Partners in Crime, Attila The Stockbroker and Steve Drewett
(Dublin Castle, Camden 8th March 2019).
The first and second week of March were hectic for sure with a work related Eastern European road trip required. This involved five flights over three days. On the Thursday evening when I put my key in the door at midnight I has not particularly savouring the idea of travelling back into London for a gig on the Friday night. But what was on the cards was a rare gig by The Newtown Neurotics no less, supported by Barnstormer 1949, Attila The Stockbroker's medieval folk/punk outfit at one of my favourite London pubs, The Dublin Castle in Camden's Parkway. So, needless to say Gunta and I took the 5.39 from Bishops Stortford gig bound once more.
The Neurotics and Attila have been part of my musical furniture for 36 years now. Three things were responsible for shaping my political view point back in the mid-80's as I approached voting age. These were the miner's strike, The Newtown Neurotics and Spitting Image..... probably in that order. The Neurotics second album 'Repercussions' spoke volumes to me even in the reasonably affluent commuter town of Burgess Hill and had me running for more in the form of the brilliant 'Beggars Can Be Choosers' LP. Now, at that time (as is the case now) Burgess Hill was a very safe Tory seat. My MP back then was Tim Renton, Margaret Thatcher's Chief Whip so when I did first get to vote in the 1987 General Election I could only take comfort in the knowledge that I had cancelled out a Tory vote. I recall nervously going to the Polling Station at St Andrews Church in the town with my mate Adam McCready. At the door we met our first primary school teacher, a Mrs Coveny who was the Conservative Councillor in the ward who said that she hoped that she could rely on the vote of two of her ex-pupils..... well that wasn't going to happen. After the votes were in I remember calculating Adam and I's contribution to the Labour vote in the ward and it was a round number rather than a fraction! Such was the situation in our neck of the woods. So that was the political position in the area but why did the miner's plight mean so much? Let's face it the nearest colliery was in Kent. However, whilst the paternal side of the family were Brighton based the maternal line were from across North Staffordshire and the relatives that I had back then were largely employed either by the North Staffordshire National Coal Board or in a vast array of jobs associated with the pot banks. In the Mid-80's both industries in Staffordshire were feeling the bite of this new way of politics...... so I had an empathy for their precarious situation.
Talking of Stoke (and I know that this post is intended to be about a Neurotics gig.... sorry), another factor that did much to define my personal politics were the words of my much loved Grandmother who I recall saying to me one Sunday evening (probably during Bullseye!)..... 'If ever you voted Tory I'd disown you!', so I haven't (not that I would have anyway!). As a true aside, bizarrely for about five years before her death at 75 she worked in the kitchen of the Burgess Hill Conservative Club. Here, I like to think of her as something akin to a fifth columnist. One one occasion she recalled being caught red-handed forcing a frozen chicken into her shopping bag just as the aforementioned Right Honourable Member Tim Renton entered the kitchen to enquire about his lunch. 'What are you doing there Mrs Heath?' he asked. In her still broad Staffordshire accent she responded 'Bugger off!' and so he did. That story still makes me smile 30 something years later.
So, sorry about that, back to the gig. Attila opened with some poetry/ranting verse before the Barnstormer 1649 band took to the stage. Described by Attila as ‘Roundhead Renaissancecore and Baroque ‘n’ Roll’ I would say that their position in punk is unique. Stories in song of real landmark events in the countries early social history.... the kind of stuff that that prompts you to fill the gaps in your knowledge....... the Diggers were not only on St George's Hill I learned. With an impressive array of instrumentation including faithfully reproduced pieces last seen in the 15th Century (Sausage Bassoon anyone?), my wife Gunta described them 'favourably' as a less attractive version of the now defunct Scandinavian outfit, Katzenjammer!
The Neurotics were on in a trice with the more familiar combination of bass, guitar and drums. It is a shame that they do not play so often these days since they are sorely needed. They always provided an important dissenting voice at a time when the country took the mantra of 'Greed is good' to heart. They were a band that powerfully articulated the consequences of the hardline Conservative principals that history now remembers as Thatcherism. And of those consequences, unemployment ('Living with Unemployment'), rapidly rising levels of poverty ('This Fragile Life'), the very real threat of nuclear conflict and a general disengagement of young people in current affairs and politics as well as a certain nihilism ('The Mess' and 'Mindless Violence') many were reflected in tonight's set. Do these themes sound familiar? Thirty years on and it feels that we are back to square one. Reliance on food banks is increasing seemingly at an exponential rate, major conflict seems to be more of a reality than it has for 30 years as Donald, Kim and Vladimir trade insults and on the back of the Brexit process far right factions in the UK have found a new impetus.
The Newtown Neurotics.
Sorry to say that the band's message from the '80's is as valid today as it was then and that is very sad indeed. Fighting times indeed!
How did it go lads.... 'Agitate, Educate and Organise!'