Wednesday, 12 January 2022

God Save The Teen! ( My Top 3 Teenage Punk Songs )


My good friend and esteemed fellow blogger Tom ( of Poetry, Music, Other fame ) recently suggested that we both write a post on the subject of our three fave teenage Punk songs and drop them ( as I believe "the kids" say ) on the same day. I initially thought he meant three Punk songs about being a teenager or having the word "teenage/r" somewhere in the song. Easy, I thought: I can think of three straight away, no problem. But no, the brief is to write about three favourite Punk songs from my teenage years. That subtle difference instantly meant I had to consider many, many more songs. Am I up to the challenge? Find out below, after another adorable Punk Cat picture...

I've been over-thinking this of course but, as Punk was such a singles-driven genre, I decided to include singles I actually own(ed) so couldn't include Anarchy In The UK ( 'cos I'm not rich ) or such classics as The Jam's In The City or The Ramones' Blizkrieg Bop as they were never in my collection on 45 rpm. 

I do have about 100 Punk singles ( give or take a few, I mean do I count Adam & The Ants as Punk? ) so it's been a painful process, made doubly difficult by trying to remember what I actually liked as a teen as opposed to what I think I liked in hindsight. And to be fair, I did like some crap back then. A lot of the time I listened to the more Street Punk / Oi! / early '80s end of the Punk spectrum which sounded great when I was an angry teen but doesn't really stand up now. I don't really lounge around in my smoking-jacket and reminisce to the soothing sounds of The 4-Skins or The Cockney Rejects nowadays but, when I was about 15 and everybody else hated that stuff, I thought I was a proper rebel. ( Pause here for hysterical laughter. ) Anyway, I've chosen my Top 3 ( for the purposes of this blog anyway ) which comprise two all-time classics and one slightly more obscure offering. Hey ho, let's go...

Number 3: Religious Wars e.p. by The Subhumans

By 1982 Punk was Officially Dead, the movers and shakers and taste-makers had moved on to Joy Division gloom or New Romantic glitz, and teenage rebellion was old hat. Of course, nobody told the diehard Punks that and they kept angry and carried on as their increasingly-fractured "movement" went back underground where it had started. As well as the Punk / skinhead hybrid of Oi! and the proto-Goth which went by the counter-intuitive moniker of Positive Punk, there was a large Anarchist Punk sub-genre. Spearheaded by the Crass collective, a whole bunch of spiky-haired crusties were making very noisy music ( in the loosest sense of the word ) and shouting about violence, vivisection, vegetarianism and other subjects that didn't begin with "v". Bands like Conflict, Poison Girls, Omega Tribe, Dirt and The Subhumans. This last bunch were probably the nearest the sub-genre got to an actual rock band ( they could play their instruments and everything! ) and were pretty successful. I mean, they actually sold a few records: one such being my Number 3, Religious Wars. This kicks off with a mighty guitar riff ( they freely admitted to heretically liking Sabbath and Led Zep ) and then sets out to destroy organised religion from the comfort of their squat. They didn't actually succeed of course but it's a powerful, angry and bitter attack on the kind of indoctrination which leads to wars and genocide  -  "Religious wars, no reason why / What a glorious way to die" - with a scorchingly propulsive momentum which seemingly pushes you through the 2 1/2 minute song in about 2 1/2 seconds. If that makes any sense. It's an assault on the ears, a nagging question beaten into your brain by a breeze-block, it's not pretty but it's bloody immense. 

Number 2: God Save The Queen by The Sex Pistols

I know, I know, this is the most boring, obvious choice BUT it still sounds absolutely fantastic 200 years after it was recorded ( I think that's right ) and has to win out over Anarchy because, well, see above. GTSQ, as we all know, was actually a Number One Hit Single in the Jubilee year of 1977 despite media censorship / chart-rigging ( Rod who? Rod Stewart? Never heard of 'im ) and was probably the high point for Punk in terms of mainstream success and attention. ( I was, of course, blissfully unaware of this at the time. My musical tastes at the age of 10 didn't stretch much further than the Abba and Boney M albums my Mum had or the Glenn Miller tapes my old man would play in the car. ) Although the furore over the anti-Monarchist lyrics seems ludicrous today ( Lydon never calls Her Maj a moron  -  he calls "you", her subject, a moron ) the song is still good, seething fun and the closing "No Future" refrain still grabs you by the throat and leerily belches in your face. Which is nice. The Pistols themselves may now be a cartoonish "heritage" act, more of a brand than a band, but this slab of paradoxically organised Anarchy stands tall on its own bug-eyed, vein-bursting merits.

Number 1: ( White Man ) In Hammersmith Palais by The Clash

Again, an apparently safe choice: the band who were famously accused of "selling out" because they dared to sign to a record label... or alternatively the "Only Band That Mattered"  -  the mighty Clash. I suppose I could have gone for The Varukers or GBH for a bit more street cred. But they were shit. The Clash, by the point of this single release, had gone through the "Gob on you!" days and had started to dismiss the received wisdom of the day by learning to play their instruments and write songs with actual tunes. It's not as if they'd turned into Steely Dan or anything ( at least, not yet ) but they were certainly becoming more sophisticated. ( White Man ) In Hammersmith Palais is testament to this: a fusion of Punk and Reggae, far more potent than their earlier efforts to combine the two genres. The song chronicles the time that Clash-man Joe Strummer accompanied the legendary Don Letts ( DJ and future member of BAD ) to a Reggae gig at the equally-legendary Hammersmith Palais. Strummer was expecting some heavy Roots Reggae, cultural tourist that he was, but was disappointed to hear the more pop-slanted sounds of Ken Boothe. The song then moves on to various gripes about the state of the nation, deciding at its climax that the UK was in such a state that "If Adolph Hitler flew in today / They'd send a limousine anyway." The more things change etc. It's all a bit incoherent but that's part of its charm and the supremely confident playing, coupled with Strummer's snarling vocals, make it a top-drawer Punk classic. Even if it doesn't have a chorus to speak of...

So, that's my Top 3 all-time fave Punk songs ever, ever. Well, not really. They're all definitely up there, with the Pistols and Clash offerings obviously near the top... but, if you asked me tomorrow, I might say something different. The great thing about those years is that so many wonderful songs were released, so many beer- or amphetamine-fuelled anthems by and for angry youth. Mostly. A lot of this I experienced in a second-hand way, years later ( most of these singles were bought from second-hand record shops ), although I was definitely there for the likes of The Subhumans  -  pogo-ing around my rural bedroom as if I was some urban desperado, instead of a teenager with absolutely no conception of "life on the street". It was good, vicarious fun and opened my eyes to music, politics and attitudes that you didn't really see on Top Of The Pops. I've added some photos of some of my old singles here as a sample of the kind of thing I was listening to back in the day.

Alternative Ulster - Stiff Little Fingers / Ready Steady Go - Generation X / Safety In Numbers - The Adverts / Nazi Punks Fuck Off! - The Dead Kennedys / Warhead - UK Subs / No More Heroes - The Stranglers / California Uber Alles - The Dead Kennedys / The Cost Of Living e.p. - The Clash / Reality Asylum - Crass / Woman In Disguise - The Angelic Upstarts / No Room For You - Demob

And there's more...

And that's more than enough dodgy old Punk singles. Thanks to Tom for suggesting this synchronised blogging bonanza, can't wait to see his choices.

Punk Rock For Life!

Monday, 3 January 2022

Things I didn't blog about in 2021 - Part Two: The Skids at Gloucester Guildhall

Apart from the obvious difficulty in meeting friends and relations, the biggest social impact the bloody pandemic has had on me has been curtailing my usual gig-going habits. I appreciate that's not really a big deal when millions have lost their lives and had their health ruined by Covid-19, but it's certainly not helped my mental health. ( Although it's probably helped my bank balance. ) My last gig had been back in January 2020, just before the pandemic hit the UK, and as gigs and tours got cancelled all over the world the future of live music was very much in doubt. By the end of Summer 2021, after many of us had thankfully received our vaccines, it looked like gigs could be back on the agenda. I was due to see the mighty Ash in Bristol in August ( a gig put off from 2020 ) but still felt unsure about being in a crowd and, coupled with Sarah's concerns about me being in such a situation, I reluctantly missed it. Another gig I'd been waiting for was the return of the equally-mighty Skids to Gloucester's Guildhall, with local heroes Borrowed Time in support. This gig finally happened in October and by this point we felt slightly more comfortable about going out so we put a brave face on it, put our best feet forward and stepped out Into The Valley...

Well, into the Guildhall anyway. It was slightly daunting to be back in a venue, surrounded by people ( mostly ) not wearing masks, although the majority wore masks at the bar or in the corridors. It was lovely however to see so many old friends again. We went with our good friend and regular gig-companion Caz and met up with loads of people we hadn't seen in ages, including Ben from Chinese Burn, Mark from those Death Planet Commandos, my mate Fergus from work, the dashing David Rose ( follow the link to David's blog ) and many more besides, including the Borrowed Time boys  -  Glenn, Cliff, Rob, Marcus & Steve. It was a treat to see them back on stage where they belong, as tight and enthusiastic as ever. They played a cracking set, packed with old favourites and even some ( gasp! ) new songs, with the most appropriate probably being Day We Broke The World. Let's hope we can fix it too. ( Here's Rob from BT not doing too well at the old social distancing... )

And then, with the familiar, bubbling-synth sounds of Peaceful Times booming out across the hall, Dunfermline's finest took to the stage.

The expected one-two punch of the growling Animation and high energy Of One Skin kicked the set off in style and the classics kept coming: Charles and The Saints Are Coming flew the flag for the early years and a powerful Kings Of The New World Order brought us ( nearly ) up to date with the more straightforward 21st century Skids sound. The band were on sparkling form, the twin guitar interplay of Bruce and Jamie Watson just outstanding on such favourites as Out Of Town and Masquerade, while Richard Jobson was his usual ebullient self, as happy telling his outrageous between-song tales as he was whirling around the stage, his throaty roar as powerful as ever. ( But, please Jobbo, can you retire the Leo Sayer story now? It's getting a bit stale. ) A large chunk of the set consisted of anthems from The Absolute Game, which was bloody great to hear, Hurry On Boys and the awesome Woman In Winter causing mass outbreaks ( sorry ) of crowd chanting, all orchestrated by a beaming Jobson. I could have done without the Punk karaoke section which again featured The Skids covering pogo-era classics for no real reason. To be fair a lot of people seemed to like this chance for a cheesy singalong but I don't personally want to hear anybody but The Clash performing Complete Control. And The Clash don't exist. But apart from that, it was all good, boisterous fun with a rousing rendition of  The Olympian leaving us "Whoah-woahing" to our hearts' content.

This gig turned out to be my only one of the year as the Winter drew in and the expected resurgence of Covid-19 ( now in its ultra-catchy new Omicron form ) meant that events started to be cancelled again and many of us began to withdraw again from large gatherings anyway. But, as my lone 2021 live music experience, it was a fantastic one and I'm so glad we took the plunge and went along and, most importantly, came away happy and healthy. Fingers crossed that 2022 will see some respite from the damn virus and we can again enjoy such wonderful nights.

( The set list above was nicked from David Rose's blog. Cheers, mate! )

Saturday, 1 January 2022

Happy New Year from The Glass Walking-Stick

Here's hoping 2022 will be a better year for all of us. Best wishes to all you lovely people in BlogWorld ( yes, even you... ) from all the barely-working staff at Glass Walking-Stick HQ.

 Peace and love...

Thursday, 30 December 2021

Things I didn't blog about in 2021 - Part One: Recent Movies

 As anyone still here would have noticed, 2021 has been a pretty poor year for this 'ere blog. Although in the last year we've had ( slightly ) more freedom as things became ( slightly ) safer, and I've managed to get out and do more things, I've done less and less blogging. ( Irony, don't talk to me about irony. ) Anyway, I'm going to write about a few things I should have mentioned earlier, starting with movies...

But first... a slight tangent. Last year ( 2020, that is, anyone remember it? ) I really struggled with reading. I've always been a voracious reader, often with a couple of books on the go at once, but the whole craziness of the pandemic left me unable to focus on prose. I managed to read a lot of magazines and comics and probably way too much crap on t'internet but not novels. I started but didn't finish a few books which I may return to at some point ( Galapagos by Vonnegut, An American Dream by Mailer, Naked Lunch by Burroughs ) but the one book I did read was Frank Herbert's SF classic Dune. I first read Dune when I was about 13 and was totally blown away by it and have re-read it a couple of times in the following decades. I've always loved the book and, while it's no longer My Favourite Book Ever, I really enjoyed returning to Arrakis in preparation for the upcoming release of the new film adaptation. Well, I say "upcoming", but as we all know the film's release was delayed more than once due to the bloody pandemic. And then, it finally appeared like a sandworm on the horizon...

An adaptation of such a complex, dense novel was always going to be a major challenge for any film-maker and David Lynch's flawed but fascinating 1984 version demonstrated the perils of trying to fit the mammoth story into one movie. Visionary Blade Runner: 2049 director Denis Villeneuve made the risky decision to split the story across two movies and the box office success of part one shows the gamble paid off.
This new take on Dune is thankfully hugely successful. And that's the key word: huge. From the endless vistas of sand stretching before the characters, to the monolithic Chris Foss-inspired spaceships, to the colossal sandworms themselves, everything about this movie is on a massive scale. Luckily the drama also finds, er, space for small, subtle moments of character and reflection in between the epic set pieces. The cast are all outstanding, Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson in particular being just perfect as burgeoning prophet / rebel leader Paul Atreides and his mysterious, psychic mother Jessica. Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa and Josh Brolin add testosterone as House Atreides warriors and Sharon Duncan-Brewster brings gravitas ( and exposition ) as the planetary ecologist Liet-Kynes. The luminous Zendaya has comparatively little to do but will feature more in Part Two and, similar to the charismatic Chalamet, the camera loves her.
Even with the breathing space afforded by the two-film format there's still detail missing here ( the Mentats aren't explained, there's little about the Navigators' Guild and nothing about CHOAM ) but it's not surprising really and doesn't detract from the story. Maybe more of this will appear in the next movie ( due in 2023 ) where we'll also surely see more of Paul's journey towards the later fanaticism and genocide barely glimpsed in this movie. ( Reading Dune as a teenager, I first came across the word "Jihad"  -  I'd never heard this before and presumed it was a term Frank Herbert had created for his science fiction universe. I wonder if this word will appear in the movies? I think it's likely to be replaced, as in the trailer, with the word "Crusade" which, while similar, obviously has different connotations. )
After the protracted wait for Villeneuve's Dune I was so glad to see it and in fact loved it so much I went twice, once to the Imax in Cheltenham and then to the Odeon in Hereford. I think it's a wonderful adaptation of a book that's meant so much to me over the years and I can't wait to see Paul become the legendary, infamous Maud'dib...

Another long-awaited film arrived late this year, the wonderful Edgar Wright's Last Night In Soho.
I've been a fan of Edgar Wright since the Spaced days and the idea of him directing a psychological horror movie was an intriguing one. 
LNIS tells the story of Eloise ( Thomasin McKenzie ) a shy, 1960s-obsessed fashion student who moves from Cornwall to that there London Town where spooky shit goes down. Specifically she finds herself somehow back in Soho of the 1960s, first in dreams and then maybe in her waking life, but in the form of a contemporary singer, Sandy ( Anya Taylor-Joy ), trying to make her mark in Soho's seedy clubs. Sandy is picked up by a seemingly lovable rogue ( Matt Smith ) who "helps" her with her singing career, only for things to go very wrong, and Eloise feels powerless to help her. This film is very good at showing the darkness and virulent misogyny beneath the glitz of the Swinging Sixties and Wright's recreation of the times is stunning. The casting of '60s icons Diana Rigg, Terence Stamp and Rita Tushingham adds to the verisimilitude and the film itself is dedicated to Rigg, whose last film this sadly was.
Although Wright's trademark whip-pans and frenetic editing, familiar from his more comedic films, have been toned down here, the direction is still assured and immersive, becoming looser and more jittery as Eloise's mental state fractures. When the psychological horror kicks in, the movie's debt to Polanski, Hitchcock et al becomes apparent although, for me, it doesn't go quite horrific enough. That's a very small caveat though, as the overall effect is very powerful and it's a treat to see Wright working in this genre. The script, co-written by Wright and Krysty Wilson-Cairns is sharp and barbed with some last-reel twists that really hit home. The two leads are both fantastic, especially McKenzie who completely sells Eloise's transformation, while Matt Smith was born to play a Sixties spiv.
I saw this in the cinema room of my fave venue, Gloucester's Guildhall, and it was great to see a film there for the first time since the pandemic hit.

More unblogged 2021-ness to come soon...

Saturday, 25 December 2021

Merry Christmas from The Glass Walking-Stick

It's late in the day I know but here's wishing all you lovely people out in the Blogosphere a happy and healthy Christmas.

Peace. ( Simon / cerebus660 )

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Back to the cinema with Bond... and Shang-Chi


At long last, Bond is back! And his mission this time is to save cinema. ( Of course, this mission had previously been assigned to Tenet but, yeah, that didn't actually work. ) Will it work this time or will cinema just Die Another Day? ( Sorry. ) Going by the UK box office takings for No Time To Die ( an estimated £21 million over the first weekend ) there's a good chance this mission will be a success.

And, of course, it's Daniel Craig's final mission as Bond, bowing out with his 5th movie, the 25th in the series. As long as you don't count the 1967 Casino Royale or Never Say Never Again. And who does?

"Daniel Craig as Ian Fleming's James Bond 007 in No Time To Live And Let Die Another Day" ( to give the movie its full title ) is happily a wonderful send-off to the Craig years. There's quite a bit of tidying up of storylines going on and some nice Easter eggs for the fans ( including the prominent use of an old Bond theme that really drops hints about the story's direction ) but it's not too obtrusive and feels appropriate. The expected action scenes and exotic locales are as exciting and gorgeous as ever although it's probably best not to think about the movie's carbon footprint. Ana De Armas and Lashana Lynch make impressive Bond debuts but both could have done with more screen time. We are however spared the tired Bond trope of the secondary female character being killed off to give our hero something to be angry about ( see previously Gemma Arterton, Berenice Marlohe, Monica Bellucci etc etc ) which is A Good Thing. The rest of the Bond "family" appear for this swansong: the single-letter likes of Q and M, and characters with full names like Moneypenny, Tanner, Leiter and Blofeld. ( Actually the single-letter names sound more believable. )

Rami Malek's villain is the weakest link here, his nefarious plan being short on explanation and long on stereotypical super-villainy. Luckily that's more than made up for by the sheer emotional high stakes of the story. Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux totally convince here as Madeleine's past catches up with her and Bond, leading to a nail-bitingly tense climax to this story and the Craig era. It's a refreshingly brave ending that is a satisfying final curtain for the best Bond since Connery, if not the best Bond ever.

NTTD was actually my second time back at the cinema since the pandemic began. My first, tentative steps back into that big dark room carpeted with popcorn were with Marvel's latest superhero slugfest.

Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings is an attempt to redress the balance of the predominantly-Caucasian MCU, where most of the actors seem to be called Chris. It's a hybrid of superhero and martial arts movies with an overwhelmingly Asian cast. And it's great fun.

Simu Liu is our hero, the son of an immortal Chinese warlord who's been hiding out in America under an assumed identity but ( wouldn't you know it? ) is dragged back into his father's diabolical world when assassins attack him and his best friend Katy ( Awkwafina ). Cue some ever-escalating and exciting martial arts battles, some not-too-cheesy ( by MCU standards ) humour, a fair old helping of fantasy with often gorgeous visuals and a lot of long-overdue Asian representation. Simu Liu and Awkwafina are charismatic leads you want to spend time with and there's the added bonus of HK / martial arts legends Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh who are both amazing and virtually steal the show from the young 'uns. Although not the Shang-Chi whose adventures I grew up reading ( courtesy of Steve Engelhart, Jim Starlin, Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy ), this take on the character has a more everyman approach and I'm hoping we'll soon see more of Shang, his ambiguous sister Xialing ( the striking, in more ways than one, Meng'er Zhang ) and the irrepressible Katy.

It was a great movie to see for my return to cinemas, a crowd-pleasing, popcorn-munching delight. ( I actually had a cup of tea and a hotdog, but that's typical of me. ) I went to my local picture palace, the Cineworld in Gloucester Quays, on a Saturday morning, gambling that the place would be fairly quiet. Luckily it was and I wore a mask in and out of the cinema so felt fairly safe. It was quite a big step to overcome my pandemic-spawned anxiety about crowds and people in general but I'm glad I did it and it gave me confidence to go back for Bond. Although today's news is dominated by UK Covid figures spiralling upwards yet again ( FFS! ), I'm hoping I'll get back to the flicks soon as the upcoming films from Edgar Wright and Denis Villeneuve will need my attention...

Saturday, 16 October 2021

Farewell to our Hero

A couple of days ago we said a sad final farewell to out beloved Hero. He was the most handsome, regal, slinkiest black cat ever, a Prince amongst felines. There's now a huge hole in our lives and we will miss him always.
Sleep well handsome boy, Big Mog, Mister Hero xxx



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