They mean it M-a-a-a-nchester ...Part Two
IF THESE are the three biggies there are others aiming to challenge. It's since March things have noticeably
developed. The nice people at the Electric Circus wisely booked new wave acts for each Sunday, and the late
lamented Oaks in Chorlton saturated May '77 with little known London groups like the Genet-nasty Siouxsie
and the Banshees, The Vibrators, The Adverts, and the degraded beauty of The Slits.
The two literary catalysts for Manchester activity - Ghast Up and Shy Talk - stuttered our "their first editions;
primitive popzines, potentially important, nervously requesting interviews, urging involvement, Manchester
As Buzzcocks "Spiral Scratch" sales reached the 8,000
mark, as Slaughter and the Dogs' single "Cranked up
Really High" was released on their Rabid label, as The
Drones prepared their 'Temptations" e.p. the next wave of
Manchester bands finally surged into view, cementing the
city as perhaps the healthiest, most uncluttered new music
centre. The Fall, Warsaw, Ed Banger and the Nosebleeds,
The Worst; something for everyone.
The Fall have prompted quotes like "I thought The Clash
were political until I saw you". Their approach is perhaps
too serious - maybe they strip rock of its fun? Perhaps
they're not even a rock'n'roll band? They are. The
guitarist's slashing chording is the anger of frustration
solidified into burning sound, the simplicity of the lady
keyboardist's embellishment a self-mocking intrusion. The singer is an angry concerned narrator, the rhythm
clever and neutral. Their words are voiced, clipped ideologies, entertainment for radicals maybe - but they have
something to say and try to say it to as many people as possible. A Henry Cow approach, the contradictory
collision of form and content always apparent in such earnest and undiluted political quests should prove an
interesting barrier to overcome. With the sad demise of The Derelicts, The Fall could stand alone as a
genuinely committed, politically agile rock'n'roll band, without, say, The Clash's superficial fluency.
Warsaw are one of many recent new wave
functional bands; easily digestible, doomed
maybe to eternal support spots.
Whether they will find a style of their own is
questionable, but probably not important.
Their instinctive energy often compensates
for the occasional lameness of their songs,
but they seem unaware of the audience
Ed Banger and the Nosebleeds are
interesting but in a mild, smirky way. They
used to be a terrible collection of
directionless yobs carving out laughable
mish-mash songs for largely uncaring
audiences, until a guy called Vinny - who
used to run the Oaks - grabbed hold of them
and shook them into the disciplined, artless new wave functionals
they are today. With correct manipulation - and Vinny has the'
consciousness and fingers to work the strings wonderfully - they
could fill the gap left by Hello.
There is no gap for The Worst to fill. Only The Slits' early gigs or
the odd Prefects passages give some idea as to the Worst's
expressionist style. They are a Punk Rock group; new wave is such
an effeminate term.
They stand for all the freedoms that can be imagined. They voice
brutal `imaginations of blurred everyday themes - urban alienation,
distortion, depersonalisation - and their style is, by liberal
intellectual standards, destructive and anti-social.
The band use the most primitive techniques and riffs imaginable,
and their singer squalls words about oppression, depression, and
most other 'essions with a Kevin Coyne-like intensity.
Their act is split into five or six sections, each of which is different
each time it's played. They improvise words on the spot, most often
distilled shorts; Daily Mirror rape stories dole statistics, Forum
explanatory artIcles, all crudely illuminated with terse verses;-and
demands for action. Dole queue rock? "Fuck, I'm glad to get paid
for doing nothing!" singer Allan explains.
The song "Gimme The Money" greedily explores his attitude while
"Police" is a furious account of paranoia as awareness.
The Worst are agonising and totally, enjoyable.
With Buzzcocks, The Fall, and the Worst, Manchester has two
genuine new wave rock groups (new as in ... new), and possibly the
only genuine punk rock group. They are certainly three
of the most provoking, eccentric and entertaining of
new (and thus all) British rock bands.
THE CAUSE of Manchester buzzing so hard on the
new wave front (the beach?), not only in terms of
music but with an undeniable sense of communal
comradeship and involvement, is difficult to explain
completely, It's been a cumulative effect, painfully slow
initially, that's sped almost too fast to see lately. It was
initiated certainly by the first two Pistols gigs,
continued by the second two on the 'Anarchy' tour, and
maintained by Buzzcocks' steady willingness to remain
in Manchester and be repeatedly, often derogatorily
tagged a 'Manchester Band'. Then there was this
merry month of May when the' Oaks venue bought two
London bands up who proved that if you had
something to say you could say It wIth narrow
technique (Slits and The Banshees). It all helped.
Definitely apart from the bands that I've numbered,
there are more in preparation, and yet more tentatively/
rashly/cockily performing debut gigs, a lot of fans
inspired more by what they see immediately about
them than anything happening elsewhere.
The refusal of (inter)national record labels to venture away from London is unfortunate, but a blessing in
disguise. It's forced the big three Manchester bands to release the discs they were long mature enough to
record on their own labels; Buzzcocks typically leading the way with New Hormones, and The Dogs and The
Drones trotting frustratingly behind with Rabid and the 'S' label.
A side issue: both The Dogs and Buzzcocks were featured prominently on the "Live at the Roxy" compilation. In
the same vein, the Bent label aims to release a Manchester compilation L.P. with a view to resultant singles,
and both New Hormones and Rabid have solid plans for the future.
The ideal would be for none of the Manchester bands to have to resort to signing for the big labels, but Richard
Boon has hinted that New Hormones could possibly continue and be distributed by whatever label Buzzcocks
sign for, which would open the gates for the company to indulge themselves in certain esoteric experiments.
Rabid also looks to be more than merely a vehicle for releasing the first Slaughter record, with Bent Records,
set up by Dave Bentley, a brave attempt at setting up a liberal local label, maybe a Stiff equivalent.
AWAY FROM the, er, new. wave buzz, Manchester's Sad Cafe (now signed to RCA) are doomed for middling
stardom with ' their lush bed-ridden rock. Gags, Bicycle Thieves, Harpoon, and a few period piece heavy three
piece bands continue to juggle bravely out on a limb. The former three are quite competent and have been
known to thrill, but in the light of what's happening elsewhere it all seems a little uninspired ..
The legendary Spider Mike King was doing seven years ago what Graham Parker did last year to gain respect.
He's still doing it now but that's not the point. The point is his lack of confidence, which I doubt he'll ever
overcome now. And I know why; ignorance. No one cares/cared.
Tom Yates has met similar obstinacy from the punters. Yates sticks to his gentle and beautifully crafted
originality as contemporaries like Roy Harper, John Martyn, and Richard Thompson claim deserved success,
having turned to rock and electricity. Yates can hardly remain a cult for much longer, and his perceptiveness,
guts, and timeless music deserve a far larger audIence than the local folk club circuit.
But . . . Manchester City will win the league.
And then, as 60's Liverpool had its literary scene, its Henris,
Pattens, and McGoughs, so Manchester has its John Cooper
Clarke, fitting snugly into the scene with a disarming modesty.
His words dovetail neatly into Shelley/Devotos', much as the
Liverpudlian poets' did to Lennon/McCartney.
Clarke's a total non-conformist, a grinning rebel, a comic, ironic,
and relevant observer of the thing called society. Both New
Hormones and Rabid want to sign him. His delivery is just right.
He's the next link in the chain after Rimbaud, Chuck Berry, Mike
Harding and Pam Ayres. Significantly, when Clarke recited
with Buzzcocks in Manchester, people were clapping, cheering,
and even dancing to the biting rhythm of his poems. In London
the reaction was (cough) lukewarm.
How too would John the Postman fare in London? A fan unable to
merely spectate, his famous dance is a test for any visiting group;
if the band's winning, he'll start twitching until eventually he'll be in full
flight, playing imaginary guitar on his beer bottle, sweat pouring pints.
He's also, prone to climb on stage after a groups performance and
deliver a solid accapella version of "Louie Louie".
Local rumour has it he wrote it.
NO Im not assuming that London's dead, although it seems to run on
automatic drive, self congratulatory; a little like that glossy supplement
Sniffin' Glue. And I'm not telling you that Manchester's manna. But it
has got an identity like London's got a lump.
The only thing we ain't got is an all-girl group (c'mon Denise!) and a
central 'factory' to organise and help proceedings, Richard Boon is
quietly working on that. To dlstort something Jon Landau said
'introducing his infamous It's Too Late To Stop Now article,
"There's a stack of excitment in the air."
(Reprinted from New Musical Express July 30th 1977 - DC Archives)