Revival Mod and Other Epiphanies By Peter Sceats
Epiphanous moments in life do not typically come conveniently tagged or identified as such. On the road to Mod-dom I had three:
September 1977, seated in the back of dad’s Morris Marina estate at junction of Ilford Lane and the High Road, a guy on a modded up Lambretta was turning in front of us. He was wearing a parka, tonic trousers and tasselled loafers with white socks (there was a short time where this was the height of cool... no really!).
I remember it like it was yesterday. But to be totally frank it did not seem wildly significant at the time and as scooterist of 36 years I have to admit it was not so much the Lambretta that caught my eye, it was the trouser bottom, sock and shoe combination...
Like many male teenagers of my time, I rather wanted something called a Fizzy. To give it its real name it was Yamaha FS1E. It was a moped (in that it was less than 50cc and you could, technically, pedal it – although not in real life...). In reality a little motorbike with pedals for footrests... My school mate Barry Winch-Furness let me ride his Fizzy. I liked it! My mum was happy with the idea of her youngest son on two wheels but she gave in after a while and let me have the Suzuki version of the Fizzy. I liked it but I didn’t love it... I wanted something bigger and asked for a bike called a Yamaha LC 250. Mum was having none of it.
After much lobbying she said she would allow me to have “one of those scooter things because they are slower and if you fall off there is all that bodywork to land on the hard road before you do...”.
Fast forward a month or so and I found myself in Mason’s of Wanstead overseen by my dad trying to choose between a new, but 60s looking, Vespa, or something from Vespa’s “New Line” called a P125X. I was attracted by the rather unreliable indicators and bright orange colour. It was an easy choice.
In the run up to Christmas 1978, standing outside the Chinese in Kings Road Chingford – we used to go there for a cheeky chow mein or a banana fritter after lagers at the Horseless Carriage Chingford – I saw a guy walk past on the other side of the road wearing a parka and white topped pointed Gibson shoes walking purposefully towards Station Road. I was smitten.
I had metaphorically been touched by the hand of Mod. Considering I was a scooterist before Epiphany Three hit me... Open doors require little pushing.
Life changed course right there, that day. I was never the same again.
Mod, you see, to those of us who approached it in a fundamentalist and evangelical way came with a secret code. The code was based on history, rules, guidelines, advisories; indeed a whole framework for living, working, dancing, music and dress.
To a rather lost East London kid drifting along with whatever was current, it was like being given a map with clear directions to a bright sunlight upland where clothes, music and yes life all made much more sense.
To me it was never a youth cult, I did not “become” a Mod because it was fashionable or to follow any friends (quite the opposite in fact...), I immersed myself in it wholly and forever because quite simply I had to. There was never a Plan B. And frankly Plan A was not itself planned. It just happened upon me.
I read everything on Mod I could lay my hands on. Mined all the music I could. Scoured Oxfam for suits, shirts, shoes from the 60s and I followed closely the fashions and trends that us new “revival” Mods were making ourselves.
I met my friend Spike Hull in Station Road Chingford on his Lambretta one day outside a curry house. Together we went to the Vicroys SC weekly meet at The Hercules in Lambeth. The DJ was a guy called Tony and he played all manner of Motown, Merseybeat, Dave Clark Five, Manfred Mann and The Kinks... not all Mod by any means but these were the days before Mod DJs had disappeared up their own arses. It was magnificent. Six scooters outside the first week we went, a month or so later there were 60.
Musically we grew. The DJ - an affable Londoner who adopted the surname Class – showed the way.
I mapped music in my head. I decided (with the clarity only a teenager has) that the music of the first half of the century went two ways: one took the high road to R&B, Modern Jazz, Soul and Power Pop; while the other took the low road to Trad Jazz, Rock ‘n Roll and commercialised nonsense.
Of course it was rubbish but it made me very happy to think I was part of a higher musical caste for a while...
Fashion-wise we grew. From stalls a Walthamstow market to made to measure at Hepworths. I read about the US college fashions, discovered “Ivy Look” and never looked back...
Spike and I were joined by my old School friend Mick Tomlinson and three of us went to gig after gig: The Venue Victoria, the 100 Club, The Marquee etc..
To Mod night after Mod night: The Mildmay, The Phoenix and so many more. Six nights and one Sunday lunchtime every week, we were dressed up, out on our scooters and having a ball.
Many of the original 60s singers and bands were still touring. We saw the likes of Martha Reeves, Edwin Starr and (I still pinch myself) Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane. Of the Mod Revival or Mod friendly bands we saw the likes of The Jam, Secret Affair, Nine Below Zero and my favourite The Q Tips.
The Q Tips at the Marquee was probably my best ever gig. I was front of the crowd, literally at the stage with Paul Young at the top of his game just inches away. The swirling Hammond and brass section dancing and singing my socks off. “SYSLJFM... save your sweet love just for me...”. Wonderful.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The First Punk Rock Pro Vegan Horror Movie?
I only hear the silver screams of pain
He's coming for you again and again
There's no escape,there's no way out
The Damned Nasty 1984
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was filmed under extremely gruelling conditions from 15 July 1973 - 14 August 1973,originally scheduled to be a short two week shoot the film eventually took four weeks to complete,the films budget was originally estimated
to be only a minuscule $60,000 but it was more nearer $140,000 by the time principle editing was completed.
The film crew worked seven days a week, 16 hours a day, in the summertime in one of the state of Texas' notoriously brutal heat waves where the daytime temperature was over 100 degrees.
Everyone who worked on the film later recalled that the stench from the rotting food and people's body odour was so terrible that some crew members passed out or became sick from the smell. Actor Edwin Neal who played the hitch-hiker claimed: "Filming that scene was the worst time of my life... and I had been in Vietnam, with people trying to kill me, so I guess that shows how bad it was."
It was only director Tobe Hoopers 2nd feature film,the first being the rarely seen Eggshells an avant garde feature film with supernatural elements to it and very far removed from the horrors of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Hooper apparently clashed with many of the cast and crew on set by making them work long hours in appalling conditions and actor Edwin Neal was reported to have said he would kill Hooper if he ever met him again.
However all of the above worked in the films favour as the actors play there somewhat limited parts very well and realistically convey the claustrophobic terror of the horrific situations especially the late actress Marilyn Burns who played the lead role of Sally Hardesty a true scream queen in the fine tradition of Fay Wray who screamed her way thru the original 1933 film King Kong.
Hooper allowed lead actor Gunnar Hansen to develop the character of Leatherface as he saw fit, under his supervision. Hansen decided that Leatherface was mentally retarded and never learned to talk properly, so he went to a school for the mentally disabled and watched how they moved and listened to them talk to get a feel for the character.
Hansen said that, during filming, he didn't get along very well with actor Paul A. Partain, who played wheel chair bound Franklin. A few years later, Hanson met Partain again and realized that Partain, a method actor, had simply chosen to stay in character even when not filming. The two apparently remained good friends up until Partains' death in 2005.
The films underlining message is most definately anti-meat and could easily turn the casual movie viewer off meat for life after witnessing the abatoir like antics of the Sawyer family.
The film eventually premiered in Dallas,Texas on 1st October 1974 and went on to make a whopping $30,859,000 in the United States not bad for a low budget movie costing $140,000.
When it was first released, the film was so horrifying that people actually walked out on sneak previews for it.
Apparently some of these early screenings involved a guy dressed up as Leatherface complete with working chainsaw who jumped out at the audience during the slaughter of Franklin,one of the films scariest moments and easily up there with the head/boat scene in Jaws a few years later.
Tobe Hooper intended to make the movie for a "PG" rating, by keeping violence moderate and language mild, but despite cutting and repeated submissions, the Ratings Board insisted on the "R" rating for the effectiveness of what is onscreen and what is implied offscreen.
The film's original US distributor was Bryanston Distribution Company, in fact a Mafia front operated by Louis "Butchie" Peraino, who used the movie to launder profits he made from the notorious porno movie Deep Throat (1972). In return, the production received only enough money to reimburse the investors and pay the cast and crew $405 a piece. The producers eventually discovered that Peraino had lied to them about the film's profits; after Peraino was arrested on obscenity charges when his role in Deep Throat was revealed, the cast and crew filed a suit against him and were awarded $25,000 each. New Line Cinema, which obtained the rights to "Chain Saw" from the bankrupt Bryanston, paid the cast and crew as part of the purchase agreement.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre received a mixed reaction upon its initial release but was eventually deemed by most critics to be a worthy and powerful film in its own right.
European Censorship issues
The film was rejected by the British film censors in 1975, but it did get a limited cinema release in the London area thanks to the GLC (Greater London Council) and ran for one whole year at the Prince Charles Theatre. It was banned again in 1977, when the censors' attempts to cut it were unsuccessful, (for the purposes of an X certificate wider release), then it was effectively banned again in 1984,when the 1984 Video Recordings Act was introduced. in1999, after the censors finally changed their policy, following the departure of James Ferman they took the plunge, and passed it uncut, for the cinema and video, after 25 years, since they first banned it.
The film also has had a long and troubled "relationship" with German law. The original theatrical version in West Germany was denied a rating and therefore cut. In 1982, the film was put on the index for youth-endangering media. Then in 1985, the film was banished by the Munich district court and all existing copies were confiscated. Over the years the film was released on VHS and DVD in various (legal and illegal) versions, mostly cut. Since April 2008, the new German licensee, Turbine Medien, has tried to get the banishment revoked and the film removed from the index. Only in September 2011, the district court of Frankfurt/Main finally lifted the banishment of the film (it is the first time in Germany that such an attempt was successful, making judiciary history). Finally, in December 2011 the film was removed from the BPJM index and subsequently rated "Not under 18" by the FSK.
The film was banned in French Cinemas until censorship restrictions were lifted in 1982.
Mark Williams with thanks to IMDB and Wikipedia
“Searching for the Young Soul Rebels” – Dexys Midnight Runners
So, this is the first in a new series of features about hearing great albums for the first time and the impact those albums had on us. To start the series, I’ve picked an album which will be thirty-five years old this year and it’s certainly wearing a lot better than I am. It’s the Dexys Midnight Runners debut album “Searching for the Young Soul Rebels”. It was released on July 11th 1980 and peaked in the UK album charts at Number Six, but that doesn’t tell you anything like the whole story. This is an album that is still revered by thousands of fans and regularly appears in best albums of all time charts. As far as I’m concerned, I’m still happy to pull out my vinyl copy of the album any time, stick it on the SL1200 and listen from start to finish; it’s still a great piece of work and, like all classics, people love it for different reasons, not all of them musical.
So, just let me give you a bit of context here. In October 1979, the final year of freedom before joining the real world was just beginning. The final year of university, a last chance for free gigs and as much DJing as I could wedge in before finally trying to justify four years of a local authority grant. We were just starting to read in the NME about some new bands and styles emerging in London and the West Midlands and coming to terms with the prospect of five years of Thatcher (if only we knew then…). A lot of the new music seemed to have a harder edge; punk had come and gone but it had left behind a feeling that anyone could be in a band. The university circuit was a great place to see bands and I was lucky enough to be at a university that was on the circuit (ok, Dundee, if you must know). It was going to be an interesting year.
During the usual beer and catch-up session with the Ents crew (the PC alternative to trying to seduce freshers) we would talk about music we’d bought between June and October (don’t those holidays seem incredibly long now?) and the bands we’d seen. There weren’t a lot of those if you lived in Mansfield. In October 1980, Phil Madvert (our Ents Committee cartoonist, poet and poster designer) came back from Birmingham all fired up about this new band called Dexys Midnight Runners that were going to be huge; yeah, of course mate, just like City Boy. But Phil was absolutely on the money and we were gracious enough to admit it when we heard “Dance Stance”; this was the real thing.
On February 3rd 1980 (less than a week before their first Top of the Pops appearance) Dexys played at Dundee University Students’ Association. They DJ on the night was incredible- yeah, ok, it was me and I was scared shitless because I’d read all about Kevin’s perfectionism. Anyway, I scraped through and Dexys were stunning; I was already converted before the album was even released. When the album finally came out, I was back in the real world, working for a living and realising how different (and how much harder) it was. Even though three songs from the album had been released as singles (and “Geno” had topped the charts) I couldn’t wait to hear how it had all been put together.
Now, please tell me I’m not the only person who did this; I got back home with album at about 11am on Monday morning, I put the album on the deck, dropped the stylus and heard the very quiet sound of a radio being tuned across the dial (if you’re younger than 45, ask your parents about that) so I turned up the volume until I could hear “Smoke on the Water”, “Holidays in the Sun” and “Rat Race” in succession through the static, and then the brass intro to “Burn It Down” nearly blew the bloody roof off. Wouldn’t have been so bad, but my dad was on nights; I don’t know who was less popular, me or Dexys.
So, “Burn it Down”; well it was the single “Dance Stance” with a different title, a title that made a lot more sense in the context of the album. There are some tracks that are perfect album openers (how about the Manics’ “Slash ‘n’ Burn” from “Generation Terrorists”?) and “Burn It Down” is one of those, from the radio sweeping the airwaves, through Kevin Rowland’s exhortation to Al (Kevin) Archer and Big Jim to ‘burn it down’, to the brass intro on steroids, it’s perfect. The lyrics were about the stupidity of Irish stereotypes, but you could apply to any of the other racial or gender stereotypes prevalent at the time, even in politically correct students’ unions. And into “Tell Me When My Light Turns Green” with its big opening brass riff, powerfully personal lyrics, Kevin Rowland’s falsetto and the soon-to-be characteristic swooping vocals and a nailed-on trombone solo from Jim Patterson. The line ‘I’ve been manic-depressive and I’ve spat a few tears’ seemed odd at the time, but it makes sense now with some historical context. Even now, “The Teams That Meet in Caffs” is one of the most evocative instrumentals in my collection; it’s note-perfect from the acoustic guitar and bass intro through the entry of the Hammond and then the brass section which takes the lead through the track. The brass is relatively simple, tight ensemble playing until the soaring alto sax solo which takes us up to the fade; it’s the perfect soul instrumental.
“I’m Just Looking”, pulls you in with a whispered vocal and Hammond intro, before settling into a slow, impassioned, vocal backed by more subtle and delicate brass arrangements with lovely use of dynamics to enhance the power of the song. As for “Geno”, well it had already been a hit when the album came out; it was a rabble-rousing, stomping anthem which acknowledged the influence on Kevin Rowlands of Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band, but with the sting in the tail ‘now you’re all over your song is so tame’. It was about the impact that music can have on a purely visceral level (‘Academic inspiration you gave me none’) and it was spot on for its era.
Side Two (force of habit, I’ve got this on CD as well but I always think of it as vinyl) opens with a cover of Chuck Wood’s Northern Soul classic “Seven Days Too Long”, which is faster than the original and uses the brass section more emphatically to punch out the fills. It’s another acknowledgement of the roots of Dexys music and a great cover. “I Couldn’t Help It If I Tried” is slow and powerful, featuring Kevin Rowland’s full range of vocal tricks and the brass section playing chords and arpeggios to build the mood. There’s even a nice trombone solo from Jim. “Thankfully Not Living in Yorkshire it Doesn’t Apply” is a bit of an interesting one; it’s taken at almost breakneck speed, and the vocal in the verses is entirely falsetto. It just about works but I suspect it isn’t most people’s favourite song on the album.
And then we’re into the home straight with “Keep It”. It’s medium-paced and pushed along by the pulse of the Hammond and brass in the choruses. In common with the final song, the lyrics are about an unwillingness to commit, but I’ll come back to that. And just before the climactic closer, there’s a poem, a bloody poem backed with a sax solo. Listening to it now, it seems less odd than it did then; it’s a love poem about the concept of love and the lies it makes people tell each other and themselves and it works really well apart from the pause after ‘won’t’ which disrupts the flow of ‘We all feel something I won’t pretend just for you’. Poetry critics, feel free to disagree with me.
The final track, “There There My Dear” was released as the taster single for the album in July 1980 and, for me, it summed up Dexys. It roared in on a wave of Hammond and horns before the General Johnson vocal trill pulled us in to the first verse; now that’s how to start a song. Lyrically, it’s in the form of a letter to a character who’s trying hard to be fashionable by not making any mistakes but won’t commit to anything worthwhile. At times the words are shoehorned in, but it really doesn’t matter because it’s a majestic noise. When the breakdown comes at just after two minutes, we’re left with bass, drums and quiet brass and Hammond which gradually build up (after finally bringing in the title of the album) to the album’s message – ‘Maybe you should welcome the new soul vision’ before ripping into the final verse and brass fade. You can probably guess what I did next; yep, flip it over and back to the start again.
So, why did this album have such a big impact on me (and thousands of others) at this time? Well, how about the musical reasons? I grew up listening to a lot of different music in the early 70s, but the soundtrack for the shared musical experiences was basically Stax, Atlantic, Motown and Northern Soul, so the Dexys sound was tapping into a vein of nostalgia, but it was much more than that. This wasn’t just some limp tribute band; they had taken the aggression that punk had spawned and combined it with those old soul stylings. The guitar wasn’t the dominant instrument in the line-up (the only time you really hear a guitar stand out on the album is on “The Teams That Meet in Caffs”, and then it’s an acoustic); it’s all about the horns and the Hammond and Kevin’s tortured vocal. And the thing about the horns is that they are LOUD; it was a deliberate production decision which gives a punchier, punkier sound to the songs. The album isn’t one-paced, there’s a lot of dynamic variation and the horns play punchy fills, tight ensembles, counterpoint and even the occasional solo (but not too many of those).
But we all knew it wasn’t just about the music, there was an attitude (the attitude that had terrified me when I had to DJ just before they played), there was a commitment, there was even a bloody manifesto. There was an insistence on dealing with the press and the public on their own terms; the one-page essays in the press to replace interviews and the communiques that arrived as inserts with the singles. They even kidnapped their own master tapes from EMI to secure a better deal. Attitude? And the rest, mate.
And then there’s the image. The Marlon Brando longshoreman look that supposedly came from the way Big Jim was dressed at a really cold rehearsal (Dexys fans please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on that). It wasn’t a look that was designed to sell clothes from your boutique (yes, you, Mr McLaren), it was a look that working class kids could understand and copy without paying a fortune and it made them look unified and menacing; it was the group as a gang. They were portrayed as a group of outsiders, united by a common look and a musical vision; you were never quite sure which side of the law they were on (they talked about bunking the train to London in interviews, while they still did them) and anyone could join their gang.
The timing was right; punk had self-imploded and John Lydon had admitted it over two years before with his “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” question at his final Pistols gig. The Clash had moved on, The Damned had always been a joke, and the rump of the movement was flirting with Nazi iconography and straight-baiting make-up. The epicentre of rebellion had shifted to the West Midlands and it felt more authentic and less stage-managed by the likes of Malcolm McLaren and Bernie Rhodes (although he did feature at the start); it was being led by musicians and it felt so much better because of that.
For me personally, it was a bridge between my teenage years, my student years and the real world that I’d finally dropped into. It was music I loved being made by people that cared and it was intended to be played loud; it’s still a touchstone for judging new albums. That’s how “Searching for the Young Soul Rebels” felt and still feels to me.
Many thanks to Allan McKay for letting us re-publish this great article and Musicriot.co.uk
Killing Joke Back Catalogue Review By Mark Finnigan
Virgin KJRE 5
Virgin KJRE 6
Brighter Than A Thousand Suns
Virgin KJRE 7
Outside The Gate
Virgin KJRE 8
Extremities, Dirt And Various Repressed Emotions
Candlelight CANDLE 144 CDSE
Remastered masterpieces with extras from the most influential post punk band.
In a sad irony these reissues come just as Paul Raven shuffles off his mortal coil. They encompass virtually his whole recording career with the band and are a monument to his massive contribution to the band’s sound. Raven was the Joke’s second bass player taking over after original incumbent Youth was sacked. Youth gave the band a funky edge. Raven with his harder rock based style moved the band in different direction giving them an even harder sound.
His first run out with the band was Fire Dances an album that finds the band struggling to emulate their previous release, the immense Revelations. It’s not a bad album but the band appeared to be in two minds as to whether to follow a more commercial road or stick to their post punk guns. For the most part the famous butcher’s slab drums of previous albums are replaced with a gentle tribal throb reminiscent of Adam and the Ants. There’s the blatant attempt at hit single. Let’s Go To the Fire Dances with Geordie’s most tuneful riff. All is not lost though as new boy Raven steps up to the plate with his brutal, beefy bass in Dominator.
By 1985’s Night Time the band had made their artistic choice, remaining true to their no sell out ideals but with a slight commercial tinge. Producer Chris Kimsey was crucial to the band being able to walk this artistic credibility tightrope learning from his mistakes of Fire Dances. If proof were needed of the Kimsey affect he gave them their breakthrough hit – A Love Like Blood and their best album chart placing. The album is also watershed for vocalist Jaz Coleman as he actually shows he can sing in a conventional way.
On Brighter Than A Thousands Suns the band were in the process of emulating Night Time’s commercial and artistic success only to be mugged at the mixing desk when a Julian Mendelsohn glossy sheen was imposed on them at the final hour. Thankful EMI have restored the original tougher more organic Kimsey mix. Outside The Gate finds a band in turmoil and Raven and drummer Paul Ferguson no longer present.
However it is not the stinker everyone seems to think. In truth it is a good album and in some places great. It maybe different and synthesiser soaked but deserves to be listened to without prejudice. The title track alone is a work of genius.
After Outside The Gate Virgin threw in the towel and the band moved to an independent and released Extremities, now loving reissued by Candlelight. To my ears it is the band’s greatest work. Combining all the things they do best from the relentless slow burning of Inside the Termite Mound to the searing metal roar of Money Is Not Our God which sees Coleman in full bellowing flight. Simply awesome.