Doc’N Roll Presents: Don’t Go Gentle: A Film About IDLES
Dir: Mark Archer
Originally released online in 2020
Often a documentary lifts the lid on the unseen and unknown side of a band. Don’t Go Gentle: A Film About IDLES is about to get its cinema release. Filmed between Joy As An Act Of Resistance and Ultra Mono, it offers a rounded sense of what being in the band means to the five guys making the noise and to those who live the noise with them. How much more can you reveal, then, when a band like IDLES have made themselves so open, so knowable already?
It’s partially a ‘fly-on-the wall’ documentary in that it pieces together video footage from past and present. We follow them on tour: snoring in vans, waiting in airports, backstage juggling oranges, manning the merch stand. They’re very much aware of the camera’s presence, yet there’s no posturing, making the portrayal suitably ‘warts and all’.
The biggest way its filming fits the notion of a ‘fly on the wall’ is in how people can often get pissed off with a fly on the wall, buzzing around like a lairy blue bastard. The whole thing begins with Joe Talbot sitting on the stage at The Louisiana, smiling and telling director, Mark Archer, “I’ll ignore you, Mark. I’ve had enough of your shit.” Bassist Dev (Adam Devonshire to the Inland Revenue) is like John Rambo with his middle finger trigger happy in the direction of the camera throughout. If digits could kill, he’d be the bearded assassin.
Their annoyance is, as it can be on record, playful. All part of the fun. Watching Don’t Go Gentle captures precisely how, when and why IDLES give a shit about things that matter, but also how frequently and endearingly they give not a solitary shit about rockstar guff, like looking cool. It has that feeling of watching The Young Ones in the early 80s, the difference being that all five band members are different shades of Vyvyan. There’s a serious commitment to the cause coupled with unfiltered messing about reminiscent of the team in Ghostbusters.
We not only see direct interview footage from the band members individually, but we also see the impact they’ve made on others. IDLES’ unrivalled fan community, The AF Gang, is shown to be another fundamental limb of the beast. Founders Brian Mimpress and Lindsay Melbourne talk of just what a profoundly positive influence the band, and what has subsequently grown around the band, have had in their lives.
The late superfan Matt Day, much missed within the extended IDLES family, plays a prominent role. Resplendent in glittering gold jacket or equally glorious pink suit, he calls supporting the band a “life-changer.” We see the third co-founder, Louise Hughes rush over and hug Matt outside SWX in Bristol. Such is the love that the Gang spreads and the safe space it provides for people to unleash their emotions.
Big Jeff Johns is not only seen rocking out to the band more than once, but he helps to fill in the band’s back story – an aspect that provides another of the documentary’s insights. Original guitarist, Andy Stewart helps provide context to the unlikely path of the band’s slow-burn success, often slogging through barren, gigless times with relentless self-belief and navigating times of personal crises with friendship and forgiveness. Contributions from Steve Lamacq, Felix White of The Maccabees/Yala Records and Mez Green from Life offer a further perspective from within the music world.
As a mantra, ‘Don’t Go Gentle’ (DGG to The AF Gang) comes from that Dylan Thomas idea of raging against the dying of the light. In simple terms, it espouses living with true vitality, whilst identifying and honouring your own truth. As a documentary, Don’t Go Gentle is as likely to make you laugh as it will make you cry. You might even want to smash up some chintzy china. It should also make you want to live your best life.
Watch the trailer here:
Don’t Go Gentle: A Film About IDLES will be screened widely in cinemas across the UK and Ireland from 2nd July 2021, with previews and filmmaker Q&A’s running in selected cinemas and venues from 23 – 30 June. See full listings below. Tickets are on sale here (Note: new screening dates and cities are still being added). Don’t Go Gentle will also be released for VOD streaming for UK and EU customers on 6 August 2021. Pre-order it here.
INITIAL PREVIEWS + Q&A’S
Watershed, 23 June, Bristol Rio Cinema, 24 June, London Abbeydale Cinema, 24 June Sheffield Duke of York, 25 June, Brighton Picturehouse Arts, 26 June, Cambridge Moth Club, 27 June, London Curzon Soho, 27 June, London Clapham Grand, 30 June, London Showcase Cabot Circus, 30 June, Bristol Ritzy, 01 July, London Phoenix, 01 July, Exeter
For Wild Sounds From An Overheated Jukebox, Righteous have trawled another 50 lunatic tracks from the depths of a discarded Select-O-Matic, carefully remastered them and neatly bundled them into a 2CD release with sleeve notes courtesy of MOJO Magazine author Dave Henderson. As ever most of these no-hit wonders (sadly failed) to shine as brightly as the excessive amounts of chrome, steel, coloured glass, and plastic panels that invited you to deposit a dime and make your selection – that’s not to say none of these forgotten gems deserve to languish in obscurity for any longer!
Just how did Bud Spudd And The Sprouts fail to score a hit with dance craze The Mash? From the opening vocal yelp to the blues heavy guitar that leads you through the essential moves ahead of a honking sax, and barked instructions; turns out it was Buds sole release, however as Little Junior he did turn out a couple of Gospel releases for the Fuller label in 1964. Lenny Johnson’ Walk Ginny Walk is a similar chugging number, complete with by today’s standards inappropriate lyrics concerning Ginny’s ‘wiggle’ which sets locations such as New York and ‘an Indian Reservation’ alight’ whilst Sid King And The Five Strings offer up Purr, Kitty, Purr which was released via Columbia in 1956, to secure a decent copy of one of those will set you back at least £25, which renders this entire collection a bargain. Another track that can command a hefty price tag is the wonderfully deranged brass driven 500 Pound Canary courtesy of Jules Blattner And The Teen Tones, complete with baritone “chirp chirp” vocal barbs – though this pales to country tinged divorce Court barb from Larry and Dixie Davis via their 1960 debut Mental Cruelty, poor ol’ Larry complains his wife lies to the Judge citing ‘Mentally Cruelty’ as she isn’t gaining the “excitement of the honky tonks” which lets the Judge rule in her favour – this one was later covered by Buck Owens and Rose Maddox who took it to #1 on the Billboard chart.
Cindy Malone appeared on the earlier Righteous release Fast Jivin’ Class Cutters High On Booze with the genius Weird Beard; it’s so good its been included here again, but neatly leads into other hirsute advice in the form of That Goatee’s Got To Go from Dick Summer which is a true jazz oddity, this one came out in 1959 via K-W Records from Indianapolis, whilst the badge for the most valuable vinyl to be included goes to the novelty genius of Al Katraz And The Breakouts who put out Charlie And The Bank Job on Solitary Records back in 1962 – a copy of this will set you back at least £250!
Arthur Godfrey would be buried under the clamour of racial appropriation were Heap Big Smoke to be released now, a red-headed white slicker with a song chock full of dubious lyrics and primitive tribal drumming, and even a second-rate Mr Magoo gets a vocal yelp. The Daywains appear with Heartbeat – this one doesn’t even appear on Discogs, I can find no information, that said it certainly sounds like something Poison Ivy would have appropriated into a Cramps original, a blazing surf, guitar picking instrumental that could have been the seed for something like Sunglasses After Dark – this is brilliant! Duane Eddy is the guitarist in The Threeteens who penned a love letter to Elvis with 53310761, which refers to Elvis’s US Army serial number, whilst Sonny Cole takes it one further with, I Dreamed I Was Elvis which is based around a simple rock and roll motif and dogs barking!
That Chick’s Too Young To Fry came from Louis Jordan who offers up this jump jazz belter from 1946 – probably the only track here to have only been released on 10“shellac, and certainly the only one to offer couched advice to avoid possible child abuse charges!
Disc Two is equally enthralling, The Memories offer up Little Bitty Girl – a sax driven tale of unbridled love for a lady competing with Tom Thumb in the height stakes, whilst Lonesome Lee’s gravel voiced tones infuse Pretty Please a doo-wop, rocker from 1959 – and another that commands very good money for an original copy, The Threeteens make their second appearance – this time offering up algebraic advice with X + Y = Z, which came out via the Rev label in 1959. Rev are a label that surely warrants a full release of their own – some absolute classics nestling in those long-forgotten archives.
The Little Martian comes from Jan Amber who has elements of both Wanda Jackson and Brenda Lee in this energetic rockabilly gem, Amber only released another two singles and seems to have disappeared into the mists, similarly Faron Warmer who sticks to the tried novelty formula of car-based rock n’ roll, but this one went wrong as they hit a truck which was also Crusin’ Central. Billy Kent just pours so much soul into Take All Of Me, a huge gospel, soul ballad with sweet keys and the massed backing wails of The Adantees, members of which would go onto to provide vocals for Marvin Gaye, whilst The Crenshaws mine the same soul inspired rock n’ roll, it’s well worth noting that The Crenshaws were an alias of The Rivingtons whose Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow famously found its way into The Cramps repertoire.
A real highlight is Squad Car from Don Cole, who’s Lie Detector Machine is included on Disc One; Squad Car is like The Shadows on Mogadon, dark sinewy guitar twanging, that somehow sounds at times like an early version of The Cure even though the lipstick abusing Robert Smith would have been in playgroup when this one came out. Al Casey was essentially a session musician who worked with Duanne Eddy, though he had earlier met Lee Hazelwood, with whom he wrote Night Beat, a low paced guitar and brass instrumental with ambient party noises in the background, that leads you into the doo-wop scorcher Hello Schoolteacher! complete with a piercing whistle from The 4 After 5’s who were The Rivingtons (yet again) in disguise. Loy Clingman paints a sorry tale during Uranium Blues that he self-released back in 1955 on his Viv label, warning us “They cost me my wife, made a wreck of my life”
Bob Wilson And The Easy Dealers completes a difficult double; having the spectacularly titled Ain’t No Freckles On My Fish, and it being a stunning skank like brass powered chugger; that said Lee Hazelwood co-wrote this one which makes stringing those notes together a bit easier – anyway there has to have been a novelty dance to go with this one??
And the whole thing is wrapped up by The Renegades, a one-off studio group assembled and produced by Kim Fowley as part of the soundtrack to the 1959 film Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow, which had a plot involving a drag racing club that decides to throw an all-night monster mash party at the mansion, it becomes clear that something is amiss – you can imagine how this one sounds!
Another essential collection from Righteous, 50 tracks of largely failed endeavour, daft ideas allowed within the confines of a recording studio… and for that we should be thankful!
Various Artists: Wild Sounds From An Overheated Jukebox
1. THE MASH – Bud Spudd and the Sprouts
2. WALK GINNY WALK – Lenny Johnson
3. SINBAD – Bobby Freeman
4. PURR, KITTY, PURR – Sid King and the Five Strings
5. NO TIME – The Titans
6. 500 POUND CANARY – Jules Blattner and the Teen Tones
7. MENTAL CRUELTY – Larry And Dixie Davis
8. A LITTLE MORE WINE, MY DEAR – The Hawks
9. BODACIOUS – The US Rockets
10. WEIRD BEARD – Cindy Malone
11. THAT GOATEE’S GOT TO GO – Dick Summer (with Bill Coe and the Escorts)
12. CHARLIE AND THE BANK JOB – Al Katraz and the Breakouts
13. HI’FI’ BABY – Teddy “Mr Bear” McRae & his Orchestra
14. BIG BAD WOLF – Kim Garri and the Rhythm Rockers
15. HEAP BIG SMOKE (BUT NO FIRE) – Arthur Godfrey
16. NAMELESS – Bob Strauss (with Donald George Orchestra and Chorus)
17. HEARTBEAT – The Daywains
18. DEAR 53310761 – The Threeteens
19. I DREAMED I WAS ELVIS – Sonny Cole and the Rhythm Roamers
20. LOVE BLOOD HOUND – KC Mojo Watson
21. LIKE KEYED – Jack B Nimble And The Quicks
22. THAT CHICK’S TOO YOUNG TO FRY – Louis Jordan
23. DEATH OF AN ANGEL – Donald Woods and the Vel-Aires
24. LIE DETECTOR MACHINE – Don Cole
25. TWILIGHT ZONE – Gary Smith
1. TIME MACHINE – The Gamblers
2. LITTLE BITTY GIRL – The Memories
3. LONELY TRAVELLIN’ – Lonesome Lee
4. PRETTY PLEASE – The Kinglets featuring Leroy Thomas
5. X+Y=Z – The Threeteens
6. YOU BETTER DIG IT – Bill Johnson and the Four Steps Of Rhythm
7. SHE CAN ROCK – Little Ike with the Jimmy Beck Orchestra
8. THE LITTLE MARTIAN – Jan Amber
9. THE LAST MEAL – Hurricane Harry
10. CRUISIN’ CENTRAL – Faron Warmer
11. 59 VOLVO – Vernon Green and the Medallions
12. THE STORM – Dough Harden
13. TAKE ALL OF ME – Billy Kent and the Andantes
14. MOONLIGHT IN VERMONT – The Crenshaws
15. THE BEAR – Billy Kent and the Andantes
16. PEACH FUZZ – Bob Taylor
17. SQUAD CAR – Don Cole
18. NIGHT BEAT – Al Casey
19. HELLO SCHOOLTEACHER! – The 4 After 5s
20. WOLF CALL – Mark Anthony
21. MY MEMORIES OF YOU – The 4 After 5s
22. (THOSE OLD) URANIUM BLUES – Loy Clingman
23. AIN’T NO FRECKLES ON MY FISH – Bob Wilson and the Easy Dealers
24. ZINDY LOU – The Mariners
25. GERONIMO – The Renegades
Wild Sounds From An Overheated Jukebox
More writing by Phil can be found at his Louder Than War Author’s Archive
From 19 June 2021 to 3 January 2022, the Manchester Science and Industry Museum will bring the city’s illustrious record label back to life with its temporary exhibition Use Hearing Protection: The Early Years of Factory Records.
In some ways, it’s funny to think about the story of Factory Records being told through a museum space of any kind, given the founders’ focus on innovation and futurity. For so long, museums “stood in the dead eye of the storm of progress serving as a catalyst for the articulation of tradition and nation, heritage and canon,” according to cultural historian Andreas Huyssen, and “provided the master maps for the construction of cultural legitimacy in both a national and universalist sense.” Even setting aside these potential political implications, museum spaces offer visitors a chance to dwell in curated narratives of pastness. Yet as Huyssen also points out, in a shift to so-called post-modernity, the museum exhibition space has been theoretically transformed into a forward-looking “site of spectacular mise-en-scène and operatic exuberance.” That’s precisely how, I imagine, Tony Wilson, Rob Gretton, Peter Saville, Alan Erasmus, and Martin Hannett – the original Factory partners – might have described a vision for the label. Tracey Donnelly, eventual PR Manager at the Factory Palatine Road office, recalls how “all of them were always about the future and not the past . . . . it’s all about the future.”
In speaking about the new Use Hearing Protection exhibition at the Manchester Science and Industry Museum, curator Jan Hicks foregrounds the forward-looking and trailblazing work of the Factory founders, recalling them in the present tense as if they’re all still here, generating ultra-modern ideas for music and design: “They have their finger on the pulse, and they’re interested in things that are very new and very current. Although they do have an interest in history, they want that history to inform what’s happening now and what’s going to be happening in the future.” Indeed, the FAC 301 catalogue number was assigned to a “Think About the Future” conference in 1990 (and true to form, Factory even produced notepaper to accompany the event).
One might even argue that Factory Records played a role in catalysing the prospicient shift in public and cultural perceptions of a museum. Nearly from its start, Factory organised visionary exhibitions to celebrate the label itself, its record releases, Peter Saville’s design work, and the ten-year anniversary of punk. These shows received numbers in the label’s famous cataloguing system, with FAC 121 precipitating Factory’s foray into the forward-looking exhibition space. FAC 121 was a five-day residence in August 1984 at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios, entitled “From Factory” and in some places “From the North.” It included a Peter Saville design exhibition and performances by Factory bands, along with support from the Haçienda hairdressers from Swing.
A hairdresser you say? That’s right—in 1983, Andrew Berry approached Tony Wilson about opening the hair salon “Swing” in the basement of the Haçienda, and it got catalogue number FAC 98. As it turned out, Andrew’s sister Cath was best friends with Tracey, so Tracey ended up starting her career with Factory as the Swing receptionist. She remembers how Swing was “so much more than a hair salon.” It was a place where “everyone got their hair done – The Fall, New Order, The Smiths – turning it into a place where people hung out all day long.” Coming back to FAC 121, Tracey laughs as she recalls the ways that Factory was becoming associated with the shifting nature of gallery shows to the point that anything could be taken for art: “One night during that week at Riverside Studios, we finished our work doing haircuts and left all the stuff lying around – scissors, towels. The next day we went in and found out that someone from Riverside thought the hairdressing stuff was an art installation, talking about the placement of the scissors and towels! But no, we just didn’t clean up!”
Factory put on other shows in the years that followed, including “Compact” (FAC 171) at White Columns in New York City to celebrate the release of New Order’s album Brotherhood (FACT 150), and a series of exhibitions as part of the “Festival of the Tenth Summer” (FAC 151). The Festival of the Tenth Summer included a Peter Saville show at Manchester Art Gallery, as well as Kevin Cummins and Malcolm Garrett exhibitions. FAC 151 bridged a gap in some ways between the retrospective nature of the museum and the provident gallery form, offering artefacts and objects tied to the past and present. None of this should really be surprising, of course, given Tony Wilson’s parallel interest in the archival aims of museums and the innovative possibilities of the exhibition space. As Jan Hicks highlights, “Tony’s family are really proud of the fact that Tony used to be a trustee at the Science and Industry Museum. He brought both his kids to the museum regularly, and it’s part of their childhood. They’re also aware of Tony being someone who encouraged people to make things happen. If somebody came to him with an idea, he would encourage them and support them to make it happen. So, I think part of the reason they want his archive to be at the museum is because we can harness what’s in that collection to encourage the creators of the future.” Tracey recalls how that kind of enthusiasm for encouraging creativity in others was at the centre for Wilson and the other Factory partners. “If you had passion for the music,” she remembers, “they’d give you an opportunity. I had no experience, but they saw I had a passion for the music, and they gave me the chance to work for Factory. They were always backing and promoting other people, teaching other people… If they thought you had the passion for the music and the design, you were in. It didn’t matter if you had no experience. Tony would back anything. They were all about helping other musicians and designers, and they really got inspired themselves by anything new. It was like being in a little family. ”
It seems likely to me that, even in the earlier years of Factory Records, Tony Wilson and the other founders had what Andreas Huyssen refers to as a “museal sensibility.” They recognised the value and power of assembling seemingly ordinary artefacts as objects d’art and cataloguing them dutifully with an eye toward the future, evidenced in part by Factory’s numbering system. Tracey remembers how “so much thought and planning went into everything, from the annual Christmas cards to the new stationery to the badges, and Tony and Alan were behind all of that. Even if they didn’t exactly think about all that stuff as collectable at the time, they recognised the value of the object.” So much of the ephemera from Factory’s heyday has become extremely sought-after by collectors, especially as celebrations of the label and its visionary work abound. I asked Tracey if she kept anything (or everything!) from her Factory days. “If I’d known then what I know now, I would have taken one of everything,” Tracey laughs. “I’d never have guessed how Factory would become what it is today, but there were little things that made me know it was something special, even early on. The first moment I remember having an inkling was at the Riverside Studios exhibition [FAC 121]. We brought Factory badges with us, and we started selling them. And the stuff was really selling. Tony got excited, and he’d come back each day with his car restocked, and we’d sell more and more of this Factory stuff. But I never took any of them!”
The cultural value of those objects is long recognised, and the Science and Industry Museum isn’t the first to curate a Factory Records exhibition. There have been many in the years since Factory’s demise in 1992, like The Peter Saville Show at The Design Museum in London in 2003, True Faith at Manchester Art Gallery in 2017 as part of the Manchester International Festival (MIF), and the 2018 White Columns exhibit of Michael H. Shamberg’s archive (Shamberg ran the American arm of Factory, Factory US/OFNY). Then, of course, there are the 2019 shows celebrating the 40th anniversary of Factory Records, like Trevor and Craig Johnson’s PRAXIS XL at The Modernist Society in Manchester, and Use Hearing Protection FAC 1-50/40 at Chelsea Space in London, curated by Jon Savage and Mat Bancroft. Each of these exhibitions, following on the ones developed by Factory in the 1980s, tells a particular story of the label. They also demonstrate how a viewer’s interaction with objects and movement through a museum or gallery space can reorient perceptions and knowledge about the material we see.
As Mat Bancroft explains, the physical space of Chelsea Space shaped the exhibition in various ways, both in terms of the number of objects that could be included as well as the visitor’s orientation to the materials. “The space was small,” Mat says, “but one of the benefits was that, when you stood in the space, you saw all fifty items at the same time. It helped people understand the surge of creativity in such a short period of time for the Factory founders and the bands.” I joked with Mat that the space might have created a kind of reverse, curative Factory panopticon. The panopticon is a repressive architectural area in which a single person maintains visual control over all persons and objects within the space at any given time – a disciplinary concept made famous by philosophers Jeremy Bentham and Michel Foucault. Rather than replicate the panopticonic configuration, the Chelsea Space exhibition instead, perhaps, flipped the script by inviting the viewer into the centre of the room to become gloriously overwhelmed by the wealth of Factory innovation surrounding them.
The story that Jon Savage and Mat Bancroft wanted to tell was a particular one that focused on the early years of Factory Records. As Mat recalls, “No one had really done that yet in exhibition form, the early years. The Haçienda and the Madchester period had been well represented in other exhibitions, but I really felt that those early years were quite fascinating and more interesting in the sense of how they brought out the methodology behind Factory, specifically the influence of Situationist International and the general influence of punk.” Within those early years, Mat reflects on the ingenuity and sheer productivity of the period that illumines a radical DIY ethics and approach. Similar to Jan Hicks, Mat thinks of the Factory founders in the present tense, bringing them forth from the realm of pastness to accent the immediacy of their ideas: “It’s quite incredible that the five partners who form Factory are all doing what they’re doing for the first time, really. Martin Hannett had been producing of course, Rob Gretton had been managing bands, Tony Wilson had been with Granada, but they’ve never really done all these things before in such an innovative manner. And they’re incredibly intuitive and do a very, very good job of it, almost from the start. That’s not to say they don’t make mistakes, but in those initial years they really hit on these amazing skills that perfectly complement each other. They put out so many projects in a short period of time, and they create valuable and varied products. It’s not just records – it’s everything. It’s posters and other projects and films, and then badges, logos, stationery.”
The creative impulses of Tony Wilson, especially, served as a focus at the Chelsea Space exhibit, largely due to the rich archival materials. “When we were going through Tony Wilson’s archive,” Mat explains, “we found that he had done a lot of creative work in promoting the Factory club, and for us [Mat and Jon], that archival material did three important things. First, it showed how Factory was part of a scene at the time. A lot of the work Tony did was collage, so it fitted into a kind of punk and new wave aesthetic. It was also interesting that he was doing the work directly, and that he was doing it while at Granada TV, completely on the side from his main job, and often on the yellow paper they used at Granada TV. And it was DIY – photocopy after photocopy of flyers that would have appeared all over Manchester at that particular time. Second, it helped explain the influence of Situationist International on Tony specifically. And third, which was unintentional at the time, his archive revealed how revolutionary Peter Saville’s first poster [FAC 1] was because it looks like none of the other materials. It borrows no punk or new wave language or aesthetic – not in typography or design. The poster becomes extremely important in the context of Factory, then, because it establishes an aesthetic for the label.”
The Chelsea Space exhibit also sought to provide viewers with background materials that demonstrated the various ways in which objects alone can tell stories, even when those objects themselves may not seem particularly remarkable or museum-worthy on their own. The exhibition included a copy of Zoom, the art magazine that inspired Peter Saville to use funerary imagery for the Joy Division Closer album sleeve. “It’s a simple, accessible object to help people who don’t know anything about Factory understand where that sleeve comes from,” Mat says. “So in some cases, there were easy-to-use objects that helped to explain the story, and in other cases, there were items we found in the archives that were so interesting and connected to one of the FAC 1-50 items that they needed to be shown. For example, the items that Rob Gretton had in relation to Unknown Pleasures: the original typed-out liner notes, the tracklisting, the different song order that shows how some songs didn’t make it, his comments in his notebook, and the original little promotional stickers Factory made for the album. We thought those archival materials were a nice way of adding texture to the Unknown Pleasures number sleeve and item [FACT 10]. We also showed the page of the pulsar [that image is a stacked plot of radio emissions put out by a pulsar, reproduced by Peter Saville as the Unknown Pleasures sleeve graphic and discovered by Bernard Sumner, who reportedly saw it for the first time in a copy of The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Astronomy]. And it’s very easy to get – anyone can go buy that book!”
The Factory Records story grew and shifted for the new exhibition at the Science and Industry Museum, which focuses on the label’s formative years from 1978-1982. It builds on the Chelsea Space framework while reorienting the narrative toward Manchester as a physical space and drawing out key themes that emerge from the early years of the label. Yet the new exhibition is still largely archival based, just as Use Hearing Protection was at Chelsea Space. Jan explains, “we’ve got Tony Wilson’s and Rob Gretton’s archives on loan to the museum, so we’ve been able to dig into those collections and build on the digging that Mat and Jon already did for Chelsea Space.” In exploring new threads and centring the city of Manchester, Jan clarifies how the narrative for the new exhibition grows from storylines that emerged in the Chelsea Space exhibition in London: “Manchester is an industrial city, and Factory Records was an industrial record label—from the way it operated, and from the way the partners thought about it and the wider company. We talk about the physicality of Manchester and its landscape. In the 1970s, Manchester was a place of heavy industry in serious decline, so we show how that aspect influenced the bands on the label and the formation of the label itself.”
In relation to industry, Jan says, “we also look at the ways Factory tried to support existing industry in Manchester. They worked with a lot of local publishers and manufacturers to get that “Manchesterness” into their visual design. But they were also part of the vanguard of developing creative industries in the city. In Manchester, we’d always had an arm of the BBC, but we also had Granada, an independent television station where Tony Wilson worked, and associated creative industries emerging. So you’ve got people coming out of the Manchester School of Art, and you’ve got Linder Sterling, Malcolm Garrett, and Peter Saville, so you’ve got a burgeoning graphic design industry in Manchester. These were all really creative thinkers who set trends in design.”
Speaking of Granada TV, the new exhibition draws out the role of the broadcast industry and the role of technology in making the innovation of Factory Records possible. The exhibition, Jan says, “brings in Martin Hannett as one of the partners and his interest in new digital and electronic technology for recording in the studio. The exhibition shows how he worked with a local company to develop things like the digital delay line and his ambition to turn Factory into more of a flagship of studio technology, which ultimately brought about a sort of split with the partners. He wanted to go down a technical route with Factory as a record label with a distinctive sound, and the other partners decided they wanted to go down the route of Factory being more than just a record label. They chose to go towards the Haçienda, and that created a split in the partnership.”
At the Science and Industry Museum, the early years of Factory Records are framed by six different “amplified stories” that centre on the Joy Division and New Order albums Unknown Pleasures, Closer, and Movement; the importance of women in Factory; the early Factory band X-O-Dus and the role of race and racism in the broader story; and the salience of industrial imagery revealed through album artwork for A Certain Ratio.
For visitors to the exhibition, the first amplified story examines women in the Factory scene, an oft-overlooked element of the label’s narrative that deserves distinction. Women played key roles in the Factory bands, as well as behind the scenes. Jan speaks about how the museum “starts off with a story about the women in Factory because, although Factory is famous for the five men who were involved as partners,” she explains, “I wanted to have a prominent female story because there were women involved in Factory.” That amplified story focuses on Linder Sterling’s egg timer design (FAC 8), Lesley Gilbert (Rob Gretton’s partner) and Lindsay Reade (Tony Wilson’s partner at the time) running the Factory office, Gillian Gilbert joining New Order, and Ann Quigley forming the Factory band Swamp Children and designing for A Certain Ratio. I ask Tracey about experiences of sexism as someone working in the music industry in the 1980s, thinking about the various reasons that women’s experiences often are marginalised within these histories. She tells me, “Oddly, I never even thought about it at Factory. You felt like an equal. I suppose it must seem odd now, looking back, but there was no sense of that. There were so many women around the Factory scene.” The amplified story is a significant one, setting the stage for more expansive work in the future on women in Factory Records, and women in music more broadly.
The next amplified story is a critical one. Jan details how it “comes off the 12-inch single that was released by X-O-Dus called English Black Boys [FAC 11],” explaining “the museum’s goal to make people aware that Factory wasn’t just a ‘middle-class white boys’ kind of record label—it stretched into all the different areas of Manchester’s culture.” Indeed, “X-O-Dus had the experience of growing up Black and British in a city which, at the time, had a very, very racist chief of police,” Jan says. “That song [English Black Boys] is about feeling as though you don’t belong because somebody in authority is making you feel as though you don’t belong.” FAC 11 offers a framework for exploring the role of Factory in acts of resistance against pervasive racism and the rise of the National Front. “From that single,” Jan clarifies, “the exhibition looks at the Rock Against Racism movement, and we talk about the Northern Carnival Against Racism. We have a copy of Temporary Hoarding (the Rock Against Racism zine) that focuses on the Northern Carnival, and we’ve got posters from Rob’s archive that refer to the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism more broadly.” This amplified story also allows the exhibition to reveal how Joy Division was at times political even though that narrative often is overshadowed by threads that focus on graphic design or sonic innovation. Jan tells me how the exhibition “talks about the fact that, for Joy Division, some of their early gigs were benefits for Rock Against Racism,” and how “Rob’s archive gave us materials to show how they were involved in the wider movement.”
In the amplified stories centred on the Joy Division and New Order albums, the museum draws out storylines that focus on technology and Peter Saville’s design journey. The exhibition features equipment on loan from Stephen Morris (Joy Division and New Order drummer extraordinaire), an example of the digital delay line used in Unknown Pleasures, a synthesizer that visitors can use, and a mixing desk where visitors to the exhibition can remix Love Will Tear Us Apart. In allowing viewers to “have a little play at being a sound engineer,” as Jan describes the tactile elements within the exhibition, the museum compresses time by transporting visitors into the past while underscoring the relevance of analogue technology in the present. That powerful temporal collapse gets crystallised for viewers as they head toward the exit. “Right at the end,” Jan says, “we’ve got what we call the gig room where we’re trying to recreate the environment of being in a small space and experiencing live music. We’ve got screens at the front, and we’re going to be projecting live footage of various bands from Factory performing. It’s going to be an intentionally little claustrophobic space, like the back of a pub gig. It will give a sense of what it was like to be out and enjoying music in Manchester during the Factory days.”
The exhibition is contained within a highly curated space fashioned by Ben Kelly, who famously designed the Haçienda. “It’s going to be cathedral-like!” Jan exclaims. “It will be a place where you can worship Factory if you want to, but it will also be informative.” For the Science and Industry Museum, she emphasises, “it’s a really important exhibition, not just in terms of telling a story, but also in terms of consolidating the museum’s position as the home of the archive of Factory Records.”
Jan Hicks is lead curator of Use Hearing Protection: The Early Years of Factory Records at the Science and Industry Museum. Jon Savage and Mat Bancroft are consultant curators. Book your tickets for the exhibition here.
Words by Audrey J. Golden. You can follow Audrey on Twitter and Instagram, and you can check out her personal website to learn more about her writing and her archive of books, records, and ephemera.
On her new EP, Lucy Gooch paints the moments between consciousness and sleep, the dusks and dawns where senses almost seem heightened and each sound resonates with a surrealistic quality. Over lush synths and glorious choral arrangements, her music becomes a canvas on which her abstract shapes form. It shifts in and out of focus across the five tracks, clarity coming to the fore on the EP’s penultimate track 6AM. “Losing grip on reality/I can’t see what’s in front of me.” There is by this point almost and layering of dread as the sweeping sounds of the songs before makes way from something more crashing and ominous. The shift out of sleep to face a day, perhaps. The moment when reality must take hold and make its mark once again. The track bleeds out into EP closer, Ash And Orange, with its swirling synth strings, the vocal refrain repeated adding to the sense of hybrid state, a false awakening.
There’s an ethereal nature to her work that recalls Cocteau Twins and Kate Bush. Sounds loop in and out, envelope the listener in swaths of sound that simultaneously soothe and disorientate. Time passes almost without realisation through a sense of illusion. On the title track, she states that the inspiration came directly from the monsoon scene at the end of the film Narcissus. It’s felt and connects, the music crashing in waves before a calm arrives on It Brings Me Back To You, like driftwood floating on the swirling water. Her voice, not entering for a full two minutes of the track, is somewhat haunting in its delivery. One line repeated. “Silence brings me back to you.”
Sat in the middle of the EP, Chained To A Woman patters like disparate raindrops, a more playful result that separates the two sets of songs that bookend the EP. Still abstract, still wandering somewhere in a dream, a vividness that somehow feels real and yet intangible. Rain’s Break is a magnificent EP of choral synth that seems to stretch out across time. It’s considered and yet seemingly effortless in its execution.
Never a band that could be pushed around, The Jesus And Mary Chain have brought a lawsuit against Warner Music Group on grounds of copyright infringement and declaratory relief.
In what could be a landmark case the band’s core – the Reid brothers filed suit today in California federal court, arguing that Warner Music has refused to terminate copyright ownership of the band’s music, including their 1985 debut album, Psychocandy.
The band’s argument stems from Section 203 of the 1976 Copyright Act which allows authors to ask copyright holders to terminate grants of copyright ownership 35 years after a work’s publication.
In January of 2019, the Reid brothers sent a termination notice to Warner for five recordings, which include Psychocandy, Darklands and Automatic. In December 2020, WMG responded in a statement, “WMG is the owner of the copyrights throughout the world in each of the sound recordings comprising the Noticed Works, and the Notice is not effective to terminate WMG’s U.S. rights.”
The band’s attorney, Evan S. Cohen, says in a statement, “In this case against WMG, the label has refused to acknowledge the validity of any of the Notices of Termination served by the Jesus and Mary Chain, and has completely disregarded band’s ownership rights. Despite the law returning the U.S. rights to the band, WMG is continuing to exploit those recordings and thereby willfully infringing upon our clients’ copyrights. This behavior must stop. The legal issues in this suit are of paramount importance to the music industry.“
Another blow to the live music scene was announced earlier today that has set us music lovers back another month. I had three gigs planned that have now been fucked up by this. I have an interview to run with Jay Taylor from Night n Day Manchester who is heavily involved in this and the time would not be right to publish it now. Apologies Jay yet we will survive… Read this statement…
A Statement From Music Venue Trust
Today’s announcement of a delay to the reopening at full capacity of Grassroots Music Venues is obviously a crippling blow to the sector. Over 4000 shows will be cancelled, losing tens of thousands of people, many of them unable to earn for over 15 months, the chance to get back to work. Huge amounts of work will need to go into rescheduling, cancellations, rebooking, refunds and managing customers, staff and artists. The delay will cost the sector £36 million, adding to the mounting pile of debt which this crisis has created.
The government knows all this, because Music Venue Trust has been very careful to ensure that had full details of the impact prior to the announcement. The government also knows that this delay provokes a crisis of confidence in key stakeholders within the sector, landlords, freeholders, service suppliers, creditors, which requires immediate action or we risk seeing a wave of evictions and business closures.
A fund exists, described by the government as Cultural Recovery Fund Round 3, of £300 million. The government should immediately announce how that fund will be distributed, ensuring that it is done so swiftly and without the delays and bureaucracy that has beset previous rounds of this fund. Many venue operators have still not received funding promised to them for the period April to June, a situation we must not repeat to tackle this new delay.
It remains the position of Music Venue Trust that the protection of public health is an over-arching issue which needs to be addressed and has primacy over other considerations. However, the decision today to continue to limit cultural activities as a specific and extraordinary measure which, it is stated, will contain the spread of the Delta variant stands in stark contrast to how the government is approaching restrictions and containment overall.
Mass gatherings of people, both indoors and outdoors, are already taking place. Singing, dancing, close contact, mask free events took place right across England yesterday. The government’s position that such activities present a unique and special danger if a live band are playing is neither believable nor supported by the science. If the risk is behavioural, the government should explain how the same behaviours in different events can be either restricted or not restricted based on a government decision, and how such a decision is supported by the science.
We note that live music events were a unique focus of the government funded and led Events Research Programme. The evidence from the test events that took place during it have not been released. The government should immediately release that data and demonstrate how these test events indicated that live music is a unique contributing factor to the spread of the virus which cannot be managed in any other way than to effectively ban it. If, as we believe, the data does not provide that causality link, the government must explain on what basis it is making decisions on restrictions of live music.
After today’s announcement the government is committed to a new reopening date for live music at full capacity of 19 July. By this date, the government states that sufficient people will have been vaccinated to permit the opening of society, including full capacity reopening of Grassroots Music Venues. This ambition is well within the current vaccination rate, and we would urge the government to use the full capacity, skills and expertise of the NHS to exceed the current vaccination rate and provide protection for many more people.
The continued restrictions to culture are a serious blow to the grassroots music venue sector, with potential damage to hundreds of businesses, thousands of staff and tens of thousands of workers. The government should immediately recognise the risk of serious harm being done to people’s lives, business, jobs and livelihoods and respond with swift, decisive action.
The clock is ticking. Don’t fail now.
Foreword by Wayne Carey, Reviews Editor for Louder Than War. His author profile is here
Janis Joplin: Days and Summers 1966-68 Scrapbook
Available to order June 2021
This remarkable book, based on Janis Joplin’s scrapbook from 1966-68, gives us a very personal insight into the process of her transformation from high school folk singer to world renowned blues singer.
Genesis Publications have produced an extraordinary book, honouring the memory of Janis Joplin in a way that reminds us of the joys and successes of her brief career. Much has been written about her and some writers have focussed on the difficulties she faced and only partially overcame. There has been an emphasis on the sex and her sexuality as well as the drugs and rock’n’roll. She was only 27 years old when she died of an accidental heroin overdose on October 4th 1970. Hendrix had died at the same age just weeks before her. Together they are part of the legend of the ‘27 Club’. It is now more than fifty years since her death.
Her younger brother and sister, Michael and Laura Joplin, have created a collector’s edition publication of her early scrapbooks, dating from a very significant time in her life and career. It’s a rich mix of a facsimile of Janis Joplin’s scrapbooks combined with commentary from those who knew her, taking us from late 50s high school days through the excitement of her joining Big Brother and The Holding Company, and her eventual solo career.
Along the way we read letters she sent home to her family, press cuttings she saved, photos of herself as her image as a blues and rock singer developed, flyers, posters, ticket stubs and souvenirs. All the ephemera of her career as her star ascends and she finds success. There is even her horoscope chart. There’s no sense of the dark side. There’s no shadow of drink or drugs, just a quote about Southern Comfort being good for her voice.
There was a Joplin family tradition of keeping scrapbooks. Her brother observes that they seem quaint and old fashioned nowadays. What many of us do now is share the same kind of information about our lives through our digital social media profiles. A physical archive like this is particularly precious. A scrapbook isn’t as private or personal as a journal or diary. It isn’t introspective. It’s a celebration of a particular period of time, with memories of significant and happy events. This is an opportunity to see an upbeat and excited side of Janis that previously only family had been aware of. She is documenting events and developments for herself, but also with an eye to the future. She and those around her might want to look back on them one day. There’s also a sense that as a vulnerable and self conscious teenager and young woman, she might be reminding herself that she was moving forward into a way of life that was going to raise her self esteem and take her self confidence to a place she wanted to be.
We know that she considered herself an outsider at high school, where a boys frat magazine voted her ‘the ugliest man on campus’. She had talent as a singer, sang in the coffee houses and took off for San Francisco as soon as she could. She got into a bad way with drugs. Her friends raised the bus fare to send her home to Port Arthur where her family looked after her with acceptance and support. The letters she sent back to her family and quotes from friends show that she was loved, cared for and appreciated. Her family didn’t desert her and she kept her connection with them. Laura Joplin tells us that they all read her letters together when they arrived.
The scrapbooks take us through her decision to join Big Brother and the Holding Company, with posters from early concerts and articles from West Coast and East Coast magazines and newspapers. It’s visually fascinating, with its hand drawn psychedelic concert posters and flyers.. There are some interesting fashion notes along the way, as she created her own unique image, with her wild hair, beads and velvet, furs and feather boas. She was seen as a hippy, but she identified as a beatnik. She even appeared in Vogue. She and Grace Slick are described as the Queen Bees of San Francisco, one fire, the other ice. There’s a real sense of her excitement at meeting Paul McCartney when he came to see her and ‘dug them’. She’s a fan as well as a star.
Alongside a record of the rock and psychedelic music scene and concerts of the San Francisco Bay area are her memories of the Monterey Pop Festival, the Festival Express train and the Monterey Jazz Festival. We also get to London and her solo concert at the Albert Hall. There are classic photos of her psychedelic painted Porsche sports car and from the shoot for the cover of Pearl, released in the months following her death. Her trip to Brazil, where she distanced herself from drugs is also documented, though not in terms of that particular personal significance.
Her handwriting and her scribbled notes give this book an immediacy that really brings her to life. The comments from friends and family on each page give us a sense of her history and the part she played in their lives, and in ours as her fans. There’s a real sense of the times and the late sixties music scene in San Francisco. Quotes from interviews with a range of journalists give an in depth insight into her thoughts outside of the ephemera she was saving and pasting into this personal record.
A facsimile of a scrapbook could have been published in a very different style. It’s a format that is very close to the aesthetic of punk fanzines. However, the family have decided to create a rare book that truly reflects Janis Joplin in the thought and care that has gone into its production. It has been created with love, respect and recognition. Financially it will be beyond the reach of most of us, but hopefully, it will be accessible in some library Special Collections.
Reading about her has reminded me of the impact she had on me as a teenager, as a role model finding her place in the world of rock music and as a singer who channelled so much raw emotion and energy through her songs. There was no one like her. She inspired me to explore her blues influences back then, and I know she continues to inspire singers today with both her style and attitude.
She has never left us. Her music and the memories of her presence live on. This book really does give us a little piece of her heart.
These limited edition books have been beautifully produced on heavy quality paper, with vegan leather bindings and a slipcase. The Deluxe Edition of 350 includes a print of a signed drawing of Janis by her friend and contemporary Grace Slick. The Collector copies take the print run to 2,000 in all. Both include a heavyweight vinyl 7” single of two tracks from the Typewriter Tape, a legendary bootleg recording Janis made with Jorma Kaukonen in 1964, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy written by Janis, and the blues standard Trouble In Mind.
Each book is signed by key contributors, Laura Joplin, Michael Joplin, Peter Albin, founder member of Big Brother and the Holding Company, Dave Getz, their drummer and Jorma Kaukonen, founder member of Jefferson Airplane. They are estate stamped with her signature.
All words by Nicky Crewe, All photos by Melanie Smith. More writing by Nicky on Louder Than War can be found at her author’s archive and more photos by Melanie at her website: mudkissphotography.co.uk.
Jason Albertini returns for his 10th album under the Helvetia moniker and delivers a great selection of his lo-fi folk slowcore.
Back in 2001, I spent the summer travelling the Grayhound buses across the US. My first stop was Seattle. In the hostel kitchen, I met a guy who had travelled up from New Orleans for a couple of nights for just one concert. Why didn’t I tag along? he asked. That band was Built To Spill. I’d never heard of them before. They were mesmerising. There was something familiar in their sound, in the moments when they glided, not when they crashed. The fleeting spaces of cracked beauty. It was only on returning home that I made the connection to an EP I’d bought some months before while soaking up the post-rock sounds of bands like Mogwai and Godspeed You! The band was Duster, the EP, 1975.
The sound was blurred around the edges, sketched and unrefined. It meandered, seemingly without a discerned direction or ultimate destination. A lo-fi space-rock sound that had the ability to captivate. And so that CD remains, lonesomely separating Nick Drake from Bob Dylan, on my shelves, filed mentally under ‘must investigate further’, ultimately lost to the constant waves of new discoveries and releases. Now I find myself with the 10th album from Built To Spill/Duster’s Jason Albertini with his Helvetia project.
Essential Aliens is exactly what I would have expected. Choppy, sloppy, wired and weird. There are shades of Sparklehorse on songs like Claw, with its dizzying tremolo-laden strumming, and New Mess, while Jumper sounds like a Modest Mouse demo, ready and waiting to be layered upon. It’s chaotic lo-fi pop that juts around in fits and starts. He drops it down on the brief That Strange Pull, before winding around the hypnotic Rocks On The Ramp, the final product sounding like Kurt Vile taking on a stripped-down Radiohead tune.
The album at times sounds like Albertini is rummaging around a basement, boxes of ideas that spill open, collide and mix before being thrown back together. There’s a dreamlike wooziness to songs like Caroline Stays The Al Snatch, like sleepwalking through an early morning daze before suddenly Why Am I Missing bursts in with a frantic rhythm, as though someone has suddenly knocked over a box of old wind-up toys. It fires along for a crazed minute and a half before suddenly winding down over a lo-fi psych freakout.
While the closing triplet of songs (Does It Go Backwards, Better Get Gifted, and Skit 8) feel somewhat more like fully formed folk-slowcore ideas, in other moments, such as on The Echo Creek, he inhabits that pandemic mind, wandering through the house from room to room, the doorways erasing memory of purpose. Sit down, stand, open the fridge, forget what you came here for. It can be disorientating at times, but the way that he has stitched these moments in with more coherent stretches throughout the album, minutes, although brief, when the mind focuses on its objective before distraction takes hold, harnessed by Steve Gere’s restrained drums and Samantha Stidham’s bass, makes for an engrossing ride, never sure of when the next twist will come or where it will go.
So, with that, I’m off to investigate those previous nine Helvetia albums and the three Duster full-lengths. I reckon it’s about time 1975 found some companions in my collection.
Bugeye are self-releasing a single and remix album to celebrate the first anniversary of their debut album, Ready Steady Bang, with profits going to charity.
Available to preorder via Bandcamp now in aid of The Magpie Project, Ready Steady Remix, features 6 tracks from their album which featured in our Top 50 Albums of 2020.
Bugeye, the sequin-drenched all-female four-piece hailing from the concrete shores of Croydon enlisted Dan Lucas (Salvation Jayne); Robyn; Arthur Stanley; Peter Falconer; Darryl Blood; Feral Five and The MAW Experiment to deconstruct the tracks and rebuild them. Musically, with their collaborators, the band deliver a remix album drenched in moments of dark electro-pop, dirty indie disco vibes, and nods to 90’s house. Conceptually though it took me back to the ’80s, especially releases such as Disco by Pet Shop Boys or You Can Dance by Madonna (sorry, definitely showing my age!)
Here at Louder Than War, we’ve been given an exclusive listen to the album and it’s great. One of the choice cuts, the Reset Remix of Don’t Stop actually coming out on 2nd July. This version by electronic duo Feral Five in collaboration with Bugeye has got dance-floor written all over it. Actually, you can tell what a good track Don’t Stop is, as a second mix, by Pollonate, aka Robyn Skinner, takes it somewhere else again. It honestly wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack to an Irvine Welsh film or Human Traffic.
It’s not all ‘pumped up’ though. Blue Fire is slowed down by Peter Falconer into a growling and moody piece with cinematic underscore restraining the vocals; Nightlife is given a smokey late-night feel by Dan Lucas; and The MAW Experiment’s mix of On and On has a definite Europop feel, harking back to NEU! and Kraftwerk.
Ready Steady Remix is released in aid of The Magpie Project, a charity supporting women with young children in a housing crisis.
Of the album and the charity, lead vocalist Angela explains, “Our debut album is very dear to our hearts so being able to explore new possibilities across a number of genres was dead exciting to us. We feel blown away that so many talented people wanted to work with us too. Being able to do this for a Newham charity was very important. Paula and I grew up there. It was, and still is a very poor area, one of the poorest in the UK. We know we’re not going to change the world with just one remix album, but if we can help even a single family sleep safe and sound at night, we will have achieved something incredible”