Hard Shoulder and The Soft Machine

Broken down on the road to nowhere, getting nowhere fast.
I’ll take the high road, you take the low road, I’ll get nowhere last.
Richard Bolam, 199-something

I would recommend a retrospective to anyone. Not just artists, everyone. A review of your work and life so far. I also recommend that you do it yourself, not just in the punk DIY sense, but because you can choose to leave out details that are of no interest to anyone, and events that you would rather not revisit.

Disingenuous maybe, but there’s plenty I read in “William Burroughs: El Hombre Invisible”, the biography by Barry Miles (1992), that I would rather not have known. As I recall one TV critic wrote about Magnus Magnusson’s series revealing the truth behind certain popular myths, “turning charming legend into boring fact” [citation needed].

I think it’s quite common for artists to quickly leave things behind and move onto their next project. Here is a CD of musc I made in 2000 under one of my many alter-egos, Hard Shoulder. It’s called “Take That and Shove It” after that seminal boy-band offering “Take That and Party” (1992) and is a milestone from my nihilistic period. Listening to it now, I still really like two of the tracks and would like to re-record them. For completeness I’ve published all four on Soundcloud and there is a PDF of the catalogue entry for it here. This touches on a time in my life I would rather not repeat, and there are details and events that will be forever suppressed. Writer Anthony Burgess (1917 – 1993) was infamous for getting details about his life incorrect in his two-volume autobiography [citation needed]. He claimed that it was more “accurate” to relate those events as he remembered them, not necessarily as they happened.

This 2008 Guardian article still refers to “A Clockwork Orange” (Stanley Kubrik, 1971) as still being banned but I’ve seen it several times on terrestrial TV in recent years and I bought the book years before that. I couldn’t believe my glassies, maybe it was written by some starry old veck.

The truth is overrated, memory is unreliable and some things are better left behind. The CD pictured here is no longer readable and I had to retrieve the music from an old archive. However, something inside required me to scan the actual CD, not just any CD. I’m happy to play fast and loose with some things, but not everything.

“For a creative writer possession of the “truth” is less important than emotional sincerity.” George Orwell (1903 – 1950)

Sniffin’ Pritt

Home taping is still in music

In 1976 I was 12, and consequently too young for Punk. However, at 14 I was just the right age for the so-called New Wave which, to me, was the more experimental elements including Throbbing Gristle, Killing Joke, Theatre of Hate, The Human League, Crass, Bauhaus ad Cabaret Voltaire.

Living in a dormitory village in South Yorkshire, my youth was hardly urban and my only exposure to anything remotely “alternative” was the John Peel show on BBC Radio 1. In those days the Peel show was broadcast Monday to Thursday 10pm to midnight, and I used to listen to every minute. I was living no more than 15 miles away from Sheffield, although it might as well been Mars as I had no prospect of getting involved. However, that didn’t stop me from making music and art and stuff.

Also, whilst I was by no means radicalised by the anarchist politics of Crass, listening to their records and reading their sleeve notes at least introduced me to ideas that were absent from The Mike Yarwood Show. The most valuable thing that I gained from that period is the DIY ethic, and the awareness that the world, even then, had developed technologies that could be pressed into creative uses not necessarily imagined by their inventors. Photocopiers and cassette tape recorders were the weapons of choice in those days for duplication and distribution, although it was still a slow and painful process.

It seems we have come to an interesting time, when technology exceeds our expectations. Production, distribution and communication technologies are widely available.

However, one song remains the same. If you want to make anything happen, you still have to do-it-yourself.