Tag Archives: 1985

The Cravats

IF EVER there was an archetypal ‘John Peel band’, whatever that actually means, then the Cravats are probably it. It seemed like they were doing sessions for Peelie’s legendary late-night Radio One every couple of weeks at one point but I only really began paying attention when they released their seminal single Rub Me Out on Crass Records in 1982.


Although they largely conformed to the Crass ‘format’ in the single’s packaging, with the front cover featuring the title picked out in the Crass label’s trademark circular stencil, the image in the centre wasn’t some convoluted hybrid CND/anarchy A logo or whatever, but actually featured a member of the band.

I imagined Crass fans all over the UK asking: are these blokes on some kind of ego trip or what? Maybe it was just me being as daft as a brush.

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Death Valley 69 by Sonic Youth (Homestead Records)

I’M PRETTY sure that Death Valley 69 was the first Sonic Youth record I ever bought, prompted by hearing it on John Peel’s radio show or reading about it in fanzines and the NME – the principal arbiters of my tastes in those days.

It was a lovely little package. Its front cover features a vintage Savage Pencil grotesque on a bright pink background, while the reverse has a photo of the band in the back of a candy-pink pick-up truck, in an airport, at night. I thought it was an impossibly glamorous scene.

In fact Thurston Moore’s look – a hooded top with khaki jacket over it, couture fans – exerted a strong influence on my own fashion choices for a good five years afterwards.

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Blyth Power

“I THINK a lot of people might come expecting something like the Mob.”

“The thing is, a lot of people come to see us in London who I never saw at a Mob gig. And nobody came to see Zounds in any case.”

“Out of London, it’s still very strange to people. In London we’ve had whole places dancing. People are even getting special dances together to cope with the slow ones ..”

It’s not like Blyth Power avoid talking about the past. They’re quite ready to talk about the past, even if you ask them direct questions like, how much is your popularity to do with the Mob? They’re not afraid of it. They just think that what they’re doing now is a lot more important and interesting. I’m inclined to agree with them.

Josef: “At Adam & Eve’s in Leeds, they put ‘ex-Mob’ on the posters and a lot of people walked out when we didn’t play Mob songs.”

Andy: “That happened in Doncaster as well. There was about 10 people and the hall was massive. There was a skinhead sitting at the front who obviously loved the Mob and he sat there through the set and halfway through he just got up and walked out. That was the past walking out.”

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Inca Babies

POSTAL interview alert! Another one from the photocopied, poorly laid-out pages of Airstrip fanzine, this time with the archetypal mid Eighties Hulme combo, Inca Babies.

Think quiffs and stubble, swampy blues and murky rock’n’roll, nasty drugs and bad housing (117 William Kent Crescent to be precise) and you’ll be in the right kind of area, more or less.

I never got to see this lot live for some reason but for a time I liked their records a lot. However, that didn’t stop me from putting together a list of hopelessly naive and ridiculous questions for guitarist Harry S to answer.

What can I say? I was just emerging from a scene where everything was very black and white and transparent lyrics and cheap admission to gigs seemed to be very important indeed.


* * *

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I FIRST came across Brigandage when John Peel broadcast the session they recorded for his seminal nightly radio show in 1983, although they first came to national prominence in the NME’s examination of the so-called positive punk scene around the same time, alongside Blood & Roses, Southern Death Cult and The Mob in a piece entitled The Music, Mystery and Magick of the New Punks.

North would go onto to join the reformed Brigandage after they imploded following the NME coverage, while the scene he dubbed positive punk somehow ended up becoming Goth. They were never my favourite band or anything, and I don’t recall ever seeing them live, but I had a lot of time for Brigandage’s shouty yet tuneful punk, which occasionally seemed to take as much from Joy Division as it did the Pistols and Siouxsie.

As a result, I did a postal Q&A with lead singer Michelle (pictured with North) in early 1985 and published in my fanzine Airstrip*2, alongside interviews with Omega Tribe, Inca Babies, Lunatic Fringe and Toxic Shock. While the interview remains the product of a very particular time and place, it still makes for an interesting read, I think.

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Cream Corn From The Socket Of Davis & Psychic .. Powerless .. Another Man’s Sac by the Butthole Surfers (Fundamental)

I KNOW I make it seem effortless, but pulling this shit together isn’t half as easy as it looks, y’know.

Yes, I could easily spend a couple of lazy days on the internet, max out the credit cards, order a mountain of vinyl and probably just about manage to get hold of every dusty old record that I’ve somehow conned myself into believing I need to buy again.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a bottomless bank account, and in any case buying music online doesn’t really float my boat. Compared to the thrills and spills of buying vinyl in the real world it’s a clinical, sanitised, altogether less satisfying experience. Where is the thrill of the chase?

There is no journey, no endeavour, no striving. No fun.

Having said all that, the journey, the endeavour and the striving can become tedious. Especially when you find yourself yet again looking through endless racks of punk, rock, psychedelia and US alternative tunes in search of the elusive category in which that particular shop has chosen to file the resolutely uncategorisable Butthole Surfers.

If Buttholes records do ever come into shops like Vinyl Exchange and King Bee, they seem to go out again very quickly.

I’ve been trying to get hold of some of the stuff I write about here for decades and okay, I’ll admit it, sometimes I waver in my bloody-minded if more or less entirely pointless off-line fundamentalism (well, pointless apart from keeping the people who work in record shops in employment that is).

It’s a mixture of fixation and compulsion and naked desire versus an abstract point of principle. And unfortunately, sometimes there’s a gap in your life that only a Buttholes Surfers record can fill. Maybe even two Butthole Surfers records. But you have to do it now. Immediately.

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Walt Disney Presents The Story And Songs Of The Jungle Book (Disneyland)

MY MUM and dad drove me up the A1 with a carful of vegeburger mix, tinned soup and vegetables, a Crank’s cookbook, my fanzine collection, a few dozen records and a stereo that was already on its last legs. I’d got a room, sight unseen, in a shared house from a list of recommended landlords the college had sent.

My shifty-looking housemate made himself scarce as soon as we pulled up to the two-up, two-down just off the North Road, leaving me and my increasingly horrified parents in this filthy, smelly hovel with a cute little puppy dog which immediately started to behave in a very unpleasant and completely unacceptable manner, all over the place. It was like Animal Hospital meets Trainspotting, in Darlington.

Ludicrously, I just wanted to get on with living away from home and making my own way in the world blah blah blah – so I was happy to stay in this total shit-heap until I could get somewhere better, but they weren’t having any of it.

They found me a B&B, paid a couple of weeks rent upfront, God bless ’em, and moved me in the same night. Luckily for me. Who knows what kind of ridiculous shit I would’ve ended up getting myself into if I’d stayed? My parents clearly had a good idea.

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