Frog Island Discs produced by RaDNO. James Black chooses his favourite tracks. RaDNO is part of the Down Not Out news agency, a Leicester based group that covers issues relating to homelessness, mental health and well-being as well as reporting on arts and cultural. RaDNO is broadcast on Panj Pani radio.
David Bowie – The Width of a Circle
The White Stripes – Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine
Action Homeless’s sponsored sleep out, Not the Big Snooze took place on Friday April 12th at the LCB Depot, 31 Rutland Street, Leicester. Over £3000 has been raised through sponsorship online for the sleep out so far with an estimated £2000 still to come.
The podcast below features a number of interviews staff and participants including Action Homeless
CEO Rob Parkinson,
DNO Editor Mags & DNO Sub-editor Richard
Action Homeless Service Users
Fundraising and Community Relations Officer Eilidh Kennedy
Below is a podcast of the first radio show by the Leicester based Down Not Out news agency.
Down Not Out covers issues relating homelessness and vulnerably housed people. The weekly RaDNO show will also feature a host of shows covering arts & culture, music, community issues and various guests.
RaDNO is broadcast live on Panj Pani radio every Thursday between 12pm -4pm.
Rob Watson,a Principle Lecturer and Course Leader in BSc Radio Production & Technology at De Montfort University, invited me to put together a podcast for the No Quarter Given website. No Quarter Given’s Motto is It’s Just About Creating Stuff, the website is a great place to keep up to date on the latest arts and culture events going on in Leicester or to check out interesting stuff full-stop. I chose to present a show on protopunk; the bands that influenced the formation of punk rock.
You can listen to the podcast below and read the transcript of the show.
The Velvet Underground
I’m James Black and over the next hour I’m going to be playing tracks from some of the musicians, bands and songwriters that had an influence on the formation of punk rock. The diverse selection of songs I’m going to play from the likes of The New York Dolls, The MC5, Ian Dury and The Blockheads, The Stooges, Dr Feelgood, Patti Smith, The Modern Lovers & The Velvet Underground will, I hope, give a sense of where The Clash, Ramones and Sex Pistols got some of their style, attitude and subject matter from.
These bands are the roots of what is now known as punk rock – what critics would later term proto-punk: literally the prototypical punk rock bands.
Several years ago I remember nearly kicking the TV over when Greg Lake from uber prog rockers Emerson, Lake and Palmer said that in his opinion that “punk rock was the end of good old honest rock n’ roll”. As far as I’m concerned Punk was that exact opposite a return to what rock and roll is all about; excitement, rebellion and free expression.
Going right back to the beginnings of rock and roll I’m going to play Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry. This song’s famous sliding riff is one of the iconic in all of rock and was particular important to punk rock bands who must have borrowed it on numerous occasions.
After that you’re going to hear White Light/White Heat and Venus in Furs by the Velvet Underground. Being one of the most important bands in the history of popular music The Velvet Underground were coolness personified. They were one of the first bands to write about new edgy subject matter in mainstream rock such as S&M, transvestites and heroin. Like later punk bands the Velvet Underground always used their music to drive their lyrical ideas forward, no pompous noodling here. Instead we hear a sinister viola digging in to the depths of your soul and that guitar sound.
Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode
The Velvet Underground – White Light White Heat
The Velvet Underground – Venus in Furs
Pioneers: Bowie, Iggy and Lou Reed
Up next I’m going to play a couple of tracks by a band which in my opinion are the ultimate influence on punk rock. If I had to single one band out then it would be these guys The Stooges. Back in the early days of the band (James Osterburg) Iggy Pop was genuinely a terrifying force, completely unpredictable he would pick fights with the audience, cut himself on stage, and dive into the front row at any given moment.
This confrontational attitude is of course carried over into The Stooges sound; a stripped down visceral guitar, pounding drums lays the foundation for lunatic Iggy’s vocals and amazing lyrics, as heard on one of the bands most well know songs Search and Destroy. Written when the frontman heard a TV News report on the ongoing Vietnam War, Iggy had the idea of turning a boastful U.S. Army general’s comment into a description of the cut throat attitude of life in the big city.
“I’m a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm. I’m a runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb. I am the world’s forgotten boy the one who searches to destroy.”
The Stooges - Search and Destroy
The Stooges – I Wanna Be Your Dog
Also Hailing from Detroit were The MC5 or The Motor City Five. As tough working-class city, the majority of Detroit’s population worked in the automotive plants, factories and mills. The city was not without its problems however. As the political upheaval of the 1960s made for a historic but as well as dangerous times, for most of the decade Detroit was a city caught in bitter industry strikes and unrest. On July 23, 1967 Detroit experienced a devastating race riot which went on for next five days and in which 43 people lost their lives. Siding with the downtrodden black population the ‘Five left-wing politics began made themselves heard, their first record, a live recording from the Grande Ballroom, contains a cover of John Lee Hooker’s track ‘The Motor City’s Burning”.
Seen as the big brother band to The Stooges the MC5 were originally influenced by the beat bands that took part in the 1960s British Invasion. However, they soon progressed and developed into a revolutionary psychedelic force. Their sound fused the guitar distortion and feedback experimentation with the Rn’B swagger of Motown singers such as James Brown.
The Motor City Five
With their flashy outfits, Tyner’s afro hair and leftist politics the MC5 were a collision of styles and influences themselves. Unwittingly for the band their political convictions and incendiary live performances far out live their time together,
Rob Tyner’s powerful vocals where capable of delivering soaring soulful ballads, as heard on ‘Let me Try’ from the band’s second album Back in the USA to the guttural roar of Kick Out the James on their first record. Whilst the twin guitar attack of Wayne Kramer and Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith was one of the most dynamic in rock.
Sit back and listen to excitement of the banned single Kick Out the Jams, the chopping machine gun guitar of the anti-Vietnam Human Being Lawnmower and outrage and confusion of Over and Over.
The MC5 – Kick Out the Jams
The MC5 – Human Being Lawnmower
The MC5 – Over and Over
When the raucous New York Dolls screamed and howled through a set on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test in 1973 the show’s presenter Bob Harris famously referred to them as ‘mock rock’ a mere parody of bands like the Rolling Stones. Bob Harris’s attitude reveals just how ossified rock was becoming in the 1970s. However, with their trashy aesthetic and transgender appearance the Dolls would later be a key influence on punk bands who admired their outrageous appearance and raw excitement.
The New York Dolls – Jet Boy
The New York alternative rock scene of the mid-nineteen seventies was an important element in the development of punk rock. The infamous CBGBs nightclub, in run down Bowery district of the city regularly featured bands such as synthesizer combo Suicide, Blondie, Television, Talking Heads and of course The Ramones.
Patti Smith – Horses
The club also showcased early performances by The Patti Smith Group. Already a talented poet and visual artist Patti Smith joined forces with guitarist Lenny Kaye to begin work on her first album Horses. The front cover of the album features an iconic black and white studio shot of Smith, taken by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. In contrast to the sexualised images of women in rock that were prevalent at the time Smith appears strong, serious and determined almost masculine dressed in a white shirt and tight fitting trousers. Although androgyny and rock n roll where no strangers by the mid 1970s this was one of the first occasions that a woman had challenged perceived notions of gender and sexuality.
The straight away 4/4 beat of rock and roll allowed Smith to express her poetry more directly than ever before and inspired generations of female singers/songwriters to this day.
Richard Hell and The Voidoids Blank Generation
After I play Land by Patti Smith I’m going to play Blank Generation by Richard Hell and Voidoids. Richard Hell is credited with having being the innovator behind the punk fashion with his short spiky hair, ripped clothing and safety pin adornments. Blank Generation, a great song in its own right, was the inspiration behind the Sex Pistols’ classic Pretty Vacant.
Patti Smith – Land
Richard Hell and the Voidoids - Blank Generation
So far I’ve only looked at American Rock and Roll bands but the UK’s pub rock scene of the 1970 is another crucial influence on Punk. Joe Strummer of The Clash played for years on the circuit as part of the 101ers before going on to form The Clash.
Far from the glitz and glamour of mainstream rock Pub rock was all about entertaining small audiences and giving people their money’s worth. Bands such as Ian Dury and The Blackheads played R n’ B influenced rock and wrote original material both comic and serious. Songs such as Reasons to be Cheerful and Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick sit alongside the confrontational Spasticus (Autisticus.)
Here’s a tune from Dr Feelgood Roxette followed by Ian Dury and the Blockhead with There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards which Dury wrote with Russell Hardy when he was part of his original pub rock outfit Kilburn & The Highroads.
Dr Feelgood -Roxette
Ian Dury and the Blockheads - There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards
I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief journey around the roots of punk rock. Obviously I’ve left a plethora of omissions from my short list. Other important influences on punk include garage rock bands like The Monks and The Sonics as wells as Rocket from the Tombs, Glam acts like Roxy Music, David Bowie and T Rex. Early Kinks and The Who, the list goes on and on.
I’m going to leave you with a couple of tracks by The Modern Lovers Pablo Picasso, and a song I could listen to all day long Roadrunner. To my mind the sense of alienation and nihilistic outlook of The Ramones can definitely be heard in Jonathon Richman’s lyrics. Songs of disaffected youth at odds with the wider world and in love with rock n’ roll.
As a new season of literary events is unleashed this autumn James Black speaks to the dedicated team of volunteers and artists that help to maintain this vibrant community.
Leicester’s poetry scene is alive and kicking. Each month the city plays host to a number of poetry and spoken word evenings that give participants the opportunity to read their own work and witness live performances from established professional acts.
Lydia Towsey performs at Word!
To the uninitiated the idea of performance poetry may seem a rather intimidating prospect, a wholly intellectual pursuit the strict reserve of academics. Take a trip to Word! Ping… K! Shindig or any of the other regular events that take place across the city and one soon discovers that this is not the case. Leicester’s poetry scene is a living breathing community where new work is shared and appreciated, where subject matter and performance style is as varied as those taking part. A new creative energy and enthusiasm abounds, a creativity that crosses gender, class, generational and ethnic boundaries. On any given night traditional poetic forms sit alongside newer modes of expression such as hip hop style emceeing. Politically engaged poets rant about the state of the nation whilst others ponder the state of their love lives.
Word! is the Midlands longest running poetry and spoken word evening. The event was started in 2001 by Apples and Snakes, a national organisation specialising in performance poetry. Initially ran by poets Steve Carroll and John Berkavitch, Word! has proven to be extremely popular since its inception garnering a loyal and devoted following. Over the years the evening has been based in various venues across the city including Costa Coffee, The Hard Rock Cafe, The Basement and Bambu before making its permanent home at the Y Theatre.
Five years ago Word! hit a significant bump in the road when Apples and Snakes withdrew its funding. The event was in serious jeopardy of coming to a close were it not for the group of regular contributors who came forward to run the evening on an entirely voluntary basis.
The group’s Chair Lydia Towsey explains:
“Word! Is very much a labour of love, although it’s very well established being the longest running poetry night in the region, in some respects it’s also quite a fragile thing as it totally relies on volunteers. Thankfully, due to the high level of commitment from those individuals the event continues to flourish and move forward”.
Oscar Frank performing at Word!
One of the strengths of Word! is its diversity, something the organisers deliberately set out to achieve. There is no set house style and booked acts drastically differ from month to month. A platform is given to both emerging and established artists, people who define themselves as page poets are followed by those whose work is specifically created with a visual dimension in mind. The event also strives to be as inclusive as possible. Ticket prices are kept to a minimum to ensure that as many people as possible can attend. The organising committee also use the networks and links from their day jobs to reach out to many different sections of the community. Lydia Towsey and the group’s Treasurer Tim Sayers work as Creative Arts Coordinators for the NHS helping people to deal with their emotional and mental health problems through writing.
Word! Co-Secretary Pam Thompson, a Senior Lecturer at De Montfort University, promotes Word! to both her students and fellow lecturers, she said:
“It’s been really satisfying to introduce new people to Word! What’s special about Leicester’s poetry scene is that it comes from the community of writers themselves. There is also quite a strong local publishing scene in Leicester with Crystal Clear Creators and Nine Arches Press. There doesn’t seem to be any individual cliques, we all work together and help each other”.
Word! endeavours to support the people who take part in the event. Each performance is individually recorded by local filmmaker Keith Allott. The films are then made available to the artists if they wish to use them as part of a portfolio. Performers also have the option of developing bespoke visuals to complement their readings.
Word! has been such a popular event that new poetry events have branched out from it. Pinggg…K! the “evening of metrosexual verse,” exemplifies the tolerant and accepting attitude found throughout Leicester’s poetry scene. The evening was devised by Word! regular Bobba Cass, he said:
“I knew that there were a lot of people from the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender community that wrote poetry but for whatever reason were not sharing it publicly. I thought that it would be good if we had a slightly sheltered environment in which they might feel more comfortable. I think per-capita Leicester is the hub of open-mic poetry in the country. When you think of the size of the city there is an incredible range of poetry events we have going on all the time. I’m happy to say that Pinggg…K! is under that umbrella”.
October is a particularly significant month for Leicester’s poetry community not least because Word! has now reached its 11th anniversary but the Lyric Lounge and Everybody’s Reading festivals are also taking place.
As part of the one day Lyric Lounge event on October 4th Pauline Black, lead singer with legendary 2-Tone band The Selector, will talk about her life, music and powerful autobiography ‘Black by Design’. That same day a special birthday edition of Word! will feature Emmy Award winning poet Kwame Dawes. Born in Ghana and raised in Jamaica, Kwame will share work from his rich body of writing, including his latest poetry collection ‘Wheels’ and his edited anthology of 50 great Jamaican poets, ‘Jubilation’. Kwame Dawes will also be present for the launch of a new anthology of writing entitled ‘Poems to Read Before You Die’. The anthology has been put together by artists from Showcase Smoothie, a three year writing and performance programme for men aged under 45, mainly from Black Minority and Ethnic communities, that suffer from mental health problems.
One of the contributors is Word! Co-Secretary Jo Twist, he said:
“It’s been very exciting to be involved with the Showcase Smoothie project I have produced a lot of new work that wouldn’t have written happened without the encouragement and inspiration of the facilitators. Throughout my involvement I’ve made lots of old friends and made some new ones as well. It’s great to work with people who have been through similar experiences as I have, to go through the process of creating new work with other people and to be part of an artists’ collective”.
This article originally appeared in the 4th edition of Pukaar magazine
The following audition video features dressmaker Emma Dawes and was her submission to the somewhereto_ Show Off Competition.
Emma uses unusual materials to make clothing including paper, plastic and metal.
The Show Off competition invited artists, performers, dancers and musicians to upload a 60 second video showcasing their talents. 20 finalists were selected to perform to a panel of judges at a London venue and of those, 10 winners went on to perform on a bandstand in the Olympic Park in front of thousands. One final act had the incredible opportunity to feature in their own film which directed by Adam Deacon in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, home of the 2016 Games.
Somewhereto_ is an independent 2012 legacy project helping 16-25′s all over the UK find the space they need to do the things they love within arts, culture and sport. They have unlocked thousands of spaces nationwide for young people to do the things they love and are launching somewhereto_ show off to inspire a generation of talent to showcase their talent to thousands on high-profile stages during the amazing summer of 2012.
Filmed and edited by Samuel Newton and James Black
Leicester’s official Flame Celebrations for the Paralympic Games, the international sporting competition featuring disabled athletes, took place at this afternoon at Humberstone Gate. The city is just one of 33 communities across the UK that will host celebrations as part of the London 2012 Paralympic Torch Relay.
Paige Proudly Carries the Torch
From 11 am onwards a packed programme of events took place to celebrate the occasion including displays by the Hinckley Gymnastics Club, Black Eagles Acrobats and Desi Masti Dance.
Many stalls lined the city streets including the Change 4 Life stand which was there to promote an active lifestyle and healthy eating.
Baljit Smith from Change 4 Life said:
“We are trying to get more people to become fitter and healthier through everyday activities. If people fill in our questionnaire they will receive a freebie gift bag which is full of healthy recipes, summer packs for children and games, all simple ideas to help people to lead a healthy life. We’ve also got people on exercise bikes to see how far they can peddle within 30 seconds, lots of fun stuff. We’ve had lots of people come along to our stall today. The atmosphere has been fantastic”.
At 1.30 pm huge crowds gathered to watch Leicester’s inspirational flame ambassador 18 year old Paige Murray lead a parade from Gallowtree Gate to the stage in front of the BBC Big Screen on Humberstone Gate.
Paige with the Paralympic latern
Paige, who has cerebral palsy, has devoted much of her free time to highlighting the experience of disabled youngsters through a range of activities and projects such as the Streetvibe Youth Inclusion Project and Braunstone’s Youth Panel. In 2010 Paige received the Honoured Citizen Award from the Lord Mayor in acknowledgement of her achievements, she said:
“Today has been really hard to describe but it was very exciting and quite an overwhelming experience. I was very surprised by the sheer volume of people that came along. I’m really looking forward to Paralympic Games. I’ll be attending the swimming and the wheelchair basketball, I can’t wait”.
Once Paige reached Humberstone Gate she presented to the torch Deputy City Mayor Rory Palmer, he said:
“This is a unique and special occasion for Leicester. We are delighted to be the only city in the East Midlands, one of 33 nationally to host a Paralympic flame event. Today a celebration our city’s long commitment to disability sport. We hope that today’s event will illustrate the power of the games and inspire a new generation of people across the region”.
This year’s Paralympic Games take place between August 29 – September 9th
This article first appeared on the Pukaar News website.