1976 was the year of the first 'punk' singles in Britain, with Stiff unleashing The Damned's 'New Rose' on 26th October, four weeks before the Sex Pistols more incendiary 'Anarchy in the UK' on the EMI label. By 1977 the rest of the first wave of British punk bands had caught up, and this year will see the 40th anniversary of a slew of superb (and many not so superb) single and album releases.
The Clash released their eponymous debut album on this day in 1977. Recorded over three weekend sessions at a cost of £4,000, its 14 tracks hurtle by at a breakneck running time of 35 minutes 18 seconds, from '48 Hours' lasting barely 90 seconds, to their anthem 'Garageland', clocking in at just over three minutes. The only exception to the breathtaking short, sharp shocks is their cover of the Junior Murvin/Lee Perry reggae classic 'Police and Thieves', a six minute masterpiece. The majority of the tracks epitomise the early punk ethic of avoiding overblown rock trappings. Musicianship is kept to a minimum and if Mick Jones does unleash a killer solo, it's the sheer brevity of execution that counts.
There was always a rivalry between The Clash and the Sex Pistols but by the time this album ended up in the shops the latter had already sacked bassist Glen Matlock and replaced him with Sid Vicious, a punk icon who couldn't actually play bass. The spraypainted writing was on the wall. Despite that classic quartet ('Anarchy in the UK,' 'God Save the Queen,' 'Pretty Vacant' and 'Holidays in the Sun') that are among the most mesmerising rock n'roll 45s ever, their meteoric rise was already heading for a crash and burn. For The Clash, however, their best years still lay very much ahead.
When The Clash was released I was 14 and mostly listening to heavy metal. I relied on John Peel, Old Grey Whistle Test or Top of the Pops to catch up with rock bands, 'old wave' or 'new wave,' and although I'd seen The Stranglers, The Jam and The Adverts racing through their singles on the latter, as well as footage of the Pistols playing 'Pretty Vacant,' The Clash steadfastly boycotted TOTP. Eventually an older cousin leant me a cassette of The Clash album. I was hooked from Terry Chimes' staccato drum intro to 'Janie Jones' right through to the explosive chorus of "We're a garage band!"
The Clash were so important because they never towed any line. Aside from disowning miming on TOTP, as the whole punk scene moved on they refused to rely on endlessly rehashing past glories as so many of their contemporaries went on to do (and some are still doing!) They continually reinvented themselves, experimenting with a dizzying array of musical styles, while keeping their core message intact. Of course there were contradictions aplenty, their first B-side pillorying stadium bands ("No Rolling Stones") while five years later they would open for The Who at New York's Shea Stadium. But when they sang "I don't wanna hear about what the rich are doing" it seemed heartfelt. This was underscored by the fact Mick Jones crafted most of these songs while living with his grandmother in her 18th floor council high rise in West London.
'Janie Jones,' track number one, happens to be Martin Scorcese's favourite British rock n' roll song. 'I'm So Bored With the USA', although starting life as a sardonic love song entitled 'I'm So Bored With You,' quickly became politicised, against a climate of the US meddling in South American politics. (Forty years on it's only the geographical location that has altered.) 'Garageland', the climactic track, was a response to a snooty NME journalist whose less-than-complimentary live review suggested "The Clash are the kind of garage band who should be returned to the garage immediately, preferably with the engine running, which would undoubtedly be more of a loss to their friends and families than to either rock or roll." Joe Strummer opened with the line: "Back in the garage with my bullshit detector/carbon monoxide making sure it's effective."
Musically, my own path crossed with The Clash on one occasion. I played in a band called The Axidents who once supported another old school punk band, 999, at Edinburgh's Citrus Club. 999's drummer, Pablo LaBrittain, a former schoolfriend of Joe Strummer, was the first drummer for The Clash way back in 1976, prior to Terry Chimes taking over. A tenuous link, but having shared a stage with a onetime member of The Clash is kudos enough for me!
Not many albums still sound exhilarating 40 years on. Recently I listened to a bit of Deep Purple, one of those bands I was into just before the likes of The Clash and the Pistols swept through my teenage musical tastes in glorious hurricanes of anger and melody. Compared to The Clash, Machine Head just sounded dull - tired, cliched, devoid of originality and full of extended, showboating solos. But even after four decades The Clash album remains essential listening.
When you crank up the volume really high, the late, great Joe Strummer's inimitable vocals haul you back to a time when, in all your naivety, you thought this music could change the world ... and having spiky hair, Doctor Martens and a load of gaudy badges weighing down the lapels of your school blazer made you the bees fucking knees!
From the darkest recesses of some of the horror world’s most chilling minds, Kevin J. Kennedy brings back together some of the authors that brought you Collected Christmas Horror Shorts, alongside several new authors, from upcoming indie stars to Amazon top sellers.
Whether you like Easter or not, you’ll certainly have a different view of it after you read the stories contained within these pages. Grab an Easter egg, dim the lights, get cosy and get ready for some chilling tales by some of the horror world’s finest.
Available from Amazon from 1 April.
C.S.Anderson – He Has Risen
Christopher Motz - Magic Awaits
Veronica Smith - It’s Not All About Bunnies and Chocolates
Peter Oliver Wonder - Easter Gunny
Mark Cassell - The Rebirth
Andrew Lennon - Trying To Write A Horror Story
Mark Lukens - Mia's Easter Basket
Lex Jones - SonnesHill
JC Michael - Lord of The Dance
Steven Stacy - Echoes of The Bunny-Man
Weston Kincade & David Chrisley - An Easter Prayer
Christina Bergling - Hatch
James Matthew Byers - Killer Jelly Beans from Outer Space (poem)
Jeff Menapace - Paying It Forward
Jeff Strand - Rotten Eggs
Lisa Vasquez - Bunny and Clyde
Mark Fleming - Sulphur
Suzanne Fox - Last Supper
Briana Robertson - Baby Blues
Latashia Figueroa - Easter Eggs
Amy Cross - Lamb to Slaughter
Kevin J. Kennedy - A Town Called Easter
100 years ago today the SS Mendi, a troopship transporting hundreds of Allied soldiers to the First World War in France, sank in thick fog off the Isle of Wight after being struck by a larger cargo vessel, the SS Darro. The disaster claimed the lives of 30 crew and 616 South Africans, all but nine of them black troops (the reason the catastrophe is sometimes referred to as the 'Black Titanic.') The majority of the passengers were from the South African Native Labour Corps; labourers from the sun-baked African hinterland who had been drafted to dig trenches in the mud of the Western Front. Prior to embarking on their 34-day voyage from Cape Town to England most of the South Africans had never even seen the sea, let alone learned to swim.
After tearing a deep gash in the Mendi's hull the cargo vessel remained in the vicinity for four hours, but left it to the Royal Naval support vessel HMS Brisk to try and assist. Meanwhile the troopship was sinking fast; men tumbled into the English Channel, while others were trapped below deck. Those left huddling on the deck, watching their fate rising inexorably, were comforted by their interpreter, a former preacher, Isaac Wauchope Dyobha. He supposedly cried out:
"Be quiet and calm, my countrymen. What is happening now is what you came to do ... you are going to die, but that is what you came to do. Brothers, we are drilling the death drill. I, a Xhosa, say you are my brothers, Swazis, Pondos, Basotho ...so let us die like brothers. We are the sons of Africa."
Other stories persisted that the South Africans performed a 'death dance' as the ship went down.
At the enquiry at the Board of Trade that summer, the Captain of the Darro, Henry Stump, was blamed for sailing so recklessly in poor visibility. His shipping licence was suspended for a year, although there was widespread outrage at such a lenient outcome for someone whose poor seamanship had led to hundreds of deaths. The official report was then classified for the next 50 years. Historians have also pondered if Stump would have been so quick to abandon hundreds of drowning men had they been British soldiers rather than natives.
The disaster will be commemorated today at various locations in Britain and South Africa. Royal Navy divers will place the South African flag and a wreath on the wreck of the Mendi, which sits upright on the seabed, 100 feet below the English Channel.
Around 21,000 black South Africans served in France between 1916 and 1918. They were not allowed to take up arms and mainly used as labourers, stevedores, cooks and other vital non-combatant roles.
On 19 February 1942 US President Franklin D Roosevelt authorised Executive Order 9066, instigating the forced internment of Japanese Americans in camps. Prompted by Japan's unprovoked attack on the US Fleet moored at Pearl Harbor, upwards of 120,000 civilians were uprooted from their homes and sent to prison camps. On the island state of Hawaii, around one-third of the population were affected. The order was extended to those who were as little as 1/16 Japanese; orphaned infants with 'one drop of Japanese blood' could be rounded up for transport.
These camps were overcrowded. According to an official report, inmates were housed in "tarpaper-covered barracks of simple frame construction, without plumbing or cooking facilities of any kind." The US Census Bureau assisted Order 9066 by divulging confidential information on ethnicity.
President Jimmy Carter launched an investigation into the wartime internment in 1980, appointing a Commission to investigate whether or not the policy has been justified. The Commission issued a report entitled 'Personal Justice Denied,' which stated there had been very little evidence of loyalty to Imperial Japan among the hardworking Japanese Americans singled out as potential traitors. The Commission concluded that the driving factors behind the internment were "racial prejudice, war hysteria and the failure of political leadership."
Eight years later, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act which not only apologised for the policy on behalf of the US Government, it authorised reparations of $20,000 to each camp survivor and their heirs.
A figure of $1.6 billion was paid out to over 82,000 Japanese Americans who had been interned for no other reason than their ethnicity.
On the night of 5 February 1980 I was eagerly awaiting what was still called The Old Grey Whistle Test. This BBC programme celebrated the work of more serious-minded musicians than its lower brow sibling Top of the Pops that simply celebrated whatever music was shifting the most units that particular week.
Proudly alternative and eclectic, some would say occasionally treading a fine line this side of disappearing up its own backside, OGWT was a broad church that showcased metal, blues, prog, folk, electronica, jazz, funk, experimental sounds, reggae, and most importantly for me at the age of 17 - punk, post-punk and new wave. If TOTP was where you'd find a miming Roxy Music dancing away the heartache in lounge suits before bobbing teenagers grinning at themselves in the monitors, OGWT was where Bryan Ferry's band had introduced the world to the gaudy genius of their Eno-inspired glam rock/psychedelic pop masterpieces - most importantly: all the acts played live in the studio.
I found out that Public Image Limited would be making their first live UK television performance that night on OGWT. There were only three TV channels at the time and video recorders, far less catch-up TV, were still a thing of the future, so I had to impress on my parents the importance of my remaining glued to the screen unhindered.
I've no recollection of who else was on that Tuesday night 37 years ago but the moment Annie Nightingale introduced PiL - handing John Lydon the gatefold sleeve of the Second Edition album so he could skim the lyrics - I was mesmerised.
A few years before these guys had all been associated with the punk scene, Lydon with the Sex Pistols, Keith Levene with The Clash. But punk had quickly become dated, a bandwagon readily jumped on, open to being endlessly repeated. Lydon had always understood that an important aspect of punk had been looking to the future rather than wallowing in the past. Because the template of PiL's post-punk universe was fluid, there were no rules; which meant no expectations about song lengths or indulging more than three chords in a riff, and especially about whether or not the band should be wearing studded biker jackets.
In PiL's sonic landscape pop collided with krautrock with classical themes with dub reggae - the latter personified by Jah Wobble's emphatic bass - and the whole incendiary beauty was driven by Lydon's unique vocal delivery. As Wobble memorably remarked: "PiL only sound so radical, I suppose, because so many bands sound so ordinary."
Indeed, PiL sounded like absolutely no one else, which was a phenomenal achievement in a climate rampant with rehashed rock n' roll riffs and plagiarised melodies.
Despite its title, and while it certainly boasted catchy melodies courtesy of Levene's intricate arpeggio fretwork, there was a sinister undercurrent to Poptones: "I can't forget the impression you made. You left a hole in the back of my head." Their second song Careering was even more otherworldly, with Levene switching to a heavily-phlanged guitar sound and stabbing out random synth notes. A wall of noise, its lyrics were deliberately obscure but I'd read rumours in Sounds magazine that it was all to do with what was then the intractable sectarian nightmare in Northern Ireland: "The pride of history, the same as murder..."
When the band finished the camera cut to presenter Annie Nightingale who stated "That was the most powerful performance I've ever seen on Whistle Test ..." although Lydon later remarked its power had been more to do with their pre-recording refreshments, not all of which had been legal.
What I also loved about PiL that night was that their drummer Jim Walker had been wearing the same T-shirt I'd bought in Edinburgh's Bruce's record shop some months previously, featuring Lydon's face reproduced in lurid yellow, green and red images. If it still fitted me I'd wear that now because it'd be a reminder of a band I was passionate about (and who I still love) / unlike the fashion accessory Ramones T-shirts worn by so many Z-list celebs who probably think Cretin Hop refers to people tumbling out of Essex night clubs. I would, however, wholeheartedly endorse Annie Nightingale's sentiments.
As it does every year, the New Contemporaries Exhibition 2017 (18 February - 15 March), hosted by the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh, celebrates the incredible diversity of talent emerging from Scotland's art institutions. An artist whose minimalist social observation catches the eye straight away is Claire Connor, one of the 13 exhibiting artists who studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee.
Claire's work is inspired by Scottish culture, particularly the dichotomy of its language - hardheaded, pragmatic, profane but also the deeply poetic pulse beating at this nation's heart. Traditionally, everything from the Gaelic and Scots languages to working class dialects of English have been dismissed as culturally inferior to 'received pronunciation English.' It is only within a generation or so that Scots has gatecrashed the classrooms where using the vernacular - perceived as merely 'slang' - once instigated a short, sharp meeting with the dreaded 'twin tailed taws.'
Claire's artwork on display here garnered the RSA Art Prize plus the Maclaine Watters Medal. Describing how she is influenced by language as opposed to visual elements, her pieces are both direct transcriptions of overheard conversations or imagined versions.
A placard containing the observation 'Ye Canny Spend A Dollar When Yur Deid' rendered in simple graphics as if for a street protest, is immediately elevated to something much more profound. This piece was inspired by a 1960's Scottish protest movement, Anti-Polaris. Scottish folk music was an integral ingredient in their protest against the holding of an American nuclear submarine in the Holy Loch. Entitled 'Ding Dong Dollar' and sung to the traditional tune of 'She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain,' the revised version can be found on YouTube.
'Wan hudda hammur n the uthur hudda knife' appears on a deliberately low-fi print pinned to a wall. It is the very matter-of-factness of this statement, readily imaginable coming from the witness stand where some random act of violence is being debated, that makes it all the more powerful.
To anyone unfamiliar with the vernacular it might take a while to translate the phonetics in Claire's messages. But that is part of the whole issue. Until fairly recently the Scottish tongue, ubiquitous as it may have been, was rarely celebrated beyond its potential for comic effect - as in Francie and Josie enthusing about the 'burds' at 'the dancing', or Stanley Baxter's 'parliamo Glasgow' skits.
But Claire's focus on speech is echoing much of the writing that emanated from the west of Scotland's former industrial belt in the 70s and 80s, spearheaded by James Kelman, Tom Leonard, Alan Spence, William McIllvaney, Agnes Owens or Alasdair Gray; or the 90s output of Irvine Welsh, Alan Warner, Gordon Legge and Duncan McLean. To me, reading Not Not While The Giro or Trainspotting for the first time was an invigorating experience.
And one of the most invigorating of pieces here simply states: 'There Is Such A Hing Is Society.' In a political climate ignited, as Claire's work has been, by the most topical debate of our times - Scottish self-determination - what better rallying cry than to invert the words of Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative Prime Minister with a decidedly lukewarm attitude towards Scottish aspirations.
Public Service Broadcasting’s Live at Brixton is a superb double-album, encapsulating the band’s exhilarating, sample-laden alt-rock soundscapes, complete with three-piece choir, string quintet and expanded brass section.
One standout track is a sublime rendition of Lit Up from their Inform-Educate-Entertain LP. Like all the pieces, the more expansive live setting enhances the music, with J Willgoose Esq, Wrigglesworth and their cohorts benefitting from the natural adrenaline of performing before an audience, especially as the track races towards its rousing finale.
There is a fascinating back-story to Lit Up. The sample forming its backdrop is a renowned live 1937 BBC radio commentary of a Royal Navy event. The commentator is Thomas Woodrooffe, a retired Lieutenant Commander.
Woodrooffe was also known for commentating on the opening ceremony of the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the Conservative PM Neville Chamberlain’s return from his 1938 diplomatic mission to Munich (along with the ‘piece of paper’ signed by Adolf Hitler he believed would pre-empt another world war.)
But between those two globally newsworthy events Woodrooffe was asked to commentate on the Spithead Review, a traditional gathering of Royal Navy vessels to be observed in the presence of the monarch. This occasion was the King George VI Coronation Review and it took place in darkness, with all the warships bedecked in decorative lights.
Grundy moment for the 30s
All was going according to plan until Woodrooffe joined former colleagues in the hospitality lounge of HMS Nelson before the broadcast. By the time he went live he was several sheets to the wind, proceeding to ramble through his commentary, slurring words and describing the illuminated fleet as being ‘in fairyland.’ At one point he mumbled an apology to listeners for having to ‘shut up some people talking’ and he also used the word ‘damn’ – a Steve Jones on Grundy moment for the 1930s – before hastily coughing to try and disguise the faux pas. After a few minutes the lights were all extinguished, causing the startled Woodrooffe to imagine the ships had all vanished in a puff of smoke.
In the context of the rigidly formal and regally obsequious 1930s BBC, the drunken broadcast was both scandalous and hilarious. At that time presenters were allegedly expected to dress in dinner suits when appearing before a radio microphone. Notoriously stern Director-General John Reith was incandescent, demanding the live broadcast was unplugged after a few minutes then suspending Woodrooffe for a week.
Today would’ve been my father’s 95th birthday. Brought up in rural Ireland in an era long before TV or rock n’roll, listening to the radio was his adolescent obsession, the DJs spinning 78s his pop stars. While I struggle to change the fuse on a plug he would build his own shortwave receivers. He once told me about tuning in to Woodrooffe’s review, aged 15, and described the joy of hearing a boozed-up commentator inadvertently revealing the human side behind the BBC’s stiff upper-lip.
Enclosed is a timetable appended to my father’s school atlas round about that time, 1937, when he was a bursary pupil at Portora School in Enniskillen. Tuning in to shortwave broadcasts from all over the world, he would’ve logged everything from danceband music to plays, not to mention station after station spewing propaganda, from Stalin’s Soviet Union to Franco’s Spain. But he would’ve also relished Woodrooffe’s gaffe. And he would’ve loved the way the incident is celebrated in Lit Up.
Since opening its doors to contemporary artists a mere six months ago, DOK Artist Space has been progressing its ambitious program at a rate of knots (pun intended, as this location was originally constructed by Leith Docks shipbuilding apprentices.) Several well-received exhibitions have been hosted by a diverse range of artists, while the so-called 'Steel Shed' was a venue during the 2016 Edinburgh Arts Festival for Supporting Act, a site-specific outdoor installation by Turkish-born Baha Görkem Yalim, now based in Amsterdam and Petter Yxell from Sweden.
From 4-7 December DOK presented 'Still Working', showcasing works on paper by four artists - Hayley Mathers, Neil Nodzak, Jennifer Ouson and Colette Woods - based on current themes and ideas that were still being explored.
Of course, one of the defining aspects of art is the fact that it covers as many bases as there are individual artists. On 9 December, the Steel Shed's metal rafters were blasted by the experimental/improvisational sonic landscapes created by Gölden Püssy, a noise/'art' duo launching their debut cassette in this unique setting.
The Image Collective provides support for artists working in various media by offering exhibition space, mentoring and promotion. They also support cultural links within the Leith community, collaborating with the likes of DOK Artist Space.
Throughout November they are hosting an exhibition of photographs by Lynn and Paul Henni, entitled Urban Noir. This is a dazzling collection of black and white images that highlight diverse locations in our capital city - recognisable and less familiar - and give them a unique twist, inspiring the viewer to see them in a whole new light. Colour may be absent from the studies but they are awash with textures and shades. This is photography reduced to its basic components - light and darkness - and the juxtaposition between these elements produces memorable results.
Old Town closes feature heavily, the cobbled streets and dingily-lit stairwells a perfect setting for the monochrome compositions. Salisbury Crags emerges from mists, revealing a lone walker on the Radical Road. Mysterious silhouettes move through tree-lined promenades in the Meadows. Leith Street is blanketed by swirling snow. Storm-laden clouds loom over the City Observatory on Calton Hill. Among the lush landscapes there is also frivolity: I laughed aloud at an Imperial Stormtrooper poking the button of a traffic crossing. One of my favourites is a breathtaking shot of a cyclist heading beneath a Union Canal bridge, framed the precise millisecond before subject and reflection vanish forever.
Urban Noir runs from the 3rd to 30th November, with copies of the stunning photographs available for purchase. You can preview the exhibition on the Henni.Photo website but to appreciate the collection you should venture to Ocean Terminal to see the full-size reproductions in all their glory.
In 2012 Stuart McAdam and Neil Scott built a canoe. Then they embarked on a grueling journey across Scotland, departing from the heart of Glasgow, arriving in Pittenweem on the Fife coast 10 days later, a trek that saw them navigating canals, rivers and the open sea. They filmed the building of their boat (posted on vimeo) and also their cross-country travels (entitled 'Union 2012'); the latter will be shown in an exclusive free screening at 2pm today and tomorrow, at DOK Artist Space in Leith docks.
The canoe was named after Helga Estby. In terms of epic quests, her story is surely one of history's most epic fails. A 19th century Norwegian immigrant to the USA, she married a fellow Norwegian, Ole Estby, settling in Minnesota before heading further west and buying a farm in Washington state. But cruel misfortune stalked the young family. Ole was badly crushed by a horse and unable to work for long periods. Their five year-old daughter Ida went blind. The farmhouse was badly damaged in a fire, the building uninsured. When severe economic depression struck America in 1893 the family faced financial ruin. Helga, now 33, came across an advert from a mysterious benefactor offering $10,000 to anyone who could cross America within seven months. A firm believer in women's suffrage, Helga was determined to win this prize. All she had to do was go for a long walk. All the way from Washington on the Pacific Coast to New York on the Atlantic: a journey of 3,500 miles.
In terms of epic quests, Helga Estby's story is surely one of history's most epic fails
Accompanied by her eldest daughter, 17 year-old Clara, with only a revolver for protection, the intrepid pair took odd jobs en route, their dogged progress documented in newspapers. Arriving at their destination on 23 December 1896, after facing wild animals, highwaymen and inhospitable terrain and wearing out 32 pairs of shoes, they trudged wearily into a metropolis bedecked in Christmas decorations, curious spectators trailing in their wake. But because they had set out on 5 May they were now 19 days beyond the deadline. The reward was refused and they had no option but to find lodgings until they could scrimp enough money for the train fare to Washington. Letters reaching them rarely lifted their spirits; especially when news came of Helga's 15 year-old daughter Bertha dying of diphtheria and her brother Johnny four days later.
Helga was shunned by the Norwegian-American community for having deserted the rest of her family on what was now widely seen as the wildest of goose chases. She decided to write a memoir about her trans-continental quest after Ole's death in 1913 as a way of generating badly-needed income. But her family had always regarded Helga's journey with shame, and after her death, two of her daughters, Ida and Lillian, destroyed the manuscript.
Helga's remarkable story remained to be passed on through oral tradition, as well as a scrapbook of newspaper clippings saved by her daughter-in-law, Margaret. She died in 1942 at the age of 81, embarking on the ultimate journey just as her adopted country was becoming embroiled in World War Two.