If you grew up as a kid in the UK during the mid-70s through to the early 80s it’s a safe bet that you a spent few Saturday mornings glued to the tube watching kids show Tiswas (or “This Is Saturday, What A Show!”, “Today Is Saturday, Wear A (or Wake-up And) Smile!”, or (unofficially) “This Is Saturday, Watch And Suffer!”).
Tiswas had a live studio audience filled with young fans and tried to bring on various musical acts who were popular during the years it was broadcast such as Elvis Costello, Motörhead and in this case, The Pretenders. In 1981 Chrissie Hynde, Martin Chambers and Pete Farndon had the pleasure of participating in a skit called “The Phantom Flan Flinger Challenge.” The title of the segment sounds both delicious and gross but if you’ve ever seen the show you know things are not going to end well for Chrissie and her bandmates.
As it was a common practice to “repurpose” Tiswas’ videotape masters (“tape over” them) only a small number of episodes (according to some sources only 22) actually still exist.
Given the rarity of surviving Tiswas shows, I am happy to report that not only is the quality of this footage pretty great, it also contains a rather startling moment involving one of Tiswas’ hosts, Chris Tarrant, and Chrissie Hynde that will make you wonder if Tarrant ever made it out of the studio alive. I’ll leave you to ponder what that all means while you watch this amusing four minutes of footage.
Before Steve Strange became known as a club host at Blitz and a New Romantic pop star with Visage, he was in a punk band with Chrissie Hynde called The Moors Murderers. It’s fair to say, there was a tacit understanding with some elements of punk that to cause offense was an acceptable way to achieve notoriety. Having a band called The Moors Murderers was certain to bring considerable opprobrium and cause offense to the Great British public as the band’s name referred to the notorious serial killers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley who had raped and murdered five children in Manchester, England, between 1963 and 1965, burying their bodies on Saddleworth Moor. To this day the body of one victim Keith Bennett has never been recovered.
Brady and Hindley were a dark stain on the colorful psychedelia of the swinging sixties. Their evil deeds had a troubling influence on many writers and artists, perhaps most notably Morrissey who used the brutal killings as material for songs and may have even named his band after the Brady/Hindley associates and in-laws David and Maureen Smith—or as they were called by the press at the time, “the Smiths.”
Steve Strange’s involvement with punk came when he saw the Sex Pistols perform at the Castle Cinema in Caerphilly, Wales, in December 1976. The gig changed the teenager’s life and he became friends with the band’s bass player Glen Matlock. Strange was then known by his real name Steven John Harrington, and inspired by the Pistols he started booking punk bands to play gigs at his home town. He then moved to London and became part of the revenue of punks that orbited around Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s shop SEX on the King’s Road. Here he met the iconic Soo Catwoman, who first suggested forming a punk band called The Moors Murderers. As Soo later recalled:
“The Moors Murderers thing was a big joke to be honest. I was joking about getting a band together called the Moors Murderers and doing sleazy love songs, I had no idea he [Steve Strange] would actually go out and do it. …”
Strange certainly ran with the idea and approached Chrissie Hynde telling her about the band and singing her the song “Free Hindley.”
They say it started in 64
Myra Hindley was nothing more
Than a woman who fell for a man
Why shouldn’t she be free
Brady was her lover
Who told her what to do
Psychopathic killer-nothing new
Free Hindley Free
What she did was for love
The torture scenes the boys and girls
Hindley knew but couldn’t say
She was trapped by her love
What mother in her right mind
Would allow a girl at the age of nine
Be out on her own
Don’t blame Hindley
Brady was her lover
Who told her what to do
Psychopathic killer-nothing new
Why shouldn’t she be free?
Free Hindley Free
Strange claimed to be part of a band called the Moors Murderers in order to do a photo shoot for German magazine Bravo. Catwoman says she was also present but left the shoot. Steve Strange may have played a gig with The Photons under the Moors Murderers monicker supporting The Slits at an NSPCC benefit concert at Ari Up’s school in Holland Park circa Christmas 1977.
At The Slits gig was musician and producer Dave Goodman, who had worked with the Pistols and Eater:
There was a support band who I assumed were friends of the Slits. They had this singer dressed in black leather calling himself ‘Steve Strange’. I also remember at least one female musician, who turned out to be Chrissie Hynde. They had a certain ‘first gig’ quality about them, their sound being somewhat chaotic and the lyrics virtually unintelligible.
I couldn’t believe it when they announced themselves as ‘The Moors Murderers’. It really was controversial. I had lived through that gruesome event and the darkness it brought to my childhood still felt gloomy. To protect me, my mum would remove any ‘Moors Murderers’ tabloid sensationalism from the papers, after first reading it herself.
After the show Steve Strange came up to me at the mixing desk and confirmed the band’s name. I’d heard right - it was as I thought. We got talking. It turned out that they had this song called ‘Free Hindley’. They had just performed it, but I hadn’t noticed. He had my interest - what was his motive behind it? Steve explained. He felt that it was hypocritical of the government to automatically consider other child murderers for parole after a certain length of time, while ignoring Hindley. Being a high profile case, I believe he felt they were just pandering to public demand. We also discussed change and to what level people can achieve it.
Strange told Goodman that he wanted to record a single “Free Hindley,” but Goodman suggested “two main things to Steve”:
1. To show he is not condoning murderers he should create a balance. Why not record the Ten Commandments to music for the B-side? You know, get out of it in the studio and really get into it man! He liked the idea.
2. Talk to Lord Longford, he’s been visiting Hindley in prison and is campaigning for her release. He liked that idea as well.
Strange arranged a hasty press shoot where the members of The Moors Murderers kept their anonymity by covering their heads with pillow cases. According to Goodman three of the group in the photo are “Strange, Chrissie Hynde and Nick Holmes (Eater’s roadie who is believed to have played guitar on ‘Free Hindley’).” The fourth maybe Mal Hart, who played bass on the track.
Understandably, a band associating itself with the country’s most reviled child killers soon saw them damned by the press. On January 8th, 1978, the Sunday Mirror published an article on The Moors Murderers asking “Why Must They Be So Cruel?”
As Strange was mainly unknown, The Moors Murderers was labeled as Chrissie Hynde’s band, much to her chagrin, as she became the focus of the media’s ire.
In mid-January Sounds music paper ran an article on The Moors Murderers—now apparently three members, again with their heads covered though this time with black bin bags. The band played the Sounds journalist four of their tracks “Free Hindley,” “Caviar and Chips,” “Mary Bell” (about the child murderess) and “The Streets of the East End.”
According to Andrew Gallix, following the Sounds “showcase”
...the band played the Roxy on 13 January 1978, supporting Open Sore. Steve Strange was on vocals (calling himself Steve Brady) and Hynde was on guitar. Bob Kylie (Open Sore): “They were terrible! Absolutely dreadful!” On 28 January 1978, Strange told Sounds that he had left the band.
Whether “Free Hindley” was ever released as a single is debatable, but it was available on cassette as David Goodman recalls:
I remember hearing an acetate of the two recordings ‘Free Hindley’ and ‘The Ten Commandments’, possibly played to me by Nick Holmes the drummer. Not long after that, I saw an ad in the back of Melody Maker or NME for the sale of some ‘Moors Murderers’ acetates and cassettes @ £10 each I believe. I seem to remember Malcolm McLaren bringing that ad to my attention. Anyway, I didn’t buy one, I’d heard it once and that was enough.
Years later, when entering a record store in San Francisco, I saw a sign offering thousands of dollars for one. That was the only time I wished I’d grabbed one when I had the chance.
Chrissie Hynde went on to form the Pretenders in 1978, while Steve Strange eventually achieved success with electronic band Visage.
Below Chrissie Hynde talks about her involvement with The Moors Murderers.
The songwriters’ circle is very nearly as straightforward and intimate as an evening’s entertainment can get—a handful of musicians take turns discussing and performing their songs, one at a time, almost invariably acoustically, in a round-robin. The long-running BBC program Songwriters Circle is a straightforward take on the concept, but the participants are big names, and the show adds a tantalizing dash of collaborative elements. So when, in September of 1999, the show featured John Cale, Chrissie Hynde and Nick Cave, they were all in superb form, and it was full of fine performances. (When the show went badly, it could be pretty amazing too; Ryan Adams acting like a sullen tween on the episode he shared with Janis Ian and an increasingly frustrated Neil Finn is pretty legendary.)
Cale’s contributions drew largely from his 1974 album Fear, though “Dying on the Vine” from 1985’s Artificial Intelligence gets a lovely treatment here, as does “Ship of Fools,” on which Hynde and Cave accompany him. Hynde, for her part, also leans heavily on classics, with a guitar assist from the Katydids’ Adam Seymour, himself a latter-day Pretenders member. The newest song she performs is her 1996 ballad “I’ll Stand by You,” which became better known later for a cloying pop-country makeover by an American Idol winner. Cave jumped around his ‘90s catalog, performing “Henry Lee” from Murder Ballads, “The Ship Song” from The Good Son, and two songs from The Boatmans Call. It’s interesting to note that NONE of the three artists participating had new albums to hawk at the time of this broadcast. I wonder what the show’s curatorial criteria are—I have trouble imagining an American television show spending an hour with three musicians who have no new product. The program ends with all of them doing the Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for the Man.”
You can watch the entire broadcast here. I’ve indexed it for you so you can skip around if that’s your thing. The times mark the beginnings of the introductions, not the songs.
00:00 Ship Of Fools (Cale, rehearsal footage)
01:07 Thoughtless Kind (Cale)
03:33 Talk of The Town (Hynde)
07:21 West Country Girl (Cave)
09:31 Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend (Cale)
14:05 Kid (Hynde)
17:45 Henry Lee (Cave)
21:14 Dying On The Vine (Cale)
25:19 I’ll Stand By You (Hynde)
29:44 Into My Arms (Cave)
34:30 Ship Of Fools (Cale)
39:33 Back on the Chain Gang (Hynde)
43:32 The Ship Song (Cave)
46:54 I’m Waiting For The Man
Here’s a real treat: On the 10th of May, 2007 at London’s Barbican Centre, a diverse group of great musicians got together to honor the memory of the late Roger “Syd” Barrett, the founding member of Pink Floyd. The co-musical director for the show was one of my best friends, Adam Peters (you’ve heard his cello in Echo & The Bunnymen’s “Killing Moon,” “Life in a Northern Town” by The Dream Academy and on many albums. Adam also did the soundtrack to my Disinformation TV series and now he works on Hollywood films).
Also appearing with Roger Waters, was my former next door neighbor in NYC, Jon Carin. Jon actually has played with both Pink Floyd AND Roger Waters. I think he’s the only person to have had a foot in both camps, which was interesting position to be in, I think you’ll agree. Surely there’s a book in that!
When Adam got back from the concert, full of great stories about the experience, I was eager to hear a CD of the show, but he told me that it had deliberately not been recorded because the idea was that this was a very special event and if you were there, you saw and heard something amazing, but that it would… evaporate. Of course Pink Floyd fans being what they are, at least one enterprising fellow made a pretty good audience recording. Here ‘tis as generously shared by the quite wonderful Brain Damage podcast. The show starts about 7 minutes in. It’s pretty amazing.
This incredible event was a tribute to the late Roger “Syd” Barrett, produced by Nick Laird-Clowes (of Dream Academy) with associate producer Joe Boyd (early Pink Floyd’s producer and founder of legendary UFO club in London). Surprise performances from Roger Waters himself with Jon Carin then the entire current Pink Floyd line-up (David Gilmour, Richard Wright, Nick Mason) were absolutely unbelievable!
The numerous other artists performing Syd Barrett’s music included Damon Albarn (Blur/Gorillaz), Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders), The Bees, Vashti Bunyan, Captain Sensible, Robyn Hitchcock. The house band included Andy Bell (bass, Oasis), Simon Finley (drums, Echo & The Bunnymen) and Ted Barnes (guitar, Beth Orton). A remarkably fitting tribute to Roger “Syd” Barrett. Doctored for supersound!
1. Show intro
2. Bike - Sense of Sound Choir
3. Flaming - Captain Sensible & Monty Oxymoron
4. Here I Go - Kevin Ayers
5. Oh, What A Dream - Kevin Ayers
6. Baby Lemonade - Nick Laird-Clowes & Damon Albarn
7. Octopus - The Bees
8. The Gnome - Nick Laird-Clowes & Neulander (Adam Peters/Korinna Knoll)
9. Matilda Mother - Mike Heron
10. Golden Hair - Martha Wainwright, Kate McGarrigle & Lily Lanken
11. See Emily Play - Martha Wainwright, Kate McGarrigle & Lily Lanken
12. Flickering Flame - Roger Waters & Jon Carin
13. Video presentation
14. Chapter 24 - Gordon Anderson & Sense of Sound Choir
15. The Scarecrow - Vashti Bunyan, Gareth Dickson & Nick Laird-Clowes
16. Love Song - Vashti Bunyan, Gareth Dickson & Nick Laird-Clowes
17. Ian Barrett - Talking about his uncle Roger “Syd” Barrett
18. The Word Song - Damon Albarn, Kate St. John & David Coulter
19. Astronomy Domine - Captain Sensible & Jon Carin
20. Terrapin - Robyn Hitchcock
21. Gigolo Aunt - Robyn Hitchcock, John Paul Jones & Ruby Wright
22. Dark Globe - Chrissie Hynde & Adam Seymour
23. Late Night - Chrissie Hynde & Adam Seymour
24. Joe Boyd - Talking about Roger “Syd” Barrett and organising the show
25. Arnold Layne - David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright
26. Jugband Blues from video presentation
27. Bike - Jam Session with all musicians (except for Roger Waters)
Below, what would be the final performance by Pink Floyd. David Gilmour, Rick Wright and Nick Mason play “Arnold Layne” with Jon Carin (keyboards, vocals) and Andy Bell from Oasis (bass guitar).
Roger Waters and Captain Sensible videos after the jump…
Speaking of thee great Chrissie Hynde, here she is with the original line-up of The Pretenders (James Honeyman-Scott on lead guitar and keyboards; Pete Farndon on bass; Martin Chambers on drums) live on Rockpalast in 1981.
2. The Adulteress
3. Message of Love
4. Talk of the Town
5. English Roses
6. Birds of Paradise
8. Stop Your Sobbing
9. Private Life
10. Jealous Dogs
11. Day After Day
12. Up the Neck
13. Tattooed Love Boys
14. Bad Boys Get Spanked
16. Brass in Pocket
17. Mystery Achievement
I saw The Pretenders around this time and this is a pretty good approximation of what that experience was like. PLAY IT LOUD!
Brian Eno’s reputation as an aficionado of rather extreme pornography is by now well-known, but at the time of future Pretender Chrissie Hynde’s 1974 profile in the NME, he was just letting the cat out of the bag. What an extraordinary thing for a pop star, even one with Eno’s avant garde pedigree, to admit to in 1974!
But what’s even stranger is the casual reference to Eno being an “elite” film star. What the hell does that mean? Is he referring to actually being in the films himself?
“It’s a burning shame that most people want to keep pornography under cover when it’s such a highly developed art form - which is one of the reasons that I started collecting pornographic playing cards I’ve got about 50 packs which feature on all my record covers for the astute observer.
“There’s something about pornography which has a similarity to rock music. A pornographic photographer aims his camera absolutely directly, at the centre of sexual attention. He’s not interested in the environment of the room.
“I hate the sort of photography in Penthouse and Playboy which is such a compromise between something to give you a hard-on and something which pretends to be artistic. The straight pornographers aim right there where it’s at.
“Which is analogous to so many other situations where somebody thinks one thing is important, so they focus completely on that and don’t realize they’re unconsciously organizing everything else around it as well. I have such beautiful pornography - I’ll show you my collection sometime.
The last guy invited me up to see his etchings.
“One theory is that black-and-white photography is always more sexy than colour photography. The reason for this is provided by Marshall McLuhan, who points out that if a thing is ‘high definition,’ which colour photography is, it provides more information and doesn’t require participation as much as if it is ‘low definition’.” I.e. a horror play on the radio is always very, very frightening because the imagery is always your own. If youUre choosing your own imagery, you’ll always choose the most frightening, or in the case of pornography, the most sexual.
“The idea of things being low definition has always interested me a lot - of being unspecific - another thing which is a key-point of my lyrics. They must be ‘low definition’ so that they don’t say anything at all direct. I think the masters of that were Lou Reed and Bob Dylan (on “Blonde on BIonde”). The lyrics are so inviting.
“DO YOU KNOW WHAT ‘burning shame’ is by the way? It’s a pornographic term for a deviation involving candles.
“Very popular in Japanese pornography. They’re always using lit candles because Japanese pornography is very sadistic, partly because of the Japanese view of women, which is a mixture of resentment and pure animal lust.
“In the traditional view, a woman is still expected to be at the beck and call of her husband, so that manifests itself in that kind of pornography. Of which I have a few examples, of course.
“Mexican pornography is an interesting island of thought because they seem to be heavily into excretory functions. The traditional American view is that anything issued from the body is dirty. It’s incredibly puritanical and it resents bodily fluids, so if one is trying to debase a woman, you cover them with that and hence you get the fabulous term ‘Golden Showers’ - the term for pissing on someone, which some well- known rock musicians are said to be very involved in . .
“Here come the warm jets?”
“That’s certainly a reference.”
That he’s considered to be a film star of sorts in a few very ‘elite’ circles. - Any chance of him making a comeback to the Screen?
“Some of the movies I did were very funny - they had to pretend to have a plot. Ha ha. [Emphasis added]
“Can I show you my pubic area?” (! ! !) He exposes his stomach down to his, ah - about six inches below his Navel. “Absolutely bare! Now I’ve got this beautiful bare belly! I’ve got this new Japanese thing, you see and the Japanese don’t have much hair on their bodies ‘Japanese culture I tip as the next big thing.”
I glance nervously over at the flickering candle on the windowsill. Out of nowhere, Eno produces a very extraordinary looking object which he explains to be the ‘Double Punkt Roller’, a massage device used in Victorian times. I marvel at its aesthetic qualities and he assures me that it can only be fully appreciated when used on the bare buttocks. We conclude that art which demands participation holds the greatest appeal.
I have a friend who swears up and down he once saw Eno in a sleazy mid-70s porno loop, in a big “daisy-chain” orgy scene (“Who else had such a hairstyle back then?” he’d ask). I always dismissed this, but maybe he was right?
From Sire Records’ promo for The Pretenders’ album Last of the Independents.
• Don’t moan about being a chick, refer to feminism or complain about sexist discrimination. We’ve all been thrown down stairs and fucked about, but no one wants to hear a whining female. Write a loosely disguised song about it instead and clean up ($).
• Never pretend you know more than you do. If you don’t know chord names, refer to the dots. Don’t go near the desk unless you plan on becoming an engineer.
• Make the other band members look and sound good. Bring out the best in them; that’s your job. Oh, and you better sound good, too.
• Do not insist on working with “females”; that’s just more b.s. Get the best man for the job. If it happens to be a woman, great — you’ll have someone to go to department stores with on tour instead of making one of the road crew go with you.
• Try not to have a sexual relationship within the band. It always ends in tears.
• Don’t think that sticking your boobs out and trying to look fuckable will help. Remember you’re in a rock and roll band. It’s not “fuck me,” it’s “fuck you”!
• Don’t try to compete with the guys; it won’t impress anybody. Remember, one of the reasons they like you is because you don’t offer yet more competition to the already existing male egos.
• If you sing, don’t “belt” or “screech.” No one wants to hear that shit; it sounds “hysterical.”
• Shave your legs, for chrissakes!
• Don’t take advice from people like me. Do your own thing always.
From 2003, The Importance of Being Morrissey is the most revealing and quotable documentary made on Steven Patrick Morrissey.
In it he compares meat eating to child abuse; attacks the Royal Family and Tony Blair; responds to the accusations of racism; and we hear about his depression. There’s also some great concert footage, and a mixed selection of celebrity fans who explain their fervor for the Mozz: J K Rowling identifies with Morrissey in a darkened room, though still won’t give up bacon; former neighbor, playwright Alan Bennett couldn’t say his name, but thinks he has an interesting face with a story to tell; Will Self likes his muscular intellect; Noel Gallagher thinks he is the greatest ever lyricist; Chrissie Hynde thinks people who don’t get him can go fuck themselves; Bono thinks he’s funny; and Nancy Sinatra says he’s a great hugger.
Nice homage to iconic female rockers with these cool skateboard decks, “Girls Girls Girls” from Girl’s 2010 Summer collection. Sadly, it appears they are no longer available on Girl’s website, but with a lil’ investigating, you’ll be able to find them. Ebay, perhaps?
Journalist Nick Kent not only wrote about rock and roll, he lived it. And it almost killed him. In his new memoir Apathy For The Devil: A Seventies Memoir, Kent describes his crash and burn lifestyle among London’s rock royalty and some of punk’s royal assholes during the 1970s. Like Lester Bangs and Hunter S. Thompson, Kent was not content to merely observe the action, he had to become a part of it.
From snorting massive amounts of blow and heroin with Keith Richards and witnessing David Bowie screw a groupie in full view of Bowie’s wife Angie to being revived from a drug overdose by Rod Stewart and almost dying in Iggy Pop’s arms, Kent seemed to have a knack for infiltrating scenes few journalist could get close to and few would have had the guts to. Perhaps it was his own rock star good looks, mod fashion sense and druggy excess that made him appear as glamorous and dangerous as some of the rockers he wrote about. While Bangs was mastering the slob aesthetic, Kent was wearing threads from boutiques like Sex.
Kent also managed to piss alot of people off. After writing a tell-all piece for NME in which he quoted some less than flattering remarks Page made about film maker Kenneth Anger, Kent was confronted by Anger who lived up to his name by shouting “I just have to crook this little finger and Jimmy Page will automatically be transformed into a toad!”
Even though Kent was an early member of The Sex Pistols and introduced them to American punk, his relationship with Malcolm McClaren and the band took a very nasty turn.
Kent ended up playing guitar for two months in an early line-up of the Sex Pistols, whom he taught the songs of Iggy Pop’s proto-punk band the Stooges. Distrustful of Kent’s growing influence over the Pistols’ main guitarist Steve Jones, McLaren got the group’s bassist Glen Matlock to fire him, a departure Kent didn’t mourn at the time — because “I was a middle-class druggie fop and they were working-class spivs who would steal the gold out of their mothers’ teeth” — but which had murderous consequences. A year later while attending a Sex Pistols gig at the 100 Club, Kent was the victim of an unprovoked bicycle chain attack by Sid Vicious, sustaining a terrible head wound that he was too stoned to feel at the time but that, he later realized, nearly killed him.”
In 1973 Kent fell in love with Chrissie Hynde, who had yet to find her rock and roll muse and was working in a boutique on King’s Road. The relationship ended badly in 1974.
While she was working at Malcolm McLaren and Viviene Westwood’s Sex Shop, Hynde later told Jon Savage - in his essential history of British punk, England’s Dreaming - a jealous Kent came into the shop looking to whip her with his belt, causing her to flee to Paris.
Nick takes some credit for inspiring Hynde to pick up a guitar and form a band. He claims to mentoring Hynde, which sounds arrogant or possibly delusional until you listen to Kent’s musical output.
In 1975 Kent formed a band called The Subterraneans with Rat Scabies and Bryan James, who both later moved on to spearhead The Damned. In 1980, The Subterraneans (with Scabies on drums) recorded “My Flamingo” and “Veiled Women.” It was the same year that Chrissie’s band The Pretenders released their debut album and there’s a remarkable similarity in feel, attitude and sound between Kent and Hynde’s music. Is this the result of two lovers absorbing each other’s style? Or mentoring? Whatever the case, Nick’s tunes are every bit as good as most of the music coming out in the late 70s/early 80s. You can hear both tracks in the video below.
A new edition of Apathy For The Devil: A Seventies Memoir is being released in February. You can snag a copy here.