‘A Pig is a Pig’: Wendy O. Williams on sexism and female objectification in 1981
10:40 am

The Plasmatics at The Rathskeller in Boston. Photo generously provided by Mike Mayhan.


You Can Dress Up In Disguises
You Can Try To Mesmerize ‘em
You Can Surround
Yourself With Friends
Who Tell You What You Want To Hear
But In The End No Matter What You Do
You Will Come Shining Through

A few lyrics from the Plasmatics 1981 song “A Pig is a Pig”
I wasn’t old enough to truly appreciate Plasmatics vocalist and heavy metal crusader Wendy O. Williams during her punk-era heyday. But by the time I figured out who I wanted to be sometime in the late 80s I was fully in awe of her.

Williams was an inspiration for me back when I had become brave enough to put myself out into the world—writing about music, weirdness and other lowbrow pursuits. She was confident, strong and never ever took a backseat to anyone. Not the press who hounded her, people who flat out didn’t understand her and chose to label her as “obscene,” or the cops who sent her to the hospital when she defied them. Last week was a challenge to me as a human. I know I wasn’t the only one who laid in bed a lot because the contemplation of what our future looks like was too much for me to handle while standing up. I’m now past my “mourning” period and have moved on to being very fucking angry.

Basically, I hate conformity. I hate people telling me what to do. It makes me want to smash things. So-called normal behaviour patterns make me so bored, I could throw up!—W.O.W.

As a woman, forward thinker—and a mother—I want you to listen to Wendy share her feelings spoken some 35 years ago about sexism and female objectification—two negative attitudes that have become even more magnified (as well as seemingly completely acceptable to half of the residents of the U.S.) of late. They echo the spirit of lyrics of the Plasmatics powerful (and timely) song, “Pig is a Pig” (from the band’s second release Beyond the Valley of 1984) which Williams’ references during the short interview with Jeanne Beker on the Toronto-based The Music Show back in 1981. While trying to sort through all the madness that has been the past week, like many of you I relied on music to get me through as nothing else made any fucking sense. When I came across the footage of Wendy O’s interview I felt a distinct wave of reassurance thanks to her powerful words and point-blank fuck-this-bullshit attitude which are very much reflective of the many emotions I’ve been rollercoastering through myself.

More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb
10:40 am
Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders get bombarded by cream pies (and worse) on kids TV show

The Pretenders giving zero fucks.
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.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Brass in Pocket: The Pretenders live in Germany, 1981
Music for Wanking: Brian Eno discusses his porno collection with Chrissie Hynde, 1974

Posted by Cherrybomb
09:40 am
‘Spasticus Autisticus’: The day the BBC banned Ian Dury

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.”

As Ed Speight later told Will Birch for his definitive biography of Ian Dury:

‘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.

More from Ian Dury, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
04:41 pm
The Brixton Riots: 30 years later

Thirty years ago today, the famous Brixton riot of spring 1981 brought the long-simmering issues of class, race and police repression to the front pages and TV screens of England.

Brixton was definitely not the first sign of racial unrest in the Thatcher era. A police raid on the Black & White Café in Bristol’s economically hard-hit St. Pauls district the year before had led to a day-long riot among Caribbean youth. And police apathy in investigating a fire at a party on New Cross Road in early ’81 fuelled the notion in South London’s black community that their lives were perceived by the cops as worthless.

In the days before things jumped off in Brixton’s Lambeth area on April 10, cops had launched the charmingly named Operation Swamp 81 in an attempt to curb local robbery and burglary. Over a week, officers stopped almost 1,000 mostly black people—including three members of the Lambeth Community Relations Council—and arrested 118.

Combined with the extremely high unemployment rate among Brixton’s sons and daughters of the Windrush generation of Caribbean immigrants, and the rise of organized white racist activism, the community’s temperature was at peak. As one of the youths put it in one of the films below: “Jobs, money, then National Front…something was bound to happen.” Confusion and bad-faith rumors around police involvement around a stabbing incident was all it took to set off two days of fighting.

The implications of the multiracial Brixton riot unfolded throughout the subsequent summer of that year in Handsworth, Chapletown and Toxteth. Despite the improvements and gentrification that Brixton has seen since ’81, the place hasn’t been free of unrest.

In 2001, director Rachel Currie produced The Battle for Brixton, one of the authoritative video chronicles of the revolt, for the First Edition program.

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6
After the jump: on-the-ground footage from community members, and Brixton’s impact on music.

Posted by Ron Nachmann
08:52 pm