Friday, October 21, 2005


And so, another ghost from my early 80s brathood stumbles out of the fog, hands raised above its head. Looking at pics of 'Wearside Jack', I can't help but smile ; he looks like your archetypal jolly joker, the kind of irritating prat who's always drinking at the same pub and coming up with stupid pranks, like dropping a false eye into your pint the minute your back's turned. All good comedy contains a natural sliver of sadism, and you can really savour that image of his " ah'm a wag, me!" chuckling face, knowing that his world was shortly going to come crashing down after a quarter of a century of having gotten away scot-free as the voice of the fake Yorkshire Ripper.

At the same time, though...and trust me on this, I really don't find anything amusing about butchering women with screwdrivers, even if they happen to be Amanda Platell (nuns can fuck off though)....but, come on, cut the bloke a bit of slack. He's clearly retarded, as he still lives with his brother (((sorry, but I find it really suspect when people live with their blood relatives past the age of 18 - having said that, you'd understand this outlook perfectly if your parents had comprised an IRA teddy boy and the first female Pope. And obviously, sky-high rents in London are forcing more and more kids to stay at home, years beyond their hormonal eruptions - hey, I might live in a dump with pigeon squatters, but I refuse to pay a fortune just for the privilege, courtesy of those generous estate agents, of living in the city where I was fucking born - RANT ENDS))), and the tape, in its own sordid way, has passed into the realms of pop infamy. In his autobiography 'Tainted Life', Marc Almond recalls bristling with horror the time the Leeds plod played the tape at a nightclub ("Nobody felt much like dancing afterwards"). It's become an integral part of the Ripper story, often outshining the factual details -which are as depressingly bland as you'd expect from a sexually screwed-up mummy's boy who heard God's voice wafting from a grave.

Unsurprisingly, it also found its way onto vinyl. One of its earliest appearances was as the opener to the Blanks' chug-along punk tune "The Northern Ripper", recorded when Sutcliffe was still at large. This song is incredibly silly, featuring lyrics like "He's the Northern Ripper / Murderous Star Tripper", and one of the band members' girlfriends providing backing screams for good measure. John Balance also recorded a sort of Throbbing Gristle 'mega-mix', years before "Mutant TG", called "Leeds Ripper" (what else?) which is amusing in a kind of Jive Bunny way, but ultimately forgettable. Snatches of the tape cropped up here too.

The early 80s was a boom period for UK serial killers ; like a cast of Marvel supervillains, they all boasted their own media-designated, dramatic handles ; the Yorkshire Ripper ; the Railway Rapist ; the Stockwell Strangler ; the Fox. Even the US had the Night Stalker. When Denis Nilsen made it onto the news in '83, it was like North London had finally spawned its very own vampire - nobody was safe. And of course, it all fed the tabloids and the book publishers.

Parents dragged their sprogs to the Chamber of Horrors, to see waxwork effigies of Gary Gilmore being executed, Mary Kelly being gutted, the Black Panther standing to attention outside his cell and the Manson family squatting around beside a blood-smeared wall. It was all open, out there ; not just on obscure, 500-copy only LPs, nor confined to stabs at outrage in hacked-together bedsit fanzines. It was mass-produced fodder, and from the St Albans Poisoner to the Beast of Jersey, we devoured it and churned it out as Hammer Horror incarnate. Wearside Jack, as foolish, cunning, hilarious or hopeless as you want him to be, just seems to be one more staple of that atrocity exhibition. Except he acted independently, so throw the book at the evil bastard.
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