I recently had a tweet from former PiL guitarist Keith Levene. He’d seen an interview I did with his old pal Jah Wobble in 1990 on my archive website (read it here) and wanted to know why I’d never interviewed him. I told him I would get to him eventually, but I’ve got to him quicker than I thought thanks to Ian Leak at Frome FM, who was putting together a special show about Keith and asked me to take part in a three-way chat with Keith for the broadcast.
The programme goes out this Wednesday (6 February) at 10.30pm and you can listen in online at the Frome FM site (click here). You’ll hear several tunes from Keith Levene’s new solo album, “Searching 4 Absolute Zero”, plus one or two old favourites. Alongside the music, Ian and I talk to Keith about the album, his PiL days, his stint in The Clash (he was a founder member of the group), his first job in the music business as a roadie for Yes, and his uncredited work on backing tracks for Ice-T and Tone Loc.
While the shows airs, Keith will be hosting a listening party on Twitter, using #keithlevenelive. Ian Leak and I will be tweeting too, so feel free join in the fun. Keith is @missingchannel, Ian is @bagpusspostgate and I’m @pushtweeting.
Keith Levene photo by Fabio Lugaro
I’ve just found out that the Wirrina Stadium in Peterborough was pulled down a couple of years ago. It wasn’t really much of a stadium, it was more a grubby sports hall, but I saw quite a lot of bands play at the Wirrina in the late 1970s and early 80s, and I have fond memories of the place. Among the gigs I particularly remember were The Clash (the 1978 “Sort It Out Tour”, supported by The Slits and The Innocents), The Damned, Siouxsie And The Banshees and Madness (supported by The Go-Go’s). I wrote about The Damned’s show, which ended in something of a riot, in Rat Scabies And The Holy Grail (click here to read that part of the book over at my archive website) and the image of Ari Up from The Slits bouncing and skipping across the stage with her dreadlocks dripping in spit will stay with me for ever.
I’ve no idea what they’ve built on the site of the Wirrina, but I guess there’s every chance that it’s a Tesco or a Sainsbury’s or some other fluorescent-lit temple of consumerism. If it is, I sincerely hope that, every once in a while, some unsuspecting late-night shopper hears the sound of Ari Up singing “Shoplifting” drifting down the aisle: “Put the cheddar in me pocket / Put the rest under the jacket / Talk to the cashier, he won’t suspect / And if he does, if he does…”
Wirrina Stadium photograph courtesy of Peterborough Images
There’s some sort of cruel madness gripping Frome FM, my local community radio station. It’s the only explanation for them asking me to present a show. My show is called For One Night Only, because I’m going to dip into a different genre of music each time, and I’ll be on air once a month. The first one is a punk rock extravaganza – I shall be including the above singles by The Clash, Penetration, The Killjoys and the marvellous Mary Monday – and it goes out this Sunday (29 April) at 10.30pm. Do please try to contain your excitement until then.
You can tune in to hear the show live at the Frome FM website – hit the Listen Now button over on the right of the page – or listen to it on demand after Sunday by going to the Programmes Menu, then the Music Menu, then choosing For One Night Only in the list on the left. Easy peasy. And if you can’t stomach the idea of 90 minutes of either (a) punk or (b) me, you’ll find some other mighty splendid programmes in the Music Menu. I’d especially recommend Different Sounds, which is hosted by Mr Ian Leak, and The Jimjam Wigwam Show, which is hosted by Mr Jimjam Wigwam (of course).
There’s only three weeks until Christmas and if you’re still wondering what to get the punk in your life, the answer may lie with The Pukes. I’m not talking about some obscure group from 1977 with a solitary crackly seven-inch to their name. The Pukes are about as here and now as you can get. Well, kinda. They are a self-proclaimed “anti-society” of 10 ladies, some of whom have had several 21st birthdays, who perform classic punk songs on ukuleles. Which is a marvellous concept – and all the more so since they play with considerable skill and a big bucketful of gusto.
I’ve got to say that I’m buying pretty much whatever The Pukes are selling. And right now, as well as dusty old ditties rattled and twanged from teeny-weeny stringed instruments, the ladies are selling a 2012 calendar featuring their interpretations of 12 iconic punk record sleeves. Should you need telling, the revamped creations above are The Damned’s “Damned Damned Damned” and The Clash’s “London Calling” (yup, that’s a ukelele being trashed on “London Calling”), and others in the set include Blondie’s “Parallel Lines”, X-Ray Spex’s “Germ Free Adolescents” and the first Ramones album. The images have been put together by photographer Diana More and designer Lorna Tiefholz, who is herself a Puke.
My old buddy Richard Bellia has a small selection of his photographs available as prints at Yellow Korner, a website specialising in affordable art imagery. The prints include Joe Strummer (The Clash), Robert Smith (The Cure), reggae idol Lee “Scratch” Perry, two different photos of Nirvana, and the above shot of Guns N’ Roses, which was taken at The Marquee in the summer of 1987, on the band’s first trip to London. Each print is numbered, comes with a certificate of authenticity, and costs €69 – a bargain at twice the price.
I worked with Richard on loads of jobs for Melody Maker in the late Eighties and early Nineties. One of my most vivid memories was when we covered the 1988 Monsters Of Rock festival at Castle Donington, an event marred by the tragic death of two fans in the crush of the crowd during Guns N’ Roses’ set. You can read my review of the festival here and a Guns N’ Roses piece based on a couple of interviews I did with Slash (one of them backstage at Donington) here. And if you’ve not had enough of clicking, you can read more about Richard Bellia here. This last link is an extract from my book Rat Scabies And The Holy Grail, in which Richard plays a leading part (although I’m sure Scabies and I would have found the bloody thing quicker without him).
I can’t find the words to tell you just how much I love this. It was printed across the middle pages of Sounds in April 1977, accompanying an A-to-Z of the first wave of UK punk bands. I’ve lost the first and last pages of the article, and there are no credits on the pages that I do have, but I think the A-to-Z was written by Jonh Ingham and I presume the collage was put together by the Sounds art team, in a style in keeping with the fanzines of the time.
Sounds was several leagues ahead of the rest of the music press in covering the embryonic days of punk. The collage features all the obvious names – Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Clash and so on – but it also includes less well known acts such as The Models, The Cortinas and Suburban Studs. Click the image to see it in its full glory and keep an eye out for The Police (before they got hold of the peroxide bottle), Skrewdriver (before Ian Stuart Donaldson turned into a Nazi bastard) and a terrific early photo of The Slits. One outfit that you won’t see on there is Iron Maiden – but then you wouldn’t expect to, would you? Well, as it goes, Iron Maiden do appear in the A-to-Z, where they describe themselves as “bloody shock rock”. They were fronted by Den Ace at this point and had somebody called Ron Rebel playing drums.
I had the collage on my bedroom wall for ages and ages, so it’s badly discoloured, but I’d say that adds to its historic value. I’m not sure history will look kindly on me for having censored the “Fuck Off” on Gaye Advert’s T-shirt with a biro, though. At least I think that was me. I don’t remember doing it, but the scribbling out seems to be in blue ink rather than being an original feature of the collage. If it was me, I suspect I did it in case my mum ever took a close look at it on my wall.
UPDATE (posted 30/10/2011)
I was wrong about Jonh Ingham writing the A-to-Z that accompanied the collage. Jonh has been in touch to say that he wrote a big article about punk for Sounds in around October 1976 (The “?” Rock Special), but he had nothing to do with this piece. My next best guess is the A-to-Z was by the late Giovanni Dadomo, another early champion of punk in the music press. As well as being a journalist, Giovanni was a member of Arthur Comics (later known as The Snivelling Shits), who appear in the article between Alternative T-TV [sic] and The Boys.