How Margaret Thatcher changed pop culture for ever!

June 16, 2009


For someone whose favourite song is apparently and, rather bizarrely, ‘How Much Is That Doggy In the Window’ Margaret Thatcher’s influence on music was pretty big.

Can there ever have been a British politican that inspiredso many people! The right wing tyrant who believed that there no such thing as society Margaret Thatcher was, for many artists, a muse and an inspirational force in the mideighties music scene.

   Many musicians were up in arms by the swing to theright, some even organised a movement to try and influence ‘the kids’ into voting against her and whilst Red Wedge was, on paper, a great idea- in practise it sent morepeople scurrying away from the ballot box than even theLabour leadership’s disastrous fumbling attempts tocombat the Tory Reich.

   Far more effective were the never ending series of songs from many of the punk and post punk generation who now really had something to sing about.   

  In the late seventies the 2-Tone movement combined skaand punk with a celebration of left wing idealogy that culminated in The Beat’s ‘Stand Down Margaret’, a song that was hilariously misunderstood by top Tory Ed Vaizey who could not believe that anyone would diss his idol

Maggie and presumed the song must be about PrincessMargaret- and these people want to run our country!

   Whilst the mainstream popstars ponced around on yachts or in their new romantic finery in videos the underground seethed to the vehement anti Thatcher anger of Crass or the Angelic Upstarts, the poetry of Linten Kwesi Johnson, Half Man Half Biscuit’s sardonic wit, the ‘coal not dole’ miners benefits that we all played in the mid eighties,  The Specials cover of Dylan’s  ‘Maggie’s Farm’ which twisted the song with a new updated meaning, Heaven 17’s ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thing’  touched on the same sort ofdissatisfaction and as if to show the international venomreserved for the dislikeable leader was just as strong there was Welsh language band Daffyd Iwan a’r Band song ‘Magi Thatcher.’

And the songs have kept coming with  ‘Thatcher F*cked the Kids’  from Frank Turner, and the Forlorn Hope’s rather mean  ‘Gonna Laugh When Margaret Thatcher Dies’. 

   There was also bigger names like Billy Bragg, the Redskins, Elvis Costello, the Housemartins bringing their lyrical pop politics to the charts. Meanwhile Richard Thompson was agitating along with a whole bunch of English folk singers adding to a huge list of songs that mention Margaret Thatcher from the last quarter of a century including Terry Edward’s ‘Margaret Thatcher, We Still Hate Her’, Robert Wyatt’s classic ‘Shipbuilding’, the sardonic Hard Skin’s recent  ‘Still Fighting Thatcher’ and an endless list of names including the angriest band ever, Conflict, loveable indie duo Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, poet and troubadour Attila the Stockbroker and of courseMorrissey’s succinct  ‘Margaret On The Guillotine’

  Finally how could we forget the Not Sensibles sneering and hilarious ‘I’m In Love With Margaret Thatcher’ a DIY punk classic of the early eighties thatplayed dumb whilst making its sarcastic, singalong point.

  Whilst many doubt the effectiveness of all this pop polemic- especially in the light of David Cameron’s much mooted love of the Smiths and the Jam’s ‘Eton Rifles’- a love that somehow made an astonishing oversight on the lyrical front proving how easy it is to avoid the social commentary if you want to.

  Whilst Thatcher and her cronies danced around her handbag the eighties agit pop crews tapped into the very strong feeling of the UK streets and were celebrated as a rearguard reaction by the non Tory rump in those bleak times.

excerpt from book about The Membranes

June 16, 2009








“These people are scum,” whined the dwarf in the filth encrusted Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts ‘T’ Shirt as the white heat noise maelstrom exploded out of the creaking rattling speakers, “I’m off to find the plug, that will sort them out.”

   The Membranes glorious sonic cruise thundered on, surfing on the intensCarbohydrate Of Lovenking up the pure beautiful sound; A holy spectral cursing thing, surfing on a searing life affirming rush.

   A shower of ripped paper, some of it on fire, shot up from the sweat soaked front  row thrashers. There was a determined craziness in the room.

  Bits of paint and plaster fell off the seedy ceiling and the drinkers downstairs looked terrified as lumps of the roof fell onto their tables. All of a sudden a demented blurred shape in a home made painted leather spun out of control, brushed aside the Japanese film crew and lifted up a rusting metal crowbar from the percussion’ set and started pounding the floor wack! wack! wack!, with the rumbling backbeat.

   The rest of the crazies shifted a gear. Fat Mark was in the room. It was going to be a long and wild night.

   This was special danger- The Death To Trad Rock Squad had arrived and no one was taking any prisoners.


A mixture of Maloney boots, home hewn hair, paint spattered togs, lust for lifestyle tips and mealy mouthed quips. A rolling blunder review, a well-worn blur of a thousand records, a blur of fast moving nights out. A twenty- four hour, music boho- zone lifestyle; nothing is scared but everything is brilliant- seeking a certain out-there-ness.



February 27th 

m way fever 

   Tearing up the asphalt somewhere deep in the night, burning rubber on the M6 the rain spattered main Brit. artery that nails London and the norf together. Feet pumped up high and pushing against the windscreen I’m talking ten to the dozen buzzing off a huge adrenaline rush keeping the driver awake and spouting shit.

 “…this is the only way, faster louder harder, we’ve got top keep cranking it up it feels right,…it’s the only sound that we understand….can we get these amps to play any louder, can we get any more energy from anywhere, we’ve got to burn burn burn…you know the usual stuff…”

   And so it goes into the night, the sweat shod van windows and the stinking occupants collapsed asleep in the back. the pumpkin moon slips out form the almost permanent clouds and we wind down into keels services.

“I love these services, they look great…the way they are so bleak, the way that there is no one here at this time of night, they are so spooky they are like space stations,…look at these people whoa re they…they can’t all be in bands…” gibbber gibber gibber. It’s five hours into the long haul back from Brighton. The art school wimps in the seaside town had been shredded by the music machine and the quick raid was over, there was enough clear profit to pay for the European tour the hand to mouth existence had its latest instalment and the night was slowly melting into dawn.

“You know we could sneak out every night and play somewhere miles away. it’s like being guerrilla unit,” loks up sees Coofy fast asleep under his mouldy brown quilt beer dribbling out of his mouth, smirks and adds, “ or a gorilla unit, ha! ha! ha!…”


MARCH 1st:  



There’s paint everywhere. Pots of paint, poster paint, mangled brushes,  spray cans of car paint, turps jars, cloudy water jars… all heaped up everywhere, a topsy turvey art junkyard. Stencils cut from the ripped up lino from the back kitchen floor are cut into weird pumpkin shapes and are sprawled all over the sitting room floor.

 A puppy, an excitable young collie dog rummages through the artwork looking for food.Not noticing the clouds of smoke and singed smell until he was roughly pulled away, his furry black arse is burnt into the shape of the gas fire rings where he’d been leaning an hour before.

Practise sprays of the stencil stain the concrete floor by the side door of the house before zooming up on the wall, up the drainpipe and over the ground floor windows, and then over guitar cases, on the back of an old ‘T’ shirt and on the trousers of a comotose, fat sloth singer of a fellow underground unit who collapsed asleep on the settee a few weeks ago and has hardly stirred since.

A multi- fucking- colour  spray out. Cans are littered everywhere, the air is thick with fumes, the weak rays of early March sun are suspended in the chemical haze, the backdoor is creaked open and a few figures are sat on a surprisingly warm early March afternoon. The talk is low volume, the tape recorder is cranked hard, a mixture of rehearsal tapes, garbled punk rock and a mish- mash of thirty years crazed and dangerous music is busting out of the wired up speakers- distorting and crashing out down the street.


    A  mashed up cassette, with its innards pulled out, is stretched from the door to the hedge opposite- flutters in the breeze, plastic toys peer out of the back widow and from the trees, their dead eyes chewing up the bizarre scenery. Props left over from a video shoot for Yank cvranked guitar popstrers, Dinosaur Jnr. stand awkwardly in the centre of the manky lawn. A six foot plastic yellow fisherman stares his face an education, a weather beatebn plastic snarl and a totem pole sags slightly under its own weight.

 The garden, which prompted a former  owner to burst into tears the year before, is a sprawl of plants allowed to grow wild, amok in a crazed suburb- busting anarchy. Wild plant seeds thrown into the ground a couple of years back had taken root, the rockery had been moved and a garden pond is going mouldy in the far corner- battling for oxygen from beneath the leaf sludge mould. There are several battered, painted up TV’s- their electrical innards pulled out and slogans sprayed over their screens. There is a shed with ‘Stockport Uber Alles’ sprayed on by a chemical fried poet in the late hours of last summer, and an explosion of honey suckle on the back door.

  Just before everything gets too rural, a heap of guitars give the rock’n’roll game away. There is some serious spraying going on. The Membranes are between dates, they have been playing up and down Britain for most of the year and are taking stock before a world tour will take them right through to the autumn.  some of the band are here sprawled around the house and the rest are coming by bus and foot, the clans are gathering. Plans are to be made, there’s a world to deafen, the pop monster is gettin’ mighty hungry.

Nirvana live review from New York Oct 21st 1989

June 16, 2009

This was the live review that went with the feature that the SOUNDS FRONT COVER (their first front cover)- October 21, 1989. By John Robb.



   Crash! the drums are flying everywhere, ker! uuunch! the guitar goes through the roof, the bass is virtually cracked in two. The four piece live whirlwind that is Nirvana is trashing the tiny New York venue to a handful of freaked punters. It’s an incredible live performance and typical of the sort of incendiary set that the band is producing as they criss cross The States as the latest hope for the best record label in the world today, Subpop.

  The success of Mudhoney has seen the Seattle based label get taken seriously as prime time contenders. And the latest hopefuls in the vinyl Midas story are Tad and Nirvana. 

   The pair are touring the UK next week in a hefty double bill that fattens up to a mighty trio at the occasional dates where they play with Mudhoney. 

   Nirvana are the natural descendants of Mudhoney and Dinosaur Jr. 

   Their debut album, ‘Bleach’, which scorched the tail end of the summer, collected some salivating press commentary and fixed a few vinyl junkies’ habits for the interim. 

And now they’re on tour with a helluva chance of making up some spectacular ground.  

   For, while Dinosaurs  J. Mascis’ legendary lazyitis could blot the lank-haired guitar fiend from the landscape and Mudhoney’s splendid thrashiness is in danger of cul de sacking their mainstream putsch, Nirvana have the teen beat at their feet. Their overt pop ethic is married to mad dog guitar antics; a rowdy burn-out that’s featured on the band’s new four-track 12-inch, ‘Blew’, released in the UK on the Tupelo label. 

   The records are awesome but its live that the four piece are making their name. They literally explode onstage. Their enthusiastic energy burns, resulting in a trail of smashed gear and highly charged beat anthems. 

   Offstage, the small town muthas are quiet and affable, Kobain prefers lying hunched up in the corner of the too hot New York East village apartment. He’s burned out by the road and the incredible heat of late summer New York City. The band are in town to play a show for the New Music Seminar, the last show on a long tour.

   And what a show it is.

   Across the river in Hoboken at a tiny venue called Maxwells right next to the coffee factory (hence the name), the four piece band are giving it everything. There are about ten people in the audience as they explode across the stage. Its an awesome racket. Heavy duty guitars. Quiet bits, loud bits, noise and killer chorus. Its The Pixies if they were true small town psychotics.  The live destruct and the band’s full bodied sound is enhanced by the heroic, hair-throwing antics of the band’s fourth member, Jason Everman. 

   Kurt has a voice that cuts right through the noise and takes the tiny venue. At the end of their set they trash their gear, shove their guitars through the teetering roof and kick over Chad Channing’s drumkit.

   Its an awesome demolition job. Nirvana are quite possibly the best rock n roll band in the world right now and its a real tragedy that the music scene seems to stale and scared to allow the band to ever get through to the mainstream where their inherent grasp of the classic pop tune could do some real damage at the record stores.

   Before the gig Kurdt and bassist Chris Nosovelic chat about the band’s backwater roots. Roots that their reaction to has scored their music with its explosive energy. Its the sound of frustration and the sound of escape.

   Nirvana did their teenage thang in the wilds of smalltown USA in the Washington state backwater town of Aberdeen. Kurdt Kobain, the band’s songwriter, vocalist and guitar player, scratches the mouldy bumfluff on his pixie skull and picks up the tale. 

“Chris and me are from Aberdeen, which is a really dead logging town on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. The nearest town was Olympia, about 50 miles away, which is where we’ve moved to.” 

Chris, the bass beanpole, cuts in. “It’s a logging town – they want to cut all the trees down that are left in the state, you know. You could say that they are at loggerheads with the environmentalists…” 

Touring has provided Nirvana with a welcome escape from the smalltown hell. Kurdt is animated with road fever. 

“I’m seeing America for, like, free and only having to work for two hours a day.It’s weird though, I’m not homesick yet. 

“If we hadn’t done this band thing, we would have been doing what everyone else does back home, which is chopping down trees, drinking, having sex and drinking, talking about sex and drinking some more…It seems to rain all the time. It can be a really depressing place to live…”

A lifestyle not totally at odds with the band’s slogan, “Fudge Packing, crack smoking, satan worshipping, mother fuckers”, which is scrawled across their t-shirts. 

This small town suffocation inspired the first bunch of songs Kobain ever came up with and still fires the mood. 

“The early songs were really angry,” explains Kobain. “But as time goes on the songs are getting poppier and poppier as I get happier and happier. The songs are now about conflicts in relationships, emotional things with other human beings.” 

“When I write a song the lyrics are the least important subject. I can go through two or three different subjects in a song and the title can mean absolutely nothing at all.” 

Kurdt’s still not totally comfortable with his new upbeat mood though. 

Sometimes I try to make things harder for myself, just to try to make myself a bit more angry. I try out a few subconscious things I suppose, like conflicts with other people. Most of the lyrics on the ‘Bleach’ album are about life in Aberdeen.” 

Kurdt had been writing songs in his bedroom for years until finally deciding to lay down some demos with the help of Novoselic, a first generation Yugoslav. The drummer on these sessions was Del Crover, who’s also stixman for the only other band in town, The Melvins, a seminal outfit on the development of Nirvana, Kobain even roadied for the outfit.

   The demo was laid down in a studio belonging to Jack Endino, an old chum of the dudes at Sub Pop Records and a guitar player with the crucial Skinyard outfit. 

One phone call later and Sub Pop were marvelling at the “beautiful yet horrifying voice” of the kid that looked like a garage attendant: Kurdt Kobain. 

The final connection with the rest of the world must have been a relief. 

“We’d been revolving around in bands for years,” explains Kurdt. “I’d been writing songs since I was about 13. I’d never heard of Sub Pop before, although I suppose we didn’t exist in a total backwater, we had the Melvins in our town and we used to go and listen to them rehearse all the time.” 

The resulting debut single was a classic 7-inch; the Sounds single of the week seesaw-riff, garage punk cover of the Screaming Blues’ late ’60s slice of psychodrama, ‘Love Buzz’. The future looked promising and was fulfilled by the ‘Bleach’ album, a 12-inch platter which saw Nirvana taking the opportunity to cover several bases at once. 

From the lighter pop dynamics of ‘About A Girl’, an uptempo poppist grove – and an indication of the band’s future development? – through to the heavier post-Killing Joke grind of the intense ‘Paper Guts’, the album thrives on gristly hooks onto which Kobain grapples his scarred, world weary howl, a thousand years of life trapped in his young larynx.  

   Nirvana’s live action is a dangerous burn out. At one of the gigs in New York, Novoselic, in a rush of Balkan blood, threw himself into the ground, seconds later the whole band hit auto destruct and emulated The Who’s early ’60s guitar antics. 

Bit of a Townsend vibe going on here, Chris? 

“Yeah, it’s a nice feeling, it’s something that needs to be done at least twice a week. It seems to becoming more common at our gigs. The more people screaming at you the more you are into smashing everything up. It’s definitely not a contrived thing . We don’t smash the gear up on purpose, we’re not trying to impress or anything.” 

Scrawny bar-chord operatives, Nirvana are the small town kids let loose in the middle-aged music biz grind. Their onstage, guerrilla insurrections and scuzzed pop poonk anthems are just about heroic enough to push through the Nirvana-as-Sub-Pop’s-trump card prediction made by some old fool a couple months back. 



Hello world!

June 9, 2009

Welcome to This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

%d bloggers like this: