Blessed & Blasted: Rock In Opposition 12.03.1978
Alan Freeman (BBC DJ): “The popular music press always branded Henry Cow or Art Bears as ‘left wing’. “
Chris Cutler (drummer, Henry Cow/Art Bears/etc): ”Of course. Extremely. If you hate this government, and everything it stands for.”
I witnessed Henry Cow live for the first time at a “free” concert held one afternoon in a room at Finchley Town Hall in 1974 supporting The Global Village Trucking Co.
The culmination of the performance came when guitarist Fred Frith trod on a tatty and evidently useless acoustic and brought the hat around to “pay for repairs”. Recognising this as a piece of “show”, I was simultaneously bamboozled and excited by the incomprehension I felt at their improvisations.
I also appreciated the anti-rock/agit-prop stylings, particularly Frith’s beanie hat and cricket jumper, and the insistence on sitting down during even the most energetic extemporising (was Jah Wobble also taking note? I shall have to ask him).
I swam into the peripheries of the Henry Cow/Art Bears ken in the latter part of the decade when they occupied a house in a semi-derelict Victorian terrace in south Lambeth, not 50 yards from where I type.
5 Silverthorne Road was demolished in the early 80s, a relic of a disappeared quartier. In a largely squatted area it had been the nexus of much alternative activity. It was also two doors down from the abode of the blessed Kevin Coyne, who often drank deep of Young’s special in The Plough.
Then Henry Cow’s drummer Chris Cutler shipped east, down Wandsworth Road, where he opened Recommended Records (later RēR) and continues to play and release experimental music to this day.
This is from the pamphlet written by Cutler at 5 Silverthorne Road and given attendees of the Rock In Opposition Concert held on Sunday, March 12, 1978 at the New London Theatre:
We would like to say 5 things:
(1) The music industry can CREATE nothing – it can only exploit the real abilities of its victims.
(2) The music industry wants to keep its hosts’ desires at the lowest level possible because formulas are easy to reproduce while musicians with integrity can be difficult to control.
(3) The music industry makes all its decisions on the basis of Profit & Prestige… they have ears only for the rustling of money, hearts which only pump with the blood of murdered.
(4) Kafka wrote only what is true. Paranoia is simply a recognition of human values under capitalism… “the point is to change it!”
(5) Independence is only a valid first step if Revolution is the second.
For the full text of Rock In Opposition: The Manifest go here.
Thank you to Squidco for the source material for this post and to Andy Bole for the photo of 5 Silverthorne Road in 1978.