Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I turned firty four a few months back - another year closer to becoming my dad. I've never taken pop music entirely seriously - Chas & Dave, Adam Ant and Suggs kinda set me up for a lifetime of disappointment - but I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss some of those pointless, naive rituals we used to perform on a regular basis. You know, back when we'd gather round the communal copy of NME in the sixth form library, before slipping it under one of our jackets and retiring to a wall outside a corner shop to slag the whole rag off...while the indie kids cried to the librarian.

By the way, you can only really get away with this shit if you're under 25. If you doubt me, take a long, hard look at Charles Shaar Murray and ask yourself if you want to amble down that cul-de-sac. So, 'kids', enjoy all these while you've still got time...


The way it went: Tom and me were 13 and he announced he was getting into The Clash. He couldn't though, I swiftly reminded him, cos The Clash were my band. My sister got her photo taken with Joe Strummer in the Hendon Times in 1979, so he could fuck off with that idea. "OK," he replied, after a few pained moments of speculative lip chewing, "I'm into The Specials." That conniving bastard claimed The Specials, so I could never really get into them 100%. Oh sure, I could listen to them, and vice versa for him and The Clash...but they were HIS BAND. Meaning that, if I purchased anything to do with The Specials ((or 2-Tone, for that matter)), I was entering his personal fiefdom, and admitting that...that...HE WAS RIGHT.

This seemingly innocuous Thursday afternoon exchange bore major consequences for each schoolboy's individual psychic development. The Shanghai butterfly coughed its lungs out and blew us down completely separate paths. He ended up shaving his head and getting into mod culture and Northern Soul. I morphed into a scruff and was more at home with ragga and Crass, which he detested. One day, the twat laid claim to Joy Division, sucker-punching me from out of the blue. Although I seethed inside, I immediately hit him back by claiming The Pop Group. Ha, he actually bought Y when Radarscope reissued it in 1996 - snivelling like my personal lapdog, as he shuffled into the queue at HMV, incriminating CD in his hand. See, I'd won - he'd just conceded that my music pissed all over his utopia of Lambrettas and FACwhatevers. A week later, he told me that Y was "the biggest load of pretentious shit" he'd ever heard, but I knew he was just desperately trying to save face.

When I was 23, I met a ragga fan at work. Instantly, I blurted out "Ninja", and he retorted with "Shabba". We used to scour Petticoat Lane Market for Ninja vs Shabba clash tapes, just to prove the other's dibby dibby soundbwoy unworthiness. Fucking hell...the day I chanced across a copy of Shabba's Just Reality album ((which was out of print for a period)), and which I knew he desperately wanted on vinyl, I genuinely felt torn. I bought it anyway, only I didn't tell him about it. One night, we were both drunk and he was going on and on about it, and how it was his favourite album, and how he'd never seen a copy ever since somebody had nicked his cassette version, and I foolishly revealed that I'd bought it a month before. Man, the look he gave me...I'd have got a better reception if I'd nutted his wife on the hooter.

"I'll... tape it for you," I offered - half feeling genuine remorse, half gloating over having plundered his base and captured his flag - even though he was morally 'in the right'.

"FUCK OFF!" he growled. "You can bloody sell it to know how much I like Shabba!"

"But you can have it for free...on tape."


You see - hit your 30s, and all this shit is just lunatic. 'Claiming bands' indeed. Imagine me telling Woebot that he can't write about LaMonte Young anymore, but that I'll generously back off from mentioning Luigi Nono! Though I still think Ghost Town sucks compared to London's Burning, and I hate Ben Sherman shirts.


Did you know that the Unknown Pleasures cover illustration is actually a scan of Ian Curtis' brain waves, taken during one of his epileptic seizures? Or that Curtis was a necrophile who worked at a funeral parlour, prior to starting up the band? Or that Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight is about a murder at a camp site? Or that Buster Bloodvessel once out-ate Ian Stuart at a burger bar contest in Kings X? Or that Tommy Makem & The Clancy Brothers were being monitored by the CIA for producing subversive material? ((shit, that one turned out to be true! Though John Lennon got all the headlines when they leaked the list...))

These days, just go on Wikipedia and you can discover the entirely boring, factual truth about any artist you care to mention. Pre-internet, we used to make up rubbish about pop groups and spread it like wildfire. There was an air of mystery that true musical knowledge would later serve to crush. Back in the day, you could happily believe that TG's Hamburger Lady really WAS a compilation of extracts from the diary of a hospital nurse who'd been jailed for sexually interfering with a woman with third degree burns. Try explaining that on a forum now, and see how many self-styled industrial gurus jump into the thread to remind you that the lyrics are *actually* based on a piece of fiction by Al Ackerman, and that the lyric says "flashed on the carpet", NOT "jizzed on the carpet". Thanks, Mr Pedantic. Hey, here's a flame thrower - there's a fairy hostel down the road, jump in.

Sadly, dump the mythology for cold fact, and you soon realise that the world of pop is actually quite dull. It's just normal people doing normal things, only with sound coming out of the end. I suppose we've got the Lady Gaga hermaphrodite thing to while away the odd 5 minutes, but even that's not as interesting as the fact that the Pussycat Dolls were men.

And Karen Carpenter died after the rest of her clan believed her to be possessed by the devil, locked her in a tiny room, called a priest to exorcise her and let her die of dehydration, gagging to death on her own tongue - OFFICIAL.


Musical taste's just one of those things. I've been getting into cajun and zydeco recently, though haven't really had the time to brush up on the musical roots and history. The fact that YOU may have spent all of last week listening to Insect Warfare, and believe their brand of hyper grindcore shits all over the Balfa Brothers, doesn't interest me in the slightest. You might as well tell me 'the Baltic Sea' shits all over 'architecture', for all I care. Luckily, most of us are mature enough to accept the diverse grandeur of the musical spectrum, in all its beauty and mystery.

Yeah, yeah, BORING. What about that time in The Horn of Plenty, when I utterly DEMOLISHED Mark's PATHETIC argument that "the Levellers are better than the Pogues"?? I mean, what sort of dickwit would even entertain such a ludicrous concept?? With a cider in hand and anger in my eyes, I conclusively proved to him ((and his underage girlfriend hangers-on)) that the Levellers were middle class mummy's boys playing at tramps, and that their dirge was nowt more than the Saw Doctors with B.O...whereas the Pogues encapsulated the speed rush of London and the rage of a thousand tormented navvies' souls, pushed from their wandering grounds by the steamroller of urban regeneration. Fuck, I was so good that night, one of his UAD harem even tried to sneak a kiss with me when he lapsed into a coma ((of shame)).

Don't forget, I grew up with a generation who actually used to write and post letters to the NME, saying Steven Wells should be killed for slagging off the Manics. Arguments about bands were 10 a penny. People would even argue against bands they hadn't heard, just because they thought 'Slint' was a stupid name. Motley Crue fans used to beat up Metallica fans outside youth clubs. The worst arguments ever were jungle vs techno; by Pan, some of those ran for days. Beatles defenders were particularly obnoxious, but you could easily dispel them by mentioning that 'Pakis Out' demo they once recorded. Try doing the same with two clowns ranting about BPM and beat-matching.

The great thing about internet forums is that you can keep up this ancient tradition until you're in...I dunno, your 90s? Plus throw in bits accusing your opponents of being ignorant and racist, if you really want to spark a reaction ((ie- "Well, I guess preferring PiL to Funkadelic would be natural for someone who detests black music - hey, at least the closet BNP members on Radio 2 cater for your tastes", etc etc)). But don't try it at work. It's fucking bad enough having to deal with yet another jumped-up pipsqueak calling a 'strategy and focus meeting' without some temp goading you into a Vampire Weekend vs MGMT argument ((they are both shit compared to Methodist Centre, by the way)).


When you're 14, it's OK to fancy a 14 year old. When you're 23, it kind of switches to reminiscing about how much you fancied her when you first saw her on TOTP, a trillion years ago. When you're 30+, it is completely fucking unacceptable to buy a copy of I Want Candy on Discogs, just to ogle the cover. Same goes for middle aged male critics who speak well of Japanese girl pop, as if their fawning reviews are gonna somehow launch a sigil into the crotch of the universe which'll get them into bed with said Nipponese bopettes.

When I was 6, Lwin stood for some punk pirate gang who were going to go to the country and swing around naked, catching fish with safety pins on the ends of pieces of string, while illegally taping songs off the radio. And, faced with dross like Steve Miller Band, Kiki Dee and the Stray Cats, that made her mind-blowingly attractive at the time. Now, I just look at old clips of her and see my niece with a funny haircut. Sometimes, if you truly love someone, you have to let them go.


My first ever stage dive was at a Snuff gig. I can't remember much about this band, except they were vaguely controversial and did cover versions of I Think We're Alone Now and the BBC test cricket theme. Part of me was convinced that the crowd was going to part when I flung myself off the edge, and that I'd end up being stretchered out of the New Cross Venue with spinal fractures. I'd recommend it, it's a laugh, though not QUITE as amazing as I thought it was gonna be. The stage wasn't that high up, really, so it was more like a quick flop than some epic plummet. I did get advised afterwards, by some friendly crustie, that you really shouldn't do it if you're wearing army boots, as they can take out somebody's nasal bridge on the way down. I don't know whether Converse would make much of a difference, to be honest, but...don't shoot me, I'm just passing on what he said.

Do people still stage dive? To be honest, I don't go to many punk or hardcore gigs now, and I suspect the bouncer policy would be to enforce 'health and safety' by bundling you through a fire door and kicking your cheekbones in. Stage diving at a reggae or dubstep night is obviously inappropriate, and if you do it at a work Xmas party you run the risk of getting sued for assault. I'm still up for it, though if I ever do it again, I want a serious drop this time. Maybe I'll try next year's Proms. The closest I've come to stage diving in recent years was when I fell off a platform in a Russian nightclub, with no crowd to catch me - and believe me, that fucking HURT.


Basically, there are five ways of DJing:

a) the 'slap anything on' method. This is what John Peel used to do. If the music's good and the crowd's had a few drinks, it works fine. It's fun and anyone can do it, which is why 'Superstar DJs' fear and despise it. Oh wow, did I miscue that Casco 12"? Boo hoo - get us another double vodka, will ya?

b) the DAVID SEE method. Forget it, none of you'll ever be good enough to master this.

c) the reggae method. Lots of people think they can do this, but often fall short. Google "eden droid kings cross clash" for more info. Jah Shaka's good at this. Best to leave the DJ well alone.

d) the 'Superstar DJ' way. This involves being an egotistical cock who turns up at 3am, plays four tunes, gets paid £5,000 and then drives off to do ketamine with groupies in a hotel room ((still, beats working!!))

e) the OVERLY SERIOUS GOA TRANCE MIXMASTER style. Ha, this is the one we're going for.

* Get everyone in your posse to individually go up and ask for Police Officer by Smiley Culture. Far more fun if there's a big crowd of you ((it doesn't have to be that tune, but I'm fond of it as it became our flat's anti-trance anthem of choice, back when I was living in Camberwell, and it'd make me cackle if future generations took up the torch - plus you get 'Smiley points' for every DJ you successfully get to play it. We eventually replaced this tune with Set You Free by N Trance - overly serious Goa Trance DJs HATE that one)). Come the 4th request and there'll be red steam spouting from the booth.

* Ask for something on Flying Rhino Records. When the DJ produces it, scowl and say, "I meant the Tripitaka remix...oh, forget it". Shoot them a disgusted / pitying look and storm off ((works best with a male DJ and female requester)).

* Hover near the booth with a scrap of paper and pen. Just draw some cartoons, or something. They'll assume you're scribbling down the names of all their 'white label' tunes and will freak ((I guess you can bugger about with a mobile phone too)).

* Position yourself and a mate parallel to each other across the DJ booth. Play 'catch' with an invisible ball. Explain you're working on your chakras and call the DJ a fascist if s/he intervenes.

* If all that fails, go up to the booth and yell, "NOW, LOOK HERE..." and violently slam your palm down next to the turntable ((and get to ready to run - Krishna never passed on his message of universal love and peace to bouncers)). Of course, if it's a party ((which was every single fucking party in Camberwell for a couple of months)), make a call based on how hard the DJ's friends appear to be.

Just remember - Goa Trance is evil, and these tactics are therefore completely justified. If you try any of this at a grime night, well, that's your funeral.

Also, feel free to wind up 'professional buskers'. Not the regular guys, but the dick ones. This whole 'professional' thing only came about because the guy who plays the bossa nova synth down the bottom of Covent Garden station whined so much about police harrassment that LUL decided to set up designated 'busker spots'. Of course, if you wore a raggy old coat and could only play one Howlin' Wolf harmonica riff ((which would be ace)), you were denied a pitch in favour of some ex-session musician who needed the extra dosh to fix his patio.


Like I said, when you get over 25, people care less and less about what you listen to, which makes this game unworkable for old cunts like me. To be fair, it only really emerged from certain circumstances in my past, and might be hard to replicate anyway. Basically, me and my male friends were sitting around this pub in Luton called The Cock, which had a jukebox. Every now and then, depending on their sixth form class schedules, fellow UADs would pop in in the afternoon, for an illicit shandy or 10.

The old paddies at the bar weren't really fussed about wasting drinking money on the jukebox, so we had free reign. What we'd do is scope the juke for the worst possible tunes, and make a note of them. The dare was, if a group of attractive girls came in, one of our party had to go up to the juke, put in 50p, and select three of the worst songs on it. So, for instance, if three foxy girls with punky hair - who'd obviously be our perfect partners in crime, in the endless suburban war against MR BYRITE - came into the pub and shot you discreet looks, you'd have to put on Hall & Oates, or Wet Wet Wet, or Mr Blobby's Xmas number 1, or some utterly horrific shite that you'd never want to be associated with. You know how certain Indian tribes used to make their kids walk into the desert, gobble down peyote and hang from a pole by their nipples, to break them into adulthood? It was sort of like that, but utilising futile musical embarrassment as the ultimate nullification of our egos.

Of course, the first tune would kick in before the full selection was made. As the pub would have been silent ((except for the Channel 4 racing)) beforehand, there was no doubt as to who'd put the crap songs on. This is where it got fun. You wouldn't believe the amount of people who'd forfeit the dare, and therefore had to buy 2 pints for the group, so any brave souls who DID take the walk of shame would be watched eagerly for signs of weakness. Obviously, turning round and shouting, "I PUT THIS ON FOR A BET!" was cheating. The trick was to summon up as much resolve as possible and just casually select the tunes, with a straight face, before returning to our group ((I think you had to stay at the juke for 2 minutes, can't remember now)).

To think that Croats were getting gunned down in Snipers Alley at the time...and we had kids who'd bottle it, and stick on three Nirvana songs instead. I kind of fucked it up by bursting out laughing, which counted as 'cheating',though I did manage to piss everyone off with Pray by Take That. But I remember one kid who fell to pieces at the juke, turned bright red and looked as awkward as hell. The JUKEBOX OF SHAME had claimed yet another victim. He later committed hari kari ((possibly)).

Of course, if we'd stuck really good stuff on the juke, the girls would have sussed us as being 'desperate' and trying to impress them, so there was never any real loser or winner in this farce of a game. You spend your teenage years in Luton, then tell me what you'd have done to kill the afternoon.


This was invented by some guy I used to know, and is the most retarded fun you can have in a dull club ((Tiger Tiger's a good place to try it - THOUGH, as always, watch out for those bouncers)). Tiger Tiger is the London nightspot those Islamic fundamentalists wanted to blow up because they claimed it was full of 'slags'. Taking 'slag' to mean 'prostitute', they were sort of correct, cos the upstairs bit used to be packed with Iberian and East European doxies, who'd sit around in J-Lo style gear, fingering near-empty glasses of wine, and causing naive estate agents to shit a brick and convince themselves, She definitely keeps looking over at me...ah, still got the old magic! Add a load of R&B hits, an unhealthy plague of Autotune, £4 for a bottle of some obscure beer nobody really wants to drink, and horny blokes in white YSL shirts, and the only escape is...ACTION DANCING ((or, as some folks call it, 'shadow dancing'...though I prefer 'action', as that makes less sense)).

Here's how you do it:

a) Run towards other club patrons as if you're going to crash into them
b) Veer off at the last second, and speed away in another direction
c) repeat ad infinitum

Everyone's partyin' in the club tonight...all the ladies movin', feelin' alright...and the ACTION DANCERS comin' up on the right...fuck, this was a laugh. Here is the downside - bouncers (citing health and safety) will claim that you're running with a glass and could trip up and take your own eye out, so, for your safety, they're obliged to toss you headfirst onto the pavement. If you explain that you're dancing, they won't buy it. BUT, remember... clubs like that all run to a systematic sequence: punters coming in -> punters going to the bar -> punters checking people out -> punters dancing - > punters pulling - > punters leaving. Action dancing is literally zig-zagging across the dashboard of social control, breaking the club sequence. In other words, security will be slow to respond - it'll take them a couple of minutes to cycle through the WTF? stage before they do anything to eject you. Make a note of the nearest fire exit, just in case.

I don't do it much now. For some reason, people don't want to join in, unless they're so drunk they're seeing stars.

Why are R&B fans so moody, by the way? You're singing about licking people up and down, not the Armenian Holocaust. You've got your Cristal and the ladies in the club - can't you count your blessings and crack a smile, for Gawd's sake?


In 1993, an independent group called Blaggers ITA, who'd made a philosophy out of physical anti-fascist activity, signed to EMI Records and THE WORLD FELL APART. Suddenly, they were as bad as Combat 18, if not worse. Fanzines ditched trivial concerns like boycotting Nestle' and building opposition to the impending Criminal Justice Bill in order to concentrate on exposing the Blaggers as SELL OUTS of the lowest order. Years later, this was followed by even worse atrocities, like Black Flag selling Nervous Breakdown to some mobile company and Iggy Pop acting like a total spaz on car insurance ads.

Fear of having your subculture co-opted is the MY BAND! syndrome, only on a mass scale. There's also something a bit postured about the outrage, to be honest. Y'know, like people who cry when their football team loses...I'm not sure I buy it. It's a tad creepy watching 30+ folks raving about the fact Chumbawamba signed to EMI after years of being the squeakiest clean ducks on the scene ((though it was hilarious when their backstage rider demands got leaked to the UK A-Punk underground around '94 - what a bunch of greedy fucks!)), or how Lady Gaga shouldn't be allowed to sport the Icons of Filth logo on her jacket. Like, who cares. Pop stars, inn'it? These days, I'm more concerned with working out why Little Snitch clogs up my laptop.

But this is a great pastime when you're a kid - especially as it can be used to annoy other people. For example: "Babes In Toyland are far better than the Lunachicks - the Lunachicks are just a few ripped off Pussy Galore riffs, with tinnier sound". "Oh yeah? Well at least the Lunachicks didn't SELL THEIR ARSES to Warner Bros, ha ha ha! That's might as well let Disneyland spoon-feed you the corporate pap you so obviously crave!" And everyone should wind up Iggy Pop fans about the car ads, they get really pissy (funnily enough, Fall fans don't seem bothered about the Vauxhall advert. This is possibly because they're so used to justifying everything Mark E Smith does on nebulous post-ironic grounds, including his drunken 1983 rant about being 'oppressed' by 'the black man on my TV').

Slagging off sell outs is only a brief phase, though, as you soon realise that the tunnel never ends. Back when I was a teen, the idea of Black Flag's music being used to sell anything was preposterous, so certain puritans would have to find umpteen other reasons to damn a band. The guitarist bought a flat? CONFORMIST! They released a 7" with a glossy cover? SELL OUTS! They were on the Chart Show last Saturday? BURN THE BASTARDS. All you can do with people like that is pray that their own obscuro heroes flog a track to Persil, and revel as they spontaneously combust in self-righteous apoplexy.


Technically impossible now, anyway. Ask anyone who taped songs off his show what their biggest regret is, and they'll all tell you - cutting his voice off in between tracks. I remember buying an EP by the hardcore band Doom and instantly realising that UKHC records weren't as good as on vinyl as when John Peel played them at the wrong speed, or when he'd drop 'em in right after some ditzy Wedding Present session track, or when he'd chip in with a comment like, "Bound to be doing the rounds at pool parties this summer...that was 'Mega Armageddon Death pt 3' by Electro Hippies...and this one's from the 'Boiling Point - Music From Hot Countries' compilation on Phil-Disq..."

((PS - I have three Smiley points to date, one being a 'Super Smiley' because the DJ was playing indie and rock at the time))
Pissed meself laughing.
please don't ever leave us again. I love you and there's been a BTI-shaped hole in my life for months.

A secret admirer.
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