The Big Boys

I recently watched a documentary called American Hardcore: The History of American Punk Rock 1980-1986, directed by Paul Rachman and written by Steven Blush. It’s based on Blush’s book American Hardcore: A Tribal History.

ron and nacy
Please note that this photo displays on the Right.

The film details some of the bands and history of the music, tying the appearance and disintegration of the scene to Ronald Reagan’s first term. One of the musicians interviewed talked about the crazy-fake back-to-the-1950s look that came out after Reagan was elected, and how the bands were reacting to that, saying that’s not us. An idea that maybe works better in retrospect.

There are interviews with various musicians: Henry Rollins (of course), some good talks with Ian MacKaye, and lots of others. One oddity was the interview with Mike Watt of the Minutemen. The Minutemen’s music didn’t fit the hardcore image, and the filmmakers didn’t try to make it fit, but also didn’t explain why they interviewed him. The band was on the same label as Black Flag, played the same clubs and such, so inclusion makes sense as a way of discussing the origins of the scene. A little more of a connection would have been useful. The Watt interview scenes in fact felt like outtakes from the excellent Minuteman documentary (We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen).

Continue reading “The Big Boys”


Songs, Reviewers, Children, and The Ephemera on ebook

Lately, my four-year-old daughter has been wanting to listen to the title song of the Mekons Ancient and Modern album. Yes, I know that in some states it’s a crime to let a child listen to real music.

Ancient and Modern coverThe song (in case anyone out there doesn’t know) is an epic tale in four sections, with four different singers (technically, many more than four singers because the fourth section is sung by a choral group.  “Ancient and Modern” is a song that does what a good work of art is supposed to do, slide past the thinking-brain and into the subconscious.

It would be nice to know who the voices are (as a parent, I’m supposed to know everything, and having to tell a four-year-old “I think that’s X…” is most embarrassing. But the band’s liner notes aren’t very revealing. The first vocal is, I think, accordion player Rico Bell. I’m less sure of his voice because he doesn’t sing as much as the other members. Next is a spoken part by either violin player Susie Honeyman or bass player Sarah Corina—it’s definitely not Sally Timms. I’ve never heard either of them speak and can’t place the accent. Honeyman is from Glasgow, but the accent doesn’t sound like Glaswegians I know, mainly writer-friend Neil Williamson. The third part is easy, founding-member Tom Greenhalgh. The song ends with vocals by the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus—also obvious, because they’re credited [updated below].

A note on the arrogance of reviewers. Here someone says “The song begins with Jon Langford….” and here: “The three vocalists—Jon Langford, Tom Greenhalgh and Timms”. I also found a reviewer who said the song faltered toward the end, but at least he didn’t add to his lack of taste by attempting to identify the singers. Were these people really so certain? Or is it because they know that the main singers are two men and a woman, so any men and women have to be from among those three? They could spend a little more time listening before they begin the pontification process.

And in closing, having mentioned Glaswegian Neil Williamson, I’d like to tell people about the ebook version of his very fine but out of print debut short story collection, The Ephemera, now available in the various ebook formats from infinityplus.The ebook edition has four additional stories plus notes on all the stories. I recommend that those of you who posses the modern ink-substitute called an e-reader get yourselves a copy.


From a source involved with the proceedings: Lu Edmonds starts, then Jon Langford and Rico Bell join in, Susie Honeyman talks, Tom Greenhalgh sings, Sarah Corina talks, Tom Greenhalgh sings again, then everyone and the choir finish. Reviewers: see, it’s not hard to find things out!