. If this song and video doesn't raise a smile, I'd suggest you lay off the botox for a while:

I need to drink more beer

Up in court by Ian Walker (New Society 30 April 1981)

Up in court
Regulars, the dossers and the hookers, chat to each other and ignore the NO SMOKING signs. A worried mother sits next to her teenage son on the wooden bench. Lawyers bearing important briefcases rush into the waiting room and shout out the name of their client. The warrant officer stands there in his shirtsleeves, ticking off the names. "Guilty is it? Ta," he says. All pretty routine, this Monday morning at Clerkenwell magistrates' court.

"I never shouted sieg heil," says the skinhead to the magistrate in court No. 1. "I was shouting things out, but not sieg heil."

"You are a very lucky man that you are not before me for something worse," says the magistrate, obscurely. He has balding white hair, and spectacles perched on a suspicious nose. He sits up there in front of the coat of arms, Dieu et Mon Droit. I wonder how many of these defendants know what that means?

A dosser now stands on the platform surrounded by wrought iron, in the dock on a drunk-and-disorderly charge. O'Brien is of no fixed abode, the clerk informs the magistrate. He sometimes lives in the hotel, where he sometimes works. The magistrate asks O'Brien when he can pay his £100 fine. The defendant replies he takes home £56 a week and he has to pay £7 of that back to the hotel.

"Well, O'Brien. That leaves you £49 for your food. Ten pounds a week. Stand down."

Six men who have been in custody seven months without trial are remanded, again, without bail. A lawyer stands up to say it is scandalous that his client has still not been charged. "Your use of the word scandalous is not really justified," replies the magistrate. This case involves £23 million and 17 defendants.

The next case involves a few bob. William Liddell was found begging at Southampton Row by an off-duty policeman, who gives evidence: "I told him I was arresting him for begging. He said, 'Give me a chance. I've been at Bow Street for the last three days. Saturday's a good day for me. I make a few bob'."

Liddell is asked if he has anything to say and he shakes his head. "Can't you find some way of getting your cider other than by begging for it?" asks the magistrate, fining him a tenner. I didn't even realise begging was against the law.

A woman being prosecuted for soliciting  - she has been done three times before - says in her defence that she has since given up prostitution and gone to live in a hostel, Kelly House. She is discharged. "Now try hard, try hard," says the magistrate, as the woman is led out of the dock.

Another skinhead is put on conditional bail and another dosser, guilty of inciting two girls under 14 to commit an act of gross indecency, is given the choice of a £50 fine or 14 days inside. It is a pathetic procession.

Court No. 2, next door, is adjourned at 11.15 am because the defendant, a prostitute who hasn't paid previous fines imposed by this court, can't get here till twelve. Her friend, Joe, is waiting to lend moral support in the public gallery. We go out for a cup of tea in a cafe over the road.

Joe is 22. He came to London from Nigeria eleven years ago. His girlfriend, he says, is writing a book on hookers and he is kind of helping her with her research. He spends a lot of time hanging out in Kings Cross, the downmarket red light zone where an orgasm can be had for a tenner.

The woman Joe is waiting to see in court is the girlfriend, he says, of a mate of his in prison. I ask him what his mate's inside for? "I don't know. Think he's a thief."

Joe has done time himself, in Brixton and the Scrubs. "I swore at the judge," he says. "I just wanted to know what it was like in prison." And what was it like? "Same as being outside. Except you can't go to disco, can't have girls."

I ask Joe what he made of the Brixton riots? He chews on his ham sandwich, takes a swig of tea. "The police down there, they're bad with them, you know," he says. "I used to live in Brixton." Once he got picked up on SUS and spent twelve hours at the Brixton cop shop, he says, before getting released. Doesn't it worry Joe at all, coming along to a magistrates court, surrounded by all this law?

Why should it? he says. He's clean.

"But sometimes when I'm in there I see the cops and they're looking at me. A couple of times I've been followed. A big cop, the one with glasses, he's followed me a couple of ties. But I just come into a cafe, sit down, and after 15 or 20 minutes he'll go away."

He's out of work and it can be hard sometimes, he says, to stay straight when friends come up with money-making plans. "You can get £100 one day dipping [pick-pocketing] and then it's gone the next day. You need some more. You get catch once, twice. Spend all your life in prison. Not worth it, is it?"

It's almost twelve. Walking back to the court, Joe says his friend asked him to come along because she is really worried about not paying the fine. "Do you think she'll get bird, or what?" he asks. I say I doubt it.

Short and thin, she has red hair and pale skin. She smiles nervously at Joe as she takes her place in the dock, and the clerk tells the magistrate she owes the court £117.

He seems a more sympathetic sort of bloke, this magistrate in court two. He'll give her another 28 days in which to pay.

The next defendant, dandruff on his raincoat, advertised Spanish chalet homes in the local paper. "No chalets have in fact ever been put there," says the detective giving evidence. "Everyone has lost their deposit." Defendant is remanded.

Another crowd gathers in the waiting room just before 2 pm, for the afternoon session. A boy is lying full length on one of the wooden benches. A motorbike cop, crash helmet under his arm, stomps past in his black leather boots, then turns and stops, tells the boy to sit up straight. The boy obeys him, but slowly enough not to lose face.

On the next bench, a pinstripe lawyer talks to his client, who looks about 15. The boy has a slack mouth, is slightly cross-eyed and rubs his face all the time. "How are you going to plead?" the lawyer asks him. The boy rolls down his lower lip, shrugs twice. "Guilty?" he says.

"But you aren't guilty," replies the lawyer. "You can't plead guilty if you aren't guilty." (Later this afternoon the lawyer will stand up in court to say that he is waiting on psychiatric reports on his client, accused of aiding and abetting a robbery at a youth club. The magistrate in court one will peer over the top of his spectacles, disbelieving as ever, but he will finally agree to wait and see what the report says.)

After the magistrate in court one has signed a load of warrants for detectives, he deals, yawning periodically, with a long stream of motoring offences, Third of the afternoon is disqualified for a year for dangerous driving and has £86.30 to pay in fines. The magistrate asks if the dangerous driver has a job. No, he replies, I'm unemployed. And what does he do when he is in employment?

"I'm a removal driver."

"Can't you get any job at all?" says the magistrate.

The defendant in the next case is the first one all day to plead not guilty. He is accused of going through lights on red. The policeman giving evidence is in the Special Patrol Group, he has the CO mark on his shoulder. The defendant, a man of around 20, says he saw the police transit van parked by the lights as he was coming up. "I'd seen the van. And I'd hardly go through on red if I'd seen the van, would I? The lights were green, and changed to amber as I went through."

"There is a corroborator too," the SPG man says to the magistrate, who shakes his head. That won't be necessary. "If I'd seen the van why am I going to go through the lights on red?" continues the defendant, throwing his arms round in exasperation. "You're saying I was ten yards away when the light was red?"

"Have you any witnesses to call?" asks the magistrate.

"Wouldn't do much good if I had, would it?"

He gets fined, his licence endorsed, and is led from the dock. A sniggering old man in a stale grey suit, who thinks courts are a spectator sport, nudges me and points.

The sniggerer spends a lot of time in the public gallery. All afternoon he is trying to involve me in his game. Laughing at the magistrate's put-downs, and the inarticulate attempts of the defendants to scrape together some mitigating circumstance. I tell him to shut up. The cases continue.
30 April 1981

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Next 30 Day Song Challenge - day 25

Day 25 - A song that reminds you of school

First year of Secondary School, watching Thursday night's episode of Top of the Pops during Friday morning's Metal Work lesson on the school's only video recorder. Back in the day when a teacher could bribe you so cheaply for a quiet life:

I'm sure the wee kid from the video is the english bloke from Doug Liman's 'Go'.

And those boots, that jacket and that playful punch with Andrew and it took us another 14 years before we discovered George was gay? What were they putting in our tea in the 80s?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Next 30 Day Song Challenge - day 24

Day 24 - A song that reminds you of a holiday

Not a great song - three weeks at number one in August 1983, what the hell? - and an even worse holiday but the upside is that I have put KC's jacket on my watch list on eBay:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Next 30 Day Song Challenge - day 23

Day 23 - Your favourite song from 2000-2010

Haters are going to hate but until you provide me with evidence of a better pop song from the noughties than this S Club 7 classic from 2001, then all I can say is very short and not so very sweet: STFU

I bet you played the video all the way to the end.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Next 30 Day Song Challenge - day 22

Day 22 - Your favourite song from the 80's

These two songs are probably my two favourite songs of the 80s - if not of all time - but you knew that already, so why repost them again?

Instead I'll plump for another song which (probably) also features in my all time top ten, and which is quintessentially 80s, and you can't necessarily say the same for the aforementioned classics by The Smiths and The Jam.

Possibly the last great new pop single of the 80s - hyperbole anyone? - it's cited by everyone and their mother as one of their all time favourite singles and yet it only reached 21 in the charts when released in '85. If only a tenth of the people who gush about it now on music blogs bought it at the time, it would have knocked Jennifer Rush off the number one spot:

And, of course, I didn't buy the single either. I bought the album, A Secret Wish . . . secondhand . . . for a pound . . . in a junk shop next to a laundrette about seven or eight years after it was originally released.

Sorry Claudia . . . and the others.

Mods, boneheads and normals on the front by Ian Walker (New Society 3 September 1981)

The phone booth incident in Walker's article is the killer passage. We're talking Quadrophenia outtake  material.

Mods, boneheads and normals on the front 

Could this be the start of something big? A flurry of parkas, up the steps leading from Brighton beach to the promenade, turns all those heads getting hot in the queue for the Palace Pier. At the rear of this charge of the mods, a stockbroker's clerk, Andy, clomps the last few steps in his brow suede Cuban heels. Storm in a teacup, he says, watching about 30 fellow members of the Essex Thunderbirds running nowhere in particular.

It is Sunday dinner time. Mods are still arriving, by scooter and car, coach and train. Andy left Hornchurch on his Lambretta GP200 at six o'clock last night, got into Brighton at eleven and made camp near a golf club. Sitting outside a cafe on the front, he squints into the sun and says, languid, that they were stopped and searched twice en route.

Andy is 17. Though he has been a mod for three years, it's only since he started working that he's been able to go "completely mod." Before that he sometimes had to wear straight clothes.

He's wearing a suede-fronted cardigan above permanent crease trousers. His Cuban heel boots are killing him, he says, walking towards the fairground. Being a mod is an expensive hobby. "We used to go to this club in Southend, Scamps, on a Saturday night. It's 25 miles, which is two quid in petrol. Then it's two quid to get in. It stays open till two, so you're on £14 a week supplementary, you done it. And people do. Live for the weekend."

Another member of the Thunderbirds starts walking alongside, plying Andy with stories of last night's fights. Andy listens stoically. "The whole thing sickens me actually," he says, after his friend has disappeared. "Some people can't enjoy themselves without having a row. I mean, I will defend myself. I will defend my scooter. I think it's ridiculous if the police are going to nick you for that. Mine's left down there now. Cost me £300 and it could be kicked to pieces. Get no insurance for that."

Tonight the Thunderbirds will conceal their scooters in a copse near the marina. "To be on the safe side," he says, walking past the Penny Wonderland amusement arcade, nodding to all the familiar faces. There's been rumours of hordes of East End skinheads - mods call them "boneheads" - coming down here, but so far Andy's only seen ten.

About 80 scooters are parked opposite the Volks miniature railway station, and a few hundred mods are sunning themselves on the grassy slope above the tarmac. Andy sits down next to another Hornchurch mod, Eric, who is a trainee chef for Hambro's Bank. "I hate going to work," he says. "But you go to work. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to do this." Eric's scooter, which he's buying on HP, will cost him £1,000 all told. He takes home £45 a week.

Eric is wearing a West Ham scarf, but he says that it's just to keep warm on his scooter. Like Andy, he isn't interested in football. "Better things to do on a Saturday. Saturday mornings we go looking for clothes in the original shops in the East End that are all closing down, in the West End too, and in markets like Roman Road," he says, raising a hand to a short boy called Kev whose tape recorder is playing soul at full volume.

Kev is a DJ. He does rhythm and soul nights every Tuesday and Wednesday at the Sebright Arms in Hackney. He's got 500 soul singles, he says, and hundreds of LPs. Daytimes, he too works as a stockbroker's clerk. If he can find a hotel room he's going to organise a party for tonight, he says.

Although he owns a scooter, Kev says he is banned from driving for a year. He was breathalysed? "Nah. Forged number plates, no plates, no tax, no insurance, bird on the back."

He nods his head to the first chords of the next soul single on the tape. A lot of Kev's record collection, which he's built up in just two years, comes from a shop called Final Solution, just off Oxford Street. Strange name for a record shop? Mods, Andy says, don't much go for politics, but there are a few fascists here and there: a scooter club called the Viceroys which is all British Movement, a mod fanzine called Patriot, that kind of thing. Mod colours always have been red, white and blue.

At about 6.30pm the Thunderbirds start picking themselves off up the grass. Some go and get changed before walking into town, to the Royal Oak, one of the few pubs that doesn't have men standing outside denying entrance to mods and skins this bank holiday.

By 9pm the Royal Oak was shut, lights off and doors closed. Skinheads have been in one bar, mods in another. Three thunderflashes were let off. Police cleared out all the mods, who retaliated with stones and bottles as they were moved down towards the promenade, and finally penned in on the open ground before the Volks railway station, which was petrol bombed.

The phone started ringing in the booth by the station, just as it was being smashed up. Someone picked up the phone, explained what was happening, and carried on wrecking the booth.

At 2.30am, police were still rounding up all the mods. One group of 60 or so, who'd been fighting on the front with a small contingent of rockers, were the last to be taken down to the pen by the beach. "It's called police harassment," whispered a boy whose tonic suit wasn't warm enough now the night had turned cold. I walked down towards the Palace Pier behind a mod couple, a sleeping bag draped round the boy, a blanket round the girl. There had been 15 arrests. At 6 am all the scooters were escorted out of town.

Darrin, walking down from the station next morning at 11 o'clock, wants to know what happened. He's down from Romford for the day. He wears the inverted Y peace symbol on his American flying jacket. He got interested in CND, after looking round a bookshop in Exeter while on holiday. Darrin, 16, has been looking for a job since he left school in July.

On the train Darrin met Mark, another 16 year old claimant. Mark has been a mod three years now. 

"Great life," he says, this fat boy in the crumpled green tonic jacket, swaggering down the promenade. 

"We didn't come for no trouble," explains Steve, who was on the same train. "Just to have a good time, that's all."

Gas board workmen are cleaning up the wreckage round the Volks station. There are just three scooters parked opposite. One of them is owned by Mart, who says he drove halfway to London and back last night. His eyes are black through lack of sleep. Mart also left school this summer, but he has a job to go to next week, as an electrician.

"Last night," he says, "they {the police} took all our cardigans and parkas, nicked our shoes, chucked all the crash helmets in the road. They was watching us all night. At four o'clock they started letting people put their shoes on, 'cos their toes were falling off."

Darrin hands out some cheese sandwiches his mother made for him that morning. Six skinheads stand talking to police by the railings beyond the station. "Hello," shouts a mod girl called Maria. "I'm a skinhead. Can I crawl up your arse?"

Maria, a 19 year old dental nurse, sits with her younger sister Rosemarie. "I never wanted this to happen," says Maria, pointing at the burned-out station. "I thought that was disgusting." Her sister, and their two friends, Angie, who works at Chelsea Girl boutique, and Caroline, who's studying at catering college, all agree. These four girls, all members of the Essex Thunderbirds, managed to find a B&B late last night.

"My mum knows I'm down here," says Caroline, who's wearing a green tweed two-piece she got from a charity shop. "She was one of the original mods. Used to tell me what to do. Tactics."

Rosemarie works in a jewellers in Oxford Street. She says that mods were quite respectable back in 1979, before you got all hangers-on and posers. A poser, she continues, is anyone who is a part-time mod. These four have different club memberships for every night of the week. "Good clubs they are. You don't get no trouble there," says Rosemarie.

"I'm just despondent about the whole life," groans Maria, the leader of this pack, and everyone smiles. It's a grey day, looks like rain. Police across the road are supping tea from plastic cups. "It's not a holiday home. You're supposed to be working," yells Maria.

Rosemarie says she is a communist, while her sister is "rank NF." Angie's brother is a rocker. Home life can get complicated.

Because most of the boys in the Thunderbirds hid their scooters away, they avoided getting run out of Brighton. They arrive in ones and twos, sit down by the girls. Post mortems are going on all over the grassy slope, on which some 200 mods are sitting, by one o'clock. Eric, the trainee chef, sniffs in disgust at a headline in the Star: PETROL BOMB TERROR. "It was only a little vodka bottle," he says.

Someone else has heard that the police get £10 an hour for working bank holidays. He advances his theory that they have a vested interest in bank holiday bundles.

At just gone 2 pm the police start moving everyone off the grass, up the steps onto the promenade. "You just want everyone up there, on the main street, chanting 'We are the mods,' so you can nick us all," says Maria to one of the policemen.

"It's not us, honestly," he replies. "It's those geezers in the flat hats. They tell us what to do. Everyone'll be off rioting now, and it's us who have to put up with the bottles and bricks. Everything was nice and cool. Everyone sitting down." He walks away, exasperated.

The four girls get up. Maria pulls on her purple raincoat. All four pick up their cream overnight cases, start walking alongside the railway track, past the Astro Liner ("Take a trip to the future, 50p") at the edge of the fair, and up the steps towards the promenade.

They are joned by Tom, a 14 yar old mod who has been in trouble with his headmaster for wearing eye-liner. Tom intends going into the army as an engineer. "Eight normals want a fight, down by the slide," Tom whispers to the girls. "But they just want the big ones. Keep it quiet." He rushes off. Rosemarie laughs.

A hundred yards further on two skinheads flexing their muscles before a group of 20 mods. The girls, led by Marie, break up the fight by dragging away skinheads. A police Transit screeches to a halt. Men burst out the back door, start chasing a dozen mods up Bedford Street. Of those who are caught, some get taken away in the Transit. Others just have to surrender the laces from their Hush Puppies.

"If there'd been a bunch of skinheads we'd of joined in fighting," explains Rosemarie, matter-of-fact". But when there's just two boneheads you've got to break it up."

The four girls turn off the main streets into the bus station. They're going home early. It hasn't been much of a weekend.

At Brighton station police have segregated the passengers for the 4.05 to Victoria. Normals at the front of the train. Mods in the back. At least it never rained.
3 September 1981

The Locked Room by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (Harper Perennial 1972)

Anyone who had been in a position to compare the bank robbery squad to the robbers themselves would have found that in many ways they were evenly matched. The squad had enormous technical resources at its disposal, but its opponents possessed a large amount of working capital and also held the initiative.

Very likely Malmström and Mohrén would have made good policemen if anyone could have induced them to devote themselves to so dubious a career. Their physical qualities were formidable, nor was there much wrong with their intelligence.

Neither had ever occupied himself with anything except crime, and now, aged thirty-three and thirty-five respectively, they could rightly be described as able professional criminals. But since only a narrow group of citizens regarded the robbery business as respectable, they had adopted other professions on the side. On passports, driving licences, and other means of identification they described themselves as 'engineer' or 'executive', well-chosen labels in a country that literally swarms with engineers and executives. All their documents were made up in totally different names. The documents were forgeries, but with a particularly convincing appearance, both at first and second sight. Their passports, for example, had already passed a series of tests, both at Swedish and foreign border crossings.

Personally, both Malmström and Mohrén seemed if possible even more trustworthy. They made a pleasant, straightforward impression and seemed healthy and vigorous. Four months of freedom had to some extent modified their appearance; both were now deeply tanned. Malmström had grown a beard, and Mohrén wore not only a moustache but also side-whiskers.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Next 30 Day Song Challenge - day 21

Day 21 - A song that mentions a famous person

Until someone writes a song that namechecks (the young) Charlie Nicholas, it will have to be this six-for-one classic by The Who:

FYI, it's Leary that answers the challenge.

PS - How many drugs was Townsend doing back in the day that led him to believe that he'd look good in white dungarees?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Next 30 Day Song Challenge - day 20

Day 20 - Your favourite song by a male solo artist

They may hide behind band names but either one of these two classics by two of my all time favourite male solo artists could have been used for today challenge. I'll play both those songs till the day I die.

However, and Kara can testify through gritted teeth about this, this 1948 classic has been the soundtrack of my mind these past few days. I could never get sick of this song . . . unless it's Big Star's version:

And you've got to love the story behind eden ahbez, the bloke who penned this Nat King Cole classic. Hippies in the 1940s! He should have been in the SPGB.

Double like

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

O'Connorville and after by Ian Walker (New Society 7 May 1981)

Today's choice of Ian Walker article is for no other reason that the fact that one of my favourite history books is Stan Shipley's 'Club Life and Socialism in Mid-Victorian London', and O'Connorville ties in with that.
 O'Connorville and after

Slowly, the grey Cortina bumps through the narrow lanes of this settlement near Rickmansworth, Herts, which was hailed as the holy land when the first workers arrived from the industrial north on May Day 1847. On that day Fergus O'Connor, the Chartist leader who gave his name to the community - O'Connorville it was called - welcomed his pioneers to their plots of land. "Damn the factory bell." he said.

"Costs a bomb to get a place down here," says the taxi driver, who wears a back peaked cap to make himself look like a chauffeur. I suppose that sort of thing goes down well in Heronsgate, as O'Connorville was re-named after it was closed down by an act of parliament after financial collapse, and auctioned off at the Swan in Rickmansworth in May 1857.

The roads are named after the towns from which the first 35 settlers came - Stockport and Bradford. Halifax and Nottingham. "Costs a bomb," continues the taxi driver, "because, as you can see, you're isolated from everybody."

Postwar redbrick castles with gravel driveways and bungalows with picture windows, stand among the original one and two-storey cottages. These all have the logogram of the Chartist Land Cooperative, the lower half of a capital H, mounted in a block under the gables.

"All the famous people live down here," says the taxi driver. "Mickey Finn. His wife sang Pussyfoot, the song for Europe. And another pop star who lives here is Julie Felix. The sons of Jack Jackson, the band leader. Remember him? They live here too."

Stuck to some of the gateposts are small posters showing Heronsgate, a heart, shot through with the M25. A motorway may be coming through.

The driver pulls a faded brown pamphlet out of the glove compartment. It is a programme for the Lillie Langtry Ball, held on 16 March 1979, a benefit for the local campaign against the extension of the north orbital of the M25. This is planned to run through Ladywalk Wood, on the edge of Heronsgate, but there was an inquiry which is publishing its findings in September.

A woman on horseback comes towards us. The mock-chauffeur puts the Cortina into reverse.

The taxi driver, who has worked hard for his tip this slow Tuesday, drops me outside the local pub, the Land of Liberty. The original sign was fatally damaged by a passing truck. It showed a forlorn Chartist, pointing to a teetotal badge on his lapel, and standing next to a beaming beer-swiller. The new sign shows two top-hatted men before a crowd. One holds a handbill saying, "Vote by ballot."

The Land of Liberty is the sort of pub where shorts sell better than beer, where tables can be reserved for lunch, and where the landlady can recommend the Stilton. "What about the Brie?" inquires the pinstriped stockbroker on my left at the bar. "Not splendid," she replies. He'll go with the Stilton.

The landlord, who says the pub is "about 400 years old," says that the Chartists used to sneak over here for a quick pint after their work was done. "They were Quakers, you see, weren't officially allowed to drink."

The settlers, anyway, cannot have had many pennies left over for the drink. Used to working in mines and mills and factories, they found it hard to make a living from their plots of two, three and four acres. When they ran out of the £87 per acre they were first given for tools and seed, most of them sold off the tilling rights and were forced on to the parish relief. Others returned to the cities. A Poor Law commissioner, after an inspection of O'Connorville in 1848, reported that matters were made worse by the women not knowing how to bake their own bread.

Partly hidden by a foursome at the bar is an engraving of the plans for the utopian community. It was one of four such estates bought by O'Connor to make the workers "independent of the grinding capitalist." I order another light ale. The landlord tells me that Burgess, Philby and Maclean drank in here. "Used to a spy school. Over the road," he says.

I walk the 100 yards down the road to Heronsgate itself. Aeroplanes overhead, descending to nearby Heathrow, and the low hum of traffic on the existing north orbital a mile away, complicate the Disneyland English village ambience.

A man kills the engine on his lawn mower as I walk across to him. No, he's just the gardener, he says: he doesn't know anything about Heronsgate or the M25. I'll have to wait till his gaffer gets home. He yanks the mower back to life.

I ring the bell at one of the original dwellings, called Chartist Cottage. Mrs Nockolds holds the door open: "You want to speak to Mrs Jackson down the bottom, or Mr McCullough up the top," she says.

Further along the lane, two old women stand talking to each other. A third, weeding the hedgerow, joins in the conversation now and again. "Had a heck of a lot more burglaries since we've had the motorway," says one, who has lived in Heronsgate 45 years. Robbers, she says, can nip straight down the motorway to Heathrow. There's a plane waiting. And Bob's your uncle.

It starts raining, and the group splits up. I walk along with a woman who has lived here 53 years. Her dog looks for action in the hedgerows. I suppose Heronsgate hasn't changed much in 53 years?

"No. That's the beauty of it. It's unique. It's like a village, and we cherish it . . . Listen," she says, stopping in her tracks, raising a finger to her ear. "Cuckoo."

The schoolhouse, at the bottom of the lane, near Ladywalk Wood, was built by the Chartists. Later it became a prep-school. Now it is the private residence of the Jackson brothers (sons of the band leader) and their families. I walk down the driveway, past the tennis court in the front garden.

Vesna, the Swedish au-pair, opens the door and invites me in. Mr Jackson is out, but I can wait and have a cup of coffee. Vesna has worked here for eight months. She says it's lovely, and everyone who comes here thinks it's lovely. But doesn't it get a bit boring? She smiles and says, yes, it can get a bit boring.

We are sitting in this huge kitchen, which Vesna says used to be a classroom. Out of the back window, long lawns blur into fields. No other buildings in sight. Hamish, a small boy in a green uniform, sups his tea and keeps asking for biscuits. Vesna doesn't have the kind he likes, so he tells her to go fecth the Easter egg from the other room.

Mr Jackson, who runs a recording studio in Rickmansworth, comes in and shakes my hand, then shows me the door. His wife was on the north orbital committee and she would call me tomorrow, maybe, though she was very busy. Maybe I could call her? No, she's a Cordon Bleu chef, very busy. "Even I can't call her," he says, before shutting the back door.

Walking back, I meet Harold Nockolds, who has lived in Chartist Cottage ever since the war. His wife is in the garden, weeding in the rain. "This cottage," he says, pointing at his property, "was the very first one out the hat when the draw was made at Manchester town hall. Plot 25." That draw - for Chartist members who had subscribed for shares at the rate of threepence, sixpence and a shilling a week - was in April 1846.

Nockolds was the motor racing correspondent for The Times before the war and, afterwards, he became motoring correspondent, too. He was also editor of the special supplement, did one on the ascent of Everest and another on the death of King George VI. He finished his career as deputy chairman of IPC Transport Press, and retired in 1972.

When he bought this place it was called Hollycroft. And there was a bit of a commotion, he says, when he changed it to Chartist Cottage. Some residents thought he was claiming exclusive rights to the settlement's history. He laughs. It's raining hard now.
A hundred years, a thousand years,
We're marching on the road,
The going isn't easy, yet
We've got a heavy load.
That was the chorus of the Chartist hymn, sung on all the protest marches. Fergus O'Connor was certified insane in 1852, and put in Dr Tuke's Asylum in Chiswick. Over 50,000 attended his funeral in 1855.

A fading poster for some Julie Felix poster is stuck up by the bus stop. A woman in a blue Mercedes, cigarillo limp in her mouth, sweeps out of Heronsgate. She gives me the kind of look that people who drive Mercedes give to people who wait at bus stops.
7 May 1981

The Next 30 Day Song Challenge - day 19

Day 19 - A song that tells a story

Sadly I've already mentioned Joel and Rosselson on the Another 30 Day Song Challenge, so those two great singer-storytellers are out of consideration. This song and this song immediately sprang to mind when thinking about the challenge but I think that has more to do with my unresolved issues concerning Red Wedge and my unread copies of Marxism Today from the '87/'88 period.

So I'll get off the eighties lefty schtick - if only for a moment - and plump for Janis Ian's 'At Seventeen'. Drop dead gorgeous:

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Next 30 Day Song Challenge - day 18

Day 18 - Your favourite song by a female solo artist

A no-brainer. Male or female, probably the greatest voice of all time. Of course, that can only mean Ms Patsy Cline:

The Abominable Man by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (Harper Perennial 1971)

Martin Beck stood on Regeringsgatan enjoying the chilly freshness of the early morning.

He wasn't armed, but in the inside right-hand pocket of his coat he was carrying a stencilled circular from National Police Headquarters. It was a copy of a recent sociological study, and he'd found it on his desk the day before. .

The police force took a very dim view of sociologists - particularly in recent years since they'd started focusing more and more on the activities and attitudes of policemen - and all their pronouncements were read with great suspicion by the men at the top. Perhaps the brass realized that in the long run it would prove untenable simply to insist that everyone involved in sociology was actually a communist or some other subversive.

Sociologists were capable of anything, as Superintendent Malm had recently pointed out in one of his many moments of indignation. Martin Beck, among others, was supposed to look on Malm as his superior.

Maybe Malm was right Sociologists got all kinds of ideas. For example, they came up with the fact that you no longer needed better than a D average to get into the PoliceAcademy, and that the average IQ of uniformed officers in Stockholm had dropped to 93.

'It's a lie!' Malm had shouted. 'And what's more it isn't true! And on top of that it isn't any lower than in New York!'

He'd just returned from a study tour in the States.

The report in Martin Beck's pocket revealed a number of interesting new facts. It proved that police work wasn't a bit more dangerous than any other profession. On the contrary, most other jobs involved much greater risks. Construction workers and lumberjacks lived considerably more hazardous lives, not to mention dockers or taxi drivers or housewives.

But hadn't it always been generally accepted that a policeman's lot was riskier and tougher and less well paid than any other? The answer was painfully simple. Yes, but only because no other professional group suffered from such role fixation or dramatized its daily life to the same degree as did the police.

It was all supported by figures. The number of injured policemen was negligible when compared with the number of people annually mistreated by the police. And so forth.

And it didn't apply only to Stockholm. In New York, for example, an average of seven policemen were killed every year, whereas taxi drivers perished at the rate of two a month, housewives one a week, and among the unemployed the rate was one a day.

To these odious sociologists nothing was sacred. There was a Swedish team that had even managed to torpedo the myth of the English bobby and reduce it to its proper proportions, namely, to the fact that the English police are not armed and therefore don't provoke violence to the same degree as certain others. Even in Denmark responsible authorities had managed to grasp this fact, and only in exceptional situations were policemen permitted to sign out weapons.

But such was riot the case in Stockholm.

Martin Beck had suddenly started thinking about this study as he stood looking at Nyman's body.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Next 30 Day Song Challenge - day 17

Day 17 - The song with the best intro ever

Bear with me on this one. 

I'm not necessarily suggesting that the intro to Hurrah!'s 'Sweet Sanity' is the best intro ever. The Smiths' 'This Charming Man' and Stone Roses' 'She Bangs The Drum' - amongst many others -  both give it a good run for its money, but 'Sweet Sanity' has it's own category of 'The song with the best intro ever that never fulfilled its promise after the 30 second mark':

The opening verse is brilliant, godlike, but it's the chorus that smothers it. The song tries to recover itself in the subsequent verses but you're already thinking, 'Shit, that crappy chorus is going to crop up again any second now'. I bought the album on cassette on the strength of that opening thirty seconds. Not one of my wisest music purchases but not my most foolish purchase either.

What might have been. And it appears I'm not alone in thinking this. The video cuts out after 2.49 seconds and that's from an upload by Hurrah!'s old record label, Kitchenware Records. However, if you're desperate to see the full (tinnier) version of the video, then click on the link.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Next 30 Day Song Challenge - day 16

Day 16 - A song that reminds you of first discovering the opposite sex

I'm sure that there's other earlier moments but this song - or rather video - sticks in the mind. It's '83 or '84 and for some reason I'm watching Richard Skinner presenting Whistle Test (the title had been shortened at this point) and he cues up this video by The Bangles video: 

'nuff said.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Next 30 Day Song Challenge - day 15

Day 15 - A song that your parents influenced you to like

Probably the hardest challenge so far. How can I put this? Both my parents tastes in music make Susan Boyle sound like Nurse With Wound. Very MORish, very 'Breadish . . . if you get my drift.

I've racked my brains and I found that this song is embedded in my brain:

I guess if you hear a song enough times as a kid at 11 o'clock at night when you're trying to sleep, it eventually seeps into your sub-consciousness. And it helps that it is a timeless classic.

The Wigan aesthetic by Ian Walker (New Society 24 January 1980)

It's the Arthur Seaton reference in the article that's the winner for me. That, and the proto 'luvved up' atmosphere as referenced to by Biba from York. Funny how it all comes around again and again. 
Favourite Northern Soul track? It has to be Betty Lavette's '(Happiness will cost you) One thin dime'
 The Wigan aesthetic

Pink and blue fluorescent tubes, hung crudely from the ceiling, don't make much impact on the darkness. But from up here in the balcony, where some come to sleep and some to drink coffee, it looks as if there are still about a hundred dancers down there, even though it is five in the morning.

They spin, jump, do the splits, crash forward or backward onto their hands, spin again like whirling dervishes in their baggy jeans and full skirts, clap in time to the music. The records are from the cities of the United States. The dancers are from all over the north of England. Most come here every Saturday night and Sunday morning for the Wigan Casino all-nighter, the mecca of northern soul.

"I used to dance," says Mick, a cop from Liverpool. "Now it's just a matter of listening." He half closes his eyes, "So many soulful sounds." Mick remembers the first all-nighters, in the early sixties at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, birthplace of northern soul. When that closed down he went to the Torch at Stoke, then the Va-Va at Bolton. He has been coming to Wigan most Saturday nights since September 1973 when the all-nighters started up at the Casino.

It is a problem, Mick says, trying to explain to mates that it is rare soul singles and not roulettes which are spun at the Casino: "You say there's no gambling, then they say, 'Oh, you go on the piss there, then?' You say there's no drink. Then they say, 'Oh, you go fucking all the women then, eh?' You say there's none of that either. It's an all-night dance club. They think we're all mad."

No booze, no sex and no fights either. "Say you got to a disco, bump into someone, you get beer all over your face," says Biba, who travels down here from York. "Here it's 'Sorry pal. You all right'?" Mick nods. "You never get fights here, never," he adds, with Scouse emphasis.

You get a lot of pill-popping, though: amphetamines to help the dancers make it through the night. The going rate for speed is £2 for three pills, presumably more than the skinheads asleep on the balcony floor could afford. "If one of us takes a week off everyone wants to know why," says Mick, when he's come back with the coffees. "It's amazing, you know, the care that people have got for each other down here." He insists on buying the coffees: it's his scene, he is the host.

Set up on a bare wooden stage four foot above the dance floor are the DJ's turntables. Dancers jump onstage to deliver requests on bits of paper. This is a "rare soul scene": DJs and fans alike pride themselves on digging out obscure rhythm and blues singles that flopped Stateside, making them hits on the northern soul circuit. DJs have been known to pay up to £500 for rare singles (often one-off demo discs) and dancers travel hundreds of miles to hear them.

Backstage, behind the turntables, a man from Birmingham who has NORTHERN SOUL RULES OK tattooed on his arm, and who is here with his wife Joy, says, "The old crowd live for this place. We work all week for this." Phil and Geoff, from Newton Aycliffe in County Durham, nod agreement. They have got 400-odd singles between them, at their flat. "But it's not quantity, it's quality isn't it?" smiles Phil. "That's it."

Each record ends with a swarm of hands raised aloft clapping, showing appreciation. No one dances in a couple, and no one comes here to find a mate anyway, so there's none of that buzz of chatting-up technique which fills the short silences between records at discos. None of those beer-swilling predators ogling from the sidelines, like there had been six hours previously at the Wigan branch of the northern nightclub chain, Tiffany's, where I'd gone till the Casino opened its doors at 12.30 am.

At the Casino the DJs are judged by the quality of the records they play, not the slickness of their chat. And the place to shop for quality soul is over the Atlantic. Records that are rare (and expensive) in Britain can be picked up for next to nothing in America. Disc-jockey Dave Evison says that he enlisted the help of black cab drivers in taking him up to Harlem and the South Bronx when he went over to New York. He tells me an anecdote about a friend of his called Kev Roberts whose idol was an R & B artist called Eddie Foster. "Kev went over to America. One day in San Francisco he got into a cab and the driver of that cab was Eddie Foster. That's the truth. A ten million to one chance."

The black American: a soul brother to the young white English worker. It's six in the morning and there's still close on a hundred white Negroes of the frozen north down there on the floor dancing.

I go downstairs to a small room which is the hangout for hard-core fans and collectors. One lad is telling another he spent £600 on records last year. Everyone flicks through the racks of singles and soul fanzines set out on trestle tables. One fanzine, Soul Source, is edited by Chris Fletcher, a 23 year old ex-miner. He had an accident and "jacked it up," picked up an offset litho machine cheap and taught himself how to use it.

"I understood the principles - one blanket to the next, water repels ink - and it was just trial and error. The first issue didn't look good, but it was great at the time. We were jumping about, you know."

A black drug dealer wearing a black velvet bow-tie with a black topcoat and white silk scarf, and followed by two women in skirts slit to the top of their thighs, makes his entrance into this backroom. The place becomes, for the first time tonight, tense.

People want speed, but this guy is not to be trusted. He has ripped off the all-nighters before and is insisting that just one man goes outside with the money to get the stuff off his hoodlums, who are outside in the car where anything could happen. Someone says this dealer is a pimp and a gangster, that his men use guns, and that he has been known to arrange for Black and Deckers to make holes in kneecaps. After much running around the pill-poppers decide not to risk it. The word goes out that the cops are outside and the dealer, the man, disappears out of a side door with his two whores. "The music, the people and the gear [amphetamines] - that's why people come here" someone says by way of an explanation.

Sitting down clutching his singles purchases is Kevin Joss. He works as a turner in Newton Aycliffe. He is married, with a four year old baby. "Saturday afternoon I always play football, set off from home about seven . . .  the worst thing is driving back the next day. It's three and half to four hours, to get back at 12 or 1. Then it's watching the football on telly, going to bed when it's finished and getting up on Monday, if you can."

Ian Bates, and engineer from Nottingham and introduced as a "real fan," joins in the conversation. Kevin is saying that he once had to stop going to all-nighters. Ian screws up his face, "People say they aren't coming down here any more, but I don't know what I'd do . . . what else do people do? Just knock around and go down the pub and get pissed? That's alright, but it's better down here. I've got mates from all over the country and the music here's the best in the country, in my opinion." Ian gets £40 a week take-home. In 1979 he missed just two all-nighters.

In a couple of hours' time the Wigan townsfolk will be eating their breakfast. Most of them want the Casino closed down. Ian Bates tells me that the Casino is owned by the council and if Labour had won the election it was going to be turned into a "multi-storey car park or office block or something."

This desolate old Casino, just opposite the bingo hall, off the Wigan high street. What can you say? Remember the opening sequence of the film version of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning where Albert Finney says something like "I'm out to have a good time. That's all there is to it. The rest is propaganda," as chucks his towel at the lathe?

The Wigan Casino is one place in which soul fans can prove to themselves, and to others, that the working routine is just that: a clock which ticks in time to a production line. Stay up all night, dance till it hurts and what the hell?

It's 7.30 in the morning and the fans are starting to collect their coats and say goodbyes. The last three records on the turntable, every Sunday morning, are Long after tonight is all over, Time'll pass you by and I'm on my way. "When they play that for the last time, when it shuts down for good," says Ian, "it'll be brilliant."

The yellow street lamps are on, but unnecessary in the early light. A red-eyed procession winds up the road, past the Lite Bite chippie and Terry's Discount, towards Wigan Baths. They will be open at a quarter to nine, and you can get tea and toast there.
24 January 1980

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Next 30 Day Song Challenge - day 14

Day 14 - A song you influenced your parents to like

My Dad is incredibly proud of the fact that I introduced to him this track. I think it's his proudest moment concerning myself. I shamefacedly admit that I still think Whitney Houston's 'Saving All My Love For You' is a good song, but only because my Dad would never let me forget anyway:

And yes, dear reader, I bought the single.

John Diamond by Leon Garfield (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1980)

I ought to begin with the footsteps; but first of all I must tell you that my name is William Jones and that I was twelve years old when I first began to hear them.

I have two older sisters, Cissy and Rebecca, and a mother who was born a Turner, and I have an Uncle Turner to prove it.

But the story is about my father, chiefly.

He was a tall, handsome man, with his own hair, his own teeth, and, in fact, with nothing false about him.

I think he was rather proud of his appearance, and not a little ashamed to have a son who wore his clothes like a footpad and tied a cravat as if he'd been badly hanged. Those, by the way, were his words; but not in public as I was, after all, his son.

Blarney Stoned

I haven't really been keeping up with the footie on the blog but, of course, it would be a T shirt that will restore order to the world. Who wouldn't fall in love with the T shirt below? Xavi, Iniesta, Andrews and Whelan (possibly) going head to head this afternoon. 

It'll be a massacre but it's too early to write if it will be a football massacre or a yellow and red card massacre.  Whatever happens, Barry Glendinning will be the winner.

Hat tip to Pogmogoal website.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Next 30 Day Song Challenge - day 13

Day 13 - The worst cover version you've heard

Thank you, Duran Duran, for making this too easy for me.

I have a soft spot for Duranies - my first ever bought '45 and all that - but this is moider. Poor Grandmaster Flash:

I'm sure Kara would disagree. Especially as I accidently clicked on this *cough* reworked classic earlier today on Spotify:

If looks could kill. Apparently, All Saints never made it stateside.

Big Girls Don't Cry by Fay Weldon (Atlantic Monthly Press 1997)

Slap, slap, slurp: a hollow, juicy sound. Stephanie's pasting up posters on the dark green wall of a Victorian urinal. The year's 1971. This urinal still stands there at the bottom of Carnaby Street, alongside Liberty's of London. See it now, as then. Stephanie is clearly not an expert at what's called posting bills. Paste dribbles down all over the place: they go up crooked, they overlap. But up they go. The legend Bill Posters Will Be Prosecuted gets obscured, as another poster slips and slides.
'Poor Bill Posters,' says Layla.

Stephanie doesn't get the joke. This is her life problem. Her life asset is her beauty. In 1971, she is twenty-five; she has perfect features, a lanky body, abundant blonde straight hair, and rather large hands and feet. Layla is twenty-six, shorter, plumper, funnier: she has curly dark hair. One side of Layla's face does not line up with the other, so she is called sexy and attractive, but seldom beautiful. Layla does not regard this as a life problem. She has too much to think about.

The posters declare over and over, A Woman Needs a Man like a Fish Needs a Bicycle. People stare a moment and pass on. The message makes no sense. Obviously women need men. Everyone needs men. Masculinity is all. Armies need men, and government and business and technology and high finance. And teaching and medicine and adventuring and fashion. And all the serious arts. Offices, except for the typing pool, which is female, need men. It's homes which need women, except for the lawn which is male. Women are for sex, motherhood and domesticity. Men are for status and action. Outside the home is high status, inside the home is low status. In popular myth men make decisions, women try on hats. The world is all id and precious little anima. Layla and Stephie, friends, mean to change all this. A Woman Needs a Man like a Fish Needs a Bicycle. Ho, ho, ho. Everyone knows women compete for male attention; isn't this how the problem of female bitchery arises? Catty? Felines are nothing compared with women. Perhaps this puzzle poster is advertising something?