|ALEX OGG - NO MORE HEROES - A NEW SEASON IN THE OLD HELL UNTOLD PUNKLORE - MFG - AUTUMN 2007|
Alex Ogg's NO MORE HEROES is a bible of a book. The bible of Punk. Of Punk Rock between the years 1976 and 1980. Punk as it was and how it should be. And maybe shall be again. It is... in the crude and nasty layman's terms 'The Absolute Bollocks'.
Punk was my first crushing love. I was fifteen when i picked up on it. It was the first thing in my life that truly felt like it was mine. I was afflicted by punk no doubt. The stance, the manner, the dress, the sound. And violently so too. Violent in the most ecstatic possible sense. I understood punk, punk understood me. No one else did but all of a sudden nothing else mattered. Love hate lust despair call it what you will. I loved punk, it's smoke its spit its germ its noise. Like most raw infatuations mind i soon wore the passion right out of the thing and was sick bored disdainful and contemptuos by the end of it all. Other attractions were there to be had, and punk, well, you know... i was seventeen all of a sudden with newer addictions on my mind, the shine had gone, the kick had faded, predictability was all...
That's how it felt to this bored teenager anyway. It was all about the moment and all too soon I moved away from that moment. I really thought i would never listen to, or enjoy, another punk record again. Like all first infatuations it had been consigned to the scrapbook and the cupboard. A tattoo on my arm and no thanks for the memory. I'd see the repackaged records every now and then sure, but take them to be just that. Repackaged product. The ownership of punk belonged to other people. Why should i even bother with a second glance. Punk to re-paraphrase Watty was deid, well deid.
Alex gave me a copy of No More Heroes and i found i couldn't put it down. I loved it. Loved reading about obscure unsigned bands from Macclesfield, Truro, Harlow, Dalkieth and all tawdry suburbs and sattelite towns beyond. I found there were plenty of bones to be picked out of the big city tales too. The political machinations and petty paranoias of London, Liverpool, Manchester. And the venues too, places i'd been to like THE ROCK GARDEN in MIDDLESBROUGH were brought back to life. But there were others that had burned in my imagination. Clubs that I had never managed to get to. Toilets in Penzance and Cromer, in Aylesbury, Belfast and Doncaster. It's a comphrensive read this book, like i say, some kind of bible. I found myself salivating over new details that were there to be picked out of the old stories, namely the bands i thought i knew so much about. The Damned, Stranglers, The Clash etc, all were given new perspective by Alex.
The Boys, for instance, a band of glam poppers from West Kensington who were much derided in the press, turn out to be quite pivotal in the whole pre-pistols pre-clash scene. Certainly more than being credited for. I remembered their song 'Sick of You' and had a yearning to hear it once again.
More than that No More Heroes lead me back to great obscurities like Forest of Dean longhairs The Table with their single that came out on Virgin records 'Do the Standing Still'. A recording which wouldn't be considered punk at all now, but was much cherished as a good blast of noise back then. Alex had a recording of it and kindly burnt me a CD. It sounded great. I had to know if others sounded just as brash and noisy and rude.
Slaughter and the Dogs 'Cranked up Really High' sounds better than it did then. Motorhead meets Bowie on a big fuck off bag of sulph and some cheek grinding chalkies
'la, la, la, la la, la la, la... cranked up really high'
I now wanted to hear Eater's 'Outside View' The Models, the Cortina's, The Vibrators, the Adverts, woah how I loved the Adverts, Penetration, oh man, Penetration, Pauline Murray....
'Don't dictate, don't dictate, don't dictate, dictaaaaaaate...to meeeeeee'
I had a sudden yearning to hear these gems again. The book was bringing a whole lot of memories back. I felt myself getting the good charge every time i picked it up and opened the pages. It was reading like a novel fired as i was by all these stories. Probably an indictment of the senility of my mind these days but then again maybe a truer indictment of what cultural offerings i recieve and respond to these days...
I couldn't help thinking about the spirit, or lack of it, that I percieve to be around at this moment in time. It bugs the fuck out of me I can't help it.
More than any of that I was just enjoying the read. For me the best aspect of No More Heroes, the books true worth even, is the acknowledgement of the multitude of bands who never got to make a record, who existed for a brief few months, fired by the spirit of the times, and then dissapeared again. The book is packed with great names of bands who otherwise would have been lost to the punk ether. The MP's, Raw, Blitzkrieg Bop, Parole, The Negatives...
In true punk anthropolgist spirit Alex has sought out members of these bands and allowed them to talk. No media agenda. No self serving angle. No pontificating. No patronising attitude. Just the facts. Through the memories of the protagonists he really has captured something unique, something you won't find in any Sunday supplement or style magazine or documentary even. He manages to convey a rare sense of how it was then, both in the city and the province, of a beautiful savage moment, when a door was kicked open and the light of the knowingly unwanted poured through. The three primitive chords rang out. And took their moment to reverberate around the globe. Before the packagers and the processors moved in and smoothed the whole racket out, called time on the dreamers, worked on the margins of the profits, cut out all the prophets. Fucked up the good and righteous scene.
Know what I mean.
Mind that's only my outside view. Alex also extricates just what a laugh and a joy it was for a lot of the perpetrators. And empowering too for so many participants. How crucial it was to working class artists, how it went so far to bridge the religious divide in Northern Ireland. The effect it had on gender and race issues and of course most crucially kicked off the whole DIY movement.
What No More Heroes does so well too is track down the members of the bands to find out what they are doing now. Some are predictably lost to office jobs and other straight pursuits, a good few are dead. But many, a great deal many are still doing inspired crucial stuff, JOHN EVANS of THE TAX EXILES for instance is doing great art in the valleys of Wales, our own TAM DEAN BURN once of the scabrous and filthy DIRTY REDS is now an established actor, with none of his punk energy or attitude diminished. I could go on and on but really you have to purchase this book yourself. It's published by Cherry Red and has a pink fluoro cover pinned with a deal of lapel badges. Buy it, take it home, slap it down on the table, the weight... I tell you, it's a bible.
Alex was good enough to spend a few weeks coming in to Mining For Gold and brought a great many guests with him. We had six weeks of PUNKLORE. The only stipulation being no Pistols, Clash, or Bernie Rhodes. We gave it our best shot. Faz once of THE NOW and their classic....
'Developement corporation, development corporation, development corporaaaaaaatioooon'
...has written a novel of those times crashing into the present moments and its called Kickstart. I'm reading it now, it's great. Faz came into the studio one night to team up with JOHN KING whose book HUMAN PUNK captures the then and now of punk so well. Better still is John's novel THE PRISON HOUSE. A punk vegan novel that more than keeps the faith. We talked punk literature and how the spirit still lived through the word kind of thing. Then played a whole load of great singles. It was a great show.
Another hour we messed up completely when the CD's decided to malfunction. Still though we read the foreword to No More Heroes. And a foreword by the immortal CAPTAIN SENSIBLE no less. It read like some great testament to the anti-life. A punked up anti-mission statement on how the whole sick game should be played. Then with legendary New York Mike Pearlstein at hand we got into a heated drunken debate about the new progressive sound, and concurred that what was progressive then is still progressive today and hey all you beards out there... here is some punk to burst that pomp bubble.
A great punk hour.
Maybe best of all, the night Alex brought Jean Encoule and Suburban Kid from TRAKMARX in to the studio. Paul Panic too. A mad hour was had playing tracks and talking about the West Midlands punk scene from back then. Followed by a discussion of the whole DIY Messthenix thing. You can hear the recording of the show on www.trakmarx.com Trakmarx is an essential site. Kris Needs, Jack Rabid, Alex Ogg and other legendary anti-scribes writing about equally fabled anti-characters. The passion burns off the screen. Encoule calls the Trakmarx site a museum now. Museum it may be with Encoule playing the curator to Ogg's anthropologist. Well. I tell you this. Forget the Terracotta bleeding Army and the Elgin bloody Marbles. Don't bother with no Tate Modern or Britain. Don't linger in no V and A in front of Westwood's glass cased exhibits. You don't need any of that tat. This is the only museum worth visiting. Admission is priceless. Go to Encoule's blog and find out what he thinks of DAVID PEACE's immense GB84 right now and more than that about his fight against Hepatitis C. The man is alive he is out there fighting. That makes me feel alive and ready for the fight too. Thank god there are still things worth fighting for.
Anyhow, in reviewing a book called No More Heroes i've obviously come to the conclusion there most certainly are heroes. Old Soldiers they may be but still the old Punk heroes are being called to the frontline, your country doesn't know it yet, but mate, they need you now more than ever.
The medals come in the scars and the treasure is there in the old vinyl.
Alex inspired Inga and myself to go and see Penetration. They played the 100 club. There was passion, and style, and a rawness still. Everyone danced, and threw beer, and laughed, and sang along with Pauline. Robert Blamire beamed. Inga and me, well we jumped up and down. It was a pure moment of lust and love. One of the best gigs i've ever been to. It brought back a lot of memories but also brought forth a vision of some good future still to be had. Right, enough bollocks from me. Go and buy Alex's book. Sink in the memories of the times sure but be inspired too. I can't recommend this work, this punk bible of a book, enough. Essential.
And for further reading....
Alex can be contacted via his site which is www.alexogg.com