Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Hang Ten

Some times I feel down, it’s always happened, some periods have been worse than others, the ‘80s for instance totally sucked. The whole decade was just so awful and I made some terrible decisions that meant I was pretty unhappy for a lot of those years; not that I would admit it to myself at the time.
Sadly, 2011 has been pretty crap, mostly because of work. Strangely I used to quite like my job, but this year I haven’t and at times I’ve had that gut wrenching feeling when it’s time to turn the light out at night and I realise in a few hours I’ll be going back to that place. Right now I feel trapped. It’s getting me down.
The one thing that has helped me during these down times has been music; the early ‘80s may have seen the death of mainstream music, but it saw punk rock blossom in so many different directions and as the years passed I began to appreciate most of it. It saw my immersion in the local DIY scene and, along with Gaz, my venture into punk rock fanzine writing. Musically 2011 has been a pretty good one I think, and I’m still discovering new music that inspires me, and every soften I’ve discovered some old gem that slipped past me at the time.

Inspired by doing an interview with Martin Sorrondeguy recently, I started to track down some of the South American bands he mentioned, which lead to me discovering lots more and moving on to Spanish bands, of which there seems to be innumerable good ones about at the moment. It was during one of these searches that I came across The X-Preys on a Bandcamp page. Four songs were offered as a free download, and they proved to be so ruddy good that I had to find out more about this band. Being from Madrid they hadn’t yet reached the radar of my buddy Paul in Malaga, but then his heart is in Mallorca, so I set out on my own voyage of discovery. I found that they had an album, and once that knowledge had reached my brain it became a quest; I’m a little short of money at the moment, but all common sense went out of the window and I had to have this album. This has happened to me before, instinct takes over and I won’t rest until I have whatever release I’m after. It was initially pretty frustrating, I found the album on lots of sites, but it was always sold out. Then I stumbled onto Rumble Records’ site and saw that the album was also available on CD with extra tracks. Normally I’d choose the LP over the CD, but as I said, instinct had taken over and my instinct was to get as many songs as possible as quickly as possible. So I fired off an email and got a pretty quick reply from Pablo, so I paypaled my money over right away. With my needs satisfied I relaxed while I eagerly awaiting the arrival of the CD, reveling in the late ‘70s style gloriousness of the four songs I already had; these guy and girls certainly know how to inject urgency into their songs. I love it... When it arrived Pablo had enclosed an X Prays badge as well, obviously he knows I am also a sucker for a nice badge. There isn’t a lot of diversity on offer on this CD, but I wasn’t expecting that, and didn’t really want it either; I got just what I wanted, 15 tracks of stripped down punk rock that presses all the right buttons for me. Check them out.

I recently found some old demos in a crate that I hadn’t got round to sorting through since our move (yes, I know it’s been over a year). One of them I was particularly happy to see again, it was by the old Brighton band Nux Vomica, who featured Allen and Sam from our old favourites Sleep. I connected my tape player up to my computer and pressed play, recording as I listened. It all still sounded really good, so I didn’t mind when the first attempt to copy it didn’t work and I had to listen to it all again. I instantly wanted to share it, so I sent Allen an email just to check that he didn’t mind me putting it on the SD site. It was so long ago (Summer of 1992 Allen thinks), but I don’t remember Nux Vomica staying around too long, I have this demo, and I remember seeing them live at The Joiners, I even have a T-Shirt, but my memory tells me they were gone too soon, although Pete Zonked says he remembers seeing them in Brighton without Allen singing, so there’s a chance they carried on playing longer than I remember. Anyway, it’s good fast hardcore stuff so go to the SD site and check it out.

We finally got SD53 printed, and apart from one little niggly thing that’s annoying me I think it came out pretty well. It certainly seems to be popular with lots of interest being shown and people sending SAE’s, so thanks to everyone who has asked for a copy, and if I have said I’ll send you a copy (copies) please be patient, I’m getting there, but postage costs so much these days. If you want one then send and email to and we’ll sort it out.

Ellis at Static Shock has given the wonderful Brain F≠ LP, “Sleep Rough”, a UK release. It’s a great record, so go grab a copy right away.

This past weekend I went to see Steve Ignorant’s Last Supper gig at the Shepherds Bush Empire, but I think that needs a blog entry of its own, so I’ll wait while I gather my thoughts before writing about it.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Nine Plan Failed

Money has been tight this month so I haven’t bought any new music, and the only thing that has come is the new self released CD from local punkers Chemical Threat, featuring my old band-mate Jonny Fry. I have to admit that in the past I haven’t been too impressed with their recorded stuff, but this is a lot better, the band seem more together and the lyrics appear to have had more thought put into them. I meant to pass the CD on to Gaz at the weekend, but forgot. I think he’ll be interested in hearing it so I guess I’ll be sending it Norfolk way this week.

Gaz, as you can probably guess, was back down South this weekend, and so were Si Briggs and his lovely wife Paula who were using the fact that Middlesbrough were playing Southampton as an excuse to pay us a visit. Along with Sarah and Becca we all took in the game; all but two of us left the game happy, but being the perfect hosts we didn’t once gloat.

On our way back we had to cut through John Lewis to get back to the car park. As we passed through I noticed what I thought was the first Specials album sleeve on a display; a closer look showed I hadn’t been mistaken it was that album cover, in their wall hanging section. Amongst the framed pictures and wall clocks they had a display of frames that you can display your favourite album sleeves in.
Not only did they have that Specials sleeve on the wall, but also albums by Radiohead, Velvet Underground and Sex Pistols amongst others. John Lewis had Never Mind The Bollocks hung up on their wall! How times change eh? Back in 1977 a shop owner was prosecuted for displaying the very same LP sleeve.
As well as selling these frames, they were selling the records they had on display and both Gaz and me couldn’t resist flicking through them; sadly there isn’t another shop in Southampton city centre where you can do this these days. I couldn’t help but pick up the Sex Pistols cover, it’s such an iconic sleeve and holds a special place in my heart; I can still remember buying it for the first time.
(I can feel a bit of nostalgia coming on)
Although I first heard the Pistols in 1977, I didn’t start buying records until 1978, so it was probably 1979 when I first got my hands on a copy of their album. As a proper band the Pistols were done by then, but that didn’t matter to me, this was like the holy grail. I had heard it, my cousin had tapped it for me, but that cassette was wearing very thin and I just had to have vinyl. I remember standing in the bus station with my mum and sister after having seen the record in Subway Records, it was something like £2.99 and I wanted to borrow some money and had to ask my mum, the conversation went something like this...
Mum, “What record do you want?”
Me, “It’s a Sex Pistols album.”
Mum, “Which one?”
Me, “Er…It’s called Never Mind.”
Now, for a couple of years the Sex Pistols were all over the newspapers, and my parents used to get the Daily Mirror delivered, and it was there I had first heard of this shocking group, and by 1979 my love for punk rock in general, and the Pistols in particular was well known, so I knew my mum was aware of them, and all the controversy surrounding them, and was probably well aware of what the album was really called.
Even now I wince when I happen to swear in front of my mum, so then as an 12/13 year old I would never have dared, and I’m pretty sure my mum was making me squirm and sweat a bit before lending me the money. But in the end she did, and I rushed in to buy it.
I could hardly believe that I now owned this album, and over the next few years I played it to death. So much so that I eventually had to buy a second copy; in all I think I have bought, or acquired two copies on vinyl, and three copies on CD, including the American release.
So now, at the age of 45 I was standing in John Lewis of all places, with my wife, daughter and three friends, staring at this cover I knew so well and feeling excited. You see it was the 30th Anniversary version, with a 7”, poster and CD version included. When this came out, 4 years ago, I didn’t get round to picking it up, I always meant to but never did. Gaz was just as excited by this record and as it’s his birthday soon Sarah and me decided to buy it for him, so off Sarah went to the till. She came back with two copies, one of them for me. You can’t imagine just how thrilled I was; it didn’t matter just how many times over the years I’ve played those songs, I was like that little kid again stood in the bus station.
I guess to a lot of people now the Sex Pistols don’t mean much, but I was lucky that I was at the right age to be really hit by what they were doing, musically. It may not seem like it today, but “Pretty Vacant”, the first punk song I ever heard, was the hardest hitting song I’d ever heard, it truly left me gobsmacked and kicked open the doors to a world of punk rock that has shaped my life for the last 35 years.
(sorry, I’m back in the now, er, now)
I have been checking out some new stuff on the internet and writing myself a shopping list for when I have some spare cash, and reacquainting myself with old bands like Betercore, Black Market Baby and The Vaselines. One band I have just discovered are Extinct who are probably the first hardcore band from Luxembourg I’ve ever heard. I have also been listening to bands from Spain, Sweden, Germany and Brazil.
Oh, and like everyone else I have become a fan of Terrible Feelings, and I’m gutted I missed their Brighton gig a couple of weeks ago.

The new issue of Suspect Device, SD53, will be out very soon.