Monday 30 March 2020

Poem: 'Side-Stepping The Ghouls'


gravity is a friendly force 
that draws me down 
towards home, 
the rope is a loving chord 
that arrests my fall 
with a ligature 
around my neck, 
the air is a tender gas 
that vacates my lungs 
to flood in the darkness, 
the mob are a caring people 
who applaud and jeer me 
as I’m released from this life 
into the next, 
beneath the mushroom forest shade 
where once I was spore-keeper 
and warden of insects 
in the fog of aromas 
both disturbing and narcotic, 
my knife was the merciful blade 
that excised them of life 
in deeds for which 
I’m being justly celebrated, 
I know this vicious love 
with due gratitude…

Published in:
'BIG HAMMER no.21’ which is an amazing anthology
of incandescent words with cut-&-slash images
from Dave Roskos at: iniquitypress(at)
It’s wonderful to be a part of this
celebration of art-creativity

Friday 27 March 2020

Science Fiction Magazine: 'DREAM SCIENCE FICTION'


 At a late-eighties time when British SF was going through 
 something of an identity crisis, the neat semi-prozine ‘Dream’ 
 proved to be a healing force, reconciling old and new, 
 tradition with innovation, across twenty-nine fine issues. 
Andrew Darlington traces its history

The pensive robot sits on the edge of the Moon’s rim, in an attitude recalling Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker. Immersed in electronic dreams, it ponders the conundrums of Life, the Universe And Everything. The image – with variations, was used for the later covers of ‘Dream’. At a late-eighties time when British SF itself was going through something of an identity-crisis quandary, this neat semi-prozine proved to be a healing force, reconciling old and new, tradition with innovation. It looked back over its shoulder to the simpler John Carnell period of ‘New Worlds’ by publishing new work by its respected writers ER James and Sydney J Bounds. While simultaneously turning its fictional gaze to the future with early tales from Stephen Baxter and Peter F Hamilton, who were yet to make their massive mark on the genre.

One of the most consistently inventive and entertaining writers currently at work within the genre, Stephen Baxter’s fiction retains the ability to re-charge that SF ‘Sense Of Wonder’ with its immense sweeps through time and universes. Yet he started out more modestly. He entered ‘Dream’ with “The Bark Spaceship” (November 1987, no.14), published as by ‘SM Baxter’, at a time when he’d only recently debuted in ‘Interzone no.19’ with “The Xeelee Flower” (Spring 1987). Then his “The Eighth Room” was featured in ‘Dream no.20’ (Summer 1989), a story that already displays all the classic wide-screen SF elements in a concentrated form, with Teal as the young discontented rebel, impatient with the repressive restrictions of his teepee community. As the seeker after truth he becomes part of a trope already familiar from characters such as Alvin in AC Clarke’s ‘The City And The Stars’ or the thief in Walter M Miller’s “Big Joe And The Nth Generation”, a protagonist who strikes a sympathetic chord with the kind of adolescent misfits who are drawn to SF. For Teal, Home is linked to Shell by a slender sky-line. Although exiled, with the help of sympathetic grandfather Allel, he searches through blizzards for the secret of the world, accompanied only by his genetically-bred mummy-cow companion Orange, whose ‘song’ leads them to the dimensional-maze cube that allows him a glimpse of the stars beyond the protective shell in which the world is isolated. For ‘Dream’ it is one of a number of contributions, a further Xeelee story – “The Tyranny Of Heaven” follows in no.24 (Summer 1990).

While, although Peter F Hamilton – born 2 March 1960, made his first sale – “Deathday”, to Horror glossy ‘Fear Magazine’ (no.26, February 1991), he’d already been strongly featured in ‘Dream’ from “Bodywork” (September 1990, no.25). In ‘Dream no.28’ his “The Seer Of Souls” takes an uncharacteristic trip into the louche and effete realm of art with vampire art-dealer Tobias hoarding lifetimes of old masters to barter onto the market when he feels the time is right, speaking fluently of Goya and Picasso. There’s sycophants and devoted acolytes, with conjectured new sculptural forms in ‘essence nuroplaque cells’, all conveyed in rich descriptive passages, ‘Tobias saw the souls of the city as a galaxy of red dwarf stars. A glory nebula, pulsing with bright organic energy, alive and expanding.’ It’s as though he’s intent on impressing the reader, by also playfully suggesting ‘Hoyle’s theories as the explanation to their (vampire’s) condition. A space-born virus from ancient comets, a product of evolution hundreds of millions of years older than Earth’s.’

 If the story is an unusual entry in his bibliography, Hamilton’s “Major’s Children” (in no.27) is more recognisably located within his hard-SF style with starship ‘Voidhawk’ – illustrated in Alan Hunter’s sympathetic artwork with its ‘thermo-dump panels’ extended like ‘sprouting silver dragonfly wings’, as it emerges from ‘her jump singularity’s pseudo-boundary four-million kilometres’ from Ladell, planet-sized moon of gas-giant Major of an insignificant G3 primary star. Kendal is a charter-pilot taking bereaved Gilbert and his seventeen-year-old daughter Jannine to the world where life-forms exist on a nine-year cycle before being killed off by Rama storms set up by unique planetary alignments. The wise native Ly-Cilph avoid this periodic extermination by a form of ‘ascension’ to spirit-form, a metamorphosis through which Gilbert hopes to be reunited with Kirsten, his dead wife. It is a tight well-wrought story. Yet from such modest beginnings his ‘The Night’s Dawn Trilogy’, the ‘Void Trilogy’ and the ‘Commonwealth Saga’ would establish him as the leading current exponent of galaxy-spanning Space Opera. But for followers of his novels, the stories Peter Hamilton contributed to ‘Dream’ would prove an unexpected revelation. 

Publisher and first editor Trevor Jones was ‘a firm believer in the value of storytelling and was a fan of the ‘New Worlds’ style of fiction under John Carnell’ according to SF historian Mike Ashley. ‘He felt that British SF had fallen victim to the New Wave and its aftermath and wanted to restore some traditional values whilst also recognizing new talent.’ In his own words, his intention had been to ‘start producing a ‘different’ type of SF magazine, one that represented and applauded the traditional values of good story-telling and lucid narrative that the overblown pseudo-literary and ‘experimental’ markets of that era seemed, in the main, not to offer.’ That ‘we want to work, together with our writers and readers, to change the perceptions of British magazine Science Fiction or the nineties.’ That he was able to bring this ambition together into twenty-nine regularly-spaced issues is no small achievement. 

Both Sydney J Bounds and Earnest (ER) James had been a consistently active part of the pool of writers that Carnell drew upon with the confident expectation of strongly-plotted action tales with Outer Space settings. Both of them had fallen out of favour as SF evolved away from that style. But they embodied the ‘traditional values’ that Jones was seeking. Based in Kingston-upon-Thames, Bounds offered a number of fine tales to ‘Dream’, followed by James – a former postman living in the picturesque Yorkshire town of Skipton, who also seized upon the opportunity of reaching a new audience. While their story-telling skills remain as sharp as ever, both writers had impressively upgraded their styles to include the computer-tech paraphernalia of the new time. Set in October 2172, James’ “Second Century Koma” (‘Dream no.13’) has L-L’s (Long-Lifers) granted longevity by treatment in their mid-twenties, who begin to enter a coma-state prior to their two-hundredth birthdays. Is there a cellular life-limit for humans? No, it’s just information overload that needs a computer plug-in access to accommodate the additional data flow. Voted no.1 story in the issue, it was reprinted in the ‘A Book Of Dreams’ anthology (1990) edited by Trevor Jones and George P Townsend. 

Above all, emerging writers need a reliable forum in which to experiment with their craft, measure it against their equally-struggling contemporaries, and exchange ideas in a sense of virtual community. Jones, in partnership with co-editor Townsend was able to provide this forum, fairly rapidly developed a growing stable of writers, numbering Gerry Connelly with “Draco” (January 1986, no.3) – his later story of a believed UFO abduction, “The Rzawicki Incident” (July 1987, no.12) was voted the all-time most popular story in ‘Dream’! There was also Peter T Garratt, who had debuted in ‘Interzone’ the year before, with “The Angel Of Destruction” (September 1986, no.7), Ian G Whates with “Flesh And Metal” (March 1987, no.10), and Keith Brooke with “The Fifth Freedom” (Winter 1988, no.18). As Mike Ashley points out, ‘most of these writers went on to establish themselves in ‘Interzone’ and elsewhere, but it was ‘Dream’ that gave them space to fledge.’ 

Not all of them went on to write more. There were also intriguing one-offs, author Marcin P Sexton who has a single entry in the ‘Internet Speculative Fiction Database’, which is “Reich” from ‘Dream no.21’ set during the Nazi occupation of vast tracts of Russian territory, with Carl Konigsberg answering a Top Secret communiqué from the Berlin Museum Of Anthropology to investigate alien remains discovered in a remote village of women. It’s an occult rewriting of history with the closing paragraph, ‘since the alien was delivered to be included in the Fuhrer’s own personal collection of curiosities, the Fuhrer’s mental state has worsened. It must be the pressure of the war. Today he declared war on America without reason, except to say he was destined to rule the world. Where will it end?’ Other writers, such as Jack Wainer – the pen-name used by David Bell of Melton Mowbray, had debuted in the ‘Thirtieth Pan Book Of Horror Stories’ (1989) followed by a dozen magazine appearances, which included the Living Doll ‘Chucky’ tale “Miss Blood” (‘Dream no.27’) in which the teenage protagonists appealingly role-play their fantasy lives of being artist and Rock star. 

Wedged somewhere in-between there’s my own story “Matrix”, which had originally been sold to NEL’s ‘Science Fiction Monthly’, which folded before getting around to publishing it! Uncertain about the copyright situation I delayed resubmitting it elsewhere until I was reasonably sure there would be no negative consequences. Indeed, I received only positive feedback from its appearance it ‘Dream’. My next story – “The Carnivorous Land”, appeared in the second, and final issue, of ‘New Moon’, the ambitious sequel follow-up publication to ‘Dream’. Matched to line-illustrations of astonishing quality by the very talented Kevin Cullen, I’m proud of, and greatly value this association with the magazine. 

For the artwork embraced the same wide diversity as its pool of writers, with work by the prolific Alan Hunter (19 February 1923-1 August 2012) who had been appearing regularly within the genre since his early 1950s covers and distinctive interiors for ‘Nebula’ and ‘New Worlds’ as well as for a host of fanzines for which he received little or no payment. His was an instantly recognisable style, with a near-woodcut quality that made him a familiar part of the scene, and there are some fine examples of his work in issues of ‘Dream’. Yet there was also John Light, Dreyfus and Dallas Goffin, who would go on to take fantastical art into new realms. 

It was printed in a consistently neat pocketbook A5 format, initially of forty-eight pages but some later issues running to seventy-six or more pages. Initially published and edited by Trevor Jones (1944-1993) from his address in Godmanchester, Huntingdon, ‘Dream’ was in some ways a revival of an amateur ‘zine that he and George P Townsend had produced between November 1967 and December 1978, which had grown steadily more ambitious during that period. The revived version, though typed, was neatly reproduced (by Kilby Duplicating Service) and showed Jones’s conviction and commitment to producing as good a quality magazine as he could. This was not just in its appearance, which further improved with computer typesetting from issue no.17 (Autumn 1988) but in the content. It became a Weller Publication from issue no.10 (March 1987), the imprint of Townsend, who took over as editor from no.18 (Winter 1988) when he dropped his own magazine ‘New Moon Quarterly’ (which ran for five issues 1987-1988). ‘Dream’ was bimonthly until no.14 (November 1987) then quarterly, as ‘Dream Quarterly’, from Spring 1988, with the last two issues appearing irregularly. There were some good SF-poems, even if they were used as space-fillers, alongside reviews, and several nonfiction features including – from issue no.16 (Summer 1988), an astronomy column by Duncan Lunan.

Yet the ever-ambitious Trevor Jones, despite his increasingly poor health, decided in 1991 to upgrade ‘Dream’ into a fully professional magazine. Perhaps that was a step too far?, because as ‘New Moon’ – in an impressive glossy colour A4 format, it survived for no longer than two very powerful issues. It was able to draw upon the loyalties of Stephen Baxter and Peter F Hamilton who were by then already establishing themselves with novels, but even their strong cover-blurbed stories were unable to ensure the magazine’s long-term survival. 

So what conclusions would the pensive robot sitting on the edge of the Moon’s rim finally decide upon? What cybernetic dreams were sparked within its impassive visage? That because of its regularity and reliability, and its strong stable of authors, ‘Dream’ developed a personality and a strong following unusual for British Small Press fiction magazines. That it served as a bridge uniting the old-guard ‘Ted’ Carnell SF with the post-New Wave. And that, although it may never have acquired the reputation or longevity of an ‘Interzone’, it should be celebrated as a key forum, and a market for British SF in the 1980s. That is no small achievement


DREAM MAGAZINE No.1 (September 1985, 50p) editor Trevor Jones, with ‘Rave On’ essay by Sam Jeffers, ‘Keeper Of The Peace’ novelette by Harry Logan with Herbert Marchant, with short stories ‘Relic’ by George P Townsend and ‘Proof’ by S Stein 

DREAM MAGAZINE No.2 (November 1985, 50p) with novelette ‘A Planet Named Victoria’ by Charles Luther, plus short stories ‘Danger Sign’ by Geoffrey Talbot, ‘Love Story’ by BK Lascher, and ‘In The Dream Cell’ by John Townsend (pseudo-religious tale by brother of George Townsend, he also has a story – ‘Thirty Degrees Of The Scorpion’ in ‘New Moon no.3’) 

DREAM MAGAZINE No.3 (January 1986, 50p) with novelette ‘The Chessmen Of Rorn’ by Steve Worth, plus short stories ‘Draco’ by Gerry Connelly, ‘Calcified In Death Like Shining Stars’ by John Townsend (John emerges from the dark cellar into a series of increasingly strange alternate worlds, at first his altered office relationships with secretary Susan and the Colonel, then into nightmare landscapes, never explained or resolved), ‘Cute’ by Sydney J Bounds and poem ‘Saturday Afternoon Reflections’ by TE Wood 

DREAM MAGAZINE No.4 (March 1986, 50p) with ‘Rave On’ essay by Sam Jeffers, short stories ‘High Noon’ by Martyn Taylor (voted best story of the issue), ‘With Malice Aforethought’ by Nik Morton, ‘The Miniatures’ by Sydney J Bounds, ‘Cloudgoddess’ by Bruce P Baker (Bruce Pelham O’Toole), and ‘Omega Legacy’ by Justin Meggitt, plus poem ‘Obituary’ by TE Wood 

DREAM MAGAZINE No.5 (May1986, 50p) Steve Steed becomes assistant editor, with short stories ‘Cherchez Les Femmes’ by Charles Luther (Bruce P Baker ‘thought it saucy, suggestive and highly moral!’), ‘Last Act’ by Sydney J Bounds, ‘The Sound Of Gunfire’ by Sadie Shuttleworth, ‘Unprofessional’ by John Purdie, ‘The Cross’ by John Fraser, ‘Birdman’ by Alan Denman and poem ‘Autumn’ by TE Wood 

DREAM MAGAZINE No.6 (July 1986, 50p) with novelette ‘Lost In REM’ by Christopher E Howard (‘the longest story we’ve yet published… no doubt you have heard the expression ‘the girl of my dreams’ on many occasions, well, the hero of Howard’s novelette becomes obsessed with the girl of his dreams – only question is, what can he do about it?’), ‘Matrix’ by Andrew Darlington, ‘Stress’ by PD Footfold, ‘Gone For A Spin’ by Sadie Shuttleworth. ‘The Melting Pot’ readers letters and ‘The Dream Quiz’

DREAM MAGAZINE No.7 (September 1986, 50p) with ‘The Angel Of Destruction’ by Peter T Garratt, ‘A World Of His Own’ by Gerry Connelly. ‘Earthquest (second Dr Sebastian Dimmock-Browne story, ‘just suppose that you were an alien with a nice sinecure in a galactic bureaucracy, you wouldn’t want anything to disturb your peaceful existence. But if your political opponents were closing in on you and threatening that nice cosy life, desperation might drive you to action. And – if the answer to your problems was on Earth then it might not be all that strange if you decided that’s where you had to go… of course, with the evil warlock Pendlebury K Wackett hovering in the background it might just turn out to be not so simple’)’ by Bruce P Baker, ‘Team Work’ by Rhoda Bevin Worrert 

DREAM MAGAZINE No.8 (November 1986, 50p) with ‘A Turret In The Fury Eternal’ by Michael Cobley, ‘Oh, When I Joined The Eagles’ by Peter Reffold, ‘Killing Machine’ by Sydney J Bounds, ‘The Sins Of Billy Shane’ by Mark Iles, ‘Brave New Hamburger’ by Philip S Jennings, ‘Stranger In The Night’ by John Fraser 

DREAM MAGAZINE No.9 (January 1987, 75p) with ‘The Arson Plague’ by Charles Luther, ‘Misplaced Person’ by Sadie Shuttleworth, ‘Fire Of The Dragon (second ‘Draco’ story)’ by Gerry Connelly, ‘Green Magic’ by Bruce P Baker 

DREAM MAGAZINE No.10 (March1987, 75p) with novelette ‘Vassals Of Rorn’ by Steve Worth, short stories ‘Flesh And Metal’ by Ian (AG) Whates, ‘Suggestives’ by Arabella Wood, ‘Earth Fleet Rising’ by Mark Iles, ‘Tiger By The Tail’ by Sydney J Bounds, ‘Audience Participation’ by BK Lascher and poem ‘Coral’ by RB Leader 

DREAM MAGAZINE No.11 (May 1987, 75p) with ‘Three Fingers In Utopia’ by Philip S Jennings (voted no.1 in issue, a poignant tale of a spaceman’s search for a perfect planet), ‘Rosemary’ by PD Footfold, ‘The Kondtratieff-Monroe Solution’ by Martyn Taylor, ‘Now You See It’ by Steve Sneyd, ‘The Forgotten Town’ by John Fraser, ‘My Home Towns’ by Gerry Connelly, and poem ‘The Yellow Sea’ by Kerk Tyme 

DREAM MAGAZINE No.12 (July 1987, £1) with ‘The Rzawicki Incident’ by Gerry Connelly (ranked as the no.1 story of 1987, with anti-hero Johnny and his low-life reprobate cronies defeating the UFO-nauts at their own game), ‘A Time Of Giants’, by Arabella Wood, ‘A Dream Of Earth’ by Alan Denman, ‘Claudia The Goddess; by Peter Reffold, ‘Verdict Of History’ by Duncan Lunan 

DREAM MAGAZINE No.13 (September 1987, £1) with John Townsend as assistant editor, with ‘Dark Pegasus’ by Bruce P Baker, ‘New Life’ by Tim Love, ‘Good Morning, Mr Bradley’ by Christopher Howard, ‘Second Century Koma’ by ER James (voted no.1 in issue), ‘Living In The Starships Shadow’ by Mark Iles and poem ‘From Hell To Heaven In Three Weeks by Michael J Hearn. ‘The Melting Pot’ readers letters and ‘Jeff’ comments by Sam Jeffers 

DREAM MAGAZINE No.14 (November 1987, £1) with novelette ‘Company Man by John Purdie (a ‘strange, enigmatic story about a man displaced from his working environment, as a disc jockey on a satellite-based radio station, who comes face-to-face with some hard questions about the nature of reality’), short stories ‘The Bark Spaceship’ by Stephen (SM) Baxter, ‘Estelle’ by N McIntosh, ‘Butterfly’ by Dorothy Davies, ‘A Flash Of Lightning’ by Ian (IG) Whates, plus poem ‘Never Go Back’ by Steve Sneyd

Alan Hunter artwork

DREAM QUARTERLY no.15 (Spring 1988, £1.35) editor Trevor Jones, with ‘Voices Of Other Times’ by Peter T Garratt, ‘Green Troops’ by William King, ‘An Old, Old Story’ by Charles Luther, ‘Sea Changes’ by Graham Andrews, ‘The Judas Tree’ by Mark Iles, plus poem ‘Sunside’ by John Francis Haines, and interview ‘Writers Talking: Charles Luther’ conducted by Emmanuel Escanco 

DREAM QUARTERLY no.16 (Summer 1988, £1.35) with novelette ‘The Huntress’ by Peter Reffold, short stories ‘Friable In Fragramento’ by John (S) Townsend, ‘Final Contact’ by Sydney J Bounds, ‘Perilous Greetings’ by Ian (IG) Whates, poems ‘The Dark Beyond The Firelight’ by Janet P Reedman and ‘Ghost Runner’ by Michael Newman, and interview ‘Writers Talking: John Townsend’ conducted by Emmanuel Escanco 

DREAM QUARTERLY no.17 (Autumn 1988, £1.35) with editorial ‘Towards The Twenty-First Century’ by Trevor Jones, novelette ‘Time Of Uncertainty’ by Gerry Connelly, short stories ‘The Habitat’ by Stephen (SM) Baxter, ‘Red Garden’ by William King, ‘The Air Was Full Of Musics’ by John Light, ‘Dance, Zirillion Dance’ by Dorothy Davies, and ‘The Spacehopper’ by Arabella Wood, and interview ‘Writers Talking: Gerry Connelly’ conducted by Emmanuel Escanco 

DREAM QUARTERLY no.18 (Winter 1988, £1.75) first issue edited by George P Townsend with editorial ‘Gazumpers Beware! Townsend’s Here!’, short stories ‘Jammers’ by Neil McIntosh, ‘The Fifth Freedom’ by Keith (N) Brooke, ‘Dreamgames’ by Phil Emery, ‘X+IY’ by Mike Maloney, ‘The Children’s Crusade’ by Sydney J Bounds, ‘Fireflies’ by Philip J Backers’ ‘Dr Wiacek’s Regeneration Machine’ by Nik Morton, ‘Future Tense’ by Gerald Blank, ‘Carefree’ by Linda Markley, plus poem ‘The Room’ by Michael Newman, and interview ‘Writers Talking: Peter Reffold’ conducted by Emmanuel Escanco 

DREAM SCIENCE FICTION no.19 (Spring 1989) with editorial, ‘The Landlock’ novelette by Elizabeth and Erin Massey, ‘we ran no less than eleven stories, several of which were very short’ – ‘A Robot Handbag’ by David Gomm, ‘The Mage’s Meal’ by M John Deller, ‘The Fracturing Of A Steel Worker’s Faith’ by D Gill, ‘Tetragrammaton’ by Philip J Backers, ‘The Hand That Fed Him’ by DJ Lightfoot, ‘Uforia’ by Bruce P Baker, ‘A Tale Of Two Settees’ by Jenny Randles, ‘Welcome To The Dance’ by Dorothy Davies, ‘That Man Downstairs’ by Mark Iles, ‘If Music Be’ by BB Pelham, ‘Word Grid’ crossword and ‘Winter Stars’ poem by John Light, ‘About The Authors’ feature, ‘The Sky Above You’ essay by Duncan Lunan, ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ by Sam Jeffers, and interview ‘Writers Talking: Bruce P Baker’ conducted by Emmanuel Escanco 

DREAM SCIENCE FICTION no.20 (Summer 1989) ‘Bumper Anniversary Issue’, with novelette ‘The Eighth Room’ by SM (Stephen) Baxter, short stories ‘The Roaring Sixties’ by Peter T Garratt, ‘You Are Old, Father William’ by Graham Andrews, ‘New Genes For Old’ by JP Gordon, ‘The Abreaction’ by ER James, ‘Angles’ by John Purdie, ‘Life Is A Four-Letter Word’ by Michael Cobley, plus ‘Word Grid’ crossword by John Light, ‘The Sky Above You’ astronomy by Duncan Lunan, ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ by Sam Jeffers (reviews of other magazines, ‘Interzone’ and ‘Crystal Ship’), ‘Pets Corner: Cyberpunk – The Comics Connection’ by Kevin Lyons, ‘The Melting Pot’ readers letters from Alan Hunter, Gerry Connelly, Peter Tennant and Keith Brooke, and interview ‘Writers Talking: Trevor Jones, George and John Townsend’ conducted by Emmanuel Escanco 

DREAM SCIENCE FICTION no.21 (Autumn 1989) with ‘Two Great Novelettes’ ‘Do Det Ike’ by Gerry Connelly, and ‘The Suggestion Form’ by ER James (voted the issue’s no.1 story), short stories, ‘Sparkle’ by Charles Luther (art by David L Transue), ‘Reich’ by Marcin P Sexton, ‘The Memoirs Of Intern Zone’ by Peter T Garratt, plus ‘Word Grid’ crossword by John Light, ‘The Sky Above You’ astronomy by Duncan Lunan, ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ by Sam Jeffers (news and reviews of other magazines), ‘Pets Corner: Keyboard Reptiles’ by Philip J Backers, ‘Melting Pot’ letters. Ad for ‘The Edge’ 

DREAM SCIENCE FICTION no.22 (Winter 1989) with Trevor Jones editorial, novelette ‘Kismet’ by Keith (N) Brooke, short stories ‘Wheeler Dealer by Neil McIntosh, ‘The Sound Of The Sea’ by John Light, ‘The Birds’ by Tim Love, ‘Cities’ by Arabella Wood, ‘Time For Change’ by Mark Iles, poems ‘Just Visiting’ by John Francis Haines and ‘R And R In The LMC’ by Steve Sneyd, features ‘The Expanding Universe’ by Rod MacDonald, ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ by Sam Jeffers, ‘The Melting Pot’ letters, and interview ‘Writers Talking: DF Lewis’ conducted by Emmanuel Escanco 

DREAM SCIENCE FICTION no.23 (Spring 1990) with George P Townsend editorial, short stories ‘Feminine Intuition’ by Lyle Hopwood, ‘The Dinosaur’ by Brian Rolls, ‘The Moral Consideration’ by GM Williams, ‘Murder By Magic’ by Sydney J Bounds, ‘Love Kills’ by Timothy Hurt, ‘The Watcher’ by AJ Kerr, poems ‘The Lilies Have Dried’ by David C Kopaska-Merkel, ‘Poems’ by Dave Ward (as David Greygoose), ‘Watcher At The Window’ by Janet P Reedman and ‘Permutations’ by Gaynel Thorold, features ‘Back In The Dreamtime’ by PC Feirtear, ‘The Neptune Encounter’ by Duncan Lunan, ‘Word Grid’ crossword by John Light, ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ by Sam Jeffers, and ‘The Melting Pot’ letters 

DREAM SCIENCE FICTION no.24 (Summer 1990) with George P Townsend editorial, short stories ‘The Tyranny Of Heaven’ by Stephen (M) Baxter (voted no.1 story in issue), ‘The Grof’ by Philip Sidney Jennings, ‘The Last Space Opera’ by Peter T Garratt, ‘Zonk!’ by Gerry Connelly, ‘Blues In The Night’ by Bruce P Baker, with features ‘About The Authors’, ‘Earth Mission 2000’ by Duncan Lunan, Book Review, ‘Word Grid’ crossword by John Light, ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ by Sam Jeffers, and ‘The Melting Pot’ letters 

DREAM SCIENCE FICTION no.25 (September 1990) with Trevor Jones editorial, novelette ‘Last Shreds Of X-Space’ by Mark D Haw, short stories ‘Bodywork’ by Peter (PF) Hamilton, ‘Bugs’ by Christopher (Chris) Amies (voted no.1 story in issue), ‘One Born Every Minute’ by Steven J Blyth, ‘San Diego Deadline’ by David E Slater, poems ‘The Gift Of Life’ by Ann Keith and ‘Vision’ by Ed Jewasinski, with features ‘Space And Art’ by Duncan Lunan, Book Review by Stephen J Wood, ‘Word Grid’ crossword by John Light, ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ by Sam Jeffers, and ‘The Melting Pot’ letters 

DREAM SCIENCE FICTION no.26 (November 1990) with Trevor Jones editorial, short stories ‘Away An Old Dusty’ by Keith (N) Brooke, ‘The Singularity Man’ by Graham Andrews (reprint from ‘Focus no.2’ Spring 1980), ‘A Scent Of Heaven’ by David Gomm, ‘Dear Mum’ by DF Lewis, ‘Cut Price Bargain’ by Dorothy Davies, ‘Starlove’ by Christopher Howard (voted no.1 story in issue), poems ‘Cold Warrior Melting’ by DA Warne, ‘Song Of The Old Heroes’ by Wrathall Wildman, ‘The Messenger’ and ‘Hidden Secrets’ by Janet P Reedman, with features ‘The Year Of The Space Rescues’ by Duncan Lunan, Book Review, ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ by Sam Jeffers, and ‘The Melting Pot’ letters 

DREAM SCIENCE FICTION no.27 (January 1991) with George P Townsend editorial, short stories ‘Major’s Children’ by Peter (PF) Hamilton (with Alan Hunter art) (voted no.1 story of issue), ‘Miss Blood’ by Jack Wainer, ‘Goddess Without Love’ by John Light (art by David L Transue), ‘Mr Pemberton’s Butler’ by Rik Gammack, ‘An Honourable Estate’ by Stephen J Wood, ‘Thoughts Of Rachel And An Overwhelming’ by AM Smith, ‘Word Grid’ crossword by John Light, Book reviews of Keith Brooke, Geoff Ryman, Ray Bradbury (by Peter Tennant) and Raymond E Feist (by DF Lewis), ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ by Sam Jeffers (reviews of ‘Exuberance’, ‘Peeping Tom’ – with advert, and others), ‘About The Authors’, ‘The Melting Pot’ letters from Mike Ashley, Stephen J Wood, Ernest (ER) James, John Francis Haines 

DREAM SCIENCE FICTION no.28 (April 1991) with Trevor Jones Editorial (about launch of ‘New Moon’), short stories ‘Surviving The Night’ by ER James, ‘The Seer Of Souls’ by PF Hamilton (voted no.1 story in issue), ‘Dreamsense’ by Gerry Connelly (art by Tim Hurt), ‘Mother Love’ by John Gribbin, ‘Quintasextahuple Wow!’ by Charles Luther, ‘Jason’s Tale’ by Duncan Adams, ‘Waverider’ by Duncan Lunan (art by David L Transue), ‘Books Of Interest’ listing and reviews (Robert Rankin by Stephen J Wood, Diane Duane by Peter (PF) Hamilton, David Eddings by Bruce P Baker), and ‘Melting Pot’ letters from Adrian Hodges, Gerry Connelly

 DREAM SCIENCE FICTION no.29 (July 1991) with Trevor Jones Editorial, novelette ‘The Retributor’ by Mark Haw (art by Alan Hunter), short stories ‘The Cyvernian Way’ by Andy Smith (art by Kerry Earl), ‘The Healer’ by Peter Tennant (one-and-a-half page short), ‘Saturday Night’ by John Duffield (voted no.1 story in issue), ‘Across Infinity’ by John Light (art by David Transue), ‘Chipwrecked’ by Andy Oldfield, plus John Light’s ‘Word Grid’ crossword, Book Reviews (Sheri S Tepper by Gerry Connelly, Barry Hughart by DF Lewis, Stephen King’s ‘It’ by Matthew Dickens, Bruce P Baker, Stephen J Wood, and PF Hamilton), science feature ‘The Weather On The Planets’ by Duncan Lunan, ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ (Sam Jeffers reviews ‘Fear’, ‘Interzone’, ‘REM’, ‘BBR’, ‘Exuberance, ‘Works, ‘Peeping Tom’ and others), the ‘Melting Pot’ letters from Peter Hamilton, Peter Tennant and Alan Hunter, with ads for launch of ‘New Moon’ 

A BOOK OF DREAMS (1990) edited by Trevor Jones and George Townsend, an anthology of the best SF from ‘Dream’ and ‘New Moon’ 1985-1987, with comments by Sam Jeffers, 80pp ISBN 1-873326-00-9, ‘The Angel Of Destruction’ by Peter T Garratt (from no.7, art by Alan Hunter), ‘Butterfly’ by Dorothy Davies (from no.14), ‘Tower Of The Kings’ by John Light (from ‘New Moon no.1’), ‘The Rzawicki Incident’ by Gerry Connelly (from no.12), ‘Three Fingers In Utopia’ by Philip Sidney Jennings (from no.11), ‘Second Century Koma’ by ER James (no.13), ‘Cloudgoddess’ by Bruce P Baker (from no.4), ‘Horse With A Roof’ by David Gomm (art by David Transue) (from ‘New Moon’), ‘Estelle’ by Neil McIntosh (from no.14), ‘Calcified In Death Like Shining Stars’ by John Townsend (from no.3)

NEW MOON no.1 (September 1991) ‘Britain’s Alternative SF Magazine’, edited by George P Townsend, ‘A Weller Publication’ with Trevor Jones Editorial, novelette ‘Sonnie’s Edge’ by Peter F Hamilton (part of the ‘Confederation Universe’ series, hard and brutal Gladiatorial contests in post-Global Warming flooded Peterborough, ‘Beastie-Baiting’ between avatar-controlled genetically-modified Turannor versus Khanivore), short stories ‘Before Sebastopol’ by Stephen (M) Baxter, ‘Desdemona’ by Matthew Dickens, ‘Green Soldier’ by John Duffield, ‘A Breaking Heart’ by Philip Sidney Jennings, plus John Light’s ‘Word Grid’ crossword, ‘Science Revisited’ feature by Duncan Lunan, and the ‘Melting Pot’ letters by Peter Tennant, Keith Brooke, John Francis Haines, Bruce P Baker 

NEW MOON no.2 (January 1992, £2.50) with guest editorial by Trevor Jones, short stories ‘De-De And The Beanstalk’ by Peter F Hamilton (Alan Hunter art), ‘Two Over Seventy-Four’ by Keith Brooke, hitching a ride from Deimos to Callisto, Ray Stakopoulos becomes curious about the vain Tenant, only to get framed for his murder by his two clones (Kerry Earl art), ‘Crystals’ by Eric Brown (Tim Hurt art), ‘The Carnivorous Land’ by Andrew (Andy) Darlington (with Kevin Cullen art), ‘The Tree’ by ER James (Dallas Goffin art), plus ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ pull-out section with ‘Master Of The Universe’ interview with Stephen Baxter conducted by Matthew Dickens, John Duffield magazine reviews (‘Interzone’, ‘Far Point’, ‘Peeping Tom’, ‘Scheherazade’ etc), Book reviews (Stephen Baxter’s ‘Raft’ by Matthew Dickens, Samuel R Delany’s ‘The Motion Of Light In Water’ by Peter Tennant, and others), John Gosling ‘Stripped: Comic Book Reviews’, ‘The Planet In Sagittarius’ science feature by Duncan Lunan, and ‘The Melting Pot’ readers letters from Peter Tennant, John Francis Haines

Tuesday 24 March 2020

JANIS JOPLIN: 'Little Girl Blue'


 DVD review of: 
(2016) Fusion Media Sales Ltd DOG340, Sony DADC

My daughter teases the question, in the DayGlo San Fran psychedelic swirl, why is it I prefer Grace Slick to Janis Joplin – because Grace is prettier? Well – Grace’s piercing laser-bright beauty makes for a persuasive argument, but no. Grace wrote. Janis – largely, didn’t. She’s merely an awesome force of nature. But in 1966 ‘chicks’ were not supposed to act that way, hoarse and sweating, insistent and foot-stamping, demanding and whisky-rough, frantic and erotic, but on her own terms. It was Janis who faced the contradiction of the gender-defying chanteuse, redefining the feminine stereotypes, while embracing the traditional female Blues persona of the eternal loser. A reinvented woman, for the new era.

This DVD investigates the reality behind the image, using a blood-trail of archive clips – photos from her scrapbook, letters and clippings, illuminated by new interviews with musicians, and family members – younger siblings Laura and Michael. Telling how Janis was born in Port Arthur, Texas at 09:45 on 19 January 1943, and spent her first seventeen summers as an awkward misfit outsider, a trouble-prone Beatnik in the repressed uptight 1950s, compensating for her homely ugly-duckling social exclusion by acquiring a love of the Blues, listening to Lead Belly 78rpms, Odetta, Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. She sang in Austin hootenannies for free beer. Then hitchhikes to San Francisco as part of the great proto-hippie Haight-Ashbury exodus, doing solo floor-spots in Bars and North Beach Folk clubs on her first visit, retreating home a meths-freak. Until, on her second trip she joins Big Brother And The Holding Company.

There was a Big Brother before Janis, and after Janis. Formed in 1965 by country-blues guitarist turned bass-player Pete Albin, with jazz-literate lead and rhythm-guitarists Sam Andrews and James Gurly, then drummer Dave Getz. Before Janis they were jamming around the Chet Helms Family Dog commune, ‘riding the same wave’ as Quicksilver Messenger Service or the Dead. Her confrontational vocals force tighter song-structures onto their loose improvisations, while their electric amp-battery forces her voice to compete, to strut and move like another instrument. Self-taught ‘primitive’ musicians, what their raucous Rock-Blues amalgam lacks in conventional dexterity is collectively balanced out by their tuned-in freedom, and by their links to the New Generation consciousness for which it was created. Magnified into Bay area gurus, it’s within this kaleidoscopic bohemia that Janis found the community she’d been seeking, audiences readjust their mindset to hers, accepting her non-judgementally on her own terms.

As journalist Lillian Roxon notes ‘she lopes about, dressed like a dockside tart, funny little feathered hats, ankle bracelets, sleazy satins. Her hooker clothes, she calls them with a hooker laugh. And she drinks. Drinks – think of that – in a drug generation. She drinks Southern Comfort; a twenty-four-year-old chick singer with the habits of another decade.’ Janis is curses, tequila and sex, to watch her growling and stomping live is to mainline on aphrodisiacs direct through the gut. But, of course, there were narcotics too. Unhappy, in conflict with herself, she was scared of drugs, yet drawn to them.

Released in the 1967 August ‘Summer Of Love’ ‘Big Brother And The Holding Company’ (Mainstream) neatly catches the vibe of the time with each group-member’s face framed in the stylised petal of an ornate flower. Although the album illustrates their best work together as a solid unit – despite the Columbia reissue adding a ‘featuring Janis Joplin’ cover-flash, it was re-mastered from an acetate the group were less than happy with. There are two songs credited to Janis, but the biggest – “Down On Me” (lifted as a single that hit US no.42), is a trad freedom song she adapts with depoliticised more upbeat lyrics, ‘believe in your brother, have faith in man, help each other, honey, if you can, because it looks like everybody in this whole round world, is down on me.’ Not that adapting trad songs is necessarily bad, everybody from Bob Dylan to the Animals was doing it, and using the template helps reinforce her familiarity with Folk-Blues roots.

But there’s a weird interview-clip of early Pink Floyd. Before the internet, news travels slow. The Floyd imagine their free-form playing is influenced by the LSD-laced West Coast scene, as it was news-reported in the music press and hyper-inflated by underground magazines. Yet when they finally get to the West Coast and see those groups live, they find ‘Big Brother And The Holding Company were just a Blues band!’ Which they were. But she makes for a mean Blues singer and looks the part, with her extravagant hats, trailing draperies, tangled hair and glasses, while their debut album shows a rolling roughness around the obvious excitement of her voice, which Columbia – who subsequently sign them, are twitchy about chancing on record again.

With its counter-culture sleeve-cartoon art by Robert Crumb, despite its musical flaws, ‘Cheap Thrills’ (Columbia, 1968), catches Janis at her peak. “Ball And Chain” and “Piece Of My Heart” display her power both as singer, and as radical symbol. When Elvis recorded “Hound Dog” he was taking a woman-centred song that Leiber and Stoller had penned for Big Mama Thornton, but he stripped away her sophisticated innuendo and retains only the volcanic wildness. With “Piece Of My Heart”, writers Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Berns’ song had originally been cut by Erma Franklin, and was never bettered. Like Elvis, Janis takes the emotional edge to tantrum-level extremes, while losing the emotional fluidity. Sam Andrews adds the distorted guitar solos that give it a sufficient psychedelic touch to shove it up to no.12 on the US Pop chart, but it’s a slight trade-off. Erma Franklin lived long enough to see her own track vindicated when its inclusion in a Levi’s TV-ad propelled its reissue to no.9 on the UK chart in 1992.

Janis’ Blues is screaming three-octave primal energy, shrieking pleas for love and security, desperate for delivery from some terrible, urgent, but not entirely unpleasant, physical pain, until – transcending subtlety, the emotional therapy of the performance transforms itself into self-willed triumph. Compared to previous white artists – say, Dusty Springfield, her rawness is stunning. But she loses out against – say, Tina Turner’s dynamism with the Ike Turner Band. And if Janis is the ‘white Aretha Franklin’… why not simply listen to Aretha? The Rolling Stones take Bobby Womack’s Valentino’s song “It’s All Over Now” and completely reconstruct it, tightening and rearranging it unrecognisably, in the same way that they reinterpret Arthur Alexander’s “You’d Better Move On”. “Ball And Chain” was both written and originally recorded by Big Mama Thornton. And while Janis’ respect and admiration for the artist is obvious – guitarist James Gurley recounts how she saw Big Mama performing the song in a San Francisco bar, she was doing her best to replicate, not reinvent that buzz. Yet she realises her own limits, ‘all I’ve got now is strength’ she admits.

The group first do a histrionic “Ball And Chain” at ‘Monterey Pop’ – where they perform twice, and are featured doing the song on the 1968 festival docu-movie. The version they do on ‘Cheap Thrills’ was recorded live at Bill Graham’s ‘Fillmore East’ 8 March 1968 – or possibly at the ‘Winterland Ballroom’, where Janis milks the song into dramatic overkill. Although the album adds dubbed audience noise, this is the only track truly recorded in a live setting. On the DVD there’s also studio footage of them doing George Gershwin’s jazz standard “Summertime”, with back-chat, laughter and re-takes. It’s a song most usually associated with Billie Holiday’s beguiling interpretation, while Billy Stewart’s bizarre over-the-top vocals took it to a US no.10 as then-recently as 1966. Again, Janis takes it at full rev, crumpling and extemporising it into nine-minutes of exaggeratedly tortured shapes.

 Her sole writing contribution to the album – “Turtle Blues”, is a convincing piano-led bar-room twelve-bar Blues, with the autobiographical reveal ‘I guess I’m just like a turtle, that’s hidin’ underneath its hardened shell.’ Saying that beneath the bravado, Janis was emotionally fragile, needy and vulnerable. It closes on the positive ‘I’m gonna take good care of Janis, yeah, honey, ain’t no-one gonna dog me down.’ Unfortunately, in this instance she’s unable to follow her own advice. For hers is not a cool intellectual art-appraisal, what’s in her voice is also in her feet, hips and gut. 

Janis couldn’t quite believe her own celebrity, until she saw herself on the cover of ‘Time’. So that in late 1968 she quit the group, perhaps unwisely persuaded she’d outgrown their collective potential. ‘She’s hot shit. The band is sloppy’ she jives. Instead, they record ‘Be A Brother’ (1970), with the original members augmented by Nick Gravenites and David Schallock, achieving a smoother sound-structure that suffers from a Joplin-shaped hole. While she goes on to work with admittedly more competent musicians and a Stax-style horn-section – in the Kozmic Blues Band, and then the tighter Full Tilt Boogie, where, although her vocal technique displays finer control, the old euphoria is never quite recaptured. Both ‘Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again, Mama’ (1969) and posthumously-released ‘Pearl’ (1971) are fine records, but they lack the joyous intensity of Big Brother’s lurching bite.

She has a unique vocal talent, but it’s one that’s also allied with ambition. Part-fuelled on revenge at the hometown small-minds that plagued her first seventeen summers. There’s a touching sequence where she returns to Port Arthur to attend her school reunion. Intended as a triumphal ‘look at me, I’m a big star’ in-your-face to all the cruel tormentors of her teenage years, she finds her gold disks mean nothing in shifting their perception of the Little Girl Blue, flouncing in her feather boa and flamboyant hats, she’s once a freak, always a freak.

The history of the Blues is littered with casualties. It comes integral with the job. As a solo star, Janis found herself the focus of greater expectations while deprived of ‘Big Brothers’ close family life-support system. When the press attacks her – even the counter-culture press, she’s wounded. Timelessly both vulnerably young, used and world-aged, she howls back at what she sees as ‘NME’s betrayal when they dole out a poor review. There’s a post-gig heroin fix after her Albert Hall show. And she’s shoved onto the ‘Woodstock’ stage lost in a narcotic high.

Leonard Cohen’s song “Chelsea Hotel #2” – ‘I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel, you were talking so brave and so sweet, giving me head on the unmade bed, while the limousines wait in the street’ is about his encounter with her. David Crosby tells how Janis attacks Jim Morrison with a bottle at a Calabasas party, after she’d had one-off alcohol-fuelled sex with the Lizard King. She had friends and lovers of both sexes who cared about her. The Dead’s ‘Pigpen’ McKernan, Country Joe McDonald, David Niehaus – an American she met in Rio de Janeiro, Peggy Caserta (who wrote ‘Going Down With Janis’, 1973), and TV chat-show host Dick Cavett who talks wistfully about her. But when forced to choose, it’s narcotics that win out every time. A lethal combination of emotional and commercial pressures that wreak a terrible toll, and she died of heroin OD 4 October 1970, in Hollywood’s Landmark Hotel.

‘Pearl’ became a no.1 album, spawning a no.1 single with “Me And Bobby McGee”. The narrative self-destructive love of two hippie wastrels meshes her DNA, and her mature interpretative ability is flawless, evidence of an artistic growth that promises so much more, but again – it’s a Kris Kristofferson song. Although it might now be most associated with her version, it had previously been done by its author, as well as by Roger Miller, Gordon Lightfoot, Kenny Rogers’ First Edition, and later by the mighty Grateful Dead. Yet the acapella “Mercedes Benz”, the last track she ever recorded, was her own song, written with Michael McClure.

If Janis Joplin is Rock’s first wild woman, she’s far from the last. Comparing Janis Joplin to Grace Slick is like comparing Amy Winehouse to Adele… a false analogy. You can’t really balance Adele’s in-control three well-written well-constructed album’s against Amy’s arguably cleverer more jazz-literate single mature CD. Comparisons are odious, but sometimes helpful.

JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE’ (May 2016, DVF Fusion Media Sales Ltd Dogwoof DOG340) Director: Amy J Berg. With Janis Joplin, Cat Power (Chan Marshall, narrator), Kris Kristofferson, Juliette Lewis. Bonus features include ‘Female Lovers’, ‘Home Life’, ‘Influences’ and others. 103-minutes

Featured on website:
(22 May 2016)

Saturday 21 March 2020



Review of: 
 A BHE Production/ Paramount, 1968. 
Director: Peter Collinson. With Dennis Waterman, 
Suzy Kendall, Adrienne Posta and Maureen Lipman 
(DVD, 2008, Paramount Pictures DVD)

‘There’s nothing new about today, only what the papers say…’ 
 (“Up The Junction” by Manfred Mann)

Dennis Waterman. He’s forever with us. The loveable-rascal child-star of BBC-TV’s adaptation of Richmal Crompton’s ‘Just William’ from 26th May 1962, he could later be seen as the dashing young hero opposite Christopher Lee in Hammer Horror’s ‘Scars Of Dracula’ (1970), valiantly dueling the vampire Count on the battlements of Castle Dracula, before Lee is struck by lightning and plummets to his fiery death. But he became even more high-profile as DS George Carter, tough side-kick foil for John Thaw’s no-nonsense Detective Inspector ‘Jack’ Regan in hard-hitting cop-drama ‘The Sweeeny’ (from January 1975), which spun-off into two big-screen movies in 1977 and 1978. The universally-popular ‘Minder’ softened his persona, reaching new heights of popularity as gullible easy-going Terry McCann to George Cole’s inept devious con-man ‘Arthur Daley’ (from 29th October 1979). He even got to ‘write da feem toon, sing da feem toon’, and that theme-song – “I Could Be So Good For You” saw him cavorting on ‘Top Of The Pops’ as it peaked at no.3 in November 1980. Since then he’s been ageing comfortably into the role of retired cop ‘Gerry Standing’ in ‘New Tricks’ with James Bolam and Amanda Redman (from 27 March 2003), taking the Waterman screen-life all the way from schoolboy to senior citizen. He’s likeable, and people like Dennis Waterman in an easy undemanding reliable kind of way. He knows how to work to camera, because it’s something he’s always done. It’s his day-job.

That he could have been something more is hinted at in ‘Up The Junction’. Here, for once, he’s given the opportunity of stepping outside of character, into something potentially different. But this film is more than that. It’s also the nexus of a number of other career-trajectories threading through the sixties. Manfred Mann wrote the score. With Manfred’s beatnik-jazz guise and Mike Hugg’s compositional abilities (later utilised for the ‘Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads’ TV-theme), they were always more musicianly-competent than their run of hits and chart-contemporaries would suggest. Now, as the siren blasts, and the factory-slappers pour out through the gates the Manfred’s acoustic strum feeds in behind them – ‘through the factory-gates they swarm, overalls like uniforms’, climbing for long-shots over Battersea Bridge towards the Power Station. Vocalist Mike D’Abo sets the scene with lyrics telling of people ‘drifting in the human stream… conditioned to the daily grind’. Although – unusually for Manfred’s men, it didn’t chart, the single edit of the theme-song (Fontana 267-810TF) is one of their finest records. And the album, with its sixties Pop-Art design is now highly-collectible.

While the Nell Dunn novel on which the screenplay is based, is part of the upsurge of angry Working Class writing that was busy upsetting the cosy literary-complacency of the bookish establishment. After all, the ‘Junction’ is both Clapham Junction rail-station, and a more dubious slang reference to the crotch. Although born to privileged upper-class Chelsea parents and educated at a convent, Dunn had dropped out at age fourteen. In 1959 – like Polly Dean (Suzy Kendall) in her story, she’d moved to more exuberant Battersea, worked in a sweet factory, and become part of the vibrantly turbulent community she found there. Here, the DVD-jacket calls twenty-one-year-old Polly a ‘well-heeled party girl who, bored with her affluent Chelsea lifestyle, moves to the industrialised and considerably less well to-do area of Battersea’. So the film dramatises her real-life transition. From the big white house beyond the gravel drive behind the black gates. To the chauffeur, and the Rolls taking her just across the river, to ‘a different world entirely’ as the estate agent muses. It’s a ‘different world, love, that’s all’ repeats Peter later, in case the emphasis was missed the first time round. Why she’s switching lives is never adequately spelled out, beyond glimpses gleaned from her comments. ‘I know what money does to people. I know what it’s like to be rich. It destroys you. It makes you false and useless, and I don’t want to be any part of it.’ Her old life was too safe and controlled? Too hypocritical and smugly complacent? Too artificial?

Opposite the rail embankment the ‘ever-so well-spoken’ Polly applies for a job. Figgins, the foreman, is Michael Robbins – ‘Arthur’ from the ‘On The Buses’ sit-com. ‘I’ve come to enquire after work’ she enunciates politely. Only to be corrected, ‘a job’. Soon she’s packing ‘Pringles’ chocolates six-to-the-box. The girls wear headscarves and blue overalls. They banter raucous-gossip about one girl who’s ‘been a scrubber all her life, that one’. There’s a Monkees-poster on the wall. And they smoke. Edie coughing phlegm into a crumpled handkerchief over the production-line. And they’re almost poisoned by a full pack of fags found immersed at the bottom of a tea-urn. Health and Safety legislation was less stringent in those days. At break-time, apprentices play football in the yard beside the bike-sheds as the girls watch and snigger. Polly observes it all in strange wonderment, as if they’re exhibits in a wildlife documentary.

Next day, in her dark trouser-suit and carrying a red suitcase, Polly comes looking for digs in an area where signs say ‘No Colored’s’. With a cheap apartment rented she spots Dennis Waterman – as ‘Pete’, driving a green VW van. He works at ‘The Curio’, a second-hand junk-shop owned by Charlie (Alfie Bass). She doesn’t want antique furniture, she wants ‘ordinary and plain’ from his Steptoe-and-Son yard outside. £4. 10s for a sofa, a free kitten, and a lift in his van. He’s nervous as he humps her stuff into her flat. She’s out of his class, literally. She tries to tip him. Instead, he asks her out. Pete is a working-class Mod with aspirations. He is what I was at the time. I recognise his every symptom. I recognise the factory and the women who work there. For me, it was a print factory in Hull. But the reality is instantly convincing. A strange lost world, but it’s one that I was a part of. I can vouch for its authenticity. I taste it still.

It’s their first date together that sets up their opposing contradiction. Polly gets her long hair cut into a bob. Buys the bright-orange miniskirt and dangling pink earrings that she wears on the cover of the soundtrack album. He turns up in a white turtle-neck sweater, riding a Mod scooter. She doesn’t want to go to his preferred choice, the West End or Kensington. Why can’t they just walk? So they walk. Fires burn in the slum clearance rubble. Tower-blocks rear behind. A Police siren phases by. A dog barks. She’s entranced by the romance of watching twilight over the rail sidings. He sees it differently. ‘Poxy little houses. Some Mum in bed. Steel rods in her hair and false teeth in her glass. Her Old Man snoring, he’s been out on the booze, every time a train goes by it rattles the house. The Old Man starts coughing. Out of bed and spit it in the pot. A kid’ll scream further down the road. Up in the morning at six, go to work, day in and day out.’ It’s a soliloquy of some poetic power. She sees it differently, to her it is ‘more real, more natural’, a place where you are ‘free to be yourself.’ But no, not to him, ‘freedom? You get more freedom in Wandsworth Jail’ he retorts. Later they witness a street-brawl with factory-girl Sylv and ‘my ponce of a husband’, with Mum and the cops wading in. Embittered, Pete tells her ‘seen enough? You wanted too see life, well that’s it, you’ve seen it.’ Like the Rolling Stones’ socially-aware lyric to “Play With Fire”, ‘well, you’ve got your diamonds and you've got your pretty clothes, and the chauffeur drives your car, you let everybody know, but don’t play with me, ‘cause you’re playing with fire…’

The second strand of the film is Polly’s arm-in-arm friendship with two unlikely sisters, blonde Rube (Adrienne Posta), and dark-haired Sylvie McCarthy (Maureen Lipman). She’s there with them in the smoky saloon bar where Rube banters the pick-up routine with Terry. ‘What’ya doing tomorrow?’ ‘Having a bath.’ ‘Is it your birthday then?’ Outside she straddles the back of his big Triumph motorcycle, asking him ‘are you safe?’ ‘Only when I’m driving’ he leers The dialogue catches the exact sniff of grit-truth. As she’s dropped off outside their terraced house she sniggers to Sylv ‘do you know? I’ve got a feeling that Terry can do anything he likes with me.’ When Rube passes out at work Polly takes her home. Inevitably, she’s ‘up the spout’, but ‘I’ll get rid of it. I know someone up Wimbledon way.’ Before legal terminations on the NHS the only alternative was back-street abortion. This film illustrates its full horrors. The wonderfully-grotesque Hylda Baker is gin-swigging ‘Winnie’, who does abortions as a ‘sideline’ above her hardware store. She charges three-months-gone Rube £4, cash.

As her new friend endures the horrific ordeal, Polly waits outside. She wanders in the park where lovers stroll, doting fathers with kids watch the swans glide, as the Manfred’s play a pastoral “This Day” over the soundtrack. It’s a family idyll to contrast the squalor of Rube’s situation. When she finally emerges, eye-shadow smeared with tears, she’s unable to walk. So Polly calls Peter. ‘What am I, ambulance or something?’ he snipes and tries to warn Polly off getting involved. But she sticks with Rube as an enraged Terry gatecrashes their terraced house protesting ‘I don’t want no kid of mine going down the drain!’ There’s a screaming match between mother and Sylv, ‘Stupid cow’, ‘You dirty bastard’, as Rube howls out her agony. As an immersion in ‘reality’ it surely exceeds Polly’s worst expectations, she’s truly living the nasty brutish and short side of her proletarian idyll, but there’s more to come.

Once the incident has passed, a reconciled Terry and Rube get engaged. In the middle of their celebration party Rube decides she wants to go bowling, and they set off in a convoy of cars and motorbikes. No helmet, Terry is hit by a truck at a crossroad. It’s Peter who has the sense to ask for a mirror to check his breathing. It’s too late, he’s dead. And it’s Peter who comforts a distraught Polly, in bed.

For the film’s final section Peter turns up in a silver sports car to take Polly for a posh weekend in Brighton. ‘For you, Princess, the best.’ Any other girl from the manor would be well-impressed. Not Polly. Posh is exactly what she doesn’t want. Posh is what she’s escaping from. She’s bored by the upmarket hotel he’s booked them into, and its sniffily disapproving receptionist. She’d prefer a cheap B&B with a fat landlady, and a plate of cockles. Again, their contrasting attitudes are thrown into sharper relief. He proposes marriage. Despite her supposed ‘clever and classless and free’ modernity, her response, ‘you’ll have to get a better job. One to support us both’ betrays her conventional attitudes. As husband, he must also be provider.

His response is equally revealing. ‘Everyone in Battersea knows what you are. They all know you’re a rich girl.’ So has he simply got her marked as a meal-ticket out to the ‘Room At The Top’? ‘You think living in a slum and working in a factory is good for you? You’re mad. They all want what you got.’ No, not exactly. From their first meeting he’s been fixated by her, she makes him more than a little nervous. But part of that attraction is that she represents something better, something elevated from every other aspect of his dead-end life. He’s not only drawn to her, but to everything she represents. A motivational tangle he’s probably unable to resolve himself. While, despite his upwardly-mobile pretensions, his gender expectations remain as dully conventional as hers. He still expects her to get up and prepare a full fry-up breakfast for him as he lies in bed reading a ‘Giggle’ comic-book.

In a neat summing-up finale he’s pulled up for speeding by the cops. He’s stolen the car he’d intended to impress her with. In a court hearing the contemptuous judge sentences him to six months. Naturally the court official is a family friend of Polly’s ‘Daddy’, who allows her to visit him in the cell. On her way out of the courtroom she passes a giggly Rube and Sylv. ‘That’s the thing, you see’ moralises Rube, ‘what you don’t get caught for you’re entitled to.’ And the camera pans out over the river, just as the film began, leaving an open ambiguity. Will Polly return to her safe Chelsea life, sadder but wiser? Is her adventure in slumming over? Or will she be there waiting for him on Pete’s release? For a moment, it’s almost possible to glimpse his easy character-evolution into ‘Minder’s Terry McCann, also an ex-con fresh from the nick. Her future is a matter of choice. His is now more fixed than ever.

Nell Dunn’s path is clearer. She used this source period drawn from her own life to fuel the raunchy and sympathetic female-focused series of short stories that became the book, that became the film. The stories – some of them trailored in the ‘New Statesman’, pass on their authentically gritty power to, first a TV production (a Ken Loach/Tony Garnett BBC ‘Wednesday Play’ broadcast 3 November 1965), then this movie. Yet the film’s reception was not universally positive. Critic Alexander Walker was less than impressed. To him, ‘this story of the Deb girl who settles into a sleazy room to taste the uncorrupted sweetness of slum life’ is ‘all too pat in its parade of slumland London’ (in ‘Hollywood, England’, Harrap Books, 1974). And yes, there is an anthropological aspect to Polly’s exploration of lower-class life, as though she’s a tourist stepping down into a strange culture of quaint and curious people, only to find that she’s ‘using other people’s squalid lives to sustain her own class rebellion’. But, within a context of fluid social mobility in which the earthy realities of Working Class life portrayed by Angry Young Northern writers and personified by the eruption of Beat Groups, ‘Up The Junction’ is honestly autobiographical – if inevitably viewed through celluloid’s distorting lens. While the narrative device of using Polly’s trip through the underclass seems contrived, it throws the contrast into a sharper relief. If the film lacks the monochromatic harder edge of Karel Reisz’ ‘Saturday Night And Sunday Morning’ (1960) from Alan Sillitoe’s novel, revealing to Alexander Walker ‘how swiftly social reality turns into social cliché, unless there is insight and sympathy to refresh it,’ that’s because time had moved on, into the late-sixties, benefiting from London’s newly-swinging status. Reality itself was becoming more porous.

Later, although writing predominantly for the stage, Nell Dunn followed ‘Up The Junction’ with Ken Loach’s equally forceful ‘Poor Cow’ (1967) with Carol White and Terence Stamp. Her subsequent theatre work includes ‘Steaming’ (1981), which ran on Broadway and was revived in the West End during the nineties, while ‘Cancer Tales’ (2003) was a series of monologues and dialogues written in response to her father’s death. Meanwhile, ‘Up The Junction’ features a score of supporting actors with their own vital contributions – comedian Hylda Baker, Alfie Bass, Liz Fraser, as well as dolly-birds Suzy Kendall and Adrienne Posta. Briefly married to Dudley Moore, Suzy Kendall was ‘Gillian’, one of the sassy underperforming schoolkids in teacher Sidney Poitier’s classroom, alongside Lulu and Judy Geeson, in ‘To Sir, With Love’ (1967), tackling racial and social issues in a touchingly humorous way. The seventies were less kind to her, until she (again alongside Liz Fraser and Adrienne Posta) appeared in drab sex-comedy ‘Adventures Of A Private Eye’ (1977). While Adrienne, who also cut a series of Pop singles through the sixties, finally charted as a session-singer on Jonathan King’s 1971 hit “Johnny Reggae” as the Piglets. She also rejoined Dennis Waterman as ‘Jenny’ in the ‘Minder’ episode “All About Scoring, Innit?” (broadcast 20th November 1980). Because Dennis Waterman, he’s forever with us. 


UP THE JUNCTION’ (A BHE Production/ Crasto distributed by Paramount Pictures, 25 January 1968) Director: Peter Collinson. Producers: John Brabourne and Anthony Havelock-Allan. Screenplay by Roger Smith based on the book ‘Up The Junction’ by Nell Dunn. With Dennis Waterman (at Pete), Suzy Kendall (as Polly), Adrienne Posta (as Rube), Maureen Lipman (as Sylvie), Liz Fraser (as Mrs McCarthy), Susan George (as Joyce), Alfie Bass (as Charlie), Linda Cole (as Pauline), Doreen Herrington (as Rita), Jessie Robins (as Lil), Hylda Baker (as Winnie), Queenie Watts (as Mrs Hardy), Billy Murray (as Ray), Michael Robbins (as Figgins), Mike Reid (as uncredited Policeman outside Court). Music by Mike Hugg and Manfred Mann, LP ‘Manfred Mann Go Up The Junction’ (Fontana TL/STL 546023, February 1968) produced by Shel Shalmy with thirteen original tracks. Group in the Pub doing “I Need Your Love” are the Delecardos. 114-minutes (DVD, 2008, Paramount Pictures DVD) 

The June 1979 no.2 hit single “Up The Junction” by Squeeze (A&M 7444) – from the group’s second album ‘Cool For Cats’, has no direct connection to the film, but writers Glen Tilbrook and Chris Difford acknowledge its influence on the song’s title and lyrical themes 

Featured on website: 
‘VIDEOVISTA’ (UK - February 2013)

Thursday 19 March 2020

Band Interview: PARTY DAY


PARTY DAY were a band from Wombwell, Barnsley. 
I interviewed them twice, just as they were issuing their 
highly-rated album ‘Glasshouse’ in 1985 

Originally we were just post-war. Then we were post-Imperial, post-Industrial, post-Beatles, post-Punk, post-Marxist, post-Feminist, and even post-Modern – the general accumulative impression being that somewhere along the line we’ve missed out, we’ve come along too late, it’s all happened. So what can a poor boy do except play in a Rock ‘n’ Roll band?

Among the glut of north-east England guitar-led bands-to-watch who successfully escape any revivalist tags yet synthesise various post-styles into an acceptably eighties melange – bands such as Leitmotif, Sinister Cleaners, or Cold Dance – Party Day are the ones most currently odds-on, the ones most rapidly emerging into the fast lane. A hint of Gothic drama, a touch of thrash-Punk energy, a modicum of Power-Pop tune-flair, all nailed down into a tight three-against-the-world bass-drums-lead format. Last year vocalist Martin Steele was advocating (to ‘ZigZag’ magazine) a ‘gradualist’ policy to marketing Barnsley’s finest, and thus far – from intensive gigging, through a series of home-made singles and compilation slots, they’ve built a following on that step-by-step principle. The next step – as they say, is… love! And their debut album ‘Glasshouse’, forms their most stunning statement to date. There’s no polemics – people who live in ‘glasshouses’ shouldn’t…!, there’s no Leaders or state-of-the-nation’s on the next big thing either. But what they do do, they do searingly well.

Live: against an aerosol-spray backdrop like a series of chromatic explosions, Martin – tall and blonde with hair shapelessly plumed, stands in owl-eye granny shades, swapping vocals for alternate numbers with slight dark pogoing bassist Carl Firth. Party Day are more bounce to the ounce than page three of the ‘Scum’, more fun to the tonne than your statistically regular Indie band – so fierce they blister the speakers. They remind you what grabbed you about guitar-based Rock in the first place, and they ram it home with lethal contagion. It’s traditional instrumentation guillotined to a 1976 knife-edge. Appropriately the house p.a. rests on crates stencilled ‘EXPLOSIVE CARTRIDGES’, which seems to sum up their set.

Strange days indeed…

Apres la gig – or post-Gig, we’re slouched around the one illuminated Common Room in the otherwise eerily dead Student’s Union building, there’s a partly-dazed Party Day – Martin, Carl, and drummer Michael Baker, coming down from the high-octane burn of gig adrenalin, a fanzine writer from ‘Whippings And Apologies’ in sharp fifties quiff razored to a precision peak… and me.

I compliment the trio on the LP track “Athena”, its sinuous guitar-build treated with found-tape (from a radio talking heads show with Robert Robinson?) documenting a ‘pure DH Lawrence’ story of a girl who becomes pregnant by the sun. Done live – bereft of such studio manipulation, the energy-levels are intimidating…

‘Energy?’ from Carl. ‘We’re right out of that now, we’re knackered!’

‘It’s a fairly recent song’ concurs Martin more seriously. ‘But I can’t for the life of me remember how we got it together. I write all the material, I tell him what to do on drums, and him what to do on bass.’ Carl and Michael furiously shake their heads behind him. ‘No’ – back on the level, ‘the writing’s done by three people, we bounce ideas off each other. We throw a lot of songs away. We work loads of songs out, and we’ll play one a couple of times and think ‘no, that’s not working,’ and we won’t do it again. But then we’ll hit on something and we know THAT’S what we’re going to be playing. It just falls into place.’

“Athena”? ‘It’s a deep song’ adds Michael. ‘But we’ve got more commercial songs than that.’

‘You can’t expect people listening to records, and buying records, to be naïve about what they wanna hear’ argues Martin. ‘They KNOW what they like. And yes, “Athena” is fairly complicated, but you can’t put people down by thinking that that’s not what they want. That probably IS what people want. They want music with something about it, not all this Disco stuff. Not that there’s aught wrong with SOME Disco, there’s some really good Disco records about, but having said that…’

--- 0 --- 

Once the Party Day line-up firmed – unlike Danse Society who set up their stall in Sheffield, Party Day stuck around their native West Yorkshire post-Mining town of Barnsley to carve out a solid local reputation. They created venues – like the ‘White Heart’, where none previously existed. ‘They weren’t gonna put bands on, but we pestered them, and we became the first band to play there. Since then they’ve had a flood of bands.’

‘I thought I were going to be a Bobby (Policeman), but I didn’t grow enough. So I had to become a bass guitarist instead’ travelogues Carl. ‘We began with another guitarist (Gregory Firth) who used to do the major part of the work, with Martin just filling in on guitar.’

‘But when he quit I was left to do ALL the guitar AND vocals, which is… well, I just thought, I’m sick of this singing lark – ‘cos I’m basically introvert,’ again, Martin’s laconic Party Day humour. But whatever the motivation, vocals are now effectively split down the centre, the two voices pitched against each other, adding contrast and power, a technique used to breath-catching effect on album cuts “Firehorse” and “Atoms”.

Party Day are ‘the bastard child’ of an early grouping known as Further Experiments, who ‘after nine months, denounced their original path to success,’ leaving only a five-track tape to mark their passing (‘…More Fun In Colour’). The transition occurred in May 1981, ‘basically we just took the name ‘Party Day’ from a song’ explains Carl. The first evidence of Party Day’s presence came on a brace of cassettes – early material, such as the percussive “Them” laced with synths, but the distinctive structural sound already established, a long instrumental drive-in, often working up from solitary bass figures, gathering momentum, power, and intensity towards the vocals which, mixed back and faintly echoed, are cleanly separated and word-perfect. Early live material includes “Washing Line” and “Springboard”, “Bleed Me” and “Sisters”, as well as “Rabbit Pie’ – a song allegedly based lyrically on the wartime favourite ‘Run Rabbit Run’ – ‘so don’t let your life stand still/ or you too could end up in a rabbit pie.’

Post-cassette, the fast-paced single “Row The Boat Ashore” – plus their meaty beaty big and brash contribution to the Leeds-based ‘Giraffe In Flames’ compilation, extended that base, up to and including the launch of their debut album. While the only classic Party Day song NOT included on the LP is – oddly enough, the title song! But they’re saving the visionary-anthemic “Glasshouse” for a soon-come twelve-inch single courtesy Rouska Records, which will emerge post-album.

So what’s the next step? A support spot on a national tour?

‘Thing is’ explains Martin, ‘if you want to support a major band you send off a demo tape. They hear our tape and they think ‘no way, we’re not having them in, ‘cos they’d blow us off-stage!’ So we never get to support any major bands. No, we’ve played with Attila The Stockbroker, we played support to the Cult in Leeds, and with Danse Society once at Sheffield’s ‘Marples’. I was really impressed with them that night. Other big names we’ve been associated with include Newtown Neurotics. But I doubt if we’ll ever get to the stage of supporting a really major band because it depends a lot who that band is. I mean – XTC used to be big, we’d have done well supporting them. We’d have banged down the XTC crowd. They’d have liked us. But all this pretentious Sex Gang Children rubbish, they’re just after the image side of it. The skull and cross-bones side of it…’

So why the absence of colour about Party Day garb? Isn’t that image?

‘Naw. We were at a funeral before we came here. We wear what we want. Black’s alright, in’it? Black just suits anybody. It’s nothing Gothic or owt like that. It’s better than gold lamé suits, that’s all. But we wanna concentrate more on us image, ‘cos we ain’t got one!’

I thought it came across pretty strongly tonight.

‘What, this black stuff?’ he reacts in mock-astonishment. ‘In that case we’ll wear it all the time! But no, we haven’t got that sort of BANG straightforward ‘did you SEE that band last night? Did you SEE what he was doing?’ Sure if you get in early on any sort of bandwagon you’re made for a while, but it soon fizzles out once you’ve ridden that wave. And that image you project, that’ll stick with you to the death. A lot of bands can’t live those images down – like the ‘Bat-Cave’ bands, like Specimen and Alien Sex Fiend. They’ll be out as quick as they came in. We’d soon get bored with all that anyway.’

Party Day don’t toe anyone’s Party Line, they just – as The Man says, Party Party!!!

It’s unfortunate that change seems to be in the air, just as the album’s on the brink of shoving them out to their widest audience yet. A rift with long-time manager Steve Drury, plus rumours of realignments within the group itself – centred on Martin, complicate the equation. But hopefully we’ll soon be into a post-shuffle period with Party Day in a clearer definition to fulfil the rich promise that ‘Glasshouse’ makes.

Hopefully we’ll soon also be in a post-Margaret Thatcher post-Ronald Reagan period too, then we can start thinking more of the future and less about the cults and ikons of the past. But until then you could do a lot worse than listen to Party Day.


‘They hold their guitars like loaded AK47s. They throb’ 
Seething ‘Susan’ Wells in ‘New Musical Express’ 
(3 March 1984)


‘SANS CULLOTTES’ (1983 cassette, ‘Scented Tapes: The Smell Of Success’ FX 001) with ‘Values’, ‘Party Day’, ‘Them’, ‘Sadness To Serve’

‘PARTY DAY’ (1983 cassette, ‘Superman And Wonders’ FX 003) with ‘Glasshouse’, ‘Opium Gathering’ and ‘Tin Sky’

“Row The Boat Ashore” c/w “Poison” (July 1983, Party Day Records FX 301) reviewed in ‘ZigZag’ as ‘their simpering and delightful sound is a thing of beauty’ (July 1983)

“Spider” c/w “Flies” (April 1984, Party Day Records FX 302) reviewed as ‘excellent punk junk howl’ (‘Sounds’, 19 May 1984)

‘GLASSHOUSE’ EP (October 1985, Rouska Records Come 1T, 12” vinyl) includes “Glasshouse”, “My Heroine”, “Let Us Shine”, Smile”


GLASSHOUSE’ (1985, Party Day Records FXLP 401) with side one: ‘Rabbit Pie’, ‘Firehorse’, ‘Carousel’, ‘Atoms’. Side two: ‘Boredom’, ‘Grace’, ‘Row The Boat Ashore’, ‘Athena’. Engineer, Neil Ferguson, at Woodlands Studio, Castleford. After the album’s release Martin Steele quit due to ‘poor health’ and was replaced by Dean Peckett (who died 3 January 2016)

SIMPLICITY’ (1986, Party Day Records PDLP 501) with side one: ‘She May Be Blind’, ‘Sovereign’, ‘Stay In My Heart’, ‘Laughter’, ‘Simplicity’. Side two ‘The Other Side’, ‘Precious One’, ‘Career’, ‘A Passing Pain’, ‘Glorious Days’, ‘Untitled’ reviewed as ‘the attractive, though slightly overwrought black sheep, ‘Glorious Days’, which could have brought a lump to Mario Lanza’s trousers’ (Mick Mercer in ‘Melody Maker’, 12 July 1986). Paul Nash (guitar, vocals) and Shaun Crowcroft (bass) join in 1986 replacing Carl Firth, but Party Day split in 1988

PORKTASTIC’ (recorded in 1987, self-released 2016, MP3 only) with ‘Aching’, ‘Deal’, ‘The Chain’, ‘And I Held Her Hand’, ‘Hymn’, ‘Take It Easy’, ‘Surge’, ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’, ‘Born Yesterday’, ‘Let It Show’ plus bonus tracks ‘Big Surge’ and ‘Milky Way’ 


“Party Day” on ‘Real Time 5’ (March 1983, Unlikely Records 5, cassette)

“Rabbit Pie” on ‘Giraffe In Flames’ (January 1984, Aaz records 001, vinyl LP) plus tracks by Nick Toczek, The Chorus, Sinister Cleaners etc

“Rabbit Pie” on ‘Band-It No.14’ (March 1984, German cassette magazine no.14)

“Athena” on ‘Four Your Ears Only’ (Summer 1984, Belgium Play It Again Sam BIAS 02, vinyl 12” EP) plus tracks by Red Guitars, Luddites and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry

“Opium Gathering” on ‘Raw Red Heat’ (Autumn 1984, Flame Tapes 1, cassette)

“Spider” on ‘Raging Sun’ (1985, Rouska Records RANT 01, vinyl LP, also cassette RUSK 006)

“Borderline” on ‘Bites And Stabs’ (1985, Torment Records TOR 001, vinyl LP)

“Let Us Shine” on ‘Torn In Two’ (1986, Torment Records TOR 002 compilation LP)

“Let Us Shine” on ‘Zarah Leander’s Greatest Hits’ (1987, Rouska Records CONCORD 18, CD)

“Atoms” on ‘Strobelights Vol.3’ (2006, Strobelight Records STROB 020, compilation CD)

“Atoms” on ‘Return Of The Batcave Vol.1’ (2008, internet only, CD) 


First time I saw Party Day.

An audience that shrieks with chic in a concrete tomb beneath the vast ‘Clockwork Orange’ multiplex of the Leeds ‘Merrion Centre’. Amps switched up to infinity, a positive-thrash power-trio roaring (geographically) outtta Danse Society territory. I’d heard their tapes, but live there’s a hard sharp attacking edge that C30 chrome-dioxide can’t trap. Like the result of twisted eugenics there’s lots of familiar reference-points finger-printing their contagious stand-outs, “Athena”, through “Opium Gathering”, and into the riffing “Tin Sky”, but they come out laundered oddly fresh.

A six-month later, after a single in a Dayglo bag promoted through a concentrated swamp-operation gig schedule, I see them a second time, churning into a high-sweat situation in a glass ‘n’ concrete ‘Beckett’s Park’ Students Union Hall. They start out by verbally taunting the ‘lazy’ audience, deliberately provoking adversarial response, until they get all the attention-fix they need. What was once promise is now parallel bars of spiral spinal craggy jagged energy rush. What Bart Bartie calls ‘sheet metal and hysterical pagan’ music (in ‘NME’).

‘There’s a lot to be said for guitar, bass and drums’ drawls heavy-built guitarist Martin Steele. ‘People just kinda latched onto synths. We’ve tried synths, but they won’t fit in for us. You can do owt on a guitar – as you’ve just witnessed!’

‘With just three members in the group the ideas are kept more together’ agrees bassist Carl Firth. ‘Whereas if there’s more people involved…’

‘…your ideas get watered down.’

Drummer Michael Baker, crop-headed and unshaven, comes in – ‘it’s tighter and quicker’, with an admirably concise summation.

‘We wanna get away from that thrash-Punk thing though’ adds Martin in thick slow seams of Barnsley accent. ‘We’ve had a bit of constructive criticism over it. Some of our songs are fairly melodic and I think we ought to develop that more. There’s nowt wrong with a melody when all’s said and done. It can be weird. It can be whatever you want.’

The single – combining “Row The Boat Ashore” with “Poison” (Party Day Records), shows this development already, but for what it’s worth, a track called “Athena” – even now emerging on the Belgium compilation EP ‘Four Your Ears Only’ (Play It Again Sam label), sounds a stone classic to these jaded ears. When they do it live its chorus-chant is instantly memorable, yet its after-burn hints at more subtle energies.

Cabaret Voltaire once defined Sheffield for me as a ‘negative influence’, being a recession-blitzed steel town where nothing ever happens it provided a vacuum that they had to fill. But ‘there’s plenty to do in Barnsley’ asserts Martin, in the kind of dead-pan Party Day send-up line I’m now getting attuned to. ‘You can go and watch a good game of football. Or get pissed. It depends.’ But he did neither. ‘I knew when I was about six that I was gonna form a group. That was my ambition.’ And through various evolutionary personnel shifts, tonight is the logical end-product of that ambition. Party Day is a name lifted from an early song, just as the name ‘Joy Division’ was taken from a song, it’s superficially upbeat, masking a menacing nihilism. The name is ‘a bit cynical’ admits Martin. ‘Nothing is as it appears. There’s a lot of underlying nastiness in a lot of our things. It’s sinister.’

‘We don’t want to get to the top too quick, or get noticed too quick. You’ve got to build a steady following if you wanna get anywhere permanent. So we’ll just keep going. I reckon we’ll become a sort of Pink Floyd-Hawkwind band – in a different context. You don’t know any of the people out of Hawkwind, but you know the name. We’re a wholemeal band. Natural ingredients…’

So where does “Opium Gathering” come in? Is that a natural ingredient?

Martin picks up on the line mischievously. ‘I wrote that. Me and Michael. My half is about going to bed with somebody…’ A calculated pause. ‘… I don’t know what his half is about!’

Published in:
‘ZIGZAG Vol.1 no.9’
(UK – July 1984)