nina hagen – unbehagen/nunsexmonkrock

Born in Berlin, Germany in 1955, Nina Hagen was raised in a suburb of the Eastern Bloc by her mother and stepfather, Wold Biermann, a dissident poet and anti-establishment singer-songwriter. Biermann’s political views had a strong influence on the young Hagen, and she became active in political protests against the East German government. In ’64 Nina joined the Thalmann Pioneers, a Communist youth organization. She was “dishonorably discharged” from the Free German Youth group, aged 12, for her part in a demonstration against East Germany’s participation in the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, instigated by Wold Biermann

Hagen became a popular performer in East Germany, as a member of the band Automobil. Her musical career was interrupted when she
followed Biermann to West Germany after he was expelled from Soviet territory in ’76. Her name as an entertainer, however, preceded her and, now 21, she was offered a recording contract with CBS in her new home of Hamburg
She was captivated by the punk scene in England, and flew to London, where she collaborated with Ari Up of the Slits on a number of songs. Back in Germany she formed the Nina Hagen band, and their debut, African Reggae, exposed her to the world and earned her a loyal following
Hagen decided to leave the band in ’79, though she was still under contract to produce a second album. Unbehagen (in German ‘discomfort’ or ‘unease’), was produced with the band recording their tracks in Berlin and Hagen adding the vocals in Los Angeles, California


Nina Hagen Band Unbehagen 1979. Nina Hagen (vocals), Bernhard Potschka (guitar), Manfred Praeker (bass), Herwig Mitteregger (drums, percussion), Reinhold Heil (keyboards)

  1. African Reggae
  2. Alptraum
  3. Wir leben immer…Noch
  4. Wenn ich ein Junge wär
  5. Hermann hiess er
  6. Auf’m Rummel
  7. Wau Wau
  8. Fall in Love mit mir
  9. No Way

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Nina Naturträne @ Rockpalast

In late 1980 Hagen moved to Los Angeles. Her daughter, Cosma Shiva Hagen, was born in Santa Monica in ’81. In 1982, Hagen released NunSexMonkRock, her first English-language album, and went on a world tour with the No Problem Orchestra

Nina appears on television talk show ‘Club2’ and explains how a woman can best masturbate. It was named the scandal of the year

Born in Xixax

Nina Hagen NunSexMonkRock 1982. A dissonant mix of punk, funk, reggae, and opera

  1. Antiworld
  2. Smack Jack
  3. Taitschi Tarot
  4. Dread Love
  5. Future Is Now
  6. Born in Xixax
  7. Iki Maska
  8. Dr. Art
  9. Cosmo Shiva
  10. U.F.O.

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‘Can you tell me a little about XIXAX?’

‘Jah, it’s the place with the three X’s: WHY do I exist? WHAT is this place? WHO is my maker? XIXAX is a place I sometimes call Planet Bearth. Because you are born, and then they try to condition you here; you try to figure out, what is behind, and beyond, and above and below. When I was growing up in East Germany, everyone said there was no God. And I said “look at them, how bitter they are”, and I thought that there might be a god. So I started looking for it myself’ – Nina with Robert Lund, New York Waste

Nina Hagen interview with Merle Ginsberg

Nina singing L’Amour de George Bizet

ensemble of christ the saviour and crude mother earth – xenophobia

Xenophobic and radical nationalist activity in Russia is a huge problem with violent attacks on people of ‘non-Slavic appearance’ a commonality. Hate crimes result in death frequently. Antisemitism has always been rife in the country, and so naturally there are bands writing for racist assholes
Formed in 2007, Ансамбль Христа Спасителя и Мать Сыра Земля
(approximately ‘Ensemble of Christ the Saviour and Crude Mother Earth’), is a Russian underground hardcore trio – Xenia Hitler, Alexei Glukhov and Starukha Izergil – who describe their music as “radikal politikal hardcore”
Their brutish, primitive songs (rhythm guitar and a drum machine) extol a message of Russian nationalism, cultural intolerance and religious and social obscurantism (restriction of truth and knowledge). They have released five full-length albums, which roughly translated are: Osatanevshaya Righteousness, Xenophobia, The Explosion of the Orthodox Anarchy, True Power and Angels Chauvinism, and were preparing to release another at the time of this post (they refuse to translate into English and google translate is iffy)

Убивай космонавтов (Kill the Astronauts)

“The pity is today that young people probably do not know the true meaning of the word “hardcore” in relation to music. Hardcore in the mid-80s was brought to the boiling point by a politicized, aggressive, street-punk going through the roof. These groups were willingly signed to non-profit companies and did not recognize the accepted standards of music, and fought in the streets. Thus, we are not talking about “hardcore”, which some people suggest, that was shown on MTV and in other media for bastards” – Xenia and Alexei Glukhov Hitler

 Наши иконы (Our Icons)

Песня о новом тверском губернаторе (Song of the New Governor of Tver)

The album Xenophobia (2007 Zymotic Productions) features an oven from a German concentration camp with doors flung open. The politics are despicable but the album is a definite cultural curiosity

  1. The Nations of the Soviet Union
  2. I Hate the President
  3. Holocaust
  4. Puta Caputa!
  5. Orthodox Mosques of Tver
  6. Ask Their Mothers (and Orthodox People!)
  7. Fizkul′tprivet
  8. Devil’s Icon
  9. A Poem About a Procession Sign
  10. The Song of Lord Tverskoy and Kašinskom Victor
  11. Collect Suitcases
  12. Vaughn!
  13. About This Song and the Road to War
  14. The President Needs to Clone
  15. All Russian Kondopoga (Instrumental)
  16. Vakhtang Kikabidze bonus

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Ensemble of Christ the Saviour

black flag – damaged/loose nut/the last show

California was the birthing pool of ‘hardcore’ punk. In the early 80’s bands like Black Flag, Fear and the Circle Jerks came out from the suburbs, harder, faster and heavier than the more ‘artsy’ punk of New York – and the geographically closer ‘Hollywood’ scene – that preceded them. LA and Hollywood bands were seen as snobs by the Orange County hardcore faithful

Black Flag were one of the first bands to be considered ‘hardcore’ punk:

“There was a big wall between the bands. The group of people up in Hollywood were pretty much a clique. Whereas the people from the South Bay and Orange County, and even the (San Fernando) Valley and the Inland Empire, weren’t part of that clique. So it was really difficult to infiltrate the big LA/Hollywood clique. Eventually we broke down the wall and everyone finally got together, and it was one big, hardcore happening” – Keith Morris

By 1981, Black Flag founder and guitarist Greg Ginn knew that his second singer, Johnny Bob Goldstein aka Keith Morris’s replacement Dez Cardena, was finding the intense touring schedule tough and really wanted to play guitar anyway. Ginn had a replacement in mind. His name was Henry Garfield, the singer for a local hardcore band, S.O.A. As the well-worn story goes, Henry jumped up on stage one night at a Black Flag show and sang Clocked In with the band. They pretty much had just began a long union with one of the greatest front men in music. They offered Henry the gig  after a follow-up audition. It was Dez himself who called Henry and asked him to join. Dez became a second guitarist. Henry changed his last name from Garfield to Rollins, and Black Flag now had their third singer since 1978. Their first, Keith Morris, had left to join the Circle Jerks

Their first full-length LP was the hardcore classic Damaged, probably the best album to come out of the entire scene

Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie

Black Flag Damaged 1981. Henry Rollins (lead vocals), Greg Ginn (lead guitar, backing vocals), Dez Cadena (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Charles Dukowski (bass, backing vocals), Robo (drums, backing vocals), Mugger (backing vocals)

  1. Rise Above
  2. Spray Paint
  3. Six Pack
  4. What I See
  5. TV Party
  6. Thirsty and Miserable
  7. Police Story
  8. Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie
  9. Depression
  10. Room 13
  11. Damaged II
  12. No More
  13. Padded cell
  14. Life of Pain
  15. Damaged I

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Best One Yet

Henry took a lot of flak from fans who didn’t like the direction the band seemed to be headed in: they were starting to sound like a hard rock or metal band rather than a punk band; and what was with all Henry’s spoken-word pieces? And the way he looked. Gone was the lanky, 20-year-old skinhead, and in his place some buffed-out, tattoo-covered longhair, who insisted in performing in tight black athletic shorts. Henry was blamed for “ruining” the band. But Black Flag’s changes were not all Henry’s doing. By ’83 they were done with ‘hardcore’. They wanted to evolve, the tempos slowed. Chuck Dukowski, co-founder of SST Records with Ginn (which released records by the Meat Puppets, the Minutemen, the Dicks, the Subhumans and Saccharine Trust, among others), who had been with Black Flag since the very beginning, decided to quit. Dez also left, and formed his own band, DC3

Black Flag had always been a prolific group and the personel disturbances didn’t change that. In ’84 they put out four albums: My War, Family Man, Slip It In and then Live ’84, a recording from the Slip It In tour on one night in San Francisco
In ’85 they did it again: three more albums. With the first of them, Henry Rollins answered his critics with the brilliant Loose Nut. This was not the same band who’d made Nervous Breakdown and Damaged. For one thing they had started to smoke a lot more pot. Metal? No. I have an allergic reaction to metal which makes me involuntarily swear in the crudest fashion at any poor innocent listening to it. Sure, they had become a darker, slower, sludgier, more stalking kind of rock band, still hard as nails; but now moving more like an overfed python than a flaming hare

Black Flag Loose Nut 1985. Henry Rollins (vocals), Greg Ginn (guitar), Kira Roessler (bass), Bill Stevenson (drums)

  1. Loose Nut
  2. Bastard in Love
  3. Annihilate this Week
  4. Best One Yet
  5. Modern Man
  6. This is Good
  7. I’m the One
  8. Sinking
  9. Now She’s Black

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Black Flag Bastard in Love live at the Palladium, LA ’85

1985 also saw the release of the unusual four-song instrumental EP, The Process of Weeding Out, a piece of shit that did not feature Henry Rollins on it and took the band even further away from the fans who thought Damaged (1981) was Rollins-era Black Flag at their best

“They kept growing and changing and challenging themselves. They didn’t care – they started growing their hair and wearin’ fuckin’ Speedos” – Flea

Rollins Band performing Obscene at Lollapalooza 1991

An excerpt from the TV program “Durch die Nacht mit… ” 

The Last Show. Live at Graystone Hall, Detroit, MI, June 27, 1986. Great stuff

  1. Retired at 21
  2. Annihilate This Week
  3. Bastard in Love
  4. Drinking and Driving
  5. Paralyzed
  6. In My Head
  7. White Hot
  8. Black Love
  9. Kickin’ and Stickin’
  10. Society’s Tease
  11. This Is Good
  12. I Can See you
  13. Nothing Left Inside
  14. Gimme Gimme Gimme 
  15. Louie Louie

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gg allin & the jabbers – always was, is and always shall be

“The Audience is the enemy”

Jesus Christ Allin spent his childhood in a two-room log cabin, without electricity or running water, miles from anything, in the woods of New Hampshire, but later moved to Vermont with his brother Merle Allin and his mother Arleta. His mother changed his legal name to Kevin Michael Allin before he started school to give Allin a chance at a more normal childhood
To escape his family (GG says his father, Merle Sr., wanted to kill the whole family), and the claustrophobia of small-town life, Allin left home and started his first punk band: the Jabbers 

Don’t Talk to Me


Due to his extremely violent, shit-smeared stage act, venues often forced the band to stop ten minutes into the show. It didn’t take long until Allin was banned from clubs all over New England. He was arrested more than 50 times for a variety of offenses (often disorderly conduct, indecent exposure and assault). GG, “the most violent man in rock,” would beat himself bloody with broken bottles, analy pleasure himself with his microphones, attack, and be attacked by, his own audience, urinate on the stage and on the audience. He would take laxatives before shows to ensure he could shit at will, after which he’d suck it up and spit it out on the crowd. Women in the crowd were still willing to jump up on the stage and perform oral sex on him

“Will this be the show where he kills himself?” asks the 14-year-old.
Todd Phillips, GG’s film biographer answers, “I hope not. When he goes, he’s gonna take an AK-47 and bring the audience with him.”
GG pushes into the performance space. He wears only a jockstrap, and boots. Soon, he ditches the jockstrap. Starting with a new song called “I Am The Highest Power,” he complains about the microphone.
“You’re just a pussy!” shouts a young man, with scraggly blond hair.
GG turns “I’m a pussy?” he shouts.
He takes the microphone and slams it into the side of the young man’s head. Bang! The blond crumples. A trickle of blood drips from his forehead. Someone grabs the body by the legs and pulls it off the performance floor, dumping it on the gravel outside.
“I’m a pussy! I’m a pussy!” shouts GG, banging his head into the metal doors that had once opened into the garage. GG’s bloodflow is heavier than that of the blonde boy. It spiderwebs over his face, coming together in a red smear over his chest.”
– Mykel Board, for The New York Press


After a year and half in jail – his parole board decreed that he was “a performer for all the wrong reasons,” and recommended he the serve the maximum time – GG had announced he would commit suicide on-stage for Halloween. He says he carried his birth name as an omen since he first grasped its meaning as a child, and felt his inevitable suicide was a sacrifice to his cause. Before he could make good on his promise he overdosed on heroin after a final gig at the Gas Station in NYC

June 27th, 1993. GG Allin after the Gas Station show in NYC
A near-riot broke out, and Allin escaped from the police officers who were called to the club
part one 

part two 

GG Allin Always Was, Is and Always Shall Be 1980. GG Allin (vocals, drums), Jeff Penny, Johnny (Riot) Fortin, Peter Henault, Rob Basso (guitar), Alan Chapple, Carl Square, Merle Allin (bass), Ava Electris, Dan Penny, David Peel, Jeff Penny, Johnny Voo-Doo (backing vocals), Bob MacKenzie, Kevin Allin (drums), Tim Horigan (piano). The production isn’t great but the songs are good. The lyrics are absolutely disgusting, but that’s why you want this record, right?

  1. Bored to Death
  2. Beat, Beat, Beat
  3. One Man Army
  4. Assface
  5. Pussy Summit Meeting
  6. Cheri Love Affair
  7. Automatic
  8. I Need Adventure
  9. Don’t Talk to Me
  10. Unpredictable
  11. 1980s Rock ‘n’ roll

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“Why me, because it’s my revenge on this robotic society, because someone has to do it. Someone has to be the leader, and no one else is doing it. Why rock’n’roll, ’cause this is rock’n’roll, this is what it was meant to be. ” – GG Allin to Joe Coughlin

classic albums: the ramones

The roll call of the CBGB avant-garde is impressive: Suicide (despite the fact they never really liked the place much), Televisionthe Dead Boysthe Cramps, Wayne County & the Electric ChairsRichard Hell & the Voidoids, and so many other important bands of that era; a great and diverse collection of talent and originality. And there was also Blondie, and Talking Heads, and the Ramones, who made that dumpy little bar in the Bowery legendary, and helped sow the seeds of a major cultural movement that was taking shape in New York City in the mid/late-1970s. Musically, they were all very different. But they were all in their individual ways part of the same reaction to the mainstream success of ‘the safe’, the conformist, and perceived pretensions, of prog-rock bands like ELP, Genesis, Yes and King Crimson

In an interview with UNCUT magazine, Tommy Ramone put it like this: “In its initial form, a lot of [1960s] stuff was innovative and exciting. Unfortunately, what happens is that people who could not hold a candle to the likes of Hendrix started noodling away. Soon you had endless solos that went nowhere. By 1973, I knew that what was needed was some pure, stripped-down, no-bullshit rock ‘n’ roll”

I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend

Something immediate, something raw. Punk was confrontational, subversive and supercharged; like the Ramones. There aren’t too many bands more associated with CBGB than the Ramones. They were fast, and they sounded deceptively simplistic. Soon, a lot of bands would sound just like them. They played their first show there in 1974. The audience consisted of two, one of whom was Alan Vega. After the show, he went up to Johnny and told him the Ramones were the band he’d been waiting for

I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement

“When we first started there was no place we could play, so we ended up on the Bowery,” said Tommy Ramone, the group’s first drummer and only surviving original member. “It ended up a perfect match”

“Basically, the Ramones handed back to people their right to be a musician and write songs, write folk poetry, and all that. It was like a gift, because the general thinking then was that you had to have a wall of Marshall amps, which cost $10,000, and you had to be this virtuoso, otherwise forget about making your own music. Groups like the Ramones just came in and blew that notion away. They empowered a whole new generation to start doing radical culture. Pretty much in reaction to the completely moribund consumerist culture that the sixties had turned into” – V Vale, Search & Destroy

‘Clocking in at just under twenty-nine minutes, Ramones is an intense blast of guitar power, rhythmic simplicity and ferocious brevity, a complete rejection of the spangled artifice and hollow, artsy pretensions of 1970s rock. The songs were fast and anti-social, just like the band: “Beat on the Brat,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue.” Guitarist Johnny Ramone refused to play solos – his jackhammer chords became the lingua franca of punk – and the whole record cost just over $600 to make. But Joey’s leather-tender plea “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” showed that even punks need love’ – from Rolling Stone (No. 33 in their 500 Greatest Albums)

‘The Ramones’ first four albums – recorded between February 1976 and autumn 1977 – stand together as the most toweringly aggressive, misleadingly primitive, perfectly phrased musical statement ever made’ – April Long, NME

The Ramones Ramones 1976. Joey Ramone (vocals), Johnny Ramone (guitar, backing vocals), Dee Dee Ramone (bass, backing vocals), Tommy Ramone (drums)
  1. Blitzkrieg Bop
  2. Beat on the Brat
  3. Judy is a Punk
  4. I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
  5. Chainsaw
  6. Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue
  7. I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement
  8. Loudmouth
  9. Havana Affair
  10. Listen to My Heart
  11. 53rd & 3rd
  12. Let’s Dance
  13. I Don’t Wanna Walk Around with You
  14. Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World

53rd & 3rd

‘I love this record – love it – even though I know these boys flirt with images of brutality (Nazi especially) in much the same way “Midnight Rambler” flirts with rape. You couldn’t say they condone any nasties, natch – they merely suggest that the power of their music has some fairly ominous sources and tap those sources even as they offer the suggestion. This makes me uneasy. But my theory has always been that good rock and roll should damn well make you uneasy, and the sheer pleasure of this stuff – which of course elicits howls of pain from the good old rock and roll crowd – is undeniable. For me, it blows everything else off the radio: it’s clean the way the Dolls never were, sprightly the way the Velvets never were, and just plain listenable the way Black Sabbath never was. And I hear it cost $6400 to put on plastic. A ‘
– Robert Christgau 

Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World

sad vacation: sid & nancy

‘After Nancy died I asked Sid point blank whether he had killed her. He said, I didn’t do it! I didn’t kill her! I didn’t kill Nancy!” I still believe him’ – Steve Dior

“I don’t see why I should have any feelings about it at all. You see Sid decided quite some time ago that he was going to become an arsehole, and he did. All that fucking heroin shit, it just got on my nerves. I mean people take it once in a while, but not every fucking day” – John Lydon to Melody Maker

“Spiteful, spoiled, selfish – a problem many semi-wealthy middle class American families suffer from. When I read the mothers book on Nancy , I was appalled. They got her a psychiatrist at age 4! Go figure why this girl grew up the way she did” – John Lydon

“…as soon as (Sid) realised how much everyone hated Nancy, man, he stuck to her like a stamp to a letter” – Chrissie Hynde

Nancy, dead in the bathroom of room 100, the Chelsea Hotel

Johnny Thunders is widely blamed for introducing heroin to the London punk scene. Before Nancy had turned Sid onto it, Thunders had apparently waved a syringe in Sid’s face, asking him “Are you a boy or a man?” Sid was very impressionable and easily-led, and Johnny Thunders was one of Sid’s idols. Sid wanted to be just like all those guys: Johnny, Dee Dee, Stiv

“You couldn’t trust him an inch. Thunders was even worse than Nancy… He had a very low, street mentality. He thought everyone he dealt with was full of bullshit and took what he could from them” – Peter Gravelle

What happened on the first floor of the Chelsea Hotel on the evening of October 11, 1978 isn’t clear, shrouded as it is in the half-light of heroin. Sid came round to find Nancy dead. There was a lot of blood – a trail of it from the bed to the bathroom – and Sid’s knife, which he’d bought just the day before, was stuck into her side. When the police arrived, Sid was arrested and they were probably sure it was a closed case. “I stabbed her but I didn’t mean to kill her,” he allegedly said. A confession. From a guy with a history of domestic violence and a junkie to boot. He was promptly charged with second degree murder

“Violence became a language between Sid and Nancy, and Sid and himself. The photographs document the changes as he went from clear-skinned, clear-eyed teenager in 1977, learning bass chords from his friend Lydon, to a scarred and bloodied wreck, with bandages like fashion accessories, horizontal knife scars and open cuts” – Sue Steward

‘Gimme A Fix’

Richard Hell, Johnny Thunders & Sid

The night Nancy died, Sid had played at Max’s with his back-up band, the Idols. After the gig, he, Nancy, Idols’ guitarist Barry Jones and ‘a guy from the Bronx no one knew’ all went back to the Chelsea Hotel. Sid and Nancy had money, having cashed a large cheque earlier in the day, but were having trouble finding drugs. The mood got increasingly desperate, and Sid eased his frustrations with Jack Daniel’s and the only drug he could get his hands on – Tuinal, a barbiturate, extremely dangerous when mixed with alcohol

“She was the type of person who, the first time you met her, would want money off you, or drugs. You’d know her five minutes and she’d be trying to borrow money, which you knew you’d never get back… Nothing was safe when she was around, she’d steal anything that wasn’t nailed down” – Peter Gravelle

“A photograph in the new show, taken backstage after a gig at Brunel University, captures the other dynamic as Sid looks adoringly at Nancy in mid-screech, mouth open, slagging him off. Photographer Morris says: “She was strong and in control, and she’s having a go at him. He’s just repeating, ‘I’m sorry babe’?” – Sue Steward, about Eileen Polk’s photograph (below)

Not everyone had nothing but bad to say about Nancy

“Maybe Pamela Des Barres tells the story of female solidarity, but there was a lot of backstabbing. The other girls shunned her and were mean to her. And that made Nancy worse. She became vengeful. She kind of reacted to them putting her down by doing even worse things. The only people who didn’t shun her were the guys that were getting drugs from her” – Eileen Polk

“What annoys me is the speed at which people will tell you something bad about Nancy. I remember when they first arrived in New York. I was walking down Canal Street wearing thin little black Chinese slippers, and they were worn out – my toe was sticking through one of them. I bumped into Nancy and she took me off and bought me motorcycle boots” – Steve Dior

In his statement to the police, Neon Leon, who lived down the hall from Sid & Nancy at the Chelsea Hotel, said that a little after midnight Sid came to his room with two gold records and his leather jacket for him to look after. Another witness, actor, erstwhile roadie for the Idols and dope peddler Rockets Redglare, gave a statement saying he had delivered drugs to Sid’s room at around 1:30am, and collected money to buy more for them the next day. When he left at sometime between 4 and 5am, Nancy was alive. Rockets stated that as he was leaving, he saw Steve Cincotti (another of Sid & Nancy’s regular dealers) arriving. Cincotti’s statement was that he dropped off some Tuinal for the couple and that he left. Did someone else kill Nancy? There were certainly enough low-life types coming and going and motive enough, if the money Sid had been paid by Virgin Records for the royalties from My Way was in that room as has been reported, to keep people guessing

After Sid’s first release on bail for the murder charge, he had gone to Max’s Kansas City where friends were celebrating his freedom. Sid wanted drugs. They moved on to Hurrah’s, where Sid ended their night early by glassing Todd Smith, Patti’s brother, in the face. The next day the police paid him a visit and took him back to jail. This time he stayed in there for 55 days

Stiv Bators – Sid RIP, from Sid’s obituary in Creem


“Sid got beaten up a lot. He got sold a lot or crap because he was a born victim. He drew attention to himself, something you don’t wanna do when you’re copping dope in New York City… Dee Dee Ramone had given Stiv Bators an 007 hunting knife at one of our first gigs. Stiv carried it with him all the time. That really impressed Sid. Dee Dee was his hero, so he wanted a hunting knife too. We all went down to Times Square so Sid could buy one. I think Nancy bought one, too. The pair had bundles of cash. They were out of it on Tuinol and dropping $100 bills as they walked. People followed us waiting for the next bundle to fall” – Cheetah Chrome

“Sid came in here and said, ‘Look what I’ve got. Now people can’t beat me up any more’.” He was brandishing a knife with a five and a half inch blade, said Leon. “Nancy bought it for him so he could defend himself from the beatings he was getting”


“Sid was famous for being obnoxious. People would come up to him, ‘You’re one of the Sex Pistols’ Boom! I stopped going out with them” – Neon Leon in the SoHo Weekly News (NY) October ’78

One of Sid’s problems in NY was that, unlike in London, he couldn’t get his heroin prescription weekly or fortnightly in take away bottles. He had to go down to the local methadone clinic every morning, with Nancy, and dose at a window, with a nurse watching. The low-lifes that would see Sid would give him a hard time, because of his name, and want to pick a fight with him

“It was only when Jerry Nolan turned up that I started to worry. Jerry was a notorious junkie. We ate and listened to more of Sid’s stories, and then these London friends of Sid’s showed up. Immediately the atmosphere changed. I could tell drugs were in the room. I said to Jerry [Only, of the Misfits] and Howie [Pyro]: “Look, if they’re going to start shooting up, let’s go.” We got our coats on, but that’s when Sid overdosed. Anne knew what to do. She’d seen it before. We started wrapping blankets round him, rubbing his arms, shaking him. Suddenly he came round. The first thing he said was: “Sorry I scared you all.” He seemed a bit shocked he’d overdosed, but he was okay. He even had a cup of tea” – Eileen Polk

“I used to hang out a lot with Nancy in New York, but I basically used her. She had money for drugs, and I didn’t
There was a wonderful review she did of the Heartbreakers in New York Rocker. That girl could write. She was smart, had an unusually high IQ, I mean schoolwise and streetwise. She was a stripper and a prostitute and very much in love with me. I mean, followed me everywhere, told everybody stories about us that were all lies” – Jerry Nolan

Sid & Nancy – the Lech Kowalski interview

Sid’s ‘confession’

In Sid’s statement to the police, he says he went to get his methadone at the clinic on Lafayette Street after discovering her bloodied, with a knife in her stomach. It’s a difficult thing to imagine, to abandon someone in such obvious need of help, let alone your lover; unless you’re a junkie and believe that what she was going to need most when she came around was her dose. It’s not unlikely that the cops were less than sympathetic to the authority-intolerant Englishman and his predicament. He was a ‘hype’ after all – a dirty dope fiend. They may have put words in his mouth, although there is absolutely no evidence of that. Maybe Sid was set-up; there was always a coterie of shady characters around him and definitely there was that night

Nancy’s body being carried out of the Chelsea Hotel

“She had an exceptionally large drive to be where the action was. She claimed this ridiculously high IQ score. It was her way of trying to distinguish herself from the crowd of other girls very much like her that hung out at CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City. It was how she made herself feel special to herself. (In a way, you’d have to be especially dumb to believe such a claim despite all the evidence to the contrary). Like many girls of the period, she made money go-go dancing naked in Times Square sex bars” – Richard Hell

Legs McNeil, of Punk Magazine, knew Nancy well. As he says in this interview, in which he defends Nancy Spungen, the scene in NY was small, “so you met everyone pretty quickly. It wasn’t a scene that anyone wanted to be a part of. There was no velvet rope at CBGB”

Sid’s ashes were scattered onto Nancy’s grave, at St David’s Jewish Cemetery on the outskirts of Philadelphia, by his mother, Anne – against the Spungen family’s express wishes. Anne had very much wanted to fulfil Sid’s last wish that he be buried next to Nancy. After Sid’s funeral she made the journey with Jerry Only, Eileen Polk… were escorted to the gravesite. There was no way she could have taken out the urn and scattered her son’s ashes there and then. It was only once they had left that they decided it had to be done at all costs. Jerry drove around to the back of the cemetery and while Eileen kept watch Sid’s mum climbed over a wall and scattered Sid’s ashes on Nancy’s grave
On her return to london from New York, Anne Beverley was followed by the London drug squad to Notting Hill Gate, where the house she entered was raided. She was then arrested. In 1996, Anne Beverley swallowed a fatal dose of pills

The story breaks in London

‘Sid is now the iconic figure he is because he was despised at the time. Just like Punk rock and Punk clothes, what begins as garbage is later venerated as gold. It’s alchemical. From the darkness comes the light and vice versa. I don’t think Sid killed nancy. I think Nancy pissed off some dealer or groupie and the truth will never be known’ – Eileen Polk

interview with Sid from Rikers Island 1978


porky prime cuts

One of the best things about being a 14, 15 and 16-year-old in the mid-to-late 70’s was going down to your local record store on a Saturday and spending the little money you’d saved up in the week on some vinyl. Those were the golden years of the 7-inch single, many of which were self-financed by bands who only ever made one or two records, and they were always interestingly, if not slickly, packaged. The picture sleeve became an art form in itself. Some of those 7-inch singles were compressed little masterpieces. The discs themselves were often coloured; pink, day-glo green or orange, or milk white. Sometimes you’d open them up and a small library of pamphlets and pictures would tumble out

The Sex Pistols God Save The Queen

Punk was about so much more than just the music, in fact it was more than just a ‘scene’; it was a movement that mobilized vast sections of youth to protest against their governments, which created a rich environment for new artists to work with
Artists and designers like Jamie Reid, Malcolm Garrett and Vivienne Westwood created images that have become as much a part of British cultural iconography as the London Underground logo and the London black cab. In England, particularly, the punk scene moved into art and fashion in a big way. But frequently the best of those records were pressed up by the bands who recorded them, in relatively small numbers. It was the DIY ethic that was the spirit of the times

Phyllis Stein: “…the scenes in London and NY …were very different. And what made it so divergent were two things as far as I could tell: the fashion and the audiences. In NY, we were very stylish and fashionable but in London it was taken to a whole different level. And I think Malcolm and Vivienne had a lot to do with that obviously” – Muddkiss

Poster for the Sex Pistols Pretty Vacant 

X-Ray Spex Oh Bondage Up Yours!

A ‘Porky Prime Cut‘ is the signature of record cutting engineer George Peckham, whose cryptic messages used to appear in the run-off grooves of literally thousands of punk and new wave singles form the late-70s onward

Porky? “It was a nickname I got in Liverpool during the ’60s, cos of all the old slagbags I used to chase and the ale I put away. Before you make the final positive, (master vinyl cutting), you have to put a matrix number in the middle, because as far as the factory is concerned it’s just another disc. Then I sneak on the old Porky Prime Cut…”

The Snivelling Shits Teminal Stupid

UK Subs Warhead

The Buzzcocks Orgasm Addict

Spizzenergi Where’s Captain Kirk?

Generation X Your Generation

The Slits Animal Space

The Vibrators Automatic Lover

If It Ain’t Stiff…

Stiff Records started off in 1976, with a 7-inch single by Nick Lowe, and released 250 records over the next 10 years. Though very much associated with the rise of Punk and New Wave, Stiff Records worked with all sorts of artists (the word’s most flexible record label), from the protopunk band Pink Fairies to the Swiss electronica duo Yello. They pressed records in coloured vinyl – white, pink and red, and their labels carried memorable logos and slogans. Highlights? The Damned – New Rose/Help 1976 (the UK’s 1st New Wave release), Richard Hell – Another World/Blank Generation/You Gotta Lose 1976, the Adverts – One Ch0rd Wonders/Quickstep – 1976, Desmond Dekker – Israelites/Why Fight? – 1980, the Pogues Boys From The County Hell/Repeal Of The Licensing Laws – 1984…

And some of Porky’s messages in the run-out grooves? The vast majority just read: ‘A Porky Prime Cut’
For the Damned’s debut Damned Damned Damned (1977) – A PORKY PRIME CUT/THE SOUND IS IN THE PLASTIC;
for the Slits The Man Next Door (1980) – A PORKY PRIME CUT VEGETARIAN STYLE;
for 23 Skidoo’s Ethics (1981) – A PORKY PRIME CUT. WELCOMES YOU ABOARD;
for the Mekons’ This Sporting Life/Fight the Cuts (1982) – ‘we wuz robbed’ & ‘a porky prime cut’/’support the hospital workers’ & ‘a porky prime cut’;
for the reissue of Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True – 
A Porky Prime Cut Again Eh El? Help Us Hype Elvis/A Porky Prime Cut. Elvis Still King;


the Damned Neat Neat Neat Stiff Records BUY 10

the Damned Neat Neat Neat b-side Stab Your Back/SingalongaScabies Stiff Records BUY 10-B

Elvis Costello Alison Stiff Records BUY 14

Ian Dury & the Blockheads
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll/Razzle In My Pocket Stiff Records BUY 17 & 17B

Punk was never about dyed-red mohicans and studded leather jackets. Those “postcard punks” whose pictures you can find at any of London’s finer souvenir stands, along with plastic coppers’ hats and union jack tea mugs – they were almost the very epitome of what the best of punk represented: an exploration of the sub-conscious, a creative muscular-reflex – charactarised brilliantly by bands like the Damned, X-Ray Spex, the Sex Pistols & Wire 

Interview with the legendary George Peckham at Porky’s Mastering in 2001 

the art of ray pettibon

Before he was a respected international artist, with work hanging in galleries from New York’s MoMA to the Tate Modern in London, Ray Pettibon (born Ginn), brother of Black Flag and SST Records founder Greg Ginn, drew many of the band’s flyers and designed a lot of their record covers. They were distinctive, black and white images, frequently disturbing or violent, done with Indian ink on paper

“We would go out on our flier-pasting missions in Robo’s little white Ford Cortina. We’d have the bucket with the paste, we’d have a few hundred fliers, and after all the fliers were posted, like three or four hours, we’d go home and go to sleep” – Black Flag singer Keith Morris

One of Pettibon’s most famous images: the Black Flag logo

Police Story

In My Head

Family Man

My War

‘Our First Woman president Will be Assassinated’

The Process of Weeding Out

Slip It In

Nervous Breakdown

Jealous Again

Everything Went Black



Graphic for No Mag

‘ I Don’t Fool Around With Women’

 No Title (End the War) 

New Wavy Gravy

Selfishness by Michael Gira, illustrated by Ray Pettibon

Capricious Missives

Pig Cupid

Raymond Pettibon @ MACBA, Barcelona 2004

“Punk rockers don’t buy art… They never did. I could’ve asked for 50 cents for any drawing; it would’ve been too much” – Ray Pettibon in Swindle magazine 2011

– see more of his work on his website

classic albums: dead kennedys – fresh fruit for rotting vegetables

Crawling Jello

Kill the Poor

“We figured with the name and all, we’d be shunned by most record companies, club owners and press. We figured our time slot was perhaps six months to two years” – Klaus Fluoride, Push to Fire

The Dead Kennedys formed in San Francisco in 1978 – founder East Bay Ray, Jello Biafra, Klaus Fluoride, 6025 (replaced in 1980 by D.H. Peligro) – and became one of the most influential of the late-’70s US punk bands, and leaders of the West Coast hardcore scene. Their first single, California Über Alles, released on their own Alternative Tentacles Records label in ’79, was a biting attack on the then governor of California, Jerry Brown. Biafra never shied away from voicing his political beliefs. In 1980 their debut album Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables was released and went on to be awarded a Gold Record in the UK, the land that spawned the bands who inspired the DK’s singer
Biafra’s savagely humourous lyrics were supremely offensive to many – Kill the Poor, I Kill Children, Holiday in Cambodia – but those who knew better, or took the time to look deeper, realised the man was taking swipes at people who richly deserved it

“That was part of the thing that drew me to punk so much – finally there was the true spirit of rock & roll brought back again – it was scaring the shit out of all the right people, plus the lyrics didn’t have to be so stupid any more. I’ve never liked love songs. I hated them when I was a seven-year-old in second grade and first discovered rock & roll in the fall of ’65. Then as a teenager I realised that love songs weren’t just stupid, they were lying to me! Romance didn’t work like that at all!”
Jello Biafra, the Quietus

I Kill Children

In 1979 the always outspoken Jello Biafra ran for mayor of San Francisco (he came in fourth out of ten candidates). In the late ’80s, the band was charged with distribution of harmful matter to minors over the artwork included in their album Frankenchrist*. The case became a First Amendment cause celebre, and the trial resulted in a hung jury. The artwork was subsequently judged to be art and not pornography. All of this ensured a routine heavy police presence at their gigs

*H.R. Giger
Landscape #20: Where Are We Coming From (Penis Landscape)

The Dead Kennedys Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables 1980. Jello Biafra (vocals), East Bay Ray (guitar), Klaus Fluoride (bass, vocals), Ted (drums)

  1. Kill the Poor
  2. Forward to Death 
  3. When Ya Get Drafted 
  4. Let’s Lynch the Landlord
  5. Drug Me
  6. Your Emotions 
  7. Chemical Warfare 
  8. California Über Alles 
  9. I Kill Children
  10. Stealing People’s Mail 
  11. Funland at the Beach 
  12. Ill in the Head 
  13. Holiday in Cambodia 
  14. Viva Las Vegas 

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The Dead Kennedys –
We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now (Lost Session tapes)
California Über Alles 

Jello Biafra’s Mayoral Campaign statement

“I am an anarchist in my personal life. I try to live my life in a way that I don’t need cops or baby-sitters to keep me from infringing on others. But I don’t feel we have evolved far enough as a species to make anarchy work in society itself. We still need government to transfer the wealth from those who have too much to those who have too little, to make sure important projects get done, and keep territorial humans from screwing over and killing each other…”

the sex pistols live @ winterland '78

The Sex Pistols Live

At Winterland San Fransisco 1978

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

When Malcolm McLaren decided that the time was right to take his boys over to America, the band’s US label, Warner Brothers, had to put up a $1 million surety bond to satisfy the US Immigration Department. The Sex Pistols arrived at New York’s JFK airport on Tuesday, January 3rd, 1978, with 19 scheduled shows. To protect their investment, Warner Brothers had insisted that the band travel with an American crew, which they supplied themselves. The guys they chose were battle-hardened roadies with no love for punk rock. There was a strict ‘no hard drugs on tour’ policy, which the crew were also there to enforce

McLaren had decided to use this first US tour to send the band through the American south, starting east and heading for the Pacific. Though Never Mind the Bollocks had failed to make the US Billboard top 100, media attention ensured that the band’s reputation preceded it. On the 8th the Sex Pistols arrived in Texas, where they were booked to play at Randy’s Rodeo. The 2,200-capacity venue, an old bowling alley, filled up with a whole bunch of Mexican-Americans and Rednecks who had come to check out this ‘punk’ thing for themselves. Predictably, they took an immediate dislike to the English upstarts and beer bottles rained down on the band. Sid retaliated by hitting one unfortunate bloke who’d got to close in the head with his bass guitar

‘Malcom McClaren was the Sex Pistols manager, and he made a strategic effort to book all of the band’s tour dates into venues that would provide a perfect backdrop for a riotous culture clash. This included dates at other rural Country-and-Western bars in San Antonio and Tulsa
$3.50 got you in the door to see the Sex Pistols that night. The crowd was evenly divided between North Texas punks and Wrangler-jean wearing curiosity seekers. The band’s appearance was less of a performance and more of a “happening”
Jeff Liles, Dallas Observer

The Longhorn Ballroom
‘Banned in their own home country, England’s Sex Pistols, denied admittance to the United States, the Sex Pistols bring the new wave to the Metroplex this Tuesday night, in the Longhorn Ballroom.
They said it couldn’t happen, but it happens Tuesday night: the Sex Pistols, live’ – Dallas Radio Promo, 1978

Next up, the Longhorn Ballroom, again the band were pelted with missiles. Sid, now withdrawing badly from his opiate habit, sent out a message by scrawling ‘Gimme a Fix’ across his chest in black marker
Thursday January the 12th, Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The next night, Friday the thirteenth, San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom, a 5,000-capacity venue that sold out in one day. This was going to be the largest audience the Pistols had ever played to, and was going to be broadcat live on San Francisco’s K-SAN FM. The Nuns and the Avengers were the support acts

The Winterland Ballroom
“No Future for me!”

A million thanks to the Sex Pistols Channel for uploading so much invaluable footage of this amazing band – truly historic stuff

This was, of course, their very last gig and as you watch the performance you can almost see John Lydon’s disgust at the farce his great rock’n’roll band had become; “If you can put up with that you can put up with anything“, he sneers at the less than enthralled crowd after the third song. “Here comes another tuneless racket” is how he introduces Liar. Without question the Sex Pistols were a great rock’n’roll band, until Malcolm’s managerial meddling and Sid’s narcotic needling proved too much for the others to stomach. What did John Lydon think of Sid Viciousas a replacement for the ejected Glen Matlock? “Sid was nothing more than a coat-hanger filling an empty space on stage”

Backstage after the show, the disintegration was apparent. Founder of Punk magazine Legs McNeil found himself there to witness the end of a band: “Everyone of them looked miserable,” he remembered in his weighty account Please Kill me: An Oral History Of Punk. “Sid sat in a chair with his shirt off. Johnny was alone on a couch muttering to himself, Steve and Paul were lounging next to a plastic gerbage pail filled with Heinekens. They were all just griping at each other. Sid had pulled four chicks from the audience, and the four girls were just standing around, everyone was ignoring them, and then Sid turned to them and said, ‘So who’s going to fuck me tonight?”
Also in attendance was renowned photographer Annie Leibowitz, then with Rolling Stone, who arrived with flash boxes and lighting umbrellas and bravely attempted to get John and Sid together for some shots.
“Fuck him,” said John (as recounted by Legs McNeil in his book). “Why should I go over there to that bastard? Tell the wanker to come over here.”
“Ah Sid, do you think you could sit with Johnny on the couch so I can get a shot of the two…”
“Fuck off!” replied Sid.
– from John Lydon: The Sex Pistols, PiL & Anti-Celebrity by Ben Myers

When asked, on a FilmFour internet chat, why he had asked the audience his now famous question “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”, Lydon said: ‘I felt I had been personally cheated and the band too and the audience! By – from my point of view – the jealous shenanigans of bad management. We were allowed to resent each other, and left up to our own devices, which unfortunately turned to spite. But we were young, and too young for the adults all around us who while we were not looking, put themselves in the driving seats’

Set List:

  • God Save The Queen
  • I Wanna Be Me
  • Seventeen
  • New York
  • E.M.I.
  • Belsen Was A Gas
  • Bodies
  • Holidays in the Sun
  • Liar
  • No Feelings
  • Problems
  • Pretty Vacant
  • Anarchy in the U.K.
  • No Fun (Encore)

John Lydon interviewed by Janet Street Porter, soon after the Sex Pistols imploded, 1978

classic albums: the sex pistols – never mind the bollocks


“Just about the most exciting rock & roll records of the Seventies” Rolling Stone

The Sex Pistols’ live television appearance for their interview with Bill Grundy, followed by reports of more bad behaviour at Heathrow Airport en route to Holland, prompted EMI to pull out of their deal with the band after they had made only one single together – Anarchy In the UK/I Wanna Be Me. After a doomed week-long relationship with A&M, and after CBS pulled out of negotiations with the band, it was Richard Branson’s Virgin who stepped in and released their second single, God Save The Queen/Did You No Wrong. By then, Glen Matlock had been replaced by Sid Vicious and the band was ready to record their first and only studio album, 1977’s Never Mind The Bollocks

No Feelings

A&M had withdrawn the original God Save the Queen single, and for Virgin’s first publicity stunt for the record, Branson sent Johnny Rotten, Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Sid Vicious to pose for a photograph in the doorway of the Finch’s Wine Shop on Kensington Park Road under a ‘Long Live the Queen’ banner
Virgin’s next stunt with the Sex Pistols was the famed Thames boat trip on the day of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. In one of the defining moments of the British punk revolution, Branson and McLaren stood shoulder-to-shoulder at the helm as the band played God Save the Queen and Anarchy in the UK outside the Houses of Parliament


The Sex Pistol’s Never Mind The Bollocks 1977. Johnny Rotten (vocals), Steve Jones (guitar), Glen Matlock (bass), Paul Cook (drums)

  1. Holidays in the Sun
  2. Liar
  3. No Feelings
  4. God Save the Queen
  5. Problems
  6. Seventeen
  7. Anarchy in the U.K.
  8. Bodies
  9. Pretty Vacant
  10. New York
  11. EMI

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“Malcolm was often in the studio with his missus, wearing her clothes. He used to wear a pair of tartan trews and a sort of tartan nappy that went between his legs and hung from his shoulders. Very fetching. Still, at that time he didn’t really interfere in the production process. That would only happen later on with lesser bands. And besides, Steve Jones would have smacked him in the mouth if he had tried to butt in. Malcolm was quite clever about not straying into territory where he couldn’t command the band’s respect. If he was talking about publicity or something of that nature they would listen to him, whereas if he’d talked too much about what songs he liked or how they should be played I don’t they would have worn it” – Bill Price, Sound on Sound

“It was too produced, too clean. It still sounds like that now, too nice. It reminds me of a West Coast band., the way everything fits so nicely into place, note perfect” – John Lydon, from England’s Dreaming, Jon Savage



the art of death in june/brown book

The Perfume of Traitors

The sample used in Death In June’s The Perfume of Traitors is from a speech by Fritz Schliephack, telling how Hitler’s personal bodyguard would smash every crucifix they saw during their march through France

Douglas P (Pearce), the writer and the voice behind Death In June, is frequently accused of having fascist sympathies (if not unswerving loyalties – DIJ pulled out of the Dark Xmas festival in Hamburg after organizers denounced fascist attacks on immigrants). The name Death In June itself is thought to come from Hitler’s ‘Night of Long Knives’ – June 29, 1934 – when Ernst Roehm and many other senior SA leaders were arrested and shot by the Gestapo on Hitler’s orders. As well as being a loyal Nazi, Roehm was also a committed socialist and social radical, and opposed Hitler’s policy of catering to the country’s major industrialists. So, is it just provocative posturing, or is there something more sinister lurking beneath Pearce’s preoccupation?

DIJ have often worn Nazi Waffen-SS uniforms on stage and regularly use fascist and Nazi symbols on their albums and on stage, including the Nazi SS Death’s Head and the Black Sun (Schwarze Sonne), associated the mystic-esoteric aspects of National Socialism. Douglas P has been an avid collector of militaria all his life, and obviously has a deep interest in war, as well as European history and symbolism. DIJ songs have sampled Nazi speeches and covered German martial songs. This has attracted a large fan base of young fascists. It doesn’t make Pearce one too

Douglas P has always used symbolism, both in his lyrics and visuals. Often these symbols are slightly modified European historical or ancestral symbols. The fascist aesthetic is unquestionably a seductive one for many, as is communist-bloc art-prop for others. Lots of punks wore swastikas in the late 70s and 80s, including Sid Vicious and Siouxsie Sioux. They were not accused of being nazi sympathizers. Dougas P is gay: the gay community are famous for subversively turning stereotypical images on their heads – think the British skinhead look of the 70s which was co-opted, stripped of its menace and became an out-and-proud uniform

Death In June’s numerous shifts in style over the years have taken them from their initial post-punk phase through industrial and a short dance-influenced period to Pearce’s interest and influence in neofolk, using acoustic guitars, references to ancient and contemporary European history and neopaganism

Death In June Brown Book 1987. Douglas Pearse (performer). DIJ’s fifth album, Brown Book, is a reference to Braunbuch, a Nazi propaganda publication. The album is a blend of acoustic guitars, drum machines, samples, electronics and haunting vocals

  1. Heilige Tod
  2. Touch Defiles
  3. Hail! The White Grain
  4. Runes and Men
  5. To Drown a Rose
  6. Red Dog – Black Dog
  7. The Fog Of The World
  8. We Are The Lust
  9. Punishment Initiation
  10. Brown Book
  11. Burn Again
  12. Hail! The White Grain – Reprise
  13. To Drown A Rose – Reprise
  14. Runes And Men – Reprise

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Brown Book not for sale on German ebay*

* “Early in 2007 I was told that Brown Book had been placed on the B list of banned artworks in Germany known as the ‘index’. Having had no direct contact with the German government on this particular issue” – David P On DIJ’s Brown Book LP, they published the Horst Wessel song, the marching anthem of the SA and later the official song of the Nazi party

Rose Cloud of Holocaust

Here is Douglas P’s own words on the subject of his perceived fascism/racism:

“Death In June was named after I thought I heard a colleague say those words during our first recording session in 1981. It was an accident of mishearing. I have said this in countless interviews over the years since. It is merely post-rationalization to assume it refers to any one particular event, historic or otherwise…
Before becoming a musician I was a student of 20th century history, as is clearly stated in the whole interview with Zillo magazine in 1992. Apparently a small quote is taken out of context from this interview referring to my interest in Ernst Roehm. I cannot see how one cannot be interested in events and personalities that led directly, or indirectly, to the biggest tragedy of the 20th century…
This leads to the song Rose Clouds Of Holocaust issued in 1995. This work was inspired by Mid-Winter and Mid-Summer visits to Iceland where the days during these times of year can be either almost totally dark or either almost totally light. Never completely one thing, nor the other. I experienced a spiritual epiphany during these visits in 1989/1990. The word ‘holocaust’ is Greek for ‘burnt offerings’ (normally of a religious kind) and Iceland is full of extinct volcanoes as well as active ones. Its volcanic landscape is the holocaust in question symbolizing death and rebirth. It has nothing to do with the persecution and extermination of Jews, Homosexuals, Gypsies etc. by Germany during the years of the IIIrd Reich.

I am a musician and I do not involve myself in politics and I refuse to be forced into becoming involved in politics. When the German Goth group Das Ich suddenly attempted to politicize a Christmas Festival in Hamburg, Germany in 1992, Death In June, along with another English group and Projekt Pitchfork from Germany, decided to drop out and not to become involved in what was after all local politics. We wrote, signed and distributed a joint statement explaining our decision, abhorring all forms of violence directed at anyone regardless of race, religion or sexuality (apparently there had been some trouble in Hamburg?) and relocated our performances to a club in Bochum. This became a 3 night residency where anyone with tickets to the Festival who still wanted to celebrate Christmas could do so with Death In June etc. All 3 nights were sold out. The Dark Xmas Festival was not and fell to bits with the highest political arguments between the remaining Goth groups being as to who should headline! – here is Douglas P’s complete reply to these accusations

the art of the punk/new wave single sleeve (2)

The Clash Bankrobber

The Clash White Man in Hammersmith Palais

The Clash Radio Clash

The Clash I Fought the Law

The Damned Problem Child

The Damned Stretcher Case

The Damned I Just Can’t Be Happy Today

X-Ray Spex The Day the World Turned day-Glo

UK Subs This Gun Says

UK Subs Teenage

UK Subs Party in Paris

The Fall Fiery Jack

The Fall A Totally Wired

The Fall C.R.E.E.P.

The Dead Kennedys California Uber Alles

The Dead Kennedys Too Drunk To Fuck

The Buzzcocks I Don’t Mind

The Buzzcocks Ever Fallen in Love

Wire I Am the Fly

classic albums: the clash – london calling

London Calling @ the Capitol Theater, New Jersey, 1980

“I saw Joe play with the 101ers many times. They were nearly at the point of being the best group in London. They were lumped in with the pub rock scene, but they were really a squat band, from the squatting communities. Joe was part of that scene, which was very big in the early ’70s. And we’d seen them many times Joe had already made it in our eyes, you know? It took a lot of courage to get him to join our group, since we hadn’t done anything. But luckily, Joe had seen the Sex Pistols. They had supported him in the 101ers at the Nashville Rooms a couple of times. Joe had seen the new thing coming in. He obviously wanted to be a part of it, and that was to our advantage because we were part of that, Paul and I. We went to see him play with the 101ers, at the Golden Lion in Fulham. Afterwards, Bernhard, our manager, went round the back and talked to him and made him the offer. We were in the squat in Shepherd’s Bush, and he brought Joe around a couple days later He had seen us out a few times, either at his gigs or in the dole queue (laughs). We were in the dole queue looking across at him – glaring – and he thought we were gonna start a fight with him. But we were actually looking in awe because we’d seen him play the other night! So we’d seen each other before, but he had obviously noticed us as well. We just thought he was the best guy out there. We were looking for a singer and said, “Let’s see if we can get Joe”
– Mick Jones, the Gibson Classic interview


When the Clash were ready to make their third album, Joe Strummer said they were at their lowest ebb. Their second album, Give ‘Em Enough Rope, hadn’t done the business for them in America they had hoped it would. They got a secluded rehearsal space near Pimlico, in London, and began working as a unit. Writing, rehearsing, recording, and playing 5-a-side football whenever they had a break.
They were free to experiment, because they had nothing pre-written. When they were ready to record, they went with Guy Stevens as producer. If you haven’t seen the footage of him throwing chairs and ladders and pogoing up and down in Mick Jones’s face, while they were recording the masters, you should watch Don Letts’ 30-minute documentary about the making of the album, The Last Testament, on youtube

Guns of Brixton

‘By now, our expectations of the Clash might seem to have become inflated beyond any possibility of fulfillment. It’s not simply that they’re the greatest rock & roll band in the world – indeed, after years of watching too many superstars compromise, blow chances and sell out, being the greatest is just about synonymous with being the music’s last hope. While the group itself resists such labels, they do tell you exactly how high the stakes are, and how urgent the need’
– Tom Carson for Rolling Stone magazine, April 3 1980

‘The thing about London Calling is that it has the quality of a band playing live then and there, which comes down to Guy Stevens, as opposed to the different role of Sandy Pearlman on the previous album [1978’s Give ‘Em Enough Rope]. Sandy Pearlman was able to extract the live Clash performance and produce it in a very technically spot-on way, whereas Guy’s approach was to go in all directions, leave the tape running, charge ahead and everything would be great. Record one song, move onto the next one. Give ‘Em Enough Rope is a solid rock record but it was quite different to our debut too. Sandy Pearlman wanted to put the lab coat on and create this supersonic sound, which I think he achieved, but on London Calling Guy was able to translate what we were trying to do in a more human form’
– Paul Simonon to Ben Myers for 3 a.m.

Mick, Joe & Paul rehearse

‘Here’s where they start showing off. If Lost in the Supermarket, for instance, is just another alienated-consumption song, it leaps instantly to the head of the genre on the empathy of Mick Jones’s vocal. And so it goes. Complaints about “slick” production are absurd – Guy Stevens slick? – and insofar as the purity of the guitar attack is impinged upon by brass, pianner, and shuffle, this is an expansion, not a compromise. A gratifyingly loose Joe Strummer makes virtuoso use of his four-note range, and Paul Simonon has obviously been studying his reggae records. Warm, angry, and thoughtful, confident, melodic, and hard-rocking, this is the best double-LP since Exile on Main Street. And it’s selling for about $7.50. A+’ – Robert Christgau

‘[T]he record never lacks focus and Strummer and Jones’ willingness to experiment is never let down by a lack of great songs. Pick from straight-up punk like Death Or Glory, sweet pop like Lost In The Supermarket or dub like the Paul Simenon-penned [sic] Guns of Brixton. They’re even confident enough to leave possibly the best song of all, Train In Vain, un-credited on the sleeve when any other band would be screaming its presence from the rooftops’
– Mark Sutherland for BBC Music Review

Train in Vain

The Clash London Calling 1980Joe Strummer (vocals, rhythm guitar, piano), Mick Jones (lead guitar, piano, harmonica, vocals), Paul Simonon, (bass guitar, vocals), Topper Headon (drums, percussion). London Calling was voted the best album of the ’80’s by Rolling Stone magazine

  1. London Calling
  2. Brand New Cadillac
  3. Jimmy Jazz
  4. Hateful
  5. Rudie Can’t Fail
  6. Spanish Bombs
  7. The Right Profile
  8. Lost in the Supermarket
  9. Clampdown
  10. The Guns of Brixton
  11. Wrong ‘Em Boyo
  12. Death or Glory
  13. Koka Kola
  14. The Card Cheat
  15. Lover’s Rock
  16. Four Horsemen
  17. I’m Not Down
  18. Revolution Rock
  19. Train in Vain

{{{ download }}}

classic albums: iggy & the stooges – raw power

Search & Destroy

One of the most slated mixes in rock ‘n’ roll history at the time of its release, and probably one of the most brutal final mixes ever given the go ahead for release, Iggy Pop’s Raw Power is today duly given the respect it deserves as one of the most ground-breaking and influential rock albums of all time
After the disintegration of
the Stooges Iggy had signed with David Bowie’s management to make a new record. Bowie’s manager, Tony Defries, wanted to make a ‘star’ out of Iggy, in the same vein as Bowie, and then put a band around him. Iggy wanted James Williamson in that band, and the two began writing material in London. The Asheton brothers were called after the management’s desire for an English rhythm section failed to produce anyone Iggy or James was happy with. The Asheton brothers were called in. Ron Asheton, the Stooges guitarist on the first two albums, was moved to bass to accommodate Williamson. Scott Asheton played the drums. Suddenly this was no longer an Iggy Pop solo album, but another Stooges album
James Williamson says that at the same time they were making this record Bowie’s career was taking off, and the Stooges were forgotten about

“It became evident to us that Tony DeFries and MainMan, you know, they really didn’t understand our music. They didn’t like it and they didn’t see any potential for it to make hit records, which is what they wanted. We went on and on making these demos, but we couldn’t get anything they liked. Eventually, the thing that saved the whole thing was that MainMan got very much occupied with breaking David Bowie in the US, and so they quit paying attention to us. That allowed us to go into the studio unsupervised – no producer, no anything; just an engineer – and record those tracks the way we wanted to, and that’s what you got. It’s fairly rare that you get the ability to lay down something authentic like that on record”
from James Williamson’s interview with ClashMusic 

“The first time I heard him play, which was in a basement in Ann Arbor, he did something that later became known as punk or speed metal – a great number of chords, almost all at once – but which at that time came from no known musical vocabulary. His playing had dirt, but it did not lack authority. You could hear the intelligence in it”
– Iggy on James Williamson

Iggy Pop and James Williamson in London, 1972

“The most absurd situation I encountered when I was recording was the first time I worked with Iggy Pop. He wanted me to mix Raw Power, so he brought the 24-track tape in, and he put it up. He had the band on one track, lead guitar on another and him on a third. Out of 24 tracks there were just three tracks that were used. He said ‘see what you can do with this’. I said, ‘Jim, there’s nothing to mix’. So we just pushed the vocal up and down a lot. On at least four or five songs that was the situation, including “Search and Destroy.” That’s got such a peculiar sound because all we did was occasionally bring the lead guitar up and take it out..” – David Bowie

Bowie’s mix of Raw Power was DeFries’s last-ditch attempt to create something he thought would appeal to the record-buying public. “Defries called in his golden boy to salvage the album at Western Studios on Sunset,” says Williamson. “We’ve been grousing about the mix Bowie did ever since, but we can’t complain too much because we were in the studio when it was done. And the truth is that Raw Power would never have been released had it not been for Bowie”

Though there might be a bone of contention to this day between all the band members and David Bowie, there was nothing really ‘wrong’ with Bowie’s mixes. But the mastering of those mixes resulted in a very harsh sound: treble-heavy with the bass and drums muffled and way low down in the mix, and erratic volume bursts that added to the tearing sound of Iggy’s sandpaper vocals and James Williamson razorwire guitar

Raw Power

I Need Somebody

Iggy & the Stooges Raw Power 1972. James Williamson (guitar), Ron Asheton (bass), Scott Asheton (drums). Produced in September – October of ’72, at CBS Studios in London by Iggy, and mixed in Hollywood by David Bowie

  1. Search and Destroy
  2. Gimme Danger
  3. Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell
  4. Penetration
  5. Raw Power
  6. I Need Somebody
  7. Shake appeal
  8. Death trip

{{{ download }}}

Raw Power didn’t sell well and was considered a failure by MainMan. The Stooges were dropped. James and Iggy wrote some more together – stuff that would appear a few years later, in ’77, on their album Kill City. After that Iggy decamped to Berlin with Bowie, where he made two of his best solo albums, The Idiot and Lust For Life

classic albums: suicide

Suicide Girl

“What’re you all booin’ for? You’re all gonna die”

(Alan Vega)

“I heard the Stooges for the first time in ’69. I saw the Stooges in ’69. I thought that was the greatest performance… Like, my life changed before my eyes. I never could be what I was at that moment ever again… Here was the new thing in life, I mean, this was it… We went back the next night. It was great again” – Alan Vega, from Tony Oursler’s Synesthesia project

The hugely influential synthpunk-duo Suicide (Alan Vega and Martin Rev) has always remained a cult phenomenon. Like many truly innovative bands Suicide were polarizing, but it seemed to work for them, even though the dissenters were many. In 1976 they appeared on the first Max’s Kansas City Live LP compilation, and a year later released their debut. It was dismissed by Rolling Stone as “absolutely puerile”, but Suicide were setting the template for the ‘two weirdos with keyboards and drum machine’ that would be repeated later on, with greater commercial success, by the likes of Soft Cell, Erasure & the Pet Shop Boys. Their song Dream Baby Dream has been covered by many artists – including Bruce Springsteen (see below)

Martin Rev 

Suicide were the first band to describe themselves as ‘punk’, at a ‘Punk Music Mass’ in a downtown NY art space. They played CBGB, but Max’s Kansas City was there true home from home. “CBGB was always our worst audience” said Vega. “Max’s was more urban, Italian New York, Jewish, Jersey…”
“CBs was maybe a little more highbrow,” Rev said. He’s talking about a really crumby biker bar, but when you consider that during their shows Alan Vega used to lash the walls around him with a bike chain, and antagonize, and sometimes even attack, their audience, maybe even CBGB could seem a little ‘high brow’

Their self-titled debut was released in ’77, a classic album of minimalist and hypnotic power. Fraught with tension, Alan Vega’s disjointed vocals seem to teeter on the verge of a psychotic breakdown. Martin Rev creates intense and sometimes downright spooky moods with pulsating synth and monotonous beats. There are moments during Frankie Teardrop when I still jump out of my chair when Alan snaps and starts to yelp. Suicide is not for everyone, but those who like them usually love them

A bonus inclusion on the CD was the now infamous 23 minutes over Brussels, a recording of the gig they did on June 16, 1978, at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels, Belgium, that ended with a riot (in 3 parts – and thanks a million to FallingDown08 for uploading it onto youtube). Elvis Costello, who was headlining that night, made no effort to conceal his disgust with the audience and cut his performance short in solidarity with the New York synth punks, which caused the crowd to tear the place apart. I guess Belgium wasn’t yet ready for Suicide in 1978

Frankie Teardrop

Suicide Suicide 1977. Alan Vega (vocals), Martin Rev (electronics). Haunting, beautiful, intense, frightening, and downright alien

  1. Ghost Rider
  2. Rocket USA
  3. Chree
  4. Johnny
  5. Girl
  6. Frankie Teardrop
  7. Che

23 minutes over Brussels pt 1 (Ghost Rider, Rocket USA)

23 minutes over Brussels pt 2 (Cheree, Dance)

23 minutes over Brussels pt 3 (Frankie Teardrop – partial)

The Boss – covering Suicide’s Dream Baby Dream 

‘The original punk-rock band was probably Suicide. They were shocking in being minimalist – one keyboard player and one singer who made a more threatening noise than ten guitar players – and by confronting their audiences. Alan Vega would start fist-fights with people in the audience, or do crazy stuff that scared people out of the room! He was so intense and insane. They wouldn’t measure a successful concert by how many people showed up, they’d measure by how many people left the room. I can’t think of any bands that do anything shocking or scary any more. Everything is so tame and boring nowadays’ – John Holmstrom, founder of Punk Magazine

Ripped & Torn issue 13 – Suicide

classic albums: joy division – unknown pleasures

Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook, like many young men in England in 1976-77, decided to form a band after experiencing the Sex Pistols for the first time. The mythic gig at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall, in June 1976 – “the gig that changed the world” – showed the aspiring musicians in the tiny crowd that you didn’t have to be a virtuoso to be in a band: three chords were enough – and many thought they could do better than what they saw that night. Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks had organised the gig (after seeing the Pistols themselves down in London). Tickets were 60 pence each. Mark E Smith was there (and went on to form The Fall); Morrissey was there (and went on to form the Smiths); Mick Hucknall was there, in a punk band at the time called the Frantic Elevators. Ian Curtis was also at that gig, and knew ‘Barney’ and ‘Hooky’ from around Manchester, and was also looking to join a band himself

Sumner and Hook went out the next day and bought themselves guitars. Curtis joined them after answering their ad, placed in the window of Virgin Records in Manchester. As well as being the band’s vocalist, Ian Curtis also wrote the lyrics. After a succession of drummers that didn’t work out, Warsaw, as the band was then named, finally found the right man in Steven Morris. In January 1978 the band changed their name to Joy Division, because the name of a London-based group, Warsaw Pakt, sounded too similar


In April ’79, with Sumner on guitar, Hook on bass, Morris on drums and Curtis on vocals, Joy Division recorded their debut album, Unknown Pleasures, at Strawberry Studios in Stockport. Producer Martin “Zero” Hannett’s pairing with Joy Division was either glorious serendipdity or a stroke of genius. Hannett honed the raw band’s rougher, more mercurial live sound and created a spacier, darker, bassier tone. Hannett – the ‘post-punk Phil Spector’ – got up to all sorts of tricks in the studio, bringing in synthesisers and noise effects, turning the temperature in the studio down to near freezing so that the band would get a feel for ‘ambience’. Listening to the earlier Warsaw recordings of the same songs that made it onto Unknown Pleasures, you can hear how much of an impact Hannett had on the album’s overall sound

“Martin didn’t give a fuck about making a pop record, all he wanted to do was experiment. His attitude was that you get a load of drugs, lock the door of the studio and you stay in there all night and you see what you’ve got the next morning. And you keep doing that until it’s done. That’s how all our records were made” – Bernard Sumner

“There was a lot of space in their sound. They were a gift to a producer, because they didn’t have a clue. They didn’t argue. The “Factory Sampler” was the first thing I did with them. I think I’d had the new AMS delay line for about two weeks. It was called “Digital”. It was heaven sent” – Martin Hannett

“I just wanted us to be how we sounded live. I wasn’t interested in depth or anything, I just wanted to lop people’s heads off” – Peter Hook

On September 15th Joy Division made their only nationwide TV appearance, on Something Else on BBC 2, performing Transmission and She’s Lost Control. Ian’s frantic stage style – his infamously uncoordinated ‘epilepsy’ dance – won them a whole new set of fans. Dancing at full speed, Ian was rigid, resembling some sort of reanimated corpse

She’s Lost Control live on BBC2’s Something Else September ’79

 Joy Division Unknown Pleasures 1979. Ian Curtis (vocals), Bernard Sumner (guitar, keyboards), Peter Hook (bass), Stephen Morris (drums). Peter Saville’s beautifully designed sleeve, depicting the radio waves of a dying star, has taken on a deeper meaning with the tragic event of Curtis’s suicide, which took away the brightest star of the post-punk scene at 23 years of age, and made Joy Division the subject of myth
  1. Disorder
  2. Day of the Lords
  3. Candidate
  4. Insight
  5. New Dawn Fades
  6. She’s Lost Control
  7. Shadowplay
  8. Wilderness
  9. Interzone
  10. I Remember Nothing

{{{ download }}}



When Jon Savage wrote his review of Unknown Pleasures for Melody Maker, he had just relocated to Manchester from London. He has said the album’s filmic atmosphere mirrored for him precisely what he felt about the cold, foggy, post-industrial city he found himself in
To the centre of the city in the night waiting for you…” Joy Division’s spatial, circular themes and Martin Hannett’s shiny, waking-dream production gloss are one perfect reflection of Manchester’s dark spaces and empty places, endless sodium lights and hidden semis seen from a speeding car, vacant industrial sites – the endless detritus of the 19th century – seen gaping like rotten teeth from an orange bus. Hulme seen from the fifth floor on a threatening, rainy day… This is not, specifically, to glamorize: it could be anywhere. Manchester, as a (if not the) city of the Industrial Revolution, happens only to be a more obvious example of decay and malaise’
Jon Savage, from his review of Unknown Pleasures, Melody Maker 1979

“This sounds awful but it was only after Ian died that we sat down and listened to the lyrics. You’d find yourself thinking, ‘Oh my God, I missed this one.’ Because I’d look at Ian’s lyrics and think how clever he was putting himself in the position of someone else. I never believed he was writing about himself. Looking back, how could I have been so bleedin’ stupid? Of course he was writing about himself. But I didn’t go in and grab him and ask, ‘What’s up?’ I have to live with that” – Stephen Morris

Please visit the excellent for an exhaustive collection of listings, photos, scans and articles about the band

classic albums: the stranglers – black & white

For the Stranglers their third album was going to be a new experience. The first two, Rattus Norvegicus and No More Heroes, had come from a set list of songs the band had been playing and touring for years and could’ve recorded in their sleep. Now they were going to meet up and write an entire album – a whole set of new material – almost from scratch. They had already decided this would be very different sounding Stranglers album, though they had no ideas of what to call it at that stage
Over the winter of ’77-78, the band holed up in an old farmhouse in Northhamptonshire, practically in the middle of nowhere, and wrote the album. The pressure was immense. Black and White was the first of the Stranglers’ ‘concept’ albums. The idea was for the two principal songwriters, Hugh Cornwell and Jean Jacques Burnel, to each write a side of music, and each a side of lyrics, and then pair the one’s lyrics with the other’s music. Although in the end those ideas weren’t strictly adhered to, you can tell which side is which if you are a fan of the band

They went into the studio with Martin Rushent, who’d produced the first two Stranglers albums, to record it in March ’78, and Black and White was released on May 12th.  This album was musically and lyrically far more adventurous than No More Heroes and Rattus Norvegicus had been
The press launch was done in Iceland, so that the band could be photographed with bleak, alien landscapes surrounding them – images that reflected the album’s content brilliantly: weird, psychedelic, brutal, beautiful, and alien; Black and White went straight into the UK charts at No 2, only prevented by the Bee Gees’ Saturday Night Fever soundtrack from reaching the top spot


The more melodic ‘white’ side, which begins with the punchy Tank, and ends with the sweeping Toiler On the Sea, was mostly all JJ’s music and Hugh’s lyrics. The ‘black’ side was mostly Hugh’s dark and brooding music with JJ’s lyrics – Death and Night and Blood, about Yukio Mishima, being the most representative of the bassist’s preoccupations at that time. Hugh’s lyrics to Toiler On the Sea were inspired by Victor Hugo’s novel Les Travailleurs de la Mer, (‘Travailleurs’ means workers, not travelers) about a shipwrecked stranger, matched with JJ’s exhilarating bass riff-driven music, make it perhaps the high-point of the album, though that’s a tough call; this truly original album is jam-packed with great songs

“We saw everything in black and white. Everything polarised, we were polarised and we started to be aware we could be quite global physically and also intellectually questioning. So we thought one side could be melodic, and the other brutal, hard and soft – because The Stranglers always had a brutal side as well as a melodic side” – JJ from the Burning Up Times

Death and Night and Blood

The Stranglers Black & White 1979. Hugh Cornwell (vocals, guitar), JJ Burnel (vocals, bass), Dave Greenfield (vocals, keyboards), Jet Black (drums)

  1. Tank
  2. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
  3. Outside Tokyo
  4. Sweden (All Quiet on the Eastern Front)
  5. Hey! (Rise of the Robots)
  6. Toiler on the Sea
  7. Curfew
  8. Threatened
  9. Do You Wanna/Death and Night and Blood (Yukio)
  10. In the Shadows
  11. Enough Time

{{{ download }}}

Toiler On the Sea

The album cover itself is a great piece of art. The four Stranglers – menacing men in black – near-silhouetted against a stark white background: no title, no band name. Of the first five Stranglers’ albums – the five that most fans agree were the band during their most creative  – most would put Black and White at the top of the list, for its boldness and sheer originality. And for that bass playing…

John Robb asked JJ if he is the greatest bass player ever:

‘Well I’m one of them! Flea is great, I heard through a few people that he rated me. They must have listened to Black And White – Americans are very knowledgeable about music. I also rate John Entwistle and Jack Bruce – I thought he was pretty good. I like the bass player from Muse as well, he’s ambitious, Muse are interesting, their last album sounds so much like – seriously good’ – from Robb’s interview with JJB – Louder Than War

classic albums: the stranglers – black & white

For the Stranglers their third album was going to be a new experience. The first two, Rattus Norvegicus and No More Heroes, had come from a set list of songs the band had been playing and touring for years and could’ve recorded in their sleep. Now they were going to meet up and write an entire album – a whole set of new material – almost from scratch. They had already decided this would be very different sounding Stranglers album, though they had no ideas of what to call it at that stage
Over the winter of ’77-78, the band holed up in an old farmhouse in Northhamptonshire, practically in the middle of nowhere, and wrote the album. The pressure was immense. Black and White was the first of the Stranglers’ ‘concept’ albums. The idea was for the two principal songwriters, Hugh Cornwell and Jean Jacques Burnel, to each write a side of music, and each a side of lyrics, and then pair the one’s lyrics with the other’s music. Although in the end those ideas weren’t strictly adhered to, you can tell which side is which if you are a fan of the band

They went into the studio with Martin Rushent, who’d produced the first two Stranglers albums, to record it in March ’78, and Black and White was released on May 12th.  This album was musically and lyrically far more adventurous than No More Heroes and Rattus Norvegicus had been
The press launch was done in Iceland, so that the band could be photographed with bleak, alien landscapes surrounding them – images that reflected the album’s content brilliantly: weird, psychedelic, brutal, beautiful, and alien; Black and White went straight into the UK charts at No 2, only prevented by the Bee Gees’ Saturday Night Fever soundtrack from reaching the top spot

The more melodic ‘white’ side, which begins with the punchy Tank, and ends with the sweeping Toiler On the Sea, was mostly all JJ’s music and Hugh’s lyrics. The ‘black’ side was mostly Hugh’s dark and brooding music with JJ’s lyrics – Death and Night and Blood, about Yukio Mishima, being the most representative of the bassist’s preoccupations at that time. Hugh’s lyrics to Toiler On the Sea were inspired by Victor Hugo’s novel Les Travailleurs de la Mer, (‘Travailleurs’ means workers, not travelers) about a shipwrecked stranger, matched with JJ’s exhilarating bass riff-driven music, make it perhaps the high-point of the album, though that’s a tough call; this truly original album is jam-packed with great songs

“We saw everything in black and white. Everything polarised, we were polarised and we started to be aware we could be quite global physically and also intellectually questioning. So we thought one side could be melodic, and the other brutal, hard and soft – because The Stranglers always had a brutal side as well as a melodic side” – JJ from the Burning Up Times

Death and Night and Blood

The Stranglers Black & White 1979. Hugh Cornwell (vocals, guitar), JJ Burnel (vocals, bass), Dave Greenfield (vocals, keyboards), Jet Black (drums)

  1. Tank
  2. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
  3. Outside Tokyo
  4. Sweden (All Quiet on the Eastern Front)
  5. Hey! (Rise of the Robots)
  6. Toiler on the Sea
  7. Curfew
  8. Threatened
  9. Do You Wanna/Death and Night and Blood (Yukio)
  10. In the Shadows
  11. Enough Time


Toiler On the Sea

The album cover itself is a great piece of art. The four Stranglers – menacing men in black – near-silhouetted against a stark white background: no title, no band name. Of the first five Stranglers’ albums – the five that most fans agree were the band during their most creative  – most would put Black and White at the top of the list, for its boldness and sheer originality. And for that bass playing…

John Robb asked JJ if he is the greatest bass player ever:

‘Well I’m one of them! Flea is great, I heard through a few people that he rated me. They must have listened to Black And White – Americans are very knowledgeable about music. I also rate John Entwistle and Jack Bruce – I thought he was pretty good. I like the bass player from Muse as well, he’s ambitious, Muse are interesting, their last album sounds so much like – seriously good’ – from Robb’s interview with JJB – Louder Than War

classic albums: the stranglers – black & white

For the Stranglers their third album was going to be a new experience. The first two, Rattus Norvegicus and No More Heroes, had come from a set list of songs the band had been playing and touring for years and could’ve recorded in their sleep. Now they were going to meet up and write an entire album – a whole set of new material – almost from scratch. They had already decided this would be very different sounding Stranglers album, though they had no ideas of what to call it at that stage
Over the winter of ’77-78, the band holed up in an old farmhouse in Northhamptonshire, practically in the middle of nowhere, and wrote the album. The pressure was immense. Black and White was the first of the Stranglers’ ‘concept’ albums. The idea was for the two principal songwriters, Hugh Cornwell and Jean Jacques Burnel, to each write a side of music, and each a side of lyrics, and then pair the one’s lyrics with the other’s music. Although in the end those ideas weren’t strictly adhered to, you can tell which side is which if you are a fan of the band

They went into the studio with Martin Rushent, who’d produced the first two Stranglers albums, to record it in March ’78, and Black and White was released on May 12th.  This album was musically and lyrically far more adventurous than No More Heroes and Rattus Norvegicus had been
The press launch was done in Iceland, so that the band could be photographed with bleak, alien landscapes surrounding them – images that reflected the album’s content brilliantly: weird, psychedelic, brutal, beautiful, and alien; Black and White went straight into the UK charts at No 2, only prevented by the Bee Gees’ Saturday Night Fever soundtrack from reaching the top spot

The more melodic ‘white’ side, which begins with the punchy Tank, and ends with the sweeping Toiler On the Sea, was mostly all JJ’s music and Hugh’s lyrics. The ‘black’ side was mostly Hugh’s dark and brooding music with JJ’s lyrics – Death and Night and Blood, about Yukio Mishima, being the most representative of the bassist’s preoccupations at that time. Hugh’s lyrics to Toiler On the Sea were inspired by Victor Hugo’s novel Les Travailleurs de la Mer, (‘Travailleurs’ means workers, not travelers) about a shipwrecked stranger, matched with JJ’s exhilarating bass riff-driven music, make it perhaps the high-point of the album, though that’s a tough call; this truly original album is jam-packed with great songs

“We saw everything in black and white. Everything polarised, we were polarised and we started to be aware we could be quite global physically and also intellectually questioning. So we thought one side could be melodic, and the other brutal, hard and soft – because The Stranglers always had a brutal side as well as a melodic side” – JJ from the Burning Up Times

Death and Night and Blood

The Stranglers Black & White 1979. Hugh Cornwell (vocals, guitar), JJ Burnel (vocals, bass), Dave Greenfield (vocals, keyboards), Jet Black (drums)

  1. Tank
  2. Nice ‘N’ Sleazy
  3. Outside Tokyo
  4. Sweden (All Quiet on the Eastern Front)
  5. Hey! (Rise of the Robots)
  6. Toiler on the Sea
  7. Curfew
  8. Threatened
  9. Do You Wanna/Death and Night and Blood (Yukio)
  10. In the Shadows
  11. Enough Time


Toiler On the Sea

The album cover itself is a great piece of art. The four Stranglers – menacing men in black – near-silhouetted against a stark white background: no title, no band name. Of the first five Stranglers’ albums – the five that most fans agree were the band during their most creative  – most would put Black and White at the top of the list, for its boldness and sheer originality. And for that bass playing…

John Robb asked JJ if he is the greatest bass player ever:

‘Well I’m one of them! Flea is great, I heard through a few people that he rated me. They must have listened to Black And White – Americans are very knowledgeable about music. I also rate John Entwistle and Jack Bruce – I thought he was pretty good. I like the bass player from Muse as well, he’s ambitious, Muse are interesting, their last album sounds so much like – seriously good’ – from Robb’s interview with JJB – Louder Than War

lou reed & john cale – songs for drella

It was at Andy Warhol’s favourite hang out, Max’s Kansas City, that the Velvet Underground started, playing as the house band, and when Andy Warhol began managing the band in 1965 they were the house band at his Factory studio as well. Lou Reed has said that the only reason the band got noticed at the start of their career was because of its association with the pop artist

Reed & Cale Waiting For My Man

Warhol was one of the greatest people I’ve ever met in my life,” Reed told an audience at the New York Public Library, December 10, 2009. “Without him, [the Velvet Underground was] kind of inconceivable. When they hired us to make a record, it wasn’t because of us, it was because of him. They didn’t know us – they thought he was the lead guitarist or something”

‘How did he feel when he first met Warhol?
“I thought I had gone to heaven,” he replies, sounding almost cheery for a moment. “I couldn’t have been in a righter place at a righter time. You know, without Andy, I probably wouldn’t have a career. He was right there saying what you do – everything that you do – is fine; don’t let anybody change it and keep it exactly the way it is. And that was Andy Warhol saying that, so that was enough for me, and it’s been enough for me up to this day. Andy said it was OK, so it was’ – Lou Reed in the Jewish Chronicle

“It wasn’t called the Factory for nothing. It was where the assembly line for the silkscreens happened. While one person was making a silkscreen, somebody else would be filming a screen test. Every day something new” – John Cale

Andy Warhol, the celebrity-obsessed voyeur, the pale weirdo in the pale wig, who raised up the disposable to the highest art form through his repetitions of mass-produced brand images – the Campbell’s soup cans and the Coca-Cola bottles – celebrating the mundane and the banal, was also behind one of the most influential bands of all time

In 1968, Andy Warhol moved his studio and superstar hangout, The Factory, from East 47th Street to 33 Union Square West, across the street from Max’s Kansas City. Warhol decided to make the Back Room at Max’s his home away from home. A place of respite for himself and his superstars. Warhol made famous the completely neglected Back Room which was known for its Blood Red ambiance: Max’s Back Room was his very own social club where he and his cohorts created a notorious social scene that came to define the 70’s – Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Truman Capote, Brian Jones and Mick Jagger would all come by. “It was exciting but anonymous. Jim Morrison could gently nod into oblivion behind his shades, sitting with Nico without anybody asking for autographs. Even Janis Joplin was treated like a lady.” said Warhol cohort Glenn O’Brien
In one corner was the round table, a black vinyl banquette – like the Round Table at Camelot –  that ruled the roost. A big Dan Flavin fluorescent sculpture bathed the room in a reddish light. This is where Andy sat. It become a safe-haven for the artists, musicians, addicts, models and ‘VIP’s’

 “I wanted to paint nothing. I was looking for something that was the essence of nothing, and that was it” – AW

The Factory was the star his ‘superstars’ orbited: artists, models, musicians, rich kids, street kids, transvestites and super-groupies all basked in Andy’s light. Most of them melted away once Andy’s interest in them had waned. A few went on to shine in their own right, like Lou Reed, John Cale, and Nico. The Velvet Underground toured with Warhol’s mixed media show, the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, which opened in early 1966. Films would be projected all at once, running all over the walls and ceiling. Sometimes the Velvets would all wear white so that they reflected the film images and became invisible onstage. Warhol produced the Velvet Underground’s first historic album
“Andy had begun to expand his activities from paintings and lithographs to include very peculiar movies and an even stranger rock band, the Velvet Underground. Besides vocals by Lou Reed and Nico, the band features a whip dance by Gerard Malanga and a fantastic light show” – Leee Black Childers

Andy Warhol Screen Test: No 1 Nico

VU & Nico @ the Factory

Lou Reed drew on the Factory for his subject matter: the Chelsea Girls were all part of Warhol’s entourage, Candy Says is about Candy Darling and Walk On The Wild Side is about various superstars – Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, Joe Dallesandro, Jackie Curtis and Joe Campbell (Sugar Plum Fairy). Lou identified with them, and he and Andy were close. All Tomorrow’s Parties is about the never-ending NY party invitations for Andy’s people. The Velvet Underground used the Factory as a place to rehearse

Nico, a beautiful German model, was brought in by Warhol to enhance the stage presence of the Velvets. Reed, as front man, was considered too ‘seedy’ by record execs. “Andy said we needed a chanteuse because none of us were good looking enough,” Reed said about Nico’s involvement with the group. Reed and Nico had a tempestuous professional relationship which produced some of the Velvets’ most beautiful music, yet resulted in her leaving the group after their debut album was released

Andy & Lou

In 1990 Lou Reed and John Cale collaborated on some songs about their old friend, and recorded the album Songs For Drella, the first project they had undertaken together for twenty years. It tells the story of Andy Warhol’s life

Reed and Cale knew each other from New York. Lou was there working for Pickwick records, writing songs and trying for a hit record, which he scored with The Ostrich. Cale, who had worked with La Monte Young (another Warhol friend), was hired for the record’s touring band. This led to the them writing together. Reed’s song-writing skills and Cale’s avant-garde creativity worked well together, so well that the powerful classic Heroin was the end result of one session. Cale’s droning viola and Reed’s half-spoken monotone were a new kind of music. This was strong stuff, and, disappointingly for Cale he thought it could have been even stronger. He was mad with Lou for changing the opening line from “I know just where I’m going” to “I don’t know just where I’m going,” and called it a MOR move

‘I was really excited by the amount of power just two people could do without needing drums. When we started work I was always, in the back of my mind, wondering, “Where the hell does the backbeat go?” And by the time we finished it I was saying, “Thank God we don’t have one!” [Reed laughs] The way it’s going to be at BAM is exactly the same. We’re going to maintain that hard-edged, clear-eyed image of it – simple and very hard’ – John Cale to Musician magazine

Slip Away/It Wasn’t Me/I Believe

“They said the Factory must change and slowly slip away
But if I have to live in fear, where will I get my ideas
With all those crazy people gone, will I slowly slip away

Still there’s no more Billy Name, and Ondine is not the same
Wonton and the Turtle gone
Slowly slip away … slowly slip away
If I close the Factory door and don’t see those people anymore
If I give in to infamy … I’ll slowly slip away”

Lou Reed & John Cale Songs for Drella 1990. Lou Reed (vocals, guitar), John Cale (vocals, keyboards, viola)

  1. Smalltown
  2. Open House
  3. Style It Takes
  4. Work
  5. Trouble with Classicists
  6. Starlight
  7. Faces and Names
  8. Images
  9. Slip Away (A Warning)
  10. It Wasn’t Me
  11. I Believe
  12. Nobody But You
  13. A Dream
  14. Forever Changed
  15. Hello It’s Me

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I Believe

Warhol had an influence on popular music that gets forgotten behind the art work and everything else. At the peak of the New York punk and New Wave scene, Blondie, Talking Heads and other groups all frequented the Factory. Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, David Byrne, Jonathan Richman, the B52s, Devo; all were influenced by Andy Warhol. Punk, like Warhol, embraced everything that cultured people detested: plastic, junk food, B-movies, TV…

In ’68 Andy had moved his superstar social club to 33 Union Sq West, across the street from Max’s Kansas City. The Back Room at Max’s became Andy’s second home. His monthly bills there were said to be $3,000, but Debbie Harry, who was a waitress there at the time, says the Warhol crowd were always rude and never left a tip

classic albums: wire – pink flag

“This is your correspondent, running out of tape…”


Wire Pink Flag 1977. Colin Newman (vocals, guitars), Bruce Gilbert (guitars), Graham Lewis (bass, vocals) and Robert Gotobed (drums). The meeting of Newman and Gotobed’s pop sensibilities with Gilbert and Lewis’s more esoteric leanings produced one of the best records of the late-70s. This 2006 reissue contains two extra tracks, Dot Dash and Options R – not always a good idea, if, as in this case, it interferes with perfection

Wire’s first 7-inch single, Mannequin, with two B-side tracks, Feeling Called Love and 12XU, was a hell of a way to announce themselves to the wider worldPink Flag, their debut album, was a revelation. Delivering 21 tracks in under 37 minutes, it was a heady collection of strange, beautiful and futuristic sounding pop with a sense of urgency and economy few other albums could match. Pink Flag is an art punk masterpiece. It would be hard to pick a more original debut from that incredibly creative first wave of British punk albums. Good job we don’t have to

Pink Flag is at once both playful and intense. Listening to it, you can imagine the band planning the record as a series of takes on other bands’ sounds: ‘This one will be our ‘Damned’ song (Start To Move), this one will be our ‘Stooges’ song (Lowdown), our Ramones song (Surgeons Girl), our ‘Voidoids’ song (Feeling Called Love)’. It’s as if they are channeling all of their greatest influences, but it never sounds contrived and the end results only ever sound like Wire. Colin Newman would hate that idea: “The sort of influence stew approach to making any kind of art is just the wrong way round, in my view. I say start with what it is you want to do and what makes you excited” – Newman to Crawdaddy
Each song is compressed into a perfect little art punk nugget. Field Day for the Sundays is 28 seconds long. More than half the songs on the album run under 90 seconds. Only as much time as is needed is given to each piece; there is no fluff on this record

In the UK there are many who will tell you Pink Flag is one of the greatest pop records of all time – “epic”, “bulletproof”: in America, they never felt the same way about it – “too cerebral”, “overrated as fuck.” Maybe that’s because Wire have been called ‘the Ramones with a Ph.D.’ ‘Punk Floyd”, a bit of a facile sobriquet, is nevertheless a better one


  1. Reuters
  2. Field Day for the Sundays
  3. Three Girl Rhumba
  4. Ex-Lion Tamer
  5. Lowdown
  6. Start To Move
  7. Brazil
  8. It’s So Obvious
  9. Surgeon’s Girl
  10. Pink Flag
  11. The Commercial
  12. Straight Line
  13. 106 Beats That
  14. Mr Suit
  15. Strange
  16. Fragile
  17. Mannequin
  18. Different To Me
  19. Champs    
  20. Feeling Called Love
  21. 12XU
  22. Dot Dash
  23. Options R

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Ex Lion Tamer

Three Girl Rhumba

“Most of those who like Pink Flag and don’t like the rest of them are punk people – they think Pink Flag is a really interesting arty punk record, but anything further than that is too much” – Colin Newman, to The Stool Pigeon

The follow-up to Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, and 154, their third album, were both critically acclaimed. Wire seemed to be progressing at an incredible rate. Chairs Missing doesn’t have the grit that its predecessor did. It’s an easier listen, more conventional, but no less interesting for that. Is it as good as Pink Flag? Colin has already answered that question. Their debut is their masterpiece

Outdoor Miner


jean jacques burnel

JJ Burnel Triumph of the Good City

Euroman boreth something awful’ wrote 20-year-old scottish journalist Ronnie Gurr. JJ knew Ronnie somewhat, and considered this a stab in the back. His reaction was typical of the behaviour that plagued the band for years. He invited Gurr to meet him at a pub for an interview. JJ, instead of showing up himself, sent a crew of Finchley Boys (the band’s fans, mates and de facto security) to teach him some manners. They grabbed Gurr and threw him into the back of a transit van and took him for a ride – to a JJ Burnel solo gig. Their idea was to keep him prisoner up on the stage as JJ played, and then throw him into the audience, but Gurr managed to escape while the support act were on and ran to the police station. JJ came clean to the press, claiming it was all in good fun, but others worried that JJ was truly out of control

“I’m not saying that the devil was riding out on the Stranglers but sometimes there are situations which have aspects of negativity surrounding them. It feels to me like, when the Stranglers came together, some negative energy was created which occasionally bubbled up pretty big. I think it’s dying down now, and that may be because the original band are not in existence any more” – John Ellis, from No Mercy by David Buckley

‘Stud of the Year’ – NME centrefold X-mas 1977

Jean Jacques Burnel. The more you learn about he guy, the harder he is to like. But he’s a hell of a bass player, and looks mean as fuck playing it, and that’s why, in the late-70s and early-80s,  a whole generation of young male would-be guitarists picked up a bass instead. JJ was born in 1952 in Notting Hill, London. He attended an all-boys’ grammar school in Guildford, where he started going by ‘John’ (and later, ‘Jon’), to hide his French heritage. This seems to be at the root of the grande fritte he carried on his shoulder for so long. By the time he left school for University, he was a talented classical guitarist and had a burning passion for motorbikes; he also held some very right-wing views
“At the age of 17 I had already fallen in love with motorcycles. I hardly had any mates at school and I loved the idea of belonging to a gang. I wanted to have a group of people whom I could identify with. I worked my balls off and I got a Harley-Davidson and I joined the Kingston-on-Thames Hell’s Angels. I left after a couple years, though. Beating up (or being beaten up by) skinheads wasn’t my idea of cool”

University for JJ revolved around women, drugs – mostly weed and LSD, he says – and his beloved motorbike. In 1974 he was planning a trip to Yokohama, to meet Masutatsu Oyama, karate master and founder of Kyokushinkai full-contact karate, where he hoped to win his black belt. But getting together with Hugh Cornwell and Jet Black sidetracked those plans
“I wanted to go to Japan and get a black belt and got side tracked and delayed by a few years. I gave a lift to the hitchhiker and he was in a band called Wonderlust which was Hugh and Jet’s band at the time. Hugh had just come over from Sweden with the band. I dropped the hitch hiker off and must have been introduced to the rest of the band because about three weeks later Hugh came knocking at my bedsit door looking very down, the band had fucked off and gone back to Sweden leaving him living at Jets and with no band” – JJ to John Robb, Louder Than War 
JJ showed up for his first rehearsal with a bandaged hand, courtesy of a karate tournament he’d competed in earlier in the day. Hugh and Jet liked him, and thought this good-looking lad would be a great asset for the band. Hugh sold JJ his Fender Precision bass, and the rest, as they say…

JJ moved in with Jet and Hugh. It was in fact Jet‘s place, an off-license in Guildford. Jet also owned a fleet of ice-cream vans, and often sent the boys out on the road selling choc-ices, or manning the off-license, to earn their board. Today, JJ remembers Jet as something of a father figure in those early years. Jet eventually sold all but one of the ice-cream vans to pay the band’s expenses. He believed in Hugh’s songwriting ability, and the sound the band were forging from endless rehearsals

In 1975, Dave greenfield answered an ad in Melody Maker for a ‘keyboard/vocal man’, and with his integral input, the Stranglers were soon making a name for themselves on the pub circuit. A weekly residence at Kensington’s Hope and Anchor raised their profile enormously, and they began breaking into the bigger venues, like the Roundhouse and the Hammersmith Odeon. And then punk broke

The Stranglers never really occupied the same territory as the Sex Pistols and the Damned. The Stranglers were technically superior, more melodic, and, as JJ told the NME in ’76, were slated for “not digging Iggy and the Stooges… and not going down the King’s Road”
But JJ didn’t mind much:
“Suddenly, whereas 18 months before we’d been turned down by 24 record companies because they didn’t want short pop songs, now they did. Suddenly girls were queuing up to sit on my face which I thought was really pleasant, if they’d washed before hand” – Oh, JJ, you just can’t resist it, can you?

Jean Jaques Burnel Freddie Laker (from Euroman Cometh)

JJ’s self-admitted aggressive behaviour and belligerence began to get tedious for Hugh after a couple years. A physical altercation between them during the Aural Sculpture tour in ’85 was the beginning of the end for Hugh:
“I’m going to have to be very careful what I say to you, because I just can’t tell how you’re going to react”, he told JJ afterwards

In 1979 Burnel released his first solo album, Euroman Cometh. Hugh Cornwell also released his own solo album, Nosferatu, that same year. In ’92 JJ told Record Collector that the album was pieced together from ‘after-hours’ recordings he made during the Stranglers’ Black and White sessions:

I had nowhere to sleep at the time“, he explains languidly. “I’d get stoned with my mates in the studio, then late at night, once they’d all gone, I’d be there with my sleeping bagand pillows – maybe I’d have a few girlfriends around – and start messing about with the drum machine“.
Before long, Burnel’s moonlighting had accumulated enough material for an album, which United Artists duly agreed to issue. “I thought, ‘This’ll set the cat among the pigeons'”, he recalls, “because firstly, nobody expected me to be capable of anything and secondly, it was quite a departure from what I’d been doing before“. Indeed, in marked contrast to the punchy, melodic songs on Black and WhiteEuroman Cometh contained a collection of dark, atmospheric soundscapes, embroidered with Burnel’s intense, monotone theorising about a united Europe – variously delivered in English, German and French” – Record Collector 1992

As the years had passed, the relationship between JJ and Hugh, the man he had looked up to so much when he first joined the band, had deteriorated to the point where the tension was unbearable for everyone in the band, which now included a fifth member, ex-Vibrator John Ellis. After the final gig of the 1990 ‘Ten‘ tour, Hugh left after the show without any sort of celebration, and only he knew he wasn’t going to return. Ever. The next day he called them all, one by one. Apparently the phone call to JJ was long and tearful. After 16 years together, the Stranglers (mark 1) were done

“I was in Hugh’s shadow for quite a while. I looked up to him, and I respected him, and I loved him. But even from quite early on I started bringing songs into the band, and eventually journalists were starting to ask for my opinion as well as his. I had a look, and people liked that look, so he lost his monopoly on the band fairly early on. But he was my mentor – he taught me loads of things about modern music… he was worldly and smart, and very quickly I created my own shadow. My solo albums sold more than his did, and that really pissed him off because he wanted to be more cutting edge than I was… Slowly I admired him less and less, and I think he lost touch. He was embarrassed by our fans. he wasn’t hanging out with the Finchley Boys, he was hanging out with people from TV down the Groucho club… If you deny the past, or the things that have given you strength, then that’s wrong” – JJ, in No Mercy by David Buckley

 ‘Qu’est-ce que le punk?’

check out Classic albums: Rattus Norvegicus

cows/heroine sheiks

The Cows were notorious for their live performances. Shannon Selberg’s antics on stage are the stuff of legend. People who were lucky enough to see the Cows live say they were unforgettable shows. Sure, Shannon would come on stage dressed in the craziest shit, or in nothing at all, but it was the things he did up on stage that would stun his audiences: he would throw food at them, wade right into them, beat on them. Shannon says the band did every show for the first several years on acid 

Hitting the Wall

The Cows started in 1987, with Norm Rogers, Thor Eisentrager, Kevin Rutmanis and Kevin’s brother Sandris. Shannon was the last to join them. Norm Rogers was the original singer, but never enjoyed being a frontman. He was a good drummer, so he took over on the sticks from Sandris and Shannon took the mike. The new Cows frontman had never sung in a band before. As they practiced, he tried to imitate Bad Brains’ singer H.R’s vocal style, but his lack of technique meant that he’d quickly end up unable to speak, let alone sing

Cows Taint Pluribus Taint Unum 1987. Shannon Selberg (vocals, bugle), Thor Eisentrager (guitar), Kevin Rutmanis (bass), Sandris Rutmanis  (drums) 

  1. Koyaanisqatsi
  2. Cow Jazz/Car Chase
  3. Sieve
  4. On Plasma Pond
  5. Yellowbelly
  6. Redhouse
  7. Carnival Ride
  8. The Pictorial
  9. Tourist
  10. Summertime Bone
  11. Mother (I Love That Bitch)
  12. Weird Kitchen

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Sugar Torch

Cows Cunning Stunts 1992. Shannon Selberg (vocals, bugle), Thor Eisentrager (guitar), Kevin Rutmanis (bass) Norm Rogers (drums)
The Cows were one of the very first ‘noise rock’ bands, though it was never a conscious decision between them to be that. They would go into the rehearsal studio and improvise, and make music they liked. It was a very organic process. The fact it turned out to be part of a new genre, and brilliant, was incidental

  1. Heave Ho
  2. Walks Alone
  3. Contamination
  4. Mr. Cancelled
  5. Mine
  6. Midnight Cowb
  7. Everybody
  8. Two Little Pigs
  9. The Woman Inside
  10. Terrifique
  11. Dow
  12. Ort

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“[T]he bugle came into use because we would practice 3-4 times per week, and especially in the early days, we would get stinkin’ drunk or take acid and often times it would turn into just an hour long jam. I didn’t really have anything to do, so Kevin threw me the bugle to play with, because I wasn’t going to just sing for an hour during the jam” – Shannon Selberg to


Taxi/Baby Love/Shitbeard live @ Gabes

The Heroine Sheiks started after Shannon moved to New York. He was sick of Minneapolis, the Cows were dying and Shannon had songs that the Cows hadn’t wanted to do
“We don’t get any press! Not even negative press! Recently, the Village Voice sent our publicist a note saying, ‘You don’t have to bother sending us any more releases from the Heroine Sheiks, because we will never review them or listen to them,’” says Selberg. “The New York Press did the same thing, but that’s because they’re just assholes. Back when we were just starting out, and we were packing the clubs up, and doing really good, and there were some hot shit bands that were actually opening for us that got hot shit press reviews everywhere, these papers would never even mention we existed. So I told the music editor, ‘Even if you hate us, at least we’re new! The guy from the Swans was in the fucking band, you know? Isn’t that at least news?’ And she got all pissed off at me for trying to tell her what to write. ‘If you don’t like it,’ she said, ‘just don’t read it. You’re an asshole!’ So I guess I’m an asshole.” He adds, “New York is a trendy kind of media center, so people only think you’re as good as you are talked about. To be playing on your third album, having been here for five or six years, and have that going on kind of stinks. But we’re doing all right” – Shannon Selberg from an interview with Holly Day, Signal Eats Noise 

The Heroine Sheiks Rape on the Installment Plan 2000. Shannon Selberg (keyboards, vocals, bugle), Scott Hill (keyboard, guitar), Norman Westberg (guitar), George Porfiris (bass), John Fell (drums) 

Wandering Mongrel

  1. Wandering Mongrel
  2. Nuclear Jeannie 
  3. Okkk?
  4. Jew Jitsu 
  5. Space Invader 
  6. Was a Man
  7. Let’s Fight
  8. You Never 
  9. I Got Doubts
  10. Effity Eff

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Siamese Pipe 2002. Shannon Selberg (keyboards, vocals, bugle), Norman Westberg (guitar), Eric Eble (bass), Scott Hill (keyboard), John Fell (drums)

  1. Army Brat
  2. Grab the Wheel
  3. 3-Banger
  4. Let It Die
  5. Open You Up
  6. My Boss
  7. Kiss It
  8. Little Schoolgirl
  9. Best Enemies
  10. Mas Suicide

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Rape on the Installment Plan? Journey to the End of the Knife? Something tells me Shannon is a Louis Ferdinand Celine fan

Co-Angle Phenomenon

Journey to the End of the Knife 2008Shannon Selberg (vocals, bugle), Paul Sanders (guitar), Jesse Kwakenat (bass), Sarah Huska (keyboard), Bruce J Wuollet (drums)

  1. Be a Man
  2. Hank’s Pimp
  3. Four F
  4. Muerte Vous
  5. Co-Angle Phenomenon
  6. J Edgar
  7. Let Me Out
  8. You Don’t Want Me? (live)

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Shannon Selberg announced his retirement from music in a blog he posted August 4, 2009. here it is:

For what I’m about to delve into, for the sake of argument, let’s say that if you are reading this blog you actually like the Heroine Sheiks. Ever wonder why a band you like ceases to exist? Stay with me….

A grizzly bear is a magnificent wild animal. It weighs a thousand pounds, its sense of smell is ten times better than a blood hound’s; it can outrun a horse and take down a moose. But if you cut down the forest where it lives and build houses it cannot survive. It needs a certain habitat to live, civilization kills it… more

J Edgar

the stranglers – the vladimir chronicles

The ‘Vladimir Chronicles’ are a Stranglers oddity that has played out over several records and many years. There are five released installments in all, describing the adventures of Vladimir, a citizen of Soviet Russia

The full title of the first installment is (The strange circumstances which lead to) Vladimir and Olga (‘requesting’ rehabilitation in a Siberian health resort as a result of stress in furthering the people’s policies) and it is accredited to “The Upper Volga Corngrowers Co-operative Association Choral Dance Troop Ensemble”. It appears as the B-side of both the 7″ and 12″ versions of the 1983 single Midnight Summer Dream
After succumbing to a case of ‘bread mould madness’ – seemingly a lot like a prolongued acid trip – Vladimir gets out of his car in the midst of an Odessa traffic jam and dances, laughs and cries, during a lucid moment where the absurdity of life becomes obvious to him

Vladimir & Olga

The second instalment, Vladimir & Sergei, appears not on a Stranglers record but on the 1983 album Fire and Water (Ecoutez Vos Murs) by Dave Greenfield and JJ Burnel. After taking a “cure” in the Urals, the Soviet authorities consider Vladimir no longer fit to practice sub-nucleonic particle physics and he is posted to a tractor plant. There he meets the sailor Sergei, whose tanned appearance and tales of distant lands enchant him. They share days of pleasure, and pain. After Sergei is sent back to his ship, the authorities again attempt to cure the broken-hearted Vladimir of his “illness”

Vladimir & Sergei

Vladimir and the Beast (Part 3), the third instalment, is only on the B-side of the 12″ version of the 1984 single Skin Deep
Three years later, the cured Vladimir volunteers to serve in to Afghanistan, in a motorized maintenance unit. The disillusionment, harshness and boredom lead him to discover the pleasures of hashish, and into a very close relationship with Dmitri, his camel 

Vladimir and the Beast (Part 3)

Part four, Vladimir Goes to Havana, only appears on the B-side of the collector’s edition of the 1985 single Let Me Down Easy. Although this appears on a 12″ disc, there is also a 12″ version of this record which does not include the Vladimir song
Again the Party has intervened to save Vladimir from himself, and next send him to Germany for a further period of convalescence. From there he writes a letter to the authorities and requests that they let him travel to Havana, Cuba, to visit a doctor and colleague. He gets permission, but once there he gets involved with a plot to smuggle cocaine into the USA

Vladimir Goes to Havana

The final (released) chapter of the Vladimir story, Viva Vlad, can be found on the B-side of the 1987 single All Day and All of the Night. Vladimir hasbeen detained by the Havana police, who decide to set him adrift in the ocean, in a dinghy. He ends up in Mexico, where he changes his identity and teaches himself to fish

Viva Vlad!

A demo version of the latest installment of the Vlad chronicles, titled Vladimir and the Pearl, created by JJ and Dave, still without a drum track, can be heard on the SIS (Stranglers Information Service) site with realplayer – or on youtube, thanks to TheLostCheeses
Vladimir has become a good fisherman on the Yucutan peninsula, but dreams of reaching Miami. He learns pearl fishing, in the hopes that it will make him rich. And one day, he does indeed get a big one

Vladimir and the Pearl

joey, johnny, dee dee & tommy – they're alive!

the Ramones It’s Alive

“I saw them do one of their first shows ever, at a loft on West Broadway”, [says] Alan Vega. “It was like, ‘1-2-3-4′ BRRAAAGAWGGH!’ This roar. Then somebody would break a string and they’d all walk off. They’d come back on, ‘1-2-3-4’ and the same thing would happen. We’re standing there laughing our asses off. Yet the intensity of the music was astonishing. It was the best thing I’d seen since the Stooges. It changed my life” – from Mojo November 2005

The Ramones It’s Alive 1977. Joey Ramone (vocals), Johnny Ramone (guitar), Dee Dee Ramone (bass), Tommy Ramone (drums). We live in a time when the word awesome is over-used to the point that it’s lost all of its power. People describe their pizza toppings as awesome. But in it’s true sense it’s more like a supernova, or a black hole, or the Ramones live. Much as I love these guys I wouldn’t say any of their records were awesome in the true meaning of the word, but as a live band? Well, listen for yourself, or if you already know the record, download it and fall in love with it all over again. This is a band at the height of their powers, unleashed on a slavering London audience on New Years Eve, 1977. I’m not the only one to place it among the greatest live albums of all time, just google it. Thanks to the awesomeness (!) that is youtube, you can also watch the whole show. Auditory Awesomeness

  1. Rockaway Beach
  2. Teenage Lobotomy
  3. Blitzkrieg Bop
  4. I Wanna Be Well
  5. Glad to See You Go
  6. Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment
  7. You’re Gonna Kill That Girl
  8. I Don’t Care
  9. Sheena Is a Punk Rocker
  10. Havana Affair
  11. Commando
  12. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
  13. Surfin’ Bird
  14. Cretin Hop
  15. Listen to My Heart
  16. California Sun
  17. I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You
  18. Pinhead
  19. Do You Wanna Dance?
  20. Chain Saw
  21. Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World
  22. Now I Wanna Be a Good Boy
  23. Judy Is a Punk
  24. Suzy Is a Headbanger
  25. Let’s Dance
  26. Oh Oh I Love Her So
  27. Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue
  28. We’re a Happy Family


It’s Alive – the entire show, part one 

egg city radio has downloads for the Ramones live at the Roxy in ’76, live in Cleveland in ’81 and from the King Biscuit Flower Hour

if it ain't stiff

The Damned New Rose 1976

The Damned Stretcher Case 1977

Richard Hell Another World 1976

Wreckless Eric Whole Wide World (reverse of sleeve) 1977

Devo Be Stiff 1977

Desmond Dekker Israelites 1980

Ian Dury Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick 1978

Lene Lovich Lucky Number 12″ 1978

A Bunch of Stiff Records

1. I Love My Label 2:58 (Nick Lowe)  2. Go The Whole Wide World (Wreckless Eric) 3.White Line Fever (Motorhead)  4. Less Than Zero (Elvis Costello)  5. Little By Little (Magic Michael)  6. (Uncredited) Back To Schooldays  (Graham Parker)  7. Jump For Joy (Stones Masonry)  8. Maybe (Jill Read)  9. Jo Jo Gunne (Dave Edmunds)  10. Young Lords (The Tyla Gang)  11. Food (The Takeaways)

Heroes & Cowards

1. Snuffin’ Like That (Albertos) 2. Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (Ian Dury) 3. Heart of the City  (Nick Lowe)  4. Help! (Damned)  5. Less Than Zero (Elvis Costello)  6.  Gobbing on Life (Albertos)  7. Mystery Dance (Elvis Costello)  8. Leaving Here (Motorhead) 9. New Rose (Damned) 10. Whole Wide World (Wreckess Eric) 11. One Chord Wonders (Adverts) 12. Born a Woman (Nick Lowe) 13. Alison (Elvis Costello) 14. Kill (Albertos) 15. Outrageous Contagious (Farren) 16. Marie Provost (Nick Lowe)

A Hard Nights Day: A History of Stiff Records

Electrically Recorded

Ian Dury & the BlockheadsHit Me With Your Rhythm Stick

Lene Lovich Lucky Number

tracey emin's boyfriend

“Yes, I think she’s great but I can’t stand her”

“I met Bill Lewis at Medway College of Design in 1977. I was doing a punk fanzine, ‘Chatham’s Burning’, & writing some nursery rhymes. I did an impromptu reading standing in people’s pie & mash & spitting in their soup on the table in the canteen. Bill invited me along to read with the Outcrowd at the Lamb pub in Maidstone” – Billy Childish

Thee Headcoats Want Me, Win Me

Billy Childish is a prolific English poet and a founding member of the Medway Poets – a punk based poetry/performance group – with Bill Lewis, Sexton Ming and Charles Thomson. He’s recorded over 100 albums and he co-founded the Stuckist art movement (with many of the core of the Medway Poets) – which he subsequently left in 2001

“I was sexually abused when I was 9 by a male family friend. We were on holiday. I had to share a bed with him. It happened for several nights, then I refused to go near him. I didn’t tell anyone. It affected me deeply. It made me very ashamed of my body. It made me think I was homosexual” – in The Times Dec 2 2006

Thee Headcoats Pedophile

(featuring a photo of the man who sexually abused him on the cover)

Billy Childish & Holly Golightly In Blood 1999. Subtitled ‘One Chord! One Song! One Sound!’, Billy and his Thee Headcoatee counterpart Holly Golightly proved once again that one chord is enough 

  1. Step Out
  2. In Blood
  3. Let Me Know You
  4. You Got That Thing
  5. Demolition Girl
  6. Upside Mine
  7. You Move Me
  8. I Believe
  9. It’s a Natural Fact
  10. I’m the Robber
  11. Move on Up
  12. Hold Me


Trembling of Life 1993. Originally released as a box set of three 7-inch EP’s, this now out of print collection of Billy’s poems, which he reads aloud one after another, is just about the perfect way to spend half an hour doing something different

  1. The Magical Prose Of Beer 
  2. For the Deceived 
  3. My Bitterness 
  4. And Hers 
  5. Give Me Truly Harts 
  6. The Snakes of Desire 
  7. On the Tube 
  8. To Understand Murder 
  9. The Sudden Fart of Laughter 
  10. Morn the Poor Whores of Chatham 
  11. Under the Clock 
  12. Dragin Thru This 
  13. Grow You Afraid In Dark 
  14. My Hart Dosent Rest Easy (1985) 
  15. Poem To the Noseless One 
  16. A Darker Currency (Hamburg 92) 
  17. Fleas Flys and Women (1985) 
  18. The Typeriter That Couldnt Spell 
  19. Legercy 
  20. Merry Little Fascists 
  21. Just in This Way 
  22. The Moth 
  23. And the Cider Bottle Passes As My Eyes 
  24. One For the Bludless (Kunsthaus Zurich 91) 
  25. Never to Fake It 
  26. Here Let Bitterness Evaporate (Amsterdam 92) 
  27. The Unutterable 
  28. A Little Less 
  29. Gentle Love 
  30. And Cruelness Here 
  31. Sick September 
  32. Trembling of Life


Billy Childish & Sexton Ming Don’t Be A Misery Guts

“Me and Billy started writing poetry together and bringing out our own chapbooks. We’d staple them ourselves. Someone told me that there was one on e-bay going for £60! We used to give them away. I probably didn’t know what I was trying to do with the poetry at the time, but looking back I suppose it was about the punk ethic, anarchy. I don’t mean anarchy politically but that idea of anything goes, rocking the boat a bit, that sort of thing” – Sexton Ming


from Choice Cut Fillets by Sexton Ming

‘In the jungle
I, King Kong gave Tarzan
his first gig here.
Then a groupie called Nancy
got him into heroin.
And that was the end of it.
I, King Kong have spoken’

The Stuckists, formed in 1999 from members of the Medway Poets, take their name from an insult hurled at a member. They are of the opinion that modern art in the UK is made by and for an elite clique and that contemporary British artists are more interested in marketing themselves by shocking audiences than they are in expressing themselves

Billy Childish – And His Hat Rolled Clean Away (1) 2009 oil and charcoal on linen


Charles Thomson has been the driving force Stuckism and responsible for most of its media coverage. He has led demonstrations against the Turner Prize for seven years, stood as a Stuckist for parliament, and reported Charles Saatchi to the Office of Fair Trading. Previously he was a member of the Medway Poets

Charles Thomson – The Poet (S.P. Howarth – at Khatereh’s after the Stuckist demo in Trafalgar Square on the unveiling of Rachel Whiteread’s “Monument”, 4 June 2001) oil and acrylic on canvas

Billy Childish & Thee Buff Medways You Are All Phonies


john cale – paris 1919/helen of troy/live in stockolm ’75

It was Andy Warhol who really set John Cale on the path to stardom. The hugely successful and famous artist supplied money and media exposure and a record contract, and, with the ‘Exploding Plastic Inevitable’, he offered Cale a huge opportunity to develop of his own art through their shared interests

Hanky Panky Nohow

At the Factory things happened quickly; Cale met Nico (on her way “in”) and Edie Sedgwick (on her way “out”) and would have affairs with them both. Nico, who had arrived at the Factory via the world of high fashion and the company of rock stars (Bob Dylan and Brian Jones), was more or less foisted upon the band, at Warhol’s insistence. They decided for practical reasons to go along with it but they were not pleased to have to incorporate someone who had not worked with them on their music and who they felt was mostly an interference. Her unquestionable glamour was used to promote the band, but the songs she brought with her were left aside: they did perform Bob Dylan’s I’ll Keep It With Mine (supposedly written for her) but in their hands it was transformed into a typical Velvet Underground percussive distortion. For Cale there was “a feeling of outrageous expectation in the air: we could say anything we wanted to anyone, no matter how famous…”

The Velvet Underground were presented to the public by Andy Warhol at the 43rd annual dinner of the New York Society for Clinical Psychiatry at Delmonico’s, and Warhol filmed it. When Cale was afterwards described as the ‘leader of the Velvet Underground’ Lou Reed was furious

Reed wrote songs specifically for Nico (All Tomorrow’s Parties) but Cale had little input with these, though he went on to have a long collaborative association with Nico, until her death in 1988

John Cale Paris 1919 1973. Written and arranged by John Cale. Cale and Reed had solo careers that ran parallel to and mirrored each other. Paris was received by critics as Cale’s first serious statement as a solo artist. Reed released Berlin later the same year

The Endless Plain of Fortune

  1. Child’s Christmas in Wales
  2. Hanky Panky Nohow
  3. The Endless Plain of Fortune
  4. Andalucia
  5. Macbeth
  6. Paris 1919
  7. Graham Greene
  8. Half Past France
  9. Antartica Starts Here

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Cale had experimented with drugs during his days with La Monte Young and they were integral to the writing process for his new music – marijuana and LSD were omnipresent – but it wasn’t until he joined the Velvet Underground that he started to experiment with heroin. The habits he and Reed soon acquired bound them together and further shaped the sound of the Velvet Underground. Venus In Furs was perhaps the epitome of this new Velvet Underground sound; Cale was particularly pleased with this song, which he felt was something unique and unmistakably their own

Heartbreak Hotel

John Cale & Chris Speeding Down at the End of Lonely Street… Hard Rock Cafe. Live in Stockholm ’75 1990

  1. Autobiography
  2. Mercenaries (Ready for War)
  3. Love Me Two Times
  4. The Hunt
  5. Paris 1919
  6. Helen of Troy
  7. Guts
  8. Heartbreak Hotel
  9. Pablo Picasso
  10. Cable Hogue
  11. Dying on the Vine

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Cale’s deal with Island provided him with £30,000 to make each album and anything left over was his to keep. This obviously meant it was in his interests to keep costs down and he used fewer musicians for each subsequent album. By the time of Helen of Troy Cale was spending more money on cocaine than on anything else
Cale had also agreed with Island records to concentrate on writing for himself and to not produce during this time, so when he went off to produce Horses for Patti Smith (the money would have been hugely tempting) the relationship between him and his label suffered badly. Helen Of Troy is an underdeveloped album but contains some great work: I Keep a Close Watch is a song Cale hoped Sinatra would cover one day

Released in 1975, without Cale’s permission – which might explain the cover of the record on which he is bound in a strait-jacket – Cale said, “It could have been a great album. I came back from finishing Patti Smith and had three days to finish Helen of Troy before I went on Italian tour. I was spending eighteen hours a day in the studio. When I got back, I found the record company had gone ahead and released what amounted to demo tapes. The trouble was that Island had their own ideas of what that album should sound like. They wanted to include songs I don’t particularly like, but it was also an impertinent assumption on my part that I was capable of managing myself. My determination to have Helen of Troy the way I did was not really fair to Island or my management, especially at a time when Island was losing its percentage of the market, which was making everybody very paranoid.” You can hear exactlywhat he means when you listen to the album: there are half-formed ideas here, none fully realised

After shipping the first pressings Island Records replaced the track Leaving It Up to You with Coral Moon, because it mentioned Sharon Tate, who was killed in 1969 by the Manson ‘family’. Things turned sour, and Cale and Island went their separate ways. This reissue contains both tracks

John Cale Helen of Troy 1975. John Cale (keyboards, guitar, vocals), Chris Spedding (guitar), Pat Donaldson (bass), Phil Collins (drums), Tim Donald (drums) Brian Eno (synthesizer). The line up for this one is notable to say the least

  1. My Maria
  2. Helen of Troy
  3. China Sea
  4. Engine
  5. Save Us
  6. Cable Hogue
  7. I Keep a Close Watch
  8. Pablo Picasso
  9. Coral Moon
  10. Baby, What You Want Me to Do?
  11. Sudden Death
  12. Leaving It Up to You 

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Leaving It Up to You (live)

enter the voidoid


 ‘You are always slightly ahead,
Slightly behind. It merely baffles, it doesn’t hurt.
It’s total pain & it breaks your heart
In a less than interesting way. Every day

Is payday. Never enough pay. A deja-vu
That lasts. It’s no big thing, anyway.
A lukewarm greasy hamburger, ice-cold pepsi
that hurts your teeth’
from Wrong Train by Ted Berrigan

 Richard Hell & the Voidoids Blank Generation/Love Comes In Spurts


Richard Hell, one-time member of Television, the Heartbreakers and frontman for his own band the Voidoids, must be as close to a hero as the punk movement ever got. He hasn’t benefited from it too much. Maybe he’s a bit bitter about that fact. You couldn’t blame him. Richard Hell is credited by no less than Malcolm McLaren with inspiring punk rock’s visual style, though American garage rock and trash culture obviously had much to do with it too. Hell’s stylishly torn clothes caught the eye of erstwhile (and now sadly deceased) New York Dolls manager in 1975, just as the band was disintegrating. McLaren took Hell’s look and ideas back to London, to the King’s Road, and amalgamated them with his own more confrontational clothing, helping to define the visual image for the emerging UK punk scene

McLaren said of him: “Richard Hell was a definite 100% inspiration – torn and ripped t-shirts – this look, this image of the guy, this spiky hair… By being inspired by it I was going to imitate it and transform it into something more English”

Hell’s diplomatic answer: “…ideas are free property. I stole shit too”

Blank Generation is the record he is probably most known for. The title is a parody of the Rod McKuen poem ‘I Belong To The Beat Generation’

This is a live recording of The Kid With The Replaceable Head from 1977. The night it was recorded, at CBGB, was for a benefit to raise money for St Mark’s Church – home of the Poetry Project – which had had a huge fire and basically burned down. Like his contemporaries Patti Smith and Jim Carroll, Richard Hell put his poetry out there, and he emphasised it with a beautiful, brutal rock’n’roll noise. Hell was headlining that night
“The audience was full of poets – Ginsberg was there, Ted Berrigan was there, Anne Waldman. Berrigan I’d never met but I was a big admirer of his, so I thought I would blow his mind, and that’s what’s going on at the beginning where I said, ‘Let me tell about what I did today I drank a Pepsi and took a pill’, that’s all references to poems of his. After that he was my best friend”

The Kid With The Replaceable Head

Hell & Bell

‘Me and Richard are two different people. Richard was into that heroin scene, I was a drinker. He’s from, I think, Kentucky and Mississippi. I was born in New York. Two different backgrounds. I’m all for Richard Hell – I mean it takes a lot for a country boy to come to New York City and do what he did. Richard is a wonderful poet, songwriter, he definitely helped create the punk scene. In fact, Malcolm McLaren wanted him to be the singer of the Sex Pistols and he didn’t want to. Malcolm took Richard’s fashion of ripped clothing which was born out of poverty not fashion and used it for the Sex Pistols’ – Marc Bell, to Chris Hollow 2004

Besides Richard Hell’s music – with the Neon Boys, Television, the Heartbreakers, the Voidoids, Dim Stars – he has always been a writer. He was a published writer before he ever picked up a bass guitar. A quick stop by Richard’s website will demonstrate that clearly; there are dozens of his poems, writings and excerpts from his novels. Despite the fact he was drawn to NY first and foremost as a poet, he never felt like he belonged in the poetry scene that he discovered there. “I thought the poets’ taste in music, for the most part, was really corny… Most of the New York poets were going around with flower ties and were all excited about marijuana and putting on Buffalo Springfield records. I never moved in the poets crowd anyway. It was the same with Patti [Smith] – she was apart from them”

“St. Mark’s Church had a magazine at that time called THE WORLD. I looked forward to seeing that each time. By the time I got my job at the Poetry Project, the magazine didn’t exist anymore and I thought that was a real loss. I kept begging them to let me start a magazine that they would finance. I did it really cheaply – I type-set it myself, ran it off on a xerox machine, and got together a party of the writers to collate it. The only thing that had to be paid for was the paper and the binding. Everything else we did ourselves. I was proud of everything about that magazine… I edited it under the name Richard Meyers. It was a small run (500 copies per issue) and it was available at only two or three stores in New York but they sold out immediately. They limited terms for the job at the Church so once it was over at the Church, that was the end of the magazine” – Richard Hell, from an interview with Perfect Sound Forever

Covers of the quarterly periodical Genesis: Grasp, with poems by Richard Meyers

When Hell started playing music, he was already trying to start a publishing imprint called Dot books, using an offset press and a corner of his apartment. He published one book of poems by Andrew Wiley, and worked on manuscripts by Patti Smith and Tom Verlaine, and his own novella, The Voidoid, which was eventually published in 1996. Hell brought to his music what he’d learned from the underground poetry world, which was the DIY approach: “We’re not gonna conform to the expectations of the music labels in order to make records for them, we’re gonna make the records we want to and they can come to us or not”

The sleeve for Blank Generation, which he printed himself in his apartment, is a perfect illustration of this ‘downtown’ aesthetic, rather than another contrived and cliched music industry trend

Television – Little Johnny Jewel

Theresa Stern – Richard’s side, Theresa (merged), and Tom’s side

A 1973 collaboration with Tom Verlaine, a book of poetry titled Wanna Go Out, credited to Theresa Stern (a fictitious author whose photo – above – was actually a superimposed photo of the two friends in make-up and wigs), contained an interview with Theresa (Hell) by Mary Harron (who later directed I Shot Andy Warhol & American Psycho) for Punk magazine, page one of which is below. It’s just about legible

[   ] Generation?

‘I used that phrase first in the back of the “Theresa Stern” book that I wrote with Tom, when I was publishing these little books of poems. I had four books in the works, one of them by me, one by Tom and one by Patti… only the Theresa book ever came out. Anyway, in the back of the Theresa book I put a list of the forthcoming titles, and wrote “Other books from the blank generation”. And that’s when I conceived of using that. It’s possible that I could have been working on the song already, but I don’t think so. Or actually, maybe I’d written it. I can’t remember for sure. As for the song, I liked the idea of doing my versions of sorta genre songs, and a “generation” song was one of them. I was way into the Who’s first album [The Who Sings My Generation in the U.S.], and Tom had this funny, kitsch single by Rod McKuen called ‘I Belong to the Beat Generation’, so it just seemed like a perfect conjunction to use that classic ‘Hit The Road Jack‘ chord sequence as the structure of that song’ – to Barney Hoskyns, March 2002

The first British release of the Voidoids, on Stiff Records, was a different version than appeared on the later US release

Richard Hell & the Voidoids Another World/I Belong to the Blank Generation/You Gotta Lose – Stiff (BUY 7)

 Blank Generation/Love Comes in Spurts, the US release on Sire

Richard Hell & the Voidoids Blank Generation 1977

  1. Love Comes in Spurts 
  2. Liars Beware 
  3. New Pleasure 
  4. Betrayal Takes Two 
  5. Down at the Rock and Roll Club 
  6. Who Says? 
  7. Blank Generation 
  8. Walking on the Water 
  9. The Plan 
  10. Another World
  11. I’m Your Man 
  12. All the Way 


Steve Jones interviews Richard Hell on (the now cancelled) Jonesy’s Jukebox

“We were rockers and Hell was a poet. I didn’t think the Voidoids really rocked despite being friends with the band members” – Walter Lure

Richard Hell & the Voidoids Going Going Gone by Bob Dylan

Alan Betrock, founder of New York Rocker, briefly documented the behind the scenes makings of Blank Generation. It is an invaluable document of the recording of a punk rock classic

“I got a call from Johnny Thunders a week after I left Television saying: “Would you like to make a band?” And I didn’t know Johnny very well. We had recently played with him opening for the New York Dolls at the Hippodrome. I think it was their last gig in New York before Johnny and [Jerry] Nolan left the Dolls. Thunders would come around to CBGB’s and we’d chat a bit. But I didn’t really know him very well. I liked the Dolls a lot. But apparently he liked what I did. Probably Malcolm [McLaren] had talked to him about me too, because Malcolm was a supporter when things got so tense with Tom. And it sounded perfect and like it could be a lot of fun. It was a chance to shake things up in a way that Television couldn’t. They had become way too cerebral” – Richard Hell, from a 2004 interview with Trakmarx.
The complete interview with Richard is here

Richard Hell – Time from Jen Hanley on Vimeo.

Richard Hell – Time

Time and time again I knew what I was doing

And time and time again I just made things worse

It seems you see the most of what is really true when

You’re stepping into your hearse


Only time can write a song that’s really really real

The most a man can do is say the way its playing feels

And know he only knows as much as time to him reveals

And when I want to write a song that says it all at once

Like time sublimely silences the whys

I know that if I try I’m going to take a fall at once

And splatter there between my lies


We are made of it and if we give submission

Among our chances there’s a chance we can choose

And if we take it, by uncertainty’s permission

Then it’s impossible to lose


These drawings, by Norwegian artist Kier Cooke Sandvik, were made between 2008-2009, to accompany Richard Hell’s book ‘The Voidoid’

‘It’s still among Hell’s favorites of his writings, and it reeks of its whacked out early ’70s NY “barnyard slum” rock & roll/poetry milieu. In the afterword to the 1996 Codex edition, Richard wrote: 

“The Voidoid was written in 1973 in a little furnished room on East 10th St. I was staying with Jennifer (‘my thoughts and me are like ships that pass in the night’) in her apartment down the block overlooking the graveyard at St. Mark’s Church. The Neon Boys was stalled because we couldn’t find a second guitar player… Every day I’d take a bottle of wine with me across the street to the $16-a-week room I’d rented for writing. The method was I’d keep going till I got to the end of a single-spaced page, which was pretty far. I’d wake up an hour later and have to drink a whole lot of water” 
– Richard

The Cover

Title Page

Limited Handbound Edition

pages 12 & 13

page 13

pages 32 & 33

page 45

pages 58 & 59

‘But now the evening light of New York is falling on the plush tapestry of my armchair. The rooms are filthy – wads of dust gather beneath the furniture, the walls are sheets of cracks, the ceiling all patched, yellow bits of scotchtape hang everywhere, the floors slant, and there’s no food to be found. A wino sleeps on the landing below.
As it gets darker I turn on the lights, sending hordes of cockroaches back to the walls as I enter each room. My saliva tastes more and more bitter. It’s going to be a full moon tonight. Very thin blue flames flick out for split seconds from my chest. I desire something to strangle or eat. I plead with tears in my eyes for something to devour as I wander the four rooms.
The vampire’s disgusting mind glides from one torture chamber to another, slashing, as it passes, the gossamer membrane of his brain walls with razors that it holds in the grasp of the tiny hands protruding from its wings (creating long thin bubbles like glistening red balloons bulging from the slits in the walls), and now cowering in the darkest recesses, terrified of the horror around the corner. (While, like thousands of others, there is really nothing he would like better than to ride the air currents along the edge of the ocean at dusk, invisible and inoffensive to everyone and everything.)
– from Chapter One, the Voidoid
order The Voidoid from Richard

 pages 110 & 111


Go Now by Richard Hell – excerpts

As a poet, Hell is the author of Wanna Go Out? by Theresa Stern (collaborative poems with Tom Verlaine), I Was A Spiral On The Floor, and Across the Years. A short novel, The Voidoid, written in 1973, was published in Britain in 1996. A collection of his notebooks from the seventies, Artifact, was published in 1990. In the late ’80s he edited the NY literary magazine CUZ for the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church. He has been widely anthologized and is represented in such ’90s anthologies as: Out of This WorldAm LitThe Penguin Book of Rock CriticismJungles D’AmeriquesLow Rent, and The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats, as well as Beat Punks and Aroused
Hell’s first full length novel, Go Now, an account, set in 1980, of a burned-out junkie punk driving across America with a former girlfriend, was published in 1996 in the U.S.A. and Britain
As an actor Hell established his reputation as a star of Susan Seidelman’s initial feature Smithereens (1982), which made history by being the first American independent film to be invited to compete at Cannes. Hell also appeared in Seidelman’s Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), as Bruce Meeker, and in Pola Rapaport’s Blind Light (1998), as Max, and has played leading roles in a number of New York underground films, from Rachid Kerdouche’s punk film noir, Final Reward (1978), and Nick Zedd’s mad-scientist/horror parody, Geek Maggot Bingo or the Freak from Suckweasel Mountain (1982), to Rachel Amodeo’s examination of the plight of the homeless in, What About Me? (1992). The feature-length film, Blank Generation, in which Hell played opposite French star Carole Bouquet in 1978, features live performances by Hell and the Voidoids at CBGB. Richard’s most important recent undertaking is his new novel, Godlike. Set largely in the early ’70s, but structured as a middle-aged poet’s 1997 notebooks and drafts for a memoir-novel, the book recounts the story of a young man’s affair with a remarkable teenage poet



the vores

The Vores are still going more than 30 years after they formed in Buffalo, NY, in the late 1970s, in the guise of original members Biff Henrich (guitar, vocals) and Gary Nickard (bass, vocals), and currently Cathy Carfagna (keyboards, vocals), Scott Ryan (guitar, vocals) and Patrick Heyden (drums). The Vores’ first release was the four-song 7″, Love Canal/Get Outta My Way/Amateur Surgeon/So Petite, in 1978. Their second release, the 7″ single Stress, came out in 1980
In 2005 they released Moment of Uncertainty, a great album of dark, edgy, humorous art rock reminiscent of Pere Ubu and American new wave and post punk bands of the 80s. I really love this album. The fact that I’m a big Ubu fan, and a big Talking Heads fan, would have made me automatically hate it if I thought it was a cheap imitation, or a cheeky rip-off; Moment of Uncertainty is a forthright, intelligent and essentially groovy work of art

Their most recent release, Common Scar came out in 2012. Again it is consistently good, in the same vein as their previous stuff: wildly creative and often very funny

“We’ve used the term avant garage; that’s a pretty good description. I’ve never called us ‘art rock’ because that would present a different connotation. There are things I have listened to and that we were interested in, but the sound really came from us. At the start” — Biff Henrich, Artvoice

the vores

Biff Henrich was kind enough to answer these questions for me

Hello Biff. Where did the name ‘the Vores’ come from?

It is Latin for eaters. When we were searching for a band name, every practice for weeks, we would discuss it while we set up. Gary would come in with two legal sheets of paper, two columns per side with list of names he had come up with. And we never liked any of them. Gary has a leaning toward the baroque and names like “Iron Fucking Death Chalice” just didn’t seem to reflect the sensibility of the rest of the band. So the list provided great entertainment but not much in the way of results. Dave Kulik (original guitar) casually walked into the room in the middle of one of these sessions and said, “What about the Vores?” We kind of all looked around and said, that sounds pretty good. There were no objections or guffaws and it stuck. I still like it after all this time and seems to have staying power. My friend Brian Grunert, who designed our recent album covers says it is a perfect 70’s band name


How did Paul Tschinkel come to record you at Max’s? Had he been familiar with the Vores beforehand?

Our manager, Debra Lary was good friends with Paul’s assistant. Her name was also Debra if I remember correctly (maybe not). Anyway, that was the link. They got Paul to come see us at an early NYC gig and he thought it would be great to record the band. This is of course before MTV and music videos broke out. There were two main guys recording bands and then going around to art galleries and other venues and having public screenings of them. One was Paul, who had his cable show in NYC. And there was Target Video in San Francisco. I’m sure there were others but they are who I was aware of. Both of them had come to Buffalo at some point for screenings. It was a great way to see bands that probably did not make the tour stop in Buffalo


Did you and Gary hang around much at CBs and Max’s, or any other clubs, when you were in the city?

Buffalo is about seven hours by car to NYC and at that time I was getting down there about 4-5 times a year. A lot of that was for specific purposes like our gigs, and that didn’t always give us a lot of free time. But we did manage to go to those clubs to see bands and also to other places such as Tier 3, or the Mudd Club. Just as often I would see music at art venues such as the Kitchen in NYC. In Buffalo, we had vibrant scene and bands would tour through here and play places like McVan’s, The Spectrum, The Schuper House, and later, the Continental. Additionally, I was involved in Hallwalls Gallery in Buffalo that had a music program that was similar to the Kitchen in NYC and if there were things we wanted to see we would bring them in for a show as part of the programming. That’s how guys like Rhys Chatham or Glenn Branca got to Buffalo


The Vores Amateur Surgeon live at Max’s Kansas City, May 1979


Amateur Surgeon is one of my favourite Vores songs. What was the inspiration?

I had read where some university was adopting admission criteria for entrance to its medical school other than “highest quality available.” Lyrically, I just took that to what I thought was it’s logical conclusion and sonically to what I thought that conclusion might sound like


Is Common Scar a record you’d always wanted to make? And how would you compare it to Moment of Uncertainty?

I probably wanted to make Moment of Uncertainty for a longer period of time. Common Scar followed relatively close on the heels of MOU. I think that Common Scar is certainly more representative of where this band has been in the past 10 years but we couldn’t have made it without making MOU first. One builds upon the other. They aren’t that far apart but CS is probably a bit more sophisticated in it’s selections. The range is little broader and nuanced. That probably is a reflection of the evolutionary process of writing and recording songs. I can’t say that either is better but they are slightly different. My nod probably goes to CS because it is the most recent. I think that anyone in a creative endeavor tends to favor their most recent creation above all others for a short period. It is when you revisit an older piece and re-discover its merits that you come appreciate its value. On the flip side that are those older things you did and you say, “What was I thinking? How did that ever see the light of day”


How much do – or can – the songs change between the original ideas you have and the finished recording by the band?

A lot. First, I must say that contrary to appearances I am not a sole creative in this effort. It has always relied on everyone in the band contributing and even a few outsiders. So I am willing to collaborate and refine ideas wherever and with whomever I can. Gary and I have done the most over the years but early on Dave Kulik wrote songs with us and those contributions were indispensible in defining our “thing”. Other members along the way have also added to the whole. Cathy plays like no one else we have ever had and I know we can let her go on her own with songs or parts of songs and approach it her way. You learn new ways to play things, new ways to approach things, new things to think about and that all gets sifted through the whole

I think the song I came to the band with that was changed the least was “Funeral”, from Common Scar. That song sprung out of me finished but that was unique. The songs also evolve as we play them. We add things and modify small things as we go so that if we play the same song 10 years ago and then play it today, it is different. Still recognizable but the performance will change. You have to trust the other musicians. Particularly with the live performance. We have done several events with an augmented line-up called Monsters of Nature and Design. It is an extended performance format that Gary has spearheaded. We have had 15 musicians and one rehearsal and it works out great. But it only works because we surround ourselves with great musicians that we trust to handle the material


Your nephew’s in the band. How did that come about?

Scott was 13 and had been playing guitar for several years. I saw him play in a band he started with his friends at a school function where they played original songs. I saw two things I liked, he had no stage fright although he is generally a reserved personality, and they got in some trouble with their school administration for violating some of the stage rules that had been laid down. It was shortly thereafter that we needed another guitar player for what I thought was only two gigs. I thought the image of a 13-year-old with us would rattle some cages and I knew he could handle the gig. It turned out better than expected


Stress 7″ 1980

the vores


How do you feel about comparisons to Pere Ubu?

I don’t think about it too much because I can’t do anything about it. There are a lot worse bands to be compared to and I like them so that is good. I can hear some shared sensibilities although I don’t think we sound like them. I haven’t heard a lot of their stuff so there are some things I don’t know there. People need a reference to talk about sound when there is no sound available and that one seems to work for a lot of people. Maybe it is the Lake Erie Effect with Cleveland being 200 miles down the shoreline from Buffalo


Do you have any personal feelings about the death of the record industry?

Not really, although I think the communal aspect of record stores, book stores and discussions with friends about musicians or songs has been a loss due to the internet. With all information available at your fingertips, there is no sense of satisfaction and reward when you find a recording you were looking for or discover a new band you never heard about. The excitement of the quest was part of the joy. The industry always seemed to have the misconception it was about commodity and they eventually distilled it all down to that. But it was really about finding others who shared your sensibilities and even being one of only a few who knew about certain things. Like musicians or authors. There are fewer and fewer insiders today and that means less uniqueness

I remember reading about the great Son House and wondering what he sounded like and what all the commotion was about. The recordings were long out of print and unavailable. One of the major record companies re-released some of those recordings in the mid 70’s and I was excited to come across the record in a store. The reward of discovery and finally hearing that voice after years of wondering was thrilling. Today, with everything preserved on the web, there is no need to feel the anxiety of thinking you may never get to hear Son House and know what that experience is like


Biff Henrich and Gary Nickard

vores l-1


You and Gary have known each other for 35 years, but you don’t really hang out. Why do you two work well together?

We actually hung out yesterday! We have always been kindred spirits of some sort. What I think is funny he thinks is funny. What he mocks, I mock. And when you have that with someone, you always seem to pick up the conversation as though it never ended. If we don’t see each other for two months, it is as though it was an hour ago. He is more academic than I am and I am more intuitive than him (all in degrees of course). It is a great balance when wrestling with the creative process


What’s happening next with the Vores – gig-wise, etc?

We will play down in Erie, PA. March 22nd. In conjunction with a documentary film about Buffalo Music. It was made by Elmer Plotz – HERE

We will play in our area 5-6 times a year. Finding venues can be challenging as there are simply fewer and fewer places to play live music and the audience seems more and more reluctant to venture out. Another condition of the digital age where everything is at your fingertips

We are happy to travel if the expenses are covered. The trick is getting all the musicians together for any extended time. Everyone has other activities, bands, day jobs etc, so coordinating is like juggling water. I have some footage of performances I want to edit and put up on the web. Mostly the extended projects like the Monsters group. We also have audio recordings of those kinds of performances we want to put out. They are mostly mixed down but still need to be mastered and produced. That will need some funds from someplace

We still write songs, although not at a furious pace. The reality is that it never was a furious pace. We were always very deliberate with the songs that we finished, quick to discard ideas that were going nowhere fast

I’m now off to band practice with The Good. Another great Buffalo band that stuck me in their lineup a few years ago

OK. Have a good one!
the vores


A live gig/interview podcast is available at


and you can listen to the 1978 four-song single tracks here:

1. Love Canal

2. Get Outta My Way

3. Amateur Surgeon

4. So Petite


>end trans<

barney bubbles




Barney Bubbles

Album sleeve artist Barney Bubbles (born Colin Fulcher in London in 1942), who committed suicide in 1983, designed sleeves for the Damned, Ian Dury, Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg, Hawkwind, and was the in-house designer for Stiff Records. He designed the ‘archer’ motif for Strongbow cider, and many other artworks, some that he never signed (and therefore for which he was not credited)

Bubbles had a bi-polar disorder and was also an enthusiastic consumer of recreational drugs, which may or may not have contributed to his early death. BBC Radio 4 did a very good documentary about Barney Bubbles, which you can hear here

Generation X Your Generation/Day By Day 7″ sleeve 1977


Gen X

Blockhead logo music press tour ad 1978 + promotional paint can, 1979

Barney Bubbles' Blockhead logo - music press tour ad 1978 Bubbles promotional paint can, 1979

The Damned Music for Pleasure Stiff Records, 1977

barney bubbles


The Damned, Stretcher Case Baby/Sick Of Being Sick, 7″ sleeve + record with custom label, Stiff Records, 1977

url-5 url-4


Ian Dury Songbook 1979



Ian Dury 4000 Weeks Holiday sleeve in progress. This was one of Barney’s last designs. He died before the work was completed

barney bubbles 4,000 Weeks sleeve in progress


Nick Lowe Little Hitler 1978 advert appeared in music paper Sounds, captioned:
“A new single. A new shirt. You can’t take it off”, with the record company Radar’s logo as the shirt label

barney bubbles

Ian Dury & the Blockheads Do It Yourself 1979. The sleeve was printed in twelve different versions onto real sheets of wallpaper

Bubbles doityourself


Elvis Costello My Aim is True 1977

Elvis Costello My Aim is True

Larry Wallis and Elvis Costello posters, 60in x 40in, Live Stiffs tour, 1977. Bubbles was the creator of the 60in x 40in poster

larrywallis Costello-Poster


John Cooper Clarke Directory, Omnibus Press, 1979



Nick Lowe I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass 7″ sleeve 1978


Elvis Costello Armed Forces promo poster



Ian Dury With Love, 60in x 40in poster, 1977 poster for Stiffs Live Stiffs tour


Ian Dury What A Waste/Wake Up & Make Love To Me (reverse), Stiff 1981


Proof copy of unused front cover for single sleeve, Your Generation/Day By Day, Generation X, Chrysalis, 1977



Bubbles’ masthead for the NME 1978


Elvis Costello Armed Forces 1979

elvis costello

Armed Forces with interlockingleaves unfoldedtodisplaythe albumtitleand credit.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions Get Happy!! 1980


Elvis Costello and the Attractions Get Happy!! poster 1980


Much thanks to Paul Gorman, author of Reasons to Be Cheerful, for his fantastic pics –


check out Paul’s website here


peter gravelle

peter gravelle by john gladdy

Peter Gravelle by John Gladdy

After Sid Vicious died in New York in February ’79, the details of his last hours alive came under intense focus. There was a knee-jerk search for somebody other than Sid himself to blame. For that reason you might have heard of people like Michelle Robinson, Neon Leon and Rockets Redglare, people whom you would never have heard about if they hadn’t existed on the periphery of the ex-Pistol’s squalid final weeks in New York

Photographer Peter Gravelle (aka Kodik) was also drawn into the blame game that the media insisted on playing. He was the man who put that last gramme of heroin in Sid’s hand; the gramme that killed him later that night. Gravelle was an easy scapegoat for the press: like his mate Sid, a heroin addict, who looked a bit “rough”, and clearly kept some very questionable company

Peter of course had simply been the guy who came through for a friend after another supposed friend had ripped off Sid’s mum. The heroin Jerry Nolan sold on to Anne Beverly, for herself, Sid and Peter to share that day was so badly cut it was practically worthless. You can be sure if Sid could still be heard, there’s be no ill will directed at his old pal

Peter Gravelle has stories. Lots of them. He has photographed some very interesting people down the years – mostly not the punk rockers he is known for photographing. Perhaps unfortunately for him, those punks are what I was most curious about


Living in Maida Vale in 76/77 you must have met almost everyone from the early punk scene on one occassion or another. It’s become kind of a mythic place and time

No that`s a London thing. Maida Vale is central and on the right-side of town as opposed to the east-end. Of course they have been pumping money into re-doing the East-end for ages and it`s sort of happening – not. They can always try

I remember the East-End mostly through Brick Lane. A place you went for bargains. In the old Brick Lane you would walk down and they`re would be guys in long coats and as you passed they would open them revealing their goods they had to sell; mostly rows of watches, rings, jewellery of any sort… fantastic and no, they weren`t flashers just flash Eddies… this was amongst the fruit sellers, the bric a brac and piles of unsorted clothes. It ain`t like that any more. It`s full of cheaper housing for anyone coming to London and studio spaces for artists and photographers where the west-side now is too expensive

Back in 1977 Maida Vale was an average neighbourhood. It`s location was good. Ten minutes by bus you were in Marble Arch and the West-end. Fifteen minutes by bus and you were in Chelsea or the other way, Camden. Nice big flats too. Now it has become very up market. Glen Matlock still lives there now as do Paul Weller and many others. Back in 1976, let`s see, I had a Mews House there where Patti lived, Barry Jones had a nice place two blocks away, Sid and Nancy moved into Pindock Mews, Keith Levene lived opposite them nearly, Matt from the Boys, oh I can`t remember who else, Glen lived there, Celia Perry at Barrys, Magenta de-Vine with me for a while. Yeah, I guess a lot of people did live there. That was cool though. It meant you could walk to a friend`s house. Something unusual for London now


Johnny Thunders is named by some as the bloke who introduced heroin to the London punk scene. Do you have an opinion one way or the other on that?

Fuck, what a statement. Yeah, Johnny was responsible for everything. What an ass-hole. Ok, lets go back a bit. If early Punk had a drug of choice it was puff and speed. People drank but speed was the big drug. It was pure and cheap. £10 a gram. Yes, the whole Heartbreakers crew did bring their drug habits with them from NYC and many people being NY Dolls clones or Johnny clones tried smack for the first time through them. But, it was like a cancer started to affect the whole scene.
Now, I don`t know who you think controls the drug market but I think it definitely comes from above.. the top… All of a sudden you couldn`t find any speed at all. Zero. Zilch. What you did find was heroin. Of course the Shah of Iran was deposed around this time and after Britain was flooded with high grade heroin. At this time heroin was about £40 per gram. Pretty much the same price as it is today. To get back to the original question, yes, London and the Punk scene could have done without Johnny and his Heartbreakers but probably the government would have had their way anyway. He, as others have done, merely glorified something, that in essence, is very sad. Let`s blame Malcolm for bringing them over


You’re definitely not the first person who met Johnny Thunders I’ve heard describe him as an asshole. Did you have many run-ins with him, and did you see him behaving like that?

Asshole? No, that might be a bit strong. I`d say he was juvenille. Yeah, pretty fucking juvenille. Oh, he could be sweet and charming but unfortunately it was usually because he wanted something. Look, Johnny was a junkie. For Christs sake, that was nearly all he wrote songs about. Call them what you will, modern street poetry, songs from the heart, whatever, no matter how you try to dress them up they are about junk, dooggie, downtown. Most junkies are assholes

I first saw him when he came over with his Heartbreakers… they would headline the Roxy club every weekend it seemed. I mean you have to wonder about someone who takes delight in giving someone their first hit of heroin as he seems to have done. I know a lot of people who claim that the first time they took heroin was with Johnny. I did his So Alone cover later. I had to send over a pretty girl to pick him up. First thing he does upon arriving is have another hit. He was so out of it he couldn`t keep his eyes open. Johnny, it`s your record cover. He wasn`t alone, he was surrounded by blood suckers. The album should have been called So, a loan ???

Later I saw him in Paris a couple of times. He played solo, didn`t want to have to share the money with a band. I saw him in situations I know he didn`t want to be in. He would just shrug his shoulders as if to say well Peter, so it goes. Later, I saw him a couple of times as he toured North America. He would say things from the stage like there`s a guy here who I fucked his wife or girlfriend. Yeah, and you got leftovers Johnny. What a thing to say and as if I really cared. Well, I would laugh but I thought it pretty low and juvenille. That was the level he worked on. He was a pig when it came to junk. Moderation didn`t come into his vocabulary and eventually, well you tell me what happened? LSD in a junkie`s blood system!?? Right, he should have grown up. He was blessed with a charisma of sorts. Died too young. Anyway i don`t want to talk bad of the dead, let`s try to remember the good bits


thunders so alone

New York magazine did a piece on you entitled “Peter Gravelle, Vicious Enabler”; was that a fair title? It feels like you were singled out; this idea that you share some of the responsibility for his death. He would have asked the next person he could have if you’d said no, and it’s not as if you were a dealer; you were going to buy it for yourself anyway, I assume

Fuck New York magazine. It`s a free, cheap city magazine. If I lived in the States I would sue them for those remarks. Maybe by not doing so I don`t give them any credence. All I will say at the moment is it was probably a mixture of drugs he took that night with drink on top that led to his unfortunate death

If I could have the chance over again, I would probably have not copped the heroin for him and myself that night. Of course I wouldn`t but as you said someone else would have. We had tried a number of places that day. The only reason people wouldn`t sell to us was because they didn`t have anything. Jerry had cut the stuff his mother brought for Sid so bad that neither of us could feel it. That`s what started us off looking for more.. nuff said. Fuck New York magazine.. Do u know a lawyer who’ll work on credit? Fuck it


Your photoshoot for the Damned, that iconic front cover, the great outtakes… could you tell us a little bit about that shoot. For example, were the custard pies planned? Were they real custard pies? Was anyone in control or was it a food fight?

I knew Judy Nylon quite well. Her boyfriend was in a band. She asked me if I would do some photos of the band; they had no money. Ok, as long as I could do anything I wanted to. I don`t know where I came up with the pie idea. It was my idea. I think it was just because I thought it would be visually effective. On the day of the shoot Judy and Patti were the stylists and in charge of picking up custard or cream pies. We all arrived at the studio and there were no cream pies to be found. They had picked up some flan bases, shaving cream and ketchup and mustard. Well, that will have to do. I have to say the boys were very cool about the whole thing. Mentholated shaving cream does sting the eyes. Yes , I was in control . Someone has to be. It was my photoshoot. Looking back, it was a case of random bits all coming together with no real meaning to begin with. Don`t think about it, just do it


Who/what are the most interesting/entertaining subjects you’ve shot?

There has been a few interesting cases. I find nearly everyone sort of interesting but top of my list has to be Dr John Cunningham Lilly. He seemed to glow as an individual. Didn`t like the camera. A wonderful, fascinating man. Invented the flotation tank, Altered States, the movie was based loosely on his life. He gave me pure MDMA and Ketamine and put me in a flotation tank. I fell asleep I think. You`re not supposed to. Read up on him, truly remarkable


Is there anyone you would have liked to have photographed that you never had the chance to?

Yes.. a studio session with Iggy Pop


A nice addition to your home if you’ve got the dosh (for sale @petergravelle)



Outtakes from the Damned album cover shoot


And is/are there portrait(s) or photo(s) you are most proud of?

Depends on the day and how I feel about photography in general so it varies. I`m working on a book so you will have to wait on this score


You and Barney Bubbles had a company called Exquisite Covers. Who were some of the bands you designed sleeves for? (*I tried to find some online but so far no luck)

Dear Barney. I met him after he had done the Damned first cover with my pics. I was sort of horrified with the big yellow Damned logo to be honest but Barney justified it by saying he wanted it to look like it was off a garage wall, like a cheap calendar. Well, OK. We did Nick Lowe`s single Bowi after but Barney wasn`t getting paid at the time so we came up with Exquisite Covers where by we could work for the commercial industry through.. Humble Pies greatest hits was one, the Nice greatest hits another. There were a few more and that was the money work that enabled him to carry on. We were both doing work for other groups. Me for Snatch, Generation X; Barney for Elvis Costello and Ian Dury. I remember being annoyed with him for not getting me to do those pics but that was more Jake and Robinson`s doing. They would only call me if they had a real problem as when me and Barney had to do Albertos y los Trios Paranoia`s album Italians from Outer Space with photos in a day or photograph five ugly guys for the cover of a Rumour album. That`s when they called me. Barney was a lovely bloke though. Maybe too sweet if that`s possible


How do you feel about NYC? You were married to Patti Palladin. Did you feel like you became a New Yorker by association?

I love NY. I regret ever leaving there. I first visited NYC through Patti but that was mostly Brooklyn. A big no-go for me. Later I moved there and lived there for over two years. It was during this time I finally felt like a New Yorker. I couldn`t stand the place when I first arrived but after a year it was home. Sometimes people think I`m still from New York now which is sort of funny for me. I guess if NY is an attitude, yes I am. Certainly as much as I feel English anyway, or Canadian


You lived in Italy for a long time. Was it a place you grew to love?

Yes, Milan was my home for over 15 years. I lost count after that. Of course Milan isn`t the nicest of Italian cities. In fact it`s one of the worst but that was where the work was so.. yes, I love Italy, the people, their food, their lifestyle. Their love of family (something the English should learn). Yes, I don`t really have anything too bad to say about Italy. Wouldn`t live there now but I have many happy memories of Italy


You’ve lived an interesting life. People associate you with Sid Vicious but you have photographed countless well-known people. Does it bother you that most people think of you in tandem with Sid, because of that night?

Maybe people in music or into music might think that but believe me others know me for a lot more. No, it doesn`t bother me. What can I do about it anyway??


Did you get to know Nancy at all? Your good friend Steve Dior is one of the few people to defend her. He says she bought him a pair of shoes one time..

Of course I knew Nancy. Lucky Steve, she never brought me anything. Anytime I met her she would try borrowing money off me. Her voice was pretty jarring mind you, she was another contradiction: generous one minute, hard as nails the next. What can I say, people weren`t too nice to her behind her back but nearly everyone put up with her mainly because she went out with Sid and Sid liked her


If Sid had lived, what do you think he’d be doing now?

If Sid hadn`t become Vicious would he still be alive? Probably. Punk is TOXIC. It`s the title of one of the chapters in my book.. and no Sid and I were never an item and don`t believe you Lee Black Childers. Maybe he didn`t want to become the next Alvin Stardust

Thanks Peter


Sid Peter Gravelle


la flyers


The B People/Suicide @ King’s palace

los angeles punk flyers

CAPA @ the Cathay de Grande

los angeles punk flyers


Flesh Eaters/Meat Puppets @ Fiesta House

los angeles punk flyers

Iggy @ the Cuckoo’s Nest

los angeles punk flyers

The Crowd @ the Cuckoo’s Nest


Mnemonic Devices @ the Cuckoo’s Nest

los angeles punk flyers

Fear @ the Cuckoo’s Nest

los angeles punk flyers

Mnemonic Devices @ the Cuckoo’s Nest

los angeles punk flyers

The Germs/Bags @ Larchmont Hall

los angeles punk flyers


Divine Horsemen @ Club Lingerie

Divine Horsemen flyer


Flesh Eaters @ Club Lingerie

los angeles punk flyers

Jeffrey Lee Pierce/Divine Horsemen @ Club Lingerie

los angeles punk flyers

DIs/Rank and File @ Club Lingerie

los angeles punk flyers

DIs @ Club Lingerie

DI's flyer

7 Seconds @ Bogarts

los angeles punk flyers