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

Friday, April 29, 2011

Facebook purge UK dissent

The following groups appear ( I have only checked a few) had their Facebook pages deleted on 29 April 2011.

Open Birkbeck
UWE Occupation
Chesterfield Stopthecuts
Camberwell AntiCuts
IVA Womensrevolution
Tower Hamlets Greens
No Cuts
ArtsAgainst Cuts
London Student Assembly
Beat’n Streets
Roscoe ‘Manchester’ Occupation
Bristol Bookfair
Newcastle Occupation
Socialist Unity
Whospeaks Forus
Ourland FreeLand
Bristol Ukuncut
Teampalestina Shaf
Notts-Uncut Part-of UKUncut
No Quarter Cutthewar
Claimants Fightback
Ecosocialists Unite
Comrade George Orwell
Jason Derrick
Anarchista Rebellionist
BigSociety Leeds
Slade Occupation
Anti-Cuts Across Wigan
Firstof Mayband
Don’t Break Britain United
SWP Cork
Westiminster Trades Council
York Anarchists
Rock War
Sheffield Occupation
Central London SWP
North London Solidarity
Southwark Sos
Save NHS
Rochdale Law Centre
Goldsmiths Fights Back

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Poly Styrene 1957-2011

From the great heaven she set her mind on the great below. From the great heaven the goddess set her mind on the great below. From the great heaven Inana set her mind on the great below. My mistress abandoned heaven, abandoned earth, and descended to the underworld. Inana abandoned heaven, abandoned earth, and descended to the underworld.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Recording of The Mob in Bristol April 2011

Here is a recording of the Mob playing at the Fleece in Bristol 8 April 2011 plus a review by Andy Ashford and text by Mickey Penguin - on the Kill Your Pet Puppy site.

It is 30 years since the Puppy Collective and the Mob first met up - at a free gig in an adventure playground on Parliament Hill Fields in London.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Mob No Doves Bristol 8 April

This follows on from Witch-hunt below.

The Mob Witch-hunt Bristol 8 April

Friday, April 08, 2011

History of All the Madmen Records

Just found this on Bristol Archive Records

Includes an interview with me about ATM.


All The Madmen started off as a fanzine from Yeovil in Somerset, England, in early 1978. The name 'All The Madmen' was taken from one of the tracks off David Bowie's album from 1972, 'The Man Who Sold The World'. The fanzine was run initially by Geoff in collaboration with Mark, from one of the local bands at the time called The Mob. The fanzine also involved various local friends including Max, Wilf, Christine and Debs.

Towards the end of 1979 after returning from a tour of the UK and Holland supporting Here And Now, The Mob recorded their first studio tracks. Geoff decided to start up the label for the release of 'Crying Again' and 'Youth'. Grant Showbiz, who had been behind the mixing desk during the tour, handled the production on these recordings at the Crypt in Stevenage. This would be the start of a relationship between Grant Showbiz and the various bands on the All The Madmen label which would continue for many years.

MOB01 - The 'Crying Again / Youth' 7" was released in 1980 with the financial help of Max, and was the first record on the All The Madmen label. The local record shop in Yeovil called Acorn agreed to distribute it locally. Other sales went through mail order via the fanzine and at local gigs performed by the band. The address for all correspondence for the fanzine and the new label was Larkhill Road, Yeovil, which was where Geoff was living at the time. The sleeve was done by Wilf, a friend of Marks and Geoff, who would work quite closely with the label from then on. All The Mob's releases on the label featured Wilf's artwork. He also worked on product for other record labels including the artwork for The Mob's 'No Doves Fly Here' 7" released on Crass Records in 1981.

REV01 - 1980 continued with another release on the label by a Clevedon mod band, The Review - 'England's Glory / Greatest Show' 7". The Review was a band that was like the other mod revival bands of the day, but a cheaply recorded one, although the band were still very punchy. This record actually has ALL THE MADMEN printed labels on the disc, as opposed to the plain white labels of the previous All The Madmen release. On the sleeve it name checks The Mob, Wilf, Christine and Debs (Goodge) from Bikini Mutants (Debs was to become a founding member of My Bloody Valentine in the mid 1980's). If anyone gets to hear this record, listen carefully to the intro of ..Greatest Show.. on the B-side, sounds very much like the first few bars of ..Londons Calling.. by The Clash! Bear in mind that there is NO MAD01 catalogue numbers...MOB01 for The Mob and REV01 for The Review.

MAD02 - Later in 1980 the label released the explosive 'Witchhunt / Shuffling Souls' 7" which really got The Mob's name pushed out from their local tight knit community, and into the wider circle of punk bands and fanzine writers in the south of England. On the first pressing, the sleeve has the Larkhill Road, Yeovil address on. On the second pressing, the sleeve has the Seend, Wiltshire address...which takes us nicely to Andy Stratton (later of Null And Void) who shared this address in Seend with The Mob, at the time.

MAD03 - The single by Andy Stratton 'I Don't Know / Evil Minds' 7" came out in 1980. The drummer on this single was Graham, who was still a member of The Mob at the time. The single is an excellent punk pop affair, with the sound and feel of the Pete Fender and The Four Formulas 7" called 'Promises' which was released on Poison Girl's label Xntrix around the same time. Very Buzzcocks influenced. Pete Fender went on to record Andy Stratton's band Null And Void later on in 1982. Mark and Curtis of The Mob decided to move to London late on in 1980, Graham opting to stay in Yeovil, the band tried out various drummers to work with them including Adie from Null And Void. Max and Geoff had also decided to stay West Country bound, so Mark was looking after the record label, loosely, at this time. All went a little quiet for the All The Madmen label for a short while, but the Mob released, in cassette form only, a recording done on a tape recorder in Brougham Road, Hackney with the new drummer Josef Porter from The Entire Cosmos and Zounds, entitled 'Ching' which was basic, but good enough to sell at gigs and through mailorder. Then 'No Doves Fly Here' 7" was released on the Crass label in 1981, to huge acclaim.

MAD04 - This was the most adventurous project to date and was released in 1983. The album 'Let The Tribe Increase' by The Mob which originally came out in an reddish orange cover, with a poster, and displayed 'borrowed' artwork from Alternative TV's second album on the front cover! The Mob had been based in London for a couple of years by now, so the address they were using was c/o Freedom Press bookshop in east London. All the members were living in squats and co-op housing in west and north London, so needed an address they could rely on, in case they were evicted from their homes. The album is absolutely essential listening, and had wonderful reviews from the music biz hacks, and more importantly from the followers and fanzine writers of the day. This album got to number 3 in the indie charts and was featured in all the weekly music papers. Josef played drums on this album, which was recorded at Spaceward studios in Cambridge.

MAD05 - The Astronauts second album (first for All The Madmen) was released in 1983. Their first album on Jon Barnett's Bugle label was already an important product at the time. Jon Barnett was a free spirit who was hanging around with the band Here And Now, and squatting in west London. The Astronauts had played on the 'Weird Tales' tours in 1980, which also had bands like Zounds / The Mob / 012 / Androids Of Mu etc performing. The first Astronauts album 'Peter Pan Hits The Suburbs' was very good with astonishing artwork, but when All The Madmen released 'All Done By Mirrors', the resulting album was much tighter musically and is still probably the pinnacle of their long and varied experiences in the studios.

MAD06 - The Mob 'The Mirror Breaks / Stay' 7" was released mid 1983, and is one of the prettier songs, musically, released by the band. After a European tour in late 1983, The Mob split up and Curtis and Josef immediately carried on playing with their new band Blyth Power, which included Neil from Faction on guitar. Josef had already been playing (a soon to be Blyth Power song) 'Hurling Time' live with The Mob towards the last few shows. Mark was disillusioned with London, and felt no need to continue writing and recording songs for The Mob. He went quietly into the countryside with the peace convoy and in the process started to raise a family.

MAD07 - This was the 12" by Flowers In The Dustbin, which was released in 1984 by Alistair, a contributing writer for 'Kill Your Pet Puppy' fanzine, who was now in charge of the label after Mark had left London. FITD were a very colourful band that shared some similarities with The Mob. The structure of some of the songs, well written personal and conscientious lyrics, and some of the time, a complete shambles live, but in a very colourful and positive way. This five track 12" was a good debut for the band.

MAD08 - Later on in 1984 Alistair was involved in releasing the 'Rape / Thank You' 7" by Zos Kia, a band run by John Gosling who was also with Psychic TV at the time. He had first recorded with Psychic TV on the single 'Roman P' earlier in 1984 which was released on the French Sordide Sentimental label. John stayed with Psychic TV for a couple more years, recording and playing on the sporadic live performances. John was living in the same street as Genesis P-Orridge in Beck Road, Hackney at the time. The All The Madmen label was now based in Brougham Road, Hackney, which was just around the corner to Beck Road. Brougham Road was a street with one side colourful co-op housing, colourful trucks and coaches. The other side of the road was a large housing estate. The tenants on the 'colourful' side had agreed with Hackney Council to live in these broken up houses while paying very little rent. Short term housing that was looked after and improved in time by the tenants, but for a better description just a row of 'legal' squats. Min who voices the Genesis P-Orridge / Alex Ferguson produced track 'Rape' was also involved in the 'Kill Your Pet Puppy' collective at this time. The words for 'Rape' half whispered, half screamed and very stark, was a chilling account of what she experienced being abused in Australia, when she was younger. Min went off to join the peace convoy and was not involved in any further recordings with the band. John Gosling continued with Psychic TV and Zos Kia for a while longer, and Zos Kia had some releases on Psychic TV's own label Temple Records. The single for All The Madmen got decent reviews, and remains to this day, a very emotional track to listen to. It has a completely different sound and feel to the rest of the label's output. Alistair at this point turned over the general running of the company to Rob Challice, a Brougham Road tenant, who used to play bass in the band Faction, and who also contributed to the 'Enigma' fanzine. Rob was generously assisted by Sean 'Gummidge' Forbes, and a little later on, Mickey 'Penguin' who was upgraded to the official All The Madmen Records slave, which was previously Sean's postion!

MAD09 - Rob's first release came out in 1985, the 12" by Blyth Power entitled 'Chevy Chase', which was a success for the band and the label. As a three piece outfit the band had previously released 'A Little Touch Of Harry In The Night' a cassette on Rob's own 96 Tapes label. The tracks on this cassette were recorded in the basement of 96 Brougham Road where All The Madmen had their small office. The 12" though was recorded at Street Level studios with Grant Showbiz engineering. The band had expanded to a five piece a few months before the time of this recording; both new members were backing singers, Andy and Sarah. These singers improved the band's sound immensely, Blyth Power would continue in this line up until the end of 1986. The three piece version of the band was decent enough, but the five piece line up really were very popular at the time, and did very well. The band even got onto Radio One's afternoon drive time show with the single 'Ixion', with an interview on the show with Josef (although by the time the interview was aired and the single released in 1987 the band that actually recorded the track did not exist). Blyth Power gigs at this time were always enthusiastic and sweaty. It seemed that the band was always performing somewhere live every night.

MAD10 - This product released in 1985 by the label, was Clair Obscure's album 'Pilgrims Progress'. The band was a French gothic experimental / performance art band. If you could imagine Chrome partying with The Virgin Prunes while UK Decay mixed the drinks, then that would be a fair description! Not a bad live recording and quite different to the other albums on the label, but sold slowly in the UK, quite a lot of copies went out on export though, mainly to the U.S.A!

MAD11 - This was the third Astronauts album (second for All The Madmen) entitled 'Soon' which came out in 1986. This album was popular. One side there were new tracks (not quite as strong as the previous album's, but still reasonable) and the second side were tracks taken from the early 7" single's previously released on Jon Barnett's Bugle label (The 'Astronauts' and 'Pranksters In Revolt') - These tracks were well out of print by 1986 so there was a fair amount of interest generated on this release, just on the reputation of these tracks on the B-side.

MAD12 - 1986 continued and All The Madmen were back on track with Blyth Power's 'Junction Signal / Bind Their Kings' 7" & 12", another Grant Showbiz production. Both formats sold very well and the band continued to tour all over the place in the UK and Europe. A thousand numbered limited edition 7" were produced along with the four track 12".

MAD13 - Later on in 1986 the 12" reissue of The Mob's first single 'Crying Again' was released. The original and long deleted 7" was still being requested in a lot of the letters being sent to the All The Madmen office, and also by interested gig goers at Blyth Power performances around the country. Because of the success of Blyth Power, and the fact that the Mob's available back catalogue, 'Witchhunt' 7" (in a non foldout cardboard sleeve on these later repress copies), 'Let The Tribe Increase' album (in a blue cover now) and 'Mirror Breaks' 7" were all still shifting units even up to 1986, it was suggested by Rob that this was the right time to re-release these old track's and add some decent live recordings for good measure. The plan was discussed, master tapes found, and Wilf contacted. Wilf completed his last piece of artwork for a Mob release. This release sold out quickly as expected.

MAD14 - The last release of 1986 was a band with the strange name of Thatcher On Acid and the product was the 'Moondance' 12". A decent band hailing from Somerset who were squatting in South London, had a three piece line up, the guitarist with dreadlocks was the singer, more than a couple of Mob comparisons. The band stood up to the Mob 'rip off' tag, and became a very good outfit, which continued until the early 1990's. The 12" that was released was considered a bit flat and dated by the band at the time, but that is probably because the recordings were already about two years old by the time of the released 12". Most of the public thought it was a good release at the time and it sold well. The release also had some great artwork by Wilf and Graeme Coles. The band played all over the place, a lot of shared gigs with Blyth Power and The Astronauts. In April 1987 the band even supported Conflict at Brixton Academy in front of 5000 screaming punkers who went on the rampage in the streets after the main performance by Conflict had finished. All The Madmen had a stall in the venue on that night, got to sell quite a lot of records and shirts. Thatcher On Acid went back to playing to 200 people in pubs and squatted venues after this gig!

The label left Brougham Road late on in 1986 and went to 97 Caledonian Road in Kings Cross, N1. Known as crucial corner, it was graffitied as such; All The Madmen's office was above Better Badges and below Fuck Off records. Over the road was Rough Trade Distribution, which was quite handy, as their distribution network had been carrying and distributing All The Madmen stock since The Mob's 'Let The Tribe Increase' album. Around the same time as the label moved to a new area, Josef from Blyth Power had told Neil and Curtis that their services would not be needed, come the New Year. Andy one of the vocalist's was also leaving on his own accord. Therefore a new line up was found to tread the boards night after night from 1987 onwards. The new line up had Protag from The Instant Automations, and one of the organisers (with Grant Showbiz) of the bi-annual Meanwhile Gardens gigs in Westbourne Park, on bass (and more importantly, van!), old Mob and All The Madmen ally, Steve Corr from Yeovil on guitar, and Sian from The Lost Cherees as duel vocalist with Sarah, who remained from the original five piece line up. An album recorded with the original five piece line up was released after the split, got good reviews and sold well. The final original five piece Blyth Power gig was held at the Sir George Robey in Finsbury Park, London in December 1986 to a very large and emotionally friendly audience.

Brougham Road was eventually evicted from 1987 onwards to make way for 'decent' families as part of Hackney Council's regeneration program. Some tenants just got in their trucks and moved away with the peace convoy, or ended up in Spain. Some others continued squatting in other areas, or found new co-op housing schemes to add there names to.

All The Madmen went on for about a year and a half until the spring of 1988, releasing the following titles: Blyth Power 'Wicked Keepers' album and 'Ixion' 7" and 12" / We are Going To Eat You 'I Wish I Knew' 12" / The Astronauts 'Seedy Side Of' album / Dan 'An Attitude Hits' album / Thatcher On Acid 'Curdled' album / Hysteria Ward 'From Breakfast To Madness' cassette. Also released were a Mob and a Blyth Power pack with printed record envelopes, which held within; one 12" record and two 7" records for the Mob package. Then one 12" record, one 7" record, a t-shirt and badge in the Blyth Power package. These packages were mainly sold to customers abroad, who did not already have the available Mob and Blyth Power catalogue. Blyth Power with the new line up had several albums and 12" records released on the Midnight Music label from late 1987 to 1991. I have only put in information from 1980 until the end of the Brougham Road stay in late 1986...All The Madmen at Caledonian Road would take a lot more time, and I have run out of space on the pics section just going up to the last release on All The Madmen at the Brougham Road address.

If anyone out there wants to cover the latter stages of the All The Madmen label, then get in touch, I will scan a load of stuff and forward it to you. Thanks for reading

Mickey 'Penguin' x


What do you think was so important about The Mob?

The Mob were important for us because they were like a musical version of KYPP. In terms of wider importance it is difficult to say. The Mob were part of the scene and offered a creative alternative to the restrictions imposed by the identification of Crass with 'anarcho-punk'.

Were there other bands as close to the collective as The Mob?

Probably not, but variously Blood And Roses, Hagar The Womb, Brigandage, The Turdburglars, The Barracudas, Zos Kia, Flowers In The Dustbin, Charge, The Associates, Rubella Ballet... it was a shifting mix of relationships between members of the collective and individual members of bands rather than between 'the collective' and 'the groups'.

At the time, did you relate to much of the other anarcho bands?

Thinking about it, and with reference to 10. above, the question misunderstands the situation at the time (1979/ 85). What there was a punk version of the UK/ London late sixties / early seventies counterculture where there were several thousand self-confessed punks, with a concentration in London. Within the counterculture there was no clear boundary between 'audience' and 'performers', between fanzine writers and fanzine readers. I remember this most clearly from gigs when one group stopped playing they would get off the stage and return to the audience whilst the next group to play would step out of the audience and onto the stage (sometimes there wasn't even a stage). The Kill Your Pet Puppy 'collective' were indistinguishable from the 'punk collective'.

How would you describe the Centro Iberico to someone today?

The Centro Iberico was a place where the Do It Yourself ethic of punk prevailed, where anarchist theory was everyday practice. Where there was no boundary between audience and performers. This was challenging - there was no-one in charge so for something to happen (e.g. to build a stage and wire it up) those with enthusiasm to make it happen, had to enthuse enough others to get the job done. There was no 'product of alienated labour', no 'spectacle' to be 'passively consumed'. The biggest challenge was how change attitudes - how to persuade alienated youth not to trash place and get them to realise they 'owned' it. It was a problem punks with a squatting background had faced many times before... The Centro Iberico was about what happens after the revolution. How do we find ways to move from destruction of the old world to the creation of a new one? I remember the experience as exhilarating and liberating - the closest equivalent being the atmosphere on Claremont Road in 1993/4 during the M11 Road Protest Campaign. See http://www.geocities.com/londondestruction/claremont.html for a bit of historic background

How did you get involved with All The Madmen?

My involvement began in the kitchen of Puppy Mansions, Westbere Road, West Hampstead, London in early 1983. Mark Wilson of the Mob was there and he mentioned the idea of the Mob making an album. At the time I was being trained as a 'Project Engineer' by the London Rubber Company (makers of Durex condoms) so I applied a bit of the theory I was learning to the problem - break down a project into small do-able units and cost/ time them. So Mark began scribbling down the costs etc. of making an album on a scrap of paper - cost of studio time, cost of mastering disc, cost of art work, printing costs, pressing costs - which he knew from The Mob producing their own records like Witch Hunt.

Mark then managed to get Rough Trade (who distributed The Mob's singles and knew that their 'No Doves Fly Here' single on Crass' label had been a best seller) interested. Rough Trade told Mark that if he could finance the recording costs, they would cover the other costs in return for a distribution deal.

Mark then got myself and others (Mick Lugworm for example) to contribute to the recording costs and The Mob went into the studio and made the record - Let the Tribe Increase. With the help of Tony D, Mick Mercer and other fanzine writers who were now writing for music papers (NME, Sounds, Melody Maker) and magazines like Zig Zag and Punk Lives, the album got rave reviews and sold well beyond expectations. This meant that by the end of 1983, The Mob had several thousands pounds held in credit by Rough Trade. Mark had the idea of using this money to put out records by other groups on their All The Madmen label and asked me to help manage the project. This I did, though it meant going from being paid ��90 a week at London rubber to getting ��15 a week �Ķ

Unfortunately, after releasing The Mirror Breaks as a single, The Mob then split up. None of the other groups (The Astronauts, Flowers In The Dustbin and Zos Kia) on the label were able to sell more than the 1000 copies of their records to break even�Ķ so the money slowly began to run out. See following questions for next part of this story.

Who were Clair Obscur and how did they wind up on the label?
What was the story with their live LP?

I can't answer these questions, I had parted company with All The Madmen by the time they were on the label.

Who were Zos Kia and how did you know them?

Zos Kia were a Psychic TV spin off group and in their early days crossed over with Coil. Psychic TV (1981) in turn came out of Throbbing Gristle who were contemporary (1976) with punk. Genesis P Orridge of TG / PTV lived in Beck Road in Hackney and there was a strange cross-over between Brougham Road (a squatted street where Mark of the Mob and many others including briefly former Bader-Meinhof gang member Astrid Proll lived and with a link to the original hippy-traveller Ukrainian Mountain Troupe group) and TG / PTV�Ķ

Min was the direct link, she was 'sort of' a KYPP collective member, I first met her at a Mob gig at Parliament Hill Fields / Hampstead Heath in summer 1981- which was also our first encounter with The Mob themselves. Another link was through Mouse, who was briefly a member of PTV and a friend of Coil.

Anyhow, through the various overlaps and connections, Zos Kia put out their single Rape on All The Madmen.

What was the Rape 7" about? I remember it being extremely shocking at the time.

The words of Rape were a graphic description by Min of when she was raped in the Australian outback whilst on a family holiday there. I am not sure how old she was at the time, about 14 I think. It was a traumatic experience. I cannot forget her describing it to me a couple of years before the record came out. She later told me she only listened to the record once. It was a personal exorcism. It is still intense and powerful, far more so than the 'distanced' explorations of extreme realities of other PTV or TG songs. After touring with Zos Kia, Min became a traveller and was at the Beanfield (Stonehenge Peace Convoy) police riot in 1985.

What were your main duties running the label?

I was the only employee / manager so had to do everything.. I did the marketing and promotion, kept the accounts and paid VAT, hung out at recording sessions, replied to fan letters, organised printing and pressing, liaised with Rough Trade / the Cartel ( co-operative distribution network). Boring stuff.

Did you enjoy running the label?

Yes I did. Way back in 1972, long before punk, I became a fan of Hawkwind (after hearing their single Silver Machine and In Search Of Space album). Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies were part of the late sixties/ early seventies UK counterculture and I wanted to be part of that�Ķ but by 76/7 punk was the scene and I wanted to be part of that as well. Running All The Madmen in 1984 and being part of the Puppy Collective seemed to me to be the fulfilment of my teenage dreams�Ķ The Mob were like Hawkwind / Pink Fairies (or the Sex Pistols and Clash) and KYPP was like International Times and OZ or Sniffing Glue.

But then the reality was also a necessary disenchantment / disillusionment. Like the Gertrude Stein said about Los Angeles - 'when you get there, there is no there there'. In theory I was 'there' at the heart of anarcho-punk, of the early eighties 'post' punk counterculture �Ķ but it seemed strangely empty .

How did Rob Challice wind up running ATM? Why did you quit?

I did not quit, I was asked to leave by Joseph (with the support of Curtis) of The Mob who got annoyed when he asked Rough Trade for some Mob money and was told that I was the only person who had access to the funds. Which is fair enough, since no formal agreement about how money earned by The Mob via the deal with Rough Trade should be paid out had been worked out. They left a letter on my desk saying Rob Challice was now in charge of ATM. I took this as a dismissal / redundancy letter. The only thing which annoyed me about this was that it meant that the Anarcha And Poppy record never got released. I thought this was a brilliant piece of music which should have been released�Ķ which it now has been.

Between the KYPP, ATM, Centro Iberico, etc. what do you think was your main interest and your best memories of the times?

My main interest was Kill Your Pet Puppy. I thought it was brilliant then and I still do. I put it up there with sixties counterculture magazines like International Times and OZ. Sod Crass and their idiot ilk, KYPP was the real thing, they were just background noise. KYPP was PUNK. ATM and the Centro Iberico were interesting asides to KYPP and to the evolution of punk and I am proud that I was part of them. But when it comes to punk as revolutionary, as visionary, as creativity, as 'be realistic: demand the impossible' - it was KYPP which demanded the impossible and delivered it as reality.

How do you reflect back on those days?

OH! pleasant exercise of hope and joy!
For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood
Upon our side, we who were strong in love!
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!--Oh! times,
In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways
Of custom, law, and statute, took at once
The attraction of a country in romance!

As Wordsworth described the French Revolution. Our Revolution was inspired by the French revolution of May 1968, by the Situationists, by the Surrealists, by the Doors, by the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, by Patti Smith, by David Bowie and Marc Bolan, by the Pink Fairies, by the Sex Pistols, by�Ķ The Mob, Blood And Roses, Charge, by Adam And The Ants, by punk�Ķ but not Crass�Ķ

How do you reflect back on that music scene?

Ooops, think I have answered this above. Zounds, Rubella Ballet, �Ķ Hagar The Womb, Look Mummy Clowns. But we also listened to the Human League and Soft Cell (well I did!) to Killing Joke and the Pop Group, to Siouxsie And The Banshees and the Psychedelic Furs, to Syd Barrett and the Misunderstood, Bow Wow Wow and the Slits, to Joy Division and New Order �Ķ. We were not bound to the constraints of 'anarcho-punk'. We were anarchists, we were punks but the very act of such self-description destroyed the narrow boundaries of 'anarcho-punk' and librated us to create a 'music scene' beyond the puritanical constraints of 'anarcho-punk' as defined by Crass and their clones.

Taken from: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/The-Mob-All-The-Madmen-Records-official-site/116214235115351

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

Increasing the Tribe -Bristol 8 April 2011

In about 48 hours and 300 miles away the Mob will be taking to the stage at the Fleece in Bristol. Zounds, Rubella Ballet, Insurrection, Andy T and Steve Corr will be playing as well - altogether it will be quite an event for the 300 folk who will be there. It will be the first time the Mob have played in 28 years, even longer since Graham was the drummer.

Over the years I have had a few shots at trying to explain why the Mob were… I was going to say important, but that doesn’t sound right. Maybe interesting and significant is a better way of putting it. Ok then, lets try ‘Why were the Mob so interesting and significant?’.

First up- context. The immediate context was the sheer jolt of first hearing Witchhunt. I first heard the song at [Kill Your Pet] Puppy Mansions in 1981 although it came out in 1980. This was a few months before we (the Puppy Collective) saw the Mob play a free gig in an adventure playground on Parliament Hill Fields. In the midst of an economic crisis brought on by the Tories voodoo economics, the lines about the ‘idle rich knitting the economy without dropping a stitch, destroying anything that doesn’t quite fit’ hit the mark.

Then there was the wave of riots which hit the UK. I remember being round Puppy Mansions one night listening to the radio reporting as city after city went up in flames. KYPP 4 came out in September with a cover using a pic Tinsel had sent us, an editorial which started ‘Buy, buy, the damnation of your soul…’ (from a surrealist text) an interview with Charge, a piece on Gay Punx and a Mob page using cut-ups from Witchhunt… and then came the Wapping Autonomy Centre where the Mob played.

I know that ‘anarcho-punk’ has now become inextricably intertwined with Crass, but at the time it was more about the dozens of other bands that jumped up on the six inch high stage at the Metropolitian Warf in Wapping. Or, even before then, who played at the Parallel Universe (a squatted church, St. James) on Pentonville Road - where I first saw Rubella Ballet. Then after Wapping came the Centro Iberico on Harrow Road in west London where the punk part of the Autonomy Centre relocated in spring 1982. Which was just around the corner from Meanwhile Gardens where the Mob also played.

What also happened then was a blurring of boundaries between audience and performers, between organisers and organised, between bands and fanzines. The result was a colourful and creative chaos utterly at odds with the retrospective construction of anarcho-punk as a bunch of black clad Crass fans. We even have the photographs to prove it!

Out of this creative chaos emerged many things. One was a housing co-operative, the Black Sheep Co-op. The Co-op survived for many years. In 2007, the Islington Archaeology and History Society published a book ‘53 Cross Street Biography of a House’ by Mary Cosh and Martin King. In 1990, Martin King moved into 53 Cross Street and began documenting its history - including (page 34) a door painted by Todd Hanson, one of the original Black Sheep. 103 Grosvenor Avenue was another of the four Co-op houses. Mark and Joseph of the Mob lived there in 1983 and it was there that Tony Drayton wrote the last issue of Kill Your Pet Puppy.

The Mob’s album ‘Let the Tribe Increase’ was another product of the creative chaos, the possibility first floated by Mark Wilson in the kitchen of Puppy Mansions and made practical when Mick Queally offered to help finance the recording and Rough Trade the pressing costs. The unexpected success of the album provide the finance for All the Madmen records and releases by the Astronauts, Zos Kia and Flowers in the Dustbin.

Unexpected success? Yes, it was unexpected.. The exact figures are lost in the mists of time, but the idea was to sell enough copies to break even -say 10 000 copies. But then far more -say 20 000 - were sold creating an unexpected profit which was re-cycled into the other releases. If the Mob had continued rather than calling it a day in 1983, the next album might have sold even more…

But they did not carry on. Through the winter of 1983/4, Mark began making himself a tipi, sitting in the front room of Grosvenor Avenue with yards and yards of cloth and a sewing machine. He also had a truck which converted into a travelling home. The spring came and he was off on his travelling adventures which lasted for many years.

It wasn’t just Mark though. For a while it seemed like the whole tribe formerly known as anarcho-punk had gone on the road. The last issue (number six) of Kill Your Pet Puppy reflected and anticipated this mass migration. While previous issues had been a surrealist/ situationist collage of cut-ups laying out in an almost random confusion of events and musics from glam to goth via anarchy and punk, number six condensed the chaos into a narrative which resolved/ dissolved itself at Stonehenge festival.

Even with the benefit of thirty years worth of hindsight, the creative chaos is still hard to comprehend, yet in the still bright colours of Joly McPhie’s Better Badges printing Adam and the Ants rub shoulders with Crass, Bauhaus with Charge, anarchy centres with a Sid Vicious Memorial March, the Illuminatus trilogy with the Floodgates of Anarchy, gay punks with Donny Osmond…I loved every minute of it.

The Mob were just one colourful thread of the psychedelic tapestry, but they do help make some kind of sense of it all. Their movement through the chaos illustrates a dimension lacking from the big bang version of punk, that somehow the long hot summer of 1976 was a year zero out of which exploded a brand new subculture disconnected from all that had gone before. This version is punk as media spectacle of the filth and the fury as if no group of young people had ever outraged common decency and threatened civilisation before. The moment of shock and awe didn’t last long, but the front page headlines became the stuff of a thousand media studies textbooks and sociology lectures. Punk generated a minor academic industry endlessly repeating year zero, year zero, year zero…if punk hadn’t existed, Greil Marcus would have had to invent it.

But there was no year zero. As several of the first generation of punk bands mentioned to John Robb (in his Punk Rock an oral history), before punk they had already been influenced by groups like the Pink Fairies and events like the Windsor Free Festival (1972-74). Beneath the shimmering banalities of the spectacular society, the UK counterculture survived the Schoolkids OZ trial of 1971 and was still a dynamic and evolving entity before during and after the punk eruption.

Both the Stonehenge Free Festival and the related traveller/ free festival (counter) culture emerged simultaneously with punk. Since Stonehenge was almost on the doorstep (next county) of Somerset, youths like the future members of the Mob found their way there and one of the first Mob gigs was at the festival. Meanwhile, Mark Perry was struggling to prevent the ossification of punk. In 1978, his ATV joined Here and Now on a tour which took in Stonehenge festival. There is a classic photo of their combined forces (including Grant of Fuck-Off Records) posed in front of a traveller bus taken at Stonehenge in June 1978.

In 1979 (or was it 1980?), the Mob were part of a similar travelling (Weird Tales) tour with Here and Now and Zounds and the Androids of Mu. So even before Wapping in 1981/2, two of the bands at the heart of anarcho-punk had already connected punk with the existing UK counterculture. Hegel would have loved it. If punk was the negation of hippy, then anarcho-punk was the negation of the negation…

So what? It is all history now. Except it isn’t. If it was all history all this should be written down somewhere, should have been picked over an analysed and theorised into extinction. As Guy Debord said “what is really lived has no relation to the official irreversible time of society and is in direct opposition to the pseudo-cyclical rhythm of the consumable by-product of this time. This individual experience of separate daily life remains without language, without concept, without critical access to its own past which has been recorded nowhere. It is not communicated. It is not understood and is forgotten to the profit of the false spectacular memory of the unmemorable.”

But since what is really lived defies the manufacture of history, so what is really experienced ‘remains without language’, remains silent between the moments of excess aka the event which will kick off at 8 pm on Friday 8 April 2011 in the Fleece. Then, for the briefest of moments, the false spectacular memory of the unmemorable will be put on hold and life will be really lived -again.

But now is not then. Thirty years ago we were at the beginning of a rightward lurch which only now is ending as (today Portugal) a series of banking crises threaten to unravel a global economy which had seemed so well knitted. Beyond the banks, the consequences of Japan’s reliance on nuclear power are turning a natural disaster into a catastrophe. No-one yet knows when or how it will end. Even as Fukushima melts down we are told with out more nukes in the UK the lights will all go off. Even as the global temperature rises we are told we must keep burning more coal and pumping more petrol to keep the wheels of industry turning and hold back a new dark age/ stone age.

It is difficult not to hear lines from Mob songs echoing the headlines. It is also hard not to recall, as Protag told me did at Heathrow Climate Change Camp, Hawkwind’s song ‘We took the wrong step years ago…’ As the sixties counterculture’s psychedelic dreams crashed against the oil crisis of the seventies, a few of the more thoughtful hippies imagined a future full of windmills and solar power as an alternative to nuclear power and fossil fuels. But as they knew, such alternative technology on its own was not enough. What was needed was a cultural revolution which would make a break with consumer capitalism which needed more and more power to keep churning out the ‘new and improved’ stuff without which life was just not worth living.

The home-made windmills never quite worked, but the idea of a DIY culture did. By demystifying (thanks Zounds!) the means of production, the radical technologists/ alternative engineers started to undermine the fetishism of commodities. I had the theory from reading magazines like Undercurrents in the seventies (‘a journal of radical technology’) but didn’t get the practice until I went with Mark of the Mob down to a record pressing plant off Mare Street in Hackney (?) to collect a 1000 copies of Witchhunt and then spent an evening (2 September 1983 to be precise) with him and Min stuffing 500 of them into their sleeves in the front room at Grovesnor Avenue. That evening a circle was completed. From hearing Witchhunt two years before at Puppy Mansions to reproducing the record for others to hear and (hopefully) be inspired by.

Twenty eight years on and that revolutionary moment of insight still seems relevant.

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Mob reformed practice session