Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cock Sparrer: Riot Squad

Once upon a time I had a back and forth with ex- Gang of Four member Dave Allen about my having written about the the band Cock Sparrer and Oi! music as related to the issue of racism (read the exchange here)... So let's get that whole thing out of the way, I find racism ugly, lame, dangerous, and uncouth and in writing about; Oi! and Cock Sparrer I am in no way endorsing or giving comfort to those who hold such points of view. I have always subscribed to the idea that in the words of comedian Steve White "racism is so stupid because there are so many reasons to hate people on an individual basis".

On to the music.

From Wiki;

Cock Sparrer are a punk rock band formed in 1972 in the East End of London, England. Although they never enjoyed much commercial success, they are considered one of the most influential streetpunk bands, helping pave the way for the late-1970s punk scene and the Oi! subgenre. Their songs have been covered by many punk, Oi!, and hardcore bands.

Their style was influenced by pub rock, glam rock and raw 1960s beat music as delivered by bands like the Small Faces and The Who. Their lyrics mostly dealt with topics related to the daily lives of working class people.

Their name derives from their original name, Cock Sparrow,[1], a Cockney term of familiarity.

and this months crime tune-

"Riot Squad"

When we were at school I thought he had it sussed
Fighting the law with the rest of us
Smoking, drinking, acting cool.
('Til) they started treating him like a fool
Then he stayed on his own for most of the time
Dreaming dreams of a life of crime
In and out of trouble, he cheated and lied
But who'd have thought he'd join the other side

He's in a riot squad
The wanna fight squad
The shoot on sight squad
For law and right

Down to Hendon with the boys in blue
It's amazing what a few weeks can do
Out in the car, out on the street
South of the river on the frontline beat


Cracking heads, it was all a game
A finger was pointed and he got the blame
Now he's back where he started, he ain't got a pound
Queing with the sorts he used to kick around.

So we have a kid from the streets, who becomes a cop, and then ends up taking the rap when the cops get caught doing something wrong. The song comes off like one of those 70s cop drama's set in the bankrupt rubble of NYC (or 70s London?) with enough of a hint of A Clockwork Orange to add a layer of social commentary. One aspect of that era in film and crime fiction of the time was the exploration of the line between the Police & Thieves, cops and robbers. Maybe the most interesting recent exploration of the theme was the UK version of the show Life on Mars.

All in all Riot Squad is a fast, up tempo street anthem with a bit of substance, it is exactly the kind of songs that made Cock Sparrer the cult band they are today. It is also one of the only songs that I have selected to write about for this project that I don't think would translate to another musical style.

Thoughts, Comments, observations?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Electra Blue

Electra Blue

I watched her come down the steps, White boots, nice legs under a shiny blue dress that sparkled. White leather purse, white leather jacket and A pair of triangle earrings that were all the rage in '85 pointed to her red hair. Her was trimmed short and shaved at an angle on one side. It was a look I hadn't seen since high school. She was chewing on a whip of black licorice and I knew she wasn't boring immediately. I clocked her for 45, or so, I was cheating I knew she was about a decade than me.

She paused scanning the near empty room, I lifted my empty cup and nodded.

"Jimmi?" I stood as she approached,

"Yeah, have a seat," She set the purse on the chair and took off her jacket. Up close I could see the dress was made of out some plastic material and heavy mesh.

"Can I get you anything?" I pointed to the counter

"Coffee, black and dark." She looked around taking the place in.

At the counter and got two cups of dark roast from Beth; she gave me a wink and nodded towards the redhead.

"Know her?" I asked

"She was around back in my New Wave days," She whispered.

I set the coffee down and took my seat. She took her cup in hand and held it under her nose, closing her eyes she breathed in. Her whole face tensed and relaxed and her eyes opened. What’s the line from that 90s song-- the angel opens her eyes? It was more like the living eyes opened on my world and TV'd in on me. She smiled and cocked her head to one side, it was a practiced move, she was a little rusty.

"Meg said you were ok, and that it wasn't-- well when a Private Investigator comes looking for you it's mostly because your in trouble or a victim or about to get roped into something." She became all business; all the flirt she was going to spend on me had been spent.

"Yeah, it's a simple matter," I picked the manila envelope from the chair next to me and placed in on the table. There was a receipt for delivery attached and I put a pen down next to it.

"I just need you to sign," I took my coffee sipped at it. It was strong and full, it had body and it wasn't for wanna-bes.

"What is it? You're not serving me papers?" Anger flashed in her eyes and I had to smile.

"No, I don't do that kind of work, well not often. Meg would kill me if I used her to drop some paper on someone she is fond of-- and she seems to be of you." I let the words hang.

"How do you know her anyway?" I followed up.

"Old friends, I was a big sister to her when---" she was looking at the envelope and stopped short. She looked up at me with a cross gaze, which relaxed into a smile. I started to think that I could live just watching her eyes and smile transforming from the tense to the relaxed for the rest of my life. There was something joyous, she was alive, she was alive and her eyes screamed that at the world. The only women I tend to see these days with that vitality in their eyes are derby girls.

"tisk-tisk," she waved a playful finger at me and reached for the pen. She pulled a pair of glasses from her jacket and slipped them on the edge of her nose. They were thin plastic framed readers that even looked like 80s new wave shades. I half expected Amanda Peterson, Debora Foremen and Michelle Meyrink to pull up seats and start talking about the Plimsouls, maybe play some New Math on the juke box, like totally-- for sure. She signed the receipt and tore off my part and handed it to me. Taking the envelope she jabbed a nail under the edge of the flap and ripped it open.

"Meg asked me not to talk about her past with you, if you are half the investigator you have to be to find me, you should have no trouble figuring her out," She never looked up as she spoke, just looked into the envelope. I already knew what was in it, an old picture sleeve from a 7" single from '86, and a contract. She pulled out the 7" Sleeve, It was a sparkly blue and in Purple neon letters it announced Artimis & the Arrows. Five women in leather mini skirts, fishnets, boots and over sized pastel shirts, looked toughly from a checkerboard forest set at the camera. Listed on the back were the credits and song titles. 'Diana' and 'Archers of the Heart' a cover and original tune.

"So they want to license Archers for a project of some kind?" She set the papers down.

"I guess, I'm really just the delivery boy"
She fell silent and looked down at the paperwork for a moment, I knew the amount they were offering, I would have been off to the lawyer by now.

"Well--- I'm going to have to pass," she folded the papers and put them back in the envelope along with the sleeve and handed it all back to me.

"Ok, well," I really didn't know what else to say.

We sat and drank out coffee. She nodded along with the music and I watched her for a while. She chit chatted about the shop and the music, but nothing of any real substance, nothing about why she was turning down a pile of free money or anything about the past.

She got up to leave, shaking my hand she said "Meg say's you're true blue--- stay that way," and she left. I watched her go, giving a wave to Beth behind the counter and ascending the stairs without a look back.

more Flash Fiction Stories: Sweet Dreams