January 26, 2007


What kind of weird cosmic shit(h) would have caused Spierdijk, a village so small they had three-digit phone numbers, to become a local punk stronghold in the early 80's? For a while it seemed like everybody between say, age 16 and 25, was into punk over there. The gigs organised by Rhythmsticks (est. 1979) served as punk baptisms for many friends of mine; although Spierdijk is about 7 miles from Hoorn, everybody would brave rain and storm to go there by bike (no mean feat when you realize the only stuff you could spike your hair with back then was soap!). For all the activities brewing in Spierdijk (apart from punk concerts, they had record labels, zines, a pirate radio station, and a bowling club!) there weren't any actual punk bands from the village. Apart from Shith! But they'd long broken up by the time I first set foot in Spierdijk. When I found their record around that time I immediately filed it under "old guard" because of the organ and the Ramonesy melodies. Of course, in hindsight, it's a classic! Shith are one of those one-offs that came from nowhere and went straight back there. Their record serves as a time capsule back to pre-Internet, pre-cable TV days when a band living in the countryside would develop their own style, as well as spell "shit" wrong (either that or they named themselves after some Islamic prophet!).
I talked to the guy to the left of the picture once (think he's called Jos, he wrote and sang "Tonight"), when someone pointed him out to me at one of the On(w)ijs festivals in Spierdijk, mid-90's. He said he still had a couple of boxes of the record at home. I wrote down his phone number but didn't ever contact him; this was right before the Killed By Death days, so I guess those records will be long gone by now!
I've heard the guy who wrote and sang "Suicide" (to the right of the picture) died years ago, don't know if it was an actual suicide...

Tonight She's By My Side

January 18, 2007


One of the things I was looking for on my recent visit to the UK, was former pop mover & shaker (Yardbirds, Marc Bolan, Wham!) Simon Napier-Bell's book You Don't Have To Say You Love Me, which I thought was out of print. Not only did I see a brand new reprint of that book on the shelves, but there was another book by him sitting next to it. It was thicker and had smaller lettering, so I bought that one instead! Black Vinyl, White Powder is a roller-coaster ride of a read, taking in no less than the complete history of UK pop from about 1956 on. What's great about it is that it's written from the viewpoint of someone who was (1) a manager (as opposed to an artist) and (2) gay. Napier-Bell is equally at home with scandalous gossip and business figures, and isn't afraid to share some of his own ideas with us. One of his theories: just like American rock & roll was influenced and informed by black culture, English rock & roll was influenced by gay culture (just think of the rock stereotype of the flamboyantly anti-bourgeois, eternally youthful loner). Another great one: they don't find the right drugs to go with the music; they invent the right music to go with the drugs! In that light, here's his account on the birth of punk rock:

"A new drug appeared, as speedy as cocaine but much cheaper, and it revitalised the music business. Amphetamine sulphate came as pinkish white crystals that had to be chopped fine enough not to scrape the nose when they were sniffed. It was a drug of pure aggression, the high came quickly and made you want to charge like a bull, but it was also disgusting. To complement its foulness, sulphate users needed to find a new type of music as rough-edged and disgusting as the drug itself. What they came up with was punk rock."

Simon Napier-Bell, though one of the "old farts" by 1977, knew enough about English subcultures to want to be involved, so he went about finding his own punk band:

"At the end of the first year of punk, there were probably more people in the music business who'd never seen a punk band play than people who had; I was one of them. So I went one night to a punk club in Soho to see what I've been missing. When the group came on-stage they stiffened their bodies and bounced up and down as if they were on pogo sticks. Thirty minutes later I was backstage offering a management contract with an advance of ten thousand pounds. The next morning I called Derek Everett at CBS and described what I'd seen."They jump up and down as if they're on pogo sticks and spit at the audience.""So do a thousand other bands," he told me."

The band he signed was called London, nowadays most famous for having future Culture Club drummer Jon Moss among its ranks. They were better musicians than the "average" punkers, but compensated (according to Napier-Bell) by behaving especially rude and vulgar. There's a classic anecdote where Napier-Bell calls Jon Moss (the most vulgar one) on the phone only to have it answered by a very well-behaved posh-sounding lady who turns out to be his mum! Despite major label support, London went nowhere fast and Napier-Bell quit punk rock to hit paydirt with Japan and Wham.
Curious what London sounded like, I looked for and found their 1977 No Time EP, supposedly their finest hour. First track "Summer Of Love" ain't no great shakes; pretend-punk in the vein of Depressions informing us that, wait for it, "The summer of love was just one big mess!" Then there's a punked-up version of the Easybeats "Friday On My Mind"... Funny how almost all punk covers of 60's songs don't come close to the original; this one has its moments (I like the way he sings "Everybody seems to nag... MEUH!" Gumby-style) but it's still less than essential. My fave track on this EP is "No Time", nice fast-paced melodic stuff sorta like the 2nd Clash LP.
After London, Jon Moss did a brief stint in the Scabies-less Damned (making him the only person to have been in 2 of the 3 top UK punk bands, as he was an early drummer for the Clash as well!). The Damned broke up, and Jon Moss formed The Edge with fellow former Damned Lu Edmonds. (There's a rumour they thought about having Dave Vanian or Captain Sensible in as well, but decided against it on grounds of professionalism!) Their "Macho Man" debut 45 is pretty good, I like it better than London; it's almost powerpop but with a sinister Stranglers-type vibe.
O.K., here's the music, the London tracks sound pretty scratched but that must be my imagination as the seller claimed this copy to be mint!

London - No Time
London - Friday On My Mind
The Edge - Macho Man
The Edge - I'm Cold

January 10, 2007


Larm in 1983, still with 2nd singer Dorien.

A lot of early 80's punk was recorded by the bands themselves in their practice room, using the famous Teac 4-track and as many mikes. Often they didn't have a clue what they were doing, unintentionally distorting tracks or getting the balance wrong; of course, most of these recordings sound much better than stuff done in "real" studios at the same time! Studio engineers were still going for the flat, dull, close-miked, separated 70's sound which worked for the Eagles but didn't work for punk. However, when around '82-'83 cassette tapes became as important as vinyl, lo-fi sunk another couple of notches lower. Instead of a 4-track, bands would use a ghetto blaster with one built-in mike, resulting in a big blur of noise (even if they got a decent sound, 3 or 4 generations of dubbing onto cheap tape would still make the finished product sound like a big blur of noise). All-time low point must have been the first Holland Hardcore tape compilation from early '83. I loved it! The terrible sound just added to the mystique of then-already-legendary bands like Zweetkutten, Zmiv and Larm.

Through writing and trading tapes I struck up a friendship with those responsible for the HHC tapes, Larm's Paul and Olav. Already having a reputation for being (straight edge) hardliners, in person Larm were actually very easygoing and fun-loving guys; I recall at one gig they filled up empty beer bottles with water, casually drinking it to the amazement of onlookers. When they went into the studio to record their debut Campaign for Musical Destruction, my bandmate Erik and I invited ourselves to hang around. It was at Studio Oktopus in Amsterdam, a small room full of baffles and foamrubber (don't know if that's an actual English word...). I was amazed to find out that, rather than playing a 2/4 rhythm, Olav actually hit everything at the same time, fluctuating the volume to create the rhythm, which is something I've never heard a (non-jazz) drummer do before or after! Paul tuned his guitar in a chord so he could move one finger up and down; this tuning caused the droning effect he sometimes got. When we got to the other side of the glass it was a huge disappointment to me; through the speakers it sounded nothing like their tapes, just a flat sheet of sound, with everything drowning in cheap bubbly reverb. I asked engineer Patrick to hear what it would sound like without reverb, to which his reply was: "No reverb? Impossible, that hasn't ever been done before!"

Slowly I've gotten used to the sound of Campaign... (anyway, it's become a classic among HC fans) but I still have a fondness for their shitty practice tapes. Here's some recordings I found in one of my tape boxes; it's slightly better-sounding than the Holland HC tracks, and I think it's recorded around the same time ('84) as the studio stuff (because Menno imitates the echo at the end of "The Pogo")... You compare and decide!


OSL (studio)


Hippies (studio)

Ban The Bomb

Ban The Bomb (studio)

Crucify The Pope

Crucify The Pope (studio)


Pigeon (studio)


Boredom (studio)


Disorder (studio)

The Pogo

The Pogo (studio)

January 04, 2007

I'll be back in a couple of days!