31.3.12

THE BILLY CHILDISH : The 1982 Cassetes (Hangman LP, 1988).

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Suspending disbelief for a moment, & imagining that Discogs isn't just an opportunistic flea market free-for-all for aspiring Del Boys, then The 1982 Cassetes is without a doubt the most "valuable" record I own. There's a copy for sale on there at the moment, a snip at £500, though I suspect a generous pinch of salt might be in order? I paid £1.99 for my copy, at Nottingham's much-missed Selectadisc, in the mid 90s, along with a stack of other, equally neglected, late 80s Childish releases, all of which have since become stupendously "rare", though I doubt many of 'em would fetch anything like half a grand...

Released in 1988 on Billy's own Hangman label, along with a torrent of other similarly low key &/or esoteric vinyl-only titles, The 1982 Cassetes (Billy's spelling, not mine) was the fruit of an advantageous non-profit production deal with Revolver - the gist being that R.T. would press up & distribute a small run (300-500 copies) of anything Billy delivered to them, on the understanding that he would relinquish his royalties (or something to that effect). As, throughout the late 80s & early 90s, Billy was content to live a frugal life of painting & signing on, supplementing his meagre income with an occasional Thee Mighty Caesars or Thee Headcoats show, it must've seemed an ideal artistic arrangement. And the result, in time, was Hangman's enviable back catalogue. The label eventually folded in the mid-90s, partially due to an unfortunate incident involving some unlicensed Link Wray demos, which had allegedly been obtained in exchange for an answering machine!

Despite looking like it might've been taken with a Kodak Coloursnap circa 1962, the striking cover portrait features, of course, Billy & then-girlfriend Tracey Emin - another reason why used copies of the album currently command such an inflated sum, perhaps? As it's title suggests, The 1982 Cassetes' budget didn't extend far beyond the cost of a blank tape - adequately recorded using a couple of tracks, Billy often sounds like he's improvising his lyrics, while accompanying himself with some very primitive guitar (i.e. it's a bona fide "condenser mic in the bathroom" affair). Though I doubt it's anybody's favourite Childish-related release, it's nonetheless a particularly interesting one, offering rare insights into his elementary production methods, his austere breadline lifestyle, & the beginnings of his self-mythology. I found it very hard going when I first heard it, nigh on 20 years ago, but I've grown to really love it.

Seriously though, isn't it about time somebody started reissuing this stuff?

26.3.12

THE HEADCOATS : Girl From '62 7" (Regal Select, 1990).

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A Monday morning quicky. "Girl From'62" is a song that Billy has returned to on several occasions since it's initial 1990 release, as a 7" on Issaquah WA's short-lived Regal Select Records. This original interpretation is certainly still my favourite - a typically loathsome (& wild) blast of full-throttle basement rock'n'roll. Thee Headcoats were a garage combo sans comparer at this point, spewing out an unequivocal deluge of must-have 7"s on an almost weekly basis. I have a fair number of them but I'm sure I must've missed a few? "Girl From '62" is definitely one of the finer installments, however.

I'd always presumed that The Girl in question was a certain Ms. Emin, but it transpires she was actually born in 1963 - the plot thickens, etc. The flip side, incidentally, is not a cover of The Shadows Of Knight raver (as redacted by Julian Cope for his displeasingly house-trained My Nation Underground album) - more's the pity...

No. 13

23.3.12

BILLY CHILDISH & HIS FAMOUS HEADCOATS : 17% Hendrix Was Not The Only Musician (1998)

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Next, an eleventh hour disencumbering of phlegm from the twilight of Thee Headcoats' esteemed career. Originally released in 1998 in conjunction with Brighton's Slab-O-Concrete press, & accompanied by a slim paperback collection of Billy's poetry, art & school reports, the wryly entitled 17% Hendrix Was Not The Only Musician was also issued - minus booklet - by Sympathy For The Record Industry (in the States) & ReR Megacorp (in Japan), though all 3 editions have been deleted for more than a decade.

Musically, it's business-as-usual - the standard selection of spiky Childish originals & rasping garage punk cover versions. Nevertheless, even a "standard" Childish collection warrants a cursory listen &, typically, 17% Hendrix... is not without it's customary smattering of unkempt gems. Highlights, for me, include the cheeky Stuckist harangue of "Art Or Arse (You Be The Judge)" (complete with a scene-setting cameo by Mad Tracey From Margate), the disheveled careen through The Ramones' "Pinhead" (which sounds like it might've been mastered on duct tape), & Billy's a capella rendition of "You Make Me Die". The bona fide croon he musters up on the latter is quite a treat!

n.b. More to follow, oh yes.

The Rise & Fall of a Double

4.3.12

THE BUFF MEDWAYS : This Is This (2001)

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Several months ago, I promised that I'd share a few obscure or unavailable nuggets from the colossal Billy Childish back catalogue. Typically, it slipped my mind - I'm not getting any younger y'know - but my memory's now back on track (yes, I turned it off & on again, simple as that), so here's the first...

Named after an extinct breed of 19th century chicken, decked out in dashing Prussian army regalia, & paying explicit homage to The Jimi Hendrix Experience (on this inaugural outing, at least), The Buff Medways were Chatham Bill's first stop after he'd finally lain Thee Headcoats to rest. Though he'd return to his cherished Kinks & Who records for inspiration with subsequent Buffs LPs, this electrifying debut still sounds like their most impressive collection to me - vintage fuzz guitars hack out an improvised escape route through crackling valve amplifiers, the drum kit clatters & rattles like a dilapidated rag & bone buffet, while the backing vocalists reel off immaculate mucky pup Townsend impersonations. No frills, baby.

Recorded at Liam Watson's esteemed Toe Rag studios, This Is This was released by Vinyl Japan in 2001, but has been out of print since the label ceased trading a decade or so ago. The Buffs' line-up at that point comprised Billy on vocals & guitar, with ex-Daggermen/Masonics' bassist Johnny Barker, & Wolf Howard (previously of Armitage Shanks & The Kravin' As) on drums. They frequently achieve the impossible - of sounding more authentically "6Ts" than mnay genuine period bands - hereon, & every song's a killer. So it's crying shame that it's been out of print for so long - a used copy will currently set you back £25 or more.