ABOUT ACID STINGS
Anarchy,punkrock and the APOSTLES
By Andy Martin
I was going to write my own experiences and reflections on the anarchist punk upheavels of the early 1980s but the article below by Andy Martin is better and gives an accurate picture of the political and musical climate of the time.
Fortunately I like rain. Screaming transparent blizzards of water thrash the road ahead of me, eyes sting, dark stained patches on my suit from the failure of this umbrella to hold back the deluge. I’m in Ongar. Essex; it’s 1979 and I’m to meet some band called Crass. Never heard of them. As soon as they give me the old "and here’s how long it took me so lay down that lead guitar rift" routine, I’m outta there, me.
I didn’t meet a punk band – I met a dozen black-clad idealists who were far too intelligent to convincingly pull off the punk band set. It doesn’t work if you can string together more than two coherent sentences – people see through it, apart from those who are as stupid as the average punk band... but then the second wave, what became known as the anarchopunk scene, had the benefit of other peoples’ hindsight: the faults and mistakes of 1977 were not to be repeated. (Ah, but they were, they were – more on that later).
I joined a punk band called the Apostles in 1981. I was a member of the (ahem) Revolutionary Communist Party and frankly believed in very little Marxism, not because I was cynical or stupid bit because I realized that most human beings are so brutish, selfish and greed-ridden that they need leaders and the firm hand of a benevolent controller to stop them from tearing each other’s throats out in an orgy of humanity. When I found out what Crass believed in, I became convinced that the majority of youth in Thatcherite Britain would just laugh with derision – pacifism and anarchist utopia is it? Yet from virtual obscurity in mid-1979 to national recognition a year later, they and their fans (yes, I do mean ‘fans’) proved me wrong. I didn’t join The Apostles to preach a new polemic to people of the new proletariat – I joined The Apostles to locate and secure a girlfriend or four – I was fed up with being both lonely and celibate. Being physically ugly and partially disabled I realized that the only way to find girlfriends was to fake it – the old pop group routine works very well and is so much simpler to play than the film star set or the sportsman set, you can practice is the comfort of your own home, those of you lucky enough so have homes, It didn’t work for me, of course, because I went and spoilt it by being honest and sincere – what a loser I was in those halcyon days when just one more record on Crass Records would bring about the revolution tomorrow, that is, after your giro has arrived.
The other members of the band wanted to change society. I just wanted to change myself. I can’t say that they or I were right or wrong.
Now the anarcho-punk scene has to be relocated in history in the light of the cultural events and the political atmosphere which prevailed in early 1980’s Britain. There were various factors then that led to this sudden wave of what appeared to be politically aware young people:
2. The promises and plans of the first wave of punk lay in tattered rags by 1979 and any young people who still believed that such youth subculture contained the seeds of revolt and rebellion had to replant their hopes in a severely modified form.
3. Since all the early punk heroes disappeared into obscurity or went on to become the new boring old rock stars, the voice of the revolution had to be found in new, committed groups – but this, as I shall explain later, was the reason for the failure of the second wave of punk.
4. There was no radical voice outside black culture (a recurrent situation) for although the two-tone and ska revival assisted the battle against racism, it was little more than a nostalgic slice of history, a pale and diluted version of those heroes it emulated. The radical voice moved onto, in a sense, a form of revival – a punk revival – one which contained the blueprint both for its success and its demise.
So who were the real punks? Well, that depends on your politics, your pay packet and your ability to deceive yourself under a welter of shock slogans and token tantrums. A glossy magazine – Punk Lives (basically The Face for people with even less dress-sense) –became the organ of the drug ravished, meticulously coutured neophytes of narcissism for whom credibility came with latex on their legs and neurons soaked in chemical warfare experiments unfit for even the most brutal psychiatric hospital. Various people identified with or were identified with this photogenic set, including Tony D whose two claims to fame were the (first) Scottish punk fanzine Ripped & Tom and the rather excellent Kill Your Pet Puppy which proved that is was not only possible but actually acceptable for punks to he intelligent, socially aware and interested at matters other than bands and haircuts (although these were important, it seems), The fascination with the occult, new technology and conspiracies (ably assisted by magazines such as Vague and Rapid Eye) led to the inevitable – and perhaps fortunate – departure of this group from punkdom into an as yet non-categorized collective of individuals who went on to industrial music, The Temple of Psychic Youth and occulture in a big way. Disadvantages: only two which spring to my mind. First of all, this group became by its very nature elitist and snobbery was rife: second and more importantly, the package was soon adopted: one read H P Lovecraft and Robert Anton Wilson, one quoted from Aleister Crowley, one forced oneself to be almost obsessed with Charles Manson, Jim Jones, William Burroughs, Bryon Gysin, the assassination of President Kennedy. dreamachines, Wilhelm Reich. Anton La Vey and who Genesis P-Orridge hates this week. The departure from punkdom has thus enabled these people to continue as an unofficial sad undefined subculture but one which still possesses inherent defects, the pose often being greater than the substance of which it is comprised.
But it’s easy to be both cynical and wise after the event. What did I have to be so proud about at this time? I was a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party (MarxistLeninist) because I was a revolutionary and it took at least six weeks for me to appreciate that Asians and Afro-Caribbeans really don’t need a band of middle class liberal tupperware terrorists ridden with white guilt to fight their battles for them and lead them on to socialism. Picture the evening vigilante squads I joined after I’d actually left the party – a gang of seething Asians who guarded their (capitalist) concerns (shops) from vicious racially motivated attacks by (working class) skinheads and fascist thugs (also working class) with me as the token whitey because I was opposed to racism and couldn’t care less whether my brothers and sisters had read ‘Das Kapital’ or not. That these angry Asians accepted me doesn’t mean that I’m anyone special – but it does mean that they knew what the RCP was and that they resented being used by a party which is probably as racist as ever was the National Front.
Yes, we were all rather too political in those days; that way we didn’t need to look too closely at who – and what – we really were. I was lonely, a short and rather ugly young man who’d never had a girlfriend and joined a punk band as a possible means to further his career in amorous adventures. I lived in Stoke Newington in a house designated ‘women only’ by April Housing Co-op but since I was one of the three people who originally set up that Co-op and since I was homeless the four women occupants decided that it was better l should live in their attic than be on the streets. L agreed with them. From the start of 1981 until the end of 1982 I learnt a lot about feminism and the women’s struggle. I also learnt that the loudest, most fanatical and unreasonable feminist elements were also those who tended to be male and sexually promiscuous. Ridden with guilt and desperate to prove their political credibility, such people required an enemy... rather like the RCP and other psychiatric socialists. The female variety of feminist who hates men but only actually practices feminism on every third Friday is the reason the women’s movement has progressed so slowly. Tabloid journalism is the reason most other women and most men know nothing about either feminism or how male and female bodies actually work.
The Apostles: Three middle class schoolboys and one working class man-with-chip who was too young to realize that he was old enough to know better. The scene provided a forum for fanzines and bands to express the views of Crass; individuals rarely had the opportunity to be recognized. If you didn’t produce a product then you weren’t generally acknowledged. This is regrettable although not entirely avoidable since hands and fanzines have names and images which are easily assimilated into the social awareness of the scene members while individuals possess no obvious manifestation of their existence outside of their own bodies. The views expressed and promoted by all these bands and fanzines rarely strayed from the anarchist-pacifist line. On the other hand, those purveyors of Oi and ‘street-level punk’ (The Exploited, GBH, Discharge etc.) had so little to say that provided that you were white and heterosexual, you were generally acceptable. The third branch were far more tolerant of unusual views and different ideas which meant that it was the one branch of punk that survived with at least a modicum of credibility as its diverse nemesis fostered both intellectual debate and strength of character among its adherents. For the rest, punk was little more than a fashion. I have to include the Crass fans in that last sentence as these days the only people who still adhere in both word and deed to what Crass promoted, seem to be... Crass. They were honest and genuine – most of their fans were neither.
Being neither a punk, an anarchist nor a pacifist, it is perhaps strange that I should have occasionally supported and even worked with Crass. However, as I hinted earlier, I was a communist who refused to toe the party line; this meant that I could work with people toward a commonly agreed goal. This was lost on the fans of course. From the group’s first cassette to it’s last album I supported The Angry Brigade, armed insurrection against capitalist states and the education and politicization of the working class: I stood for gay rights, feminist issues and took an openly hostile stance against all forms of racism (l.e. not just white racism). Our position was both revolutionary and warlike. Je ne regret rien. We were often naive. We were never gullible. There’s a distinct difference. However, because our group refused to participate in the factions and sectarian hatreds that prevailed in the scene and even more because we refused to identify with any of the separate branches of punkdom. We were ostracized and alienated from almost every sphere of influence and activity. Very few people supported or assisted our work. A large minority actually tried to hinder it. They were only occasionally successful – they won a few battles but we won the war!
We released sixteen cassettes (the last seven recorded in a studio), seven singles and seven albums; we appeared on three compilation albums; we played twenty-four concerts We released pamphlets, magazines and communiqués. We helped to set up and run four different Autonomy Centres, the last two completely on our own with no help from anyone else, We ran an information network, put homeless people in touch with housing co-ops and squatters groups, put lonely people in touch with other like-minded lonely souls and organized various social events of a non-musical nature. We participated in direct action of a political nature, There were other groups that did more than us... but they didn’t release records and cassettes or play music! My criticism is that we tried to do too much in too many different fields so that we excelled in none of them. Certainly our music was often ineptly performed and badly produced. Our political activities were rather more successful but only in a small way. The results of our nine years work still exist but hardly set parliament on fire.
I hinted briefly at two reasons for the demise of the second wave of punk. The first of these is simple: instead of the adoption of a new, original and intelligent panaura (expressed through music. magazines and visual arts), the anarcho-punks opted for all the old cliches, tired routines and fashionable formulae as if to suggest that to breathe new life into those cracked models was enough to succeed where previously it had been shown to fail. Here are the basic areas which were revealed to have been responsible for the inability of the new punk wave to meet the needs of young alienated people who required a radical voice:
2. The bands behaved no differently to any other pop group in the commercial sense. They practised, rehearsed, played concerts (called ‘gigs’, a real rockist term) on a stage in front of an audience, often ended with an encore, posed and strutted around like Led Zeppelin (but without the musical ability) and then pretended this was permissible because it was in the name of anarchism. What rot! The records obeyed a strict formula and so were lamentable in quality, predictable in content and disposable in history. The covers frequently evoked all that is most despicable in egomania (the compulsory four members stand against a brick wall and look surly, a sombre reflection upon their hopes for fame and stardom) or else displayed an obsession with death and masochism which hardly promoted an attitude of libertarian optimism after all! Every track sounded the same: 4/4 time signature, vocal-guitar-bass-drums on each piece with lyrics that sounded as insincere as they were trite.
Punk could have been an intelligent, angry, imaginative and vibrant youth subculture; instead it died a demise before it had even created much of an impact. I mean, where are all those anarchy, peace and freedom rebels now?
The Apostles proved that it was possible to make and sell records that didn’t obey the rules; The Apostles proved that it was possible to perform concerts that didn’t adhere to the strict conventions of rock theatre. I don’t pretend that the records and the concerts were all superbly crafted masterpieces; they were occasionally dire and often fraught with ineptitude: they were never mediocre. More importantly we promoted the recognition of individuals who helped and assisted the struggle – in The Autonomy Centre in Wapping set up by The London Autonomists and Crass we insisted that people like Luke, Mark Ripper, Dagenham Pete, Rachel, Lugworm, Michael and Scarecrow received acknowledgement for work they did despite the fact that I once threatened Lugworm and Ripper with violence! Whether I liked people or not was not important – they each deserve to be mentioned.
In The Centro Iberico in Westbourne Park (now sadly demolished) during 1982 and 1983 we set up cultural and social events as well as concerts; sadly it was only the concerts that were well attended. People tend to stick to the old rock theatre routine, don’t they? Wolfen, Luke, Rachel, Scarecrow, Trevor, Mark Ripper, Michael and Terry Watson all deserve credit for the hard graft they submitted to that place: they built the stage, soundproofed the entire hall, ran gigs, helped to collect money at the door and clean up afterwards... the latter being a task of the most unenviable proportions: take a bomb site, add walls and a ceiling, litter it with beer tins, glue bags, vomit, pieces of paper, crisps and the odd badge and safety pin; add heat and exhaustion to the participants involved in the game and harass constantly. I must mention here that one particular band closely aligned to Crass featured two rabid anarchists as vocalists with a bass player and drummer both of whom claimed to be involved in… or were accused of being members of... neo-nazi political organizations. The two anarchists frequently tried to gain entry into events without paying even though the proceeds paid for the expenses of the performers present and for the maintenance of the premises which inevitably required frequent repairs and renovation being a squatted secondary school. The reason they gave for this reluctance to behave like everyone else was not due to any eccentric individuality – that l could possibly have respected although they’d still have had to pay – last because they were in this punk band and so therefore were immune from such degrading chores. Meanwhile, the two reputedly dubious brothers always paid to come in and usually were to be found after each event bin liners and brushes – they assumed it was as much their duty to help clear and clean up as anyone else’s. What can this mean?
What happened when Oisters, Crass clones and Punk Lives types met? Well, among the latter two categories, very little happened other than the obligatory exchange of petty insults and complaints common to most lower species. In fact, arguments raged around these central issues: to wear or not to wear leather, to eat or not to eat dairy products; to believe or not to believe in pacifism; to worship or not to worship Crass. These last two were controversial since it was often assumed that one did believe in pacifism and that one did worship Crass so that the notion that anyone could hold other ideas was almost unthinkable. However the Crass and Oi brigade rarely sat within toluene-fumes distance of each other, when they did meet then the anarcho-pacifists would shout vitriolic abuse at the reptilian hordes while they ran away… although, to be fair, the Oisters weren’t exactly bristling with bravery either. One amusing – yet also rather sad – event took place which does stand the test of repeated relation: the day Wattie Buchan visited The Centro Iberico. Let me make this clear: Wattie at no time acted in a provocative or antisocial manner, he paid to come in, he sat down at a table and watched the bands. He was accompanied by Annie Anxiety, a friend of Crass, who brought him along to introduce him to the Crass Clone Society in order to reveal to him a fact of which I was previously unaware, that is, according to her, we can all get along with each other and fight the struggle in harmonious relations if we really want to; in the whole history of humankind, has there ever been a shred of evidence for such an attitude?
Wattle Buchan was unknown to me at the time; for all I knew, he was just a fellow Scot who was also a punk of the colourful spiky variety. The fact that he was also the lead singer of a band called The Exploited had no bearing on my opinion since in those days the only ‘non-classical’ music I ever listened to was by the likes of Throbbing Gristle, Nocturnal Emissions, Konstruktivists and Five Or Six anyway. Within twenty minutes of his arrival, Wattie was cornered in the toilets, surrounded by five people and about six observers, harangued and harassed, virtually interrogated about his records, lyrics, ideas and beliefs then assaulted by two women with a tin bath full of dirty water, seaweed and rubbish. He was on his own and unarmed. I jumped to his assistance and supported him, not because I agreed with his views, (I had very little idea what they were in any case), or thought that he was an underdog bit because it seemed absurd to me that he should have to endure a scene from The Sweeney (punk style) followed by an obscure aquatic initiation when all he had done was pay his £1 to see a few punk bands perform,
The perils which afflict a revolutionary communist surrounded by punks can be most eloquently expressed when a cold night in 1982 is summoned from memory: six bands were to play that night and Conflict were top of the bill. Myself and a colleague from The Wapping Autonomy Centre, Ian Slaughter, were irritated to the point of petrol bombs. These punks shouted about revolution as they punched the air with their fists, but frankly, the temporary displacement of a few nitrogen molecules isn’t going to drastically hasten the demise of Western capitalism. Ian and I decided to give the revolution a little assistance since in England it is a truism that in order to effect political change you have to blow it up, bum it down and kick it until it breaks.
Ian telephoned the local police to say that trouble was about to erupt at that damned squatted school on Westbourne Park Road and would they come along with shields and truncheons, please? Meanwhile, I went round members of the audience to harass them into action. The police are about to arrive with the express purpose of the immediate cessation of festivities here, arm yourselves and prepare for battle (just like the Conflict lyrics). By the end of the band’s set, I’d succeeded in the eventual arousal of at least two hundred angry, frustrated punks and skinheads so that as Ian’s signal they rushed towards the stairwell which led down to the playground. The gig hall was on the fourth floor and I led my troops from the front. By the time l rushed out into the cold night air, I’d lost two thirds of my battalion and by the time I reached the front gates, three quarters of my remaining platoon had vanished inexplicably into the darkness. I was beside myself with rage. lan saw what had happened and was so furious that he hurled a house brick at a police van that happened to pass at this point. The projectile made a beautiful arc through the indigo sky, caught the rays of an amber street light and resounded against the side of the van with a most satisfying ‘whump’ before it bounced off the metal and split into fragments on the pavement. One of the policemen glanced out of the window briefly – then he turned his gaze back to the road ahead. The van didn’t even slow down. That, ladies and gentlemen, was the punk riot of Westbourne Park Road.
As the punks gradually rounded themselves up and sauntered merrily off down the road, Ian strutted after them, trotted alongside the assorted ragbag of reluctant rebels and grabbed various individuals at random.
"Come on you scum, you filth – fight! We can smash shop windows, wreck the town –come on! What’s the fucking matter with you?" he yelled in bitter frustration at the confused and bewildered glances of the punks. One young lad actually replied (and these are his exact words):
"No, sorry. I have so go to work tomorrow." I sat on the steps with my head in my hands. Yes, that was the punk riot of Westbourne Park Road.
The ZigZag Event – On 18th December 1932. Crass organized what turned out to be the very first squatted live music concert in the British Isles. Dave and I worked at Little A printers at the time and we were due to play a concert in the evening of the day when we received a telephone call from Andy Palmer. He asked us if we could inform as many of our friends, colleagues and associates of a gig that was to happen that evening at The Rainbow in Finsbury Park. Obviously I felt rather confused here for where did my loyalties lie? I told him that we were to perform at The LMC that evening; he told me that we could play at this free gig instead. I had a word with Dave and we both agreed to do so since only about two dozen people were due to attend our originally planned concert that evening and they were all mates of Dave anyway, since virtually nobody else in London would ever come to see The Apostles unless someone paid them enough money to do so.
Official word was leaked to the media and press: Crass and other famous punk bands were to play The Rainbow in Finsbury Park. Meanwhile, we received further telephone calls. Penny Rimbaud informed us that actually the event was to take place at The ZigZag Club, just off Westbourne Park Road – which brought back those memories of glue-bags, blood and insults at The Centro Iberico, Anyway, within the hour we had increased the telephone bill of Little A enormously by then ringing up everyone we had already telephoned to tell them where the concert was actually to happen. That we managed to accrue a body of people that numbered up to 150 was a credit more to everyone else’s ability to spread word of a Crass performance a la forest fire than any amazing communication skills of ours. When we arrived at Westbourne Park all of Crass were there along with a few early arrivals.
The sight of Andy Palmer as he shinned up the fire escape to clamber in a most undignified manner through an open window about thirty feet off the ground will remain with me for some time yet, in fact it was no Herculean feat to gain entrance into the disused building provided one had a head for heights. I didn’t. I simply broke a back door down only to discover that someone else had already managed to gain admittance by peaceful means with a skeleton key and an old lock. Okay, one-nil to anarcho-pacifism.
The Mob provided a culinary service in the shape of the inevitable vegetarian stew (which was most welcome and actually quite delicious) and huge vats of tea. Flux Of Pink Indians, Dirt, Zounds, 4 Minute Warning and Youth In Asia provided much of the initial assistance, support and help to open, secure and prepare the venue, turn on the electricity supply and ensure that the fire-doors were operational and so forth. Of all the multitude of bands who played that evening, here are the ones I can actually remember from a list scribbled in multi-coloured chalk on a large blackboard which gave the running order; Youth In Asia, Rubella Ballet, Hagar The Womb Conflict, The Mob, Dirt, Zounds, ‘1 Minute Warning, Flux Of Pink Indians, Lack Of Knowledge, Rudimentary Peni, The Apostles (and by Pan, we were terrible that night and in front of five hundred people too... I thought my pants would never dry) and Crass, of course. The equipment for this event must have given someone an extreme anxiety complex from which they may still not have recovered. In such an essay as this I can only apologize so anyone’s name or hand that has not been mentioned – I was occupied (as were many others) with certain tasks which meant that my attention was elsewhere, i.e. not on the stage.
By about 9pm; Conflict had just finished playing and Crass had come on; Dave and myself both brandished huge black bin-liners (they couldn’t be any other colour I suppose... I’m surprised they didn’t bear circled A’s on them, come to think of it...) and into them we deposited empty beer tins and soft drink bottles (for some people a pot of tea just isn’t punk enough), Suddenly, I was shoved so one side by some primordial thug wearing a Union Jack t-shirt – ah yea, of course, I thought to myself. The obligatory skinheads have arrived to ensure that this is a genuine punk event. Actually there were five of these missing links and they marched into the hall and casually pushed and shoved people aside as they stridently made their way to the front of the stage. In a hall of by now well over five hundred people, not one person made any effort to confront them. Why?
Now anyone who is familiar with Academy 23 (or even The Apostles), knows that Dave and myself took up karate and that I continue with this most noble of martial arts to this day. Back in 1983, however, the closest we had come to karate had been ‘Enter The Dragon’ with Bruce Lee at the Dalston Rio cinema. That Dave fearlessly, it then seemed, strode towards the skinheads elicited a simple response from myself: I strode after him in the belief that it would be much more fun if both of us were beaten up. As we approached the stage, we saw quite clearly, a small punk lad – who looked Asian or Mauritian – being treated so a free boxing match except that is took all five skinheads to demonstrate this ignoble art. (PS: This was in the days before I had tried and thus come to love boxing). A circle of anarcho-pacifist punks had moat considerately spread out in a ring to allow the skinheads enough room to pummel every last corpuscle out of the unfortunate victim so that when myself and Dave arrived it was immediately obvious that not one of these cowardly creeps would offer any assistance.
Assistance did come – from a most unexpected source. Both Andy Palmer and Penny Rimbaud had jumped down from the stage and actually grabbed the two largest primordial thugs before we were close enough to behead them ourselves, You’ve all seen films where typical Arnie Rambo type grabs weedy bad guy by the lapels and holds him up in the air, legs and feet kick akimbo… well that actually happened here as Penny held up this skinhead by his braces and shirt, Doc Marten boots left she floor and he just hung there, red faced and stupid while Penny shouted at him. Andy P shoved this other lout in the back and yelled until the thug had vanished from sight, sadly I couldn’t hear what was yelled exactly but I don’t think is had to do with how many sugars the skinhead had in his tea. Colin Jerwood (of Conflict) managed to deal with the other three by threatening to plait them together unless they behaved like human beings... this of course was a logical impossibility since the fact of their humanity was a question for anthropological debate.
The audience possessed Star Trek dress sense and a grip on reality to match - you did not try to reason or argue with them, you simply increased the dosage of largactyl and hoped for the best.
Let’s end on a positive note – the music stopped – but seriously, the place was cleaned up, tidied and left in an orderly state, the electricity and water were disconnected safely and the doors and windows secured after we all left. The event at The ZigZag had been a success so far as squatted concerts are concerned; many others followed in other parts of the country, For me, I still remember with vivid despair how five hundred people stood passively by and were prepared to watch while a young teenage lad was beaten up by five cowardly thugs. If that is the kind of society planned for us by our coloured haired visionaries then I’ll stick with my armed Red Guards, thanks. My ideal society may well be harsh and bereft of bohemian joie de vivre but at least it’ll bear some semblance of honour and dignity.
I offer all these stories and ideas not to emphasize the factions and back-stabbing but to reveal how much more powerful, effective and inspired this scene could have been without all that carry on. I was not a punk, nor was l any form of anarchist; by the end of 1983 was extremely grateful that this was the case. Now let me reveal just how, despite all that has been so far stated, real action and genuine education did result from this second wave of punk, for all it’s faults. I do this because the struggle is far from finished and if we are to stick together to work toward any form of libertarian change (fuck that, I want a full scale revolution at the very least) then we should concentrate on where we went right and leave the mistakes for lesser mortals to ponder upon.
I was involved in four different social centres, ‘Autonomy Clubs’ they were called, but in fact they weren’t run according to anarchist principles – if they had been then they’d never have lasted longer than a single night. This isn’t a criticism of anarchism – it’s a statement about human nature. In any case, here they are: The Autonomy Centre, Wapping, The Centro Iberico, Westbourne Park, The LMC, Camden and The Recession Club, Hackney, The level of commitment on our behalf in respect of The Recession Club was severe as our assembled crew of helpers consisted purely of three or four friends of Dave’s, since I’d done a pretty thorough job in eradicating the few friends I ever had. This was the place I threatened so throw out two thugs of dubious merit unless they paid their entrance fees like everyone else, told them that neo-nazis weren’t welcome anyway and then found out later that they were Tony Wakeford and Doug Pierce of Death In June. You see? I should have thrown them out for that reason alone. I also met a couple of spoilt, middle class brats who went under the moniker of Bourbonese Qualk and was supremely satisfied to have upset their delicate egotism with my suggestion that perhaps they weren’t good-enough to play at our little venue. We had Sleazy Christopherson there in his capacity as audience member whom everyone recognizes but no-one actually talks to because they’ve seen him on the Throbbing Gristle covers and wish to retain their awe and idolatry. Me? I chatted to him briefly – he was obviously far too decent, honest and interesting a human being so be involved in Psychic TV and it’s no wonder he left.
A word about the ethics of our work. From the anarcho-punk scene we had learnt that cooperation only worked with success when two or three people were actually in charge of the events at any venue. Our experience was basically a microcosmic example of what the early 1980’s displayed: very cheap events organized (sometimes not so organized) by individuals and small collectives usually as benefits for political and animal rights causes, never for personal profit. Bands frequently played for nothing (Coil, for example, were offered £30 but took only £5 even though – or perhaps because – they weren’t a punk band) and the audience plus members of the groups often helped to clear up the debris afterwards.
From the exuberant extroversion of live events so the somewhat inner worlds of the punk fanzine reveals a wealth of talent and ideas often not exploited to their full potential. One point: from 1980 to 1984 there were only a few fanzines and these were usually done in large print runs and were easily identified, that is, each possessed its own individual character while in latter days there have been a dearth of often excruciatingly awful fanzines, often of very small print run (100-150). Devoid of imagination, inspiration or interesting content. However there was ample compensation provided by the few really valuable assets to the independent publication.
During the early 1980s there was an element of danger attached so even the most placid plaited hair event: skinheads. When a gang of young male thugs approach you on the street and appear to be interested in the alteration in the shape of your basic anatomy, one method useful for the avoidance of fear and anxiety is to imagine them dressed like Tommy Cooper or Norman Wisdom; let’s face it, a skinhead in a fez is difficult to take seriously. While Oi the pantomime drunkenly careered from The Blue Coat Boy through a sea of vomit and Indian take-sways so the culture ravaged bedsits of Eltham, a sparkling new venue for this vaudeville of errors sprung up in Goulston Street, Whitechapel: The Last Resort. Run by Mickie French (a most able businessman), this fashion clothes shop (for it was little more than that) attracted regular Sunday morning meetings where dozens of skinheads would chat and compare copies of The British Patriot that they’d evidently just purchased from their neo-nazi colleagues in Brick Lane. Although it was often a case of spot the brain-cell’, you could usually engage in a few primordial grunts with their leader, i.e. the one who could speak.
Cocksparrer, The Business, The 4 Skins and The Last Resort (the band of the shop of the trend) were just four of the many predictable, conservative, narrow minded and totally committed to tedium bands whose strict adherence to conformity ably assisted the eventual demise of any form of intelligence in the punk scene, so much so that by 1983 a much changed and regrouped version of Skrewdriver (i.e. Ian Stuart with three more temporary mates) were able so release a single called ‘White Power’ backed with ‘Smash The IRA’ and ‘Shove The Dove’ to much public acclaim. White Noise Records (very appropriately named) were responsible for the release of a whole batch of sorry and eminently forgettable records by neo-nazi bands such as Brutal Attack, Skrewdriver (again) and others I refuse to name because they are too insignificant so merit a mention in this book. The punk movement – Oi the panto – had reached an all time low. Fascism was back with a bang... and usually ran away with a whimper. The Blue Coat Boy in lslington closed down; Blitz turned into new romantics and the Oisters took out mortgages, jobs and women; Crass ceased anarchist activity and Flux Of Pink Indians turned into a pop group. The Mob resigned with dignity. The Apostles carried on for a further few years until even they realized that even the ghost of punk had been exorcised.
So the second wave of anarcho-punk provided social centres in which people could meet each other to find out which bands had to be worshipped this month, and it provided a source of independent publications which were a vast and very welcome improvement upon the turgid, remorselessly hedonistic yet lamentably facile hero-worship and extreme conservatism of the first punk fanzines such as Sniffin’ Glue, 48 Hours and so on. These rags were simply Oh Boy for art students. They have been praised by critics whose judgement is completely clouded by nebulous mists of nostalgia.
This second wave of punk also provided an official but discreetly valuable centre for information. To cite two examples: Dave Fanning (who also used to be in The Apostles) left home in 1981 and frequently required updated news on what empty houses in London were available so squat and who else was interested in the renovation of a disused property for such a purpose; the social centres and letter network met this need. Many other people who were homeless rook advantage of this source of information since there was always someone somewhere who possessed the information required by someone else, John wanted a guitar; he asked Sue who asked her brother who happened to know Derek whose mate Phil had a guitar he wanted so sell and so John was put in touch with Phil. The network still exists but due to the lack of semi-permanent venues and centres, it is not as regular or efficient as it once was. At an anti-fascism rally a colleague of ours was arrested and charged with assault. It took us just fifteen minutes to raise enough money to pay his bail and locate a decent solicitor for him at one event at The Centro Iberico (he was subsequently let off with a caution). These two examples reveal the effective power of this information network. With a fully established venue and telephone number it could have been even better.
There is another advantageous result of the anarcho-punk movement as it then existed: lonely and isolated individuals could be put in contact with others, often in the same town or village. This was achieved in various ways. The Apostles used a direct method; we printed 20000 questionnaires and distributed them through the independent network of people who ran cassette and record distribution services. The questions simply asked for general basic information about hobbies, likes, dislikes, hopes, fears and so forth –nothing the CID) could use, you understand. Addresses were supplied by those who wanted others to correspond with them. This scheme was not unlike a glorified pen-pal service but with the addition that we would try to ensure that people were linked by common aims and interests. It should be stated that it is people’s differences that really intrigue me but we decided to play safe when we dealt with people who had often been close to suicide over loneliness and their sense of isolation. Those who could attend the social centres would meet and arrange other meetings with other people they encountered there and this series of chance meetings was by far the most successful and widely used method adopted. Live concerts also served as meeting places but due to the awful noise made by the bands, real communication was often prevented.
The distribution service is yet a further example of a creative or at least a very helpful facet of the anarcho-punk scene that developed in the early 1980’s. An individual sets him or herself up as Dire Bollockal Distro and photocopies a few hundred A6 pieces of paper with ridiculously microscopic reduced type that advertises these cassettes, those records, and Pan knows how many fanzines. These are then split into, say, six batches and vent to mates who then split them further and send them so mates until eventually a few hundred people now have little pieces of A6 paper in their litter bins. Maybe fifty people won’t immediately throw the pieces of paper away, maybe thirty will actually read them, maybe fifteen will actually purchase items from the list if they have access to a microscope to decipher the typeface. It works! To date, Academy 23 have sold five hundred copies of our first cassette, nearly two hundred of our second cassette, over three hundred of our third and nearly five hundred of our fourth. The vast majority of these sales result from the fact that we have sold five here, ten there, ten elsewhere, each small batch to a different distributor. An important point: none of these independent distributors work in any spirit of competition with each other. On the contrary, they often distribute each other’s lists and catalogues!
While this system is invariably very fair to the groups and fanzine writers who try to sell their products, it is not actually always fair to those who purchase the items and here’s why: most distributors will peddle any old crap provided it adopts the fashionable political posture that prevails at the time and sports the symbols of rebellion that are trendy that week. This lack of quality control has worked to the detriment of the distribution networks in that there are now few people who will actually buy many or any of the items offered by them. This is unfortunate since much of the material is probably of sufficiently high quality to merit its distribution. Sadly, the emphasis on punk has meant that once you have purchased one fanzine and one cassette then you really need purchase no others. I take no pleasure in this observation.
Political Activity: the clearly pacifist stance adopted by the early Crass fans prevented any effective political activity, Fortunately help was at hand in the form of Class War, a loosely organized group of malcontents who wanted revolution and they wanted it now. Once again, the anarcho-punk wave caused change and unrest, not by itself, but due to the reaction against its restrictive morality on behalf of people such as The Apostles, Pigs For Slaughter, Cobalt Hate, Kill Your Pet Puppy, Class War and various other individuals whose desire for revolutionary change was a genuine expression of class anger and not just pose during the summer holidays. Butchers, McDonalds, Army Recruitment Offices and other Government institutions were attacked via fake bomb threats, graffiti, smashed windows and glued locks; fire bombs were used against the most offensive of these establishments. There have been two wonderful riots, which while not organized exclusively by any one group – being spontaneous expressions of class hatred –boasted many disillusioned ex-Crass fans and punks among their participants.
Stop The City of 1987 [??? I think it was earlier - JE] was a concerted assault upon the business sector of London by hundreds – perhaps as many as three thousand – angry young people, many of whom were homeless. Black, Asian and white youth took to the streets of East Central London around Holbom, Liverpool Street, Threadneedle Street and the City to protest – violently – against the callous, greed-ridden old men who dictated our futures from behind closed brass handled doors; oppression wore a grey suit. The day was ours despite the heavy toll of arrests and assaults by the forces of evil who probably wished that they’d used the tear gas after all. Punks were not taken seriously... until then.
The Poll Tax Riot of 1990 was perhaps she greatest proletarian revolt to occur in England since the riots of 1911. Not only punks and anarchists but ordinary folk – young, middle aged and elderly – were to be seen with banners and placards that registered their disaffection and resentment. The violent reaction against the ultimate brutality of The State erupted early in the afternoon as the police tried to shove certain demonstrators (who up to this point had been peaceful if somewhat agitated) down previously allotted streets. A wave of sticks, bricks and miscellaneous projectiles rained down upon the lines of police while various agile members of the protest climbed scaffolds around certain buildings front which to radio instructions to their colleagues on the ground [? JE]. This time the protesters were armed not only with blunt instruments but also with the latest technology: mobile phones and walkie-talkies. Shops and stores which paraded their wealth in front of those whose poverty they perpetuated were smashed, kicked, burnt and wrecked; expensive cars and police vehicles were victims of scaffold poles and fire bombs. No-one grieved when injured police were hauled away by their colleagues. They’d been doing it to us for decades so it was time for them to pay for their past brutalities. The day was ours. The casualty list this time was achieved by an especially nefarious method: The Sun newspaper [and the rest of the media - JE], already famous for its friendliness towards fascism [uh, allegedly - JE], took photographs and made video films of the whole party and then sent these to the local police stations. This evidence was then analyzed and for the next three weeks, people were arrested and often charged, even though many of them hadn’t even been on the demonstration while those who were had often not actually participated in violent acts. However, success is judged by its results: the Poll Tax was abolished although the Government and its mouthpiece, the press, pretended that this was not quite the case; that there bad been a reconstruction of the tax system, et cetera. Bollocks. The State only understands and only responds to violence – let us not disappoint it.
I’ve been informed that the anarcho-punk movement exists now and is as strong as it was then. I disagree. Despite its failures and faults, it was a vital and vibrant movement with energy and vitality. I see little of those qualities in the braying hordes who bawl for yet more rock stars and more heavy metal gimmicks and more conformity in political belief, musical styles and fanzine content. However, much of this can be properly blamed on the inadequate finances available to groups and individuals who realize that The State must be attacked. The State has ensured its own survival by the construction of an economic process which excludes its opponents from access to grants and funds.
the anarcho-punk wave that swept these islands in 1980 was largely based
outside London is a credit to its energy and diversity. That it confined
itself within contrived and ultimately predictable patterns is a symbol
of the society that spawned it. Perhaps we are products of our environment?
If so then we must learn to change that environment –radically!
The Autonomy Centre, Wapping Wall, London El: August 1981 - March 1982
Organized by the London Autonomnists and friends (some of whom disliked each other intensely) including Vince Stevenson, Charlotte Baggins, Martin Wright, Dave Couch, Ronan Bennett, Iris Mills and Fabian Thomsett with assistance from Andy Martin, Luke, Trevor, Michael, Terry Watson, Mitch, John Soares, Dagenham Pete, Rachel, Mark Ripper, Foci, Scarecrow and the Kill Your Pet Puppy Collective. The bands that played there were numerous bat those who appeared regularly included: Rudimentary Peni, Part I, The Sinyx, Anthrax, Conflict, Crass, The Apostles, Cold War, What Is Oil, Twelve Cubic Feet, The S Haters. The Boiled Eggs and many more whose names have become immersed in the mists of time. Apart from live concerts there were book fairs, fanzine conventions, discussion groups, films, debates and political workshops.
The Centro Iberico, Westbourne Park Road, London W8: April 1982 - August 1982
Organized by The Mob (especially Mark Wilson) and the Spanish anarchists who were already resident there – their generosity was appreciated by sadly only a small minority of the hundreds of folk who attended the events – so to Isabel Anderson, Miguel Garcia and friends goes out a rather belated thank-you. All the people involved in The Autonomy Centre were involved here although by now Crass and Conflict were involved in their own problems (especially legal ones due to their records – police ones included) and the ubiquitous Kill Your Pet Puppy Collective occasionally took over completely which meant there was less actual organization, far too much chaos bat generally more fun! The bands who played there were similar to those who played The Autonomy Centre but were perhaps a little more varied in idiom: Rudimentary Peni, The Mob, Part 1, The Sinyx, Rubella Ballet, Twelve Cubic Feet, Cold War, Amsterdamned, The Apostles, UK Decay, Dirt, Assassins Of Hope, The Eratics, The Cult Of The Supreme Being, Conflict, Riot/Clone, Blood & Roses, Youth In Asia and many more. Nearly all the events here were concerts although there were two film shows and a few theatre events which were very amateur but none the worse for that. There were, of course, continual theatre performances bat since these were often part of the usual behaviour of the audience they don’t really count!
The LMC, Camden, London NWI: September 1982 - February 1983
Organized by The Apostles and East London Workers Against Racism, this was more an alternative venue than a club. The organization here was minimal and suffered from a lack of PA equipment, an abundance of people who shouldn’t really have existed in a society that had long ago discovered penicillin and a financial situation strictly from Rab C Nesbit. The bands who played here were, though, committed and varied: The Replaceable Headz, The Mob, 4 Minute Warning, Zounds, Rack, Cold War, Twelve Cubic Feet, The Apostles, Flux Of Pink Indians, The Good Missionaries, Youth In Asia, Fallout, New 7th Music and a variety of poets and performance artists plus many other punk bands. Music events were the only things on offer here as bills had to be paid and the hall had to be hired. People have a tendency not to rush out to Camden from Gravesend and pay £1.50 to debate the politics of determinism versus free will… a pity really.
The Recession Club. Ponsford Road. Hackney, London E8: April 1983 - January 1984
Organized by The Apostles and Larry Peterson. The hall was attached to the recording studio used by The Apostles who were responsible for the hire of it and the equipment while Larry Peterson was responsible for the bands who actually played there. An amusing facet of The Recession Club was that the members of the audience were often better known than the bands booked to perform there! Those who did play have either disappeared into obscurity or are now very famous indeed: The Apostles, The Nocturnal Emissions, Attrition, Coil, The Unkommuniti, Peter North, The Invisible Band, New 7th Music, Hagar The Womb, In The Nursery, The June Brides, Pus, Napalm Death, Verbal Warning, Bet Lynch, The Replacement Headz, The Paramedic Squad, Youth In Asia. Condom and a variety of poets, performance artists and other industrial / electronic groups. There were no events other than live music and most of the bands who played were not punk bands, largely due to Andy Martin’s impatience with and ambivalence towards such people who he considered to have become passe and to have outlived what little usefulness they ever had. He goes on to say that "the industrial music scene had taken over and it was here that the original punk spirit had begun to grow and mutate into some huge, many tentacled bat often beautifully subtle intelligence network only occasionally marred by poseurs and butterfly collectors".
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THE APOSTLES - Acts Of The Apostles In The Theatre Of Fear LP(vinyl only) 3rd of 8 albums by London's infamous punk anti heroes.Includes poster,lyric sheet and a full colour sleeve - their only one! On good old vinyl £4 (UK) . £5 / $8 (worldwide)
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