ABSOLUTELY MADNESS THEN...and THERE, HERE and NOW
I am catapulted back here on a kind of promise (to PR Pete) and a gift (from photographer Peter) DESPITE my now being retired.
So just WTF is going on wi DAT, huh?
Well there are, at the very least, two items of exemplary free (to me) product implicated in my unscheduled return ...
Madness Absolutely 40th Anniversary Edition must have been gestating for those then in the making heroes (in composition if not studio), when they became early honoraries of my roving, N Irish, post punk NME stringer inquisition and certification ceremony.
The week in early 1980 when this momentous union was effected can be dated with reference to the week old copy of Hot Press advertising on its back cover the then newly released Iggy Pop album Soldier I was carrying through security at Liverpool Airport. Just when I was apprehended by the blokes from Special Branch at Liverpool Airport off the Belfast 11.30 am Saturday morning flight.
No not The Specials branch but the outfit also known to be British Intelligence connected. The latter, potentially a great idea in theory, rather failed Trade Descriptions act when the genius apprehending me clocked the Ig in Military garb ad, with Soldier title, and announced (rather more triumphantly and accusatively than would proved to have been advised) that I was in possession of the “OFFICIAL ORGAN OF THE PROVISIONAL IRA”.
This caused much mirth later in the post gig hotel rendezvous (was a bit of sweaty Betty at the time though, when I realised the fool was serious) when I went in on a chat with my soon to be bosom buddy Mr Smash, who had me wondering if he was pulling a ‘head’ move when he started sharing stories about his growing up, for a while, in Northern Ireland (all true, of course). Chas was of particular interest to my paymasters as the previous Madness piece in NME had centred on the now long forgotten early problem with right wing skins and Chas had come out of it none too well. I knew we’d get on famously when Chas, aware of the backdrop between publication and band introduced one of the band’s fans (Harry from Wandsworth I think) with the waggish “this is my black friend”
So the Madness right wing connect hardly ever a thing was severed with moi happy to cut ribbon and they went on to greater and greater success, and,more importantly for them, many more meetings with me.
This eventually included a support slot on their Minehead House Of Fun bill main stage Saturday night a performance where, aided only by End Of The Trail master of ceremonies Kelly Munro, I gave a a performance so overwhelming that one (particularly emotionally exercised) member of the crowd had to be escorted out of the hall for his own safety (and mine).
In any case, coming out of my current, Dean Johnson engendered, Grateful Dead deep dive, I'm happy to report that, 40 years on, Absolutely, now complete with very good and revealing Stevie Chick mined reflections from Lee Thompson and Chris Foreman, sounds as great, if not greater, than ever before.
Clever band - winning, tart and tangy, songs pleasingly combustible fun, teeming with life and companionable influences. Given the spirit, the communal efforts in the songwriting department, and the variety of angles they employed its small wonder the Nabobs of Nutty readily took to the Martin Officiation.
Certainly they did this with more enthusiasm (not too hard) than the previous season's honorees, by then (schweet ‘79) fashion lagging Supertramp.
The ‘Tramp, put out to be appraised or interrogated (on an all expenses trip to Portugal, forsooth) by one so young (18) cancelled the planned interview , a substitution was offered. A piece titled What We Did On OUr Holidays ran. But that is Absolutely a story for another day.. .
The second product to rouse me to this blog is Peter Anderson’s Then and There Here and Now collection. Full disclosure: while Madness were privileged to encounter me early in my dashingingly heroic professional mode, behind tape recorder and, eventually, onstage (stealing their audience away off to my Celtic retreat by the South east English coast) Peter Anderson had the misfortune of enduring a single Martin in distressed domestic state, after charitably providing board and lodgings in then not quite so trendy Shoreditch. This was some 18 months after Martin had moved to London and endured a succession of increasingly drab, prohibitive and, eventually, even condemned rental dives.
Reconnecting with Peter, via his excellent Black Lives Matter dedicated series of archive shots on Instagram, has been one of my favourite social media discoveries of recent times. Peter is a natural activist artist, those BLM shots highlight his ability to capture life, street culture, characters, the heat and atmosphere of a moment, the indefinable mood of a place and time. This activism is a broad and broadly defining quality that also runs through his startling, often premonitory, hand crafted and developed, shots gathered in the Here and Now book.
It's there right at the start with a pic of preface writing scribe Paul Morley and his interviewee subject Riuychi Sakamoto. Two young men, masterfully captured through the underside of the low glass table top where a tape recorder is sat between them, looking out on a future they were already helping to shape.
There’s the holy trinity of Peter’s Madonna with crucifix earring shots, captured in Soho on her first UK visit. Shortly after this Peter and I shared a Sunset Marquis elevator ride with Madonna in West Hollywood while on assignment to interview and photograph Marvin Gaye. Later I’d spend time interviewing Madonna in her West (or was it East?) side NYC apartment - ahead of the release of the Erotica album but I’m not sure she ever looked as beautiful, fresh, or light capturing as she does in these shots by Peter.
Elsewhere there’s a Zen like Rick Rubin meditating, no doubt, on his many Midas touches to come, that historic Hamburg set pic of Mark E Smith - young, feral and fun, giving a FU sign for the posterity of it. The splendid Brix Smart Smith, sitting behind in that shot , is given her own, joyous, American guitar slinger in Euro exile, moment on a separate shot from the same trip. It's a good example of how Peter captures someone or something not as a passing, but somehow eternal, image.
I was around the live work Shoreditch warehouse space, nursing a dreadful hangover, the day Peter had the post-Mick Jones Clash over for a shoot - to accompany Richard Cook’s Cut The Crap coinciding NME interview. Mohican’d Joe was putting his new troops through their paces as they posed and grimaced and shouted and stomped (mind me aching heed, you noisey bastards) for Peter’s camera.
Joe told me he was much taken by the atmosphere around those (pre gentrified) Shoreditch streets and alleyways. There is some of that, some noir intrigue you might say, not to mention Joe’s haunted performer soul, captured in the earlier Joe shot included in the book taken by a London railway track. Somehow fusing Strummer’s hobo roots, punk terror, confrontational curiosity and ongoing intrigue - a pure Peter classic.
This volume (the first in a series) is slim but the subject matter - including JG Ballard, Cronenberg, San Francisco’s Palace Billiard Hall, DJ Run, John Lydon, Notting Hill sound system, David Thomas, to name but a few - covers a vast cultural terrain.
The inspirational nature of Anderson’s framing can be about what he purposely leaves out, like in his pic of pioneering German Electro duo D.A.F. Or it can be about what he adds - the crack to the image of my Soldier boy buddy Iggy Pop. Regardless of the determinations and calculations made in the construction from click to print , what you get is a sense of the moment, the impact of the art and a deeper appreciation of both the subject matter and the culture where they thrived.
First published 10 years ago the richness of its content is deepened making it a great Xmas buy for the discerning student of or participant in our recent glorious past.
Right so that’s me - back off to retirement. I might return here again if the nation calls. You should know - I’m not deaf to the needs and wishes of my bred bins. At least, not completely.