‘If you’ve got to ask what a Rhythm Stick is, then it may be possible you will never know the answer,’ Ian Dury tells one interviewer over the ‘phone, in this brilliant documentary from 1979. This was the first full length documentary on Dury and it captures the legendary performer’s humor, enthusiasm and sheer joy at doing what he likes best (even if it’s touring for 16 weeks, and owing more money than he earns), which all goes to making this a great pleasure to watch.
Includes performances of “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”, “Inbetweenies”, “Blockheads”, “Clever Trevor” and “Reasons to Be Cheerful (Part 3)”.
Recorded at a moment in time when the young Mr. Rotten was routinely getting his head kicked in by skinheads and hassled by the police, this is probably my single favorite bit of punk rock audio ephemera (actually, it’s a tie with the infamous Slits college radio interview, but that’s another blog post…).
What am I talking about? A guest appearance by Johnny Rotten on the Capital Radio program of deep-voiced DJ Tommy Vance. Rotten/Lydon was invited to play records from his own collection and talk about them. He comes across as whip-smart, honest and refreshingly free from much—if any—social programming and religious brainwashing. He discusses the Sex Pistols, Malcolm McClaren (he calls him the fifth member of the band), being educated in a Catholic school he despised and his passionate love of music. There’s no put-on here or any hint of the deliberate obnoxiousness of later years.
Where did you go to school?
[sighs] This poxy Roman Catholic thing. All they done was teach me religion. Didn’t give a damn about your education though. That’s not important is it? Just as long as you go out being a priest.
Which you haven’t become.
Well no. That kind of forcing ideas on you like when you don’t want to know is bound to get the opposite reaction. They don’t let you work it out for yourselves. They tell you you should like it. And that’s why I hate schools. You’re not given a choice. It’s not free.
It’s an inevitable question, and a corny question, but can you think of any better system of educating people?
No I can’t [laugh], I just know that one’s not right. I wouldn’t dare, it’s out of my depth, I have nothing to do with that side of things. I haven’t been to university and studied all the right attitudes, so I don’t know. No I haven’t.
[fades in Doctor Alimantado - ‘Born For A Purpose ‘]
This is it, ‘Born For A Purpose’, right? Now this record, just after I got my brains kicked out, I went home and I played it and there’s a verse which goes, ‘If you have no reason for living, don’t determine my life’. Because the same thing happened to him. He got run over because he was a dread. Very true.
The music he plays is a revelation. Can, some rare soul, Tim Buckley, Peter Hammill (he accuses Bowie of copping the Van Der Graaf Generator front man’s moves), Captain Beefheart (he plays “The Blimp”!), Nico, John Cale and of course, lots of reggae. When Rotten plays the dub b-side by Culture (the track with the lopping bass, barking dogs, crying babies and blaring car horns) you can hear the blueprint for the PiL sound that would come along just a few months later.
It must be said that for a 20-year-old he’s got astonishingly good taste in music and for that time period? Please! This really is an incredible thing to listen to. For the musical education alone, it’s great, but listening to the thoughts of this controversial, brilliant young man at the height of powers is a sublime pleasure.
It even contains the radio commercials from the broadcast. This has been making the rounds for years, but this version is clean and in real stereo, the best I’ve ever heard.
A transcript of the interview and a track listing can be found here.
Ian Dury wrote the song “Spasticus Autisticus” knowing it would cause trouble, and hoping it would be banned. It was written in response to the UN designating 1981 as the Year of the Disabled, as if high-lighting the ‘equalization of opportunities, rehabilitation and prevention of disabilities,’ with a motto that declared “a wheelchair in every home,” would somehow magically bring genuine equality and support where it was needed.
Dury thought the Year of the Disabled was patronizing and ‘crashingly insensitive,’ and his response was to write a song straight from the heart against the naivety and arrogance of well-meaning liberals. ‘Oh, I see, so in 1982, we’ll all be all right!’ Dury said.
‘I thought about going on tour as Spasticus and The Autistics, but [his friend, musician Ed] Speight said, “No, it should be Spasticus Autisticus - he’s the freed slave of the disabled.’
Speight was making reference to one of Dury’s favorite films Spartacus, with its famous ending where all of the slaves declare “I am Spartacus.” It was perfect for Dury and he started running lyrics together:
“I’m Spasticus! I’m Spasticus!
I’m Spasticus! I’m Spasticus!
I widdle when I piddle
‘Cos my middle is a riddle
So place your hard-earned peanuts in my tin
And thank the Creator you’re not in the state I’m in,
So long have I been upon the shelf
I must give all proceedings to myself.”
‘We kicked a few phrases around, drinking more dandelion and burdock. “I wobble when I hobble,” was one of them. We knocked out the hooks then Ian did the real artwork: “So place your hard-earned peanuts in my tin, And thank the Creator you’re not in the state I’m in.” Some of it was influenced by Lenny Bruce - the “half-man/half-woman” routine. Ian said he wanted a record that would be banned. It certainly did the trick.’
Once recorded, it didn’t take long for “Spasticus Autisticus” to be banned. The song’s irony and anger were lost on a liberal media who were only able to see offense. Worse, it seemed the BBC management had forgotten that Dury was disabled, having contracted poliomyelitis as a child - something he had discussed on camera in a BBC documentary in 1979.
Dury contracted polio after swallowing a mouthful of infected water at a lido in Southend-on-Sea. His condition had been so serious that he had not been expected to live, and spent 6 weeks isolated in a hospital ward in Truro. Against all the odds, Dury pulled through, and he convalesced for a further 18 months at a hospital in Braintree, Essex, before being sent to Chailey Heritage and Craft School.
Chailey was a former workhouse, which had been converted into a school for ‘disabled children suffering from diseases such as rickets, tuberculosis and malnutrition.’ The school had been established in 1894 by Dame Grace Kimmins, under the auspices of her charitable organization the “Guild of the Poor Brave Things” - which says much about the school.
The brutality at Chailey changed Dury. Bullying and violence were endemic, and sex abuse frequent. Dury adopted a tough Cockney demeanor, to disguise his natural intelligence and sensitivity, though it didn’t protect him from bullying or from being sexual abused by other boys.
In 1981, when the BBC led the way with its campaign against Dury, they had no idea the maverick singer and poet was disabled. The BBC behaved like the well intentioned Victorians behind the “Guild of the Poor Brave Things.” The ban had a damning affect, literally ending Dury’s successful career as a singles artist, and damaging his long-term recording career.
A few months before he died in 2000, Ian Dury performed “Spasticus Autisticus” to a ‘rapturous reception’ at the London Palladium. Twelve years on, “Spasticus Autisticus” was performed by Graeae Theater Company at the opening ceremony for the 2012 Paralympics.
The geniuses at Broke Friends have made my Christmas list, and I’m sure many a cat-lady punk (and remember, dudes can be cat-ladies, too) will be clamoring for this sly feline reference to Everything Falls Apart .
There are things that I love openly, like cats and Hüsker Dü, and there are secret loves that I keep to myself, like cheesy puns… until now.
Hugh Cornwell’s last show with The Stranglers at Alexandra Palace, London on August 13, 1990. The band would continue without Cornwell but would never be the same. A fucking shame and a particularly big disappointment for this hardcore Stranglers fan. I’m still waiting for a re-union gig.
00:46 Toiler At The Sea
07:46 Something Better Change
11:24 96 Tears
14:30 Someone Like You
17:32 Sweet Smell Of Success
21:40 Always The Sun
26:11 Strange Little Girl
29:07 Hanging Around
33:40 Let’s Celebrate
38:36 Golden Brown
42:45 No More Heroes
46:38 Nuclear Device
53:35 All Day And All Of The Night
56:04 Punch And Judy
Outstanding audio and visual quality. Play it loud!
Cherubic Pat Smear of the Germs, and later Nirvana… he hit girls
I am as guilty as any young punk of romanticizing the youthful energy of scenes and eras that I was never a part of, so it’s nice to be smacked in the face with reality once in a while. Of course it’s important to cut these kids a lot of slack as they navigated particularly ugly aspects of adolescence, many times through a lot of adversity. However, dear sweet baby Jesus, I hope I was never that much of a sulky, self-righteous, little ass (I know, I know—I probably was) as the youngsters on display in first installment of Penelope Spheeris’ legendary LA punk/metal trilogy The Decline of Western Civilization.
Through thick, grating, under-bitten LA accents, we hear classics such as “I’m a total rebel—I rebel against everything,” and “Everyone shouldn’t be afraid to be as different as they wanna’ be,” followed almost immediately by the same girl saying, “Everyone’s hair should be blue.” And of course, there are the racial epithets, gratuitous use of “poseur,” and various affected attempts at portraying cynicism and apathy.
Regardless, the angst and alienation these kids felt is palpably legitimate; you can’t help but wish you could pinch their bratty little cheeks and tell them that someday they’ll escape, and that it isn’t always going to be this bad. Mainly, however, I’m just happy no one recorded me at sixteen years old, and that I’ll never have to be sixteen years old again.
The first single I bought was “Snow Coach” by Russ Conway. It was at a school jumble sale, St. Cuthbert’s Primary, sometime in the late 1960s. I bought it because I loved winter, and Christmas, and the idea of traveling through some snow-covered landscape to the sound of jingling sleigh bells . I also knew my great Aunt liked Russ Conway, so if I didn’t like it….
I bought it together with a dog-eared copy of a Man from U.N.C.L.E. paperback (No. 3 “The Copenhagen Affair”). These were the very first things I had chosen and bought for myself, with a tanner (6d) and thrupenny bit (3d). I played the single from-time-to-time on my parents’ Dansette Record Player - its blue and white case and its BSR autochanger, which allowed you to play up to 7 singles one-after-another. My brother had a selection of The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, The Who, Elvis and The Move, which he played alternating one A-side with one B-side like some junior DJ. It meant I didn’t have to buy singles, as my brother bought most of the things I wanted to hear, so I could spend my pennies on books and comics and sherbert dib-dabs. It was a musical education, and though Conway was a start, the first 45rpm single I really went out and bought was John Barry’s The Theme from ‘The Persuaders’, which I played till it crackled like pan frying oil.
As this documentary shows 45rpm singles were an important part to growing up: everyone can recall buying their first single - what it looked like, its label, its cover, the signature on the inner groove - and the specific feelings these records aroused. With interviews from Norman Cook, Suzi Quatro, Holly Johnson, Noddy Holder, Richie Hawley, Paul Morley, Jimmy Webb, Jack White, Neil Sedaka, Trevor Horn, Miranda Sawyer, Brian Wilson, The Joy of the Single is a perfect piece of retro-vision, that captures the magic, pleasure and sheer bloody delight of growing-up to the sound of 45s.
‘We are. We are The Ramones. And you, you heard it first, right here,’ says Joey Ramone at the start of this gig from October 5th, 1981. The ‘right here’ was the Second Chance Saloon, Ann Arbor, which was one of The Ramones’ favorite clubs. The concert lasts just over an hour, and The Ramones get through 28 songs. Sometimes you need it hard and fast, so here it is.
01. “Do You Remember Rock & Roll Radio?”
02. “Do You Wanna Dance?”
03. “Blitzkrieg Bop”
04. “This Business Is Killing Me”
05. “All’s Quiet On The Eastern Front”
06. “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment”
07. “Rock & Roll High School”
08. “I Wanna Be Sedated”
09. “Beat On The Brat”
10. “The KKK Took My Baby Away”
11. “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”
12. “You Sound Like You’re Sick”
13. “Suzy Is A Headbanger”
14. “Let’s Dance”
15. “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”
16. “I’m Affected”
17. “Chinese Rock”
18. “Rockaway Beach”
19. “Teenage Lobotomy”
20. “Surfin’ Bird”
21. “Cretin Hop”
22. “California Sun”
23. “Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World”
25. “Come On Now”
26. “I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You”
27. “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker”
28. “We Want The Airwaves”
Then the tape cuts out before the last 2 songs, which were “I Just Wanna Have Something To Do” and “We’re A Happy Family”. But hey-ho, it was good while it lasted.
Just in time for the Aztec calendar to run out (and let’s not forget Christmas, of course) comes Elvis Died For Somebody’s Sins But Not Mine, a collection of Mick Farren’s primal ‘up against the wall, motherfucker’ style of rock and roll polemics. One man’s literary life spent railing against the machine lives between these covers. The hidden history of the twentieth century and beyond. He was there and you weren’t. Listen up, children!
Within these pages you’ll meet the likes of Frank Zappa, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry and Gore Vidal, and steam open correspondence between the author and Pete Townshend. And, much more importantly, you’re about to go one-on-one with a world-class raconteur… If this kind of mess-around seems like your cup of meat, then prepare your relaxant of choice, kick back and dig in. The greasy ’oodlums are at your door.”
—Charles Shaar Murray (from his foreword)
About the Author:
Mick Farren was born on a wet night at the end of World War II. During his long, occasionally hallucinatory, and sometimes hell-raising career, he has published twenty-two novels (including The DNA Cowboys Trilogy). He has also published more than a dozen non-fiction works on topics that range from music to drugs to conspiracy theory (including Give The Anarchist A Cigarette). An unreconstructed rock & roller, he continues to function as a recording artist and songwriter. He has also made detours into anarcho-agitprop like editing the underground newspaper IT, and defending both his liberty and the comic book Nasty Tales through a protracted obscenity trail at the Old Bailey.
He was part of what is now called (by some) the NME golden age, during which time he helped explain punk to people who still thought Rick Wakeman had merit. As a lyricist, Mick’s words have been sung by Metallica, Motorhead, Hawkwind, Brother Wayne Kramer, the Royal Crown Revue, and the Pink Fairies.
Publisher Headpress are offering a very limited stamped, numbered and signed deluxe edition hardback of Elvis Died For Somebody’s Sins But Not Mine, only available from their website, and for the special price of £28 until December 3. There’s also an unsigned hardback edition selling £20, but I sez get yours autographed. Why regret not getting it signed?
And just in case you were wondering, here is a list of the drugs found in Elvis’‘s body when he died, included in the book as a piece of found poetry:
Codeine—at a concentration ten times higher than the toxic level
Morphine—possible metabolite of codeine
Methaqualone—Quaalude, above toxic level
Phenyltoloxamine—Sinutab (a decongestant)
Below, Mick Farren talks about the underground press in London with John Peel in 1967.