no longer a debate?
lennon’s REVOLUTIONS 50 years on

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing]

“The blues are beautiful because it’s simpler and because it’s real. It’s not perverted or thought about: It’s not a concept, it is a chair; not a design for a chair but the first chair. The chair is for sitting on, not for looking at or being appreciated. You sit on that music.” (John Lennon to Jann Wenner, 21 January 1971)

lennon fistWhen Jack Hutton quit Melody Maker in 1970, to set up what became Sounds, he told Richard Williams, who stayed behind, that it would be a “left-wing Melody Maker”. Hutton’s no longer with us, so I suppose if I get the chance I’ll have to ask Williams one day what exactly was meant by “left-wing” here. My guess — based on what Sounds actually turned out like — is that Hutton meant the new paper would be centred on rock. Even though both papers covered rock and pop and everything else, MM’s moral centre was arguably still jazz at that point. Even though the jazz fan-base always had a left-wing in the UK, with old-school communists solid among its supporters and chroniclers, it was a music (or so many seemed to feel) whose time was past. Rock was new and rock was now, the very voice of youth — but beyond this, rock had had, for a while by then, a tangled relationship with politics, radical left politics in particular. Continue reading “no longer a debate?
lennon’s REVOLUTIONS 50 years on”

the invisible dandy: scribbled
farewell notes on TOM WOLFE

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing]

kandy koloredYou only have to read the titles and the trend-naming — ‘Tiny Mummies’, the Tycoon of Teen, Radical Chic, From Bauhaus to Our House, the Me Generation, The Right Stuff — to see, instantly, that there was something here. Like some motormouth manager promoting the new pop group he was making famous and secretly ripping off, he had the liveliest huckster’s imagination. Here was a energy that made thing happen: Wolfe watched and listened and took notes and got inside heads — some heads — and when he got back to the page, delivered an intensely vivid cartoon sketch of a scene, sound effects in place among capitals, italics, dots, dashes and exclamation marks, the main narration often broadcast as if from behind the eyes of its participants, an inner-monologue ventriloquism that enabled the writer subtly to imply unreliability or even foolishness in a scenester. Continue reading “the invisible dandy: scribbled
farewell notes on TOM WOLFE”

other jacksons in your house

… or how when we made Morrissey we made him bad

(originally posted at my PATREON, where i’ll be posting weekly alongside the fortnightly podcasts — if you subscribe you get to read the posts a few days early, and obviously help offset podcast costs etc)

panic | hang the DJA bitter office quarrel — the so-called the ‘HipHop Wars’ — had been making life at the NME miserable from some time. At issue was the current and future direction of the paper — how to give the readers what they wanted to read, week on week, while staying abreast of music’s future trends — so when the Smiths released ‘Panic’ in late 1986, it crystallised everything. “Hang the DJ!” sang Morrissey: “Burn down the disco!” Those who cared for black music at all — future and past — were appalled: to them it was very clear who this talk of burning and hanging was aimed at. His supporters scrambled for a less ugly reading: not that kind of DJ! Not those discos! Much was made of Steve Wright following a news report about Chernobyl with a Wham! song. Concluding statement for the defence: He’s not anti black musicians, he’s anti bland music — and that goes for us all, surely? Continue reading “other jacksons in your house”

eagle-god turned trickster gremlin

This was originally published in The Wire in 1999, in their EPIPHANIES section. RIP Cecil T 1929-2018

It began in 1977, at second-hand: I knew before I heard a note of it that I’d love Cecil Taylor’s music. In a jazz encyclopaedia I’d already read of a pianist “zipping and unzipping the keyboard” — but first contact came from a sideways leap out of bent chartpop. Across Bowie’s Aladdin Sane, Mike Garson’s cocktail piano clichés mutate towards cancerous splinters, which rock reviewer Charles Shaar Murray approvingly compared to Taylor. I needed to know more.

Photograph @ Charles Rotmil, 1960s
Photograph @ Charles Rotmil, 1960s

Continue reading “eagle-god turned trickster gremlin”

free-form thoughts on john coltrane and how NOT to remember or talk about him next time, maybe

so a friend and i went to see the john scheinfeld coltrane doc at the the ica a couple of weeks back: that’s one JC-stan and one JC-sceptic…

… and we both agreed it’s bad and here’s why

Chasing-Traneit does the usual documentary thing, of hunting out a bunch of talking heads — family, professional, the commentatative pundit — and then merely stitching them together with stills and live footage into the same version of the story we always already know… anything odd or interesting that pops out of someone’s mouth is not returned to or dwelt on or even apparently noticed Continue reading “free-form thoughts on john coltrane and how NOT to remember or talk about him next time, maybe”

resource list for refugees, migrants, asylum seekers and more

#NoBanNoWall #LetThemIn

This is a list of resources for migrants and refugees in the UK and Europe, and related organisations, originally crowd-sourced and storified on twitter by the redoubtable Daniel Trilling (@trillingual) and various excellent people in his timeline. It seems like a helpful moment to put the information into a user-friendly form. Some are charities, some are activist non-profits: quite apart from all the people who desperately need help, the official laws, techniques and institutions being developed to police borders and harm refugees and migrants will be quickly be exported to the rest of society, the poor and the vulnerable in particular, the establishment of border-patrol politics at all levels of daily life.

Order is alphabetic, in sections: UK-wide first, then UK local, then a scattering of Europe-wide orgs and some US ones too. Some are self-explanatory, some I’ve given a very brief description. It’s nowhere near exhaustive, obviously — just a start. I’ll probably give it a page of its own shortly — this is just my blog after all — but it seemed the common-sense place to start. If you can, donate or give your time and energy. And circulate this.

UK NATIONAL

Against Borders for Children, against border regimes within schools @Schools_ABC

Association of Visitors to Immigrant Detainees @AVIDdetention 

Asylum Aid, @AsylumAid

Asylum Support Appeals Project helps people appeal their cases, get housing, avoid destitution   

Bail for Immigration Detainees

Christian/Muslim refugee initiatives, local and national

City of Sanctuary network (UK & Ireland), encouraging communities to welcome refugees, branches nationwide (see below for a few of them) @cityofsanctuary

Counterpoints Arts, engaging with refugee and grant experiences @CounterArts

Detention Action supports people in UK immigration detention @DetentionAction

Doctors of the World: campaigning for refugees in UK to access healthcare, @DOTW_UK 

Help Refugees UK @HelpRefugeesUK 

Homes Not Borders @Homesnotborders

Homes for Syrians @homesforsyrians 

Hope for the Young (formerly OMID International) @hopefortheyoung

Hope not Hate @hopenothate

Housing Rights (not just migrants and refugees)

How to ask your MP to expand UK refugee resettlement 

Legal action for women 

Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants

Lobby your MP

Lorraine Ayensu Refugee Arts fund @LARAfund

Médecin Sans Frontières @MSF, @MSF_Sea, @MSF_uk 

Medical Justice: health rights for UK immigration detainees @MedicalJustice

Migrants’ Law Project offers strategic litigation against immigration detention @MigrantsLawProj

Migrant Voice, for migrant voices to be heard in the UK media @MigrantVoiceUK 

Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessary @followMFJ 

Music in Detention @MIDdetention

PlatformaArts and Refugee Network @PlatformaArts 

Red Cross UK refugee support @britishredcross

Refugee Action @RefugeeAction

Refugees at Home, seeking hosts for refugees and asylum seekers in the UK @RefugeesAtHome,

Refugee Council @refugeecouncil 

Safe Passage works to bring vulnerable refugees in Europe to Britain @Safepassageuk

UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group @uklgig

We Are Chatterbox: language and cultural training service by refugees @wearechatterbox

Women for Refugee Women campaigns (Yarl’s Wood and elsewhere) @4refugeewomen

Yarl’s Wood Befrienders @YWBefrienders 

UK LOCAL

A useful map for local links @RefugeeWeek

London:

Croydon and NW London
Young Roots: supporting young refugees and asylum seekers @weareyoungroots

East London:
Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London @RAMFELcharity

Greenwich:
Greenwich Migrant Hub @GreenwichMH

Hackney:
Akwaaba social centre for asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants @akwaabahackney

Hackney Migrant Centre 

Haringey:
Haringey Migrant Support Centre haringeymsc.org

Islington:
Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants: English lessons, support, workshops, hot meals @IslingtonCentre

Lewisham:
Action for Refugees in Lewisham @Afril 

North East London:
North East London Migrant Action: people left destitute by local council policies @NELMAcampaigns

Walthamstow:
Walthamstow Migrants’ Action Group 

London-wide:
English for Action: English lessons in London @EFALondon

New North London Synagogue Drop-In Centre for Destitute Asylum Seekers

Praxis: advice, support, meeting place for migrants and refugees

Refugee Connection: helping refugees and Londoners get to know one another @RefConnection

SOAS detainee support

Support network for people stranded in London by the #MuslimBan

Bradford
Bradford City of Sanctuary @bradfordCoS

Brighton, Sussex and Surrey
Brighton Voices in Exile @brightonvoices

Brighton Migrant Solidarity @BriMigSol

Bristol
Bristol Refugee Rights @bristolrefugeer

Huddersfield:
Destitute Asylum Seekers Huddersfield 

Hull:
Hull Help for Refugees @hullforrefugees

Leeds
Leeds Asylum Seekers Support Network @lassnleeds 

Leeds No Borders @leedsnoborders 

Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers @PAFRAS_Leeds 

Leicester
After 18, a resource for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers entering adulthood @after18uk

Liverpool and Merseyside
Asylum Link @asylumlink

Manchester:
Boaz Trust, serving destitute asylum seekers

Manchester Refugee Support Network 

Newcastle:
Action Foundation provides housing and language support @actionFdn

Notts:
Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum @NNRF1

Oxford
Asylum Welcome @asylumwelcome

Reading
Reading Refugee Support Group

South Yorkshire:
South Yorkshire Migrants and Asylum Action Group @SYMAAG

Sheffield:
Assist Sheffield: challenging asylum destitution

Tyneside:
Newcastle Law Centre @NewcastleLC 
North of England Refugee Service @NERSRefugee
West End Refugee Service

York:
Refugee Action York @refactyork

NORTHERN IRELAND
Housing4All campaigns against destitution in Belfast @h4allni

Northern Ireland Community of Refugees & Asylum Seekers @NICRAScharity (refugee-led)

Horn of Africa People’s Aid Northern Ireland @HAPANI1 (refugee-led)

SCOTLAND:

Edinburgh
Edinburgh City of Sanctuary @edinCoS

Welcoming Edinburgh @WelcomingEdi

Refugee Action Scotland: delivering aid to migrants freezing in the Balkans: @re_act_scotland

Glasgow
Refuweegee: “we’re all fae somewhere”

Glasgow Unity Centre, which monitors and challenges deportations: @unitycentreglas

Positive Action: accommodation for destitute refugees @PositiveActionH

WALES:

Swansea:
Unity in Diversity: helping refugees and asylum seekers @uidswansea 

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND:
Migrant Rights Centre Ireland @MigrantRightsIR

Contact your TD to ask them to oppose Trump’s ban 

EUROPE
European Council of Refugees and Exiles @ecre

Welcome 2 Europe: information and contact lists country by country

Advice on Individual Rights in Europe @AIRECentre 

Refugee Community Kitchen: food for migrants and the homeless in Dunkirk, Paris, Calais, London @RefugeeCkitchen

Refugee Rights Data Project @refugeedata

Red Cross EU @RedCrossEU

Caritas, “the helping hand of the Catholic Church” @iamcaritas

Food for migrants in the Balkans HERE and HERE

Connect Refugee: Phone credit for refugees in Europe, vital lifeline, sometimes literally
 

UNITED STATES

American Civil Liberties Union @ACLU

Southern Poverty Law Centre @splcenter

BACK MY BOOK!!

UPDATE: the book is funded, so thanks everyone that helped. It is due for delivery in a little over a year. I will keep people up to speed on developments via the kickstarter page, which has a blog.

Just over two hours as I post, and it suddenly seems extremely doable so nothing cryptic for once 🙂

Gorgeous cover and illustrations by SAVAGE PENCIL, discussions and essays by Val Wilmer, Richard Williams, Mark Williams, David Toop, Tony Stewart, Bob Stanley, Charles Shaar Murray, Jon Savage, Cynthia Rose, Edwin Pouncey, Penny Reel, Liz Naylor, Mark Pringle, Tony Palmer, Paul Morley, John (aka Jonh) Ingham, Barney Hoskyns, Jonathon Green, Beverly Glick (aka Betty Page), Simon Frith and Nigel Fountain, and others (including me!!)

coverDL

“Don’t let it be forgot/That once there was a spot…”

or NOTES ON A NOBLE IDEAL UNDONE BY ITS OWN WARRING FLAWS…

(I wrote this up to place somewhere grown-up and get some traction, but no joy for one reason or another — the Camelot theme not entirely inapposite, esp.if you’ve read The Once and Future King. Kickstarter is still here and closes Wednesday 27 July at 4.26pm UK time.)

We have an idea of the UK music press in the 70s — a notion of great names engaged in earthy debate about rock and pop, of fearless mockery of foolish or pretentious stars, of a generation of self-taught giants walking the earth in those golden black-and-white days. We can list names: Murray and Kent, Parsons and Burchill, Penman and Morley, Danny Baker, Garry Bushell, Jon Savage… With satisfaction (or amusement), we note that some of them have clambered up to the sustainably rewarded end of public chatter — which if nothing else suggests that their first professional gigs must have been an effective proving ground.

joustIt’s a picture distorted with hindsight, though. At the time, it was for the most part a much wider, quieter, almost invisible world. A cluster of titles that you engaged with as an intense subcultural doorway away from the routines of life: yes, there’d be a pop-star on the cover, major or rising or weird, but inside… well, inside you found all kinds of things. It reached a lot of people — sometimes as many as a million a week — and, unlike official culture, it didn’t shut them out. As writer-agitator and one-time label boss Liz Naylor puts it on one of the promo vids, “It was very difficult to access information in the 70s! The music press was my education…”

lantern bearersThe four weeklies were NME, Melody Maker, Sounds and Record Mirror. Echoes (sometimes Black Echoes) was a bi-weekly for black music — especially good on soul and reggae. There were several monthlies: Zigzag and Let It Rock and the superb, short-lived, much-lamented Street Life: precursors of Q or Mojo, you could say, but much much more than just this. Because — aside from the endless underfelt of free and alt.listings magazines — the music press had been where the spirit of the underground press had ended up: the brief strange countercultural spark of Oz, IT, Frendz, Ink, when late 60s youth had revolted against war and the technocracy, against racism, against timidity and prudishness, and for unfettered (yes chaotic, yes naive) expression. Writers and editors and designers — some extremely talented, but without a hope of rising far in the then-mainstream media — had crossed over out of this fervid, para-political subculture into the music press, partly because rock was the soundtrack of the counterculture, so that to make sense of rock you had to grasp the language and ideals and utopias of this teenage revolt, if only to wrangle with them, to rescue the good from the bad. And as a consequence this was a world full of curiosity about comics and cult films, liminal and radical politics, about musics and activities of communities and undergrounds from all over the world, America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa — about everything in the world you couldn’t routinely access, which television skimped and normal newspapers didn’t remotely understand.

3 swordsLast year I ran a conference at Birkbeck, to explore some of this crossover and how it turned out, called Underground Overground: The Changing Politics of UK Music-Writing 1968-85 (scroll down for more). This year I’m running a kickstarter for a book called A Hidden Landscape Once a Week (subtitle “How UK music-writing became a space for unruly curiosity, in the words of those who made it happen”), which will anthologise extracts from last year’s panels with critical essays exploring issues raised — including the day-to-day practical backroom aspect of putting such a paper together. Panellists and contributors include Charles Shaar Murray, Val Wilmer, Richard Williams, Paul Gilroy, Paul Morley, Simon Frith, David Toop, Cynthia Rose and Penny Reel — people from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives and obsessions, which bohemian mix was key to the sensibility in question; “a conversation,” to quote the kickstarter blurb, “that musician, writer and reading fan all joined… a cheerful collective wrangling that echoes the crackles of dissent and tension in the songs it explores: the disputatiousness as well as the joy.” Alongside the hype and silliness, there was always a care and a fascination with possibility, with portals into all manner of other spaces hinted at in the music, and beyond it. For a decade and more, in a wider culture of stifled parochialism, this was a world of serendipity and surprise encounter. This will be a book that explores this world’s values and flaws, how it was established and maintained, and where its echoes can be found today — or rebuilt, in a very different, noisier, information-saturated context.

[ADDING: the “warring flaws” sub-head wasn’t on the piece I submitted — it didn’t have a heading at all — and only popped into my mind as I was fiddling with a framing to go here. What exactly do I mean by it (since it probably changes the tone and even the meaning of what follows)? Something like this: that what I think became dispersed — by all kinds of pressures, some extremely hard to fight — was a cast of mind in editing, which was, for a while, able to corral the impatience and rivalry and cattiness and worse that you always find among talented writers, into something unexpectedly collectively rich and generous. The mystery of where this came from — whose the design was, if design there was, and what the accident was, if it was accident — is one of the mysteries that brings me back to the subject. The Arthurian image implies that its virtues and its flaws are intextricably tangled: but I don’t know that this is actually so… ]