We had another piece of furniture in the house, an upright piano. My mum taught me ‘chopsticks’ – it was the only thing that anyone in the house could play. I was intrigued with how it made its sounds. It was amazing how the wood panels would come off, stripping it bare to its workings. The beautiful sound of its strings when you rubbed a stick across them, it was a harp. The resonances, the out of tune swishing of the low notes sustained. Piano is a complete instrument that can substitute an entire group or orchestra. It is from its relationship to the drum that the piano derives a peculiarity quite unique in the melodic and harmonic family. Rhythm is, after all, the starting-point of music. The piano can sentimentalize like the flute, make a martial proclamation like the trumpet, intone a prayer like the churchly trombone. The music of single note piano play is steeped in mystery. It bubbles up from deep silences and softly reverberant spaces, insinuating itself like some sort of pleasant, mind-altering soma. It takes us from here way, way on to there, wherever we are going, and only one thing is for sure, remember, we are going …
My first guitar was a little plastic electric which had a working amp. Hippies that worked in a sweet shop owned by Bobby Clark’s parents really liked this. They showed me how to play Cream’s hit on it. I played in the street, there were no buskers n Arbroath but people gave me money. I sang solo at Sunday school to the gathered masses. I preferred sticking stickers in my Jesus picture. I was in the scouts and I wanted the radioactive and Fish and Wildlife Management badges. We didn’t get them in Arbroath I was told, in fact you couldn’t get them in the entire U.K. [only in the U.S.].
If part of your identity is hewn by what you consume, what you make in an active choice of selecting and then purchasing, eating, adorning and using? There was a ritual which had to be indulged in, called ‘buying records’. My parents had once done it. I don’t know where I got the idea.
The first single I can remember buying was “Lily the Pink” by the Scaffold. It was a surprise Christmas 1968 #1 in the UK singles chart for four weeks. The Scaffold’s comedy version of the song had famous help – Elton John and Graham Nash of The Hollies contributed with backing vocals and Jack Bruce (of Cream) played the bass guitar. God knows why I bought it in the upstairs record shop of Menzies on the high street, maybe it was because I was 7 years old. Its funny how at this time when I was already stimulated by imaginative TV shows their title and soundtracks that I went for this record? Maybe I have a sense of humour after all, or at least I did. I wonder how much of the 60s and 70s we got from TV, from Mrs Peel’s cat suits, and that warped sense of humour, sci-fi and spy culture. How did all this fit with the ‘hash trail’ – In the 1960s, Westerners travelled to the Orient on the “Hippie Hashish Trail”, passing through Istanbul, Delhi and Kabul and ending up in Freak Street, Kathmandu, Nepal. This was going on while the Vietnam War was in full swing, while man was landing on the moon, and our house at 97, Keptie Street, Arbroath was getting kitted out with its first bathroom and proper inside toilet. Meanwhile in Rangoon, a low budget hippie could exist for the week on the profits they made selling a bottle of Johnny Walker whiskey, a carton of Triple Five cigarettes and a few better condition western clothes, cosmetics, and other modern personal items.
Second Record Purchase
The final Pigean phase occurs after the age of nine and involves the Neo-Cortex, the brain’s grey matter. Subjective thought, insight and creativity emerge, the ability to make plans for the future come to the fore.
One-shot hits by radio and television personalities have long been an occasional feature of the pop charts, and such was indeed the case with Les Crane’s 1971 spoken narration of “Desiderata” – Latin for “those things most needed or to be desired.” This was the title of a poem by Indiana lawyer Max Ehrmann back in 1906 and copyrighted under the title “Go Placidly Amid the Noise and Haste” in 1927. It couldn’t have been more different than “Lily the Pink.” Maybe that was because I was now 10. The B side was “A Different Drummer” a discombobulated piece that had sound from US pilots, conceivably flying missions in Nam – the utterance embedded in its narrative of “Pilot to bombardier” still haunts my memory today as this guy readies his colleague to bomb. Bomb the innocents…? Their target is set, the missions is almost over. They just pressed buttons and watched dials… who were they bombing exactly?
Years later on a trip to national park just North of sihnoukville Cambodia, I watched a fisherman throw his net while a welcome cool breeze came in from the sea. Was he a subsistence fisherman, catching just enough to feed himself and his family, or did he make an excess to be sold in the local market, affording him some rice and the luxury of some meat and spices? I looked to the sky some clouds framed in a deep blue. Flying at 30,000 feet the B52s were unheard, silent, irrelevant to this man’s effort’s the first thing that he would have known was obliteration, and even if the bombs landed miles wide the fisherman’s eardrums would have been burst in an instant. He would have, in the silence punctuated by buzzing insects and bird noises, he have had no idea what was happening. God would have come forth – in this case malevolently – in the sign of the arousing 震. [http://shapeless.org/chou_i/shou_kua.html]
Operation Menu [http://www.walrusmagazine.com/articles/2006.10-history-bombing-cambodia/ ]was the codename of a covert United States Strategic Air Command (SAC) bombing campaign conducted in eastern Cambodia from 18 March 1969 until 26 May 1970, during the Vietnam War leading to the destruction of over 1,000 towns and villages, the displacement of 2,000,000, and the deaths of over 600,000 Cambodians. A report by historian Ben Kiernan and Taylor Owen states 2,756,941 tons of ordnance was dropped in 230,516 sorties on 113,716 sites. Just over 10 percent of this bombing was indiscriminate, with 3,580 of the sites listed as having “unknown” targets and another 8,238 sites having no target listed at all. It made me remember reading Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravity’s_Rainbow ]in Chiang Mai some 17 years before. I found it in a book shop, it looked a difficult and substantial read, and I was going through Herman Hesse’s bibliography too fast and needed something to slow me down. In Gravity’s Rainbow the protagonist’s phobia concerns being killed from a descending German V2 rocket.
I wondered if I was the one dropping the bombs, lying under the radiogram, preparing my bombardier?
Meanwhile, holidays for me during the early 70s were spent up the Glens of Angus in a Caravan, with a little transistor buzzing and whiring on medium wave at night, the signal coming and going, blinking like the gas light, but keeping us in with civilisation and the city, the sounds that haunt me from Radio 1 were Spirit in the Sky (1970), Cat Stevens Moonshadow (1971), Get it On by T-Rex (1971), Mott the Hoople “All the Young Dudes” (1972) and Stevie Wonder, “Living for the city”
1971, 1972 – fashions become important
My parents did not like the pop music of the time. When Neil Young played Heart of Gold on Top of the Pops on the 23 March 1972, the iconic weekly BBC UK pop show I asked my Dad what he thought he decreed:”Think, there’s nothing to think; just a neep (a turnip) wi hair, pullin’ faces like he wis in agony. There’s no way that’s music.”
My first real fashion choice was an aqua blue shirt and a psychedelic neck scarf with a gold ring. My best friend Bobby Clark had a flowery shirt. We wore them with great effect at a Primary 7 party. It was to launch my interests in being ‘with it’ or ‘in’ the fashion over the next 20 years or so. I think I was really just awaking now. My last beating was for getting trapped in the water tower at Keptie Pond with Bobby. The fire brigade had to cut us out. The next time she tried to beat me I grabbed the bat and told her to “come ahead.” She relegated her vim and venom to verbal abuse after that – more pervasively damaging? [http://www.arbroathherald.co.uk/features/Short-but-sweet-The-story.1304406.jp]
I had a hobby in electronics. The hobby itself was fuelled by the wonderful supplies of old TVs, tools, and radios and other devices we found in our exploration of the empty houses in our town when it was undergoing substantial development in the early 1970s. By the 1960s, across the UK, many private landlords had not repaired or upgraded their properties and many tenants were struggling to maintain their homes amid ‘crumbling brick work, appalling damp, and pests such as mice and cockroaches’ Improvement Grants for the provision of bathrooms by the conversion of outbuildings, or the adaptation of back bedrooms and the improvement of kitchen facilities, had been available from the 1950s, but only covered half the cost of the work carried out.
Entire swathes of individualistic old Redstone cottage houses were being vacated and demolished in lieu of new clean formulaic council estates going up on the periphery of town. Everybody knows them, they are called the projects in the U.S. Living centrally in the town me and Bobby had a fantastic playground in the houses, themselves, each and every one of them, constructed differently, and typically leaving possessions behind. It’s funny how some people seemed to have just got up and left, and never made any effort, to pack some of their detritus whereas in other houses, everything had gone. Maybe, they were shedding their skin, moving to the fresh start, there were often places where tools and interesting things were found typically the remnants of someone else’s hobby, where they were meant to be, their booty from life, their purchases and their identity, but all in order, hung. Anyway my laboratory at the back of my house fattened up with booty. I was great at taking things apart but lacked the ability and knowledge to put them together. Maybe this is my beginnings as a deconstrutionist! But I really wanted to be a reverse engineer.
I couldn’t wait to get to secondary school to do science. I’d always had peeks into their labs while in primary school and was jealous. When I finally got there they killed off my interest, they knew precisely, scientifically just how to. There was no curiosity, no mystery, just routine. I didn’t like their form of deconstruction. I just wanted for things to go horribly wrong in chemistry, fire, explosion, burning – oh to get hold of some magnesium! Physics, what the hell on earth boring as maths, volts, ohms, amperes, reduced to formulae arggggh! Biology, hellish. Geography – a waste of space, history – ludicrous. English – OK I liked that, French – surreal, not to be taken seriously, technical drawing – somewhat interesting, woodwork, metalwork, pretty redundant. Even the art teacher was one of the most liberal punishers. A little old lady who belted up the inside of the forearms, punishing us violently to be creative, that‘s going to work.
School was for studying idiosyncrasies of teachers. You know their weird dispositions and performances – I think I began to stop taking them seriously in primary 7, when I discovered fashion and began to take an interest in the opposite sex. Up to this time I had taken them gravelly seriously. Since Primary three violence had be meted out by tall, gaunt, women with half-moons and bun hair, real stereotype, modelled on the nasty aunts or wicked witches from the Wizard of OZ. This one didn’t like the look of me and decided to lash me every day for week as a deterrent. They terrified me and us. By Primary 7 we were beginning to see through the show. Mr. Sneddon was headmaster and Primary 7 teacher. He had an almost phobic reaction to Germans and Nazis, this we knew full well from his impassioned history lessons. It came right through not just in history classes, it came through many classes. Discussions of food would turn to rationing etc; discussions of sport would turn to Army assault course and so forth.
On Fridays we did project work. We began with pictures; we had to draw pictures of war. Bobby was a superb artist, natural really. He drew a picture of a Waffen SS soldier standing proud on a mini-mountain of dead Tommy bodies. The SS man was flying a swastika flag. The vanquished Tommys were replete with dishevelled ‘pudding bowl’ hats. I drew a picture of a Stuka Dive bomber. It was clear to us as kids, that the Germans, independent of their atrocities, had a design sense and flair that the British and their Allies sorely lacked. This was as true in their uniforms as in their technologies. Mr. Sneddon was not one who could appreciate this. When we mounted our pictures, he ran up the back and violently ripped them apart. It was then I think that we realised that some, many, of these teachers have a screw loose, and rather than support them in this, we would, as all nasty, exploitative kids do, explore and niggle it for a laugh. Our project work continued apart from all references to German forces.
Come the presentation, we prepared two sets of deliverables. Well at least gave the impression we were. I had shaped a luger pistol from balsa wood, and although I would not be holding up any banks soon, it was quite nicely put together. I got some facts regarding its specs etc. I had also done some Afrika Korps scenarios with SdKfz 251 armoured personnel carriers and Tiger Tanks. Bob had done a massive A3 poster of his initial theme. But the best aspect was yet to come. On presentation day, I side parted my hair with Brylcream and pencilled in a toothbrush moustache. Both I and bob had fashioned Swastika armbands. We waited until the presentation was in full swing outside the class. At the prearranged mark, Bob kicked open the classroom door, and screamed “AUCHTUNG, AUCHTUNG, DAS FUHRAR, HEIL HITLER, SIEG HEIL, SIEG HEIL!!” At that I goose-stepped in parading full Nazi salute. The class was stunned, and then were laughing. Yeah, we took his lash after that, six of his best, he again should the ultimate supremacy of the allies by destroying all our artefacts, but everybody loved it, and especially us. It sent me off on a laughing spree that lasted most of my schooling.
Teachers. You know their weird dispositions and performances. Oh yeah, and they were there to punish, and to find fault so as to punish more. Basher Ad was another great performer/storyteller. He’d be mumbling to himself at the board in Techie Drawing, drawing elevations and plans. I’d be at the back of the class waiting, waiting for his show to begin. And each and every class it always began. Classmates would be draped around bored and listless, rather like Salvador Dali ‘soft watches’, including Dunc McKenzie at the front of the class. His head was literally melting over his hand, needing to lay down fully on the desk, his upper body perched precariously at 15 degrees, he was practically asleep. He was somatic. Next thing without announcement the show begins: Ad looks round at the class, kinda suspiciously, then takes another look.
Then he swings round now fully confronting the class. “Are some of yous talking… or should I say takin’ the piss in ma’ class?” That Glasgow twang, a Hollywood shake of the head, bound with a genuine frown of disgust, a massively wrinkled forehead: “Whit, you tellin’ me that you lot can mess wi’ Ad?” It’s totally rhetorical; he’s no lookin’ fur answers.
He points to himself with a defiant thumb: “You lot, ye’re all as soft as s-h-i-t-e, ye’s all are… see where I was bought up, the back streets o’ no mean city, the Glasgow gorbels, it wasne just a wee lassie’s poke and pull, the way I’ve seen the way you lot battle it out here.” A look of total incredulity comes over Ad, as if he can’t handle right now just how ‘saft’ we all are (hmmmm? As Dali watches or as young Arbroath chancers?) More disapproval, much more: “No, no, no. No!… in ma school, it wasne just a punch or kick…”
Ad’s swinging now, tottering, fully animated and moving in on the kill, on Dunc McKenzie as a matter of fact, he who has not budged an inch to accommodate for such theatrics. But, to my vast amusement, I clock some audience members that are looking real scared, petrified some of them. That just intensifies my mirth. “Aye, it nae punch or kick, nah, nah, It wis an 18 inch bike chain or a HATCHET.” At that he swings his imaginary chib across a critical part of Dunc’s exposed neck.
Duncan still doesn’t move, why? Cos this is normal, and he’s long gone, the lights are out in Dunc’s head. Yeah, maybe after class it would have been “haha, funny as fuck, Basher Ad went into one again. He’s mental as fuck.” But in real time, he is not amused, he’s just waiting patiently for the class, no, no, the school, to finish and get out of its way. This show is as boring as the class subject, and me realising his stance just intensifies my laughing. Yes, not me, I was taking all of this in, it was pure fucking art, hilarious to say the least, and now I am now in absolute stitches, mess of a sentient being, giggling and struggling to suppress and control laughter, but the cybernetic effect was only me wanting to laugh even more. I must have looked real weird as well to any third party, shaking like an epileptic jelly struggling to look sober and serious, as if I am taking notes regarding the seriousness of Ad’s ‘message’. My fear was to be exposed as a laugher, and found to be uncontrollable; this would mean the lash, possibly more, a fucking straightjacket. Was the aim really to take his nonsense seriously? Even though we all knew that Basher Ad had a Glasgae accent, even though he had apparently grown up in gentile Scone, the ancient capital of Scotland, situated in rolling Glens and nowhere near the Gorbels or single Glasgow tenement come to that.
The allusion wis that he ‘wasne jist frae Glesga’, but that he had been brought up during the time o’ da razor gangs to boot. Why was it that all these 1970s male teachers were either special force military, or from harder, no meaner cities than Arbroath? And more than that in my story Ad wasn’t finished yet:
“One day I walking across the playground, and somebody come roun’ the back and wheeched me off by the top o’ the tie…”
The punch line, the money shot, of a largely demonic Ad – the only aspect missing perhaps steam pouring from ears, fire from flaring nostrils – menacingly lowers the voice and lays it down straight: “I’ll tell ye something… crappers, that wee boy wasne back at school for six months efter that… and if Ad had had his way… he wouldne be back at School a’ all! … he’d be six foot under… in a wee black box!”
He left us there, beady eyes agape, forehead a mass o’ incredulous wrinkles, falling into in that grave forever with his playground assailant, he proceeded to stare out each and every wanna-be hard man in the class, seeing if there were any takers, watching carefully, for any takers at all. That silence was excrustiating; deadly to the suppressing of laughter… for ‘fits’ as I playfully called them, it was murderous… it was totally dangerous and forbidden at this juncture. But next thing, like a solar eclipse, a Sun peaking round a moon, there was Ad’s pisshole eyes on me, scoping me, struggling to open, coming round the side of Dunc’s head and focussing with hand over eyebrows, shading as if looking for land: “Hey mister… yeah.. you at the back… are you messing wi’ Ad?” Duncan twisted round to see who Ad was sizing up, it was the most life I’d seen out of him in the last 45mins. How do you answer while your face looks as if you need oxygen or to relieve yourself urgently in the ablutions?
I have no wish to return there but this was the funniest skits I have ever seen in my life.
My school marks went down over the years of secondary schooling, and down like an economy in freefall, think Germany in the 1920s and more recently Zimbabwe. I could also think of the curtain at my folk’s place when we had a party one Saturday night before the disk. We were to get more booze and I told them to watch the house, I had only got as far as the garden gate when I looked back to see the curtain and the curtain rail come down and someone projectile vomit on the window. It was as messy, and my parents were only out for a few hours.
I was real lucky my marks came back when it counted, at the ‘O’ levels or I wouldn’t be writing this now in Africa. I would be still serving petrol in the North East of Scotland wearing petrol stained Addias t-shirt. I am a staunch believer in the maxim “you can take the horse to the water, but you can’t make him drink” applied to education. I had learn myself, teach myself, although maybe I did build upon residual subliminal stuff picked up in the class when my main missions was playing around thinking of girls and the weekend, suppressing fits of laughter at the overblown antics of teachers. Where no antics existed, we would try and provoke them. While Mr. Stuart wrote on the board in French class, we’d help little George Swankie to jump out the window, he’d run round the building and come back in the class as if he’d been to the toilet. Even when we’d repeat this two or three times ‘Stuarty’ didn’t register. It was like a film on a maddening loop, I have come to realise such antics as the stuff of French humour so maybe it was keeping in topic. Now who was in the deepest trance? Another one was that while he was absorbed writing on the board, we’d count “one two three COCKS.” He’d spin round muttering “who said that, who said that, his hand already fingering his lash?” The same was repeated perhaps with a different word or expletive. It wasn’t only one sided. Asked what is the meaning of “Set une que?” I answered a door key, That was two lash. I then asked if it were a harbour Quay. That was four. I gave up then.
Only some teachers you could do things like this with. Others were more conscious. It got me to a theory that maybe intelligence can work against you. It was said that Stuarty could speak 26 languages and several African dialects. Anyway, I loved his classes, didn’t learn much French though. He was also the Fencing instructor and I was captain of the fencing team, I tried to take him several times with Samurai style tactics but failed, he knew his stuff. Other maniacs included ‘’Shultz Macintosh, Rector Hay, Big Wull, Miss Cant, Basher Adamson, and all the gym teachers had lost their marbles. There were some sane guys, who still lashed us nevertheless. Thinking back, what a sad parade really. But they did amuse me, it would have been a very boring life without them, seriously, thanks you them all, they were better than the Two Ronnie’s Christmas specials, and more surreal than the famous Monty Flying Circus. They were real.
My parents did not really approve nor promote my hobby of electronics, and I wish I had a big brother/father who could show me how to construct rather than deconstruct. They did disapprove of the mess. They also approved of any violent discipline meted out by teachers or street thugs on me.
That music was important and offered some channelling of the visions.
I moved to Arbroath High Secondary school. It was exciting, and terrifying. As things would have it ironically first battle I had was with a bully who had been in the primary one year ahead of me. I thought there would have been fights to establish top dog amongst the feeder primary schools. There were people who had got the better of me in the primary of my own school. Moose Black was out to shame me in front of the others. Before we get too Harry Potter here, I bricked him. His mother came to complain and we were taken straight to the rector’s office. I told the truth that this guy had been hounding me and in the end justice was served I got two agonising ritualised lashes, delivered while we sat with hands stretched out from the sides. Black received six of Hay’s best, and was protesting and crying already. He was not a victim!
I made pals easily. Soon I was friends with a guy called Tommy Sp ink. He seemed a worldly guy with hard big brother. We went to Cadman’s Billiard Hall on the West Port. This is where much teenage youth hung out, and it was meeting place on Saturday nights before people would go to the Disco at the Drill Hall in Marketgate (the ‘Disk’) or if you were over 16 the Marine Ballroom. There was only one problem – I was not allowed out, not at all, on a Saturday night. Living in a flat on one of the main thoroughfares we knew how messy Saturday night was. Noise, shouting, sometimes fights, it was a world gone mad, and my parents wanted us to be safe from it. But by the time I was 12 I needed it, I needed this wide world of chaos – even if it meant certain death.
One Saturday I went shopping in Dundee and got a duffel coat. That night I retired early and jumped out the window in to the chaos. I quickly went to Tommy’s house. We had a beer with his brother Peter and we headed to the Disk. We lined up outside my heart beating like hell. The racket of the music was incredible – remember that I had never heard anything like this loud before. The girls were made up, most of them older; some of them were looking at us. We remained stalwart and disinterested, the way a man must look. As we approached the door I realised I may not have enough money, I had enough to get in, but nothing for anything else and I noticed people hanging their jackets up. I was embarrassed. I didn’t even want to tell Tommy. I told him I would be back and took off over the road and into a car park where I hid the new jacket. I returned and we entered. As we entered we were searched for knives and booze. And then we were in. The lights, the sounds, the dancing. We walked around, and we spotted danger –many guys from the other side of toon, all of them at the other secondary school. But Peter was there and they kept back. The up side was many girls were there from that school and they were always more attractive than those at our own, at least in our minds. At one point I saw Pete Spink sock some guy in the face and a massive fight broke out. We stayed out and people were thrown out. I was dancing with a girl by this time, Tommy indicated that she was only in Primary 7, that is she was only 11 to our 12, “but she already did her turn.” I didn’t like this news, I was in Form 1, and she was just a kid. While this was working out, I saw Tommy’s grandmother appear; she looked weird in this youthful crowd with its lights and noise. I turned to tell Tommy and saw him dart off into the milieu. As i turned again, I saw my mum, and already some older guys were laughing “It’s the tube’s mither, haha fuckin’ ha. Wa oh! wa oh!” “What are you doing here?” she asked. “Come on…” I was humiliated, totally humiliated. I was marched out in front of a Primary school girl who was much more sexually advanced and worldly wise than me. I went and got my jacket. “What was it doing there…?”
After that I went out on Saturday nights, and eventually started stealing booze from the house.
The best night I think I ever had, was when I got my first blazer. I had 10 silver buttons up each sleeve. A pair of stone coloured levi’s . loafers and a Ben Sherman. Pete Spink remarked “you’re going to get a bird tonight with that jacket.” Wow, I felt like a king. I was complete, more complete than I have ever been. I was fully integrated with my mission. What the psychologist Abraham Maslow terms ‘actualisation’.
On entering the disk, all eyes were on us. We joined the constant revolving procession of boys, boys circumnavigated the girls dancing on the floor in a anti-clockwise direction. In many ways this kept guys in their groups or gangs and minimised the prospect of conflict, except at the fringes. The scene was like watching Muslim’s circulating Mecca. On the stage was the hippy DJ, and at some point a freak by the name of Milt Ingerfield would dance under the strobe. For some reason he was tolerated. Mecca for us was the girls who were dancing together round their handbags which lay on the floor, like swords do in traditional Scottish dancing, and it took a brave, brave guy to move into the centre to dance with a girl. More often, girl’s would send their friends to ask a guy, to walk them home, or if they were going with anybody already, or even to dance. This was especially true early on in the evening. On this evening I was approached by an older girl who asked if I would dance with her friend. I looked over and saw this very tall but good looking girl, I said yes and on the next rotation I peeled off. She was 18, I was 13 I danced a smootchy dance with her, a little awkward. I walked her home to her place and was invited in.
Sometimes I got it wrong. I started to smoke a clay pipe for effect. I resisted cigarettes even though all my mates smoked. At school they smoked down the back of the huts, and I even been rounded up with them for the lash, but I didn’t puff. I bought pipes at a tobacconist on the high street. It drew attention to me at the Disk. The leader of the Shams, Chay Stoat, came round the circle at the disk, clockwise, and wore a perplexed look before sticking the head on me, and then his minions jumped in. The pipe was broken in the venture, and like the peace pipe of the red skin, it was never again lit. I had to knuckle down, smell the beans, get with the program and act like a manically depressed psychopath of 35. Think veritable Kung fu monk, or Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry or Man with No Name [which was yet to blossom on the screen] show no emotion – then, and only then, I could be considered a hard man. But me even this may not grant me peace to do my main mission, looking for consorts, in fact it could and would bring more violent clashes, but at least I would be cool. A clay pipe was not cool.
Sometimes these courting rituals were tough. Very tough. New entrants on the scene were not treated well, even brutally. Asked, if guy would walk a shy new girl home, the answer would often be “will she do her turn?” “I’m not asking her that” Would be the angry reply of a more worldlywise pal. “Then tell her to f**k off then…” More often than not the pal would return to negotiate. The ‘bad guy’ persona only made the man more appealing, and through default he got what he wanted. We would repair to private rooms – the toilets in Springfield Park (the male toilets, mind).
Dress blazers were also in, as were made to measure suits with visible stitching and many additional buttons up the sleeve.
One night I was in the shed in the middle of the park with my older girlfriend. We heard someone coming. The door opened and a 20-something Arbroath hardman entered. It was almost pitch black , inside. He had a knife and he mumbled “dinna be scared darlin’ I’m no gonna hurt ye, whar are ye” My street wise girlfriend, Donna, was holding her mouth laughing like, and this mongrel was feeling his way in the dark and got hold of me. He pushed me against the wall “I fancy you like fuck, as he tried to kiss me, and put his hands through my long hair, the knife hit the ground, he stopped ravishing and went to bend to look for it. At that point I laid in the boot, hard, and very repetitively. Then I ran for it, while I heard “what rang wi ye? What the fuck have I done?” Coming from the shed. My girlfriend was pissing herself laughing, I was freaked out completely, but I suppose I learned I wasn’t gay that night. I found his advances repugnant.
The following years I was a patron of Jay Tees in Commerce Street. It was run I think by a pair of gays who had a real eye for fashion. They brought in the first pairs of parallel trousers, which I wore to a Christmas disco in 1973. Girls liked them, but most of the guys, still wearing sta-press and drain pipe Levi jeans, thought they were like women’s slacks. They felt weird to wear due to the excess material. But they caught on. My first pair were a conservative dark green. As I remember, the other colours were dark blue and dark grey. The understated colours introduced the 24” bag in a more subdued, subtle way. I also wore the first butterfly colour Ben Sherman in Arbroath. It was still the traditional check pattern. Ben Sherman started to explore all kinds of patterns at this time. Brutus jeans also appeared and hair got longer. Around the 1973 to 74 period, Skinners (ultra white baggy jeans) were worn as an alternative to stone white Sta-Prest. Like the Sta-Prest, they were usually worn halfway up your shin to show off your Doc Martens or hooped socks. Platform shoes also started to emerge. After the bags got longer so they fell over and covered the platforms, giving you a look of great height. Ties were sometimes worn huge knots and broad ties under butterfly collars. Suits and jackets had monstrous lapels. Prince of Wales parallels were cool. Check on the go in 1973/74. Spats or Oxford Brogues were also in. Some clothes were bought in Henderson’s in Dundee, Mr Beujangles in the Overgate, or through Clubby books. Many clothes were bought around the tattie holidays – the couple weeks in Oct. When the schools in Angus raised their kids to help take in the potato harvest. If you could handle a ‘bit’ you could make a relatively substantial sum of money (compared to a paper round for instance). Problem was that everybody followed suit, and the impact of your new togs to impress was reduced when someone denounced you pretentions with “Ha ha, that’s his tattie clothes.” The wiser ones [not me] saved their cash and bought up the newest and best for the Christmas season.
My First Album
The British rock group Slade started as a skinhead band and had played in their early years in the Marine Ballroom in Arbroath. As they progressed through the early 70s they became ever more part of the glam rock scene. During the 1970s, rockabilly music enjoyed a renewed period of popularity and saw a resurgence of interest in Teddy Boy fashions; the look was taken up by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren through their shop Let it Rock on London’s King’s Road. The shop sold Teddy Boy clothes This new generation of Teds adopted some aspects of the 1950s but with a large glam rock influence, including louder colours for drape jackets, brothel creepers and socks. Additionally, rather than grease to style their hair, which would be worn longer and was more pronounced, they were more likely to use hairspray. Bands of this Ilk were Gary Glitter, Wizard, the Sweet, Showwadywady, T-Rex, MUD, Roxy Music, The Roulettes, and many others. Some said that their look and their sound was aimed at them reviewing their adolescence and anticipations at that age. Later this fed into Punk Rock, along with other cultural idioms like art school bohemianism, beat poetry, situationism, and mods. It was cultural referencing or plagerism (Savage, 1992)
Slade Alive! Was a live album released by the on March 24, 1972, reaching No. 2 on the UK Charts. This was the first Album I ever bought. I kind of regretted it, I didn’t like it too much, I was young and needed hits more than rock and so preferred my next purchase which was the album Slayed? This was their third studio album released on 1 November 1972, and reached No. 1 on the UK charts. Just like with fashion there were strict formulas regarding what you could like and dislike. Slade were deemed OK for guys, whereas other acts like Americans Donnie Osmond and David Cassidy, and later the Scots Bay City Rollers were considered girly bands. The rest of the world of progressive rock was considered “music for 19 year olds” – not quite “street” enough. In fact I had to fight my friends over my choice in music, the idea that one could be transported in time and space by listening to music seemed to beyond they in reacted by laying in the boot. They sort of viewed music as merely a fashion accessory, something that you added to your clothes collection. Singles were preferred to albums; with album purchase was considered far too mature. A few record shops existed such as Henderson’s, Elena-Maes on the high street.
A memorable single for me that came out which I loved was Wizzard’s Top 10 hit with “Ball Park Incident” In January 1973 they scored their first top ten hit. See My Baby Jive, Wood’s faithful and affectionate tribute to the Phil Spector generated ‘Wall of Sound’, made No. 1. Angel Fingers (a teen Ballad) and I wish it could be Christmas Everyday was released in 1973. Christmas, even today, in the UK is a kind of frozen to this period as each and every year we here the Xmas hits of Slade and Wizzard and others ring out creating a kind of perennial nostalgia. But they were fantastic soundtracks to an awakening libido. 1972 was the first time I fell for a girl, the first time I kissed one romantically. It was also the first time I was hurt, and the first time I felt jealous. Its yer yin and yang I suppose! More education was to follow in the berry fields during summer of 1972. My mum also found a letter from some 5th form girls who had crushes on 1st year boys. Whether real or not it had the desired effect of shaming me… and exciting me.
Moving to look after a house of a family friend to look after the alcoholic father who was hitting the booze hard after his wife died, brought me in contact with the music of David Bowie. I had the luxury of a back catalogue and now I was progressing my tastes, as I was branching out and learning more of life and love. First up was Aladdin Sane (1973), followed by Hunky Dory and Space Oddity. Each one of these albums started becoming an entire universe of prospects and possibilities. The vistas they opened were incredible, mindblowing, the sweet sentimentality seductive and cute as hell. “s he’s uncertain if she likes him, but she knows she really loves him…”
On holiday that year the A.M. radio was playing more hits. (1973) The Rubbetes, Sugar Baby Love (1974) . Later on these trips I would listen to Genesis , Zeppelin and Yes on the car Eight track, while staring at the stars in the sky. Their words taught me a lot about… what?
It was good we moved to this house as own house was no located over the border in opposing gang territory. I could hardly move on this estate without aggro. One night before we left, bricks rained in the living room window. We went back to the house every so often to check on things and air it. In the world cup 1974, Scotland qualified and we as a nation were built up to think we were going to do better than we could. In the end we drew with Brazil, with Yugoslavia, beat Zaire, but still lost larelgy due to getting beat by Yugoslavia 9-0, and Brazil 3-0. We had lost of course and while we left the building TV’s rained down from upstairs flats “Fucking Arbroath can play better that ye’s ye fuckin’ cunts.” CRASH!
I then moved onto progressive rock, hitting on Led Zeppelin, one, two and Physical Graffiti. Yes, Pink Floyd and Genesis. I eventfully hit on Jethro Tull in amongst other, less prominent and effectual artists. These guys knew how to string together entire concepts which backed up their tracks.
By 14 I was getting into the downstairs bar at the Marine Ballroom. Friday night was an older crew and me and my pal, Peem Docherty took to wearing suits and could get served in a number of pubs including a disco at the pub in Kirk square. It was there I saw a beauty in a smock top with big tits – she was from Dundee and married. She had another teen girl with a kid staying with her in her house in Airlie Crescent. I got off with her mate at the Friday marine. When she asked how old I told her “17”. She let go my arm and said she was baby snatching. I cited sack to the some big boys names, some of which she knew, and told her they were 17. We got back to hers and her kid was up feeding the Alsatian left over sausages from her dinner. I went round there a few times before one nig little ht her mate opened the window and told me to “fuck off, she doesna want to see ye, ye little cunt, yer only 15 ye fuckin liar.” I gave her a v-sign and went on my merry way.
In 1977, a revolution was sweeping youth culture in the UK. Punk Rock. PUNISH THE PUNKS demanded the Sunday Mirror in 1977. last bastions of Victorian morality completed the process that began in the 50s and 60s and liberated us all. The point of the Pistols was to destroy that culture of celebrity subservience and inspire kids to get up and do it themselves.
Deep Purple, April 18th, Caird Hall, 1974
In the town I grew up in there were gangs of youths. In fact the town was divided in the age-old tradition according to territories or ‘lands’. Various “ologists” – socio-, anthrop-, psy- all breeds have all tried to understand this phenomenon. The formation of gangs were believed to arise from a lack of parental control, lack of discipline in schools, base literature (such as the sensationalist ‘penny dreadful’ novels about pirates and highwaymen) and the monotony of life in city slums.
Not just in my town were there gangs, but all the others as well, there were gangs of youth in Manchester 150 years ago, as there were gangs in London, New York and all population centres. The likely model for our gangs were the gangs of Glasgow. Glasgow has a historical gang culture with the city having 6 times as many teenage gangs as London, which has ten times the population, per capita. Many gangs in the East End of Glasgow were both sectarian and territorial whereas in other districts they were primarily territorial. Dating back to Irish immigration in the 1850s, the modern gang roots link more to the Razor gangs of the 1930s. By 1938, the Billy Boys and Norman Conks were joined by the San Toi, Tongs, The Fleet, Govan Team, Bingo Boys and scores of other gangs all of whom were as strong. Many of there names were adopted in the smaller toons. Dundee, like most cities throughout Britain, saw massive developmental changes when war ended in 1945. Housing schemes were built to alleviate problems with over-crowding. By the mid-60s however, these schemes were overrun by street gangs, growing ever more dangerous and troublesome. By the 1970s, the gangs ruled the streets of Dundee, and men knew better than to walk alone off their own turf. Dundee gangs usually linked to which estate one came from. The jersey’s above are Douglas Toddy, Mid (fae Mid Craigie), Kirkton Huns, Lochee Fleet, Beechie Mob (Beechwood) and Fintry Shams. These being just a small selection of what was on the go back then. MP George Galloway used to be in the Fleet. He said in a radio interview that he recalled spraying “Lochee Fleet” on walls. Nowadays he’s more into making headlines in Fleet Street and putting the boot into politicians..!!
In Arbroath in the 1970s the gangs were the Timbergreens Toddy, The Mayfield Shamrock, The Fishy Fleet, The Carnie Cumby, and The Strathmore Republican Army (SRA). I had the misfortune to live between these the two lands of the Fishy Fleet and the Timbergreens Toddy, as a positive result I had friends on both sides and as a negative result also enemies. However, even though the town was divided along these lines, there was a general split – the kind you have in Cyprus or the former east and west Berlins. The Toddy, Cumby and Fleet would often team up against The Shams and the SRA, the latter consistently being the strongest of such a divide. Affiliations would be made with respect to the support of the town’s football team. All gangs would configure to challenge and attack visitors. The pecking order was that those from neighbouring towns, Forfar, Montrose, Brechin and most of Dundee were the most hated rivals. I remember being sent ot the shop by my mum for something and encountering 3 Dundee skinheads, replete with Crombie overcoats, 12 holer doc Martin boots and Ben Sherman’s. One stuck the head on me, knocking me to the ground and they sprayed me with spray paint while shouting “mid ya bastard!” and laying in a few more boots. I was only 11 years old.
Such behaviour and more could be expected if you strayed into other youths’ ‘lands’. “yer on the wrang side o’ toon, tubeface?” was a typical pre-cursor to a 10 year-old scrawny youth being pushed forward to take you on in a “square go”. The idea was that you were a soft c**t, and that one of their underlings, the youngest and smallest in their crew could take you. It was an insult and inappropriate as you looked at little sh**te quivering in front even more than you were, but still edging forward egged on by those behind him “tak him, wee Arnot”. It was always 6 to one at least, with no possible way of winning, so you might as well go in hard and aim to at least give the banshee screaming pre-teen the hiding of his life before you get hospitalised yourself. I tried once to stab the little f***kers eyes out, but got hit from behind by a hammer which cracked my skull and knocked me for six. The last thing I can remember was the little sh**te shouting “Shams ya bass” as he tried to grab my hair and missed. I also remember massed warfare in the summer months of 1973 where older guys in their 30s with beards joined with youths. Whips, chains, knives and petrol bombs were used.
To complicate matters further, reconfigurations of members could be drawn depending upon which Glasgow team one followed – i.e. members of any local gang could affiliate with others supporting Celtic or Rangers on that particular day. All others would be supporting Arbroath and at night they would go headhunting local and visiting Celtic or Rangers supporters. Similarly if Scotland was being supported all gangs from all other towns would affiliate regardless of rivalries against the opposition and in particular England. Our style during this time when hippies were still flourishing in the states was Suedehead – a development from skinhead. We wore brogues, loafers or basketweave Norwegians instead of heavy boots. Suedeheads wore suits (especially in check patterns such as Prince of Wales and dogtooth) and other dressy outfits as everyday wear instead of just at dancehalls. Crombie-style overcoats and sheepskin coats became common. Shirts often had large button-down collars. The most common style was a large windowpane check worn under a tank top (known as a sweater vest in North America). Sta-Prest trousers became worn more than jeans, which had been common with skinheads. Another characteristic was coloured socks — such as solid red or blue — instead of plain black or white.Juts as with other youth cultures there were literature and movies supporting these movements – Skinhead, uneasily combined self-righteous fascist rhetoric, nihilist indifference and the shocked voice of reason. The opening line of Suedehead is masterful: “As he stood in the dock, Joe Hawkins considered the situation with a detachment”.
What was amazing during this time is how all this came together to form the whole of the 1970s. I mean characters built now of that time come forth in platforms, glitter, afro hairstyles and drop down moustaches. The reality was much more complex, much more postmodern.
British screens between 1972 and 1975.
I don’t know where I first heard the idea of Kung-Fu but there was a Judo book at home and we had had some exposure to Karate via the spy programs of the 1960s-70s. Karate seemed more in line with the kind of tactics needed to fight in the 1970s gang environment. The major technique was to get a hold of somebody’s long hair, and use it to pull their head down onto your boot. Of course this is why skinheads had advantages there was no way of keepy were classed asing a hold of them. Once someone had you head down, you were pretty powerless to do anything about it. Yeah this was movies that inspired the notion “fight back” – Films for the downtrodden striking back.
We had Vietnamese boat people in Arbroath. Into was their racial ignorance they classed them as Chinese. One day a guy attacked one at school got his head down, and processed to boot him. But this guys twirled around and landed a foot on the other guys head. The rumour after that was not mess with them as they knew Kung-fu.
It was clear that this new phenomena sweeping the country through the 1970s centred on a particular brand of movie – the Kung-fu flick – and in particular Bruce Lee. Chinese Boxer (1970), starring and directed by Jimmy Wang Yu, is widely credited with launching the kung fu boom.
It had come to our town, but not everyone was gaining admission. We had two cinemas, the Picture House – which had shown this unique genre already, and the Picture House which was to show the new movie – Fists of Fury in 1972.
When it came everybody that was anybody was trying to get in to see these X rated films. You had to be 18, and in 1974 I was only 13. I had heard that many people had tried and had failed to get in. Some had went with their dad and still failed. I had to try, I had to first persuade my dad.
Words cannot express the energy that flowed through my body while watching this vengeance. This anger, vim, venom, the racial angle, the superiority of this secret system of fighting over the boring widely known arts of boxing and judo, and now added to this karate as it was a inferior Japanese kicking and punching martial art. Oh lord and the Nunchakus, how one man could take on the entire Mayfield Shams alone, and at their most territorial and aggressive? Letting loose and teaching then that one man can do all this. The u7nbriddled angst-ridden animal sounds as potential energy built up in Lee, not brute force but brute reflex, as if killing with bare hands and wooden extensions were part of the natural order of things. That’s what did it.
I don’t know what Bruce Lee said to other people my age. You, know I was sick fed up at this time being attacked and beaten by multiple assailants. I hardly ever got a chance to have a real square go, an honest fair fight. At this time I had to go to the disk alone as my friends wouldn’t go for fear of their lives. The place was overridden by the Shams side of town, they controlled the territory. But I continued to go, as I did not want to be intimidated and also I was hooked on girls at this time. In honestly it was a paradise for guys from my end of town as there was no competition. However, the price was high, a freshly booted head or a broken nose – almost every week as I left the event. I needed kung- fu.
I sent for some books from the new column in exchange and Mart dedicated to the subject. I received them through hte post. It was fun. One of the books though was disappointing : The book of Five Rings (五輪書, Go Rin No Sho) by Miomoto Musashi. It seemed more of an coffee table art book than anything else. No real pics showing stances and moves. Other books showed disappointingly fat Chinese masters and very earnest Americans sharing ancient techniques. The most exotic was Pa Kua or “eight Diagrams Boxing’. They usually had some inspiring Bruce Lee types stories, or rather myths, of how a master though, cold showers, runs, press-ups. Kicks were practiced and finally when I was attacked one night, one of the assailants noted “the cunt’s using kung-fu” my hair had already been grabbed but I was successfully blocking boots from landing on my head. The then pushed me over, and I still got the better the first guy as they rained in on me. Most important of all is Miyamoto’s concept of rhythm, how all things are in harmony, and that by working with the rhythm of a situation we can turn it to our advantage with little effort. As Musashi suggested, the enemy always feels he is outnumbered which means that a few may defeat many if they are trained in The Way.
THERE ARE MANY ENEMIES
“There are many enemies” applies when you are fighting one against many. Draw both sword and companion sword and assume a wide-stretched left and right attitude. The spirit is to chase the enemies around from side to side, even though they come from all four directions. Observe their attacking order, and go to meet first those who attack first. Sweep your eyes around broadly, carefully examining the attacking order, and cut left and right alternately with your swords. Waiting is bad. Always quickly re-assume your attitudes to both sides, cut the enemies down as they advance, crushing them in the direction from which they attack. Whatever you do, you must drive the enemy together, as if tying a line of fishes, and when they are seen to be piled up, cut them down strongly without giving them room to move.
The way in which kung-fu and Chinese boxing was laid out began to impress me, as did its Taoist philosophy. The book of five rings started to resonate and I think I owe this literature not so much as a way to protect myself as a means to emancipate myself intellectually. Along with the king and I soundtrack it is what probably lay the of foundations for me going to Asia thos many years later.
Advance with the wind’s speed,
Withdraw after the violent deed,
Move again with body sidelong,
Don’t mind a little pushing on,
Shoot a power palm while exhaling,
For effectiveness a voice entailing,
Like a dragon move here and there,
To win or lose is a moment’s affair.
First published in 1967 by Robert Smith, a CIA analyst specializing in the Chinese economy and is also a leading scholar of Asian fighting arts. this book was the first English-language text about Pa-Kua Chuan (“eight trigram boxing,” also spelled Baguazhang), a comprehensive system of self-defense from China. It is one of the three nei-chia or “internal” systems of martial arts, the other two being Hsing-I Chuan and the more familiar T’ai-Chi Chuan.
Smith moved to Taiwan with his wife Alice in the late 1950s to study the internal and external arts with their leading exponents, nearly all of whom had left China in 1949. He was thus among the first Americans to study these arts with teachers who traced their lineages back to the teachers who codified them in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
1977 – PUNK
1977 was a major time for me. I was given the chance to explore different parts of my reaction to the world, my creativity, my emotionality, sense of self and purpose. I began to study because of punk. Up till then studying didn’t sit well with my lifestyle. To be successful and a hardman, you needed the ‘thousand yard stare’ you needed to show no emotion, you needed to be utterly non-intellectual. It’s funny that what you needed to be scum of society is what you needed to be the elite. Astronauts – the vocation of every baby boomer child – required similar traits. Its funny how some of them in the subsequent years of space travel became interested in what it is all about.
In the preliminary exams, leading up to the main exams some few months later I was scoring the worst I had ever. I was really disconnected from the school experience, I was on a meta level altogether, I was surfing and browsing for teaching staff idiosyncrasies, or engaged on purposeful acts of sabotage. Only in English did my critiques and compositions draw attention as worthy subjects of creative activity. I did one lauded peaice on the ridiculousness of using young women in adverts depicting underwear for grannies. Our [female] teacher approved of this, most probably as she had never read anyone being so blunt before. I hated grammar and all that technical bull, and that would prevent me from getting by just by natural order.
Punk said to me: you can do anything you want. OK, I will pass my ‘O’ levels. A career guidance interview also made me think that I wanted, I needed to be a pilot. This had been a background desire for some time. The visual that went with this was me driving a fold down top Morgan sports car into a base. In fact, I had tried to join the Glider club at the Marine base outside Arbroath some time past. I had taken to the air, and controlled the craft and landed safely. However, it all seemed incommensurate socially with where I was at the time: underage drinking; discos and violence. It was a class thing. These people’s Arbroath was not carved up like mine was. They knew a lot about subjects, but little of life and its major Freudian drives, they knew nothing of the uses for the three brain structure – all they knew about, all they used was the frontal lobes, and never the wolf like limbic system with its appetites for coitus, or the somatic ‘reptile brain’ or brain stem with its sombre ‘fight or flight’ mechanisms. The triune brain consists of the reptilian complex, the paleomammalian complex (limbic system), and the neomammalian complex (neocortex), viewed as structures sequentially added to the forebrain in the course of evolution. All levels must be engaged for harmony. MacLean contended that the reptilian complex was responsible for species typical instinctual behaviors involved in aggression, dominance, territoriality, and ritual displays. “paleomammalian”) and were responsible for the motivation and emotion involved in feeding, reproductive behavior, and parental behavior. it’s not uncommon to hear people speak of someone coming from their “head,” heart,” or “gut”, or philosophically of the three virtues of “wisdom, benevolence and courage”–or psychologically of “thinking,” “feeling,” and “willing.” Gurdjieff for example referred to Man as a “three-brained being.” There was one brain for the spirit, one for the soul, and one for the body. Similar ideas can be found in Kabbalah, in Platonism and elsewhere, with the association spirit – head (the actual brain), soul – the heart and emotions, and the body corresponding to the solar plexus. No one would have done it this way, putting in clumsy, old-fashioned brain cells, overlaid by newer and more effective ones . It would be rather like mixing up microprocessors with thermionic valves in a new hybrid type of computer. The brain clearly shows evidence of different periods of ancestry in its component parts, and these ancestral relics naturally produce different modes of thought. Brain then is like a Hospitalfield house, succesvie leayers build upon layers. I couldn’t really relate to these guys socially, they lived in the good areas of town. How would I in the future?
Anyway, I knuckled down and taught myself maths, physics, chemistry. I ended up with 7 ‘O’ levels. I had done it. I asked my mum if I could stay on at school. She refused, saying it was time brought a wage in.
Eventually she conceded.
On the first couple of days back at school, I was taken aside by the assistant rector Jolly, and reminded that I was still up for the lash if I didn’t buckle down. I reasoned with him that most my friends were now were apprentices and no longer under that threat of violence as deterrent and punishment. He would have to see if I were prepared to take it. Anyway it never happened. School wasn;t that fun nor memorable. My friends had left, and now only the sour faced, voluntary uniform wearing crowd remained. Many of them I had been in the primary with and now they were aimed at University. I was aiming myself at the RAF. As the time approached for leaving I went for an interview. I was advised that I was not going to be a pilot, and was shown some technician jobs instead. I went to the Navy, the same. I couldn’t understand, I had the qualifications, and had passed their tests. I then tried the army, with the hope of flying choppers. They indicated that there were no direct entries for this job, why do i not do a trade in the meanwhile and then apply? I told them I wanted to be an officer, they refused on the grounds of my parents occupations – “ye have nay military in yer family.” It wed as a clear cut class issue. “If ye show initiative and competence then ye’ll rise up onywy.” Said the staff sergeant. I sighed the line and 2 weeks and one haircut later I was on a train bidding friends and family farewell. I was off into a foreign country for the first time –England. AT Kirkcaldy another young guy boarded, Rod, and he was going my way. I woke once that night, to see the Iron arches of the Tyne Bridge at Newcastle – I was over the border!
For a joke I was voted onto the School board as the male student representative.
This was the spirit of punk. It was to stand for accessibility, openness, low-fi opposed to hi-fi, criticism of accepted norms and hegemony, adaptability, agility, innovation and creativity, non-acceptance, non-conformity, unruly and chaotic, shocking, disgust, hate, anger, anarchy. On the macro level this was youth subculture was as powerful and far reaching as its predecessors – the teddy-boys and rockers in the 1950s, and the beatniks and hippies in the 1960s. All had made their mark as powerful social groups who, supporting each other in numbers, made their mark on mainstream society who to a greater or lesser extent, went out of its way to control them lest they become too many or too much.
God only knows what the ‘status quo’ was beyond being a 70s rock band which I hated. It’s a debate which has been going on at least since Hume’s ‘tragedy of the commons’. It did apply to us on the micro level though. In my little East Coast fishing toon, status quo meant that you liked this 1970s rock group that you conformed to the right dress codes, behavioural ethics and respected territories. It is not by accident that we come by our ‘common sense’. People who think freely and independently are quick to realise how they have been taught to imprison and enslave themselves. In breaking free they become the champions of un-common sense. At school, if you were middle class you voluntarily wore uniform, studied hard at night in-between participating in worthwhile hobbies such as astronomy, bridge club, reading Tolkien and others, listening to increasingly obscure progressive rock, or masturbating thinking about what these course, The ability of one class to persuade other classes to see the world in terms favourable to its own ascendancy
Their were remnants of these times even when I was growing up and went to the Marine Ballroom. The old frits punk band that played at the marine created a riot with the ‘straights’. A circle of bouncers kept them back from us ongoing in the middle. On closing we were let out the back door as an angry crowd wanted our heads. Their time was coming to an end. The old empires were crumbling, and nothing short on the breakdown of the Berlin Wall was the demise of the gang demarcations. New allegiances were struck across town and across gang divides. We were 16 and at our peak, and some pretty hard guys from the other side were now our companions. As one of the two original punks in Arbroath, the other being Ronnie Bruce, we started to dance on our own in the spring of 1977 at a disco in the former cafeteria of Arbroath Outdoor Swimming Pool. People would just make a circle and gawp at us pogoing or landing on the deck doing a ‘dead fly’. It was so strange when others came to join us, guys who only a year previously had jumped me on the grass outside the multistories across from Pie bob’s. We all got punked up for Sunday, although Saturday we daren’t if we were going into the town. The old hard brigade with their Clint Eastwood maturity didn’t like this style. Indeed, even I originally hated it, and though t it pretentious and bad bad taste. This was a music and style which would not propel me into visions and stories, but was nasty and visceral. I was going steady at the time and it was my girlfriend that bought ‘Pretty Vacant’ (1 July, 1977). I grew to like it, but the words were so negative, such a contrast to the promise of Zeppelin’s Kashmir –“let me take you there, let me take you there.”
We had a copy a “God save the Queen” (27 May 1977), before it was banned got our records from Menzies on the high Street and it was listed in the top 10 but was unavailable. It did hit number 1 on the unofficial NME singles chart. It was banned by the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority which regulated Independent Local Radio, effectively denying it any media exposure. I was beginning to get caught up in something. We went to Dundee and managed to get a copy of ‘Anarchy in the UK’ from Grouchos, which was a student hippy record store turning punk. There were many other records, each with their unique single covers. It was time to get a haircut and start collecting.
Not many people, hardly anybody at all, in fact nobody under the age of 40 had short hair in 1977, except for very troubled, alienated, disenfranchised old men.
The first guy at school as I remember was Mark Smith (Patch). Mark was a great follower of fashion, and if he had not went down the Northern Soul path – a very worthy sub culture alternative to punk – he would have been punk. As it was there were tensions between the two groups, with the disco guys playing Soul records, some straight disco (Donna Summer I feel Love etc), then punk, then straight disco, then soul. Anyway, I got my haircut from my pal Geoff smith’s sister, who asked if i wanted the same as his. I said I wanted it spikey, the result wasn’t perfect but at least the statement was made. VIcs Vaporub would do the rest. Safety pins went painfully through noses and cheeks, as well ears (mine are still pierced from then) and we began to make our own clothes. Alan Irons shop in Barber’s Green would supply us with retro-clothing from their ample backroom stocks, they had studs as well, sort of hippie studs for denim jackets. They had drainpipe Levis left over from the skinhead 1960s. Punk was about DIY and interpretation; we had superb role models in the creativity of Malcolm McLaren and all the others. The look of 999, Sex Pistols, The Vibrators, the Buzzcocks all lay down some loose rubrics which we could copy. I became embarrassed at my rock past. Having something loud and new to wear at the disco on Sunday was the name of the game. As we had rode of the wave of change, and we were 16, we were in charge, I felt like a king.
In some respects this new youth culture built upon the counter-culture elements of the hippies and beatniks who had moved into New York City’s Greenwich Village and San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. However, punk scornfully rejected the political idealism and Californian flower-power silliness of hippie myth. Instead it rather paid homage to earlier youth cultures such as Teddy-boys and Rockers – a biker subculture that originated in the United Kingdom during the 1950s. Much of the style and attitude of this culture was influenced by U.S. movies such as the Wild One and Blackboard Jungle . When the Blackboard Jungle was shown in Elephant and Castle, south London, in 1956 the teenage Teddy boy audience began to riot, tearing up seats and dancing in the cinema’s aisles. After that, riots took place around the country wherever the film was shown.[
Rockers was one of the first instances of a definable youth culture which emerged through a general rise in prosperity for working class youths, the recent availability of credit and financing for young people, the aforementioned influence of American popular music and films, the construction of race track-like arterial ring roads around British cities, and the development of transport cafes. Each and every one of these factors coincided with a peak in British motorcycle engineering. They were also seriously counterculture in that “rebelling at the points where their will crossed society’s”. http://www.amazon.com/Dancin-Streets-Anarchists-Surrealists-Situationists/dp/0882863010
Top of the Pops was conceived back in 1968 by Alan Crawford who pitched the idea of producing cheap alternative recordings of famous songs to Pickwick Records. They loved it, bought the idea and formed a committee to decide each month the 12 songs to pick that could be replicated as near as possible to the original recordings by hiring session musicians and laying down basic tracks in the quickest time possible. These would then be produced between 3 different studios: one for vocal, one for backing vocal, and one for overdubs. By volume 4 Bruce Baxter was brought on board and pretty much after Crawford’s departure in 1970 (volume 15 onwards) was left to run the show by himself, arranging session musicians, finding suitable Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart sound-a-likes, etc., until he left in 1978 after volume 79. Having produced over 65 volumes of the series he knew when it was the right time to quit, for the series had had it by then and was steadily declining in sales.
Punk rock technical accessibility and a DIY spirit have been prized. In the early days of punk rock, this ethic stood in marked contrast to what those in the scene regarded as the ostentatious musical effects and technological demands of many mainstream rock bands. At this time bands such as Yes were experimenting with using more and more tracks In Punk, musical virtuosity was often looked on with suspicion.
The band exhibited an explicit do-it-yourself attitude, which manifested itself in their hand-made record sleeves with detailed breakdowns of production costs, including addresses and phone numbers of record pressing plants, and even their own Camden squat address for feedback.
In December 1976, the English fanzine Sideburns published a now-famous illustration of three chords, captioned “This is a chord, this is another, this is a third. Now form a band.” http://27.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_kvfrtlCCku1qz4gapo1_400.gif
In the realm of ideas, techniques, and styles, most artists know that stealing (or call it “being influenced” if you want to sound legitimate) is not only OK, but desirable and even crucial to creative evolution. This proven route to progress has prevailed among artists since art began and will not be denied. To creators, it is simply obvious in their own experience.
Punk songs retained a traditional rock ‘n’ roll verse-chorus form and 4/4 time signature. The issue of authenticity is important in the punk subculture—the pejorative term “poseur” is applied to those who associate with punk and adopt its stylistic attributes but are deemed not to share or understand the underlying values and philosophy. Often times musical themes and note structures perpetuate the very genre of music. For example, blues music traditionally uses the same three chords.
The practice of copying music is documented most notably in classical music, whereby composers commonly created new works upon the musical themes of earlier composers. Using prior recordings to create new music is not a new concept. Appropriation has been an integral aspect of the creative process well before the emergence of digital technology. In the early 1900s, Appropriation in the arts has now spanned the entire Century, crossing mediumistic boundaries, and constantly expanding in emotional relevance from beginning to end regardless of the rise and fall of ‘style fronts’. It flowered through collage, Dada’s found objects and concept of ‘detournement’, and peaked in the visual arts at mid-century with Pop Art’s appropriation of mass culture icons and mass media imagery. Now, at the end of this century, it is in music where we find appropriation raging anew as a major creative method and legal controversy.”
Superswell recommends checking out the literary and visual collage works of Kathy Acker, Jiri Kolar, Kurt Schwitters, Max Earnst, Winston Smith, Mara Kurtz, Stephen Linhart, and Joseph Cornell. Because plagiarism is when you’re trying to mimic and call it your own, and sampling is when you’re trying to take the actual thing and turn it into something else. The arts have a long tradition of allusion and quotation, often with resonant effects. In pop music the only danger of sampling is that performers will use it as a crutch for the imagination, rather than a tool to help liberate it.
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,973092-2,00.html#ixzz0rlvqnnck
materials such as product packaging, photographs, and newspaper clippings to their paintings. Andy Warhol appropriated popular images such as the Campbell’s soup can and the Brillo box. Marcel Duchamp made sculptures out of pre-existing objects with little alteration. Each new musical era has paid homage to its redecessors by “quoting” the previous era’s musical stylings in its own music. The same was true in fashion.
In February 1976, the band received its first significant press coverage; guitarist Steve Jones declared that the Pistols were not so much into music as they were “chaos”. The band often provoked its crowds into near-riots. Rotten announced to one audience, “Bet you don’t hate us as much as we hate you!” They encourage people to spit on them. McLaren envisioned the Pistols as central players in a new youth movement, “hard and tough”. As described by critic Jon Savage, the band members “embodied an attitude into which McLaren fed a new set of references: late-sixties radical politics, sexual fetish material, pop history,…youth sociology”.
In April 1975, McLaren returned to Britain, by which time he had renamed his Kings Road shop SEX, selling S&M (sadomasochistic) style clothing. In May 1977, the band released “God Save the Queen” during the week of Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee. McLaren organised a boat trip down the Thames where the Sex Pistols would perform their music outside Houses of Parliament. The boat was raided by the police and McLaren was arrested, thus achieving his goal to attain publicity. McLaren has said about himself: “I have been called many things: a charlatan, a con man, or, most flatteringly, the culprit responsible for turning British popular culture into nothing more than a cheap marketing gimmick.”[ His fashion collection, Fashionbeast 8-bit Clothing, was inspired by the computer games world. His chip music – electronic music created with TV games, video game consoles or computers, is a field in which Swedish musicians have also helped to pave the way
attend several art colleges through the 1960s, being expelled from several before leaving education entirely in 1971. It was during this time that he began to design clothing, a talent he would later use when he became a boutique owner.
He had been attracted to the Situationist movement, particularly King Mob, which promoted absurdist and provocative actions as a way of enacting social change. In 1968 McLaren had tried unsuccessfully to travel to Paris to take part in the demonstrations there. Instead, with Jamie Reid, he took part in a student occupation of Croydon Art School. McLaren would later adopt the movement’s ideas into his promotion for the various pop and rock groups with whom he was soon to involve himself.[
Out of punk During 1976–77, in the midst of the original UK punk movement, bands emerged such as Manchester’s Joy Division, The Fall, and Magazine, Leeds’ Gang of Four, and London’s The Raincoats that became central post-punk figures. Some bands classified as post-punk, such as Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, had been active well before the punk scene coalesced
John Ellis: http://www.mapoflimbo.co.uk/
On December 1, an incident took place that sealed punk rock’s notorious reputation: On Thames Today, an early evening London TV show, Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones was goaded into a verbal altercation by the host, Bill Grundy. Jones called Grundy a “dirty fucker” on live television, triggering a media controversy. Two days later, the Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, and The Heartbreakers set out on the Anarchy Tour, a series of gigs throughout the UK. Many of the shows were cancelled by venue owners in response to the media outrage following the Grundy confrontation.
Scholar Daniel S. Traber argues that “attaining authenticity in the punk identity can be difficult”; as the punk scene matured, he observes, eventually “[e]veryone got called a poseur”.[ Sex Pistols impresario Malcolm McLaren and, in turn, British punk style. McLaren’s partner, fashion designer, Vivienne Westwood, credits Johnny Rotten as the first British punk to rip his shirt, and Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious as the first to use safety pins. in May 1975, inspired by the new scene he had witnessed at CBGB. The Kings Road clothing store he co-owned, recently renamed Sex, was building a reputation with its outrageous “anti-fashion”.[
While Yes were experimenting with 48 track recording machines (capable of recording 48 different instruments or sounds) punk was using anyone of the multiple 4 track studios that were opening up in garages, basements of homes, bedrooms and industrial workshops. The tendrils of punk reached out – from the bottom-up – beyond just music into fashion, art, literature, film even ballet. It encouraged people to have a go, try out and not worry too much regarding a polished finish, passion and vim were what were needed.
For the fanzine producers a magic marker, scissors and a Xerox machine were your tools and the network of punk gigs in pub back rooms and youth clubs was the distribution network.
You may even say it was a community of purpose.
In a sense Punk was anti- everything it had at its base a scathingly critical nihilistic philosophy of life “get pissed, destroy” as the Sex Pistols had at the end of Anarchy in the UK. In reality it changed not only my life but also my social reality in my small, East coast fishing town. As I’ve mentioned on Retro before, Sunday nights for my mob was “Sands” night, where we’d go to get our weekly dose of funk and soul.
Here’s a wee story to accompany one such visit in September 1980.
Every Thursday I used to get 4 music papers – the NME. Sounds, Black Echoes and Melody Maker.
PHILIP GLASS and the PHILIP GLASS ENSEMBLE Royal Albert Hall (1986 UK 6-page fold-out concert programme for the performance at the Royal Albert Hall on 26 September 1986 featuring biographical information on the musicians and a booking form for the ‘Akhnaten’ opera at the London Coliseum in February and March 1987. Also includes a ticket stub for Royal Albert Hall concert).
27 September – 3 October 1982. Perfect Lives. The Almeida Festival: Almeida Theater. London, England. Robert Ashley & Musicians.
1984. Perfect Lives (broadcast premiere). BBC Channel Four. United Kingdom.
Perfect Lives has been called “the most influential music/theater/literary work of the 1980s.” At its center is the hypnotic voice of Robert Ashley. His continuous song narrates the events of the story and describes a 1980’s update of the mythology of small town America. Perfect Lives is populated with myriad characters revolving around two musicians — “R”, the singer of myth and legend, and his friend, Buddy, “The World’s Greatest Piano Player”. They have come to a small town in the Midwest to entertain at the Perfect Lives Lounge. As Robert Ashley describes in the opera synopsis, “they fall in with two locals to commit the perfect crime, a metaphor for something philosophical: in this case, to remove a sizable about of money from The Bank for one day (and one day only) and let the whole world know that it was missing.”
The eloping couple, Ed and Gwyn, the old people at the home, the sheriff and his wife (Will and Ida) who finally unravel the mystery, and Isolde who watches the celebration of the changing of the light at sundown from the doorway of her mother’s house are some of the characters who journey through the seven episodes of the opera.
Derived from a colloquial idiom, Perfect Lives transforms familiar material into an elaborate metaphor for the rebirth of the human soul. It has been called a comic opera about reincarnation.
Akhnaten is an opera in three acts based on the life and religious convictions of the pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV), written by the American minimalist composer Philip Glass in 1983. Akhnaten had its world premiere on March 24, 1984 at the Stuttgart State Opera, under the German title Echnaton. Paul Esswood sang the title role, German director Achim Freyer staged the opera in an abstract style with highly ritualistic movements. The American premiere was held on October 12, 1984 at the Houston Grand Opera, where Glass’s opera The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 also premiered.
Editorial note: the composer uses the spelling Akhnaten, while the more conventional version is Akhenaten. Given the nature of Egyptian hieroglyphs, the absence of a vowel is not linguistically significant. In this article, the first version refers to the opera and the second to the pharaoh.
According to the composer, this work is the culmination of his two other biographical operas, Einstein on the Beach and Satyagraha (about Mohandas Gandhi). These three people — Akhenaten, Einstein and Gandhi — were all driven by an inner vision which altered the age in which they lived, in particular Akhenaten in religion, Einstein in science, and Gandhi in politics.
The text, taken from original sources, is sung in the original languages, linked together with the commentary of a narrator in a modern language, such as English or German. Egyptian texts of the period are taken from a poem of Akhenaten himself, from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and from extracts of decrees and letters from the Amarna period, the seventeen-year period of Akhenaten’s rule. Other portions are in Akkadian and Biblical Hebrew. Akhnaten’s Hymn to the Sun is sung in the language of the audience
Jim Reid, who has died aged 75, was a singer-songwriter who became one of the most valued upholders of the Scottish folk tradition. When he made his now infamous acceptance speech on being proclaimed Scottish Singer of the Year at the 2005 Scots Trad Music Awards – “No’ afore time” – nobody would have mistaken it for arrogance. It was more a reluctant acknowledgement, in any case, from a quiet master who was always above anything so vulgar as bragging. His greatest writing achievements, however, lay in setting Angus poets Violet Jacob and Helen Cruikshank’s words to melodies. The Wild Geese (Norland Wind) and Rohallion took Jacob’s writing into the folk tradition and in this, as with his inimitably warm, compassionate singing of traditional ballads such as Bogie’s Bonnie Belle and Harlaw, Reid influenced younger balladeers, including Jim Malcolm and Steve Byrne, of Malinky.
The Pearl [Editions EG, 1984]
Budd’s previous work with the avant-pop sound-environments king was a mite tacky–he tended to signify spirituality with wordless vocal choruses that reminded me of the Anita Kerr Singers, though I’m sure they boasted a prouder lineage. These eleven pieces are more circumspect and detailed, and while they do slip into decoration they’re the most intellectually gratifying (and emotionally engaging) music Eno’s put his name on since his first Jon Hassell LP. Finally he succeeds in making soporific an honorific. A-
Envy [Editions EG, 1984]
Shifting abruptly from funk to skronk to varying intensities of Brazilian pop, this may seem scattered to some, but I find its coherence riveting. I suppose what holds it together is Arto’s persona–really more a sensibility, postmodernist humor coexisting with humanistic lyricism, which is articulated rhythmically but also in singing that ranges from look-ma crazee to wittingly sweet and unaffected. In this context both his fake-gibberish verbal-vocalese and his surprisingly detailed atonal strums (not his lyrics) sound like translations from the Portuguese. And “Let’s Be Adult” deserves heavy rotation in every disco from here to Rio.
Robert Quine/Fred Maher
• Basic [Editions EG, 1984] A-
Consumer Guide Reviews:
Basic [Editions EG, 1984]
Though he does like to play as well as think, Quine’s solo work reminds me of somebody. His two-guitar experiment with Jody Harris had the spiraling arty-rocky trippiness of Eno’s ill-fated LPs with Cluster, but this time he’s chosen to write tunes and add a drummer, and the result is as tough and weird as Eno’s classic Jon Hassell collaboration. Just because it’s more specific, changing mood and color decisively from track to track, it doesn’t exert the same kind of generalized ambient hold, but it sure does have its own gestalt: the avant-garde equivalent of the great album Duane Eddy never made. A-
One night while visiting Scotland I was driving through the Scottish countryside. It was dark. I had the radio on and it was set to BBC Radio Scotland. A programme came on, something like “A poem, a story and a son”. The poem was delivered. It was in Scots dialect, then a short story was recited. Then a voice kicked in, a voice that I had not heard of before. It was strong, baleful, vibrant almost an instrument in itself. It was weird and different. I paid close attention to the singer – Jim Reid. I asked my mum about it and she confirmed that this guy had an ‘Unusual tone.” My aunt died shortly after that and I was due to return to London. She asked if I wanted some of her cassette tapes, I took a few down with me. One of them had a nicely crafted cover, which had the look of my beloved EG editions albumns.
Bogie’s Bonnie Belle
Traditional adapted and arranged Jim Reid/Springthyme Music © 1984
A powerful love song and bothy ballad well known in various versions throughout North-East Scotland. Jim considers this his all-time favourite folk song.
Ae Witsuntide at Huntly toun,
‘Twas there I did agree,
Wi auld Bogieside, the fairmer,
A sixmonths for tae fee.
Noo Bogie wis a hungery chiel,
An this I knew fu well;
But he had a lovely dochter,
An her name wis Isabelle.
Noo Belle she wis the bonniest lass,
In aa the countryside;
It wis very soon I lost ma hert,
Tae the Belle o Bogieside.
An often in the summertime,
I’d wander wi ma dear;
Tae watch the trouties loupin,
By Bogie’s water clear.
I taen her by the middle sma,
An I ca’d her ma wee dear;
‘Twas there I taen ma will o her
By Bogie’s water clear.
Noo nine lang months had passed an gane,
An she brocht forth a son;
An auld Bogie he sent efter me,
Tae see what could be done.
I said that I wad mairry her,
But na, that wad nae dae;
For I’m nae match for Bogie’s Belle,
An she’s nae match for me.
An noo I’ve left auld Huntlyside,
I’ve even broke ma fee;
For I couldna bear tae see ma dear
Condemned tae misery.
Noo I hear she’s wad tae a tinkler chap
That cam ower fae Huntly toun;
An wi jeely pans an ladles
She scoors the country roun.
An mebbe she’s gotten a better lad,
Auld Bogie canna tell;
Sae fareweel ye lads o Huntlyside
An Bogie’s Bonnie Belle.
In the 1950s, California Composer Terry Riley made a living as a solo piano player in bars where he learned how to improvise and engage an audience. Between 1955 and 1961, he studied composition and piano in San Francisco and Berkeley. Fascinated by Coltrane and influenced by John Cage, he became involved with open improvisation and avantgarde music.
Mescalin Mix, Riley’s earliest tape based musique concrète piece (1960), was written for the Anna Halprins Dance Company and consisted of closed tape loops containing various real-world sounds.
launched what is now known as the Minimalist movement with his revolutionary classic IN C in 1964.
Music for The Gift (1963), written for a play by Ken Dewey, was the first piece ever based on a tape delay/feedback system with 2 Revox tape recorders – a setup Riley used to call the “Time Lag Accumulator”. The source material for Riley’s loops consisted of recordings he made of the Chet Baker quartet playing Miles Davis’s So What. It was this looping piece which got Riley really interested in repetition as a musical form, leading the way to his breakthrough as a minimalist composer and performer.
“The accumulation technique hadn’t been invented yet and it got invented during this session. I was asking the engineer, describing to him the kind of sound I had worked with in Mescaline Mix. I wanted this kind of long, repeated loop and I said, ‘can you create something like that?’ He got it by stringing the tape between two tape recorders and feeding the signal from the second machine back to the first to recycle along with the new incoming signals. By varying the intensity of the feedback you could form the sound either into a single image without any delay or increase the intensity until it became a dense chaotic kind of sound. I enjoy the interplay between the two extremes. This engineer was the first to create this technique that I know of, this began my obsession with time-lag accumulation feed-back. It took me quite a while before I could afford to buy two good tape recorders to run this process in my own studio.”
Joy Division 8th Oct. 1979: Caird Hall, Dundee, Scotland
Once on Monday 24th October 1977 as part of ‘Get Out Of Control’ tour (Tickets £1.75)(supported by ‘Richard Hell & The Voidoids’, ‘The Skids’ & ‘The Lous’)
This seminal work Provided a new concept in musical form based on interlocking repetitive patterns. It’s impact was to change the course of 20th Century music and it’s influence has been heard in the works of prominent composers such as Steve Reich, Philip Glass and John Adams and in the music of Rock Groups such as The Who, The Soft Machine, Tangerine Dream, Curved Air and many others. Riley was listed in the London Sunday Times as “one of the 1000 makers ofthe 20th Century.”
Picture the body of knowledge and practice that constitutes either mathematics or music in the form of a neuron, a cell with a central nucleus graced with long dendritic extensions, trailing off into invisibility, that fill, however tenuously, a space reaching far beyond the nucleus. Calling music the art of sound amounts to seeing just the nucleus, the sonic, ignoring the performative, the temporal, the spatial, the notational, to say nothing of specific musical works formed only of light, or of concepts, of music symbols never meant for realization in sound, or just of silence. Every discipline evolves, of course, but the abstract essence of both mathematics and music especially allows their evolution to spin off eccentric eddies. economy and coherences as central musical values, yet these values conflict: repetition, including prolongation, generally reinforces coherence and comprehensibility even as it compromises economy.This seminal work provided a new concept in musical form based on interlocking repetitive patterns. It’s impact was to change the course of 20th Century music and it’s influence has been heard in the works of prominent composers such as Steve Reich, Philip Glass and John Adams and in the music of Rock Groups such as The Who, The Soft Machine, Tangerine Dream, Curved Air and many others. Terry’s hypnotic, multi-layered, polymetric, brightly orchestrated eastern flavored improvisations and compositions set the stage for the New Age movement that was to appear a decade or so later. the work’s emerging performance practice has influenced our very ideas of what constitutes art music in the 21st century. over the years I’ve heard multiple recordings of In C. After a while it dawned on me that this piece was something of a miracle–every note and rhythm specified, and the general contours remain similar from one performance to the next. But so much else can be different! Different sized ensembles; totally different timbres; durations from a few minutes to hours; and different characters, from rock-jazzy, to world music, to precise classical, to joyous hippy-dippy, to dark and driven. It’s more inclusive than almost any other music, truly global, but benign, an invitation, not a conquest. even if they self-identify as “classical”. Maybe it’s because so many grew up playing in rock bands. Whatever the reason, they are willing to trust other musicians with their ideas, and they don’t see it as a copout. The key is to find really good, ingenious ways to convey the essential music that defines their own vision, and not be so vague as to sacrifice personal character to others. In C is one of the greatest and first models of how to do so, and they know it. Although repetition is a major force in music it was never used in this way before
Repetition is a form of change
A way for one person to make an awful lot of noise. Wonderful!
On the one hand, the mythic marriage of Mathematics and Music, made in Platonic heaven, posits, perhaps, their primordial unity in the distinct past, or else, their potential convergence in a distant future. On the other hand, popular wisdom reviles as mechanical, inhuman, unexpressive the direct application of mathematical methods employed in the quotidian business of actually composing music, indeed as tantamount to blasphemy against the myth.John Cage insinuated Nature, understood broadly, into music. Unlike, say, late 19th century composers, Cage never merely depicts Nature with his music, but rather unfolds music in many ways from Nature, broadly conceived. Cage’s Nature extends far beyond the wild, the savage, the pristine, beyond any mere antithesis to the urban or civilized. Cage’s Nature embraces the whole of contingent experience, the world as what happens. The multiple radios of Imaginary Landspaces make audible the complexity of our radio wave environment, including the various human productions transmitted thereby; Child of Tree uses sounds made by amplified plant materials. In Cheap Imitation, Empty Words and elsewhere, Cage makes new works by processing the works of other artists much as he processes star charts to make the notes of Etudes Australes. Cage’s famous anechoic chamber anecdote emphasizes the impossibility of experiencing true sonic neutrality because of the natural sounds our living bodies constantly make. Cage’s silent piece 4’33” presents contingent experience minimally mitigated.
Looping Music today typically employs tape delay/feedback systems, digital delay devices, or computers to create repetitions of sounds. These repetitions can either remain limited to simple repeated phrases, or they are allowed to add up to a complex sound texture which either stands for itself or is used as an atmospheric or rhythmic background for soloing or other musical expression.
Electronic music instruments and sound recording on gramophone records and tape were invented and gave birth to new aesthetics and completely new worlds of sound and musical structures, such as pure electronic music, musique concrète based on real-world sounds, or mixtures of both.
Kurt Schwitters was among the first to approach sound recording as a plastic medium. Using sound film, Schwitters edited and collaged his nonsense poems after he recorded them and before he pressed them into records. Everett C. Frost cites Klaus Sch6ning’s talk given at the International Congress on the Evolution of Broadcasting:
Klaus Schöning remarked that Kurt Schwitters was the first to experiment with such manipulations – even before there was audiotape. In the days when recordings were made on wax cylinders. Schwitters dubbed the recording onto film and edited the film into an audio collage.”[ Everett C. Frost’s ‘Why Sound Art Works,’ The Draina Review, volume 31, number 4 (T 116), Winter 1987, MIT Press, Cambridge, pp. 109-124. Klaus Schöning’s talk was given at the International Congress on the Evolution of Broadcasting, October 1986, at Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec.]
Erik Satie was possibly the most eccentric, innovative, and influential composer of the early 20th century. Of all his interesting works, two are of special interest here:
Musique d’Ameublement is often said to be the first piece of ambient music. Its first performance was given 1920 at a picture exhibition. The furnishing music, played on a piano, three clarinets, and a trombone, was performed in the gallery while people were looking at pictures.
“We beg you to take no notice of it and to behave (…) as if the music did not exist. This music … claims to make its contribution to life in the same way as a private conversation, a picture, or the chair on which you may or may not be seated …”
Vexations for piano was a forefather of Minimal music. The piece (embedded in Satie’s Pages Mystiques) consists of two lines of chromatic, diminished triads. The resulting melody has to be played slowly and takes a minute or two to play. What makes it radical minimalist music is the performance instruction to play it 840 times which can easily result in a performance time of 24 hours. The first performance of Vexations which took the instruction seriously was given in 1963 by John Cage who had discovered the piece in Satie’s heritage several years earlier.
In the first seven years, the Center, directed by Pauline Oliveros, became a lively meeting place for the Californian avantgarde scene and gave birth to the influential musical movement of minimalism. Pauline Oliveros and Terry Riley became pioneers for tape loop techniques and tape delay/feedback systems.
In her later musical career, Pauline Oliveros focused her research on environmental sounds, consciousness, meditation, and the process of perception and listening.
Terry Riley emphasized an open, modal, pulsating, improvisational kind of minimalism and got deeply involved with classical Indian music.
The Aqyn’s Song
I have come from the edge of the world.
I have come from the lungs of the wind,
With a thing I have seen so awesome
Even Dzambul could not sing it.
With a fear in my heart so sharp
It will cut the strongest of metals.
In the ancient tales it is told
In a time that is older than Qorqyt,
Who took from the wood of Syrghaj
The first qobyz, and the first song–
It is told that a land far distant
Is the place of the Kirghiz Light.
In a place where words are unknown,
And eyes shine like candles at night,
And the face of God is a presence
Behind the mask of the sky–
At the tall black rock in the desert,
In the time of the final days.
If the place were not so distant,
If words were known, and spoken,
Then the God might be a gold ikon,
Or a page in a paper book.
But It comes as the Kirghiz Light–
There is no other way to know It.
There roar of Its voice is deafness,
The flash of Its light is blindness.
The floor of the desert rumbles,
And Its face cannot be borne.
And a man cannot be the same,
After seeing the Kirghiz Light.
For I tell you that I have seen It
In a place which is older than darkness
Where even Allah cannot reach.
As you see, my beard is an ice-field,
I walk with a stick to support me,
But this light must change us to children.
And now I cannot walk far,
For a baby must learn to walk.
And my words are reaching your ears
As the meaningless sounds of a baby.
For the Kirghiz Light took my eyes,
Now I sense all Earth like a baby.
It is north, for a six-day ride,
Through the steep and death-gray canyons,
Then across the stony desert
To the mountain whose peak is a white dzurt.
And if you have passed without danger,
The place of the black rock will find you.
But if you would not be born,
Then stay with your warm red fire,
And stay with your wife, in your tent,
And the Light will never find you,
And your heart will grow heavy with age,
And your eyes will shut only to sleep.
Pil Top Rank, Brighton (2.11.83 BRIGHTON, TOP RANK, UK) )
Although he was the first member hired of what is now often called the “Cabaret Band”,
Dec 1979 On this date in 1979, Scritti Politti released their second EP, Work In Progress. It was a four song offering of recordings from Peel Sessions. The tracks were “Messthetics”, “Hegemony”, “Scritlocks Door” and “OPEC-Immac”. The Leeds, England post-punk band was founded by Welsh-born Green Gartside. The band came to London in 1977, moving into a legendary squat in Regent’s Park Road in Camden Town. Scritti Politti were galvanised into actiom the Desperate Bicycles and released their first DIY single, titled ‘Skank Bloc Bologna’ on their own St. Pancras label in 1978. The inside of the sleeve included information on the cost to make the single – recording (£98), mastering (£40), pressing (2,500 7 inch singles for £369.36) , Rubber Stamp and labels (£8), plus information on their distributor Rough Trade Records, then still a record shop in Notting Hill. And just in case you didn’t get the idea he first time around, they printed the costs of producing the John Peel sessions EP on that cover as well
1980 My Life in the bush of ghosts, samples and appropriation
In the visual arts, to appropriate means to adopt, borrow, recycle or sample aspects (or the entire form) of man-made visual culture. Strategies include “re-vision, re-evaluation, variation, version, interpretation, imitation, proximation, supplement, increment, improvisation, prequel… pastiche, paraphrase, parody, forgery, homage, mimicry, travesty, shan-zhai, echo, allusion, intertextuality and karaoke.” Anthropologists have studied the process of appropriation, or cultural borrowing (which includes art and urbanism), as part of cultural change and contact between different cultures
At the time, many artists such as Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs were experimenting with the new technology that was tape-recording by manipulating existing works such as radio broadcasts. [http://www.ubu.com/papers/burroughs_gysin.html] Brion Gysin’s work tended to favor his permutation poems as the vehicle for cut-ups with spliced repetition of the same series of words rearranged in every conceivable pattern, frequently utilizing snippets of speeches or news broadcasts. Burroughs preferred a much more frantic and disorganized sound
The 1981 album by David Byrne and Brian Eno, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, used sampling extensively for the songs’ vocals.
By today’s standards, the original Fairlight was extremely limited. Its memory was a mere 32k, its resolution 8-bit and the average sample rate a mere 16kHz, giving results that would be sneered at by the average sampler owner today. The Emulator widened the circle of musicians who had access to sampling technology, but it was still the domain of pop stars, large recording studios and highly paid session musicians. early samplers both had rudimentary looping (see Newslink Autumn 1990),but with only a few parameters available for adjustment. Finding a usable loop was often more a matter of luck than good judgement. Similarly multi-sampling – the ability to place different samples on different keys – was extremely limited. http://jklabs.net/projects/samplinghistory/
We are so used to hearing manipulated sounds that we are rarely aware of it any more. Imagine how today´s sound world would shock someone from the era before recorded sound, when all sounds were heard ´straight´ ie never reversed, stretched out, speeded up or transformed in any way. Since the earliest use of sound effects in film, sound samples have been used ´straight´ and would often go unnoticed in scenes of busy traffic, battle scenes or to create the sound of machinery and other things that could cause problems on a film set.
Sounds used in this way were not known as ´sound samples´ at the time, but they were the forerunners of today´s samples because of the way they were used.
However it was in comedy films and animation that the manipulation of sounds was most prominent. For example 1930s Laurel and Hardy films used not only the latest film technology to create spectacular effects, they were also able to enhance the comic mayhem by being at forefront of sound manipulation technology.
A marvellous example is the huge number of different piano sounds they used in The Music Box as they gradually destroy the unfortunate instrument. The piano prop used in the film is quite obviously not a real piano (it would have been far too heavy for a start) but the movie is filled with perfectly timed crunching, jangling and scraping piano sounds.
For composers it was the advent of magnetic tape that gave them a whole new medium with which to explore sounds and launched the sample era. With tape you could easily:
• chop up the sounds and insert other bits in between
• speed sounds up
• slow them down
• reverse sounds
• add new sounds over the top of others
• play sounds through different speakers to create interesting spatial effects.
Several sound technologies came into their own in the 1960´s that were to massively expand the possibilities for work with sound samples, the most significant were multi-track recording and effects.
Many people thought that one of the Beatles´ great innovations in the 1967 album, Sergeant Pepper was the extensive use of tape manipulation. Indeed tracks like A Day In The Life or Strawberry Fields were technically very innovative for the pop world and there is no doubt about the impact that they had on the sound of 60s psychedelia, but the techniques of repeated overdubbing and the assemblages of sound samples in various manipulations were all techniques pioneered and established long before. It´s simply the case that more people liked what the Beatles did with it all.
Using Hugo Ball’s text for I Zimbra was Brian Eno’s suggestion. I felt it was the perfect solution to the quandary we had gotten ourselves into: how do we have a ‘chant-like’ vocal that doesn’t place undue emphasis on the lyric content. We continued to use ‘found’ vocals over rhythmic beds on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts … We hoped to emphasize the emotive force of the voice(s) as represented only by their sound and texture. For us, the emotion came across strongly … there was no need to understand in a logical or narrative manner what the words were about … the intense emotion carried by the quality of the voice, the melody, the rhythms, and the relationship of the vocal to the music (in two pieces we used almost the same bit of found vocal … against different music … and the effect was completely different). For us it was not only a good ‘idea,’ but an emotional experience.8 [David Byrne, ‘Notes for On The Wall / In the Air M.I.T.’ (1984), provided to the author for the exhibition On the Wall / On the Air: Artists Make Noise, Hayden Corridor Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, December 15, 1984 – January 27, 1985. Excerpts of this statement were originally published in the exhibition brochure (Committee on the Visual Arts, 1984).]
1978 – Korg MS-10, M500-Micropreset
Roland RE-201, commonly known as the Space Echo
1979 – Korg Lambda
1979- VC-10 vocoder, TASCAM Portastudio,
The TASCAM Portastudio was a revolutionary creative tool. For the first time it enabled musicians the ability to affordably record several instrumental and vocal parts on different tracks of the built-in four track recorder and later blend all the parts together while transferring them to another standard two-channel stereo tape deck (remix and mixdown) to form a stereo recording.
1980 – Gibson 335-S
1981 –Korg Monopoly
An extensive search of periodical archives reveals that the media only caught on to sampling around 1986/1987. Billboard Magazine reported in 1986 that some New York stores were selling Casio SK-1 sampling micro-keyboards for just $98. the sound of a car door slamming or a dog barking can be turned into music that can be played at any pitch.
1985-Pro 24 is introduced for the new, MIDI-built-in Atari ST computers. 16-bit technology has arrived!
1990-Cubase 2.0 is released for Atari ST and Mac, offering enhanced scoring facilities and Interactive Phrase Synthesis.
1995 Turtle Beach tropez +
1996 – X5D 1996
The big news at Frankfurt’s Musik Messe is Steinberg’s Cubase VST. Available initially just for Power Mac, ‘TDM’ style working where (for the moment) FX plug-ins can be used to embellish finally arrives on a ‘sequencer.’
Cubasis Audio a new budget ‘MIDI-plus-audio’ sequencer for Windows is also released, as is the first version of the audio editor WaveLab.
2000 – Cubase v.5
1985 In February Casio brought their expertise to the pro synth market with the CZ-101. With its 4 octave mini keys it fitted in with Casio’s pocket calculator image. Its diminutive size contrasted with its big sound, and soon CZ sales were in DX7 territory. Ed Alstrom, Casio’s marketting manager, estimated 80,000 CZs sold worldwide, making the CZ-101 one of the most popular synthesizers ever.
Fair Deal Recording Studios
Contact Aaron Woolley(Managing Director)
Address 1 Gledwood Drive
My best mate at this time was Ian Griffiths, Sniff to his pals. His parents were Welsh-Irish-English. They owned a guest house in Arbroath, and his dad was a pilot in the Navy and then the Oil Rigs. They were typically English in my scheme of things – open about sex, to the point of pervy. We had a mutual English friend whose name was Simon Friar. He was the son of the warden/artist in residence at Hospitalfeild house – a large mansion just on the outskirts of Arbroath. The higilty-pigility mash-up appearance of the house would be described predominately as Gothic, but clearly having other pre-existing structures incorporated and appropriated in the add-ons. Indeed it was built upon foundations founded in the mid 13th Century as a leprosy and plague hospice, the Hospital of Saint John the Baptist, which belonged to the nearby Abbey of Aberbrothock. In the 17th Century it was bought and enlarged in 1665 by James Fraser. More mods and additions, expansions in the mid 19th Century to have a gothic feel by Patrick Allan-Fraser (1813-90), who served as his own architect. A kind of facsimile miniature called the mortuary chapel housed Allen Frazer and his wife in the eastern Cemetery. The mausoleum, like hte house had little nooks and crannies, staircases going to turrets and anti room and so forth. The indulgence of the time. In modern times the house was in a trust and was an artist’s residence in the summer time, host to artists mainly coming from the Edinburgh and Glasgow art schools. By the time we were sixteen, and visiting Simon I will always remember his comment in his plumy tone:” Simon, Simon, please get rid of these boys… one, is criminal with class (Sniff), the other a common thug (me).” Sniff had already spent time in borstal. He had an obsession with ‘nicking’ things. Anyway, we were punk now and all was forgotten.
We were going to see the clash. Sniff had just bought a Triumph Spitfire for 50 pounds – the idea would be to do it up for his 17th birthday. It was working but needed repaired. We decided to use it to get to the gig in Dunfermline, about 100 odd miles away down motorway. We left school early and proceeded to fill her up with fuel. The first leg of the journey was uneventful, uneventful until we hit Dundee. He announced that the brakes were failing, were were coming into Dundee via the arboat road which inevitably meant a downhill jouney into the centre of hte city. He shouted at me to use the handbrake, it sort of worked. This was fine until at the foot of hte hill an articulated lorry stopped a little too sundenly when hte lights changed. I had to practically straddle the handbrake to get enough leverage, even then the long bonnet went underneath the rear end of the wagon, and our windwscreen tapped the back of its undercarridge, cracking a bit. We were lucky. The rest of the jounrney we did our best to avoid stopping, and we finally found a place to park in hte outskirts of Pearth and used some of our precious cash to do the rest of hte journey by train.
As we emerged fro mthe train station we producly walked down the high street. Whereas in the past this would have been dangerous, really dangerous, we got friendly “how’s it goins” from various punks who were clearly in town to do what were were doing. We met up with a few of them who were delighted to meet a couple of guys from another toon. They gave us a can of beer. We eventually made our way round to the Kinema, and went into the pub next door where to our unbridled delight, the Clash were sitting having a pre-gig pint. We went up to speak to them and get their autographs. Topper Headon was especially friendly as was Mick Jones, and Stummer. I be years t was to be years later when I met strummer face to face again, in West London, where he lived in my Neighbourhood, round Westbourne Park. That night in Dunfermline, the Clash were supported by Richard Hell and the Voidoids and the Skids. I remember the stark contrast of the Americans, as the bas player, who sported a beard and a kind of unfashionable (to us) corduroy suit. When they hit hte stage, the audience spat at them, and since they were kind of the first main act every bodies reserves were at peak. Right to when the lights and music kicked in greeners strung from the guy’s beard and bass guitar, they hung and slung below with his movements, he was mortified. Someone from the venues managing came on to request “no more spitting, or the gigs off.” And Richard Hell, as he returned to the stage while no doubt wanting to win our favour and at the same time assert his own punk credentials contradicted “do what you wanna do.” Wow, that was invitation for another tidal wave of salivas and catarrhs. Shit even I was hit due to being near the front “but I don care!” The skids “albert tatlock” reminded me of strangely of “lily the pink.” I remember seeing others from Arbroath including the Rector’s son –he was at Uni now, dropping out no doubt and punk.
That night night we slept in a junk yard in an old car. We were freezing; I only had a plastic jacket and a string vest on. We’d been sweating like hell dancing the night away. It was fitful night, followed by breakfast of rolls and milk stolen from doorsteps and trying to jump the train. Again we got so far, then had to hitch to Perth, pick up the Spitfire then home. Superb.
The John McLaughlin Guitar Trio – It was a historic occasion. The appearance of John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola, and Paco DeLucia at San Francisco’s Warfield Theatre one Friday night in 1981 was a musical event that could be compared to the Benny Goodman Band’s performance at Carnegie Hall in 1938. The Guitar Trio did for the acoustic guitar what Goodman had done for jazz. The acoustic guitar had gone commercial.
2 thoughts on “FORMATIVE YEARS V”
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