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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Touch of Hysteria on vinyl at last

A Touch of Hysteria

Don’t believe a word that I say in the following until you have heard the record. To get the record, contact

Kerry Taylor
1 Beck Nook

Telephone 01539 822 088

Looking back over the anarcho- goth- punk pages of Greengalloway they sometimes read more like another sociology lecture or a history of a sub-sub culture. As if it was all ‘No Fun’ -to quote those sell-out capitalist corporate glam pub rockers the Sex Pistols on their version of The Stooges classic sixties anthem…

Were we all musical masochists, subjecting ourselves to the ear-splitting racket of groups whose anarchist ideals never got beyond the ‘can’t play, won’t play’ stage? What on earth possessed us to waste our youth tramping the back streets of London, A to Z in hand, in search of grungy squatted venues in order to have a ‘bad time’?

Reading Ian Glasper’s history of anarcho-punk (The Day the Country Died) twenty five years on , I began to wonder if I should have put more effort into my career in the rubber sex- wear industry [condoms not catsuits] ?

But then Kerry Taylor sent me a copy of a vinyl e.p. by A Touch of Hysteria. It was recorded in 1983 . I have to confess a sense of dread possessed me as I put it on the turntable. I had just been listening to a few of the ‘classic’ tracks recommended by Ian Glasper - like Dirt’s ‘Resist Refuse’ - and was not sure if my middle-aged self could cope with more of the such appalling rubbish. I braced myself and…

… did a mental double-take. I even swore out loud: “Fucking hell, this is good stuff.”. .. and then “Shit, this is better than just good, this is really good - it is musical. It is tuneful!”. I kept playing the record over and over again (much to my teenage kids annoyance). It was as if I could not quite believe my own ears.

I am listening to the record again as I write this, trying to work out why it should have come as such a revelation. I think the answer is ‘punk’. In fact I am sure the answer is ‘punk’. It sounds like, its is punk. Not postpunk, not anarcho punk, not goth punk, not new wave not anything other than 100% pure punk rock as in -for example- the Adverts. Or the Ruts . Or Zounds. Or even - to push the boundaries a bit, the Members. I loved the Members. I loved X-Ray Spex, Penetration… the whole imaginative expansion/ explosion of punk beyond the Pistols/Clash core to which it has since been reduced.

Punk as a ‘vague’ (thanks Tom) attitude and way of life rather than fixed and defined musical genre/ popular subculture. Punk as vague and undefined as ‘anarchy’ is. What is anarchy? Chaos and confusion? Or creativity and liberation? Punk was anarchic, but anarchists were not punks. Anarchists, like Crass claimed to be, are deeply moral, almost puritanical. Anarchists do not need the state to lay down the law, they do that for themselves. As Crass themselves put it ‘They can call it (anarchy) freedom, but slavery is the game’. [I think that is a joke, but maybe it isn’t].

The anarchy of punk was that of chaos and creative confusion, not the quasi-religious puritanical moral anarchism of Crass and 99% of ‘anarcho-punk’. Or that is how I see it now. Back then in the creative and chaotic confusion of punk it was difficult to see Crass as the ’priests in black gowns’ described by William Blake in this poem:

The Garden of Love
I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:
A chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this chapel were shut,
And ‘Thou shalt not’ writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love,
That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tomb-stones where flowers should be,
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.

Too extreme? No doubt. But then listen to and compare this record with most of which passes for ’anarcho-punk’ and weep for what might have been. But then laugh with A Touch of Hysteria. Punk lives in the strangest places ( like Cumbria). Crass couldn’t kill the spirit, we are like a mountain, we go on and on…


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm - I loved the anarcho-punk "scene" (horrible word for it!). And rather than seeing Crass (and others) as a bunch a boring moralists, I think they (and Conflict, Chumbas, etc etc etc) had a huge impact on shaping my views, or rather strengthening and confirming the views I already had. And not just the "bigger" bands but all the local bands too. We (Final Solution) played at and went to loads of brilliant gigs (in Lancs and Cumbria) where kids like us were doing it for ourselves, but also doing it with passion, conviction, and a political direction. Twenty plus years on, I still have the same ideas, and take heart from the fact that people are still out there doing punk gigs, having a good time outside the corporate clubs, meeting old friends, and celebrating our anarchy. A few glimpses of life without authority. Would love to hear the ATOH vinyl from 83, but to be honest I'm really enjoying listening to the 2010 version too!!

Also the Crass line "they can call it freedom", is aimed at the authoritarian left (SWP etc). [b]Their[/b] ideas of freedom (state socialism) are just another form of "slavery". But don't want to get all serious and moralistic! ;-) much love and peace x

7:06 pm  

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