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Red Days

The publishers blurb…

Challenges the conventional narratives about English popular music and
the counterculture of the late 1960s and early 1970s

“The passion, intensity and complexity of the popular music produced in
England between 1965-75 is the work of an extraordinary generation of
working class and lower middle class men and women (in alliance with a
handful of middle-class men and women) who saw in the new music the
remaking of something bigger than themselves, or more precisely,
something bigger than themselves that they could guide and shape and
call their own. In this the ?use-values? of popular music underwent an
unprecedented expansion and diversity during this period. Red Days
presents how music and action, music and discourse, experienced a
profound re-functioning as definitions of the popular unmoored
themselves from the condescending judgements of post-1950s high culture
and the sentiment of the old popular culture and the musicologically
conformist rock ?n? roll seeking to displace it. The remaking of the
popular between 1965-1975, accordingly, is more than a revision of
popular taste, it is, rather, the demolition of old cultural allegiances
and habits, as forces inside and outside of music shattered the
assumption of popular music as the home for passive adolescent
identifications.”

Bio: John Roberts is Professor of Art & Aesthetics at the University of
Wolverhampton. He is the author of a number of books, including /The
Necessity of Errors/ (2010), /Photography and Its Violations/ (2014),
/Revolutionary Time and the Avant-Garde/ (2015), /Thoughts on an Index
Not Freely Given/ (2016) and /The Reasoning of Unreason: Universalism,
Capitalism and Disenlightenment/ (2018).

PDF available freely online: http://www.minorcompositions.info/?p=981

Ordering Information: Available direct from Minor Compositions now for
the special price of £ 10 + £2 P+P.

Minor Compositions is a series of interventions
& provocations drawing from autonomous politics,
avant-garde aesthetics, and the revolutions of everyday life.

http://www.minorcompositions.info

I’ll start by saying that I am an ideal reader for this book – its like it was written for me. Whether it’s down to my teenage empathy with country blues, record collecting, the hi-fi enthusiasm, the field recording fetish, or the suburban childhood. I’ve read some William Burroughs, idolised Brion Gysin and heard Bob Cobbings perform concrete poetry in a small room in London. Then there was the work of Pierre Schaeffer and R. Murray Schafer that I was in awe of at a distance.

The obsession with the ‘authentic’ black solo blues musicians from the first half of the C20th was a huge part of my UK early Sixties Mod culture and through people like John Mayall and his Bluesbreakers, it led to the volcanic rise of British R&B that proceeded to world dominance. The old blues singers got almost nothing – perhaps a European tour if they were the later generation and in good health. I saw Sonny Boy Williams 2nd close up in a pub in Chertsey c 1965. 

This book provides a critical analysis of what was going on with that. Simplistic conclusions there are not. Relief! My own rationalisation of our blues obsession is based on my British history, which is not Seth’s in this book. Mine was that British working class culture was wiped out in certain aspirational sections of the population, to the point at which many of our families stopped singing, and into that terrible void, blues expressed something deeply felt but un-articulated by bodies such as the Labour Party, about cultural oppression. I’m not saying there was an equivalence or anything. And it does beg the questions of the crass exploitation of the labour of those bluesman. (even if they got to cut a disc of their song, they might have been the lucky few as Kunzru points out… young American Negros were being regularly forced into labour and arbitrarily killed during the period in question.)

And of course folk and blues songs were passed around and changed before the rise of printed music copyright laws. So it seems fine for Kunzru to mix lyrics from the rebel versions of songs such as the classic John Henry;

“John Henry told his captain,

A man ain’t nothing but a man.

Before I’d let you beat me down,

I’d die with the hammer in my hand.”

Or Jim Jacksons recording of:

‘I’m Gonna Start Me A Graveyard Of My Own’ 1927

“This song is at least as old as 1900; Billy Cheatham, who is not known to have recorded, was performing it live in that year. If the 1930 census was right, Jim was 24 years old in 1900.” Brazilian Atlantis from comments. 

The background is heartless profiteering – capitalism. Transmorgrified from brazen slavery and forced labour into industrial scale incarceration.  The children of those slave/bourgeois prison owners choose between a heartless existence as family firm executives or to ‘rebel’ as whimsical artists on a parental leash – here shown as without much talent.

Kunzru’s insight into the  discordance of inter-class dialogue is unnerving. The picture of how powerful are the forces that appear out of the social ether if you take a path of non-compliance dramatises something that is usually only inchoately felt. The class analysis is incisive in instances such as the way the captains of industry use the legal system to produce seamless class separation, And to deadly effect!.

I gave up writing this review at this stage, after going on Goodreads I realised there is no chance of anyone reading it at this stage with over 1000 other reviews! But in case your wondering I’m recommending this book its serious literature mind, its gets tough, the language goes through some choppy waters, but that is all in the cause of wringing a deeper truth from the subject matter. This book is about my experience.

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I like the inclusion of the reference to Nina Donovan’s 2017 poem ‘I Am a Nasty Woman’. (08 Valentina).

Nice to see a few Japanese acts cropping up here.

12. eastern youth – ‘Bottom of the World’  2015

 

14. Salu – ‘Nipponia Nippon’ 2016

https://youtu.be/ECx880X5qvA

15. Asian Kung-Fu Generation – a massive band going on their high Youtube views, but I can’t find this 2012 song. Could it be this one? – ‘Living in the Now’

https://youtu.be/qw0mqFhL6sM

There is mention in the following text of ‘Bottom Up Democracy’ and SEALDs (2015/16) which is or was the biggest student protest movement since the Sixties. Prior to WW2 Japan had been an increasingly militarised country in which any civilian democracy was under the thumb of the generals. The post-war settlement and constitution (imposed by the USA) limited the military and provided a civilian democracy and most treasured of all, a period of peace. However, recent economic stagnation has threatened that peace consensus with the spectre of a return to militarism and nationalism. This trend has been vigorously opposed by the SEALD movement which has used innovative methods to try to get Japanese people to value and increase real democracy. (Please correct me if I have that wrong!)

http://sealdseng.strikingly.com/#statement

This is alluded to at the end of this article but of course I can’t tell what the relation to the music playlist is.  I would have thought that a culturally innovative movement like SEALD would have been reflected in music or had music as part of its actions.

SEALDs

This is the final Japanese Agit Disco bonus selection.
http://www.ele-king.net/books/006107/

 

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This includes lots of my favourite ‘agit disco’ bands and tracks: Sleaford Mods, M.I.A., Patti Smith etc.

One final track is over the page on p.334 and was new to me. From this I learnt the meaning of “talmbout!” What a powerful ‘call to arms’ this track is!

19. Janelle Monae – ‘Hell You Talmbout’  (2013)

“This song is a vessel. It carries the unbearable anguish of millions. We recorded it to channel the pain, fear, and trauma caused by the ongoing slaughter of our brothers and sisters. We recorded it to challenge the indifference, disregard, and negligence of all who remain quiet about this issue. Silence is our enemy. Sound is our weapon. They say a question lives forever until it gets the answer it deserves… Won’t you say their names?” -Janelle Monae

Moichi pic.png

Moichi Kuwahara seems To have a pirate radio show which is sometimes has a political bent. Shows are archived on Mixcloud.

https://www.mixcloud.com/m

fullsizeoutput_201coichikuwahara/328-pirate-radio-0506-fight-the-power/

(I hope you don’t mind me using your graphic here Moichi?)

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Not all of the playlists are in Roman alphabet… If any reader can help with a translation of Yasushi’s playlist I’d be grateful.

‘Captain of the Ship’ album by the prolific Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi . Nagabuchi is known as a human rights advocate.

The new Agit Disco is published in Japan by ele-king http://www.ele-king.net/books/006107/

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img_1100.jpg

e.g. Eliane Radigue – Stress Osaka (1969)

P.S. There’s nine more above. The idea is to choose something new I learn and illustrate it with a uToobe link.

Details via: http://www.ele-king.net/books/006107/

AgitDiscobook ele-King

Out from 野田努(ele-king)
150-0031東京都渋谷区桜丘町21-2 池田ビル2F
株式会社Pヴァイン内ele-king編集部
03-5784-1256
http://www.ele-king.net/

pp352
ISBN 978-4-907276-92-8
Three copies of the Japanese translation of Agit Disco have arrived. It is a Very beautiful edition! Superb book design!
All in all much more comprehensive and complex than the British edition. I’m impressed by the footnotes they have added to each playlist which I can only imagine they make the esoteric, mostly London network, nature of it accessible to a wider audience in Japan. These notes make it a valuable cultural history of a period of the London music/art underground, as well as the more international Anglophone references of the playlist contents.
The 10 ‘bonus’ Japanese selector playlists are a great idea. They are in a section at the end of the book that is printed on cream paper. There is some English so I can read most of the tracks have been chosen. I’ve put images of these above this post. (or click on the selector’s names below)
They have used my (new) long Afterword which gives update agit disco tunes that drifted across my media screens from 2008 though 2016. Lots of links to eg ‘Music of the miners Strike’ mix by Neil Transpontine.
The book is in black and white but they used the CD graphics with the original playlists to funky effect. Fragments of these graphics are used in a collage form to create the cover design with a woodcut/screen print look. There is an orange silk place-keeping ribbon which reflects the orange splash used on the cover. All very cool.
I’m SO pleased with the result.

The new Japanese selectors are:
Hiroshi Egaitsu, Kizu Tsuyoshi, Kurihara Yasushi,
Kuwahara MoichiSakamoto Mariko, Koya Suzuki with Love Kindstrand, Brady Mikako,
Masato Matsumura, Yosuke YukimatsuItaru W. Mita,

Good that writers in Japan were actively engaged as selectors! You can follow the name link to my short comments on parts of their playlist and a photograph or two of their pages.

Its a  pity that the new edition couldn’t have included:

https://szczelkuns.wordpress.com/…/french-agit-disco-2014/

and

http://archive.furtherfield.org/features/reviews/agit-disco-vs-zombie-apocalypse

but they are linked to in the afterword…  http://stefan-szczelkun.blogspot.co.uk/2018/02/afterword-to-new-japanese-edition-of.html

The new Afterword basically a concentrated summary of the agitdisco posts I’ve done since the UK book came out… here and on Youtube!

Agit Disco Japan cover art

Conclusion: Of course there are many other questions that may or may not have been answered by these new selectors. It seems that the Hardcore Japanese punk bands in the 1980s had a level of protest – examples are SS, The Stalin and GISM. Was/is hip hop and rap absorbed into J-Pop without any of the oppositional content of global non-commercial hip hop culture? Going back further, what about those early ‘hippy’ era experimental bands like Les Rallizes Dénudés?

The post-war peace settlement seems to have had a dark shadow of USA cultural imperialism attached to it. For instance, I understand that it was only around the year 2000 that pop songs were sung in Japanese. Perhaps such subtle imperialist pressures stymie working-class musics and are the reason that Japanese people have insisted that there is ‘no Japanese protest music’.

The original English selectors were mainly my own contacts with others added who were friends of friends. So the British group of selectors probably had some cultural values in common. I have no idea how the Japanese selectors came to be assembled or who invited them to contribute; I was not involved. Anyway the point is that, whether they knew each other or not, they have a completely new approach to the idea of Agit Disco. This adds to the genre busting diversity that was one of the values of the first edition.

http://www.ele-king.net/books/006107/

 

 

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Brandon Spivey just recommended this book so it must be good – on growing up as a working class boy.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30048098-lonely-boy

also whilst we’re on books this book on sound systems and politics looks good.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31573515-sound-system

And here’s an event that will be, should be, filled with younger muso-journalists.

on Thursday, 20 July 2017 from 19:00 to 21:00 BCA Brixton

Aspirations for “unity from the roots movement in order to respond to the politics of social exclusion led by government institutions.”

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-politics-of-music-steel-pulse-and-handsworth-revolution-tickets-34852192847