Vague 5

July 1980 Adam and the Ants – Sex Pistols The Great Rock and Roll Swindle – The Cure
The Passions – Human League – The Undertones – The Specials
Bodysnatchers – Go-Go’s – Anti-vivisection demo

Adam and the Ants – see Vague 7 Kings of the Wild Frontier tour programme Antzine

As well as the Vague Adam and the Ants interview and ‘Ants Invasion’ tour report, issue 5 featured The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle film, interviews with the Cure, ‘A Curious day out in Bournemouth’, the Passions, the Human League and the Scars at the Stateside (formerly the Village), the Undertones interviewed by Chris Johnson at the Winter Gardens, the Specials, Bodysnatchers and the Go-Go’s at the Stateside reviewed by Jane Austin, an Ian Curtis obituary – in which we/I made an apocryphal claim to have met him in Bournemouth, Mike Scott of the Waterboys’ Another Pretty Face, and a report by Perry Harris on an anti-vivisection demo against Porton Down.

Sex Pistols: The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle novel by Michael Moorcock

The film review in issue 5 by Tom isn’t worth recycling, so here’s the Vague review of The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle novel inspired by the film by Michael Moorcock from issue 6, which makes some sort of sense: Not what you expect at all – this is worth buying, more than going to see the film. It has very little to do with Julien Temple’s film but is an anarchistic fantasy based around the rough storyline. The respected sci-fi writer Michael Moorcock (of Hawkwind previous) has studied his subject very well and given a good surrealistic account of it. I admit it was difficult to follow at times and perhaps it’s just a load of bullshit. That depends on how you interpret it. There’s hidden meanings everywhere but the whole thing is done in a humorous satirical way that’s got to be admired.

There’s no storyline as such but basically we follow Steve Jones in his search for Malcolm McLaren. At first he’s searching for money, then he realises he’s searching for answers, a solution – aren’t we all? He gets some assistance from Helen of Troy, who is playing both sides against the middle. It could be taken as a cynical piss take that parodies everyday life. On the surface Steve is looking for the money but really it’s gone back to those in authority like it always will. Helen tells Steve they gave all the power back to those who had it in the first place. The story moves to the Café Hendrix where the romantic dead reside. Things are not looking too rosey. Sid Vicious, Keith Moon, Makhno the Russian anarchist and Jesus are all getting philosophical but they can’t find any answers.

Makhno eventually goes down to the Nashville, where he and his ghostly anarchists find they are too late; they find us all fighting the symptoms and not the disease. They don’t give up however, but go to Camden Town and try the Music Machine. Johnny Rotten sees Makhno but they don’t agree and the old anarchist is not impressed with what he sees. On his return to Café Hendrix, Shelley tells him not to despair because there’s a rumour that the Pistols might reform. Meanwhile, Steve has one last hope – the old survivor Lemmy of Motörhead. He reluctantly puts Steve on to the last of the music assassins. From here on it develops into a tactical battle between the powers of anarchy and chaos and the powers of authority. The powers of authority are embodied in the Bishop, Frank, Miss Brunner, Mary, etc.

The anarchists play authority at their own game – manipulation, but unlike 3 years ago this time they win or do they? As the music assassin grows in power, Miss Brunner and co get desperate while the mysterious Mr Bug lethargically surveys it all. The music assassin takes Steve back to 1977 to do the Jubilee boat trip again, only this time properly. This achieved, Steve goes back to finding Malcolm. The whole thing is lost in a philosophical fantasy, where I suppose we must decide which side we are on. Next the music assassin takes them to America where they destroy New York. Then, after he gives Malcolm a lift back, the climax comes with the comeback gig of the Pistols. Everybody’s there, meaning everyone’s part of the swindle in the end. None of them required any hope, only confirmation. They confirmed one another. Steve and Paul nearly don’t get in to show that it’s got nothing to do with rock’n’roll.

Sid finishes singing, gunfire breaks out and the audience tears itself to pieces. The music assassin sinks to the floor with a happy grunt. “It worked after all, we did it, Sid.” Well, that’s my attempt at an analysis of it. I think it doesn’t leave a lot of hope even when anarchy won in the end because all the power is given back to where it came from. Perhaps this sort of thing shouldn’t be analysed because analysis defeats the object. But it’s an interesting satirical look at the Swindle, whereas the film is very one dimensional, even slapstick, the novel goes far deeper than that. Be swindled again, buy this and see if you can gain something from it all… The Vague review of The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle film was generally unfavourable but I now think it’s the best music film ever made.

The Cure: A Curious Day Out in Bournemouth

April 28 The Cure and the Passions at Bournemouth Stateside – interviews by Tom and Chris after a tour of the Bournemouth Central bars, the Palace Vaults and the Criterion bars: We wander into the Village Bowl through all the hustle and bustle of roadies at work – and playing Space Invaders… but no bands. To pass the time we indulge in some more light refreshment. After what seems like hours the Cure and the Passions suddenly appear. Then it’s more waiting while the Cure do the longest sound-check I’ve ever heard. Finally they do ‘A Forest’ and it sounds OK to me. They’re satisfied as well, so this is the point where we step in. We introduce ourselves and hand over the last copies of Vague 3. As Robert Smith scurries off to get more cans, Lol Tolhurst updates us on the Cure line-up: Since the Banshees tour Mike Dempsey has left and Simon and Matthieu have joined… Robert – guitar/vocals, Lol – drums, Simon Gallup – bass and Matthieu Hartley – keyboards. They were promoting the ‘Seventeen Seconds’ album.

Robert Smith on playing with the Banshees and the Cure: “My loyalties were firmly in the Banshees camp. At that time I was not enjoying what the old Cure did. I really enjoyed playing with the Banshees and that was like the final straw for the Cure split… I’m used to writing and singing songs. I felt like I was in a cabaret band doing other people’s stuff. The line-up was just a compromise and it was very frustrating. If I was just a guitarist it would have been perfect because I’m really into the Banshees. But it’s Sioux and Steve’s band… We split a week later, if you can call it that. Me and Lol remained. We both decided that we couldn’t continue working with Mike Dempsey. At live gigs I was enjoying playing less and less, rather have given up altogether than carry on like that. We wouldn’t have split before the Banshees tour but that didn’t work out for us…

“We’re just using different textures. ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ was thought of by some people as a pop song. There started to be a Cure formula. You could tell our songs – they were getting too obvious. I personally didn’t like numbers like ‘Object’ off the first album. I think we’re moving on from there… The new songs were all written around the end of the Banshees tour when we were a 3-piece… The songs are more emotional now, like ‘Foxy Lady’ which has a distant quality. But we wouldn’t like to play a set that people sit through, sometimes we like to play dance music… The LP’s the band’s statement. The press accuse us of being too serious. ‘Seventeen Seconds’ has no motives, it’s just a mood, reflective more than depressive… As far as the lyrics are concerned I don’t want to sing something I don’t agree with. I don’t want to sing about my ideas but I admire John Lydon. I was never really a punk in the dress sense but I liked the spirit of it…

“We all come from around Crawley. Simon and Matthieu used to be in another local band before they joined us. The Cure’s first live gig was in December ’76. We just got a name as a punk band the same as any other new band coming up around that time…” I asked if there were any problems due to Robert’s popularity after the Banshees tour. Robert: “What popularity? I don’t think me playing with the Banshees has any effect on the Cure set-up. There’s no star in this band, we are all equal and open about everything.” Lol: “No, we’re not.” Robert: “Shut up.” Lol tells me that Robert dominates the band, then to get a good review gives me 4 cans and sits on my knee. Robert: “Lol’s also got a big crisis with his sexuality.” I think the last question I asked was whether they all had mansions in the country or lived in squats in Notting Hill. Lol: “Yes, we’ve all got big yachts, we still live around Crawley… We don’t have anything to do with the London scene, we’re not into that hip scene.”

At first the Cure might seem a bit distant but they are in fact very likeable… The Cure gave a resounding performance and won over a lot of sceptics (I didn’t put that because of the cans either)… They begin with a couple of new numbers from ’17 Seconds’… The audience, who couldn’t have heard these numbers before, are surprisingly receptive. They are rewarded with a hyped up version of ‘Killing An Arab’ then ’10.15’. The latter holds it’s own with the new more experimental material. The rhythm jerks the audience into action but the distant feel is still there – cold, uncompromising and isolated… ‘At Night’ is similar, it also has this depressing feel to it, I’ve got to say it, reminiscent of Eno… but unlike Eno there is optimism there, this reflects in the amount of excitement they create… The encore is their piece de resistance; firstly they do ‘Secrets’, a distressing love song… and then it’s the excellent, Vague record of the month, ‘A Forest’, which brought a great set to a climax… ‘I hear her voice and start to run into the trees… into the trees, suddenly I stop but I know it’s too late, lost in a forest all alone, but the girl is never, it’s always the same, I’m running towards nothing again and again and again…’

I wish it could have ended there, a fantastic gig and the most helpful band to date, but we went back for more to congratulate the Cure. They’re pleased, we talk for a while, they give us some more cans. Then all the teeny-boppers burst in, in search of autographs, kisses and the like. Amongst the kids I recognise a familiar face, Matt rushes over and says, “Here’s someone you should meet – Paul Morley.” Being slightly pissed, I challenge him about his recent article slagging off fanzines, he shyly defends himself saying he really approves of fanzines, thinks they’re great… but I’m not going to pander to the journalist elite. We note rather a lot of sarcasm in his voice. Robert Smith sits there unimpressed with all the adoration. The others go through the motions. Is this what rock’n’roll is all about, maan? Then they depart, going back to the hotel with Morley for the serious interview. No, I don’t mean that, I believe the Cure are genuine enough, it’s just the scene we’re all involved in. We wander back to Chris’s flat slightly disillusioned…

The Passions

The nearest comparison you can draw (here we go again) to the Passions live is a laid back Red Crayola. They are a mixed (gender) 4-piece band the same as Mayo Thompson’s outfit and we later found their attitude pretty similar as well. After the monotony of the first band (Future Classics) the Passions were a refreshing change. Their bright original sound starts to get the audience going. There are some members of the audience that obviously know more about them than us… Unlike Red Crayola, the female half of this group dominates, Barbara Gogan’s forceful vocals are underlined by the backing vocals and bass line from Claire Bidwell, putting the male guitarist and drummer in the background… Numbers that stand out are ‘Pedal Fury’ and the mysterious ‘Minor Bird’. Another sketchy review I’m afraid but things were getting a bit blurred at this time.

The Passions leave the stage and Chris drags me back to dressing room 2. They await our arrival, every inch the hip young musicians (but I’m afraid we’re not hip young NME reporters). They are: Clive Timperley (formerly of the 101’ers) – guitar/vocals, Richard Williams – drums, Claire Bidwell – bass/vocals and Barbara Gogan – guitar/vocals (formerly of the Derelicts). Chris does most of the interview while I throw up in a corner… They come from Shepherd’s Bush (strictly speaking Latimer Road), they’ve had 2 singles out, ‘Body and Soul’ and ‘Hunted’, and their debut album ‘Michael and Miranda’ was released on April 18 on Fiction. We explain our limited knowledge of them and ask for a lowdown on their music. They look amazed at our lack of info and can just manage to say, “Couldn’t you tell from the gig?” Chris compares them with Red Crayola and asks what music they are into.

Barbara: “I don’t think we’re really like Red Crayola. I’m into our own music, specifically stuff like ‘Minor Bird’. Of course I like other music but we’re not influenced by anyone in particular. We’ll try anything, even sound electronics if it’s suitable… We’re all equal in this band, we’re not a women orientated group. There’s no need to talk about women in groups.” So we leave that subject. Rapidly running out of topics, we get on to alternative labels. Barbara: “We’re not making any progress commercially, we want people to hear us play. I’d like to play big venues so more people can see us play. At the moment we have total control over everything we do, but there are pitfalls and in the end everyone will become what the record company want them to become.”

We at last find something to talk about but our friendly interview quickly turns into a bit of an argument as we get on to the merits of commerciality and bands selling out. I argue back at Barbara’s pessimistic attitude and throw names at her like the Pop Group, Slits, PIL. She tells me she used to work at Rough Trade and she should know about these things. Being a bit angry and a bit drunk I continue to argue, the others show complete lack of interest but Barbara’s counter-attacks continue at me for actually having the nerve to question her views. The actual discussion-cum-argument was pretty pointless, about commerciality, the downfall of the Clash and so on…Despite the interview not going so well, the following year we would become big fans of the Passions’ hit ‘I’m In Love With A German Film Star’.

The Passions played their first gig in 1977 as the Youngsters, in the squatted Republic of Frestonia in Notting Dale, at the People’s Hall; as they formed out of the pre-punk Derelicts squatter group from Latimer Road, the other side of the Westway roundabout. Out of the political/commercial schism in the Derelicts, who were described as proto-punk squat rock and ‘Trotskyite r’n’b’ by Ian Penman, the latter faction; Mitch Barker, Barbara Gogan, Claire Bidwell and Richard Williams; became the Passions while Sue Gogan (Barbara’s apparently equally formidable sister) and John Studholme went in a more radical post-punk direction as prag VEC. Barbara Gogan of the Passions worked at Rough Trade on Kensington Park Road, but the Latimer Road post-punk groups remained staunchly independent even within the indie scene.

In 1981 the Passions transcended the Ladbroke Grove squat rock scene with their hit single ‘I’m In Love With a German Film Star’. This was a homage to the legendary Clash and Pistols roadie, Roadent (real name Steve Connolly), who appeared in a German film. Roadent is also noteworthy for co-founding the Vinyl Solution record shop on Hereford Road (which became Intoxica at 231 Portobello Road), and more recently for promoting the Notting Hill Panto at the Tabernacle and publishing The Roughler magazine. As well as in terms of chart success, the Passions (Barbara Gogan, Richard Williams and co from the Derelicts, and Clive Timperley from Joe Strummer’s 101’ers) rivalled the Clash with their W10 promo photo pose locations; including alongside the canal in Kensal and on the Ladbroke Grove Great Western Railway bridge, for the local photographer Mike Laye.

The Human League

May 13 The Human League and the Scars at Bournemouth Stateside interview attempts by Tom and Chris: We’re in the Village chatting to some roadies when this guy who’s with the Human League comes over and demands to know, “What are you doing here?” “We’re with a fanzine, blah, blah…” “Oh, well, after they’ve done the sound-check in about 2 hours, I expect they can spare 10 minutes before they go back to the hotel.” Unperturbed I go over to Phil Oakey. He agrees to be interviewed and apologises for the lack of time, saying he’s got to wash his hair and do his make-up. Still unperturbed we show them Vague 4 and chat for a while. After the sound-check we get hold of Phil Oakey again and he appears to be quite keen. The rest of the band don’t want to know but they begrudgingly come along in the end. As the interview begins, Phil starts spitting bits of a polystyrene cup at the tape recorder in true angry young man style…

The Human League interview – all 20 minutes of it: Tom: “Why the Top of the Pops appearance – wider audience?” Phil: “Yeah, we just want to get across to as many people as possible. It doesn’t worry us if people think we’re commercial or not.” Tom: “You do ‘Rock’n’Roll’ – how do you feel about glam rock?” Phil: “Not much – I like Gary Glitter but we’re not glam rockers or anything.” Tom: “Were you trying to get away from your electro-intellectual image?” Some disagreement. Tom: “You have got an intellectual image.” Ian Marsh (who shortly went off to Heaven 17): “Yeah, I suppose we have but there is a lot of humour in the lyrics and we’re all having a good time really.” Tom: “I’ve read various comparisons with your music – Giorgio Moroder, Ronettes – technology/humour – Kraftwerk.” Ian: “Yeah, I like Giorgio Moroder but I don’t see where they got the Ronettes from, that was the NME wasn’t it? Obviously we were influenced a lot by Kraftwerk… We’re an electronic band. People can interpret us as they please.”

Tom: “Can you tell us something about the new album ‘Travelogue’ compared with ‘Reproduction’?” Phil: “It’s a progression on from ‘Reproduction’. It has no aims or anything.” Tom: “Do you think humour is particularly important?” Phil: “Oh, yes.”… And I’m afraid that’s about it, there was a bit more but it’s not very interesting. They apologise for having to go and say we can continue the interview after the gig – we didn’t bother. At one point we tried to take some photos but Phil Oakey said: “We don’t allow photographs, only when we’re on stage” – in full make-up. I think that says it all. We take out our ‘bitter disappointment’ on the dressing room and decorate it with various Vague slogans… The Human League are now very professional on stage. They have progressed from their early days with a cheap slideshow to a massive exercise in technology, but I think they have lost their original enthusiasm. If they carry on like this they’ll end up like ELP… or Yes…

The Scars: Scary Monsters and Super Creeps

The Scars arrive, they’re pissed off after having their guitars ripped-off in Birmingham. I call Program, and get them to bring theirs, but Rich Mazda of the Tours/Cosmetics brings his first. We try and cheer the Scars up and take them for a kebab. We’re optimistically anticipating a good interview but from my limited knowledge of the Scars I struggle to think of any questions apart from the usual. Bobby King: “Band personnel is Bobby King – vocals, Paul Research – guitar, John MacKie – bass and Callum McKay – drums… We started in October ’77, just playing local gigs in Edinburgh. Then we got signed up by Fast Product and in December ’78 we changed to Charisma.” Tom: “How did you come to support the Banshees?” Paul: “We supported the Cure at Aberdeen. When Morris and McKay split, they went back to London. We kept in touch. When they got sorted out, we supported them.”

Tom: “During the sound-check you sounded rather like the Banshees.” John: “I don’t think so at all. On one or two numbers the guitar work is a bit influenced by them, but I don’t think we’re anything like them really.” Tom struggling: “What are your influences?” John MacKie: “John MacKay of the Banshees.” Laughter. “We’re all into different sorts of music. We all do our different bits… I like Gary Glitter.” Tom: “You’re a glam rocker then? Look, we don’t know fuck all about you…” Chris: “Do you want to be pop stars?” John: “Yeah, obviously. We want to sell lots of records but we’re not making any concessions to commerciality or anything… I’m bored with this, I’m going.” Paul: “Sorry about that… We’re not trying to be particularly different (difficult?), we’re just doing what comes naturally.”

Tom: “He (John MacKie) isn’t exactly enthusiastic is he?” Record company PR bloke: “He’s just had his fucking guitar nicked.” Tom: “Oh yeah, sure… we’re just trying to do an interview.” Paul: “He’s very temperamental.” Chris: “I think he’s really mean, I think you’re all mean.” Laughter. Tom: “The Cure gave us lots of beer.” Chris: “What’s the fucking point of talking to somebody you know fuck all about when they won’t tell you anything. We’re only a fanzine we can’t afford to buy all your singles like NME.” PR bloke: “They don’t fucking buy them, they get them free – here’s my number, you can have them all free as well.” Chris quietly: “Cor, wonderful, I could use some sleep.” Then the interview really folds up and we go to the bar to talk to some more interesting people like Nellie, Clive and co…

The Scars stand on stage dressed in black (although they even denied that) with most of the attention aimed at Bobby King the lead singer. Quote Program Paul: “He’s got as much stage presence as a bag of potatoes.” The Scars are a good band, for obvious reasons I’m not going to over the top about them but nonetheless they play some interesting music. Some of their numbers are Banshee-esque but in retrospect they have got a very individual style. The band settle down a bit and forget their problems to some extent as their set progresses. They produce a fairly stark oblique sound, most evident in such numbers as ‘Love Song’ and Psychomodo’. They could be compared with the Gang of Four, which can’t be bad. Another awful comparison, their last number ‘Your Attention Please’ sounded like a Hawkwind track. They do the number then pause, then Bobby speaks the ‘Armagideon Time’ bit, which was very effective… They told us afterwards that they were not pleased with the gig at all…

The Undertones

April 27 The Undertones at Bournemouth Winter Gardens interviewed by Chris Johnson: Sunday being my day off, I’m lying in bed at 2.30pm wondering if this is honestly worth getting up for. Well, even if the interview isn’t, the prospect of a good fry-up Double-O-Egg style is. I promised them a plug. So I bound off to the Triangle… As I walk towards the stage door of the Winter Gardens, I have the feeling that this is the wrong place for the Undertones, apart from the fact that it is seated I have always hated the place for its air of organised suspicion. I can just picture the rows of dinner-suited heavies parading the aisles with their familiar menacing glares. I’m pleased to find an unusually more than helpful attitude on the part of the tour manager. So once again I save money and, more importantly, gain speedy access to the inevitable stack of cans backstage. In the dressing room I’m introduced to John O’Neill and Micky Bradley.

John on the tour: “It seems to be going down very well. The press have finally realised that we’re not one of their ‘fight for a lost cause’ bands, or ‘frightfully arty and intellectual beneath the surface’ bands.” On Derry: “It’s not a difficult life there. The English think it’s like living in hell, but it’s OK. It’s getting good but there’s nowhere to play. It’s a dead end musically. The Moondogs are great, Protex and the Outcasts are OK. Good Vibrations and the Sect are too much like the Jam. Everyone asks us what we think of Stiff Little Fingers, so I’ll tell you before you ask. They’re cutting their own throats politically, and musically they’re far too heavy. Surprisingly few kids in Derry like them. They’re more into the Clash. Those kids don’t need to be reminded all the time about something that they can just as easily ignore.” Incidentally, Sharkey did ‘Teenage Kicks’ for Vague fanzine, which almost made them my band of the month.

The Specials/The Go-Go’s/The Bodysnatchers

June 15 The Specials, the Go-Go’s and the Bodysnatchers at Bournemouth Stateside reviewed by Jane Austin. Apologies to reggae fans – apparently Chris is still out of his head on ganja and hasn’t sent the Steel Pulse interview yet. However, luckily Jane went to see the Specials and here’s her report on the gig: After the 2 hour bus journey Doreen and I arrive in sunny Bournemouth. On the way through town we notice a rather large amount of skins, mods and rude boys taking in the sea air, and decide to walk round the long way cowards that we are. Luckily we meet some familiar skins and go in with them. Inside the place is packed, I haven’t seen a turn out like this since the Boomtown Rats. The disco is playing the usual collection of ska favourites and everyone’s competing for the moonstomper of the year title. The skins are their usual bouncy selves displaying a show of strength on the disco floor. I must admit there’s a great atmosphere at a ska gig, everyone seems to be more interested in dancing and enjoying themselves than posing, which you do get a lot of at punk gigs.

The Go-Go’s did a surprisingly varied set which went down really well. The Bodysnatchers… after the first few numbers many people including us return to the confines of the bar. About 10.45 we make our way to the Bowl where we find the heat stifling. Standing propped against a pillar we wait for the arrival of the Specials. The place is packed with sweating punters who can’t keep still for 5 minutes and the band haven’t come on yet. The Specials’ set consists of the old favourites and a few new ones. I recognise ‘Rat Race’ and ‘Too Much Too Young’ and decide to go down the front to see how my skinhead mates are taking it. They’re a good fun dance band, which is what we want today. When the Specials break out into ‘Concrete Jungle’ the stage is invaded and this happens too many times to be amusing, and the Specials get rather irritated. But, all in all, the gig was a huge success. I’d like to know what the bar takings were that night because the Specials are thirsty work.

May 5 The SAS stormed the Iranian embassy in Knightsbridge to free hostages. May 13 Human League interview at Bournemouth Stateside. May 23 The Ants Invasion tour began at the Electric Ballroom and The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle on Oxford Street. May 24 Ants at High Wycombe skinhead aggro. May 27 Ants Bournemouth interview. May 28 Ants Bristol Tiffanys. May 31 Middlesbrough Rock Garden. ‘Geno’ by Dexy’s Midnight Runners was number 1. June 1 Ants at Edinburgh Valentinos. June 2 Ants Dundee. June 14 Crass at Southampton. June 15 Specials at the Stateside. Pop Group and the Slits at Ally Pally. June 17 Crass at Bournemouth. June 20 Crass Stonehenge festival anti-anarcho-punk bikers riot. July 5 Left Salisbury Tech College and signed on. July 22 Unemployment was at 1,896,634, the highest level since 1936. July 26 The Ants’ ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ and Bow-wow-wow’s ‘C-30, C-60, C-90, Go’ singles were released and Vague 5 was printed. July 30 Gary Glitter interview at Bournemouth Stateside.