Monday, May 16, 2011

BIRMINGHAM STREETPOEMS (1972)

(BIRMINGHAM) STREETPOEMS


Streetpoems was another initiative by Streetpress and a fine looking magazine it was, produced at the Birmingham Arts Lab and printed by Moss Side Press in Manchester.

After initial contact with the Birminham Streetpress in 1972 I got a letter from Streetpress to say they had developed a new magazine specialising in poetry, called STREETPOEMS. I hitched down the M6 to Moseley only to find they guys that ran it lived the other side of Brum in Bearwood. Not to worry, they would give me a lift.Scared stiff as I am of motorbikes, I found myself clinging for life to the seat as we rushed along the ringroads of Brum.

In their own words...
"Streetpoems was started with the idea that there's a little bit of poetry in everyone. You don't always see it and if you're in the publishing business sometimes you have to coax it out of people. Not everything we've put into print so far has been 'excellent' poetry, destined for the halls of fame, but that's not the point of our magazine. Streetpoems is interested in a whle range  of styles and scribblings which tend to be ignored by more established and sophisticated publications. In other words , a lot of what we've published so far has been written by people who wouldn't call themselves poets or writers, but they still have something to say in their own way. Our intention is to provide them with an audience."

The layouts were out of this world too and I still rate them even in this digital age with cool 'Spot Graphics' by Tony Viney and, like Streetpress itself, had the Large Cow Comix by Hunt Emerson.  Streetpoems continued up to, I think, 1977. The Arts Lab would float the magazine until enough copies were sold to pay for the printing. It was put together by Derek Kitchen, John Keetley, Mick d'Pembroke, Roland and Sue, Paul Fischer and Martin Reading (although that list may not be relevant for every issue.)

Roland and Sue were very supportive of our developing Coventry activities and I took copies of Streetpoems around the Coventry. With the demise of Broadgate Gnome in 1971 there was a need for another Coventry magazine that would act as a central focus and promote events and creativity. As I went around selling Streetpress and Streetpoems I knew we had to create one in Coventry even though money and resources weren't as easily available as in Birmingham. Also at that stage I'd never produced a magazine before and to learn new skills.

Meanwhile Roland was also a musicians and like my poems. I never had any in Streetpoems but Roland worked on one of my lyrics - All the Hell of the Fair which I'd written after going to the fair on Hearsall Common in Coventry.

Extract - "Shoot your blues away on a sixpenny shotgun
               Win a coconut and blow your mind.
               I wander by in my helter-skelter confusion.
               Ponder at the scenes life puts me through.

              All the pain of the fair
              All the hell of the fair...."

Friday, May 13, 2011

Birmingham Streetpress Gigs

BIRMINGHAM STREETPRESS GIGS


Birmingham Streetpress Gig, Moseley
Around 1972, the Birmingham Streetpress organised a number of lively mixed media gigs - at the Fighting Cocks in Moseley and at the Birmingham Arms, New Street.

The energy and creativity of the Birmingham Streetpress group was truely inspirational as was their friendliness and support. (The way things should always be!). If the two magazines (Streetpress and Streetpoems) weren't enough, they embarked on organising mixed media gigs in Birmingham.

Trev Teasdel's Recollections
By June and July of 1972, I had stopped organising the band nights at the Coventry Arts Umbrella club and developed monthly experimental poetry and folk nights that I called the Humpoesic Happening (Humpoesic was a word I made up in 1969 in response to a competition in Record Mirror. Roger McGough and Scaffold wanted a word that conveyed what they do - Humour , Music and Poetry. Humpoesic was my offering although I never sent it in. Instead I used it to title my experimental mixed media nights. (More on this in the section on Coventry Arts Umbrella Club)

Birmingham Arts Lab Party Gig
I got a letter from Streetpress saying some Roland and Sue and others of Streetpoems were coming over to Cov for the session. They never made owing to transport problems. I'm not sure which way round it was, if the Streetpress gigs were going already or they started after but either way they were supportive my gig.

The first Streetpress gigs were at The Birmingham Arms in Digbeth (Not far from New Street Station.) and called Popeye's.  A guy called Frankie was the main organiser with John Keetley. I played at a couple of them in 1973 prior to creating Hobo in June 1973. Graham Bond was on one of the gigs and I went along with a make shift band I called Trev and Don't Talk Wet. It consisted on me on acoustic guitar and vocals and members of Fission providing a loose acoustic backing - Johnny Adams - acoustic lead, Ant Callaghan and Simon Lovegrove on percussion and all on backing vocals. The venue was well attended and packed with electric and acoustic music and poetry. Well known names and unknown. One one occasion I bust a string mid song and someone rushed me a dobro guitar on with a totally different sound. I continued and the next line was, coincidentally,  something to do with a new guitar string. The audience thought I made it up to keep the proceedings going and cheered! That taught me a valuable performance lesson! Making a mistake or breaking a string doesn't throw me now - I just improvise and use it to engage the audience!

Letter Extract from Birmingham Streetpress 20th Aug 1972 regarding the Humpoesic Happening.
"Dear Trevor: Hi! ...it's certainly nice to hear from you, especially as you seem to be generally getting it on.
Well, sadly we missed your Scene (the Humpoesic Happening) last Wedsnesday. I'd passed the message around but most of us were away....still we attempted to get a motor together so at least a few performers, musicians, poets might make the trip over. As it happened that failed too and eventually Roland and Sue from Bishopton Rd. decided to go by train and thereby represent the people after all. Yet fate struck once more that evening. No sooner had they arrived at New Street, guitar and all, then it became clear that they weren't going to make Coventry before 10pm. So they turned round and came home. It is a shame we couldn't join you this time - we shall though, when it happens again. ..as an epilogue to all this  - we hope very much that a fine time was had by all. Another step towards togetherness.


We're grateful to you for doing quite a job in spreading the Streetpress word. We've gotta pull in more  material from the surrounding localities ...particularly Coventry. Please keep on talking and doing what you can to help us, provided you still want to and have the energy to spare!!" John Keetley. (from all your brothers an sisters here)

(John also gave me a contact for poet / publisher Nick Toczek to send my poetry to in the same letter.)

Around May 73 the Birmingham Arms was due for demolition and a new venue was established at the Fighting Cocks in Moseley. Two type of events here  - the Streetpress gigs and a more acoustic / poetry night which John Keetley organised for the Birmingham Poetry Society. One the gigs I went to in 1973 was just to watch although I had my guitar with me. On the way back, penniless as usual, I hitched back into Birmingham Centre from Moseley about 12 ish - but strange for Birmingham - no traffic. Sods law. So I sat on the curb singing Hitchin' a Ride by Marmalade (well it worked!). Just when I thought I wasn't going to get a lift, along came Daventry folk singer John Golding (just like in the fairy tales!) who took me all the way home in Coventry. I'd never met John before but afterwards I went to some of John folk gigs in Coventry and often mentioned him in Hobo! Thanks John!

The next Moseley gig I was asked to play at. It was organised by John Keetley for the Birmingham Poetry Society. By then Bo (John Bargent) of Roguestar Promotions and Hobo was promoting me. He was acting as my sound man and promoter and introduced me to a Bowie styleophone keyboard and allowed me to practice through his PA, using reverb. John took me to the gig in a taxi (made a change from hitchhiking!) and gave the spiel about how good I was with my band (er don't think I had a band at the time but it was all about promotion!).  The management thing didn't last long as John and started Hobo soon after and that became the main focus until John got the job of Road Manager and went with Khayyam on their European tour.

These Birmingham gigs and the Humpoesic Happening, influenced the creation of the Hobo Workshop in Coventry at the Holyhead Youth Centre a year later.

Another regular artist at the Streetpress gigs was humourist John Dowie who later made a record with Joy Division.





Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Brum Beat / Midland Beat

Birmingham Magazines 1


"The term "Brum Beat" or "Brumbeat" originated early 1960s in the wake of the "Mersey Sound", later incorrectly described as "Mersey Beat" that came out of Liverpool.

Norrie Paramore came up with "Brum Beat" as part of an advertising campaign to promote national interest in the bands he had signed up from Birmingham, but Brum Beat would later become known more for the geographical location that certain groups and performers came from, rather than for a single unifying "sound". "
The quote is taken from an interesting and useful site called Brum Beat which describes the many bands that came out of the Birmingham area. Take a look - this is the link -
http://www.brumbeat.net/oview.htm

"Brum Beat was a magazine about the music of Birmingham, England and the neighbouring towns. It was started as Midlands Beat by promoter and band-manager Jim Simpson, who sold it to its latter editor, Steve Morris,who in turn relaunched it in newspaper format as The Beat, before converting it into a website." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brum_Beat

Brum Beat Page in Hobo Feb 1974



TREVOR BURTON

Remember the Move, the name that conjures up visions of Roy Wood's bizarre stage make-up. 

Well everyone is well informed of Roy's activities. Meanwhile the bass player - Trevor Burton - has been back in Brum with a new band, playing 'Good old Rock n Roll' on the Birmingham pub rock scene.

Trevor-Burton-Band

"We just want the truth to come out, the same as Cream did...I'd rather do this and come off smiling than hate the work I'm doing and have a £100 in my pocket...I mean, what the price of your soul?" 

STEVE GIBBONS BAND
Another band on the Birmingham scene, who have been around for a while are the Steve Gibbon's Band. Says Steve " I've never been more convinced of anything than that this band could happen.The band has been together through a lot of bad time, a sign we all feel the same way"

Steve turned down an offer to join ELO in order to stay with the band.



JAMES LANGSTON
(Singer / songwriter - formerly with Tea and Symphony and Thunderlake)
James said - in an interview with the Birmingham Grapevine - "When you're in a situation like Trevor's band or Steve's band - because we've all been through it before - there is this realisation that you've got to let it grow and at the right time someone in the music business is going to pick up on it. If the band has that potential, obviously everyone would like to make enough to at least live comfortably, cos most of the musicians in Birmingham are on the Social Security and who wants to be on the fucking social security for the rest of their lives."


WALRUS GUMBOOT
Walrus Gumboot are four highly talented musicians who have hit out at the dull Rock scene in
Birmingham with their fast and exciting music. Already acclaimed by many to be the outstanding group in Birmingham on the semi professional front. They consist of -
JIM SLATER ; Lead Guitar. A fast flowing guitarist with an excellent showman streak in him.
TERRY LAWSON ; Rhythm guitar and lead vocalist. Many have said that the days of the Rythem guitar are long gone but Terry tell you different.
DAVE MULLEN ; Drums and vocals. The main driving force behind the group. Songwriter, drummer, showman and vocalist.
PETER SLATER ; Bass guitar and vocals. Establishing himself fast as a very funky and inventive bass guitarist.
Walrus Gumboot live on Youtube - at Bogarts, Birmingham in 1975, follow the link 



(Walrus Gumboot were promoted by the Coventry SUNSHINE MUSIC AGENCY in Gulson Rd Coventry.)
I came across the term in 1971 while living briefly in Birmingham during the summer in a column in Grapevine - an alternative Birmingham Whatz On magazine available from streetsellers or the Peace Centre etc in Birmingham. Grapevine was a most useful and  inspirational magazine and it, in part, inspired me to start Hobo Magazine in Coventry a bit later on.

In fact in Hobo No 3 I created a page for information on Birmingham bands, especially ones that had played Coventry, and called the page Brum Beat (see the photo).

Much later Coventry music historian and journalist Pete Chambers, who has championed Coventry's Two Tone sound worked on a magazine called Brum Beat.






Monday, May 9, 2011

Simon Frith - "Internet changed "compositional possibilities,"not "principals,"

Hobo Feature article 2
"Internet changed "compositional possibilities,"not "principals,"
This was originally on the Hobo Vox blog (now closed) 08/10/2007

Simon Frith is a Rock Sociologist and journalist. He was based in Coventry from 1972 to 1987. A senior lecturer in Sociology at Warwick University, he is now based in Edinburgh. In 1975 he astonished the academic world by publishing The Sociology of Rock totally revised and renamed in 1983 as Sound Effects (Youth, Leisure and the Politics of Rock n Roll).

Simon Frith
From Sound Effects, Simon Frith

In Sound Effects "he challenges the prevailing view that that media conglomerates' efforts to channel and control their markets have succeeded in turning rock into simply another prefab polyvinyl product. In its place he offers a startling new argument that shows how, in the end, the unpredictable and uncontrollable contradictions peculiar to rock's audience, its uses and its very nature, both resist and support the system - and keep the music alive."

Some Interviews with Simon Frith Perfect Sound Forever 2002 May Simon Frith On-line September 2002

Below are a couple of quotes on internet compositions from the above interviews with Simon Frith provided here as 'Think pieces'. If anyone has any thoughts on how the net might change things, feel free to discuss / comment.

Internet technology has changed "compositional possibilities," but not "compositional principals," Simon Frith 2002

>From: Scott Woods
> >Date: Friday, September 06, 2002 8:18 PM

"In your recent Perfect Sound Forever interview, you said that Internet technology has changed "compositional possibilities," but not "compositional principals," and that you "haven't seen anything that's really going to shift on the whole the way that music gets made and listened to." I'm wondering if you've heard any of the recent MP3 bootlegs or "mash-ups" (i.e., the Strokes vs. Aguilera, Destiny's Child vs. Nirvana, et al.), and if so, if this has altered your thoughts on this at all? Are these computer mixes merely an extension of DJ culture, or is there any significant difference because of the fact that they're literally made in the bedroom? Also, is mixing two records together in this way to create a new song employing compositional "principals"?"

SF - From what I've heard and, more particularly, read of these they still seem examples of technology making it easier/cheaper for people to do things that were being done anyway. Unexpected juxtaposition, quotation, overlapping pieces, etc., have always been an aspect of avant-garde performance and composition, since long before DJ culture or even rock'n'roll. So this is composition and some of it is as clever, creative, thought provoking, moving, etc., as any other kind of music. But I'm not sure it's new in principal. If the key compositional effects of previous technology concerned volume (loud and soft--use of electrical amplification), repetition and layering (use of tape), I'm not sure what digital has really done, for all the rhetoric of interactivity, etc.

The Original Question and Answer from the Perfect Sound Interview

PSF: What about Internet technology? How might that effect the equation of how songs are created?

SF - It could but I think that at the moment, there's no real sign of that. It's very hard to predict with this sort of technology. It almost certainly will change things but at the moment, it hasn't changed compositional principals, it's changed compositional possibilities. People don't have to be in the same place at the same time at all. You can communicate and you can make your record 'virtually.' You can communicate directly with your audience this way also without a mediator- you can sit down, play something, put it in your computer and then someone else on their computer can download it without having to pass through any other mediator. So all those things are possible but I haven' seen anything that's really going to shift on the whole the way that music gets made and listened to. It's another possibility of communication but it hasn't happened yet where we're now communicating different things.


Comments from the Hobo Vox blog

Very interesting article Trev.  Of course, if he was a blogger, nobody would really bother about his views.
I've often said the the 'rock' of today monopolised the 'disaffection resources' of the masses and directs it down elite-approved paths.  A 'cathartic valve', so to speak.

Posted by: ed-infinitum | 08/11/2007 at 06:20 AM


[this is good] "So all those things are possible but I
haven' seen anything that's really going to shift on the whole the way that
music gets made and listened to. It's another possibility of communication but
it hasn't happened yet where we're now communicating different things. Unfortunately, it would be quite true to say that the internet is causing a polarisation of cultures to a more powerful eurocentric, or more accurately americocentric point.  We have to consider who comes into the blogging world and the role they adopt once there.  Once the young come on to the internet as speakers instead of learners, they will began to set the trend for thought.  As the influence of the juvenile state of america outside and prior to the internet cannot be understated, these 'young 'uns' do not come on to the net without preconceived notions on what's 'hip' and 'trendy'.  The americocentric internet further exacerbates the perspectival deficiencies that are inherited from non-digital experiences.

Posted by: ed-infinitum | 08/11/2007 at 06:25 AM

How the Pop Charts Work - Simon Frith

Hobo Feature article 1
This article by Rock Sociologist Simon Frith is from Wedge, a radical magazine from the 1970's, which I bought in the Coventry Wedge Cafe / bookshop c 1977. Simon Frith was based at Warwick University as sociologist from 1972 into the 80's and so was familiar with the Coventry music scene.


 HOW THE POP CHARTS WORK 
By Simon Frith from Wedge Magazine Summer 1977


In this article, Simon Frith shows that the charts function in a peculiarly contradictory manner. They are used by companies partly to find out what people like. But they’re also used by the companies as a device for controlling the market – which must tend to work against their usefulness as a real indicator of public taste.

So by asking why the charts are important to the industry – rather than simply considering to what extent they’re rigged - we can perhaps get a clearer sense of the ways in which the commodity nature of mass music prevents it being of the people.

The charts have a good claim to be the most important institution in the record business. So many things depend on them – radio stations’ playlists, artists’. Performance fees, record company executives’ careers, retailers’ stocks, - that chart positions become fetishised, as the DJ’s read out the week’s list like it was a holy writ. It’s a strange sanctification for what is a routine exercise in market research.

For one of its commissions the British Market Research Bureau is employed by the British Phonograph Industry (the record companies’ trade organisation and a pressure group), the BBC, and the trade paper ‘Music Week’ to provide a continuing analysis of the record market in Britain. The singles and LP charts are only part of the service provided by BARS (British Analysis of Record Sales) to its subscribers and there purpose is quite simply, to give an accurate summary picture of the previous week’s sales figures.

The most accurate way of drawing such a picture would be to collect the sales details from every record retailer in the country. This is impossible, as a matter of both time and expense, BMRB has to record the sales from a sample of shops. There are two problems involved – the sample must be representative and the returns from the shops involved must be accurate – and the solutions to these problems are not always compatible. If, for example, BMRB follows the BPI’s suggestion that their sample be increased from 300 to 600 retailers, of which only a half would be used each week (for security reasons to which I will return) then it is likely that the retailers themselves, never sure whether their sales diaries would be used or not, would become less conscientious in their returns. As it is BMRB are well pleased with the cooperation of their sample – 75% of the diaries are returned each week, and the inevitable mistakes made by assistants copying down record numbers are not common enough to be statistically significant. BMRB is confident enough of the sales figures it feeds into its computer; the problem is meaning and this depends on the sample involved.

Sampling is the basis of all market research and there are no particular problems involved in the measurement of record sales. BMRB get sales accounts from record companies, shops are coded by their size and type of turn over, the sample is drawn up accordingly. The resultant formulas – converting the overall pattern of record sales into a list of 300 shops, converting the returns from these shops back into a national sales pattern – are complicated but not unusually so. Regional record sales don’t vary much, for example and when BMRB did, briefly, supply regional charts they proved unnecessary (the lack of regional variations is reflected in the similarities of local radio play lists.)> Account is taken of specialised outlets for such genres as reggae, and classical music is the only form which is genuinely under represented by the sample.
The only other obvious sampling defect is the continual refusal by Boots and W.H. Smith to provide sales returns. There is little other evidence tht BRMB’s retail sample is unrepresentative and a comparison of its weekly sales estimates with companies’ final sales figures at the end of each year reveals a reasonably good match.

The Industry’s Response.

From its own point of view BMRB is engaged ina routine form of market research and achieving more than accurate results. The importance of each chart lies not in its activities but in the music industry’s response to them. In the record business this measure of the previous week’s sales can – through its effect on radio plays, on record company promotion, on retailers’ stocks – determine future sales. Hence the bizarre situation that in an industry paying a considerable amount of money for an accurate measure of record sales there are people deliberately trying to make this measure inaccurate.

For BMRB chart ‘fixing’ is not a problem of morality but of accuracy. They don’t care who buys the records, their concern is that the sales pattern revealed by their sample can be translated into a national description. If a record company decided to buy 300 copies of its latest disc in every shop in the country that’d be fine by BMRB and into the charts the record would go; the problems only arise when such buying is happening only in the sample shops, such that the results do not reflect national sales. To give a concrete example: some record companies distribute money-off record tokens in discos. This has an immediate impact on sales, as the kids rush to the shops to get their 30p singles, and these are ‘genuine’ sales, BMRB measures; its only rule is that such tokens aren’t specific to chart shops, in which case the sales, while still ’genuine’ would no longer represent a wider buying pattern.

It is not difficult for record company reps to put together a list of chart return shops and while BMRB is confident that it spots the clumsier hypes through its phone checks and security rules, it is difficult to see how it could counter a really systematic effect to utilise its ‘active’ list (hence BPI’s suggestion that the sample be doubled and used more selectively), but, on the other hand, it is equally difficult to see the long term benefits of such hypes – their effect is to undermine the industry’s trust in the charts. Such fixing may be an extremely profitable way to break a particular record, but success is not guaranteed and failure has ramifications throughout the business. If experience were to suggest that the charts were not a good guide to what to stock and play and promote, to what the public did want, then the charts would loose their function.

There is already some distrust of the bottom part of the Top 50 – many shops and playlists emphasis the Top 30 – the fact is that these 30, in both the singles and albums charts, account for about 80% of record sales. The difference recorded between the records in the lower part of the BMRB chart sample are often statistically insignificant (and their precise chart position consequently meaningless). The only point in taking account of events down there is if they anticipate sales to come.

Avoiding Overproduction

The charts, more brutally than any mohair-suited mogul, show what happens when music is treated as a commodity – if a record is music’s commodity form, the charts are essential for the realisation of that record’s exchange-value. Most obviously, they are a sales device, part of the process by which consumer demand is created. A good part of the record business revolves around the attempt to make records time-bound, to persuade an audience to buy a record at the moment of its release, to get bored with it after a few weeks, to discard it for yet newer release, and so on. Records are released with a fanfare of publicity, advertising, plugging on the radio, articles in the press; they have a definite and active life during which time they can be heard on radio, on juke-boxes, in discotheques. The charts are the symbol of this activity; the temporary measure of a record’s current sales power, they become the permanent measure of its value.

But the charts are more than a form of publicity and promotion, a part of the process goes through which demand is controlled and manipulated. They are also important inasfar as musical demand can’t be completely controlled and manipulated. Records are bought for their aesthetic use value and aesthetic tastes are difficult to predict and satisfy. Record companies have to make for more recordings than they are able to sell (the hit; release ratio is about 10% for both singles and albums) and to avoid overproduction they are dependant on a selection mechanism such that, having put their pieces of music on the market, they know which ones to mass produce, which ones to drop.

The charts provide by far the most accurate measure of consumer demand on which to base production plans, and if record companies issue a lot of titles, their profits are based on the big sales of a few of them. Because of the nature of recording costs, there’s a minimum number of sales which a record must reach to break even (an average of 15,000 for a single, 20,000 for an album – though the latter figure conceals huge variations). Beyond the break even point profits accumulate very rapidly and it pays companies far better, for example, to have one 100,000 seller and nine nil sellers than 10 10,000 sellers. The charts reflect this situation surprisingly accurately – if the discs in the Top 30 have passed their break even points and the discs from 30 to 50 reached them, most other records do not cover their costs.

There are obvious complications to this argument; records sell over time and over national boundaries, actual break even coasts can be reduced to a level at which profits are realised in sales that are not large enough to show in the charts. But the importance of such a selection mechanism for the industry is reflected in the fact that even specialist record producers, for whom a mass market is not the object, make use of charts of the sales of records within their genres.

It is the commodity form of the music that determines the use of the charts, not the musical form of the commodity, and, for this reason, most of the criticisms miss the point. The charts are usually attacked for lack of accuracy; the randomness of the lower placings is picked on and the suggestion made that the charts aren’t a real ‘measure’ of a record’s popularity; the argument is that the charts distort demand by granting to a few records the promotional attention denied to the majority. But the problem is not to investigate how, if at all, the charts distort market ‘demand’ the problem is to understand how the very notion of market demand shapes the meaning of music.