Socialist post-punk dance-floor agitators, Delta 5 were closely aligned with the Gang of Four, another Leeds-based group who mixed music and leftwing politics. Their thumpy, double bass guitar-led funk attack, slashing guitars and flat, bored female vocals made them sound like a tighter version of the Slits mixed with the Gang of Four’s razor-sharp guitar lines. Both Delta 5 and the Gang of Four were associated with the Rock Against Racism movement. Delta 5, with three women in the group, also played several benefits to fight the Corrie Bill, an anti-abortion statute.
In late 1970s, the racist British Movement, an National Front offshoot that was unashamedly Nazi organized in Leeds and enlisted some local yobs to form skinhead groups to harass the “Communist” bands and to counter RAR. The concerts they organized were called Rock Against Communism (The notorious Screwdriver came out of this milieu). One night Delta 5-member Ros Allen was recognized in a pub by eight British Movement members who called her a “Communist witch.” The members of Delta 5 were followed outside and beaten. Vocalist/bassist Bethan Peters told Greil Marcus in 1980 that the sight of skinheads doing “Sieg heil” salutes was common at their gigs and how she once grabbed one of them and repeatedly smashed his head into the stage.
Delta 5 didn’t last that long, just one album and some singles before they split in 1982. Their reputation was obscure for several decades, but in 2006, the Kill Rock Stars label released some early Delta 5 material called Singles & Sessions 1979-81, which saw renewed interest in the group.
Their best song (in my opinion): “Mind Your Own Business”:
In an almost mythical ABC After School Special from 1987 titled The Day My Kid Went Punk, a wholesome all-American family (with Love Boat‘s “Doc,” Bernie Kopell as the worried dad) has to deal with uh… tragedy when their “normal” son starts wearing black lipstick, cuts his hair into a Mohawk and generally goes for an extreme “Goth Eye for the Straight Guy” make-over…
“Nice kid. Quiet. Plays classical violin…”
“Oh, really? Well a Ziggy Ziggy Sputnik lookalike is sitting outside in the lobby for us hire him as our daycare counselor.”
“Who are you talking about? Who is Ziggy Ziggy whatsit?”
Just the above image made the viral rounds a few years back, but this is the longest clip yet of this elusive bit of cult TV to appear on YouTube. Who has the entire thing?
Phil Spector produced the Ramones’ 1980 album End of the Century. At one point during the recording sessions in Los Angeles, Spector held Dee Dee Ramone at gunpoint, and forced him to play the same riff over and over again.
Perhaps because the King of Mono was still on the outside at the time this interview was filmed, one gets the distinct feeling watching it that the boys from Forest Hills were holding something back…
Joey was the biggest Spector freak in the band. Note how he doesn’t say a word..
Has Hedwig And The Angry Inch entered the annals of the ‘classic musical’ yet? If not, then why not?
I can’t think of another original musical from the last 10/15 years to have gained such a strong cult following and had so much niche AND crossover appeal (no mean feat considering the subject matter.) Shows with people throwing themselves around to Abba or Queen songs don’t count.
Here is a rare treat for fans of Hedwig, it’s a taping of the original cast performing the show Off-Broadway in 1999, featuring what is very obviously a star-making turn for John Cameron Mitchell. The quality’s not all that bad, and of course the music is great. Which is important for a musical. Here’s a little more info via YouTube uploader Antoine Granger (and Wikipedia):
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a rock musical about a fictional rock and roll band fronted by an East German transgender singer. The text is by John Cameron Mitchell, and the music and lyrics are by Stephen Trask. The musical premiered in 1998 and has been performed throughout the world in hundreds of stage productions.
The story draws on Mitchell’s life as the son of a U.S. Army Major General who once commanded the U.S. sector of occupied West Berlin. The character of Hedwig was originally inspired by a German divorced U.S. Army wife who was a Mitchell family babysitter and moonlighted as a prostitute at her Junction City, Kansas trailer park home. The music is steeped in the androgynous 1970s glam rock era of David Bowie (who co-produced the Los Angeles production of the show), as well as the work of John Lennon and early punk godfathers Lou Reed and Iggy Pop.
The musical opened Off-Broadway at the Jane Street Theater on February 14, 1998. The theater was located in the ballroom of the Hotel Riverview, which once housed the surviving crew of the Titanic (a fact which figured in the original production). Originally directed and produced by Peter Askin, the play won a Village Voice Obie Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical. The Off-Broadway production ran for two years, and was remounted with various casts by the original creative team in Boston, Los Angeles, and London.
“Tear Me Down”
“The Origin of Love”
“The Angry Inch”
“Wig in a Box”
“Wicked Little Town”
“The Long Grift”
“Wicked Little Town (Reprise)”
This is the original cast performing on stage in 1999, awesome performance if you ask me. I took the liberty to do a small noise reduction over the original source. If you liked the show I strongly advise you to also check out the movie.
Photographer Steven Hirsch has been documenting the crusty punks (street dwellers) who live in and around Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan’s East Village. His blog, Crustypunks, is fascinating, beautiful, heartbreaking and provocative. The stories of these homeless folks are sad, infuriating and often tragic. These are hippies without a shred of idealism. And though they may wear the occasional Misfits t-shirt, few of them seem to have any connection to the punk scene of the 1970s other than their anger, which seems directed at virtually anything that moves.
As I looked at Hirsch’s powerful photographs, I realized anyone of us could become one of society’s damaged goods at any time. Our comfort zones are extremely fragile. While some of the crusty punks are just white kids slumming, there are plenty who have, for whatever reasons, given up on life. Many are victims of rape, domestic violence, mental illness, neglect, etc. There but for the grace of God…
Hirsch shot this video of a crusty punk (not the above pictured Trash Can) getting his kicks in a most unusual way. Talk about a cheap high. This makes sniffing glue look like part of a health food regime.
Scottish documentary filmmaker John Samson died at the age of 58 in 2004. But sadly, for someone of his distinct talents, he had unceremoniously faded into obscurity two decades before his death.
Samson was a hugely influential artist who never got his due during the seminal years in which he was actually engaged in creating the films he would later be lauded for. It is only in retrospect that his films are being heralded as being too honest, too real and too thoughtful for the British television corporations he depended upon for the distribution of his work. Years after his death he’s finally getting some recognition in a case of too little too fucking late.
Samson’s films often focused on compelling and unorthodox (for its time) subject matter such as tattooing, fetishism, dwarfism and sex. He approached his material objectively, never editorializing, letting the subject speak for itself. Perhaps it was his own outlaw status that helped him relate to social outcasts, the stigmatized and the proudly defiant.
In 1977 Samson made Dressing For Pleasure, a documentary about ordinary people who enjoyed dressing in rubber and who approached their fetish with a matter of factness that seems almost quaint. The film was an immediate sensation among British fashion designers and within the London punk scene and was promptly banned as a video nasty. It ended up becoming one of the most ripped off British films of the 1970s.
The BBC used segments of Dressing For Pleasure in a 1995 documentary on the Sex Pistols. Having not seen the BBC documentary, I assume the parts they used are the scenes with Jordan in Vivienne Westwood’s boutique Sex and the one where allegedly Malcolm McClaren’s oversized head is wearing an inflatable black rubber gimp mask. Exactly where John Lydon wanted him.
During Vivienne Westwood’s 2004 career retrospective in London, Dressing For Pleasure ran on a continuous loop and Julien Temple featured the Sex segments in his Pistols documentary The Filth And The Fury.
Punk icon Jordan in Seditionaries boutique, Kings Rd.
The lasting impression of Samson’s film is not of aggressive provocation (of which punk was often accused by its mainstream detractors) but of an affectionate tribute to a characteristically English strain of bloody-minded eccentricity.
John Samson and his plastic fantastic lover.
The long overdue appreciation for John Samson is a small victory for good art. He’s not around to benefit from it. His heart knocked him out the game. I wonder if the stress of the game, the politics and business of it all, was just more than he cared to handle. The hassle of selling yourself can be deadening. His style of egalitarian filmmaking was life embracing and opened up doors into worlds that may have seemed strange to some but contained a certain purity that was undeniable. He found the flesh under the rubber. But perhaps he couldn’t put up enough latex and plastic between himself and the corporate pigs to protect his own beating heart and it attacked him.
The director Don Boyd, an executive producer on The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle, is still appalled by the ease with which John Samson was allowed to fade away. “He represented a different breed of film-maker,” Boyd says. “He had commitment, vision and a respect for the truth. He was criminally ignored by tyrants in an editorially fascist television era which, thank God, looks as if it’s coming to an end. His best work represents everything they have destroyed.”
Here’s the rarely seen Dressing For Pleasure in its entirety. As you watch it, take notice at how beautifully the film is composed and shot. At times I’m reminded of the the films of Kenneth Anger, the soft meeting the hard, the yin, the yang, the whole damn thing, to a rock and roll beat.
Yesterday John Lydon threw a hissy fit on Australian TV talk show The Project and ended up the fool. Looking like a pudgy old tart with a stick up his arse, Lydon’s rant was bereft of even the slightest trace of humor or punkish charm. It’s really quite embarrassing.
Hey, hey, hey Mrs, shut up. Whoever you are, shut up. Shut up. Shut up. Now listen, when a man is talking do not interrupt.
Johnny needs a good kick in the dentures. What a wanker.
While Lydon is obnoxious from the get-go, the real unpleasantness begins at the 4:10 mark.
Christiane F. - Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (“Christiane F. – We Children from Bahnhof Zoo” in English) is a 1981 German film based on the autobiographical recordings of a young heroin addict and prostitute in West Berlin. It was one of the most successful German films of that year, going on to become a worldwide cult hit, but one that stirred up a lot of (I think justifiable) controversy.
Vera Christiane Felscherinow
Two journalists from Stern magazine, Kai Herrmann and Horst Rieck, met the girl, Vera Christiane Felscherinow (born May 20, 1962) in 1978 when she was a witness against a john who paid underage prostitutes with heroin. The reporters were shocked to the extent of the escalating teenage drug problem and spent over two months interviewing Christiane and other young junkies and prostitutes (of both genders) who congregated near the Berlin Zoo. They ran several articles and a book Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, covering four years (ages 12-15) of her life on the streets, was published in 1979.
Christiane lived with her mother in a bleak West Berlin neighborhood full of the sort of postwar high-rise apartment blocks that were often hives of social problems. She became fascinated by a discothèque that she had read about called “Sound” and although she was only 11-years-old, too young to be admitted, she was able to get into the club. There she fell in with a fast crowd who were experimenting with various drugs and by the time she was only 14, she was turning tricks to feed her habit in the Bahnhof Zoo train station.
When the film—directed by Oscar-winner Uli Edel—was released in 1981 it was a huge hit in Germany, and elsewhere, turning Christiane into somewhat of a celebrity in Europe, a real-life “Go Ask Alice” who had great fashion sense and cool hair. And this was the problem: Although the film does not intend in any way to glamorize the life of a heroin-addicted teenage prostitute, it inadvertently does. The fact that the actress who played Christiane F. in the film, Natja Brunckhorst, was so beautiful didn’t help matters. Soon teenage girls were emulating both the cinematic “Christiane” and the real-life Christiane’s hair style and clothes. The Bahnhof Zoo station even became somewhat of a Japanese tourist destination, for a while.
Actress Natja Brunckhorst and David Bowie
I saw this film when it came out, when I was a teenager myself, and I can recall thinking that a) Natja Brunckhorst was super hot and that b) doing some drugs with such a cute girl and going to a David Bowie concert (he’s seen in the film performing and provided the soundtrack music) seemed like a really good time to me. I can certainly understand why why German youth advocates were concerned at the time by the way impressionable young girls saw Christiane F. as a role model.
Thirty-some years after it was released, the film still has that undiminished heroin chic quality going for it. This comment was left on YouTube just one week ago:
Amazing film. Amazing book. She was so beautiful. So clever. Such a shame she ruined her life. But she’s a hero. And maybe I’m the only one who thinks this, but it looks to me kinda attractive,you know. I mean,seventies, Berlin, David Bowie, freedom,it all looks so great! Today it’s awful.. Like everything.
The couple also appeared in the 1983 German film Decoder, along with Neubaten’s F.M. Enheit, William Burroughs and Genesis P-Orridge (you can read about the film at The End of Being) (I suppose this is as good a place as any to tell you that I once answered the phone at a German friend’s apartment. I had to take a message and when the caller said “Tell her Christiane F. called” I just HAD to ask if she was THE Christiane F. and she said yeah and seemed really annoyed with me!)
Although she has been able to support herself from author’s royalties for many years, Christiane F.‘s life has been anything but easy, She’s been on and off drugs since her teens and at one point a few years ago, she lost custody of her young son. In 2011 she was caught up in a drugs sweep when police searched her bag at the Berlin train station, Moritzplatz, a known haven for junkies, but no narcotics were found on her person. As you might expect, every couple of years the German media check in with her to “see how she is doing.”
Below, Sentimentale Jugend, live (with Christiane F. on guitar) in Berlin, 1981.