Hardcore for Nerds

"Why sneer at the intellectuals?"*
punk music, left politics, and cultural history - previously found here.
contact: gabbaweeks[at]gmail.com (sorry, no promos/submissions, thanks) or ask
Dublin, Ireland. 27, history, politics & law graduate
HFN | Best New Punk | HFN 2012 2011 2010 2009 | HRO 2k9 | Hoover Genealogy Project | @HC4N
*from the title of a review of Arthur Koestler's Arrival and Departure by Michael Foot, Evening Standard, Nov. 26, 1943.
Oct 27
Permalink punk ramones 70s
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Jul 01

Lou Reed - ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ from Transformer (1972)

The artist-on-artist website The Talkhouse just tweeted that they will be publishing a piece by Lou Reed tomorrow on Kanye West’s Yeezus. It could be a massive, Metal Machine Music-style, frustrating disappointment (though even then it would be quite interesting), but it does kinda make a lot of sense.

(Source: Spotify)

lou reed 70s
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Mar 30

The Radiators - ‘Johnny Jukebox’ from Ghostown (1978)

If there was a ‘One City One Album’ for Dublin, this would be my prime candidate - it’d be especially appropriate this year for the Strumpet City/Lockout 1913 references (of which I wrote before, on ‘They’re Looting in the Town’) but I also think it’s the best-sounding Irish album, period. A couple of quotes from songwriter and guitarist Philip Chevron on its literary inspirations: 

"I loved Ulysses but I never got through the whole thing. I loved the idea of it. Kitty Ricketts is directly out of it. I loved Strumpet City because it was the first novel that manifested, in an interesting way, the people who were involved in the 1913 lockout and how people responded to the Rising. 

The Jim Larkin statue was probably a catalyst. It was unveiled in ’77 I think. It was the first ‘real’ person we had in that street. O’Connell and Parnell were all in the ‘pre-history’. The Jim Larking statue chimed with Strumpet history.” (via)

"Johnny’s "ghosts" are a mixture of the real (Jim Larkin, James Connolly, WB Yeats, Joyce, O’Casey, Pearse etc jostle with Jimmy O’Dea, Brendan Behan and Dion Boucicault etc in references or brief quotes) and the fictionally-real (Kitty Ricketts is, for example, a character in Ulysses, though Joyce based her on the real life brothel madam Becky Cooper). I invoked Connolly and Larkin because so much of the pre-1916 struggle in Dublin was rooted not so much in nationalism as in civil rights and the demand for a fair living wage. The 1913 Lock Out, in which several Dubliners died, is detailed in James Plunkett’s great novel Strumpet City and the "They’re Looting In The Town" section of Ghostown is inspired by this and by the looting that took place in Dublin in Easter Week 1916. My own grandfather was a forthright Labour Union man. Bill Graham, the late Irish critic, always believed "Looting" was the most prescient part of the album as it appeared also to uncannily predict the unrest in Dublin which would soon take place again outside the British Embassy. I met James Plunkett not long before he died, at a reception in Dublin honouring the career of Jimmy O’Dea (Plunkett had written, along with Flann O’Brien, a TV series for him in the early Sixties) and it turns out he too found inspiration in the Denis Johnson play: "Strumpet City in the sunset/ Suckling the bastard brats of Scot, of Englishry, of Huguenot / Brave sons breaking from the womb, wild sons fleeing from their Mother". (via)

(Source: Spotify)

radiators punk 70s history books dublin irish
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Mar 25
Punk may be about making up life for oneself, but its central figures made up that life out of reference, not out of thin air. It is more an assemblage than a creation.

A Heaven of Hell - The New Inquiry

This essay is very good - I should definitely read the memoirs it talks about, by Richard Hell and Patti Smith (the latter first, probably).

punk patti smith richard hell 70s
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Mar 18

The Radiators from Space - ‘Television Screen’ from TV Tube Heart (1977)

It don’t really matter if the future looks bleak

Cos I never see more than a tenner a week

Can’t afford their records so I steal them when I can

Continuing on from yesterday’s post, reading this post by Mark Richardson on people listening to records in the 1970s and earlier for a distinctive experience that wasn’t available elsewhere (such as on TV) reminded me of the above lyrics.

"… when he told me this story, I was trying to imagine it:1969, Chicago, you are in high school, and you’re faking being sick to listen to [Pink Floyd’s] Ummagumma. There is nothing on TV because you only get three channels and TV isn’t very good. “

There would have been I think four channels in Dublin in the 1970s (three of them being British, i.e. BBC One and Two and ITV) but reception of the latter declined as you moved south or west. I put £10 (before 1978-9 the Irish punt was linked at parity to sterling) into a historical inflation calculator and it came out as £56.70 in today’s money (€66 or $85) which isn’t much, obviously. Whether there’s some creative embellishment to the lyrics, or if the Radiators really were in the habit of stealing records, I don’t know (and anyway, we all steal music in digital form now). The ‘their’ in the lyrics presumably refers to the ‘rock’n’roll heroes with the rich man’s blues’ in the preceding lines.

There’s an interesting post here about how the opening riff for this song appears to come from a 1962 blues instrumental ‘Nut Rocker’ by B. Bumble and the Stingers, and the Radiators guitarist chimes in in the comments to point out that the album version (this one) of the song features a toy piano playing the riff at the start. Retromania!?

(Source: Spotify)

radiators irish punk 70s
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Mar 17

"Punk is obviously not about being angry at all. It’s about being young."

Fascinating contemporary Radiators review, as much for what it says about punk generally as about the band (neither necessarily accurate, of course):

"12/01/1978 Trinity College, Dublin with The Vipers.

If an alien happened upon a punk gig as his first experience of the human species, he might be temped to jump back in his interplanetary craft and F.O. in his U.F.O.

On the other hand, the alien might see spitting as an involuntary spasm of the salivary function, have a hearing facility to unscramble the muddy sound and best of all a decoding device to understand the lyrics in a welter of noice. 

At The Radiators From Space gig in the JCR of Trinity College last week. I felt like an alien without those vital extra senses. Mind you, it’s not the Radiators fault. I’m too old for punk, because I can’t relate emotionally or even instinctively. I honestly believe the Radiators write good lyrics, but what is the point in writting an angry song, if no one can hear the words to know what you are angry about.

I told you I was too old.

Anyway, I went to see the Radiators because in my crystal ball gazing for 1978, I queried the staying power of the Radiators and their lack of a definite charismatic image. An angry Philip Chevron demanded that I go to the gig. I did.


I can’t knock the music. It is melodic and I heard it all in my time at a slightly slower pace. A random selection of four veterans would produce a tighter sound than the Radiators, but no amount of persuasion would induce the kids to like them. Punk is obviously not about being angry at all. It’s about being young.

The Radiators are relying on Chevron and Pete Holidai to transcend the footlights and evoke the reaction from the crowd. Holidai is smugly menacing and Chevron is almost endearing. Maybe if he wore a leprechaun suit, he could capitalise on an impish presence. In the role of heretic and rabble rouser, he lacks the brash arrogance of Geldof. I don’t doubt for a moment that Philip is as arrogant as Geldof, but that pose is now imitative and dull. So is looking menacing.

How the hell would I know anyway? The kids seem to like the Radiators. I want to listen to their records and decipher the messages. If they find their own special wrinkle which will distinguish them from the rest, they have the songs and the music. I love the punk movement for inspiring kids to form bands. The Radiators are an example of the good by product.”

- Shay Healy, Starlight Magazine (via)

According to his Wikipedia page, Shay Healy was born in 1943, so around 35 was “too old” for punk in 1978. I cut out the more technical part of the review, since another 35 years later we don’t really need to hear about the vocal mix or their new songs, but click through on the link if you want to see.

radiators punk dublin irish 70s
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The Radiators from Space - ‘Sunday World’ (1977)

Are you getting it?

radiators punk dublin irish 70s
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Mar 04
Vanishing Point (1971)
But which direction do we take, maaan? #existentialism

Vanishing Point (1971)

But which direction do we take, maaan? #existentialism

(Source: unaempanadaporfavor)

film 70s
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Vanishing Point (1971) trailer 

Caught this on Film4 a couple of nights ago, and loved it. The trailer predictably makes it out as a more action-packed movie than it really is (according to Wiki, it didn’t do very well on its initial US release, but received a lot of acclaim in Europe, and was brought back as a double feature with The French Connection). It’s still a ‘carsploitation’ film, as I’ve seen it memorably tagged, but most of the crashes are there in the trailer: the rest of the film is considerably moodier. And it has a great soundtrack (more on which perhaps later).

What caught my attention was the opening scene, which reminded me very strongly of  the characteristic openings of Breaking Bad episodes. In Vanishing Point, the film begins where it ends - sort of - with two earthmovers rolling along the ground to form a roadblock in a Western town (later revealed to be Cisco, Utah). The camera is a low-angle shot, and initially there is no sound other than the rumbling machinery and caterpillar tracks, while silent townspeople stand around watching intently yet dispassionately. Operating in that same kind of desert or semi-desert landscape of Breaking Bad, the film seems equally content to observe people at its unhurried pace: for a movie that appears to be all about speed, it’s also about distance, and thus time. 

It’s also “notable for its scenic film locations across the American Southwest and its social commentary on the post-Woodstock mood in the United States”, although it’s less ‘social commentary’ than conveying a mood somewhere between liberation, apathy and despair. Rather like a less articulate Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (less articulate in that the ‘last American hero’ is moody and mostly mute, although Cleavon Little’s ‘Supersoul’ DJ offers a verbal soundtrack) or the road happenings of Easy Rider, before it all comes crashing down. There’s a strong thread of existentialism (as pretty much every ‘cult movie’ blurb of it states), but hey, that was the time, you know?

The greater tragedy is probably that there was a terrible-sounding TV remake in 1997 starring Viggo Mortensen. It replaced “the lead character’s ambivalent image with a simpler and more palatable, wholesome lead character and motivations, in particular eliminating all references to drug use, rebellion or sexuality, all of which were hallmarks of the 1971 film”, and worse, gave him “a more clear and socially accepted background and reason to drive fast”. (In the remake, he’s driving to his pregnant wife. Which in a way is my problem with Breaking Bad, that its main protagonist’s motivation is a deeply conservative one of “providing for his family”, although to be fair the structure of the show is set up so that it displays the unintended consequences of economic gain. We can’t all be existentialist heroes.) 

film 70s vanishing point breaking bad
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May 22
Perhaps the most widely celebrated object of ridicule was the ‘Eurovision Song Contest’, an annual television competition first broadcast in 1970. A commercial exercise glossed as a celebration of the new technology of simultaneous transmission to multiple countries, the show claimed hundreds of millions of spectators by the mid-Seventies. The Eurovision Song Contest - in which B-league crooners and unknowns from across the continent performed generic and forgettable material before returning in almost every case to the obscurity whence they had briefly emerged - was so stunningly banal in conception and execution as to defy parody. It would have been out of date fifteen years earlier. But just for that reason it heralded something new.

Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, ‘Diminished Expectations’, 483


[edit: Eurovision was first broadcast in 1956, not 1970]

judt europe pop eurovision 70s history jedward
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