British rock music history and the New Musical Express

This video from Britain says about itself:

The Original Johnny Kidd and the Pirates – Shakin All Over with RARE photos

Definitive British Rock and Roll track with photographs of the original 1959 line up of Johnny Kidd and The Pirates.

All photos courtesy Brian Gregg, the original Pirates Bass player. Thanks Brian.

Dedicated to Johnny’s lasting memory and immortal legacy.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Know Your NME

Wednesday 19th August 2015

Rock ‘n’ roll history is bound up with one iconic magazine now facing obscurity, writes PETER FROST

THE NME, once the Accordion Times and Musical Express, then the New Musical Express, is changing. The weekly publication, which currently sells about 15,000 copies, will be distributed free at train stations, shops and student unions around the country. Its content will expand to cover film, fashion, TV, politics and gaming.

Few believe that that it will last long, even if it outlived its rivals Sounds and Melody Maker. The title, once full of critical reviews and good writing, is likely to become another freesheet repository for slick self-serving PR handouts.

It is just one more indication that the world of popular music, always a battle between those who want to make music and those who just want to make money, has suffered another setback.

Today, when bands so often seem to be created by a team of smooth marketing people or cynically put together to win the latest TV talent show, it’s hard to believe just how many bands and groups there were in the late 1950s and ’60s scrabbling to make music and, if truth be told, to make it big in what would become the world of rock ’n’ roll.

Back in July ’57 a skiffle group called The Quarry Men entertained at St Peter’s church fete, Woolton, Liverpool. They went on stage after the election of the rose queen and a police dog display.

The Quarry Men, with Ivan Vaughan on tea-chest bass and Ron Davis on banjo, had been formed just a few months before and their repertoire included such Lonnie Donegan standards as Railroad Bill, Cumberland Gap and Maggie Mae as well as Be Bop A Lula. Lead guitar and vocals was a 15-year-old named John Lennon.

Another young musician had ridden his bike the couple of miles from Allerton to the fete. With drainpipe trousers and a quiff, Paul McCartney looked like a real musician — far more sophisticated than the check-shirted teenager fronting the Quarry Men.

Bassist Ivan introduced Paul to John across his tea chest and the world of music changed forever.

I grew up in Harlesden, north London, where Freddie Heath’s skiffle group became Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. In 1960 their Shakin All Over reached number one.

Barney Davis, who would become national secretary of the Young Communist League (YCL), drove the Pirates to gigs.

Barney himself won a place in the final of a contest for singers at the State Kilburn. Sadly the final clashed with a YCL committee meeting. Barney chose the final but was pipped for first prize by Dave Sutch, who would later become Screaming Lord Sutch.

Other young communist friends in north London were deeply involved in the ’60s R&B scene. I was secretary of Willesden YCL and just up the road the Wembley YCL Branch opened its own R&B club at the Railway Hotel in Wealdstone.

At Christmas time 1963 Wembley YCL organised a dance at the Railway with local band the Bo Street Runners. The event was such a success that the band were approached by two YCLers, Gus Brain and Paul McCloughlan, with the idea of setting up a weekly R&B club at the Railway. Door takings would be split equally, half for the band and half to fund the revolution.

The club was up and running by February 1964 and the venture was an instant success. YCLers and Mods from all over north London danced to the music.

For legal reasons it was run as a membership club. Membership was just sixpence (2.5p) and admission 3/6 (17.5p). Within a month the numbers turning up had reached the 200 mark, creating an incredible atmosphere. Vespas and Lambrettas filled the pub car park.

The YCL monthly magazine Challenge told its readers: “Soon the group announces its arrival with a vigorous tuning-up session, with amplifiers booming, humming and screeching and the electric organ erupting with cascades of chords that vibrate around one’s head.

“A hypnotised crowd fills the floor in an incredibly short time; Skip-dance, floog and good old fashioned shake are demonstrated to the full.”

Sorry: even Frosty doesn’t know what the floog was.

Willesden YCL member Barney Barnes, who became Dick Barnes and finally rock journalist Richard Barnes, opened his own weeknight club at the Railway, following on from pioneer British blues musician Cyril Davies’s own club here.

Barnes booked people like Long John Baldry and a band called The High Numbers, who had also been known as the Detours. One of their members was himself a YCL member.

There was a certain swapping of acts between the two clubs and at one stage the YCL Sunday club considered changing their resident band to The High Numbers. George Bridges remembers the High Numbers wanted £13 for the gig, the Bo Street Runners £2 more.

In the end the YCL club decided to stick with the Bo Street Runners as they had just won TV’s Ready Steady Win competition.

YCL member Pete Townsend and Dick Barnes renamed The High Numbers The Who and the rest is history.

The very history you could once read in the pages of NME, but alas no more.

Singer Janelle Monáe censored for speaking out against police brutality

This music video from the USA says about itself:

Janelle Monae & Wondaland – Hell You Talmbout (Eephus Tour Philadelphia 8-12-15).

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Janelle Monáe cut from live television during ‘Black Lives Matter’ speech against police brutality

The singer’s performance of politically-charged new song was also taken offline

Chris Mandle

Monday 17 August 2015

Janelle Monáe was cut off during a speech against police brutality by an NBC anchor live on television.

The singer was invited to perform three songs on NBC’s The Today Show, including her new politically-charged song ‘Hell You Talmout’, which name checks a number of black men and women who have died at the hands of police officers including Eric Garner, Walter Scott and Sandra Bland.

The song also name-checks Trayvon Martin, who was shot dead by George Zimmerman in 2012 and Emmett Till, a 14-year-old whose murder in 1955 at the hands of white racists inspired a song by Bob Dylan.

Monáe closed the song with an empowering speech where she implored people to stand tall and not be silenced.

“Yes, Lord,” she said. “God bless America. God bless all who’ve lost lives to police brutality. We want white America to know that we stand tall today. We want black America to know that we stand tall today. We will not be silenced.”

She was then cut off by The Today Show anchor, who said: “We’ll have much more from Janelle Monáe … coming up.”

The show went on to upload video performances of ‘Tightrope’ and ‘Yoga’ to their website, but not ‘Hell You Talmout’.

NBC did not respond to a request by The Independent for a comment.

Text accompanying the video on The Today Show’s website said Monáe was no ‘cookie cutter artist’ and that ‘not everyone ‘gets’ Monáe yet, which is understandable’.

It comes after the singer led a protest through Philadelphia as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Janelle Monáe’s Protest Song Is A Heart-Rending Roll Call Of Injustices. For all the black men and women who’ve been killed by police, won’t you say their names? See here.

Music for #BlackLivesMatter in the USA

This music video from the USA says about itself:

Janelle Monae, Wondaland & Jidenna Perform in Times Square

13 August 2015

Jidenna & Wondaland Artists Take Fight Against Police Murder to Times Square During ‘EEPHUS’ EP Tour

In New York City, Jidenna & Wondaland Artists will take the fight against police murder to the belly of the beast, Times Square – by joining parents of people murdered by police, activists, and artists to call out mass incarceration and police terror – and contribute towards mass nationwide mobilization against it during #RiseUpOctober. In coordination with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, Artists 4 Justice, and Stolen Lives Parents, the event will be composed of a press conference, rally and creative speak-out, with the goal merging prominent artists with victims of and fighters against police murder to draw a line in society, boldy asking the question: ‘Which Side Are You On?”

The press conference will feature Jidenna, Wondaland artists, Carl Dix, co-founder of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, who was recently arrested in Ferguson this weekend with fellow SMIN co-founder, Cornel West, and Nicholas Heyward, whose 14 year-old son was murdered by police in 1994, among others.

Following the rally and press conference, the speak-out itself will take the form of ‘performance protest’, an interactive disruptive action that remixes a traditional ‘die-in’ with elements of street theatre and open mic. As part of strengthening this effort, Wondaland artists take part in this simple, but dramatic creative action, joining in to do the movements, perform a verse, sing a song, or speak out.

From in the USA:

August 14, 2015

Janelle Monae Leads Protests For #BlackLivesMatter Movement, Releases Powerful New Song

Janelle Monae and her fellow Wondaland band mates, including Jidenna, marched in protest against police brutality on August 12 in Philadelphia. In a preview of the song “Hell You Talmbout,” the Guardian reports that Monae addressed the protesters with passion.

“They say a question lives forever, until it gets the answer it deserves. Won’t you say their names? Can we say their names right now? Can we speak their names, as long as we have breath in our bodies?”

The group released a powerful remake of Monae’s bonus track “Hell You Talmbout” off her 2013 album The Electric Lady. The full Wondaland roster is present on the song: Roman GianArthur, Deep Cotton, George 2.0, St. Beauty, Jidenna, and Monae. The foundation of “Hell You Talmbout” is built on a drumline progression and between choruses of “hell you talmbout,” and accompanied by that strong marching beat, the artists urge us to “Say his/her name!” The names of Blacks throughout history who have been victims of police brutality and racism are chanted. You can listen to “Hell You Talmbout” on Wondaland Records Soundcloud.

The list of names chanted in the “Hell You Talmbout” song includes Walter Scott, Jerame Reid, Phillip White, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Freddie Gray, Aiyana Jones, Sandra Bland, Kimani Gray, John Crawford III, Michael Brown, Miriam Carey, Sharonda Singleton, Emmett Till, Tommy Yancy, Jordan Baker, and Amadou Diallo.

The inclusion of Emmett Till proves just how long the struggle has been going on. Till was only 14-years-old when he was murdered in Mississippi in 1955 for talking to a white woman. Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, the white men who took the young boy’s life, were both acquitted and later admitted to the crime knowing that due to “double jeopardy” they could not be tried again. Till’s funeral was an open casket one, a move his mother made to show just how mutilated her child was. Outrage over his murder actually helped spark the Civil Rights Movement.

The #SayHerName hashtag is an offspring of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It was a means to amplify the struggles of black women who have been killed or sexually harassed by the police in the U.S. The death of Sandra Bland in Texas last month while she was in police custody helped the movement to gain more visibility. was established in an effort to raise awareness of the systematic erasure of black lives in the United States and “demand the intentional dismantling of structural racism.”

The Wondaland artists seem to be using their tour as a platform for the social justice movement as they also held another protest in New York city. The group called to action their supporters and gathered at a police station in Times Square once more.

With their protests and “Hell You Talmbout,” Monae and the Wondaland crew join other artists who have spoken out in public or on social media about the Black Lives Matter movement. Common and John Legend’s song “Glory” won best Original Song at this years Oscars, and at her Grammy performance, Beyonce’s dancers referenced the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture associated with Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri.

The collective Wondaland EP, The Eephus, is set to be released today. They have free invite-only shows scheduled throughout the month of August, which end in Atlanta on August 31.

British poetry against government policies

This video from England says about itself:

Coleridge Lectures 2015: Andrew Kelly

17 April 2015

Andrew Kelly: Animals ‘in the Fraternity of universal Nature’

In his utopian community Pantisocracy, Coleridge believed that animals were to be brothers and sisters ‘in the Fraternity of universal Nature’. Animal rights and animal welfare were debated widely amongst the Romantics and remain controversial issues today. Andrew Kelly looks at the views of the Romantics and current campaigns for animals.

Part of Coleridge Lectures 2015: Radical Green. In association with Bristol 2015 European Green Capital and Cabot Institute.

By Jody Porter in Britain:

New Boots and Pantisocracies

Thursday 13th August 2015

Jody Porter talks to ANDY JACKSON and W N HERBERT about the success of their post-election poetry project

THE next few weeks will see a radical web-based poetry project reach its conclusion, with the posting of the final poems out of a planned 100 on the New Boots and Pantisocracies website.

The project is curated by poets W N Herbert and Andy Jackson and takes the theme of “the first 100 days,” which has become something of a post-election meme in recent years.

The website has published poems initially reflecting on the post-election political landscape before moving on to document the state of British society in the last few months since the tumultuous general election. Poets involved include George Szirtes, Helen Mort, Ian McMillan, Roddy Lumsden, Sheenagh Pugh and Sean O’Brien, each one responding to what the curators describe as ”the new unrealpolitik.”

The name of the project brings together the concept of the pantisocracy (where all govern equally) as proposed by 18th-century poets Coleridge and Southey, with the 1977 Ian Dury LP New Boots and Panties, a quintessentially British record, rich in blue collar poetry and musical variation.

This music video from Ireland is called Ian Dury & The Blockheads / Blockheads “Live” in Belfast 03/02/79.

W N Herbert says: “The idea for the blog sprang from an online exchange between myself and my publisher Andy Ching.

The phrase just arose, and the way it bounced Dury’s ripe knowingness off Southey and Coleridge’s early idealism suddenly seemed to make sense of our current bewilderment. It was, we realised, one of those rare spontaneous puns you look again at and think, ‘What can I do with that?’”

Jackson says of the project: “There was a sense of disbelief after the election result came in. A Tory majority without the limited restraints placed on it by its former coalition partners spelt bad news for the arts, education, health, welfare and many other areas traditionally sacrificed to austerity. Poets associated with the project have responded in various ways, looking at the benefits system, human rights legislation, TTIP, Scottish independence and many other topics.”

Co-curator Herbert added: “there’s plenty of anger and bewilderment, but these are lines of poetry rather than unwavering expressions of a party line, and their energy comes from a collision of the verbal with the visceral, a recharging of language even as it is being emptied by our political masters and their envious opposites.”

The initial aim — 100 poems in 100 days — has been a success, and the curators are considering the next steps. Herbert explains: “The plan is to take New Boots into the live arena, organising readings of contributors as we’ve done with previous projects. The other part of the plan is, we can now reveal, to continue past the 100 days as long as the contributors’ political and poetical will is there and until everyone interested in writing something has done so.” Readers can therefore expect an incendiary mix of heads-up poetry in a town near them in the near future.

Jackson concludes: “Poetry has taken a stand in a way that it is rarely afforded the chance to — not just via a few isolated voices on lonely hillsides and street corners, but collectively and loudly. We hope that this project demonstrates that the radical art of the polemic in poetic form still thrives, and that poetry has a place in both reflecting society and politics, and rejecting it where it cannot accept the way things are.”

New Boots and Pantisocracies can be viewed here.

Bumblebee cleaning itself, video

This video shows a large earth bumblebee trying to clean itself from all dust particles on its coat.

Germaine Plieger from Gorinchem in the Netherlands made this video.

The music is by The Four Tops, and by Jewel Akens.

Swedish musicians against neo-fascist racism

This video says about itself:

Silvana Imam Discusses Speaking out Against Neo-Nazis, Describes Swedish Rap & ‘Power Pussy’

16 April 2015

A strong women with little fear when it comes to speaking her mind, Silvana Imam is taking Swedish music by storm by making music that takes on right wing Swedish Democrats. We recently had the pleasure to have her on Sway In The Morning to outline her movement and what she thinks needs to change in her country.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Sweden’s Folk Musicians Against Racism join chorus against far right

Stockholm festival sees people of all ages gather to take Swedish folk music and traditional costume back from the anti-immigrant SD party

Emma Hartley in Stockholm

Sunday 9 August 2015 19.03 BST

On the cobbles in front of Hasselby castle – a peach-coloured 17th-century confection run these days as a hotel – around 70 musicians play a stately polka on fiddles, nyckelharpa, clarinet, flute and accordion. The youngest looks about five, the oldest in his 80s, and a handful wear Swedish traditional costume: the women in full skirts, aprons, lace collars and red woollen stockings, the men in waistcoats, shorts and socks with ribbons. Nearby, a Danish klezmer band on a big sound stage is lifting a crowd to its feet.

But music wasn’t the only thing on the agenda at this year’s Stockholm folk festival. The mass play-in on the cobbles was a demonstration organised by a group called Folk Musicians against Racism (FMR) and their outrage was directed squarely at the third-largest party in Sweden’s parliament, the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD), who won nearly 13% of the vote in last year’s general election.

Earlier in the week, an advert on Stockholm’s metro paid for by the SD, addressing tourists in English, said: “Sorry about the mess here in Sweden. We have a serious problem with forced begging. International gangs profit from people’s desperation. Our goverment (sic) won’t do what’s needed. But we will!”

“Everyone knows this advert was directed against Romanians,” said Kim Persson, 23, of Tunnelbaneorkestern, a Stockholm band made up of three Romanians and him. “And the SD knew that people would get really angry and tear the ad down. Running the ad in English was a PR trick.

“But the best way to deal with SD is to meet them with good arguments. They have an obscene dream that 100 years ago everyone had blond hair and blue eyes and was very happy. But 100 years ago we had the Sami people, as we have now, and Sweden was really poor. Hunger drove many to emigrate to the United States.”

Sweden led Europe last year in the number of asylum applicants it accepted per capita; in absolute numbers it was second only to Germany, a country with a population eight times larger than that of Sweden. But an electoral backlash to the longstanding policy has resulted in the fracturing of its centre-left political consensus and a public self-examination that many say has barely begun.

The relative youth of many of Folk Music Against Racism’s leading activists is noticeable. Anna Gustavsson, 24, said it started because folk traditions have come in for special attention from the SD. “It began really when Jimmie Åkesson – the leader of the Sweden Democrats – wore a traditional costume when entering parliament in 2010. Many parliamentary people have worn the national costume to the opening but when he did it, it became clear that the aim was political and that the clothing was worn not only as formal wear.

“Also nationalistic papers have visited folk festivals in Sweden and sent journalists to report about the ‘true Swedishness’ of the event and written about how good and white the folk scene is.”

The problem, Persson says, “is that the Sweden Democrats are the only party talking about immigration”.

“The other parties dare not address it, so it seems to ordinary people that there is no other way of thinking about immigration except as a bad thing. When nobody else has a contribution to make, people find it easy to believe the Sweden Democrats’ version of events.”

This nyckelharpa kills fascists: Swedish folk musicians stand up to the racist right: here.