As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...
- Name: Alistair Livingston
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Tuesday, February 04, 2014
Enough is never enough- for Lisa.
Here are 17 883 words on anarcho-goth-punk dredged up from the archives, written between 2013 and 2005. I have thrown them together because I have just been asked to take part in a research project on anarcho-punk, so I thought it would be handy to bring them all together.
I have not re-read the texts so I have no idea if my answers to similar questions have changed over time. I will put up ‘Enough is Never Enough’ by Blood and Roses in memory of Lisa who sang the song and who died very recently. Lisa and my wife were close friends from 1978 until Pinki’s death in 1996. Lisa's death really hurt, because I thought she was going to be one of the survivors.
1. Question and answer interview from 2013 by e-mail - questions asked from USA for a book.
2. Questions and answers for book ‘All the Young Punks’ by Gerard Evans 2013
3. Sleeve Notes for Overground Records re-release of ‘Let the Tribe Increase’ by The Mob
4. Sleeve Notes to ‘May Inspire Revolutionary Acts’ by the Mob, Overground Records 2007
5. Subway surfing anarcho-Goths - written 2005
6. Answers to a questionnaire ‘Anarcho-Punk, Society and the Falklands War’ 2008
7. Answers to questions asked by the late Lance Hahn 2006 - for his unpublished book ‘Let the Tribe Increase’
Part 1 - from 2013
Hey Alistair, I put a few questions together. I know one could write for days on any one of these, so don’t feel obligated to slave over them, or even to answer every single one if you don't feel like it. I really appreciate your help and I look forward to hearing from you whenever you get the chance!
In case you’re curious what you're contributing to, my book is a series of articles covering UK punk and youth subculture,1976-1986, attempting to address the disparate, shifting, often contradictory and contested meanings of ‘punk’ during that ten year period.
Anyhow, here goes:
1.As someone already interested in the pre-punk Counterculture, how, when and why did you get into punk?
Up until June 1976 I was still at school (I was 17). I lived in a small town (population 3000) in very rural south-west Scotland. The nearest ‘city’ was Carlisle in north-west England. A friend at school loaned me Patti Smith’s ‘My Generation/ Gloria’ … but I didn’t think very much of it and turned down an offer to borrow ‘Horses’ - which I thought was brilliant when I got to hear it much later.
In the ferociously hot summer of 1976 I visited London for a few days. I visited west London (Notting Hill, Portobello Road) in search of the Hawkwind/ Pink Fairies early seventies counterculture but only found a shop selling old copies of OZ and Frendz underground magazines. I did pick up a copy of It (International Times) which was still going and became subscriber. Within a few months IT began mentioning punk.
I then (September 1976) started at university in Stirling in central Scotland where I joined an anarchist group of older students who were also interested in ‘green’ -then called radical technology - issues. I must have read about punk in music papers like the New Musical Express but it was not until I heard ’White Riot’ (released in March 1977) that I made a connection with punk. The trigger was realising the song was about the 1976 Notting Hill Carnival riot - since I had been there just a few weeks before the riot happened. I suddenly saw punk as being about ‘now’, as music created by people my age about events in the present, not looking back to ‘the sixties’.
I found a copy of ‘Anarchy in the UK’ about the same time, but again was not very impressed by the Sex Pistols. It was only with ‘God Save the Queen’ and its antagonistic relation to the 1977 Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II that I made the same connection to the Pistols that I had made with the Clash. I also saw the Rezillos play in my home town that summer, which made a very strong impression. Even though I still had long hair and a beard…
2.How do you perceive punk’s relationship to Counterculture?
At the time (1977) I saw punk as the antithesis of the counterculture. I experienced punk as incredibly powerful, as a source of energy- but it was also a nihilistic and destructive energy. I felt it was a response to the failure of the counterculture to achieve a revolution. I still accepted the necessity for a countercultural revolution, especially in its green/ radical technology form, but sated to wonder if it was all just empty rhetoric - that for all the talk of love and peace the reality was (Clash song) ‘hate and war’.
However, until I moved to London in 1979, I had no direct experience of punk. I dropped out of university in 1977 and moved to rural England. I got a job in a local factory while living with relatives who kept goats, ducks and chickens on a smallholding. It was a very un-punk existence. I bought and listened to lots of punk, but never went to any gigs.
3.Did you go to Stonehenge Free Festivals? What were they like and how did they impact punk and vice versa?
I never went to Stonehenge. I knew about free-festivals from the early 1970s, but they all seemed to be happening in the south of England while I was in Scotland and the practicalities of getting there put me off. If you can get a hold of Andy Roberts’ book ‘Albion’s Dreaming’, you will find that the idea of free festivals including Stonehenge began as places where people would be able to take acid in peaceful rural tranquillity rather than in more difficult urban environments. So long as the festivals were small scale this worked, but bigger festivals became more like small cities and thus more stressful.
Free-festivals developed in parallel with punk and some punks (members of the Dammed and the Clash for example) had gone to festivals before they became punks. Mark Wilson of the Mob used to go to Stonehenge before he was a punk and the Mob (along with Mark Perry’s ATV) played at Stonehenge in 1978. Later, in the early/mid 1980s free-festivals and the travelling (in converted trucks and buses) between festivals began to attract punks as an alternative to squatting in London and other cities. From being the antithesis to the previous counterculture, punk then began to fuse as a synthesis with the free-festival counter culture. This dynamic continued through the 1980s into the 1990s when a further fusion/confusion with the acid house/rave culture occurred - for example at the 1992 Castlemorton free festival/rave.
4.What bands were most important to your personal development?
As a child in the 1960s, the Beatles and similar pop groups. In the early seventies David Bowie and T.Rex (glam rock) then Hawkwind/ Pink Fairies/Gong counterculture - with a backwards lurch when I discovered Jefferson Airplane and the Velvet Underground - then the Clash/Pistols/Banshees, then (briefly) Throbbing Gristle before Blood and Roses and the Mob. Via the Mob I then became involved in the ’business’ side of music as manager of their All the Madmen record label. After this I still enjoyed listening to music but the glamour had worn off so my personal development followed a non-musical trajectory.
5.How did you get involved with Kill Your Pet Puppy, and how would you describe it? Who were the other members of the Puppy collective?
In 1976 (see above) I joined an anarchist group at university and began subscribing to the anarchist ‘Black Flag’ newspaper. Through this I started buying books from Stuart Christie’s Orkney based Cienfuegos Press. When I moved to London in 1979 I began going to Black Flag/ Cienfuegos readers meetings. These meetings then overlapped with meetings of the ‘Persons Unknown Anarchist Conspiracy Trial’ support group. [Similar to the early 1970s Angry Brigade, those involved were accused of conspiracy to cause explosions]. Crass and the Poison Girls then became involved which led to the release of the ’Bloody Revolutions/ Persons Unknown’ single.
In late 1979, via the Crass/ Poison Girls connection, a group of punks came along to one of the support group meetings. After the meeting I talked to the punks in a nearby pub. They were members of the Kill Your Pet Puppy fanzine collective. We got on very well so I visited them at ’Puppy Mansions’ and started writing for the fanzine. Tony Drayton of KYPP had started his ‘Ripped and Torn’ fanzine in Glasgow in November 1976, before moving to London where he continued it until early 1979.
While ‘Ripped and Torn’ had been a straight punk fanzine, Kill Your Pet Puppy pushed the boundaries of punk out towards the wider counterculture. It was more like a punk version of an underground magazine, printed (colour photocopied) by Better Badges which had been set up by Joly McPhie who had written for International Times and had been part of the Hawkwind/ Pink Fairies Notting Hill counterculture. KYPP mixed surrealist, situationist, anarchist and other countercultural influences with punk. Articles on gay punks and Wilhelm Reich were run side by side with critiques of Crass and reviews of Bauhaus gigs. For KYPP, Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd was more of a punk than Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols.
Pinning down membership of the Puppy Collective is very difficult. There were at least 20 people who directly contributed text or images to the 6 issues (1979-1983) of KYPP, but another 100 at last who were involved in helping to inspire, produce and sell it. For example, Better Badges did not collate and staple the magazine, we had to do it ourselves. This was done by laying the piles of individual pages out on a large table and then a group of six or so of us would walk round the table picking up each page in turn before handing a finished set to the person with the stapler.
Creating the magazine was also a collective effort, with many people contributing via a weekend of arguing and discussing before the ‘finished’ set of pages were ready to send to the printer.
6.How would you have described your ‘politics’ in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s?
I was mainly influenced by reading ‘The Floodgates of Anarchy’ by Stuart Christie and Albert Meltzer. I was also influenced by ‘Undercurrents’ magazine which covered what would now be called Green issues. My politics were therefore anarchist/ green.
7.What are your memories of the (psycho)geography of London punk? What centres, squats, neighborhoods and streets were important to whom when?
The patterns kept shifting. There were no fixed points. For example Brougham Road in Hackney [east London] was squatted for many years- see http://killyourpetpuppy.co.uk/news/test/
but there was a high turn-over of residents so it didn’t become a fixed point. Places like the Wapping Autonomy Centre [east London] were influential (it was rented not squatted) but only had an active life of a few months. The squatted Centro Iberico [west London] was home to refugee Spanish anarchists for several years but again only hosted anarcho-punk gigs for a few months. Between 1981 and 1984 I can think of 8 squatted centres (9 if you count the one off Zigzag Club squat) and there were probably more.
Squats as living spaces did not usually last more than six months. Then again, while our Black Sheep Housing Co-op lasted for about 15 years, most members moved on after a couple of years.
On reflection, it was not such a big change to move from squatting in London to becoming a traveller since the continual need to find a new place to live/ squat was equivalent to the travellers’ movement from site to site. The lack of fixed abodes had the effect of making social ties more important and stronger. An image would be of a group of hunter-gathers moving through a difficult/ hostile environment and relying for their survival on the strength of the group.
The bonds formed are enduring. I worked 5 days a week in the same factory 1979-1983, but ended all contact with my work mates when I left. Where as many of the friendships made via anarcho-punk in the same period have survived and form the core of (for example) interactions via social media.
8.What was your experience of different tribes and subcultural divisions, either within punk or outside of it?
Close to zero experience in my case. There is a problem with the word ‘tribe’ here - it implies the simultaneous existence of similar but distinguishable groups of young people living in squats and socialising around squatted centres. There were no other such groupings. Other punk groups played at straight/official/ licensed venues and very few of their fans lived in squats - so they operated in/were part of mainstream/straight society.
A possible division or distinction could be with the ‘hippy-travellers’ - but that was more of an age difference. They were a few years older than the punk-squatters and many had been squatters previously. With two or three years, once they had got vehicles themselves, punk-squatters became hippy-travellers. In which case the distinguishing feature between the forms of punk would be squatting. The act (or successive acts -many gave up and went home) of squatting turned a member of a subculture into a member of the counterculture.
9.How, when and in relation to what did you first encounter the term ‘goth?’ What do you make of it being applied (seemingly retrospectively) to groups like Blood & Roses, Southern Death Cult, Sex Gang Children, etc? To what extent were these bands understood as part of a distinct trend or milieu at the time?
My wife took me to a goth ‘night club’ called Catacomb in the pub which was above Manor House tube station in north London. This would have been between 1986 and 1988. It was the first time I encountered goths.
Kill Your Pet Puppy featured Bauhaus, Southern Death Cult, Sex Gang Children and Blood and Roses. Bauhaus were more of a pop/rock group, but the others were not seen as being part of a distinct scene at the time. However, I did know Bob Short of Blood and Roses very well. Bob had lived in the same squats as some KYPP members and at the infamous Campbell Buildings with my future wife -see http://killyourpetpuppy.co.uk/news/1980-bob-short-from-his-book-trash-can-available-from-httpwwwlulucomcontent956220/
Bob had a very dark vision of the world rather than the ‘new world in our hearts’ optimism of the more anarchist punks. On the other hand Blood and Roses played at the Wapping Autonomy Centre and the Centro Iberico alongside anarcho-punk groups. On the other other hand Blood and Roses never played Stonehenge and did not convert a truck to go travelling in.
10.What's the story with 'positive punk?' Did anyone ever use that term outside of the Richard North article?
No. Richard used the phrase in the conclusion to his article and a subeditor at the NME picked it out it use as an attention grabbing and controversy sparking headline. Here is Richard’s text.
So here it is: the new positive punk, with no empty promises of revolution, either in rock 'n' roll sense or the wider political sphere. Here is only a chance of self awareness, of personal revolution, of colourful perception and galvanising of the imagination that startles the slumbering mind and body from their cloth.
Certainly this is revolution in the non-political sense, but at the same time its neither escapist nor defeatist. It is, in fact "political" in the genuine sense of the word.
Individuality? Creativity? Rebellion? The Synthesis comes at the moment when you do the one thing, the only thing when you know you're not just a trivial counter on the social checkerboard. Here are thousands doing that one thing: merging an explosive and cutting style with a sense of positive belief and achievement, and having fun while they're doing it.
The Oi-sters and their ilk have taken punk a few millimetres to the right or a centimetre to the left, but no one took a damn step forward.
This is punk - at last built on rock and not on sand.
I know Richard and he was writing here as a journalist attempting to capture the moment of something new emerging - despite denying this in the first line
Although it's not the purpose of this article to create any kind of movement or cult, any easy or accessible bandwagon to be tumbled onto…
Richard also ‘borrowed’ a couple of paragraphs from a piece I wrote for his Kick fanzine
The Industrial Revolution is over, a new movement has begun, and the current mood is an affirmation of that point. The natural energy that for over 200 years has been poured into the physical, the rational and the materialistic, has now all grown crooked. The mental/magical power has been lost: It was simply not needed - steam engines, radios, electricity were so much easier and they worked. But now the glamour is wearing off. We can see the string and wires, the clockwork squeaks ... the radiation is beginning to corrode the pretty box. All the darkness and light, all the forces are still there deep underneath, bubbling, steaming, fermenting.
The attempt was to link what was to be called anarcho-punk and what was to be called goth together in a creative synthesis…but in a Hegelian turn, at the moment of becoming a ‘movement’ the one thing was already becoming two. The fragments are still spinning on as ‘anarcho-punk’ and ‘goth’ but not as ‘positive punk’.
In the ‘real world’ the re-election of Margret Thatcher’s government on 9 June 1983 was significant. Everyone realised that the gloves would be off and more extreme right wing policies would follow. With Tony of KYPP I wrote some graffiti early on the morning of the 10 June ’Now we will see real class war’. And we were right.
The move towards goth and PTV/TOPY was a move away from the new reality a retreat into the imagination/ fantasy/the occult. The move away from the city towards travelling in the countryside was a similar retreat, almost a form of internal migration.
11.What sort of magick did you first get into and what drew you to it?
As a young teenager I read books on magic along with science-fiction, horror (H P Lovecraft style) fantasy and books on ancient astronauts, flying saucers, ley-lines and similar. Then in 1977 I found a copy of Kenneth Grant’s ‘Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God’ which pretty much mixed all of the above, including H.P. Lovecraft, into a system of magic. However the book was so opaque that I had difficulty following Grant’s line of thought. Then 1982 I found another of his books ‘Outside the Circles of Time’ which included a section on how a future version of humanity was attempting to secure its and our existence by communicating backwards in time. [Similar to the plot of Marge Peircy’s sf novel ‘Woman on the Edge of Time’ which was circulating in the group at the time].
I thought wow- maybe there is a future beyond thermo-nuclear war [a big issue at the time]. I did write to Kenneth Grant trying to work out if this is what he was really saying but he was a cryptic in letters as in his text. However, I was able to get in touch with Grant’s source a middle-aged lady called Maggie who lived in the USA - who turned out to be that very rare thing - a sensible magician. Her magic was based on the Egyptian goddess of Truth and Justice called Maat. This was 1983 (or 84?) and we carried on writing to each other for several years . Hard to remember, but before email the time between writing and replying might be a month. We are still in touch from time to time.
There is a complication in here due to Stonehenge Festival being banned after the Battle of the Beanfield. My partner (later wife) was an eco-feminist anti-nuclear activist [she went on a anti-military walk across Salisbury Plain from Avebury to Stonehenge with similar and well known USA activist Starhawk in April 85] - and Stonehenge Free Festival go-er. So when the festival was banned she joined the Free the Free Festival Campaign. Her argument was that the festival was a religious gathering and that she her self was High Priestess Tanith Maat of the Temple of the Black Flame and Silver Star - and needed to access the stones during the course of the lunar month in which the summer solstice fell. This sounded very impressive and encouraged festival folk to describe themselves as pagans claiming their religious rights - not a bunch of stoned hippy-punks… it also annoyed the Druids who claimed they had a unique right of access to the Stones.
I think enough time has passed to reveal that Tanith invented the temple and its connection to Stonehenge a few days before the press conference where she made the claims.
12.As you see it, how did punk, often understood to be cynically secular, cross paths with magick and occultism?
Punk didn’t. A few punks like Bob Short of Blood and Roses had an interest in magic and the occult, but very few others. Certainly I never knew or heard of any punk joining a magical order. I did (later) know several people who had been members of Kenneth Grant’s ‘Typhonian OTO’ and a few ‘Caliphate OTO’ members, but none were or had been punks. Sure, some punks would ‘sample’ Crowley for a few slogans, but that was all. But- see below- Psychic TV did change this to an extent.
13.How did anarchic/bohemian/hippy-punks deal with the elitist, hierarchical, Nietzschean-seeming aspects of Thelema? (“we have nothing with the outcast and the unfit : let them die in their misery. For they feel not. Compassion is the vice of kings : stamp down the wretched & the weak : this is the law of the strong : this is our law and the joy of the world.”
As noted above, only a handful of punks ever got as far as reading the more difficult bits of Crowley so didn’t have any problems interpreting the texts. I did find Thelemic aspects in punk - for example the B side of ‘Nasty Nasty’ by 999 (which came out in 1977) is called ‘No Pity’ and the chorus is ‘we’re gonna make you fall, we’re gonna take it all cos we have no pity’…
The problem of dealing with the elitist (etc) aspects of Thelema did come up for me and I decided that if that is what Crowley/Aiwas said, then Crowley/Aiwas were wrong. Elitist and hierarchical bullshit is elitist and hierarchical bullshit what ever the source. Force and fire? No thanks! Truth and justice? Yes please!
Later on (into the 1990s) I came to the conclusion that Crowley had been attempting to create a religion for the British Empire. I also found, when I was a student at the London School of Oriental and African Studies and had access to their huge library of oriental and African texts that Kenneth Grant had misinterpreted some of his sources and made others up.
My attitude now is that I would have been better off picking up Hegel’s Science of Logic and spending many years trying to understand Hegel rather than Grant. Magick is the art of illusion and its study creates the illusion of knowledge.
I know these are getting a bit specific, but I have a hard time reconciling this myself, and I'm interested in your opinion.)
14.I'm not quite sure how to phrase this as a question exactly, but I'm curious about the role of Psychic TV and the Temple ov Psychick Youth. What was that culture like? What sort of people did it attract? Why?
To make a bold claim, Psychic TV and TOPY became a substitute for Crass in that they offered a ‘totalising myth’, a ready made, off the peg/shelf ideology for the cohort who had discovered Crass as young teenagers and were now ready to move on.
As with all bold claims, it begins to fall apart if looked at too closely. A problem is that I have never sat down and analysed PTV in the way I have other aspects of the scene/times. For example there is an immediate contradiction with my replies to questions 12 and 13. PTV/TOPY were deeply embroiled in an occult interpretation of the world and became very influential/ popular amongst part of the post-punk group. But if interest in magic was previously low in this group, what changed?
One angle goes back to the 1983 general election and the Marxist concept of ‘false consciousness’. How on earth could people have been persuaded to vote for such a repressive regime? To vote against their self-interests? For an intensification of a Cold War which threatened to blow us all to hell? One answer was mass media manipulation, the creation of ‘folk devils and moral panics’, the creation of fears which only a strong (= right wing) government could overcome.
Such thinking leads on to conspiracy theories and an ‘occult’ as in hidden or secret forces at work view of history. PTV/TOPY theory claimed to reveal and expose the occult structures which generated ‘false consciousness’ and show how to use them for personal liberation. It was a modernistic/ postmodern take on similar claims made by magical orders (and revolutionary sects) through the ages. It was the claim to have a secret key which would liberate the holder from alienation/ false consciousness.
The suppression of Stonehenge Free Festival in 1985 plus the defeat of the Miners Strike added to the appeal. If collective sources of empowerment failed, if, to quote Margaret Thatcher ‘There is no such thing as society, only individuals and families’, then survival as individuals had to rely on personal skills and abilities. Access to ‘the secrets of power and influence’ offered a route to such survival.
Plausible? Perhaps. It can be difficult looking back not to telescope events. If TOPY became a larger and more significant organisation after 1985, that fits with a rapid growth in interest in paganism linked to attempts to re-invent Stonehenge Free Festival as a ‘pagan gathering and celebration’. Before than, the focus of the festival was on the music (and the drugs) within the festival site with the actual stones of Stonehenge as a backdrop.
After 1985 there was no festival and no bands to listen to, so the focus became attempts to gain access to the stones and on celebrations within the stone circle. As a result suddenly thousands of counterculturalists became self-confessed pagans.
This had knock-on effect of raising interest in other aspects of occultism and magic. Some of this interest overlapped with the Glastonbury town centred New Agers, but it also overlapped with TOPY, Chaos Magic and Thelemic Magic.
As to the demographic - 18-25, mainly white male, educated to university entrance level, middle rather than working or upper class.
15.Throughout the years you participated, what significant changes did you notice in ‘punk?’ From your perspective, what became of punk, and English subculture in general, in the latter ‘80s? What were you up to in by the latter '80s?
The nucleus of punk existed in London from summer 1976 until early 1977 and then spread rapidly across the UK through the rest of 1977 and into 1978. It then began to solidify into a popular youth subculture, becoming formulaic in the process. The more creative musicians and artists reacted against the ossification of punk through experimentations which gave rise to ‘post-punk’ (eg PIL, Joy Division etc).
At the same time, for a few (1000?) young people who had been drawn to London by punk, the experience based on necessity -having somewhere to live rather than return home- of squatting led to the construction of a punk version of the counterculture. This was the punk I encountered in 1979. Anarcho-punk emerged out of this punk counterculture and flourished through the early 1980s before fusing with elements of the pre-punk counterculture via the free festivals/ new travellers movement - with a separate spin-off giving rise to the goth subculture by 1988.
A different spin-off, which grew out of the practice of squatting large buildings as performance spaces, led to a cross-over with acid house dance music raves held in squatted warehouses and free-festival like locations in the countryside.
A common thread between these later developments was the involvement of people who had been part of the punk squatting counterculture. Moving into the 1990s, a more political/direct action strand connects opposition to the 1996 Criminal Justice Act (which tried to ban acid raves) and the anti-road building protests with the 1983/4 Stop the City protests and the anti-Cruise missile peace camps (of which the women’s camp at Greenham Common was only the most high profile). [See George Mackay ‘Senseless Acts of Beauty, Verso 1996 for more on these linkages]
The big picture is one where the rise of neo-liberalism/neo-conservatism/ rightward shift of society was a ‘counter-revolution’. This counter-revolution was driven by the fear that the direction of travel of post-WW2 society and economy was towards increasing equality, a narrowing of the gap between the rich and poor. The sixties counterculture was the leading edge/ avant garde of the movement towards greater equality but assumed the process was, if not inevitable, at least secure since opposition to change would diminish as an older conservative generation gave way to a younger more radical generation.
Then a series of economic shocks, including a rapid rise in oil prices which followed the decision by OPEC to limit oil production following the 1973 Yom Kippur war, gave the right an opportunity to start clawing back the advances made since 1945. In the UK this set in motion the series of events which led to the election of Margret Thatcher’s government in 1979, paralleled by the election of Ronald Reagan as president in the USA.
The socio-cultural impacts of these economic shifts through the 1970s challenged the existing counterculture and punk as a social phenomenon was one response/reaction. [See Jon Savage ‘England’s Dreaming’ 1991 for relationship between punk and mid-seventies UK economic crisis]. Critically, it was punk’s negation of the existing counterculture which gave it the critical oppositionalism necessary to survive the subsequent rise to power of neo-liberalism. The negativity and the power of refusal inherent in punk gave it the strength to become the (counter) culture of resistance. This was more by default than a consequence of any intentional virtue. Rather as more and more of the advances towards equality were stripped away, punk’s No to ‘No Future’ acquired a positive rather than negative value. It became the negation of a negation.
But was it ‘punk’ anymore? Yes, if punk is an attitude rather than a style of music or type of fashion. In the later 1980s I became a parent, got married and went back to university as a mature student (aged 30 in 1988). I may no longer have been easily classified or described as a ‘punk’, but so what? I had been absorbed into punk, passed through it and was now moving beyond it.
I am now in my mid-fifties with a whole further set of life experiences to reflect on. I am once more living in Scotland, in the same town that I grew up in in the 1960s. Along with everyone else of voting age in Scotland, next year (18 September 2014) I will have to answer the question ’Should Scotland become an independent country?’ in a referendum.
The independence referendum is a major historical event, not just for Scotland but also for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. A big part of the questions raised by this historical event involve questions of identity. If I vote yes, am I defining myself as essentially ‘Scottish’? I am a member of the regional (Dumfries and Galloway, south west Scotland) branch of the Radical Independence Campaign, a left/green group. I recently wrote an essay reflecting on the problem of ‘identity’ created by the independence debates. The conclusion I came to is that I will vote yes, but not because I feel particularly Scottish. Rather, I will be voting Yes because I still identify with the punk counterculture and my experience of an alternative England …
So to conclude here is the conclusion to the Radical Independence essay.
There is no future in england's dreaming
No future for you no future for me
No future no future for you
Sometimes the political is personal. I’m not thinking of Scotland any more. People living in Scotland will have their chance to negate the negation and say Yes to a future. No, now I am thinking of England, the England where I lived for 20 years. So many places I have known, from Hackney’s grimy streets to the wheat fields of Wiltshire, from the factories I worked in to the sprawling chaos of a free festival. So many people, passionate, caring, angry, wonderful people. The friendships forged in those years have endured and so has the shared commitment to a future beyond ‘no future’. Another England is possible.
Sometimes the personal is political. I’m listening to an album released 30 years ago. It is called ‘Let the Tribe Increase’ by the Mob who were (still are?) anarcho-hippy punks from Somerset. I first met them in 1982 when they were living in a row of squatted terraced houses in Hackney. The Mob split up in 1983 but reformed in 2011. Last year the Mob revived their ‘All the Madmen’ record label. It was Mark Wilson of the Mob’s daughter Tess who encouraged this move and she asked me to write something for the ATM website. This, with some help from my children, is what I wrote.
Sometimes its good to be wrong. In 1980 a group called the Mob released a single called ‘Witch-hunt’. A powerful piece of punk, it reflects and captures the sense of anger and despair felt by their generation as the new decade dawned. A line from the song sums up the situation as the newly elected governments of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan began ‘Stubbing out progress where the seeds are sown’…
In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis had shocked a generation into action. The prospect of death by thermo-nuclear war concentrated minds and inspired a life-affirming counter-culture. The renewed threat of nuclear war revived the idealism of the counter-culture. So, despite its ‘never trust a hippie’ rhetoric, as blazing fragments of the punk explosion scattered across the land, there was a fusion with aspects of the existing counter-culture. In particular the ‘Do it yourself’ aspect of punk was able to grow through a fertile relationship with -for example- Joly McFie of Better Badges, Geoff Travis of Rough Trade and Pete Stennett of Small Wonder who were veterans of the sixties counter-culture.
The Mob, along with hundreds of other punk bands released their music on their own independent record label. Alongside the independent record labels there were hundreds of punk fanzines. While most histories of punk focus on the few bands who crossed-over into the mainstream, there is also hidden history of punk as a creative explosion through which thousands of young people made their voices heard.
Punk did not end when the Sex Pistols split up in 1978. It carried on into the 1980s, given a new edge by the impact of Thatcher’s government on a generation of young people. It really felt that we had ‘No Future’…Radicalised by harsh reality, punks realised that they had to work together and co-operate just to survive. A practical example of this was the creation of punk housing co-ops like the Islington based Black Sheep Co-op which the Mob and other punk bands helped to finance through benefit gigs. The Mob also worked to renovate houses for the co-op which (along with Andy Palmer of Crass and members of other punk bands) they later lived in. All the Madmen was based in a Black Sheep Co-op house for two years before relocating to another housing co-op (originally a squat) house at Brougham Road in Hackney.
Even if most histories of punk forget this hidden history, those involved have not. Against the competitive individualism which has become the norm over the past 30 years, we have held fast to the values of co-operation and mutual aid. But holding fast to a memory of what once was is not enough. Now another generation of young people are faced with a government which offers them ‘no future’.
The revival of All the Madmen as a collective on its own cannot undo the damage done by 30 years of neo-liberalism, but what it can do is offer this generation of young people inspiration in place of despair. The teenagers who created All the Madmen refused to accept that they had no future. Instead they chose to create their own future. And so the seeds of progress were not stubbed out but survived to flower again.
And that, dear reader, is why I will be voting YES on 18 September 2014.
And of course any anecdotes, myths or opinions you care to share that aren't in direct response to these questions are also welcome!
PART TWO Gerard Evans’ Questions for book ‘All the Young Punks’ 2013
1. Roughly when, where and how did you get into punk?
How did it feel at the time?
My musical memory stretches back to 1963 when, aged 5, I was a fan of the early Beatles.. I experienced the music of the sixties via radio and Top of the Pops. By the early seventies I was listening to John peel and other ‘progressive’ djs on Radio One and watching the Old Grey Whistle Test which started in 1971. The first single I bought was Jeepster by T.Rex in 1971, the first album Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy- a compilation of 1960s Who singles…if ‘My Generation’ counts as punk, then that’s where it started. Or more exactly, since less familiar tracks like ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’ Unlike the radio I could play the songs over and over again. I didn’t have any Elvis in my record collection, but I did have the Beatles and the Rolling Stones by 1977.
From glam - Slade, Bowie, Roxy Music - I moved on to prog rock via the usual suspects- Yes, Genesis, ELP but also Van Der Graaf Generator who were darker and heavier. And then some krautrock- Tangerine Dream, Ammon Dull I and Faust…and cosmic hippy music -Gong, Pink Fairies, Hawkwind, Incredible String Band… and psychedelic rock - Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd, Quicksilver Messenger Service . And… any album that had an interesting/ unusual cover or a good write up in Sounds/ NME e.g. Blue Oyster Cult.
I wasn’t a heavy metal (Black Sabbath etc) fan, but some of my mates at school were and after reading an article in NME about the ‘origins of heavy metal’ they bought some of the recommended albums. The Stooges were one suggestion and so I got to hear a couple of Stooges albums… it just sounded a bit tinny to my uneducated ears. The nearest thing to punk before punk was discovering ten first two Velvet Underground albums in Edinburgh on a visit Easter 1975.
I’d heard some of the songs on Lou reed’s Rock n Roll Animal, but the originals were way more powerful and just a it scary. The sonic attack (a Hawkwind reference for younger readers) of European Son and Sister Ray in particular. Was this music or just (im)pure white noise? And then I bought Metal Machine Music…
Then came 1976, I was 17, just about to finish school. A friend gave me Patti Smith’s Gloria/ My Generation. I didn’t think much of it. I visited London in the very summer of 1976 and wandered around Portobello Road looking for signs of the underground counterculture - as in the Pink Fairies song ‘Portobello Shuffle’. I bought a Gong album and some old copies of OZ and a still surviving International Times- which I subscribed to.
In late 1976 I heard Neat Neat Neat by the Dammed and it was good. But it wasn’t until I heard White Riot by the Clash which came out in March 1977 that punk really grabbed me and shook me up. It was so angry, so intense. And was music being made by people my age 18 years olds (or so I thought, some punks were older) . White Riot felt hot and gritty and urban - the way I had felt after wandering up and down underneath the Westway in the summer of 76. The Who has sung My Generation in 1965 but this really was my generation . The Who sang ‘Why don’t you all f…f…fade away’. Punks sang ‘ Why don’t you all f…f… fuck off’.. [OK, they didn’t , but that’s what it felt like they were singing.]
Punk felt dangerous, powerful, explosive. And real. He songs were like short sharp documentaries, descriptions of the world as it really is. Love and peace? No, hate and war ‘it is the currency, we have to deal with it, it will not go away…’
3. What are your fondest memories of those times?
Those times? The fondest memories came later, after I had moved to London to work in a condom factory in 1979 and in late 1979 met the Kill Your Pet Puppy Collective at meeting about setting up an ’Anarchy Centre’. Until then I had listened to the music, but not identified as a ‘punk’. What I then found was that there were hundreds (thousands?) of punks living in squats in London. They had come from all over the UK and the world - Australia, Europe, USA, drawn by punk to London. I guess most went home again, but a hard core had stayed, surviving the extreme conditions of nightmare squats like the infamous Campbell Buildings. The squatting scene overlapped n various places with the pre-punk counterculture and later- via Stonehenge Free Festival and the associated travelling scene- the two scenes became deeply interwoven. The process had begun in 1978 when Mark Perry’s ATV went on a free tour with archetypical free festival band Here and Now. So my fondest memories of those later punk times would be watching the Mob play a free gig in an adventure playground on Parliament Hill Fields in the summer of 1981. Or Blood and Roses playing at the Centro Iberico in west London in 1982. They even did a stunning version of Sister Ray…
3. How did punk change your life? What lasting legacy did it leave on you?
Before punk, I had been looking back to the late sixties/ early seventies counterculture as a radical alternative to the boredom and conservative complacency of everyday life. Encountering punk jumped me forward into the present (as it then was) and -after a time lag- got me involved in a few years of intense creativity and excitement as part of a n anarchist punk counterculture. The lasting legacy is knowing that there are alternatives to the way the world seems to be. That right through the intense political and economic ‘crisis’ of the Thatcher era, it was possible to, for example, set up and actualise a ‘punk housing co-operative’, to work collectively to produce fanzines, put on gigs, squat spaces, make music, release records, protest and survive [Stop the City ] and most importantly forge many friendships which remain strong 30 years later.
Way back in 1972, I remember listening to Hawkwind’s In Search of Space album and reading a little booklet of cosmic hippieness that came with it. Thanks to punk and Overground Records, I have recently written a couple of booklets to go with two Mob albums. Thanks to punk, I managed to turn a teenage dream into a middle aged reality. Punk has also inspired me to engage in many political and social campaigns and community activism over the years.
Illustration- a few years ago Tesco wanted to open a supermarket in the small market town I live in. I immediately thought Tesco = big business = ‘it don’t like you’ [Clash Remote Control] and the Pistols ‘Don’t be told what you want, don’t be told what you need’ . So I started a campaign against it. I assumed the local shop keepers would also be against Tesco as a potential threat to their businesses/ jobs. But after being told by local councillors ‘ What Tesco want they get’, the local businesses rolled over and refused to object… I couldn’t understand their attitude at the time, but thinking about it, what thanks to punk was for me an automatic response of opposition/ resistance was ‘alien’ to their equally automatic respect for ‘authority’, for what the council said. My campaign managed to reduce the size of the Tesco store and limit the ‘non-food‘ goods it sold, but if the shop keepers had had a bit of punk spirit, we could have seen it off. [At the public planning meeting about the supermarket, the failure of local businesses to object was taken as support for Tesco….]
4. What are you up to these days?
Mainly I am a carer for my disabled son, but in between I have become a Master of Philosophy by writing a 50 000 word thesis at a local university, engaged n community activism of various types, written thousands of words on my Green Galloway ( which has lots of punk related stuff on it) blog and the KYPP (ditto!) blog. Most recently I have been active in the (Scottish) Radical Independence Campaign pushing for a non-nationalistic anarcho-green vision of a future Scotland. I have also been working (writing copy) for the newly revived All the Madmen record label.
5. Please describe the greatest punk gig you ever saw...
That would have to be when the Rezillos played in Castle Douglas ( my home town) Town Hall in the summer of 1977. For a small town in rural Scotland, it was amazing that it happened at all and astounding in the intensity of the Rezillos performance which reflected the rapturous intensity of the audience. At the end I jumped up on stage and got the crowd to call out for an encore- which we got…
6. Name a great punk b-side and why is it great?
1977 by the Clash ‘ No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones…’ - out with the old, in with the new. It marked a break with the past, it was saying the old rock gods are dead, its time to move on. It was quite a shock. I was too young for Elvis, but the Beatles and the Stones were the music I had grown up with. This was Year Zero. It was a choice between the past and present. It didn’t want to have to choose. But I did. I chose punk…
Name: Alistair Livingston
What are you up to these days? : See above
Part 3 Sleeve Notes for Overground Records re-release of ‘Let the Tribe Increase’ by The Mob 2009
“ We are not afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth . There is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie may blast and burn its own world before it finally leaves the stage of history. We who ploughed the fields and built the cities can build again, only better next time. We carry a new world, here in our hearts. That world is growing this minute." ----Buenaventura Durruti (Spanish anarchist 1896- 1936)
I first met the Mob in 1982, when they were living at Brougham Road in Hackney, east London. Brougham Road had been built 100 years earlier, as one of an endless succession of cheap, brick built streets of terraced houses. In the 1970s huge swathes of Victorian Hackney were demolished to be replaced with tower blocks. Brougham Road (complete with its outside toilets) had been due for demolition, but the money ran out about the same time as punk emerged. So Brougham Road survived to become home to a vibrant and diverse community of squatters. On one side lay a newly built housing estate, on the other a derelict wasteland. Brougham Road was still squatted when the Mob arrived in 1981. Before the move to London, the Mob had been living in the depths of rural England - Seend and Stoke sub Hamdon.
The Mob were living in a rented house in Seend in Wiltshire and we bought a bus to tour on. When we got it ready we took it for a test drive to visit Josef who was living in Brougham Road. The next morning a guy walked out of number 74 and asked us if we wanted to buy the house for £40. This was the amount he had spent on getting water on and changing the Yale lock. We only lived in Seend for a few months. Our real roots are in Stoke sub Hamdon in Somerset. The Seend place was our first attempt at communal living. We knew an old gay gangster from Yeovil and he set it all up. The real shining light of living in Yeovil for me was the closeness of Stonehenge. We would go on school trips to London and would pass the festival which at the time was only 2 or 300 people. I remember vividly thinking "That’s for me". From about 77 or 78 the whole Yeovil scene would decamp to Stonehenge for weeks on end. Most of the songs were written hitch- hiking up and down the A303 to London. [Mark Wilson of the Mob]
Seend is village near Melksham in Wiltshire in the west of England. In 1801 it had a population of 1000. About the time Brougham Road was being built it experienced a brief industrial revolution when three blast furnaces smelting local iron ore employed 300 people, but by 1981 the furnaces were long since gone and it had become a rural hamlet of 1000 once more. Stoke sub Hamdon is an even smaller hamlet in Somerset. How could a punk group like the Mob emerge from such places?
The answer lies in the way that punk radiated out from its ground zero in London. Punk did not just explode in cities like Manchester. Inspired by the Sex Pistols ‘anti-Jubilee‘ of 1977, punk also exploded in the most remote and obscure towns and villages inspiring hundreds, even thousands, of punk groups across the UK. Most of these flowers in the dustbin of history faded as swiftly as they had flourished, but a few, like the Mob, survived.
The Mob were able to survive through their connections with an older counterculture. Whilst punk in London began to decay, the Mob were playing gigs with archetypal hippies Here and Now, along with Zounds and the Androids of Mu. This hippy/ punk crossover had its punk roots in the 1978 ATV/ Here and Now tour which took in Stonehenge Free Festival- and where the Mob also played.
The Mob’s relocation to Brougham Road was fortuitous. Thanks to a Crass/ Poison Girls benefit single- Bloody Revolutions/ Persons Unknown, in late 1981 an anarchist centre was set up in a warehouse in Wapping in east London. This became the launch pad for dozens of anarchist punk groups. It also became the focus for an anarchist punk community which survived the collapse of the Wapping centre to create a new anarchy centre in west London - the Centro Iberico. The Centro Iberico was an abandoned school which had been squatted by Spanish anarchists, including veterans of the Spanish Civil War. The Mob were actively involved in both these ventures, as well as the string of squatted anarchy/peace centres which followed on.
The Mob were also actively involved in a spin-off venture - the Black Sheep Housing Co-op. The Mob did not just play benefits for this punk co-operative - they helped rebuild the derelict houses the co-op were given. The Black Sheep Co-op survived until 2002, and some of its houses remain in co-operative ‘multiple -occupancy’ to this day. The survival, against the odds, of the Black Sheep Co-op and its houses has its echoes in the survival, against the odds, of the collective -the tribe- which the Mob were part of and which they helped create. Evidence of this survival can be found on the Kill Your Pet Puppy website - www.killyourpetpuppy.co.uk
Kill Your Pet Puppy was a punk fanzine created by the Puppy Collective as successor to Tony D.’s . ‘Ripped and Torn’ fanzine in 1979. After an encounter with the Mob in the summer of 1981, involvement with the various anarchy centres and participation in the Black Sheep Housing Co-op, the Puppy Collective became part of the tribe as it increased. Indeed, “Let the Tribe Increase” came out of a “what if. ..” conversation between Mark Wilson of the Mob and members of the Puppy Collective. Mark then approached Rough Trade (at that time also a co-operative) who said if the Mob could find the recording costs, they would pay the record pressing costs. One of those who helped finance "Let the Tribe Increase" was Mick Lugworm. As well as forming his own group (The Lugworms), Mick wrote for Kill Your Pet Puppy and sold more copies of the zine than the rest of the Puppies put together. Recently Mick explained why he became involved:
"The anarcho-punk scene was great but mainly for the people involved and not the music. There were a few notable exceptions like Rudimentary Peni but most of the bands sounded very similar. The Mob were like a breath of fresh air amongst the black-clad hordes. I know some people think their music sounds a bit grim at times with songs like “I Wish” (I remember John Peel taking the piss after playing a song from the album) but as people and as a live band the opposite is true. Mob gigs were always joyous affairs full of people grinning and dancing. I’d never really liked Penny Rimbaud’s bombastic production of “No Doves Fly Here” and knew that they had the option of making an album with Crass. When I heard the band would rather put out an album on their own, I was only too happy to lend the money to record it. The album was recorded and mixed over 3 days at Spaceward Studios in Cambridgeshire. Once the sound levels had been set up, most of the songs were recorded quickly as the songs had been well-honed at gigs. I remember a bit of time was spent on Josef’s tom-tom intro to “Never Understood”, talking crap on “Roger” and Curtis loving watching “Barbarella” on video in the evening but not much else. I’m glad to have had a part to play in a record that has stood the test of time." Mick Lugworm September 2008
And so “Let the Tribe Increase” was made. The costs of the album were based on the assumption that it would sell only 10 000 copies. But the tribe was bigger than imagined - 20 000 of the first pressing were sold. The profits from this unexpected outcome were then recycled back into the Mob’s All the Madmen record label which, with pleasing symmetry, eventually found a home back on Brougham Road.
By then the Mob had moved on, having split up in late 1983. Josef began Blyth Power, initially with Curtis‘ help. Curtis later became a chef , but Blyth Power are still making music. Mark spent the winter of 1983 sewing himself a tipi, bought a fluorescent orange fire truck and became a traveller for the next few years before settling down back in Wiltshire.
Finally…there is an ambiguity to the Mob. Heard in isolation, ‘Let the Tribe Increase’ can sound doom-laden and apocalyptic. The lyrical nihilism of punk was often hard to hear, so short, sharp and fast were the songs. The Mob slowed the music down making inescapable the bleakness of their vision. And yet in the flesh, in the moments of excess of their live performances, the Mob were uplifting and inspiring. Somehow, amidst the ruins, the Mob made real the possibility of the new world we carried in our hearts.
Part 4 Sleeve Notes to ‘May Inspire Revolutionary Acts’ by the Mob on Overground records 2007
I am listening to The Mob’s 1983 album ’Let the Tribe Increase’ and looking at the cover of a 1996 book which shows two ‘new age traveller’ style road protestors standing on a pile of chalk at Twyford Down, blowing horns. The photo is on the cover of ’Senseless Acts of Beauty : Cultures of Resistance since the Sixties’. It is a damn good book, moving from free-festivals to acid house raves, but it annoys me. Or rather this quote does: …
Of all the successful punk and post-punk outfits, Crass alone managed that most difficult of manoeuvres: to avoid recuperation, to maintain political and artistic autonomy in the music industry. That is such an achievement . If punk was a discourse of authenticity , obsessed with street credibility, with not ‘selling out’, Crass must be placed at the centre of that discourse.
I underlined the ‘Crass alone’ bit and scribbled ‘ What about the Mob!’ in the margin. Then I took it up with the author, George MacKay, who was a lecturer, now professor, of Cultural Studies. He apologised. He had never heard of The Mob, did not know about the many ‘Anarchy Centres’, about the punk squatting scene, about fanzines like Kill Your Pet… about any of it. A whole underground punk ‘culture of resistance’ had grown, flowered and faded between 1978 and 1985. It spread like some strange mutant weed through an ever shifting and changing network of squats across London. Then it vanished without trace, leaving only ‘Crass’ in its wake.
So what about The Mob then? Did they sell out, get recuperated, get lost in ‘the discourse of authenticity’ that was punk? Of course they didn’t. They were just one step ahead of Crass, deciding Ziggy Stardust style “to break up the band before the kids had killed the man “ in 83 rather than 84. It felt a bitter blow at the time. Since 1981, The Mob had become part of the underground punk ‘culture of resistance’. Crass were never part of the mutant punk squatting scene in the way The Mob were. At the same time, The Mob never got lost in this London underworld. Indeed, they played a decisive and critical role in opening it up to other countercultural influences. To understand why The Mob were so important, this has to be understood.
Go back to 1976, punk was and still is presented as a Year Zero event. But was 1976 really a Year Zero? Of course it wasn’t. Rather punk was a William Burroughs style cut-up of already existing counterculture images and ideas and styles, pasted, or rather stitched, together by Vivienne Westwood in 1975 whilst Malcolm Mclaren was trying to re-invent the New York Dolls.
Confusingly, at the same time as punk, remnants of the late sixties/ early seventies counterculture were also re-inventing themselves via Stonehenge and other Free Festivals. To travel between these festivals, people started converting trucks and buses into mobile homes. In myth and maybe even fact the ‘Tibetan Ukranian Mountain Troupe’ were influential in this free festival travelling scene. They lived permanently on the road in a convoy of converted trucks and buses. In 1982 I remember going to visit Mark Wilson of The Mob at Brougham Road in Hackney - a whole street of squatted houses which was also a vibrant and creative mutant punk/ counterculture cross-over zone. At the back of Brougham Road was an old bus garage and Mark took me round to see ‘the Tibetans’ who were parked up there. I was a wee bit puzzled - why should a bunch of Buddhist monks be living in a bus garage? But of course it was really the Tibetan Ukranian Mountain Troupe.
I don’t know how far the ‘Tibetans’ inspired Mark. The Mob were already part of the Stonehenge traveller scene. They played at the festival several times from 1978 onwards as this mention from http://www.ukrockfestivals.com/henge-history-78-79.html shows. “I also saw The Mob, a very rough punk band from Yeovil. The drummer did some of the singing and the frontman had a cheapo black Arbiter guitar exactly like mine…they were awful.”
The Mob were the main influence in this counterculture crossover, but if you read behind the lines of punk, it was there from the beginning. In John Robb’s ‘Oral History’ of punk, Brian James, Captain Sensible and Mick Jones all mention the Pink Fairies as an inspiration. Mick Jones even says he was at the 1970 Phun City free festival - see
http://www.ukrockfestivals.com/phun-city-menu.html where the Fairies played. The Pink Fairies and their mates Hawkwind were part of a pre-punk underground ’culture of resistance’, which was based around west London squats like ’The Independent Free State of Frestonia’ - Freston Road. Punk at first rejected and then absorbed influences from this previous counterculture. This can best be seen in what is now called ‘anarcho-punk’. Part of the influence was passed on via Crass, but Crass were not the only source. The anarchic, second-hand Situationist, second-hand counterculture ideas and approaches which made ‘anarcho-punk’ a politicised ‘culture of resistance’ were already there, a revolutionary current waiting for a next generation to pick up and take a stage further.
A revolutionary current? Yes. Just look at the ‘Stop the City’ demonstrations of 1983 and 1984. Which in turn inspired road protest activists Reclaim the Streets to try and ‘Reclaim the City’ in 1999 and which in turn inspired the protests which now greet every G 8 summit…
Do I need to go on and on? The raw pain, the raw emotions of everyday life which The Mob transformed into such powerful and passionate music remain as real now as they ever were. So long as we still live under the pressure of a witch hunt which keeps “stubbing out progress where the seeds are sown/ killing off anything that’s not quite know” then this cd should come with a warning : ‘May Inspire Revolutionary Acts’.
I am sure it will.
Part 5 Written 2005 Subway-surfing anarcho-goth-punks
Legend has it that when Tony D. First saw Jeremy Gluck of The Barracudas, he was carrying a surfboard down an escalator at Holborn tube station in 1978. The Barracudas were a surf-punk band, celebrating early sixties California in late seventies London. They even had a hit in (?) with 'I want my woody back'. Jeremy joined the Puppy Collective and wrote an article in praise of 'stupid songs' for KYPP 1 featuring Abba, Boney M, the Village People and Blondie.
Fast forward to early 1981 and the Puppy Collective are surfing the subway to see The Barracudas play rock n roll heaven, the legendary Hope and Anchor pub halfway down Upper Street, Islington. It was a venue I had never visited before. The pub was upstairs, the bands played downstairs in a tiny basement on a stage which must have been all of six inches high. It was hot and sticky. Sweat evaporated instantly and then condensed on the ceiling to fall back down like rain on the audience.
At some point in the evening's proceedings, most of the Puppy Collective vanished, leaving only myself and Tony to re-create obscure dance moves from the Sixties as our tribute to The Barracudas.
Gay Punx and a Parallel Universe
The lost puppies returned a few days later, full of strange tales. They had apparently entered a parallel universe and found a lost tribe of gay punx living in a squatted corner shop in Islington. They even had the evidence to prove it. On closer inspection, the evidence was revealed to consist of an article about gay punks in Gay Noise magazine (swiftly cut up and retourned for KYPP 4) and flyers for gigs at a squatted church on the Pentonville Road called "the parallel universe". From here on in, any coherent linear narrative breaks down. All that remains are a jumble of dubious 'recovered memories'.
The Mob on Parliament Hill
The gay punx/ Gay Noise was written by Pip. Pip lived at 51 Huntingdon Street in Islington, a former corner shop with its windows breeze blocked in. H. Street as it was called for reasons which will become apparent later, was part of a punk squatting scene which had diverged from that of the Puppy Collective a few years earlier. It is all somewhat confusing, but from 1977 onwards, as more and more teenagers were drawn to London by punk, punk squats began to emerge as the squatting scene of a previous generation (i.e. Frestonia/ Freston Road W 11) decayed.
For a while, members of the Puppy Collective lived in a squat at Covent Garden. later they lived in a derelict fire station at Old Street, right on the edge of the City of London. After this squat was evicted, some occupied an abandoned hospital, St. Monica's, in north London. Other punks moved to Campbell Buildings near Waterloo. Campbell Buildings gained a reputation as 'hell on earth'. As Bob Short of Blood and Roses put in an interview with Tony D. , published in Zig Zag magazine, "It was like boredom for weeks, then there would be a murder".
What happened in 1981 was a re-connection between these divergent strands of punk. Pip invited the Puppy Collective over for a meal (vegetarian lausange) and the next morning we trekked back across notrth London to search for magic mushrooms on Hampstead Heath. None were found. What we did find was The Mob playing a free gig in an adventure playground on Parliament Hill Fields.
The Mob. Though we did not know it at the time, The Mob were to become inextricably entwined with the Kill Your Pet Puppy Collective and the Centro Iberico, with 'anarcho-punk' and the Black Sheep Housing Co-op and with our magickal mystery tour to Stone(d)henge and beyond. Through Min, who I met that afternoon, another series of connections emerged, leading from Throbbing Gristle to Psychic
The Mob. West country punks. John Peel (of sacred memory) picked up and played their second single "Witch Hunt", which is how we knew of them. "Still living with the English fear, waiting for the witch hunt dear". Not sure when they moved up to London, but by 82 they were mainstays of 'the scene'. The connection with the Puppy Collective was briefly intimate (Tony's sister Val ' I am not a Puppy' and Mark Mob were an item for a while). Plans for The Mob's album 'Let the Tribe Increase' were made on the back of a shopping list in the kitchen of Puppy Mansions. My contribution was to ask how much it would cost to make an album (such a quaint word these days). Mark jotted down some figures and then went to Rough Trade who offered to pay the pressing costs if he could raise the recording costs. Thanks to Crass, who had released their single 'No Doves Fly Here', The Mob were able to build on the strength of 'Witch Hunt' to become, thanks to 'Let the Tribe Increase', a major influence on anarcho-punk.
Their very success became a problem, at least for main Mob person Mark Wilson. Inspired by an encounter with uber hippy travellers the Ukrainian Mountain Troupe, who had occupied an abandoned bus garage near Brougham Road in Hackney. ( Brougham road was (a row of squatted houses where ex Bader Meinhof person Astrid Proll biefly lived. Her sojourn there inspired a song by Nik Turner of Hawkwind fame). Mark bought a truck and made himself a tipi over the winter of 1983/4 whilst living at 103 Grosvenor Avenue, part of the Islington based anarcho-punk Black Sheep Housing Co-op. As Tom Vague would no doubt point out, members of the Angry Brigade had lived on the same street a decade earlier. Black Sheep's anarcho-punk credentials were established by managing to acquire Andy Palmer of Crass as an active member. But on a point of information, the original inspiration for the Black Sheep Co-op came from anarcho-communist Andy Martin of The Apostles.
To cut this part of the saga short, by 84, an idea first expressed by Mark P's ATV/ Here and Now tour of 1978, which took in a performance at Stonehenge Free Festival had become a reality. First a trickle, then a surge of the punk generation became 'hippy travellers', much to the discomfiture of tribal elders like John Pendragon.
Thelemic punk- Blood and Roses.
Back to 81. Clissold Park, Stoke Newington. One of London's 'lost rivers' ran through here, down from Seven Sisters and on past Abbney Park Cemetery, along part of Brooke Road, thjrough the edge of Hackney Downs (with a ford on Mare Street) to the river Lea. I didn't know that then.
What I did know was that Bob Short had been one of the Old Street fire station squatters and then the last survivor at Campbell Buildings. Now Bob had a band and they were to play on the outdoor stage at Clissold Park. I remember going with Puppy Collective, but not much more. Did we end up back at Bayston Road? Or not?
Bob's group evolved into Blood and Roses. The name came from a vampire film by Roger Vadim. Bob was and still is a movie buff. Thanks to Bob I saw Blade Runner and Assault on Precinct 13, Alien and ET. Blade Runner still haunts me, Alien still scares me. Blood and Roses created an evocative and powerful version of the theme to assault on Precinct 13 for John peel. Still got it on tape somewhere. Safely back in Australia, Bob is still making music and making movies. Just seen a couple. Makers of the Dead and a spoof Christian tv show. Makers of the Dead is a fascinating and brilliantly subversive re-writing of Bram Stoker's Dracula set in present day Oz. The spoof religious tv show is perhaps more directly subversive and just happens to be side-splittingly hilarious.
"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, love is the law, love under will..." . The chorus of a Blood and Roses song, which is also they key mantra of Thelemic magickians. Or followers of mad, bad and dangerous to know Edward Alexander (Aleister) Crowley to get tabloid. If The Mob were the dayside of anarcho-punk, Blood and Roses were the evil twin , the anarcho-goth nightside. Although The Mob and Blood and Roses occasionally played on the same bill, their worlds did not collide. They just overlapped a wee bit.
At the Centro Iberico for example. But that came later, so I will have to return to the Hope and Anchor. Discovering the Parallel Universe opened up fresh set of possibilities, allowed a movement away from straight venues, created opportunities for a punk underground to develop as an alternative to the overground represented by 'oi!' punk as promoted by Gary Bushell , then of Sounds, now of the Sun. But ... it also meant a gradual retreat into an ideologically pure ghetto, a return to the pre-Grundy period when the Sex Pistols were an underground group playing to a self-selected elite of hip dudes and dudettes. It was a slow death, but it was a dying none the less.
Like all squats, the Parallel Universe was physically only ever a temporary space. A gang of 'dossers' hung out there and resented their space being taken over by a bunch of spotty punks. Eventually the church caught fire and lay derelict for years before being tunred into trendy offices. Bit of psychogeography - a famous Victorian clown was buried in the attached graveyard which remains a place of pilgrimage for the clowning community. [From memory- haven't fact checked that info. but it ought to be true even if it isn't actually].
Fortunately the Autonomy Centre set up post Persons Unknown trial with the help of Crass/ Poison Girls became our new church. The original idea (Andy Martin's?) was just to have a few benefit gigs to pay the rent, but they turned into a regular Sunday feature over the winter of 81/2.
On John Eden's website there is a whole chunk by Andy Martin about the Wapping Autonomy Centre, complete with lists of the bands who played. The Puppy Collective's contribution was to buy crates of cheap lager to sell alongside fanzines and anarchist literature in a back room.
Didn't last though. According to Albert Meltzer's online autobiog, the punks trashed the place and then the landlord threw everyone out. Which is true. What is also true is that the Autonomy Centre was never a viable economic proposition. There just weren't enough straight anarchists around to keep it going without the punk gigs, but the punks gigs broke the lease agreement (no music, no alcohol)... echoes of similar sixties ventures. Except instead of Crass and the Poison Girls, places like the Indica bookshop were financed by the Beatles [ see In the Sixties by Barry Miles : Jonathon Cape: 2002 or All Dressed Up by Jonathon Green].
Aside - Tom Vague has done an excellent job by creating a seamless narrative for West eleven/ Notting Hill which firmly puts 'the sixties' in a before and after context - see www.historytalk.com and numerous Vagues.
Centro Iberico 421a Harrow Road W9
Knit your own anarchy centre. It was an old school on the Harrow Road. Brick built circa 1900, similar to the one my kids later went to in Hackney and again in New Cross. Real Spanish anarchists lived there, some were veterans of 1936. There was a proper assembly hall with a stage on the first floor. We got the use of the ground floor and built a stage out of old cookers ( I had a photo, used in Punk Lives, of Tony hard at work building the stage). It was a bigger space than Wapping and its active life as Anarchy Centre lasted through into the summer of 82.
Still have a bright yellow double sided A 4 flyer Tony produced for it.
National tragedy 23 million people still employed!
The Autonomy Centre in Wapping has now officially closed after being largely unused in its year long existence- apart from the gigs there every Sunday from November to Feb 21st (till the landlord found out).
As the gigs were the Centre's only form of income it was inevitable it had to close -£680 rent every three months, next payment would have been made on March 22nd. Around £700 was paid into the bank from concerts, another £50 used to repair the drum kit that was used almost every week and to buy materials and keep running the Centro Iberico. As this is written there is £89 in the kitty, but there is also a list of things that are needed quickly:
Microphones , chemical toilets (what people in caravans and things use) , tape recorders, a plug board (not enough sockets in hall),paint/brushes to paint banners to decorate the place, food/tea/coffee that you eat and drink free each week (or pay a little for the food)...
This isn't just a gig venue run by an elite clique of people. As we said in our last Sunday Supplement "A kick up the arse", if you don' t put energy into the centre well all get pissed off and put none in ourselves and then where will you be? The Lyceum? The Clarendon? the 100 club? Twice the cost, half the bands and bouncers = no fun. Thieves, no-one paying, no participation = no A centre. Its your centre, use it, don't abuse it ...etc.
When a new, permanent place is found that we can use during the daytime for more than just gigs, then these gigs now should have raised enough to pay for facilities and things that can be used by and for all. If you have any ideas about what should be there, come along early and discuss it.
Crass have shown interest in helping out but they don't want to be used as a money source (the way Iris Mills and crew did in the setting up of the last place) - this place has to be financially independent...
£1 entry, doors open 4.30pm, first band on at 7pm, finish at 10.30pm
21st March 12 Cubic feet/ apostles/ Lack of Knowledge/ Replaceable heads
28th March Rubella Ballet/ Action Pact/ Dead Man's Shadow
4th April Subhumans / Organised Chaos/ Locusts/ Hagar the Womb
11th April EASTER -no trains? no bands? probably a free mind boggling weird and wonderful day
18th April Flux/ Cold War/ Screaming Babies
25th April The Mob/ Bikini Mutants/ D-notice
Dotted around the text little Situ quotes
Authority is the Negation of Creativity
Disobey your Jailors- Smash the Spectacle
All power to the imagination/ imagine no power
In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act
Anarcho-punk, anarcho-goth - and Crass had fuck all to do with it. Got a single recorded by Conflict there, but probably belongs to Tinsel. Got a tape with Blood and Roses going nova with Curse on You live at the Centro ... and didn't they play Sister Ray there once? The first Sunday there was nothing so we banged bits of wood and metal together and sang Patti Smith songs "We shall live again..."
It was the kind of atmosphere which the previous underground turned into legends - like Pink Floyd playing the IT launch party at the Roundhouse/ Hawkwind and Pink Fairies playing under the Westway... or the stuff of 76/77 punk mythology. But by 82 a few hundred crazy-coloured anarcho- gothic punks were? What? An invisible sub-sub culture and the whole scene has been re-written 1984 style as if it was Crass what done it.
But Crass were out in Epping, not there on the streets and in the squats. If anything, as their influence grew, the walls closed in. Or was it the politics? Re-election of Thatcher in 83 and the unfolding consequences? Another angle is the failure of 'anarcho-punk' to become class conscious and engage with real political struggles.
But I reckon the average age of anarcho-punks was about 17 - working class/ middle class = parents. I worked in a factory all the way through the period - there was no point of contact between the worlds. Oh, apart from when the Black Sheep Housing Co-op made the front page of an outraged Evening Standard (thanks to my soundbite!) and into the daily Mail...
"Was that your bunch Alistair? " I was asked. My subsequent move from a bed-sit in Ilford to a Black Sheep house in Islington was met with incredulity.
"You don't want to move there. I was brought up in Hoxton, bloody awful place full of darkies now, you want to move out to Romford like me" . Or Epping, where my boss lived... no niggers there.
I sometimes wonder how many lefty politicos have ever actually worked in a factory.
More Anarchy Centres, Acid Houses and City Stopping
There were dozens. Even the Hope and Anchor got squatted. The Black Sheep managed to open up half a dozen in and around Islington and Mick (Luggy) was head-hunted to go and help open up Peace Centres in places like Leeds. Even Pyschic TV played a gig in a briefly squatted synagogue - but by then the scene had mutated, with ex anarchos becoming born again Psychic Youths and some carrying on even furthur to become 'hippy' travellers.
The Mutoid Waste Company took to creating situations in squatted warehouses, which evolved into acid house parties and years later fused with the free festival scene which in turn inspired the Dongas of Twyford Down to start the road protest movement.
On a different tack, how about Stop the City? Dave Morris of London Greenpeace/ Maclibel trial was instigator there, but a certain Pinki aided and abetted him. 29th September 83 was first Stop the City... and the idea came around again through Reclaim the Streets in 1999 and is still live as in 2005 G8 summit protests. Which is a very brief summary of a lot of things going on, but trolling through the internet, I have found enough links and connections to take it all back to the Parallel Universe in 81. Sort of. Trouble is there is too damn much stuff. I haven't even mentioned the Peace Convoy from Stonehenge Free Festival to Greenham Common in July 82. It is like some weird inverted conspiracy theory in which everything connects - or at least it does if a bit of disbelief is suspended.
Part Six - answers to ‘Anarcho-Punk, Society and the Falklands War Questionnaire 2008’
These are my answers to a questionnaire sent out by John Simpson.
N.B. Please bear in mind that the focus here is history as the individual remembers it, feel free to elaborate as much as you can. You may, of course, for convenience or otherwise, choose not to answer any of following the questions. Thank you in advance for any assistance.
Name: Alistair Livingston
Occupation 1980-1986 (or thereabouts):
I worked for the London Rubber Company [Durex condoms] as a draughtsman and engineering estimator from 1977 to 1983, ran All the Madmen record company 1984/5 [sole employee], and helped look after a young child 1985/6.
Email address (entirely optional):email@example.com
Please provide a sentence or two indicating the circumstances of your life during this period:
It was pretty intense – working full time in factory and training to be an engineer, living in bedsit in Ilford to begin with, going to gigs and anarchist meetings (Persons Unknown Trial support group), then becoming a punk at weekends as part of the Kill Your Pet Puppy Collective, going to various anarchy centres etc, moving into a Black Sheep (punk) Housing Co-op house, giving up a well paid job to run a record company, meeting my future wife [married in 1988, had four kids by 1991] who was a Greenham Woman and Stonehenge Campaign person by 1986 living with her and son in a council flat in Hackney. With various events in between... it was an incredibly intense, creative and chaotic few years.
How effective do you feel artistic responses to political issues are? (i.e. how political can music be?)
That is a skewed question, implying art and politics have a cause and effect relationship. Art and politics arise together out of the experience of everyday life – and you can have political reponses to artisitic issues – for example when the Nazi's exhibited 'deviant art', or when religious groups try to ban 'blasphemous' art.
Self-consciously political art works as propoganda, but obvious propoganda is usally pretty cheesy -for example USSR socialist realism – which was countered ideologically (and quite effectively/ not cheesily) by the USA (CIA) who financed shows of abstract expressionism.
Music can be as overtly political as you care to make it. However overtly political music – like national anthems [UK one has unused line about “Rebellious Scots to crush” , written in response to Jacobite threat] – is less effective because it is like in your face adverts saying 'YOU MUST Buy this product'. Music works because it evokes emotions and feelings - not rational thought. Even if you mix strong words in the music, the repetition of the words as the piece of music becomes familiar will blur and fade the impact of those words.
Where the music is heard is important too – a piece of music played at a demonstration or political rally will have a different impact to hearing it as background music on a radio, or on an mp3 player.
2. Does this response change when considering music as a reaction to war?
(Consider the US folk revival and Vietnam protests)
No. Music can also be part of war, can, if used as part of nationalistic propoganda create the conditions for war by evoking patriotic fervour. The US troops in Vietnam listened to rock music and probably sang along with Country Joe and the Fish's 'Feels like I'm fixing to die'...
Do you feel the aims of anarchism were properly represented through the anarcho-punk movement? What role did the structure of the music industry play?
This is an unhelpful question. Firstly, there was no 'anarcho-punk movement'. The phrase 'anarcho-punk' was first used by journalist/ muscian David Tibet in a review of a gig by Kukul in 1984. It was never used by any of the participants at the time and has only retrospectively been applied to give the illusion of coherence to one part of punk in the period 1979/1985.
Since even today there is debate and discussion amongst self-confessed anarchists about what the 'aims of anarchism' are, it is not possible to assess the representation of such undefined aims in punk.
This question requires that something called 'anarchism' existed then as a clearly formulated set of beliefs and ideas which punks could try to represent 'properly'. But there was no such one true anarchism, rather there were (and still are) several different anarchisms. Some punks took ideas from various of these anarchisms, but never in any straightforward way and those borrowings were mixed with situationist thefts, bits n bobs of marxism, a hefty chunk of nihilism, a wiff of fascism/nazism and so on.
The role played by the structure of the music industry was to encourage a DIY approach to producing and distributing music. The stucture of the music industry means it is only interested in commercial products. By 1980 punk was in (mainstream) commercial decline, becoming a niche market like heavy metal. Even if a group had wanted to 'sell-out' they would not have been able to since no major record label was interested in boring old punk.
So a DIY – at its most basic a network of people swopping tapes – 'home music industry' emerged, mixed in with fanzines. Within this DIY scene the 'music industry' was irrelevant. There was no mass market and so no need for mass production.
4. How do you feel anarcho-punk effected mainstream culture on the whole?
a) Was this important to you and others around you?
b) How do you feel mainstream culture effected anarcho-punk?
Oh dear.... struggling to get through this. Since I have suggested that there never was an 'anarcho-punk movement', it follows that it could not have had an effect on mainstream culture. There were 'anarchic punks' , who did have an effect on mainstream culture, but as part of a continuing countercultureof which punk was a part. The continuing counterculture had an effect on mainstream culture during the early eighties by strongly opposing attempts to heighten the Cold War – for example the deployment of nuclear Cruise missiles.
This was very important because it could not be ignored I.e. it was popular enough to become part of mainstream culture - and challenged the whole idea that 'we' were engaged in a life or death military struggle with an 'evil empire'.
What might have happened if there had been no such anti-nuclear/ peace movement then?
No opposition would have led to a build up of nuclear weapons (eg Molseworth was planned as a second base after Greenham) and there may even have been popular support for taking a hard line with the Russians – along patriotic/ nationlalistic lines.
This would have increased Russian paranoia, so they would have acted more agressively, increasing western fears... the end result could have been a sprial into war – but a nuclear war...
Which answersd part b. - the influence of mainstream culture on anarchic punks was to make us think - “These nutters could kill us all”and so overcome the more nihilistic aspects of punk.
5. What sort of legacy do you feel the anarcho-punk movement of the 80s maintains? How much does this matter to those involved in the movement itself?
The legacy is that we are not all dead in a nuclear war... which matters quite a bit to those of us who have survived.
What was your own reaction to the Falklands War? Was this consistent with other members of your band and/or the anarcho-punk scene?
I thought the Falklands War was a total farce. I don't remember anyone getting very excited about it.
What do you remember of the Crass releases ‘Sheep Farming in the Falklands’ and ‘How Does it Feel…’?
No memory at all. Never bought them, never listened to them. I thought Crass had wilfully misunderstood punk then and still do now. Vastly overrated, far too authoritarian to be punk.
What kind of progress do you feel has been made in sub-cultural/countercultural movements and music? Could a band or song have more or less impact today than in 1982?
There is no such thing as progress, only change. The idea of progress is the enemy, it justifies all manner of idiocies. Subcultural/ countercultural movements and music are no better and no worse than they were in 1982 – only different. Back then, nuclear war was the big threat – today it is global warming. A band or song could have more or less impact today than in 1982... Might have more impact. Might have less. I could be wrong. I could be right...
Part seven Answers to questions asked by the late Lance Hahn 2006
Lance Hahn of Honeybear records has asked me a series of questions for a possible 'anarcho-punk' book project - working title 'Let the Tribe Increase'
Here are the questions and my dubious replies.
How did you get into punk rock? What was appealing about it?
When I was 16 and at school [Kirkcudbright Academy- in very small town in rural south west Scotland] in 1975 when a friend loaned me Patti Smith's version of 'My Generation/Gloria' but I didn't think it was very good so when the same friend said I should listen to Patti Smith's Horses I didn't bother.( Horses is now one of my all time favourite records). It was not until I heard New Rose by the Damned in late/ October 1976 that punk first grabbed me. The songs which really turned me on to punk were Neat Neat Neat by the Damned and White Riot by the Clash. The Sex Pistols 'Anarchy in the UK ' confused me - it did not sound as 'revolutionary' as I had been led to believe it was by the music press.
To confuse the situation more, I had visited London in the summer of 76, but spent my time searching for pre-punk counter culture Pink Fairies/ Hawkwind locations in west London e.g. Portobello Road. My main pre-punk music influence was late sixties/ early seventies counter culture. It was not really until summer 1977 (when the Rezillos played in my home town/ Castle Douglas Town Hall) and the whole anti-Jubilee / Pistols God Save the Queen 'political' aspect of punk hit home that I gave up my nostalgia for pre-punk counter culture and adopted punk as being 'my generation',
Do you think that there was a real relationship between punk and Situationist dogma or do you think that was mostly for fun?
To begin with, I doubt if Malcolm Mclaren and Vivienne Westwood were directly inspired by the Situationists, but once Jamie Reid was recruited a strong Situationist element was included. Jamie's work with The Suburban Press (1970-1974) was strongly influenced by Situationist theory and his Sex Pistols work continued this theme. Jamie's artwork for the [banned] cover of 'Holidays in the Sun' is pure Situ. Punk was never about 'fun' - it was always deadly serious. Or rather, punk took 'fun' seriously. Punk was revolutionary or it was nothing. If punk had not been revolutionary, it would have been just another a political popular youth subculture like Teddy Boys or Mods. But it was not. Punk took the suppressed elements of the Revolutionary/ Situationist late sixties/ early seventies counterculture and used them to briefly politicise popular youth culture - e.g. Pistols God Save the Queen in summer 1977. This was Situationist theory put into practice - as fun...
By the time of KYPP, Larry Law was producing his Spectacular Times which we cut up and sampled in various issues. I also remember at least one copy of Debord's Society of the Spectacle doing the rounds and for ages had a copy of The Revolution for Kids [? or some such title] I had picked up somewhere. I guess a lot depended on who you were. Some punks just listened to Anarchy in the UK, others tried to find out what 'anarchy' was. Ditto Situationist influences on punk - some punks went to places like Compendium bookshop in Camden or anarchist/ alternative bookshops and tried to follow the ideas through. In a way it was a bit like what happened with, for example, Bowie in the glam period - people/ kids like me would start by seeing Bowie on Top of the Pops, buy the single (Starman), buy the album (Ziggy Stardust) and then work backwards to Bowie's early material like Hunky Dory (from which Life on Mars got re-released after success of Ziggy) and then find mentions of Velvet Underground and connection with Lou Reed/ Transformer and go back to the original Velvet Underground records... which is how I ended I buying the first two VU albums in 1974.
But there was no attempt to fetishise 'Situationist dogma' within punk. It was there as an influence, just as glam and surrealism were.
What activities outside of the fanzine was the group involved with?
Many and various ... we helped run and organise several 'Anarchy Centres', a housing co-op (Black Sheep), went on political demonstrations, went to Stonehenge Free Festival and Greenham Common Peace Camp, the Stop the City demos in 1983 and 1984...
Who were some of the other members?
There were many members of the Kill Your Petty Puppy Collective - Jeremy Gluck of the Barracudas for example- in total about 20 people directly contributed, about 200 indirectly via the various Anarchy Centres, about 2000 as our readership, 20 000 through our link with The Mob and 200 000 as people who bought into the Crass version of anarcho-punk .
To what degree was there an interest in magic and what did that mean for you?
Magic was very much a minority interest. Myself, Tony D. and Bob of Blood and Roses were pretty much the only ones originally interested, but once Throbbing Gristle became Psychic TV after 1981, the situation changed and 'magic' became more a mainstream part of (post) punk . I only got involved with 'chaos magic' after 1986 so that was my 'post-punk' phase.
What did you feel was the uniting factors between punk, magic, Situ politics?
There was no uniting factor. Punk and Situ politics were/ are realistic and rationalistic, focused on everyday life. Magic is anti-realist and anti-rationalist, focused on the Otherworld. They can be united, but only by constructing personal creative interpretations and meanings for 'punk' , 'Situ politics' and 'magic' - which takes a long time to achieve and cannot easily be put into words. It is a question of recognising through experience a sense of similarity between them.
What do you think was so important about the Mob?
The Mob were important for us because they were like a musical version of KYPP. In terms of wider importance it is difficult to say. The Mob were part of the scene and offered a creative alternative to the restrictions imposed by the identification of Crass with 'anarcho-punk'.
Were there other bands as close to the collective as the Mob?
Probably not, but variously Blood and Roses, Hagar the Womb, Brigandage, the Turdburglars, the Barracudas, Zos Kia, Flowers in the Dustbin, Charge, the Associates, Rubella Ballet... it was a shifting mix of relationships between members of the collective and individual members of bands rather than between 'the collective' and 'the groups'.
At the time, did you relate to much of the other anarcho bands?
Thinking about it, and with reference to 10. above, the question misunderstands the situation at the time (1979/ 85). What there was a punk version of the UK/ London late sixties/ early seventies counterculture where there were several thousand self-confessed punks, with a concentration in London. Within the counterculture there was no clear boundary between 'audience' and 'performers', between fanzine writers and fanzine readers. I remember this most clearly from gigs when one group stopped playing they would get off the stage and return to the audience whilst the next group to play would step out of the audience and onto the stage (sometimes there wasn't even a stage). The Kill Your Pet Puppy 'collective' were indistinguishable from the 'punk collective'.
How would you describe the Centro Iberico to someone today?
The Centro Iberico was a place where the Do It Yourself ethic of punk prevailed, where anarchist theory was everyday practice. Where there was no boundary between audience and performers. This was challenging - there was no-one in charge so for something to happen (e.g. to build a stage and wire it up) those with enthusiasm to make it happen, had to enthuse enough others to get the job done. There was no 'product of alienated labour', no 'spectacle' to be 'passively consumed'. The biggest challenge was how change attitudes - how to persuade alienated youth not to trash place and get them to realise they 'owned' it. It was a problem punks with a squatting background had faced many times before... The Centro Iberico was about what happens after the revolution. How do we find ways to move from destruction of the old world to the creation of a new one? I remember the experience as exhilarating and liberating - the closest equivalent being the atmosphere on Claremont Road in 1993/4 during the M11 Road Protest Campaign. See http://www.geocities.com/londondestruction/claremont.html for a bit of historic background
How did you get involved with All The Madmen?
My involvement began in the kitchen of Puppy Mansions, Westbere Road, West Hampstead, London in early 1983. Mark Wilson of the Mob was there and he mentioned the idea of the Mob making an album. At the time I was being trained as a ‘Project Engineer’ by the London Rubber Company (makers of Durex condoms) so I applied a bit of the theory I was learning to the problem - break down a project into small do-able units and cost/ time them. So Mark began scribbling down the costs etc. of making an album on a scrap of paper - cost of studio time, cost of mastering disc, cost of art work, printing costs, pressing costs - which he knew from the Mob producing their own records like Witch Hunt.
Mark then managed to get Rough Trade (who distributed the Mob’s singles and knew that their ‘No Doves Fly Here’ single on Crass’ label had been a best seller) interested. Rough Trade told Mark that if he could finance the recording costs, they would cover the other costs in return for a distribution deal.
Mark then got myself and others (Mick Lugworm for example) to contribute to the recording costs and the Mob went into the studio and made the record - Let the Tribe Increase. With the help of Tony D. , Mick Mercer and other fanzine writers who were now writing for music papers (NME, Sounds, Melody Maker) and magazines like Zig Zag and Punk Lives, the album got rave reviews and sold well beyond expectations. This meant that by the end of 1983, the Mob had several thousands pounds held in credit by Rough Trade. Mark had the idea of using this money to put out records by other groups on their All the Madmen label and asked me to help manage the project. This I did, though it meant going from being paid £90 a week at London rubber to getting £15 a week …
Unfortunately, after releasing ‘The Mirror Breaks’ as a single, the Mob then split up. None of the other groups (The Astronauts, Flowers in the Dustbin and Zos Kia) on the label were able to sell more than the 1000 copies of their records needed to break even… so the money slowly began to run out. See following questions for next part of this story.
Who were Clair Obscur and how did they wind up on the label?
What was the story with their live LP?
I can’t answer these questions, I had parted company with All the Madmen by the time they were on the label.
Who were Zos Kia and how did you know them?
Zos Kia were a Psychic TV spin off group and in their early days crossed over with Coil. Psychic TV (1981) in turn came out of Throbbing Gristle who were contemporary (1976) with punk. Genesis P. Orridge of TG/ PTV lived in Beck Road in Hackney and there was a strange cross-over between Brougham Road (a squatted street where Mark of the Mob and many others including briefly former Bader-Meinhof gang member Astrid Proll lived and with a link to the original hippy-traveller Ukrainian Mountain Troupe group) and TG/ PTV…
Min was the direct link, she was ‘sort of’ a KYPP collective member, I first met her at a Mob gig at Parliament Hill Fields/ Hampstead Heath in summer 1981- which was also our first encounter with the Mob themselves. Another link was through Mouse, who was briefly a member of PTV and a friend of Coil.
Anyhow, through the various overlaps and connections, Zos Kia put out their single Rape on All the Madmen.
What was the “Rape” 7” about? I remember it being extremely shocking at the time.
The words of Rape were a graphic description by Min of when she was raped in the Australian outback whilst on a family holiday there. I am not sure how old she was at the time, about 14 I think. It was a traumatic experience. I cannot forget her describing it to me a couple of years before the record came out. She later told me she only listened to the record once. It was a personal exorcism. It is still intense and powerful, far more so than the ‘distanced’ explorations of extreme realities of other PTV or TG songs. After touring with Zos Kia, Min became a traveller and was at the Beanfield (Stonehenge Peace Convoy) police riot in 1985.
What were your main duties running the label?
I was the only employee / manager so had to do everything.. I did the marketing and promotion, kept the accounts and paid VAT, hung out at recording sessions, replied to fan letters, organised printing and pressing, liaised with Rough Trade/ the Cartel ( co-operative distribution network). Boring stuff.
Did you enjoy running the label?
Yes I did. Way back in 1972, long before punk, I became a fan of Hawkwind (after hearing their single Silver Machine and In Search of Space album). Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies were part of the late sixties/ early seventies UK counterculture and I wanted to be part of that… but by 76/7 punk was the scene and I wanted to be part of that as well. Running All the Madmen in 1984 and being part of the Puppy Collective seemed to me to be the fulfilment of my teenage dreams… the Mob were like Hawkwind/ Pink Fairies ( or the Sex pistols and Clash) and KYPP like International Times and OZ or Sniffing Glue.
But then the reality was also a necessary disenchantment/ disillusionment. Like the Gertrude Stein said about Los Angeles - ‘when you get there, there is no there there’. In theory I was ‘there’ at the heart of anarcho-punk, of the early eighties ‘post’ punk counterculture … but it seemed strangely empty .
How did Rob Challice wind up running ATM? Why did you quit?
I did not quit, I was asked to leave by Joseph (with the support of Curtis) of the Mob who got annoyed when he asked Rough Trade for some Mob money and was told that I was the only person who had access to the funds. Which is fair enough, since no formal agreement about how money earned by the Mob via the deal with Rough Trade should be paid out had been worked out. They left a letter on my desk saying Rob Challice was now in charge of ATM. I took this as a dismissal / redundancy letter. The only thing which annoyed me about this was that it meant that the Anarcha and Poppy record never got released. I thought this was a brilliant piece of music which should have been released… which it now has been.
Between the KYPP, ATM, Centro Iberico, etc. what do you think was your main interest and your best memories of the times?
My main interest was Kill Your Pet Puppy. I thought it was brilliant then and I still do. I put it up there with sixties counterculture magazines like International Times and OZ. Fuck Crass and their idiot ilk, KYPP was the real thing, they were just background noise. KYPP was PUNK. ATM and the Centro Iberico were interesting asides to KYPP and to the evolution of punk and I am proud that I was part of them. But when it comes to punk as revolutionary, as visionary, as creativity, as ‘be realistic: demand the impossible’ - it was KYPP which demanded the impossible and delivered it as reality.
How do you reflect back on those days?
OH! pleasant exercise of hope and joy!
For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood
Upon our side, we who were strong in love!
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!--Oh! times,
In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways
Of custom, law, and statute, took at once
The attraction of a country in romance!
As Wordsworth described the French Revolution. Our Revolution was inspired by the French revolution of May 1968, by the Situationists, by the Surrealists, by the Doors, by the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, by Patti Smith, by David Bowie and Marc Bolan, by the Pink Fairies, by the Sex Pistols, by… the Mob, Blood and Roses, Charge, by Adam and the Ants, by punk… but not Crass…
How do you reflect back on that music scene?
Ooops, think I have answered this above. Zounds, Rubella Ballet, … Hagar the Womb. Look Mummy, Clowns. But we also listened to the Human League and Soft Cell (well I did!) to Killing Joke and the Pop Group, to Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Psychedelic Furs, to Syd Barrett and the Misunderstood, Bow Wow Wow and the Slits, to Joy Division and New Order …. We were not bound to the constraints of ‘anarcho-punk’. We were anarchists, we were punks but the very act of such self-description destroyed the narrow boundaries of ‘anarcho-punk’ and librated us to create a ‘music scene’ beyond the puritanical constraints of ‘anarcho-punk’ as defined by Crass and their clones.
posted by Alistair Livingston | 10:29 pm