The Blues Muse – Belfast – Stiff Little Fingers – Rebellion

The Blues Muse – Belfast – Stiff Little Fingers – Rebellion

The Blues Muse works his way through Punk in Ireland with rebellion and the troubles.

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Belfast

If ever Punk had been invented for a reason then Ireland was surely it. The ‘Troubles’ had been rumbling on since the turn of the century, had their roots back with Cromwell and even before with William of Orange and then way back to 1609 with the imposition of Protestant Scots into Ireland. In the seventies it had reached the height with bombings, knee-cappings, killings and an insurmountable war waged between the IRA, who wanted a united Ireland under Irish rule, and the British government who wanted British rule for Ulster and the protestant North. As an outsider I looked at it with amazement. It seemed incredible to me that Ireland was suffering such sectarian violence when the people were always so nice and friendly. But then I wasn’t Irish.

I walked through Belfast and it was scary with its barbed wire, bricked off roads, brutal grey despair only brightened by political slogans and defiant gaudy murals celebrating victories, hunger strikes and militia. It looked and felt like a war-zone.

But this was the environment that the kids had grown up in. Segregated, threatened, strip-searched, frisked and with the constant threat of violence and death from all sides.

It was fertile soil for a Punk Band and Ireland had a rich musical history. The wonder is that only two bands really emerged. While the Undertones were good and produced that brilliant ‘Teenage Kicks’ which was one of John Peel’s favourites, they never really dealt with the politics. They left that up to the other of Peelies favourites – Stiff Little Fingers.

I could only imagine the bravery of those young lads as they bellowed their fury at both sides and hit out at the stupid violence, repression and threats that they were subjected to. They made no distinction. Nobody has put it better.

It took guts to stand up to the IRA and tell them they had a suspect device, to harangue the British Army for their disrespect and disdain and to ignore the very real threats and warnings. They literally took their life in their hands for their music and held out for a vision of a better future.

Where the Sex Pistols talked of ‘No Future’ they sang about an ‘Alternative Ulster’. Instead of joining in with the politics of separation and hatred they sang about ‘Barbed Wire Love’ and hit out at racism in ‘White Noise’. This was my kind of music. It hit the heart, head and glands. It had substance, balls and quality. Punk didn’t come much better.

I watched them play in Belfast. They had ignored threats from the IRA, talk of a bust by the Brits and carried on through a bomb threat. I couldn’t take my eyes off them. They were young kids but they played their hearts out and Jake’s voice was hoarse and in ribbons by the end, the young kids in the hall packed it out and threw themselves around with gusto. Stiff Little Fingers were putting all their frustrations and anger into words and power chords. Nobody did it better.

This was what Rock music had always been about – rebellion!

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If you would like to purchase The Blues Muse, or any of my other books please follow the links:

In the UK:

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Same Shoes – Roy Harper lyrics – A song about James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Cuba!

A deep song!

Opher's World

I actually was asked to sing backing vocals on this track – well almost. We were in the recording studio in Lincolnshire – Darren, Bob and me. Roy wanted us to sing Same Shoes. We all had a go. He wanted us to do it our own way. I did mine. Unfortunately it was not good and was instantly scrubbed. I never made it on to the record! But at least I had a go!

The song starts with verses about fifties icons James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. The last verse stems from Roy’s experience in Cuba in the mid-sixties. It highlights the tension of the human rights aspects of Castro’s rule. Opposition was severely repressed. People could not talk freely. When asked about the effects of the revolution the shoe-shiner simply replied ‘Same Shoes’.

Same Shoes – Roy Harper

I see pictures of the porsche
Smashed and twisted out of shape

View original post 141 more words

Nick Harper – The Wilderness Years – now available digitally on Kindle!

Nick Harper – The Wilderness Years – now available digitally on Kindle!

For those who prefer to read or look at the photos in a digital format – or simply can’t wait for the postman to deliver.

In the UK:

In the USA:

In Canada :

In India:

 

Richie Havens – The Klan – lyrics about the terrorism of the Klu Klux Klan.

Richie Havens – The Klan – lyrics about the terrorism of the Klu Klux Klan.

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In this day and age it is easy to think of terrorism as something perpetrated by religious fanatics, brainwashed and packed off with their bombs to blow up innocent people in trains, planes, mosques and buses. That is not always the case.

The Ku Klux Klan were a terrorist organisation with the sole intent of maintaining White Supremacy by instigating terror in the Southern Black population.

They used hoods, burning crosses, pseudo-Christian rhetoric and gibberish and weren’t above threats, beatings, shootings, arson and lynching to make a point. They ruled through terror.

It took a brave man to stand up to the Klan. Their reach was long, forgiveness none and retribution vicious.

Where evil lives it is up to all good people to stand up and oppose it!

The Klan

The countryside was cold and still
There were three crosses upon the hill
Each one wore a burning hood
To hide its rotten heart of wood

And I cried
Father I hear the iron sound
Hoofbeats on the frozen ground

Down from the hills the riders came
Lord, it was a crying shame
To see the blood upon their whips
And hear the snarling of their lips

And I cried
Mother I feel a stabbing pain
Blood flows down like a summer rain

Each one wore a mask of white
To hide his cruel face from sight
and each one sucked a hungery breath
Out of the empty lungs of death

And I cried
Sister raise my bloody head
It’s so lonesome to be dead

He who rides with the Klan
He is a devil and not a man
For underneath that white disguise
I have looked into his eyes

Brother, stand with me
it’s not easy to be free

A big thank you to all the people who have bought an Opher book recently!

A big thank you to all the people who have bought an Opher book recently!

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A big personal thank you to all of you who have purchased one of my books recently. I hope you love them and give them a good home!

Please leave a review on Amazon if you enjoyed it – I’d love to hear your comments. It keeps me going!!! You make all the long hours of writing worthwhile!

If you would like to purchase this novel (or any of my other books) you can get it/them from Amazon.

I write under the pennames Opher Goodwin, Ron Forsythe and Christopher Goodwin.

In the UK:

Kindle Edition
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Subscribers read for £0.00 £1.99 to buy

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Opher Goodwin – Books for Sale – Beat the Christmas rush!

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Yes there is still time to buy a loved one or yourself a special Christmas present – an Opher book. Unique and different. Why not take a punt?

They are available on Amazon.

Here is the UK link:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Opher-Goodwin/e/B00MSHUX6Y/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1450372128&sr=1-2-ent

Try a good Sci-fi novel :

Or a great book on Rock music:

Or perhaps you are as concerned about the environment as me:

Or you like anecdotes from a life in education:

There’s twenty eight to chose from!

Woody – a tribute to Woody Guthrie.

Woody

 

‘This machine kills fascists.’

So clever. How did you think of that?

There’s not many men that done the things that you’ve done. Bob Dylan said that about you.

I was only a kid when you died in 1967 – just eighteen years old and you were just fifty five. But I was already besotted with a lot of your work. I had a whole bunch of your records that I played incessantly. That was the year that I bought your autobiography Bound For Glory.

We couldn’t have been much more different could we? – Separated by the best part of forty years, an ocean and a world of experience.

You were born in Okema Oklahoma and I was born in Surrey England. We did not have wide open plains, tornados, Indian reservations, black slaves or rattle snakes in Walton on Thames. We did not have guns, dust storms or dusty old hobos who rode the blinds. There were no lynchings, shootings or crooked Southern politicians who solved problems with their fists or bosses who employed vigilantes to get their own way. Walton was very provincial and English. Yet Woody – your songs still spoke to me. You painted the pictures in my mind. I lived it through you.

My family was pretty ordinary too. None of them were burnt to death, or died of madness or ran for office. My father wasn’t involved in lynchings, or dubious property deals and he did not join the Ku Klux Klan.

Our worlds could not have been more different could they? But I could still relate to what you said and I did.

You were a one off.

What made you that way Woody?

How come you were brought up in a prosperous conservative family, full of racism and violence, and you developed the mind-set you had? Where did you get your sensibilities from?

What made you so special?

You took up the guitar and set about entertaining people with your songs. You busked around the country, painted signs, carried out odd-jobs, and ran a radio show.

You rambled, lived rough and rode the trains with the poor, the down-and-outs and blacks, tramped round the country, playing to the strikers and disenfranchised, and you believed in a better world. What made you such an optimist?

How come you weren’t a racist like all the others? Where did that compassion come from? What made you believe in fairness? It seems to me that there was something special inside you. You couldn’t turn a blind eye or ignore what was going on. You were forced to do something about it and fight for what you believed. You seemed to believe it more strongly than anybody else.

It seems to me that you kept your vision simple. You believed in justice, freedom and equality. The rest followed on from there. You were a communist and pluralist because of equality. You took people as you found them regardless of the colour of their skin. Back then both those beliefs were dangerous. But they didn’t faze you, did they Woody? Where-ever there was injustice you were the first to speak up, to write songs and put your body on the line on the pickets. You fought racism and championed the underdog. You were a union man because you saw that as the only way to put a stop to the exploitation of working people.

Woody – you were a one-man political organisation, a social dynamo, a fearless radical. Compromise was not in your language, was it?

You did not court popularity did you?

You took up social issues, like the dust bowl refugees, and put forward their case for justice.

The compassion and fury poured forth from your guitar.

You loved life, nature and women. You were never happier than when outside, under the sky, with the sun, stars and mountains. I could feel that in your song This Land Is Your Land.

But you also had a dream. You could see a better world a coming. You saw science providing the answers. Electricity from the hydroelectric would turn deserts into fertile land. There would be a land of plenty in which all men and women would prosper.

All we had to do was defeat fascism.

Which brings me back to that slogan – this machine kills fascists.

It taught me a valuable lesson. You don’t defeat fascism, hatred and exploitation with violence. You defeat it with love, reason and music. A guitar is a machine that can reach into peoples’ hearts and change them. A guitar is better than a rifle. Songs are better than bullets. Words can kill fascism. Ideas hold great power. Your words still move me.

We might have been born worlds apart but I’m joined to you like I was your twin.

I just wanted to say thank you Woody.

Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter – a song about the violence and unpredictability of life.

Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter – a song about the violence and unpredictability of life.

There is nothing predictable. Violence is all around us. One minute you’re safe and the next minute you’re caught up in the midst of it.

Yesterday a group of people were on holiday in Tunisia, soaking up the sun on the beach, bathing in the sea. The next minute a crazed religious fanatic is spraying them with machine gun fire.

One minute you’re sitting in your living room and the next someone breaks in and robs, kills or rapes you.

One minute you live in a country that is at peace with the world and the next you’re thrown into the turmoil of war.

We’re a vicious species. Nowhere is safe. It’s all just a shot away.

“Gimme Shelter”

Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
Ooh, see the fire is sweepin’
Our very street today
Burns like a red coal carpet
Mad bull lost your way
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
Rape, murder!
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
Rape, murder!
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
Rape, murder!
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
The floods is threat’ning
My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter
Or I’m gonna fade away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
I tell you love, sister, it’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
Kiss away, kiss away

More about Opher’s World

More about Opher’s World

You will find lots of life, sex, love and ideas in this blog – (Ideas such as – there is no god, no purpose, no great scheme, no after-life – we need to look after our world – we have too many people – overpopulation is threatening our existence – Rock Music addresses social ills – inequality is at the heart of all the evils) – but I do not set out to be offensive, merely to argue my passionately held point of view.

This blog is a celebration of Life – not Death.

What is obscene is not sex.

Obscenity is:
– The destruction of the environment
– War
– The indoctrination of children
– Overpopulation
– Cynical exploitation
– Cruelty to animals and people
– Grotesque disparity of wealth
– Deforestation
– Fanaticism in politics and religion
– Pollution

These are the things I stand against.
These are the obscenities.

 

I want to address the world’s problems and look for a positive way forward.

I want a positive Zeitgeist

Excerpt from my book – ‘Rock Routes’ to show the standard of writing and style.

Excerpt from my book – ‘Rock Routes’ to show the standard of writing and style.

If you like Rock Music you’ll love this!

New Wave and the Stiff Label

The Stiff label was the home of the largest stable of New Wave artists in Britain. It was a small independent label set up by Jake Riviera and Dave Robinson in 1976 with a £400 loan from Lee Brilleaux of Dr Feelgood. Its premise was to sign up the reservoir of talent neglected by the major labels, give them a good production inspired by the Punk bands, and try to make a success out of it. They claimed they were ‘Undertakers to the industry – if they’re dead – we’ll sign ‘em’.
They became famous and successful for two reasons. Firstly there was the reputation they got for discovering great talent – Ian Dury, Elvis Costello, Wreckless Eric and Madness etc. Secondly there were the brilliant publicity campaigns including the notorious ‘If it ain’t Stiff it ain’t worth a Fuck!’ buttons.
By the end of 1980 they had a £3,500,000 turnover.
The idea for the label was almost entirely Jakes. He had thought it up in 1975 when he was tour manager for Dr Feelgood on their big US Tour. He had noticed that each town seemed to have its own independent label that promoted local talent and got it aired on local radio. If an act was successful locally it then got picked up by the big national companies. By the end of his tour he had formed his own idea of a similar independent label in Britain. He had worked out the logistics and already thought up a number of the publicity stunts that were to capture the public’s attention. All he required was someone with a little experience and money to get it off the ground. He found that man in Dave Robinson.
Dave Robinson had started out as tour manager for Jimi Hendrix in the 1960s. He went on to form the ill-fated Fame pushers promotion company who crashed after their over-hype of Brinsley Swartz. After the collapse of this venture Dave set about creating a studio and recording local talent from the London club scene. He discovered Graham Parker & the Rumour and became so impressed with them that he took over their management. By the time Jake happened upon him he had built up a vast knowledge of local talent and was in a good position, having already recorded most of them, to advise Jake on who was available, what they were like, what their potential was and who to contact.
At the time the London Pub scene was thundering along with the Pub Rock groups – Brinsley Swartz, Dr Feelgood, Chilli-Willi, Graham Parker & Rumours, Eddie & Hotrods and Kilburn & the Highroad. They were exciting and talented but almost completely passed over by the major companies.
Dave and Jake got together and compiled a list of artists that they considered neglected and set about forming a label to promote them. They aptly called it the Stiff label.
Their aim was laudable.
They set out with the intention of treating people as people and not products; to try to show a profit on each release; to avoid paying huge advances that could not be recouped; to promote their artists, give them favourable production, and record them when they were at their peak, It was to pay off. In six years they had released 150 singles and 30% of them had made the charts.
The early work of the label featured a range of work and artists including old-timers like the Pink Fairies and Dave Edmunds, heavy sounds like New Wave Hard Rockers Motorhead, pub rockers recycled such as Ian Dury from Kilburn & the Highroads, Graham Parker & the Rumour, Wreckless Eric, Two-Tone Ska with Madness and newcomers like Elvis Costello, Wreckless Eric, Kirsty McColl and Lene Lovitch, along with a lot of old-timers such as Larry Wallis, Magic Michael, Nick Lowe, Jona Lewie and Mickey Jupp, and US imports such as Rachel Sweet.
At first the label was a small concern with the first singles being released by mail order or off the back of Lorries with only a few independent outlets. But their wise choice of acts soon brought them to attention and they handed over their distribution to Island Records in 1977. It had hit just right – emerging with the rise of Punk. Although none of the acts were strictly Punk they all fed off the energy that was generated by it. It reflected in their production techniques. A good New Wave sound was produced that was more than acceptable to the kids despite the age of some of the artists.
An essential part of the Stiff promotion, apart from the slogans, buttons and T-shirts, was the tremendous Stiff Tours. These ran along the lines of the old package tours of the 1960s. They put all the artists on a bus and set off round the country. The 1977 tour had the amazing line-up of Ian Dury, Elvis Costello, Wreckless Eric, Nick Lowe and Larry Wallis. Apart from the sheer strength of the acts was the importance of the family feeling generated between the bands. It was a feeling that manifested itself to the audiences. There was a great camaraderie between the groups, not only did they travel on the same bus, but stayed in the same hotels, shared the P.A.s, had the same length sets, alternated the billing from night to night and ended the night by jamming together. It was to prove incredibly successful catapulting Ian Dury and Elvis Costello to super-stardom and establishing all the others. It was followed in 1978 with another successful tour featuring Lene Lovitch, Wreckless Eric, Rachel Sweet, Jona Lewie and Mickey Jupp. However a similar type of tour in 1980 – called the Son of Stiff Tour – failed to achieve the same standard of acts or degree of success.
The label survived its first crisis in 1978 when Jake left to form his own Radar Record Label taking Elvis Costello, Yachts and record producer and artist Nick Lowe with him. The label bounced back with Madness, Ian Dury and the Belle Stars and the hits continued.
Stiff will be remembered for the adventurous music it has produced with novel arrangements on numbers such as ‘Lucky Number’ by Lene Lovitch and ‘Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll’ by Ian Dury.
Ian Dury had been crippled by polio at the age of seven and ended up in an institution for severely handicapped children, an experience that was to traumatise him. His personality carried him through art school and teaching as well as performing with Kilburn & the Highroad. The Kilburns went on to become one of the top Pub Rock bands. They broke up in 1976 and Ian and Chas Jankel took a year off to work on ideas. They signed to Stiff in 1977 and their first release was ‘Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll’ which set the pace. It was a step up from anything with the Kilburns and the production was in a different class. It would have been a hit, despite lack of airplay, except that the fact that Stiff had not pressed enough copies. Success came following the first Stiff tour where audiences were won over to his highly original stage act. He used a lot of theatrical props, producing lots of scarves from various pockets like a conjuror, chains, jujus and assorted clothing and paraphernalia. He had shaved his head and used manic stares and gestures. It was a Chaplinesque routine tinged with vaudeville, clowning and theatre, all backed up with a highly proficient funky Rock band. His songs and lyrics were unique. The single ‘Sweet Gene Vincent’, a homage to his idol Gene Vincent who also had a gammy leg, just failed to take off but ‘What a waste’ hit the charts and ‘Hit me with your rhythm stick’ got to number one. The album ‘New Boots and Panties’ was one of the classic albums of that era. Many of his songs were cockney based sex ditties but others were perceptive insights and idealistic wishes. Together they created a lexicon of quality and originality both in lyric and sound.
Elvis Costello was the other major new talent discovered by the label. His real name was Declan Patrick Macmanus. He holds the distinction of being one of the very first acts to be signed by the label in 1976. That came about when he turned up at the label’s office with a demo and his talents were instantly recognised. His strengths lay in the novel arrangements of his songs coupled with his distinctive vocals and imaginative lyrics. He released a number of singles ‘Less than zero’, ‘Alison’ and ‘The angels want to wear my red shoes’ without success. Then he scored with the album ‘My aim is true’. Following the success of that album and the media attention lavished on the Stiff tour he hit the charts with ‘Watching the detectives’. His diminutive size and Buddy Holly looks became a household fixture. He left Stiff with Jake Riviera and proceeded to have a number of big hits with ‘(I don’t want to go to) Chelsea’, ‘Pump it up’ and ‘Oliver’s Army’. He tried his hand at production with the Specials first album. Since then he has broken America, set up his own label and recorded albums in a range of styles including Country.
Of the other Stiff artists many of them had successful singles and albums but none were as unlucky as Wreckless Eric. Despite a string of brilliantly original songs – ‘Whole wide world’, ‘Pop song’, ‘Semaphore message from the graveyard’, and ‘Reconnez Cherie’ – failed to establish himself and take off into a long term success. Even so his nasally tinged Hull accent and crazy stage act has made him a cult figure with a big following. Besides it is impossible to imagine anyone like Eric becoming a super-star.
Mickey Jupp came out of the Southend Rock scene in 1963 in the Orioles and then Legend before emerging on Stiff for a short run with a ten piece band and then disappearing again.
Jona Lewie, who has a Bsc in Sociology, went out to the USA in the 1960s and played with many of the old Blues singers such as Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup. On returning to England he played with Brett Marvin and the Thunderbolts and then had a minor hit with ‘Seaside Shuffle’ under the name Terry Dactyl & the Dinosaurs. He joined Stiff in 1978 and immediately had hits with ‘In the Kitchen at parties’ and ‘Stop the cavalry’.
Lene Lovitch was born in the USA with the name of Mariene Premilovich. They moved to Hull and she grew up in Hull where she had the distinction of going to school with Sue Goodall. At eighteen she moved to London and tried to get involved with the theatre but ended up busking and Go-Go Dancing. She joined Stiff in 1977 following an introduction from Charlie Gillet and hit with ‘Lucky Number’ and ‘Say when’. On tour she impressed with her elaborate costumes, weird hairstyles, theatrical movements and distinctive vocal style. She then toured on the continent and returned to find the weird theatrical niche she had occupied taken over by the likes of Toyah, Hazel O’Connor and Kate Bush.
Kirsty MacColl was the daughter of the Folk singer Ewan. She left a couple of times and returned and had a number of hits as well as writing songs for Tracey Ullman and doing a lot of backing vocals. She went on to have more success with Polydor. She was tragically killed in a boating accident in Mexico.
Rachel Sweet was born in Akron Ohio and entered Show-Biz at the age of eight when she starred in a commercial. She went on to record a minor Country hit when she was twelve and while she was still a young girl, dragging her Mum round as chaperone, she signed to Stiff and straight away set off on the British tour following that up with the hit ‘B-A-B-Y’.
Nick Lowe started out in the 1960s with Kippington Lodge and then Brinsley Schwartz, which although it failed as a Progressive Rock Band did well as a Pub Rock band. He split from them in 1975 and joined Stiff as both a recording producer and artist. He has the distinction of recording Stiff’s first single ‘So it goes’. Nick also produced records by non-Stiff artists such as Dr Feelgood and Graham Parker & the Rumour. He left Stiff with Jake in 1977 to set up Radar Records and had success with ‘Breaking Glass’.
Stiff records had an exuberance and energy about them. It was a rougher sound with more artistic licence and clear sound production. Like most independent labels it allowed a more radical approach to music and a greater degree of individuality through not censoring or restricting extremes. At times this approach can come across as amateurish but this is compensated for by the energy and commitment of the performance. The ‘feel’ of the label comes across on the ‘Be Stiff’ album. Every artist produced their own version of the Devo number ‘Be Stiff’ in their own individual style.
Whenever there is a boom in independent labels there is a burst of creativity as the undiscovered grassroots find expression and their ideas are allowed to develop rather than being stifled in the middle-of-the-road, ultra-safe policies of the major record labels that prevents individuality and ends up with a bland product.
Stiff were not the only source of British New Wave music but they dominated the market.
The retrospective box set of Stiff records was very interesting. The first disc is vibrant and as you progress you can almost feel the energy drain away. You don’t play the fourth disc.