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

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Anarcho-punks or psychic youths?

Strange Attractors - all that is solid melts to air .

Photo - Mob gig , Meanwhile Gardens 1982 - where are all the black clad hippy punks?

Image - a strange attractor: Crass and Psychic TV.

Still thinking about Rich Cross’s book ‘ Hippies Now Wear Black - Crass and Anarcho Punk 1977-1984’ , I found that Alex Fergusson has a website. This is not the football club manager. Nor is it the Scottish politician (bit obscure, but he is my MSP and now Presiding Officer of Scottish Parliament).

This is Alex Fergusson who was a founder member of Alternative TV in 1977 and then a founder member of Psychic TV in 1981. His website is http://www.alexfergusson.com/

It has a detailed discography from which I found he played guitar on ‘Rape’ by Zos Kia - released by All the Madmen in 1984. There is also a biography. Years ago, Tony D. told me that when he first moved to London [late 76/ early 77] he lived in a west London squat with Alex Fergusson and Sandy Robertson - part of ‘Frestonia’ / Freston Road. Sandy Robertson became a journalist and wrote for Sounds. He also had an interest in magick and compiled an Aleister Crowley Scrapbook [1988] Sandy went to see Jim Morrison/ The Doors at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970 aged 17.

Alex and Sandy had a group ‘The Nobodies’ which were featured in an early Ripped and Torn which as you should know by now was edited by Tony D. [photo on Alex’s website]. Alex then joined ATV in 1977 and they rehearsed at Throbbing Gristle’s Martello Street [Hackney] studios. But when the rest of ATV went on tour round the free festival circuit with Here and Now in 1978, Alex got involved in an abortive Throbbing Gristle and Fred and Judy Vermonel film project which evolved into the Cash Pussies

The Cash Pussies were the brainchild of husband wife team Fred and Judy Vermorel. Fred had encountered Malcolm McLaren, the Pistols manager, in 1965 at the Harrow School of Art. In August 1977, Fred and Judy were commissioned to write the first book on the Sex Pistols. The book, The Inside Story, was completed in three months, and published by Star Books in January 1978. It featured in the main the diaries of Sophie Richmond who worked for the Sex Pistols and interviews with the Pistols and relatives. In mid 1978 they begin writing a script for a film called 'Millions Like Us' with Throbbing Gristle to provide the music. They in turn contacted Alex Fergusson, now out of ATV to help out. Fred Vermorel would also write text which Alex would edit into song verse. By late November, Throbbing Gristle had left the project and Alex started working on Vermorel`s new project The Cash Pussies.

Fast forward to 1981 … and Alex visits Gen (Genesis P. Orridge) at 50 Beck Road, Hackney …. Here is one version of what happened…

Psychic TV was founded by ALEX FERGUSSON and GENESIS P-ORRIDGE in Hackney, East London in 1981. The actual story is that Genesis was so disillusioned with even the independent music scene and being in Throbbing Gristle by 1981 that he quit TG in Los Angeles prior to their last 2 live gigs. Alex Fergusson, was previously co-founder of Alternative TV with Mark Perry (of Sniffin' Glue fanzine infamy). A little known fact is that G. P-O was the first drummer in ATV! Genesis and Monte Cazazza had been planning an agenda for a Psychic para-military occult group in secret for 2 years or so. Alex continually told Gen that he should still write songs and "not waste his lyrical talents." One day Alex noticed a poem on the water heater in Gen's kitchen over a cup of tea, literally! "Hows about I take that poem and IF I can turn it into a song you like we'll start a band combining our two names? Psychic and TV?" said Alex. To get him off his back Gen said OK. A day later Alex returned and played a stunningly appealing ballad to Gen accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. That song was "JUST DRIFTING". Both the romanticism, and anti-Industrial style hooked Gen's aesthetic and emotional attention. Perfect irony to go acoustic, let's add an orchestra he suggested. Psychic TV was born and "Just Drifting" was the first track on their first album for WEA in 1982-3 "FORCE THEE HANDS OV CHANCE". Because in Gen's mind Sleazy (aka P. Christopherson) was associated with bad memories of the demise of TG it was not until almost a year later that Gen and Alex decided to sound him out about joining PTV as a band member conditional on Gen owning the name and having full control in the event of any disagreements. Too often Alex Fergusson has been wrongfully relegated to a minor role in the story of PTV and it is IMPORTANT, especially in the context of VOICEPRINT where legacies are carefully preserved to be clear that without ALEX FERGUSSON there NEVER would've been PTV and HE was the co-founder with Genesis….

[oops, lost link to website source, sorry]

So where is the connection with Crass and anarcho-punk? Um…ah… ok, here we go…

What if the situation was in practice a bit / a lot more confused than the version which Rich Cross is trying to construct? Maybe there were lots of different and competing ‘strange attractors’ out there in the punk multiverse. Crass was just one of them. Crass was a strong strange attractor, but so was Psychic TV. Another attractor was Stonehenge Free Festival and the travelling scene. Beyond punk lay others - Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp and other anti-nuclear Peace Camps. Heroin. Totalitarian ideologies - fascist, Nazi, the 57 varieties of Marxism. And many, many more.

Sure , it was possible to adopt one to the exclusion of all others, but most folk, most punks felt the pull of more than one such strange attractor. “Boy tomorrow, girl today” as Adam and the Ants might just have said.

So what ‘really’ happened was that punk spawned a brief era of utter creative confusion. In which, to quote Marx and Engel’s ‘Communist Manifesto’ of 1848 “All that is solid melts to air …all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life… “[which is a rip-off of Thomas Carlyle’s ( local lad) Sartor Resartus of 1833/4 Chapter VIII “ So that this so solid - seeming World, after all, were but an air-image…” and, in Chapter X “in this so solid-seeming World, which nevertheless is in continual restless flux” ]

I am not saying it can’t be done; that Rich Cross can’t write a book which makes everything revolve around Crass - Orwell showed how that can be done in 1948 with his 1984 - but I am saying it won’t work. That any attempt to re-write our history in such a way will fail. You just have to look at the photographs taken at Meanwhile Gardens in 1982 . Where are all the black clad hippies? I can’t see any, can you?

And what happened next? In 1983, 1984, in 1985... Well some of the folk in the photos went off on the road to become travellers. Some became psychic youth / Temple of Psychic Youth. And some did both.

Conclusion.... at the level of 'spectacular products' Crass and Throbbing Gristle/ Psychic TV were equally influential on what became of punk.

So maybe I should change the tag line for greengalloway so it reads 'anarcho-psychic-goth-punk- hippy- freaks' ?

Yeah, why not.

love n chaos



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about this connection lately with dial house vs GPO and TG and the communal living of the 60s and 70s

4:51 am  

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