PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by MULLY » 16 Jun 2009, 20:58

Some Good Vibration 7" pic sleeves....
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THE OUTCASTS - TEENAGE REBEL
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VICTIM - STRANGE THING BY NIGHT
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RUDI - BIG TIME
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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by MULLY » 16 Jun 2009, 21:02

..and some more...
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TEENAGE KICKS E.P.
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BATTLE OF THE BANDS E.P.
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THE MOONDOGS - SHES 19
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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by MULLY » 17 Jun 2009, 01:15

Part Seven - interview with Paul Burgess (drummer with Ruefrex).

Confirmation of the Belfast Punk stance regarding SLF, the dilemma facing a divided 'yoof' growing up in 'war-torn Northern Ireland'' the ill-informed UK media, Shane Magowan, Elvis Costello and....Michael Jackson!!

Ruefrex – Frozen Snakes In Traffic Lanes

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A hugely underrated and sometimes criminally overlooked band whose hard-hitting political stance prompted Melody Maker (in the mid 80’s) to pose the question – ‘Are they the most important band in Britain?’

Ruefrex, who formed in 1977, were probably the most unconventional, non-conformist and controversial band to emerge from the burgeoning Belfast punk scene of the late 70’s. Although the band hailed from the Loyalist heartland of the Shankill Road (home to notorious characters such as the Shankill Butchers and Johnny Adair) and Ardoyne, they were totally non-sectarian in outlook and did much to promote cross community relations through their songs and actions. Never afraid of a challenge, Ruefrex took their music and message into Loyalist areas like the Shankill and Republican areas such as Turf Lodge and Twinbrook. This was an extremely brave and dangerous thing to do in the darkest days of the ‘Troubles’ and few (if any) other bands would follow suit. Ruefrex released a total of 5 singles (including the anti-nuke rant Capital Letters which is a bona fide punk classic!) and 2 albums over a 10-year period before calling it a day in 1987. However, with some unfinished business to attend to, the band re-emerged in 2003 with a handful of new songs and plans to record a new album. I recently caught up with drummer and main song writer Paul Burgess who kindly took some time out from his busy schedule to answer some questions about the bands past, present and future:

- Ruefrex reformed in 2003 after a 15-year break. What was the motivation behind the reformation and did it take much prompting to get everyone involved again?

(PB) The key factor was the encouragement of Tony McGartland (Ernie Badness) and his website. There endures an affection and I think respect for the band and our stance during a period when we stayed true to our core beliefs whilst others prospered commercially and with critical acclaim. Tony convinced us of that and he was right. The logistics of pulling it together were tricky but there was enough initial good will and interest in new songs to keep all members on board. We go a long ways back –from school days - so after some initial awkwardness, things kicked in again.

- Your comeback gig was at the ‘It Makes You Want To Spit!’ book launch at the Empire, Belfast on 06/11/03 – were you nervous playing in front of (a capacity) Belfast crowd again after such a long absence? How do you think it went?

(PB) I enjoyed it. Live performance is different from recording work of course, and it’s the latter that interests me more. The sound was a bit ropy for us and the gig itself was little more than a nostalgiafest…but I knew that and went in willingly. I’m proud we tried some new songs. It’s in the tradition of the band. Anything after that in a similar vein though borders on parody.

- Ruefrex returned to a packed Empire in 2004 for the Terri Hooley Benefit – did you think Terri was deserving of such an event? Brian Faloon ex SLF played drums that night, as you couldn’t make it. How did Brian get involved and are you worried that he might have enjoyed the experience so much that he might wanna replace you permanently?

(PB) Like I said, I wasn’t overly keen to do this, but I was in the US at the time, so that made my mind up! It was my suggestion to ask Faloon. He’s a nice guy and I’ve known him for years. He seemed the natural choice. The real reason I wanted it to happen despite my absence though, was because Jackie enjoys playing so much and has inadequate opportunities to do so…they shouldn’t have cancelled just because I couldn’t be there. Times have changed in regard to all that ego stuff…so no, I don’t feel threatened!

- OK, let’s go back to the start. Ruefrex (originally Roofwrecks) were formed in 1977. Your 1st gig was supporting SLF at the Trident in Bangor – do you remember much about it? Do you remember any of the songs you performed?

(PB) Not a lot. Ivan Kelly our singer at the time wore my Dad’s GPO hat in an attempt to look like a Nazi I think! There were a few covers and some songs that never made it much further than that night…but the punk spirit thing was definitely abroad…just get up and do it kinda thing. SLF were already an accomplished showband by then of course!

- The band had a reputation for being a bunch of ‘hardnuts’ and you enjoyed a good punch-up (especially amongst yourselves) – was that reputation justified?

(PB) We came from a tough area in a tough town, at a time when there was a war going on…what can I say?

- Musically and image-wise Ruefrex didn’t fit into the standard punk mould at that time – was that deliberate on your part? Did that make it harder to win over the punk audiences you were mainly playing to or did you thrive on the challenge? Who were your main influences?

(PB) We were constantly dismissed as “Spides” because we refused to conform to the already burgeoning punk cult of appearance, behaviour and attitudes. It made sense to us to be rebels within a rebellion. However, people saw that we had something to say in our performances and songs and the easy dismissals were replaced by uneasy acceptance. We were definitely influenced by the Clash, Wire and the Velvets, but our own teenage reference points included everything from Glam rock to heavy metal.

- Musically and lyrically Ruefrex songs have always been (at the least) challenging and somewhat politically controversial and/or confrontational. So how did you feel when SLF were hailed as Belfast’s answer to the Clash and received all the plaudits for their ‘hard-hitting’ political rants such as Suspect Device, Wasted Life and Alternative Ulster? Compared to the likes of Wild Colonial Boy, Paid In Kind or Playing Cards With Dead Men the SLF songs (good as they are) can be viewed as little more than trite political sloganeering, would you agree?

(PB) This was a particular point of contention at the time. We somehow felt SLF hadn’t earned the right to deal with the subject matter with integrity, reducing it to bland sloganeering. Their political profile was certainly manufactured and marketed. Ours was from the heart of a lived experience we never abandoned. I also think ours were a bit better crafted and had a few more literary / creative shades to them.

- The band was decidedly non-sectarian in outlook. Ruefrex epitomised the non-sectarian, cross community spirit of the early Belfast punk scene probably more than any other band. Is this a fair assessment? Considering your working class Protestant background and the fact that you all hailed from the Shankill Road (the Loyalist heartland) and Ardoyne, did your stance cause you any problems in your own community?

(PB) I think that’s a fair assessment. We put ourselves on the line, politically, creatively and from a personal safety standpoint, time and time again, but didn’t sanitise the message or the medium. Looking back on that period, I feel a little responsible that my preoccupation with protest lyrics/songs and the subsequent politicisation of all the interviews I gave may have detracted from the other aspects of the band (like the music) that required consideration. Nevertheless, we shared a passion in challenging sectarian stereotypes and rejecting nationalism (Irish or British) for a class/ Marxist analysis of the conflict. This led to more difficulties in our own areas obviously, but generally speaking (other than a few notable instances of harassment of family) we were indulged. I think that’s because of our own credibility and community profile in those areas. Broadly speaking, I think that people- RCs and Ps- were just stumped by us! We weren’t fitting the profile of expectation.

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- I think it fair to say that throughout ‘the troubles’ certain sections of the media showed a distinct bias against the Protestant community in N. Ireland and in some cases that community was virtually demonised. Even in some English left-wing punk circles it became almost trendy for bands to voice support for the Republican movement and in some cases the IRA (i.e. Crass, Chumbawumba, Blaggers ITA, The Passage, Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello, Shane MacGowan). Were Ruefrex conscious of this and did you deliberately set out to put the record straight (so to speak) with songs like Kingsmill Road, Paid In Kind and The Wild Colonial Boy?

(PB) Yes, to all of that. I still feel strongly that the political left and indeed those seeking to align themselves with the clichés of a traditional ‘oirish’ persona, often over simplify the problem. There was / is very little to represent the community we came from and their right for a cultural / social and political expression on the island of Ireland. It goes without saying that this stance was and remains very unpopular. It was more insulting because this intelligentsia / Murphia / literati rarely ventured beyond Hampstead!

- Do you think at the time that your Protestant background hampered the band’s career in any way? For instance, I heard that an English record label (Rough Trade?) were thinking of signing Ruefrex but changed their mind when they found out you were Protestants because they thought they could get more mileage out of a Belfast band from a Catholic background singing about British oppression! Is this true and if so how did you feel about that? Also, I remember seeing the band described as the ‘voice of extreme Loyalism’ (or some such nonsense) in one of the big music weeklies! They couldn’t have been more wrong – you must have been really pissed off?

(PB) Heads and brick walls! The message was an unpalatable one.. but hey...I thought that’s what the punk spirit was supposed to be all about? Perhaps we were naïve in expecting any better from the music industry. They like things binary and simple.

- Ruefrex toured with the Pogues, right? How did you get on with Shane MacGowan? Seemed like a bit of an odd pairing considering Shane makes no secret of his admiration for the republican movement and the IRA and Ruefrex have always been very outspoken against the IRA and their Irish-American fundraisers?

(PB) This was a marriage of convenience, inspired by Stiff Records and Pogues management in order to capitalise on the interest in Ruefrex at that time. It was, as you suggest a, a complete mismatch. Those who weren’t openly antagonistic toward us were simply ignorant or intimidated. Only Phil Chevron and Shane (who I’m sure didn’t know what the fuck was going on) were anyway decent. We performed well I thought, but it was –by and large-an unpleasant tour that culminated on us getting turfed off the American leg for calling it like it was.

- Is it true that Elvis Costello showed himself to be a bit of a bigot by referring to Ruefrex as ‘Orange bastards’ and tried to get you thrown off the Pogues tour?

(PB) I don’t recall him saying this to me, but he was consistently unpleasant / indifferent to us, not just on the tour but later on The Tube TV show. We just assumed that when he wasn’t up his own arsehole, then he was trying to get up Kate O’Riordan’s from the Pogues, (which was why he was hanging around in the first place) in a spot of fairly high profile adultery!

- Ruefrex split up shortly after the release of the Political Wings album in 1987. Did you feel that the band had run its course by then? Did you feel that you were banging your head against a brick wall?

(PB) There was a bit of a creative and personal nadir at that time. Stiff had gone broke and we’d made some bad choices on the management/business side of things. The (good) will had evaporated.

- What Ruefrex record are you most proud of?

(PB) I think the early singles are an achievement. One by One is rightly given its place in our own wee Province’s historical discography. I think Capital Letters is a kick-ass song in the finest tradition. And the original version of Colonial Boy has much to commend it. Later, I think the ‘Flowers’ title track works well as a ballad.

THE WILD COLONIAL BOY - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9uhcrQk ... L&index=41

- What was your most memorable gig?

(PB) Probably Dingwalls in London, where the guitar sound that night would have took yer head off! Also The Mansion House in Dublin and Ulster Hall gig in Belfast where we ensured that we would never be asked back as support on an SLF tour, by exploding them right off stage with our performances those nights!

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- Ok, back to the present. The band has written some new songs (including the outstanding Grace Of God!) and is working on a new album. When will the album be ready and what label is it coming out on? What subject matter are you tackling these days?

(PB) The band are –as always – in a state of flux, so I can’t give answers to any of those questions. We are however, also working on individual and joint projects. I’m doing some stuff with Jackie and Grace of God may eventually end up residing there. Jackie and I are also working with John Watt formally of Maghera band “Kissed Air” under the working title “Sacred Heart of Bontempi”.

- Flowers For All Occasions was released on CD for the first time recently (a limited pressing of 100 copies only) – how did that go?

(PB) It was a pressing from an imperfect master, so I wouldn’t be overly enthusiastic.

- Judging by Clarkey’s antics at the recent Empire shows, he’s still as madcap as ever! When will we get to see Ruefrex live again, any gigs planned? Any surprises in store?

(PB)‘Madcap’…. eh…. yeah….’surprises’…he constantly surprises us…’antics’…what can I tell you!

- How relevant do you think Punk (in general) and Ruefrex (in particular) are to today’s ever-changing Belfast?

(PB) Don’t care!

- When’s the website going to be updated?

(PB) Ask Tony!

- Anything you want to add?

(PB) Michael Jackson fucks kids!

- Charming!


Guy Trelford – 04/05


A big thanx to Guy (co-author of 'It Makes You Want To Spit' - the N.I. Punk Bible) and TrakMarx
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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by MULLY » 17 Jun 2009, 01:24

More GV 7" pic sleeves....
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RUEFREX - ONE BY ONE
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BIG TIME RE-ISSUE
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SELF CONSCIOUS OVER YOU
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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by MULLY » 17 Jun 2009, 01:27

Another couple...
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RUDI - I-SPY E.P.
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RUDI
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TEARJERKERS - LOVE AFFAIR
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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by MULLY » 19 Jun 2009, 20:08

Part Eight - the story of an iconic night in Belfast - 20.10.77 - the night The Clash arrived in town.

BATTLE OF BEDFORD STREET THAT KICK-STARTED PUNK ERA

By PHIL CROSSEY

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In October 1977 The Clash arrived in Belfast for the start of their UK tour. Phil Crossey looks back at a gig which never happened, and how its resonance is still felt today as the catalyst for punk rock in Ulster.

Trying to identify the starting point of any musical movement is a difficult business. Transformations in the sonic geography are usually gradual events, and the exact details of what happened several years, and even decades, ago tend to get blurred by time. And once reliable stories usually get so cloaked in mystery and legend that they are meaningless. But punk in Northern Ireland is different – it began on October 20, 1977.

That was the night The Clash were scheduled to open their Get Out Of Control tour in the Ulster Hall.

During the Troubles it was a difficult task to get any sort of band to perform in Northern Ireland – aside from the legendary visits from Rory Gallagher concert-goers had little to look forward to in the Province. So The Clash were a big deal.

The Ulster Hall was sold out – a rare occurrence then – and a new, emerging youth movement was going to be congregating in one place for the show. But the show was cancelled two hours before the band were due to take to the stage, sparking a confrontation between the police and punks. The future Clash tour manager Johnny Green, who was working as a roadie on the tour, said it may have been his attempts to give away badges before the concert which led to the cancellation.

"Badges were always given away free at gigs," he said, and the afternoon before the show he was told to hand them out to a group of young people waiting outside the venue. "The kids saw me and mobbed me. The boxes went up in the air and there was a mad scramble for badges. Three Army Land Rovers came around the corner, each with a machine-gun mounted at the back manned by a squaddie. When the patrol moved in, the kids went wild in a spontaneous riot, smashing windows at the venue".

"The insurance company was contacted, they came and had a look and the gig was cancelled."

Attempts to reorganise the insurance, or move the venue, proved fruitless and the concert was cancelled, leaving both bands and fans despondent. The scuffles around the show weren't widely reported in a Northern Ireland where murder was making headlines, but the incident became affectionately know as The Battle of Bedford Street.

"It was the night that kick-started the punk revolution," Terri Hooley, the founder of Good Vibrations records said. As the man who is identified with punk movement in Northern Ireland – his label signed The Undertones, Rudi and The Outcasts – he said it was the event which turned him "from a hippie into a punk".

He added: "Nothing exciting had happened musically in Belfast since the days of Them. It was the first time that kids could come together, people met that night and formed bands."

And it marked a cultural change in Northern Ireland, which went on to produce more than its fair share of quality punk acts. The indignant rage and angst that fuelled so many punk songs was easy to come by, in 1970s Northern Ireland all you had to do was open the curtains and look outside.

"It used to be that only the police and the Army would come into the city centre at night, then it was the police, the Army and the punks," Terri said.

One band influenced by the goings-on around the aborted Clash gig were Rudi, who penned the song 'Cops' after what they saw as the police's heavy-handed treatment of concert-goers at the abandoned Clash show.

"They over-reacted when they were clearing everyone away," singer Brian Young said. "The police went nuts – they were treating people who were going to a concert as if they had turned up for an 'ordinary' Belfast riot." But Brian is reluctant to put too much emphasis on the night as the starting point for punk in Northern Ireland.

"Rudi had been playing for quite some time before the Clash gig, as had The Undertones," he said. "But I can see why it was an important and it galvanised things. It was the first time you realised how big punk had become." He also criticised the photographs taken of the band standing beside checkpoints and armoured cars during their time in Belfast.

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"The Clash were a big band and the media circus came with them," Brian said.

The photos, as Mickey Bradley of the Undertones said, would "come back to bite them in the arse". Many regarded it as a cheap and fairly tasteless publicity stunt.
"I just felt like a d**k," Clash guitarist Mick Jones would tell Ian Birch from the Melody Maker. "I should imagine they'll lap it up in London, though. The soldiers crouching in cubby holes thought we were d**ks. The kids thought we were d**ks."

While co-opting the Troubles as a symbol of everything the band's music stood for may have been a worthwhile idea, it was viewed in some quarters as a crass publicity stunt. The NME headlined their feature on the Belfast jaunt 'The Clash visit Belfast for picture session'. The stark images are now part of folklore, and it's impossible to mention The Clash in Belfast without thinking about them.

But for Brian Young, the Press's manipulation of the movement is what helped to solidify public opposition towards punks. "When the media started whipping up an anti-punk hysteria people who wouldn't have paid attention to it suddenly started bashing punks," he said.

During his time with Rudi he would get to know members of The Clash and said they were a genuine band who "had the sense not to come out with the cliched nonsense".

Also giving punk an added edge in Northern Ireland, with its sectarian tensions, were the use of the Union flag and songs such as God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols. The movement was based on dissent and the symbols used were not about scoring political points but challenging and upsetting the perceived order.

As Terri Hooley said: "It didn't matter what colour your hair was, or whether you were a Protestant or a Catholic, it just mattered that you were a punk – that was a uniting force. "People have said to me since that if they hadn't got involved in punk music they would have become paramilitaries. It changed a lot of people's lives."
And punk was a rare positive story coming out of Ulster at the time. "The Seventies were a terrible time – no-one was safe, people didn't go out of the house much. I remember saying goodnight to people outside Lavery's and never seeing them again," he said.

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Of course, the first wave of punk in Northern Ireland didn't last. "Punk bands imploded, fell apart or made records so bad that no-one wanted to buy them," Brian Young said. And the DIY enthusiasm, which had fuelled the movement was to be its undoing - "We weren't businessmen," said Terri Hooley. "The recession came along in the early 1980s and a lot of people who owed us money went down and we got dragged down with them. But it didn't matter, we'd done it and we proved to people in Northern Ireland that you didn't have to look to Dublin or London, you could do it here."

The Clash returned to Belfast on December 20 for a show which would make up for the cancelled date in October, and end the tour which had failed to start in the city. Peppered with references to Northern Ireland, the storming concert ended with London's Burning ad libbed into Belfast's Burning. It passed off without incident, with a heavy police presence outside the venue bearing witness to a peaceful evening.

But the continuing appeal of punk, and the seeds that were sown at the Clash's non-show still resonate today, and the movement is still part of the underground music scene here. And the night in October 1977 still resonates with those who were there, and has achieved almost mythical status among those who weren't.
As Terri Hooley said: "It meant something to an awful lot of people."



A review by Colin McClelland of the band's promised return to Belfast in December .....

BELFAST CHRISTMAS DATES
NME - JANUARY 1978 EDITION


"HIYA!" SHOUTED JOE STRUMMER, punching savagely a big Chnstmas balloon decoration hanging from the ceiling above his head. A sweating hall full of Ulster's punk population leapt in the air with a great roar. The Clash had come back to Belfast.

The roar continued more or less unabated throughout the hour-long set, which also saw a lot of frenzied gobbing. At one point Mick Jones had to stop playing to unclog his strings.

There were two Saturday shows originally scheduled for Queen's University Student's Union - which had tried to stage the band's aborted Ulster Hall gig in October, but which was also stymied on that occasion by insurance problems (see Thrills 29.10.77). This time around, only one Clash performance actually got off the ground, the first one falling down over a travel hold-up after The Clash apparently missed their plane.

About 650 punks bought tickets for Saturdays show. Each ticket was accompanied by a personal note from student organiser Eamonn McCann, appealing for cool on the part of the audience, "so that other punk concerts might be possible in the New Year."

The entrance hall to the union looked almost like a pet shop as the show got underway. Tables groaned under assorted belts, buckles, leads, studded collars and safety pins, all taken off fans as they came in and each carefully labelled with the owner's name.

The Clash lashed into their programme at sub-sonic speed, throwing almost unnoticed Northern Ireland asides into familiar songs (`Police And Thieves" became "Police And Priests"), and pausing only to wipe down between numbers.

The set finished on "Garageland", which seemed to catch the crowd by surprise. It took them a full 30 seconds to realise that the show was indeed over, and the mighty roar then started up again with a vengeance.

The band came back onstage almost immediately with "London's Burning", only it was now called "Belfast's Burning". The audience went ape. By the final encore `number, "White Riot", the bouncers were no longer able to hold the front-line control, and several people broke through onto the stage to share vocals with Strummer. He passed the mike to one to finish the song for him.

The band left the stage as chaos became general.

When they got outside the fans were in for a shock. In the normally middle-class Elmwood Avenue four or five armoured Land Rovers were pulled up, ringed with police carrying rifles.

The crowd, which had shown no hint of aggro throughout the evening, stood about in groups, looking bemused. The police, several with rifles held on the hip, moved amongst them, presumably looking for the expected violence. None came.

Suddenly a ligger at the back of the crowd, jumping piggyback on his mate's shoulders, became the target for action, and a handful of cops rushed in to collar him He was hustled off into one of the waiting Land Rovers.

As the punks moved off down University Road the Land Rovers kerb-crawIed beside them, occasionally stopping for armed constables to lump out and stand guard at street corners. If it was provocation, as some of the fans muttered, it didn't work. Most of the crowd seemed to be in 2 hurry to get to a party somewhere.

The success of the Clash concert means that Queens will now be able to go ahead with their projected New Year programme. First confirmed date is January 26 for Buzzcocks.

COLIN McCLELLAND

THRILLS
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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by theraven1979 » 19 Jun 2009, 21:04

Fuckin awesome Mully - I doth my cap to you on this one - I think everyone appreciates the effort you've put in here - Moved to forums gold (first topic in ages!!)

Cheers
Jim
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It taught me how to laugh again"

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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by MULLY » 19 Jun 2009, 21:12

Links to some MySpace sites. Give 'em a visit, read the band histories and listen to some of the tracks...

RUDI - http://www.myspace.com/rudi7781

THE OUTCASTS - http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fu ... d=44220089

THE DEFECTS - http://www.myspace.com/thedefects78

SHOCK TREATMENT - http://www.myspace.com/belfasttelegraph


and last but not least....

IT MAKES YOU WANT TO SPIT - http://www.myspace.com/itmakesyouwanttospitulsterpunk
incluses - live tracks from the Launch Party (Defects/Ruefrex/Shame Academy)
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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by MULLY » 19 Jun 2009, 21:14

theraven1979 wrote:Fuckin awesome Mully - I doth my cap to you on this one - I think everyone appreciates the effort you've put in here - Moved to forums gold (first topic in ages!!)

Cheers
Jim
Cheers - hope everyone is enjoying it (as much as I am - compiling it!! 8) )
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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by MULLY » 20 Jun 2009, 20:01

Part Nine - an alternative take on Punk vs Terrorism - UK Punk bands/N.I. paramilitary parallel media two-step. An interesting (but somewhat flawed) treatise on the subject.

Shadow of a Gunman: Brit-Punk and Northern Irish Terrorism

by Michael Stephens

Is this the MPLA
Or is this the UDA?
Or is this the IRA?
I thought it was the UK


— The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"

For a few harsh and heady years between 1976 and 1978, punk rock and terrorism co-existed in the British media as objects of scandal, outrage, and hatred. Hysterical headlines in the News of the World and The Sun were aimed one week at the Sex Pistols: "Must We Fling This Filth at Our Pop Kids?" and next week at the Provisional IRA: "THOSE BASTARDS". The simultaneous presence of punk and terrorism in the British media was serendipitous. The two phenomena resonated together on a weird wavelength.

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"God Save the Queen", the Pistols' massively publicized insult to the monarchy, complete with desecrating images of the queen and kidnapper lettering, could hardly have been improved upon by the educational wing of the Provisional IRA. Press photographs of terrorists in black, slit-eyed hoods, meanwhile, recalled the bondage masks of punk iconography, while the punks' flair for witty and outrageous self-promotion may have influenced Provisional IRA publicity stunts like the "Terrorist of the Month" calendars, featuring hooded gunmen in camouflage gear posing in pastoral Irish settings. Both groups affronted the establishment by flaunting their accursed and charismatic presence in public: punks with mohawks drinking cans of beer on the London streets; Provos carrying ArmaLites at funerals and demonstrations.

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Both punks and terrorists used the media to transmit image-messages of social breakdown and chaos, but although the Sex Pistols sang about wanting to destroy passersby, real violence and destruction were never significant elements in the punk vision. Punk was often described as nihilistic, but nihilism is, by definition, non-creative, while the punk era was one of the most vividly creative periods in rock and roll history. Terrorism is true nihilism: destruction is its only expressive act.

Punk was a creative revolt. It attacked the conventions of music, fashion and manners and the narrow channels of opportunity within the music industry and the media, partly by criticism, but also by creating new aesthetic and social standards and opening up new channels of expression. Punk was not violent or destructive in its modus operandi; rather, it used the image of violence to boost the intensity of its attack.

Pictures of Sid Vicious with blood running down his chest, vampiric-looking punk girls, their cheeks and noses crudely pierced with safety pins, and songs like the Pistols' "Bodies" and the Stranglers' "Ugly" did symbolic violence to a '70s lifestyle dedicated to cheesy glamour and a rock and roll culture dominated by Elton John and the Bee Gees. Northern Irish terrorism, on the other hand, communicated through symbolic acts of real destruction and violence, which were then transformed into images and texts by the media.

The first British punks and the Northern Irish youth who joined terrorist organizations like the IRA and the UDA were affected by similar conditions: chronic unemployment, clashes with the law, a sense of disempowerment, frustration with the present, and hopelessness about the future. The Northern Irish paramilitary groups were not youth subcultures, but disaffected teenagers and young men and women in their early twenties formed the majority of the Provisional IRA and UDA foot soldiers. Socio-economic conditions were similarly depressed in '70s England and Northern Ireland, and it is interesting to consider why one set of conditions produced punk rockers and the other produced terrorists.

"White Riot" seemed to announce a level of frustration and anger among English youth that might have had revolutionary potential, and the steady recruitment of working-class skinhead youth into right-wing hate-groups like the National Front (which helped to re-direct potentially revolutionary youth anger against minorities) showed that British youth were capable of organized, politically motivated, violence. Some of the missing ingredients in English society were a history of colonial oppression, an invading military presence, and the long Irish traditions of religious sectarianism, guerrilla warfare and armed revolt against the British.

British youth had its own traditions. Since the 1950s, they had channeled their frustration and anger into fashion, music and sport sects: teddy boys, mods, rockers, hippies, skinheads, punks, and soccer hooligans. These sects would engage in periodic violent clashes, but sectarian youth violence, when it erupted in Britain in the battles of mods and rockers or soccer fans, was largely symbolic: it never posed a significant threat to public order. British youth cultures like the mods and the punks, although symbolically opposed to the adult establishment, also helped youth to sublimate its potential for violence into attitude, style and art.

The look of punk carried a static charge of rage; the sound of the Sex Pistols channeled, communicated and aroused anger, but that was it. When you perform songs about starting a riot, you are less likely to start a real riot. The English punks showed a fascination with the troubles and with terrorism that was largely absent from Northern Irish punk music, perhaps precisely because of the absence of real political violence in English society and the consequent exoticism of the violence of Northern Irish society.

Punk was never as powerful a musical movement in Northern Ireland as it was in England and, with the notable exception, early in their career, of Stiff Little Fingers, Irish punk bands tended to have little or nothing to say about the troubles. For Northern Irish music fans, the experience of real anarchy may have diminished their enthusiasm for the ideal of anarchy that bands like the Sex Pistols and the Clash tried to represent.

When the Clash posed for a famous series of publicity shots in a Belfast ghetto in their multi-zippered jackets, drainpipe jeans, DM's, and hard-man stares, English punks might have bought the idea that the Clash were all about taking it to the streets, but any Belfast kid knew they were posers. Walk around the Ardoyne looking like that, especially with an English accent, and you'd get your head in your hands. It wasn't that the Clash were exploiting the troubles; they were, of course, but no-one in Northern Ireland would have given a toss about that. It was just that the Clash's rock-and-roll-urban-guerrilla image of revolution didn't mean much on the Belfast streets. In Northern Ireland in the late '70s, every day was chaos, but it didn't have a hip, edgy, check-out-my-mohawk, "I wanna be anarchy", type feel. It was the daily paranoia of wondering if the bicycle chained to the next lamppost was going to blow your legs off. Real anarchy was kind of a drag.

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Stiff Little Fingers looked more like a London punk band than most other Northern Irish bands, with the exception of the Outcasts. Their first two singles, "Suspect Device" and "Alternative Ulster", seemed to be the kind of relevant, real-deal political statements that one would expect from Northern Irish punks, until it became clear that Stiff Little Fingers were a media manipulation masterminded by an English journalist.

Gordon Ogilvie was in Belfast covering the troubles for the Daily Express, when he saw Stiff Little Fingers playing covers in a bar and recognized an opportunity. Ogilvie suggested to singer Jake Burns that the band should write some punk-style songs about the troubles. Ogilvie put up the money for SLF to release the resulting song, "Suspect Device", as a single, and helped the band cash in on the press interest and public sympathy they generated, particularly in England, as pissed-off Northern Irish punks venting their frustration in music. The scam was soon uncovered and SLF were discredited, but the bad taste they left in Northern Irish music circles made it almost an unspoken code that:

a. cashing in on the troubles was taboo for Northern Irish bands
b. any musical reference to the troubles by a Northern Irish band was a cash in.

The Undertones were the most successful Northern Irish punk band. Unlike Stiff Little Fingers, who were suburban, middle-class Belfast boys, the Undertones were from Northern Ireland's most impoverished and volatile Catholic ghetto, the Bogside. Nevertheless, the Undertones' breakthrough single was called "Teenage Kicks" and their second album was entitled More Songs About Chocolate and Girls. The Undertones were apparently much less politically savvy than English counterparts like the Clash and the Pistols, but their silence on issues that they were so impeccably qualified to sing about was itself highly expressive, and their harsh background gave a Warholish irony to their radiantly poppy, no-comment, songs.
The Undertones expressed an attitude to the troubles that became common in Northern Ireland after people realized that terrorism was a fact of everyday life and would not go away. Just as on newly bombed store-fronts "Business As Usual" signs would immediately appear, Northern Irish people on both sides of the sectarian lines defended their right to live a normal life under abnormal conditions by keeping the troubles in their place and not letting them dominate conversation or become an obsession.

The Undertones were making a statement that Northern Irish youth thoroughly understood by singing about girls and chocolate instead of bombs and sectarianism. Their music was not apolitical, it just elevated the small world of youthful loves and hates over the big world equivalents. Silently, but resolutely, the Undertones gave the finger to the IRA, the UDA, the Army, the police, the TV news, the troubles.

British punk and post-punk bands, on the other hand, couldn't seem to say enough about Northern Irish terrorism and the troubles. The troubles provided British punks with close-but-not-too-close, real-world evidence of the social injustice, urban malaise, violence and social breakdown that were punk's central themes. From the Sex Pistols ("Anarchy in the UK") to Gang of Four ("Armalite Rifle"), Sham 69 ("Ulster"), U2 ("Sunday Bloody Sunday"), and the Police ("Invisible Sun"), punk and the troubles went together like safety pins and razor blades.

Nightly BBC news footage of tattered Catholic youth in Crombie raincoats and bomber jackets, too-short Wranglers and Doc Marten boots, hurling bricks and bottles at British soldiers was like a perpetual Sex Pistols video; or was it the other way round? The nightly litany of assassinations, bombs, internment without trial, dying hunger strikers and dirty protests (interned prisoners protesting by covering their naked bodies and cells with excrement) followed by Top of the Pops with the Sex Pistols banned from performing "God Save the Queen", sometimes made it seem as if punk rock was the authentic sound track of a happening-now revolution.

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Of the English punk and new wave songs that referenced Northern Ireland, Gang of Four's "Armalite Rifle" has the best guitar riff, and the most coherent political perspective, as one would expect from Andy Gill. The song's wary, sarcastic viewpoint ("The Irish joke's on the BBC") perfectly captures a politically savvy British punk's mixed feelings about Northern Ireland. Gang of Four did not to try to identify themselves with the troubles or use them as a soapbox; instead, they distanced themselves from both terrorism and the British establishment by noting the affinity between the two. The song notes that "police and UDA" use the ArmaLite rifle "every day", a correlation that suggests both the hidden violence of the state, and the essentially oppressive and reactionary nature of terrorist violence.
The state and terrorism do not represent the opposed forces of oppression and liberation. Rather, they are separate manifestations of the power-is-violence equation. The song's final message is pacifist: the effect of the ArmaLite rifle, no matter whose hands it is in, is destructive; it will "do you damage". The song refuses to justify terrorist violence in terms of the social injustice that may have provoked it. Violence and the industrial profiteering on violence, both of which the ArmaLite rifle represents, conflict with the anarchic supremacy of individual liberty. The fact that the ArmaLite will do you damage puts anyone who uses it on the side opposite individual freedom.

The Sex Pistols tried to align themselves with terrorism's radical chic on "Anarchy in the UK". In the first verse, Johnny Rotten speaks as the spirit of anarchy, and embodies the terrorist impulse in the line, "I want to destroy passersby". The last verse presents terrorism as the material form of anarchy in the UK and suggests that the very title "United Kingdom" is a falsely unified, nationalistic mask imposed on a state that is disintegrating into warring factions like the IRA and UDA. The middle verse seals the ambiguous relation of punk to terrorism: "Many ways to get what you want / I use the best I use the rest / I use the NME, I use anarchy". The verse offers no judgment on the "many ways" to achieve anarchy, but presents the media (NME or New Musical Express) as punk's weapon of choice. The media is owned by the powers that be (en-em-y) but may also be used by oppositional voices like the Sex Pistols and the IRA.

It is the mass media in the middle verse which bridges and connects punk anarchy in the first verse to terrorism in the third verse. The irony is that since punk and terrorism are similarly dependent on the media to deliver their messages, both are ultimately parasitical rather than truly oppositional forms. Both depend on the media (and the establishment which owns it) for their very existence.

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Only one Brit-punk song simultaneously embodied and abolished the total violence of terrorism: Johnny Moped's "Incendiary Device", the first single from Cycledelic (long-deleted, but check out the 1995 compilation Basically). Cycledelic's primitive, joyous aggression and fashion-less refusal of any marketable image was in some ways more subversive than Never Mind the Bollocks and The Clash.

While the Pistols and the Clash were always just rock stars in anti-rock star drag, the four members of Johnny Moped appeared terminally oafish, unglamorous, and stylistically deprived. Shirtless on the album cover, under a sleeveless biker jacket with a Motörhead button on his lapel, Johnny and his seedy cohorts, Slimy Toad and the Berk brothers were emphatically not King's Road fashion victims or would-be situationists.

"Incendiary Device" was the intended A-side of their first single (it became the B-Side when they realized radio stations would never play it), two minutes and ten seconds of hilarious, testosterone-soaked fury. "Walking down the road I'm an incendiary device", Johnny yells over Slimy Toad's guitar. The next line, "Looking for a lady blow her up with gelignite" relegates the band to a lower hell of political incorrectness, but they don't stop there. "Stick it in her lughole watch it blow her head apart / Stick it in her lughole stick it in her other part / Stick it in her lughole watch it blow her head apart / Stick it in her lughole stick it in her, stick it in her".

This infantile, misogynistic rant apparently bears no relation to Northern Irish politics, until it is understood that in 1970s Britain, the words "incendiary device" evoked "Irish terrorism" as surely as the words "weaponized anthrax" evoke Al Qaeda in America today. The absurd, random violence that the song celebrates is terrorism universalized. "Incendiary Device" pushed terrorism's conscienceless violence to its own absurd conclusion in a glorious blaze of delirious negation.

U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is the most opportunistic musical appropriation of the troubles. Dublin, U2's hometown, is in the southern Republic of Ireland, a country as separate from Northern Ireland, as America is separate from Canada. Dubliners have not experienced armed conflict or a British military presence since the 1920s, and Bloody Sunday was as imaginary an event for U2 as the Boston Tea Party. It is not necessary to experience events to write meaningfully about them, but the purpose of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was not to comment on Bloody Sunday, but to link U2 in the public mind to Bloody Sunday, by a deceptive "Irish" connection that makes the song appear as a passionate insider's response. The lines, "but I won't heed the battle's call / It puts my back up, puts my back up against the wall", suggest that U2 personally confronted the choice that faced so many Northern Irish youth: whether or not to join a paramilitary organization and fight.

The hand-wringing emotionalism of the stadium-anthem chorus, "How long, how long must we sing this song", suggests that Bono and the boys resolved this imaginary crisis of conscience by becoming rock and roll spokespersons, and thus heroes who (apparently) triumphed over the persecution they sing about, while rejecting the call to violence, to become against-all-odds rock stars and musical messengers of peace. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is a brilliantly self-serving piece of PR, cynically tailored for American audiences, who love a good underdog story, and would generally not recognize that although U2 were indeed Irish, they had about as much personal connection with the Northern Irish troubles as the Jackson Five.

In Northern Ireland, during the late 1970s and early 1980s, a series of underground Provo songs like "The Men Behind the Wire" were independently released on vinyl. These records were sold in the Northern Irish Catholic communities, and were also popular in the jukeboxes of those Irish bars in America where money was raised to buy materials that would be used by terrorists to randomly kill and maim innocent people.

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In their underground production and distribution and their grass-roots messages, these records seemed to mirror the rebel spirit and do-it-yourself methods of punk. In their strident, clichéd, folky arrangements, the maudlin sentimentality of their commitment to "the cause", and their one dimensional hero-worship of IRA martyrs, however, the songs were a world away from punk rock. The difference was aesthetic, but aesthetic distance may be one of the more effective mechanisms that restrain our potential for violence.

The creative gap between the political rebel music of Northern Ireland and punk rebel music showed the extent to which punk was an aesthetic rebellion: a revolt of style and attitude, whose only connection to "real politics" was its creative vandalization of political signs. The punks couldn't help picking up and handling the Kryptonite like image of terrorism, but they always had the good sense to wear the protective gloves of irony and ambiguity while handling it.

Despite its dogged commitment to violent revolution, Northern Irish terrorism has never, in over 30 years, achieved any of its political goals. Punk rock, on the other hand, in the three years of its existence as a radical aesthetic movement, produced positive, lasting changes, if only in the surfaces, attitudes and styles of the world we live in.
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theraven1979
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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by theraven1979 » 20 Jun 2009, 21:49

I had this one on me bedroom wall in the 80s/90s


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It taught me how to laugh again"

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MULLY
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Re: PUNK IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Post by MULLY » 21 Jun 2009, 00:26

Some more N.I. 7" pic sleeves....
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STARJETS - GIG FREEBIE
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ROOM TO MOVE - COMPILATION E.P.
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DEFECTS - DANCE TIL YOU DROP
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Allow me to re-arrange your face, sometimes I'd really like to get to know you better

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