Sunday, 13 March 2011

There are many things I would like to say to you [and you and you and you]

There have been thousands of words written about sounds. That imminent response to the music. That desire to share our thoughts with others. Or sell our thoughts. When I started my fanzine – I was 16 years old – feeling the world was ready to listen to my voice. There were those that read ‘em and those that writ ‘em. I in my youthful zeal wanted the world to know about the bands I liked – I wanted those bands to know that they were liked and in all of that came correspondence and shared dreams.

I remember putting the first ‘Get that Anorak Off’ together – not certain it would ever see the light of day but writing it nonetheless – because when you’re holed up in a dark northern world perhaps the primitives can add some brighter times to it all. And from that grew all this. The writing now I guess is a throwback to typed evenings about The Nivens or The Impossibles.

I would receive letters – tenfold through the box – from Sheffield, Rotherham, London and Derby. And sometimes a letter would wind its way to our Scunthorpe address postmarked New Zealand or Singapore. Those anoraks get worn around the world- and to have someone request a fanzine from another country felt exotic – we weren’t global connected by the technology – only by the pen and our shared understanding of The Brilliant Corners – Collin communicating from other worlds through a communal love of cheap guitars. I let him down to be honest – Collin was a charming, exciting, energetic young man – who ventured to these very shores – to study – to swallow the independent vibes. He rang me up – several times – and I was so far inside my love of the self – this club scene maaaan – that I never met the bloke. You know he’d taken time to write me a letter – about music and I never took the time to get on a bus and visit him in Huddersfield – it’s not on really. We could have talked about music for hours.

And I didn’t bother.

And one from a girl named Lucy. I let her down. And this post is the one where I say sorry – we’d communicated about this and that – about music that touched our hearts and fanzine writing and reading. She ventured to China – you can do that when you’re confident – or you do that to make you confident. And she sent me a fanzine – her fanzine – in a padded envelope – hand written – typed in places – and I still have it.

Our correspondence dry and fading.

I wish I could give it back to her – I don’t know where she is – but I should have made it up and put it out there – but the London life had curtailed friendship – as I fell in love with acid house. It isn’t a good enough excuse – it’s running away from responsibility. If only I had had a little more conviction back then instead of filling my poise with arrogance and wishful dreams of teenage romance. It takes guts to be gentle and kind and I was full of barbarism [it had most likely began at home] and that is not a state to be repeated, treated or re-heated.

So it still resides – in the envelope – all her expressions of excitement – locked down and going nowhere [fast]. I feel guilty about that – I feel guilty about lots of things but that one resonates at times. Because she trusted me to do it – and I didn’t.

I didn’t do it clean – I didn’t do it at all.

Aggi was another – all swirls and ink. She could write her heart on a page – all open and honest and beating to the sounds of the underground. I let her down too. All London trains and shared rooms as we made our way to The Pastels at the ULU. Where Ride played their first ever gig in London and she’s dragging me in from the bar to make me listen – and I’m talking rock n roll with Bobby G and being a shit host – I feel bad about that too. Perhaps I never professed to be a jingle jangle fey pop lover – but a little bit of common decency wouldn’t have gone amiss. Too much Thunderbird and fawning over myself.

You see gigs like the pastels united the fray. That simple response to rock n roll – without the posturing and posing. We weren’t looking for heroes – we just liked music. We like guitars that fed back, twanged and jangled. We liked singers who sang about simple things – but simple things that mattered. There was simply nothing else to be done. It was the love of the sounds and our fanzines allowed the magical connections to keep on firing. Music unites like that – so here’s to simple responses. I first heard The Pastels in the 1980s – this Scottish drawl over repetitive guitars. This DIY approach to POP – The Pastels were never twee – they often get held up as this overly fey group – but Stephen Pastel was a PuNK as the rest of ‘em. Their brand of pop – fizzed and chugged – it fell apart and fed back. It was independent.

And so was fanzine writing.

Fanzine writing was about connections – making friends through words and sometimes we were all looking for friends. So what has any of this to do with the music? I suppose that music whilst a solitary act of appreciation and aesthetics is a shared understanding – it’s a glance or a look – a smile or cheer in the right [wrong] direction.

And sometimes you should look people right in the face – right in their eyes.

I would now

And I would say sorry

And hopefully a tune would be playing that made everything that little bit easier.

Friday, 4 March 2011

a message for the masses

I wake up sometimes unable to muster the energy or excitement for work. And fall quickly back into the realms of dole age infinity and endless time on ‘our’ hands. Of guitar tuning and twiddling and recording and listening. And walks through parades of 1970s shops where discoveries happened and moments were had. I don’t miss it. I just remember it.

This is not a longing for that northern town. This is not a call to arms to return to youthful ways – it’s recognition of what shapes you and how you end up here. I was called to jury service at 18 years of age – it was in Grimsby – they do that sort of stuff there. It was all low level violence and malevolence – youth armed with steel poles disputing the honour of someone’s dog or car and sometimes other humans. We’d dissect incidents and altercations in Cleethorpes back seats and pushing and shoving in Grimbsy club hall ways – it wasn’t pleasant. It wasn’t fascinating. It was the anger of the underclasses turned on itself – the seeds of destruction under the last throes of the Tory dice and the imminent arrival of a more powerful wrecking system from the Britpop politicians who would descend upon us.

I used to go out for lunch. Through the court halls, past the security guards with a nod and wander around the precinct and high street. I can’t picture it as vividly now – but it was all sallow concrete and shop fronts. There was a small independent record shop – it sold the usual and the unusual. I wasn’t on the lookout for vinyl – my tape player was in the bag for the train ride back and forth to the inns of justice – early starts with the Beach Boys 20/20 or the Paul’s Boutique by the Beasties – it all depended on the mood I awoke.

So it was tape digging – and there on the bottom shelf was a tape by Linton Kwesi Johnston. It looked interesting. Reggae fi Rodni, Fit them back and Bass Culture – title awash with low end theory and history. It had an oil painting cover – all heavy daubs and muted palette. And hearing LKJ for the first time was revelatory – it was chattin’ and bass – about politics and race. It represented Britain then, now and beyond – with its timeless clutch of reggae beats and reverbs.

So sitting in the courts – of Grimbsy with the air permeated with industry and fish – we listened to judges make judgements on youth. And LKJ toasted the ills of da police and the insurrectshun of the masses – as I and I considered the evidence from police officers in da dock. It was good to have LKJ by my side – because it noh funny when you sitting in the jury making decisions that affect lives and you know that the daily mailers want to take charge and you think the kids with iron bars just might have been right.

And so I return to LKJ as the EDL spews its shit on the streets [no rock in the clubs] and I watch the 70s hate seep back into the cracks and crevices of our daily routines and it reminds me about the fighting spirit – the real collective responsibilities that we have. To take on ideologies that need challenging ‘in these difficult times’. The ill informed can make you ill – but it’s the will of the people that matters.

Fit Them Back

It’s as simple as that. We need to fight them back. Living within a stone’s throw of Stephen Lawrence’s bus stop, the New Cross’ burnt house and walking the Welling roads. Things are bubbling and bubbling again – rising right to the top and given credence by the ‘red tops’ that hating will result in a ‘new England’ when I’m just looking for a better world. LKJ takes matters into his own hands – a rolling snare and falling guitar as the bass keeps it all rocksteady – smash their brains in – coz they ain’t got nuthin in ‘em – it’s a simple command. A straightforward ask, as the tempo keeps it uptown and we dance our moonstomp over the heads of the ignorant.

It’s a message for the masses.

It is music.