Queens Of Punk: Poly Styrene & Jordan, The British Library, 04.07.19

Last night I was lucky enough to go along to a very special night celebrating Queens Of Punk at The British Library. Hosted by self proclaimed ‘Professor Of Punk’, Vivien Goldman, the panel discussed the release of two books about two of the most legendary ‘queens of punk’: Defying Gravity: Jordan’s Story and Dayglo: The Poly Styrene Story

Prior to talking to the authors, Goldman (also having recently released her own book Revenge Of The She Punks) delivers a poignant and stirring introduction, describing both Jordan and Poly Styrene as “prophetic” in the topics they addressed through their work, asserting that the most important aspect of punk was that women finally found a voice. Considering artists such as Jordan and Poly Styrene, as well as bands such as The Slits and The Raincoats, this would certainly seem true – the 1970s seeing these women coming to the fore and finally being heard. 

And now, nearly 50 years later, when we’ve witnessed almost a regression in politics and equal rights, the spirit of punk – and in particular these strong female voices – is needed now more than it has been for decades. 

To be honest, I hadn’t really been aware of Jordan’s prominence in the world of punk before tonight, and so her discussion with Goldman was both enlightening and inspiring. Describing how she wanted to create herself as a work of art, the way she dressed becoming a part of who she was, she explains that being self aware was a major part of being ‘punk’; it was about being aware of you are and “not giving a damn” what other people thought – a community for people who didn’t fit the mould. And, hearing her talk about her vibrant fashion choices (and work in in Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s ground-breaking boutique, SEX, then Seditionaries and, later, World’s End), and position as a woman in the industry at the time, it becomes clear just how courageous and innovative she has been. 

Discussing the writing of the book, Jordan’s co-writer Cathi Unsworth (Sounds, Bizarre, The Guardian), describes their writing process as like making a dress; together they cut and pieced together Jordan’s memories to fit a narrative. However, Unsworth asserts that this wasn’t difficult, as Jordan is just like a person she’d invent to be a heroine of a novel, her life being filled with fearless adventure and outrageous events. Whatever the process of writing, it seems to have worked; Goldman describing Defying Gravity as like a “window into the [punk] culture”. 

Asserting how “punk encapsulated everybody”, Jordan credits the gay clubs of Brighton and the role of the gay community in helping her feel comfortable in who she was, before discussing her work with Derek Jarman (he cast her as the ferocious Amyl Nitrate in his 1978 film Jubilee) – who she describes as oozing the essence of punk, as he didn’t care what anyone thought – and Adam Ant. Of the later, she recalls a night at The Roundhouse where Adam and The Ants were playing alongside X Ray Spex… 

And so to Celeste Bell and Zoë Howe (Typical Girls? The Story of the Slits; Stevie Nicks: Visions, Dreams & Rumours) who worked together on Dayglo: The Poly Styrene Story. Having initially met Zoë when she was writing her book about children of ‘rockstars’ –‘How’s Your Dad?’ Living in the Shadow of a Rock Star Parent – Celeste decided to write a book about her mother on realising she had a large archive of material from Poly Styrene’s life, that had mostly been in the hands of her old manager prior to her death. Including artwork, diary entries, and hundreds of unrecorded lyrics, as well as letters that Celeste has since written to her mother, Howe explains that they put the memories and archive together like “one big conversation”, trying to reflect Poly’s character as much as possible. 

As well as the book, Howe and Bell have also recently been working on a documentary about Poly Styrene: Poly Styrene – I Am A Cliché. Directed by Paul Sng, the film includes never-seen-before footage of Poly throughout her life, as well as interviews with other people in the industry including Kathleen Hanna and Thurston Moore, about the great influence she had on them. We’re lucky enough to be treated to an exclusive showing of the trailer, and it looks like it’s going to be a wonderful watch! 

Resuming the discussion about the book, Celeste opens up about her mother’s struggle with having Bipolar Disorder, and other people’s perception of her as being ‘psychic’. Celeste explains that her mother was very intuitive and would soak up any energy that was around her, which would often aid her creative process – her feelings being transformed into poetry – but could be psychologically difficult to deal with. 

Celeste continues to explain that her mother had had mixed feelings about her following in her footsteps and making music; although she encouraged her daughter to learn to play instruments, she was concerned about Celeste being a woman in a sexist industry, having being affected by her own experiences. Throughout her career, for example, Poly Styrene had always been described by journalists and others in the industry as “not conventionally beautiful”, which often had a negative impact on her state of mind; as Celeste explains, her mother would get extremely frustrated by the industry’s focus on her looks rather than the work she was creating, and – in any case – she was “fucking beautiful!” no matter what anyone else said. 

Recalling another instance of the industry’s ingrained sexism, Howe describes how a certain review of an X Ray Spex show seemed to pit Poly and saxophonist Lora Logic against each other, making out that Logic was the star of the show. Celeste describes how much this upset her mother, resulting in Lora being sacked from the band. This is a prime example of how the industry has, and continues to, pit females against each other, purely because of their gender, judging them on appearance, playing on insecurities, rather than focusing on the music being created. Lora and Poly, however, reunited years later, when they were both part of the Hare Krishna movement, and even performed together at Glastonbury.

It’s not only inspiring to hear about all the incredible steps Poly Styrene took as, not only a woman, but a woman of colour, in the world of punk, but particularly moving to hear Celeste talk about her mother and their relationship. Although rose-tinted spectacles are firmly off, it’s wonderful to hear her talk about Poly Styrene not only as the innovative figure for women in music that she remains to this day, but as a mother and a person.

Hearing about both Defying Gravity: Jordan’s Story and Dayglo: The Poly Styrene Story, and all the pivotal steps that these women before us have taken in a quest to be heard, leaves me feeling inspired and motivated. As Goldman said at the beginning of the evening, now is certainly the time to revive the punk spirit, to unite and overcome adversity: we need strong figures like Poly and Jordan now more than ever. 

Defying Gravity: Jordan’s Story and Dayglo: The Poly Styrene Story are both out now via Omnibus Press. 

Mari Lane
@marimindles

Track Of The Day: Petrol Girls – ‘Big Mouth’

Always at the forefront when it comes to fighting for equality and fair representation; Petrol Girls have shared a powerful new video for their new single ‘Big Mouth’. Supporting the ongoing defamation case for Solidarity Not Silence – a group of women who are being silenced for speaking out against the behaviour of a man in the music industry – their new single is a necessary shout-back and a call to arms to support their activist sisters.

Vocalist Ren Aldridge explains more about the track’s context: “[Big Mouth] focuses in on voice as a physical sound that comes directly from our bodies, and also more generally as self-expression. There’s a lot of politics around who is heard and what that means, and many marginalised groups are only tolerated when they’re quiet. When they refuse this containment and control, they’re met with attempts to silence them.”

“Just one example of this is the defamation case which aims to silence the Solidarity Not Silence girls…whilst the case is ongoing, we are limited in what we can say about it, but encourage everyone to spread the word and donate to the crowdfunding campaign for their legal costs. They are determined to not allow their case to set a precedent for silencing marginalised voices in the music industry and beyond. There’s no legal aid for this kind of case – they need money to pay for their legal representation in order to pursue justice. You can get a Solidarity Not Silence t-shirt, as worn by Joe in the ‘Big Mouth’ music video, here.”

As well as Ren’s own powerful voice, the new single includes a sample of Poly Styrene’s iconic intro to X-Ray Spex’s ‘Oh Bondage! Up Yours!’- with lyrics that still resonate with activists and musicians over forty years later. ‘Big Mouth’ is taken from Petrol Girls’ upcoming album Cut & Stitch, which will be released on 24th May via Hassle Records. A companion Rough Trade Publishing ‘Edition’, written by Ren, is also available to pre-order via the band’s official store.

The band will be touring extensively from the beginning of May, including in-stores at Rough Trades in the week the album is released, tours with War On Women and La Dispute, plus appearances as festivals like The Great Escape, 2000trees and Roskilde. Watch the video for ‘Big Mouth’ below and follow Petrol Girls on Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Record Store Day 2019: GIHE Picks

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… That’s right, Record Store Day. The excitement, the unity of eager queuers, the smell of that shiny vinyl as you release it from its sleeve, the empty pockets at the end of the day… But most of all, the music. A day dedicated to celebrating our favourite music, and those wonderful shop-owners who provide us with so much of it.

Ahead of the big day this Saturday (13th April), we thought we’d share some of the special releases that we’re most looking forward to this year. From the riotous power of classics by legends no longer with us, to our favourite soundtracks, and brand new releases from current bands making waves, here’s some of the records we’re hoping to get our hands on…

Mari Lane:

Elastica – BBC Sessions
I think Justine Frischmann and co. first came to my attention when I saw ‘Waking Up’ on an episode of TOTP, with none other than Damon Albarn appearing on keys/posing; and that was it – I was instantly in awe of the immense sense of cool that oozed from the three guitar-wielding women on stage. Failing my attempts to get hold of their 1995 eponymous debut on special release (plus an exclusive fanzine) in 2017, this year I have my heart set on Elastica’s BBC Sessions, released for the first time ever on vinyl. Whilst Strange Fruit released the Radio One sessions on CD back in 2001, this is the first artist curated release of the band’s sessions –  combining tracks recorded for John Peel, Steve Lamacq and Mark Radcliffe.

White Vinyl plus poster. Info here

Courtney Barnett – ‘Everybody Here Hates You’/’Small Talk’
Last year, I managed to get hold of Barnett’s special Record Store Day Release, ‘City Looks Pretty’/’Sunday Roast’, and this year I’m equally as determined to bag her new single ‘Everybody Here Hates You’, along with B-side ‘Small Talk’, on exclusive 12”. Courtney Barnett is probably my favourite, and most relatable, lyricist in the world. She has a unique ability to tackle everyday life with a spot-on wit and raw honesty, perfectly showcased in this wonderfully blues-infused latest offering.

12″ Vinyl via Marathon Artists. Info here.

Bang Bang Romeo – ‘Cemetery’/’Creep’
Taken from their Shame On You EP, ‘Cemetery’ is one of South Yorkshire group Bang Bang Romeo’s less raucous offerings, and is in itself an ode to record stores and finding your place within a music scene, with the lyrics capturing that excitement of going into a record store: “‘Finally found a place where I feel a part of something more ….in your arms where I found The Smiths & The Flaming Lips”. I’ve been aware of the awesomeness of Bang Bang Romeo for a while now, but it was only last Saturday at local festival Cro Cro Land that I was able to witness the incredible, rip-roaring power of Stars and co. live; my mind was completely blown and will never be the same again.

7″ Vinyl via Five Seven Music. Info here

X Ray Spex – I Am A Cliché
As any regular followers of our site, listeners to our radio show, or attendees of our gigs will be aware; we’re pretty massive fans of X Ray Spex and all that iconic front woman Poly Styrene did for music. We even kicked off our first ever radio show on Hoxton Radio over four years ago with the legendary ‘Oh Bondage, Up Yours’. So, being able to own this brand new compilation, featuring exclusive studio versions of tracks and live recordings, all on dayglo coloured vinyl, would be pretty much a dream come true! There are, however, only 500 copies being released… So, failing getting my hands on this record (or in addition to!), I will definitely be delving into Zoë Howe and Celeste Bell’s new book about Poly Styrene – Dayglo: The Poly Styrene Story. Featuring creative work from her archives, it includes material ranging from the flyers and early design drafts for X-Ray Spex, to her later visual art and lyrics

2 x LP – Dayglo Vinyl, gatefold sleeve with art card. Info here

Kate Crudgington:

The Crow OST
Despite being 26 years old, The Crow’s official soundtrack still feels and sounds as contemporary as many of its modern-day counterparts. Look at the talent featured on it: The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against The Machine, Medicine, The Jesus and Mary Chain – if that’s not incentive to make you don your white face paint and black lipstick and rock out like Eric Draven on a rooftop, I don’t know what is. The soundtrack will be released via Rhino on 2 LPs, white & black with 3 sides of audio and the fourth with an “etching”. I will do whatever I can to get my hands on it!

2 LP – White & Black; 3 sides audio, 4th side etching. Info here

Soccer Mommy – For Young Hearts
I only arrived at the Soccer Mommy party last year when she released her debut studio album Clean, and I’ve had single ‘Your Dog’ in my head ever since. Her career was on the rise way before that though, with her bandcamp EP For Young Hearts being the release that first caught her all this much deserved attention. 

LP via Fat Possum Records with lyrics sleeve and fold-out poster. Info here

John McGovern:

Lost In Translation OST 
Two Scarlett Johansson movies from the early noughties; two wildly different soundtracks. If you’re old enough to remember the late ’90s, before Hollywood indies really boomed, then you probably also remember what it felt like when movies this fresh and sounding this cool suddenly appeared – and with female stars at their centre. Lost in Translation is all early 21st century indie hipster cool – Phoenix, Squarepusher, Peaches.

Violet Colour Vinyl. Info here.

Ghost World OST
Ghost World is more sprawling, reflecting its central characters’ adolescence: blues classics, Bollywood rock. Both also feature nods to some of celluloid’s less pleasant sounds: Bill Murray’s take on Roxy Music’s ‘More Than This’ in a Tokyo karaoke bar; the suburban stylings of Ghost World’s ‘Graduation Rap’ scene. This being Record Store Day though, perhaps what marks it out most is its Enid Coleslaw ’77 punk style’ blue vinyl.

LP via Shanachie Entertainment. Info here.

Honeyblood – ‘The Third Degree’/’She’s a Nightmare’
The second single from Stina Tweedale’s duo-turned-solo-turned-group Honeyblood’s third album, In Plain Sight. Aside from the song’s deceptively simple pop-rock sound, the cover’s tarot card design is particularly appealing if, like me, you’re into the cartomantic fortune-telling aesthetic. Chrysa Koukoura illustrations littered the band’s self-titled debut with moths and butterflies and it’s great to see her return here.

12″ Vinyl via Marathon Artists. Info here.

Iggy Pop – ‘The Villagers’/’Pain & Suffering’
One of the curios of garage rock hero Iggy Pop’s career, 1982’s Zombie Birdhouse incorporates spoken-word poetry, afro-beat and synthesisers all over the place – with ‘The Villagers’ being a perfect example. Despite its production from Blondie’s Chris Stein, the album met with middling reviews but now seems extremely foresighted given latter-day indie/post-punk’s magpie nature and willingness to go abrasive. Added bonus: the cover is a perfect example of Iggy’s ’80s awkward cool.

7″ Single, Coloured Vinyl. Info here.

Ken Wynne:

Bad Religion – ‘My Sanity’/’Chaos From Within’
Founded almost four decades ago in 1980, L.A. punk rock band Bad Religion are preparing to release their seventeenth studio album next month – the socio-political Age of Unreason. With ‘My Sanity’/’Chaos From Within’ the band question the sanity of a world so divided that each side regard the other as out of their fucking mind! Previously released to various streaming services, I have been listening to both songs on repeat in anticipation of the new album, and this limited RSD 7″ from Epitaph. There is no denying that Bad Religion are pissed off with the current political situation in the United States, and who could blame them? If the rest of the album is anything as thought-provoking as ‘My Sanity’/’Chaos From Within’, Age of Unreason could become an important album for social justice.

7″ Limited Edition Print. Info here.

The Lillingtons – Death By Television
Originally released in 1999 by Panic Button Records – an imprint of Lookout! Records – Death By Television was the second studio album from Wyoming pop punkers, The Lillingtons. Emblazoned with artwork lifted from Roger Corman’s 1963 science fiction/horror flick X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, Death By Television is the result of The Lillingtons incorporating influences from various B-movies of the 1950s and 60s into their Ramones-styled approach to punk rock. If you are as obsessed with sci-fi/horror popcorn pulp as I am, Death By Television doesn’t disappoint. Considered an important record in pop punk, the RSD release – limited to 666 copies worldwide (obviously) – is B-movie bliss and I can’t wait to get my hands on it this Saturday.

LP Picture Disc via Red Scare Industries. Info here.

Shit Girlfriend – ‘Dress Like Cher’/’Socks On The Beach’
Having recently discovered Shit Girlfriend after stumbling upon the music video for ‘Mummy’s Boy’ – and recognising Laura-Mary Carter from alt-rock band, Blood Red Shoes – I’m ecstatic to see that the DIY London glam-punk duo have reemerged with ‘Dress Like Cher’/’Socks On The Beach’ on 7″ splatter vinyl. Previously releasing ‘Mummy’s Boy’​/’​I Don’t Wanna Die’ via PNKSLM on RSD 2017, Laura-Mary Carter and Natalie Chahal return with more scuzzy, distorted pop hooks and no shortage of punk rock attitude.

7″ via Punk Slime.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to give a big thank you to some of our favourite record shops: Bridport Music (sorry to miss the cake this year!), Sister Ray, Reckless Records, Rough Trade and Defend Vinyl.

And, if you can’t wait ’til Saturday, have a listen to our special RSD 19 playlist here:

 

@marimindles
@kcbobcut

@etinsuburbiaego
@Ken_Wynne

LISTEN: Alternative ‘Best Of British’

If you’re anything like us, you’d have been pretty bewildered to wake up this morning to Radio X’s ‘Best Of British‘ chart – a list of what their listeners apparently deem to be the ‘best’ 100 British songs ever made. Not only did the list not feature one single female artist or female-led band, but it seemed to consist of pretty much the same few white male ‘rock’ bands repeated throughout…

Whoever it was who compiled the list, this seems like an embarrassing and unbelievably short-sighted representation of the British music scene. So, whilst we’re not denying the influence that the likes of Oasis, The Rolling Stones, Arctic Monkeys, Stone Roses and – of course – The Beatles have had (we count some of their songs as our faves too!), we feel that there were too many fantastic and pivotal songs missing from the list not to make our own!

So, have a listen to a few more of the ‘best’ British songs (in our opinion), courtesy of yours truly…